First, lets get some music here:
Now that we are listening one of the most beautiful pieces of orchestrated music in recent history (and by recent I mean music made from 1800 forwards), we shall discuss what this national holiday entails, and a little bit of the other holiday on the same date, St. Nicholas’ day. First thing to discuss about this independence day is what was we became independent from. Now, I could go into a lot more detail about the entire history of this region from about 1100 (when the crusades started to come into the north) all the way to 1917, but that would take too long. So here is a really condensed version of the Finnish history pre-independence and post-independence.
While there is some history to cover before the estimated date of the 12th century, our story starts here, as it was the first time crusades were conducted on the until then nomadic Finland, by the just converted Catholic Sweden. This event lead to the foundation of a city called Åbo, more commonly known as Turku. Turku and its surrounding regions were called Finland, a name that has stuck ever since for every non-Finnish or non-Estonian language. This name is still reflected by the name of the modern region around Turku called Finland Proper (Finnish Varsinais-Suomi and Swedish Egentliga Finland both of which translate to “Proper Finland” or “Actual Finland”). During Swedish rule, the Finnish region had a lot of changes to it. For instance in 1527, king “Gustav Vasa” started reformation in the entire kingdom, including Finland. Reformation in the Finnish region was complicated, as there was no written language on the region that was essential for the implementation of Luther’s ideas. Michael Agricola, a bishop of Turku (and therefor the entire Finnish area) went to Withenberg to learn reformation from Luther himself, and created the written Finnish language. Gustav also made up some cities while his reign went on, one of which was designed to compete with the Hansa-cities. That city was called Helsingfors, also known as Helsinki, the capital of the country even to this day.
But then the Russians invaded in 1808-1809 and captured the entire area of modern day Finland, alongside couple of islands known as Åland. And after nearly 700 years of rule, the Finns finally got a taste of being somewhat independent, as it was fused into the Russian empire as an autonomic region where the old laws left by Swedish rule were intact. The official language of politics was Swedish, alongside Russian and their own currency of this “Grand Duchy of Finland“, the markka was allowed alongside the Russian currency of the Ruble.
And things were all jolly and good for the residents of this autonomic Finland, until World War 1 and Nicholas the Second rolls up and screws everything up. This czar wanted to “russify” Finland and its citizens. This introduced the February Manifesto which made Russian the only official language, limited the power of the parliament of the autonomic Finland, and merged the Finnish army with the Russian one. As it could be imagined, the Finns did not take this lightly, and so the “Jäeger“-movement was born. Basically it was bunch of Finnish resistance people trying to get into Germany to train for fighting against the Russians. And this was not the last time Germans have helped us in a world war, we’ll see about that later.
So as we know, Russia was driven into communism by Lenin and his Bolshevik army, Nicolai alongside other people in the Romanov family were killed and the Soviet Republic of Russia was born basically after the failed attempt at creating a republic out of this late Russian empire. And on December 6th 1917, the Finnish parliament declared independence of this Soviet Republic. Other countries such as Sweden, the UK and the US had a policy where they wanted the now communist Russia to declare that the Finnish parliament, known as the “eduskunta” had the full sovereignty over the Finnish lands. Lenin acknowledged the Finnish claim and other countries followed suite. But Lenin had something up his sleeve, as his plan was to cause a civil war inside this newly independent country, and have the Finnish communists win so that they would join the Soviet Republic voluntarily.
And so in January 1918, the Finnish civil war was started. With the White guards alongside some German troops, Jägers and some Swedish volunteers went against the Soviet sponsored Red Guards, the whole nation was divided. And because the whites had more experienced people fighting against the reds, with excellent leading by the ex-Russian general Carl Gustav Mannerheim, they were able to defeat the reds at May 15th. And after this war, the socialist parties were banned and some extreme whites at the twenties tried to get socialist promoters out of Finland and into the Soviet union.
Then comes the Second World War, often remembered for the landing of Normandy, the bombing of London, the battle of Stalingrad among other things. But this time didn’t mean just one, but two conflicts between Finland and the Soviet union. The Winter War (Finnish Talvisota, Swedish Vinterkrieg), while not as well known as the other incidents in the World War II, is still one of the most defining thing in Russo-Finnish relations. With almost a million soldiers (making this offensive comparable to the invasion in Normandy), about six and a half thousand tanks and almost four thousand air vehicles, the Soviet union attacked into the Finnish Karelia on November 30th, 1939. We were able to keep our independence against the invaders, even though we lost most of Karelia. Then came about half a year of cold relations with this Eastern neighbor, and in July of 1941, the Continuation War (Finnish jatkosota Swedish fortsättningskriget) was started. This was a coordinated attack by Germany and Finland against their common enemy, the Soviets. With weaponry and other supplies by the Germans, the Finnish army was able to take back the parts of Karelia that were lost in the Winter war, and then some, this being symbolized by the invasion of Petrozavodsk, which while under occupation was known as Ääneslinna.
But after Germany took heavy blows on the western front and failed invasion of Stalingrad, they started to go back into Germany, opening a flank route for the Soviet troops to the sides of the Finnish army. And they were able to drive us back and we made a piece treaty to protect our independence. And thus by the terms of the peace treaty, we had to drive the Germans out of Lapland, thus leading us to the third conflict of ours in the Second World War; the Lapland war. First there was secret talks between Finland and Germany about driving them out while acting that there was conflict, the Allies found out about it and thus it became a real offensive of Finland against the Nazis (They burned Lapland, the bastards).
After WWII was over, Finland was among the countries to get war penalties and debt for going against the Soviets, which involved a lot of industrial goods. The nineteen fifties and sixties were used to pay up the debt and try to improve our relations with the Russians, while trying to get solid relations with the west. The debts were paid mostly with industrially refined goods, which forced us to make our industry better and more competitive. The best known face of trying to refine our relations with the East was none other than Urho Kaleva Kekkonen, often said to be the best president of Finland, as he was able to keep the Russo-Finnish relations in a very good shape.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Finland has been more active than ever in global politics and the West. We joined the EU in 1995, adopted the Euro in 2002 and have been part of many UN peace keeping missions. And we stand as the model of high quality of life and high level of education and a prime example of the Nordic welfare state. We were the first nation to grant women the right to be fully involved in politics (New Zealand was first to let women vote, but they could not run for office), we are one of the least corrupt countries in the world, and we have some brands and inventions known world over. Nokia is one of the most known phone companies of all time. And Angry Birds is one of the most known mobile games. The sauna is a really no-brainer Finnish invention.
So yeah, these are some of the things that make me proud of my country, and make me who I am, and as a person who will next year get called into the military, I am willing to sacrifice even my life to this country that has given me so much.
So good Finnish independence day and Saint Nicholas’ day.