Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Helsinki, Finland - a nervous nation

Wedged between Russia to the east and Sweden in the northwest, Finland's existence for most of it's 1,000 year history has been rather like that of a foster-child. During the 12th and 13th centuries the Swedish kings, on their Northern Crusades, simply took over Finland piece by piece, set up Swedish colonies in the coastal areas and constrained the Finns to a peasant life in the hinterland. Swedish became the main language.
When the Swede's Empire aspirations went into meltdown in the early 19th century, as much as anything a result of Russia's Empire building efforts, Finland quietly became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. During the next century the Finnish language began to gain recognition again and the Finns labored on as a part of the Russian Empire. The Russian Empire itself was toppled by the Communist Revolution of 1917 at which time Finland sort of fell through the cracks to end up as an autonomous nation, but not until they waged a short lived but bitter civil war. They then tried a monarchy briefly before deciding, in 1919, to be a presidential republic.
Having missed the industrial revolution and the first part of the 20th century, the country continued largely as a farming community, were overrun by the Germans in WWII, compelled to cede much territory to Russia as war reparations in 1945 and ended up in dire financial condition. The 1952 Olympics were held in Helsinki and this period marked a turn toward industrialization and fifty years of economic growth playing catch up with their western neighbors. 
The population has since been stalled at 5.5 million for the most recent 2 decades and economic output has declined significantly in the most recent 10 years. Despite joining western organizations such as the OECD, the EU and so on, the de facto Russian Emperor, Vladimir, still has his beady eye on them with a view to reclaiming what was once Russian... Check out pictures here.

No comments: