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The Postwar Years, Finland Today, and Finland Tomorrow
This website was originally created to tell the story of Finland's fight to remain independent against almost insurmountable odds during WWII. Caught between the plans for European domination by the Russian and German dictators, Finland walked a fine political line and held off invasion from the east with incredible courage and gallantry. The story is still relevant today to all people throughout the world. But, the story would not be complete without knowing how Finland is faring today; a nation with deep ties to the European Union, a culture with a strong history in music and the arts, and a well educated people who are leading in technological advancement into the 21st century.
Finland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. On December 6th, 1917, Parliament (the Eduskunta) proclaimed Finland an independent republic. During World War II, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and resist invasions by the Soviet Union - albeit with some loss of territory. The nation retained its independence after World War II but had to cede considerable amounts of territory and pay huge war reparations to the Soviet Union. In the subsequent half century, the Finns made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is now on par with Western Europe. Finland joined the European Union on January 1st, 1995. As a member of the European Union, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999 and began using Euro cash in 2002.
The Soviet Union, and Finland’s largest trading partner, exerted influence on Finnish politics throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, even forcing the withdrawal of a candidate for president in 1962. The president at this time was Urho Kekkonen who was first elected in 1956 and would stay in office until 1981. During this long period, Finland’s economy and politics remained tied to the Soviet Union although the Finnish Communist party gradually lost influence. This was a period called “Finlandization” that saw pro-soviet attitudes and downplayed Finnish nationalism, even to the point of ignoring the Finnish successes against Russia in the Winter War and not publicly discussing the injustice of the Soviet attack against Finland in 1939.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused a severe recession in Finland (as it did for other countries dependent on trade with the USSR) and forced Finland to reorient its trade towards the west. It also forced Finland’s companies and industry to become more competitive with the rest of Europe and the U.S. Finland joined the European Union in 1995. Tarja Halonen was elected the first woman president of Finland in 2000.
Finland's military in the postwar years
With the armistice with Russia signed in 1944, Finland was forced to dismantle its military. The limit on the army was 34,000 men. The navy limit was 4,500 men and the total tonnage of all ships together could not exceed 10,000 tons. The air force was limited to 60 fighter planes and 3,000 men. All submarines and bomber aircraft were to be scrapped.
Military service is compulsory for Finnish men and conscription (the draft) lasts between 180 – 362 days depending on whether the recruit is training for regular army duties or is training for officer or special duties. Finland follows strict neutrality but does have a peacekeeping force that has distinguished itself in the Sinai, Cyprus, Golan Heights, Lebanon, and the former Yugoslavia. Finland also co-operates with NATO in the Partnership for Peace program which has improved the ability of Finnish troops to cooperate internationally in peacekeeping and search and rescue operations.
Finland has some of the highest standards of literacy in the world. Finnish children grow up learning not only Finnish but several languages with English, German and French being most popular but other European languages like Spanish and Italian are also gaining in popularity. If you are an English speaking traveler, it is quite easy to find someone who can help you in the large department stores, hotels, and restaurants of Finland’s largest cities. Go to a club in Helsinki at night and you can hear English being spoken between Finns and foreigners alike.
In a short period of time, Finland has grown from a mostly agrarian society to a country that now finds its economy fueled by technology and communications. In order to compete against Asia, Europe and the west for jobs and market, Finland puts incredible energy and money into schools and education. Schools, including universities, are free for all Finns. School meals are free for all students.
Unemployment, as of July 2005, is at 8% in Finland, but education and training will allow Finnish companies to grow and pioneer new areas for jobs. Higher education will provide the manpower to compete in research and development keeping Finland at the forefront in a technology driven society.
The Capitol of Finland
Famous Finns who made an impact on Finland and the world in the postwar years
Composer Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957) is undoubtedly one of the greatest national heroes in Finland. His orchestral work Finlandia (1900) captures the Finnish landscape and mentality in the fight against Russian oppression. The Sibelius Academy is the only music university in Finland and one of the biggest in Europe.
Linus Torvalds, who originated (and still maintains) Linux, the free computer operating system which is taking the world by storm and is showing increasing signs of revolutionizing the computer industry. Linux is a high performance, yet completely free, Unix-like computer operating system that is suitable for use on a wide range of computers and other products. The operating system provides the support for Apache web server which, in turn, hosts almost 65% of the world's websites.
Alvar Aalto is one of Finland's most famous architects whose contributions incorporate light and nature into the designs of his buildings and plans. After the war, he put a good deal of effort into the development of prefabricated housing and into master planning, such as the Seinäjoki and Rovaniemi city centres. He designed the student dormitory at MIT in Massachusetts, the Finlandia Hall Congress Wing, and the House of Culture in Helsinki. The head office for the National Pensions Institute (1948), the Otaniemi master plan for Helsinki University of Technology (1949), Säynätsalo Town Hall (1949), the Rautatalo office building (1951) and the present University of Jyväskylä (1951) are some of his early postwar designs.
In the postwar decades of what has been called “the American Century,” Eero Saarinen helped create the international image of the United States with his designs for some of the most potent symbolic expressions of American identity such as St. Louis Gateway Arch (1948-64), General Motors Technical Center (1948-56), Detroit and TWA Terminal (1956-62) at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. (Taken from the website: http://www.eerosaarinen.net/ )
The internal structural change in machinery and electronics industry exports occurred quickly in the 1980 and '90s. The electronics industry's output multiplied seven-fold in the 1990s, thanks to growth in telecommunications equipment exports. Nokia became Finland's most important company, with a full one-quarter share of the country's total exports. The electrical and electronics industry's share of Finland's total exports has already reached 30 per cent. There are three almost equally important exports sectors in the Finnish economy: electronics and electrotechnical goods account for about 27.5% of exports, metal and engineering products account for about 27.1% and forest industry products account for about 26.5%. (Virtual Finland). International competition is changing into competition for high technology investments and skilled labour. Countries and regions are competing for capital and highly educated personnel. Thanks to technological developments, Finland has significantly improved its advantage as a corporate location.
Sources and suggested links:
Virtual Finland - An online magazine created by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Helsinki from A to Z - A guide to museums, galleries and theaters in Helsinki, plus maps
Finland Diary - Blogs about Finland from the Washington Post
Finland Links - links to 3000 English language websites about everything Finnish
Finn Facts - Information on Finnish industries and economy
Visit Finland - the Finnish Tourist Board’s official travel guide to Finland
Mil.fi - The Official Finnish Military Website
Thank you to Steve Lucas for providing some of the photos used on this page.
Website designed and owned by
Marshall Kregel email@example.com
Copyright © 2003 - 2012 Marshall Kregel. No parts of the website
reproduced without prior authorization. All rights reserved.
Revised: June 23, 2012 .