Until the middle of the 12th century, the geographical area that is now Finland was a political vacuum and interesting to both its western neighbour Sweden and the Catholic Church there, and its eastern neighbour Novgorod ( Russia) and its Greek Orthodox Church. Sweden came out on top, as the peace treaty of 1323.
Finland's most important centre was the
town of Turku, founded in the middle of the 13th century. It was
also the Bishop's seat.
When Sweden lost its position as a great power in the early 18th century, Russian pressure on Finland increased, and Russia conquered Finland in the 1808-1809 war with Sweden.
During the Swedish period, Finland was merely a group of provinces and not a national entity. Finland was governed from Stockholm, the capital of the Finnish provinces at that time.
But when Finland was joined to Russia in 1809 it became an autonomous Grand Duchy. The Grand Duke was the Russian Emperor, whose representative in Finland was theGovernor General . The enlightened Russian Emperor Alexander I, who was Grand Duke of Finland in 1809-1825, gave Finland extensive autonomy thereby creating the Finnish state.
Lutheran Church retained its position
in Finland, and so did Swedish as the official language of the country. In
1812, Helsinki was made the capital of Finland, and the
University, which had been founded in Turku in 1640, was moved to
Helsinki in 1828. Finland's highest governing body was the Senate,
whose members were Finns.
On December 6, 1917, Parliament approved the declaration of independence. In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non aggression pact, which included a secret protocol relegatingFinland to the Soviet sphere of interest.
In November 1994 Parliament approved Finnish EU membership as of the beginning of 1995 . The work of the new government was influenced right from the start by Finland's accession to the Presidency of the European Union for the second half of 1999.
In February 2000 Tarja Halonen became the first woman to be elected President of Finland.