History Files


European Kingdoms

Northern Europe




Fenno-Scandinavia / Nordic Countries

Modern Finland (Suomi to the Finns themselves) emerged into European history not only as Finland (in modern southern Finland) but also as Kvenland, a vast, ill-defined reach of Scandinavian and Fennoscandian territory which at the end of the Viking Age still encompassed not only most of modern Finland, but also the northern two-thirds of modern Sweden and Norway and part of north-western Russia. Originally peopled by Sami and Kvens, these were bolstered by the arrival of non-Indo-European Finno-Ugric people from the east, along with their Estonian cousins, at some point around the start of the third millennium BC. These new arrivals brought with them cattle breeding and tillage skills, but these were surpassed by the farming skills of Indo-European migrants about five hundred years later. The Finno-Ugric peoples of which these early Finns were a part settled in a huge swathe which reached eastwards into the Urals and south into what is now Lithuania. They also bear a distant relationship to the early Hungarians.

Until the medieval period, only the very south of modern Finland was called Finn-land, coastal districts mainly, while early Sweden and Norway were also relatively small southern territories. Norse sources mention a series of semi-legendary kings of Kvenland which predate Sweden's control. Once that control was established, the Swedes knew it as Österland, the 'eastern land', and for a very long time that is how it remained, as a set of eastern provinces of Sweden itself. Until 1809, modern Finland had no national identity as such. In modern usage, the term 'Scandinavia' tends to refer only to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, while 'Nordic Countries' also includes Finland and perhaps Estonia too, and is preferred generally. For the purposes of this page, 'Fenno-Scandinavia' is generally used to refer to the same region.

However, claiming anything as substantial as kings, or a kingdom, for the Kvens is highly controversial in some quarters. Anything approaching a unified or organised state is firmly refuted, with comparisons to fairy tale kingdoms being made. Instead, it is much more likely that the Kvens were organised on a tribal basis, perhaps with local kingship which, when encountered in Norse material was inflated to a national level.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, Jonathan Nyberg, from The History of the Baltic Countries, various authors, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, and from working in conjunction with the Kvenland site, listed in the 'Northern Europe' section of the Sources page.)

9000s BC

FeatureBy this date Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Prussia are settled by proto-Baltic hunter-gather tribes which all share the same cultural traces. They belong to two groups, one being the regionally-dominant Baltic Kunda culture, which is a development of the earlier Swiderian culture located to the south. The other is the Magdalen-Ahrensburg culture located in north-western Germany and Denmark, which probably enriches the Kunda culture.

Traditional scholarly belief has these hunter-gatherers migrating from the southern Baltics and further east, but a more recent idea suggests that while this is partially correct, Finland and northern Scandinavia are also first inhabited via the sweeping grass plains of Doggerland (now under the North Sea). Migrating Neolithic people could cross the wide watery inlet known as the Norwegian Trench before heading along the Norwegian coast, a thin strip of habitable land between the North Atlantic and the ice sheets of the tail end of the last ice age.

Bay of Finland
Finland is probably the only known location in Scandinavia with an inter-Glacial Neanderthal settlement which dates to around 120,000 years ago, while the first true humans arrived around 9000 BC at the end of the last ice age

c.8900 BC

Whether migration into the area of modern Finland takes place from the Atlantic coast or the south-east, some southern and south-eastern settlements are inhabited from the end of the last ice age. Radiocarbon studies show traces of human life around Ristola in Lahti, in southern Finland, from each consecutive century from this time onwards. Orimattila is another early-habitation site.

c.8300 BC

The earliest post-glacial inhabitants of the Finland region are probably seasonal hunter-gatherers for the most part. Artefacts belonging to them which have been discovered by archaeologists are known to represent the Suomusjärvi and Kunda cultures. Among finds is the Antrea net, the oldest fishing net ever known to have been excavated.

c.6150 BC

FeatureAlmost the last vestiges of the Dogger Hills are submerged beneath the rising waters of the North Sea. Hunter-gatherer communities have been living a semi-nomadic life on the sweeping plains of grass that had stretched from the east coast of Britain up to the Shetland Islands and across to Scandinavia (an area known as Doggerland) since the end of the last ice age, around 10,500 BC. They had lived in family groups in huts and hunted animals such as deer and wild boar until slowly rising water levels increasingly forced them to retreat to higher ground, land which today forms Britain or Continental Europe.

While initially dated roughly to 6500 BC, more recent archaeology has pinpointed a very precise date of 6150 BC for a disaster that is related to disappearance of Doggerland. This takes the form of a catastrophic tsunami. By this time, Doggerland is already little more than a mass of islands that are divided by the encroaching North Sea waters. To the north, layers of sand and boulders have built up during the ice age along the coast of Norway, under the water on the edge of the continental shelf.

Professor David Tappin, marine geologist for the British Geological Survey, points to a geological scar on the ocean floor as proof that an earthquake strikes the region, sending a two-hundred mile-long section of sediment (the size of Iceland) crashing down onto the sea floor. Now known as the Storegga Slide, the slide displaces millions of tons of sea water to create a massive tsunami that strikes Iceland, Greenland, North America, and also Britain's eastern coastline as far south as the Humber. It wipes out coastal settlements by the score.

c.4000 BC

Crop farming is introduced into the area of modern southern Sweden, which at this time is inhabited mainly by Finns. The date seems early for the arrival of the Finns into Scandinavia, by as much as a thousand years, but some 'experts' continue to push for it.

c.3000 BC

The Comb Ceramic culture reaches Prussia, Estonia and Finland as new peoples arrive from the east, almost certainly the Finno-Ugric tribes who form the later core of Finland and Estonia. This includes Estonians, Finns, Livonians, Karelians, Wots, Weps, and Ingrians, whilst leaving behind a large swathe of Finno-Ugric tribes across northern Russia and Siberia that later evolves into various groupings such as the Mari. It also appears to leave behind a group that eventually migrates southwards into the Russian Steppes, where it evolves into the Magyars that invade Hungary in the ninth century AD.

Comb Ceramic pottery
The pottery of the Comb Ceramic culture (also known as Pit-Comb Ware) - a widespread cultural expression of far north-eastern Europe's foragers between the Baltic Sea and the Ural Mountains - shows the typical comb imprints that gave the its name

This Neolithic culture seems to form on the basis of the previous Mesolithic cultures, but uses a greater variety of bone, antler and stone implements, and employs boring, drilling, and abrading skills. Proto-Lapponoid skeletons from this period have been found by archaeologists, showing that these blended Mongoloid/Europeans live alongside the new arrivals and bear a certain similarity to Siberian Finno-Ugric peoples. It has been suggested that they originate around the region of Lake Ladoga and disperse over a wide area.

c.2500 BC

The Corded Ware culture (or Boat Axe culture) arrives in southern Finland, along the coastal regions, as well as in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, western Russia, Poland, northern Germany, Denmark, and southern Sweden. These new arrivals also have some domesticated animals and bring agriculture with them, although it continues to exist alongside universally-practised hunter-gather activities for some time. Västergötland on the island of Gotland is an ideal example of this new culture. Archaeological finds and DNA testing in 2011-2012 show that the people who have brought agriculture into the region are closely related to similar farmers in the Mediterranean. This would seem to make them early Indo-European arrivals who are now spreading into both areas. The region's existing populations of Finno-Ugric foragers show the greatest similarity to modern Finns, according to the same research.

c.2000 - 1000 BC

During the last few centuries prior to the Yamnaya horizon (which had seen the proto-Indo-European ancestors of the now proto-Germanics begin their migrations), cannabis may have been travelling from the Pontic-Caspian steppes to Mesopotamia and the early city states of Sumer. Greek kdnnabis and proto-Germanic *baniptx seem to be related to the Sumerian kuriibu. Sumerian dies out as a widely spoken language after around 2000 BC, so the connection must be a very ancient one. The international trade of the Late Uruk period (circa 3300-3100 BC) provides a suitable context for this trade.

The link between the early, proto-Indo-European form of the word cannabis (and therefore its probable Sumerian origin of kuriibu) to the proto-Germanic form requires a few steps. In the late Bronze Age, proto-Germanic groups are pretty isolated in southern Scandinavia and along the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, but are theorised to be in contact with the proto-Celts (and possibly even dominated by them). In support of this is the realisation that 'cannabis' would need to pass through Celtic to reach its Germanic form: the initial 'k' would be a 'kw' in Q-Celtic (of the First Wave), transformed to a 'p' in P-Celtic (of the Second Wave), and then transformed into a 'b' in Belgic (northern Celtic), and finally adopted into Germanic. This appears to fit in with the idea that Belgic Celts dominate northern Europe prior to the rise of the Germanic tribes around the fifth century BC.

c.750 - 500 BC

MapWhile the Celts are beginning to expand from their traditional territory in southern Germany, the Germanic peoples still seem to be occupying a possible original homeland in southern Sweden and the Jutland peninsula (as suggested by Edward Dawson), where they would be surrounded on three sides by Kvens. They appear to go through a period in which they are conquered by the western Celts (Gauls) and remain subject to them (especially in Jutland), subsequent to which (and probably triggered by this Gallic period), they began expanding south-westwards along the North Sea coast and eastwards along the shores of the Baltic.

Bracelet found in Finland
A bracelet found by archaeologists in modern Finland dated to about 1000 BC

At this stage the Germanic peoples appear to be at least ninety per cent Swedish in origin, with only the Vandali and Teutones possibly of a Jutland peninsula origin. Both these latter tribes have Gallic names, suggesting that the Jutland peninsula is conquered by Gauls, and southern Sweden is probably made a satellite subject province. The indicators for this are the very evident influence on the Germanics by Gauls in borrowed words, borrowed names, borrowed gods and shared customs.

Kvenland (of the Kainu)

The Kainu were a Neolithic people who occupied territory around the Gulf of Bothnia, close to the modern Finno-Swedish border. They are regarded today by Finns as a major component of their modern nation. They were originally Sami hunter-gatherers whose numbers were later bolstered by the arrival of Finnic Kvens from the Savo region (central south-eastern Finland). The cultures and ancestry of the Sami and Finns were not related, but both peoples, in the north and south of Kvenland respectively, formed the ancestral basis of modern Finland. The Tavastians, Savonians and Karelians also formed the basis for the modern country, and fellow Sami peoples were labelled the Scritobini, Screrefennae or, mostly tellingly, the Scridefinni by medieval writers (particularly by Paul the Deacon in his eighth century history of the Langobards). Paul paints them as being particularly barbaric, so undeveloped that they ate raw meat and wore shaggy animal skins. This would appear to be a rather derogatory snapshot of them during the Neolithic period, but it is unlikely they were quite as barbaric as Paul depicts them by the time he was writing.

The only times the tribal leaders of Kvenland (Quenland, Kainuunmaa, Kainuu, or modern Kajanaland) were recorded is when they came into contact with more cohesive outside nations. The early Finns who settled on the southern coast of Kvenland are treated in much the same way by history. A few Kven leaders were recorded by the early Norse, and were rendered in a Nordic style, with godlike attributes. However, this does not mean that they did not exist a less godly form. The Kvens may also have formed the Sitones of Tacitus in the first century AD.

In addition, the early kings of the Swedes were all Ynglings (Scylfings, also the ancient house of the kings of the Danes before their migration to the Cimbric Peninsula, which probably reflects a shared heritage). Based on medieval accounts, notably those by the Icelandic bishop, poet and historian Snorri Sturluson, the roots of the early Ynglings were in Kvenland. Whether those roots were on the modern Swedish or Finnish side of the northern arm of the 'Kven Sea' (the modern Gulf of Bothnia), is unclear, but until the medieval period all of this was part of Kvenland anyway. Based on some evidence, such as statements by Snorri Sturluson, the Ynglings appear to have originated on the Finnish side of the gulf, known in Sweden as 'Österland' at the time of Sturluson's accounts. This may point to the birth of Sweden having largely been a Kven-Swedish collaboration, but the lack of the the Finno-Ugric haplogroup N1c1 in the modern Swedish population (covering just 9% of it) suggests a different story. Instead, could the Ynglings have been a group of proto-Swedes who had simply migrated farther east than any of their contemporaries, before returning to begin their domination of the rest of their people?

Either way, Edward Dawson thinks it likely that Norse magical tradition comes from the Finns and/or Kvens because it shows the characteristics of the shamanism of Uralic and Altaic speakers and related groups across northern Eurasia. An absolute characteristic of the Eurasian shamanic cosmogony is the higher/middle/lower worlds division, quite evident in the nine worlds of Norse myth if you have magical knowledge and know the subject properly. The Germanic peoples, who originated as a recognisable group in southern Scandinavia, show evidence of strong contact and influence from Celts and Finns/Kvens. Of their deities, there seems to be only one direct descendant from Indo-European tradition, that of Tyr or Tiu (who is cognate with 'deus' or 'dyus'). The others appear to be either invented (Heimdall means 'home valley'), or borrowed (Thor was the Taranus of the Celts), or they are deified humans such as Wotan (the Woden of the Angles).

(Additional information by Jonathan Nyberg and Edward Dawson, and from working in conjunction with the Kvenland site, listed in the 'Northern Europe' section of the Sources page.)


MapWriting around this time, the Roman writer Tacitus provides the earliest known reference to the Svea and Finnish people - Kvens specifically in the latter case. He uses the term 'Suiones' for the Sveas (Swedes) and 'Sitones' for the Kvens and Finns: "Upon the Suiones, border the Sitones people; and, agreeing with them in all other things, differ from them in one, that here the sovereignty is exercised by a woman. So notoriously do they degenerate not only from a state of liberty, but even below a state of bondage." Clearly they practise the same form of matrilineal descent as the later Picts of northern Britain.

Map of Kvenland
This map of late tribal Kvenland helps to illustrate just how much of Scandinavia and north-western Russia was occupied by the various Finnic and Sami tribes

Fornjótr / Fornjot

An ancient giant in Norse mythology.

Fornjótr, or Fornjót, is described as the king who reigns over Finland (in the far south), Kvenland (the great swathe of territory that encompasses the rest of modern Finland, the northern two-thirds of Sweden, a large area of Norway, and a great chunk of north-western Russia), and Gotland (an area of southern Sweden). The Swedish royal family apparently originates with this king through his descendants, Nór (Nori, ancestor of the Norwegian kings) and Gór.

Kári Fornjótrsson

Son. A wind god in two sagas and heir to his father's kingdom.

fl c.430

Frosti Karasson / Jokul Frostarsson

Son. 'Frost' or 'ice', respectively. Same person, despite names.

The Ynglinga Saga mentions the earliest-known military expedition to Finland (actually Kvenland). "It happened one summer that King Agne of the Swedes went with his army to Finland, and landed and marauded. The Finns gathered a large army, and proceeded to the strife under a chief called Froste. There was a great battle, in which King Agne gained the victory, and Froste fell there with a great many of his people. King Agne proceeded with armed hand through Finland, subdued it, and made enormous booty." It is unclear whether this attack is against a chief of the vast territory of Kvenland, the coastal Finns or the later north-western region of Finnmark (now northern Norway).

Snaer Vanha (the Old)

Son. 'Snow'. 'King of Kvenland'.


Son of Frosti. 'King of Kvenland'.

Thorri Snaersson

Son of Snaer. 'King of Kvenland'.

Gor Thorrasson 'Sea King'

Son. In Kvenland.

The original line of 'kings' ends with Gor's father. Although other names emerge between the fourth and ninth centuries, no connection to the early names is known to exist. The appellation of 'Sea King' to subsequent names, from Gor to his great-grandson, Sveidi, suggests that they lose or surrender their inheritance as Kven kings (if such an inheritance and connection had ever existed at all) and rule the seas instead, eventually ending up as minor lords of the Norwegians.

fl c.700?

Heiti Gorsson 'Sea King'

Son. In Norway.

Svidri 'Sea King'

Son. In Norway.

Sveidi 'Sea King'

Son. In Norway.

Halfdan 'Vanha' ('the Old')

Son. In Norway.

Earl Ivar

Son. In Norway.

fl c.820s

Eystein 'The Noisy'

Son. In Norway.

fl 868 - 869

Ragnvald 'The Wise'

Son. Earl of Raumsdal & More in Norway.

868 - 869

In his quest to unite all of the minor Norwegian kingdoms under a single ruler, King Haraldr Hárfagri subdues South More and selects Ragnvald to be earl of North More, South More, and also Raumsdal. In the following year, Earl Ragnvald captures Firdafylke by burning down a house in Naustdal in which is King Vemund with ninety of his men.

Kings of Kvenland

While the neighbouring Swedes were beginning to show signs of their eventual dominance in southern Scandinavia, the Kvens were just one of a number of inhabitants of the more southern parts of Kvenland. Many other tribes that also eventually became Finnish included the Tavastians (in modern southern-central Finland), Karelians (Balto-Finns on the modern Finno-Russian border), Savonians (a sub-grouping of Karelians and Tavastians in modern eastern-central Finland), and others. To an extent, all of these seemed to play an important part in the creation of the early Swedish state.

In the more isolated northern and eastern parts of Scandinavia there lived only Kvens and Sami until the end of the Viking period, except for the people in Hålogaland, who were either Norse or possible descendants of ancient Kvens, or a mixture of the two. Late in the Viking period, many Savonians migrated northwards within the area of modern Finland, to the modern provinces of Oulu and Kainuu and some of the surrounding areas as well. The Norse sagas invariably focus upon individuals who were either of southern Scandinavian stock, or who were Kvens in origin and who migrated south or westwards to be absorbed into Norse culture (such as the Savonians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries). Even so, there are traces of Kvens who remained in the north and east. Again, these traces are infrequent, and usually only arise when they came into contact with other peoples who had some kind of oral tradition that survived, such as the Norwegians or Swedes.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, and from working in conjunction with the Kvenland site, listed in the 'Northern Europe' section of the Sources page.)

fl c.500?


'Ruler of Finland' according to Widsith. King Kaleva?


Describing a Europe of about AD 500, the Old English poem Widsith mentions several Germanic peoples, not all of whom can be properly identified, alongside more obvious peoples such as the Angles, Burgundians, Danes, Finns, Geats, Jutes, and Ostrogoths. A King Caelic is mentioned for the Finns, a presumed reference to Kaleva or Kalev, a national figure for both Finland and Estonia. The latter's national epic, Kalevipoeg (Son of Kalev), tells of a time in which Christianity is pushing Kalev and his pagan sons to the edges of society where they stubbornly resist conversion and are eventually ostracised completely.

The Estonian artist, Oskar Kallis, depicted Kalevipoeg in his traditional form of a giant, perhaps mixed with a little Viking, in this pastel from 1915, but the giants of legend are usually accepted as being descriptive forms of earlier, pre-Christian peoples


Jordanes, a bureaucrat in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, writes of the barbarian tribes in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, mentioning a wide number of them which include the most gentle Finns, 'milder than all the inhabitants of Scandza' (Scandinavia).

He refers to the Samis, Kvens and Finns, combining them as the Finni, and also mentions the Adogit and Vinoviloth tribes. The latter are mentioned here for the only time in history, suggesting that it is a considerable corruption of the name of a Kven tribe ('vino' probably means 'Finn', with an unknown addition), although they have also been linked to the Reudigni tribe. The Adogit of the far north could be a form of háleygir, possibly linking them to the later petty Norse kingdom of Hålogaland, which is probably still part of Kvenland at this time.

Aude Rikas

Mentioned by Snorri Sturluson.




As mentioned by the Norna-Gests þáttr Saga, the king of the Swedes, Sigurd Ring, fights off a heavy raid by Couronians and Kvens into the southernmost region of Swedish lands.


Kvens and Norse cooperate in battling against the invading Karelians, according to Egil's Saga, written around 1240.




Swedish Viking interest and exploration into the Slavic lands to the east of the Baltic states has been building up for some time. In this year an ethnic Finn named Rurik of Novgorod founds the grand principality of Kiev. According to medieval sources, Rurik had been born on the Roslagen seashore of Uppland, part of Kvenland and on the border with the north-easternmost edge of the territory inhabited by the Swedes. Swedish and Kven integration in the region had only recently begun by the time of his birth. Modern DNA studies confirm Rurik's ethnic origin.

fl 870s


Allied with Norway to fight the Karelians to the east.


It is around this point in time that the Swedes begin to take an interest in the Finnic lands, with Swedish settlers beginning to arrive along the coast. Eventual domination follows in what the Swedes call Österland, which is considered to be directly part of Sweden. To the north, the vast swathe of territory which covers all of modern Finland and the northern two-thirds of Sweden is still known as Kvenland, and is occupied by Samis and Finnic Kvens.


The Kvens and Norse cooperate in battles against the invading Karelians, again according to Egil's Saga. Thorolf Kveldulfsson, the head of taxes for the king of Norway from 872, enters Kvenland, going "up on the fell with a hundred men; he passed on at once eastwards to Kvenland and met King Faravid". Based on medieval documents, this meeting takes place during the winter of 873-874.


The oldest known written use of the term 'Kven', with nearly that spelling, is made in the Account of the Viking Othere, a report of the geopolitical landscape of the North, based on the voyage by Ottar, the Norse Viking adventurer, as he makes his way through the oceanic coasts of northern Scandinavia and the extreme north-west of modern Russia. In this account, the Kvens are referred to as 'Cwenas' who live in 'Cwena land'. It is the first genuine and comprehensive account of the North, and is therefore a principle source in studies relating to Nordic history.


The Norse Viking, Ottar, reports his findings to King Alfred of Wessex, who has his account included in the additions to the Universal History of Orosius, which the king republishes. The book is a shared work between Orosius and King Alfred. The Kven Sea is mentioned as the northern border of Germany. The location of Kvenland is also explained in the following ways: "Ottar (Ohthere) said that the Norwegians' (Norðmanna) land was very long and very narrow... and to the east are wild mountains, parallel to the cultivated land. Sami people (Finns) inhabit these mountains... Then along this land southwards, on the other side of the mountain, is Sweden... and along that land northwards, Kvenland (Cwenaland).

"The Cwenas (Kvens) sometimes make depredations on the Northmen over the mountain, and sometimes the Northmen on them; there are very large freshwater meres amongst the mountains, and the Kvens carry their ships over land into the meres, and thence make depredations on the Northmen; they have very little ships, and very light."


Begining around this time, a good number of southern Finns of the Tavastian group migrate to the Torne Valley region of Kvenland, near the modern Swedo-Finnish border territory and modern northern Sweden. The Norse call these people and their descendants Kvens, along with the already ancient populations of Kvens in the north who still live alongside the Sami.


Olaf II Haraldson of Norway plunders in Finland (the southern coastal section between Kvenland and the Baltic Sea) and almost gets himself killed at the Battle at Herdaler, according to the Saga of Olaf Haraldson, which is part of the Heimskringla Saga.


Olaf Haraldson achieves hegemony over the Sami of Kvenland who border the Norwegian earldom of Lade, covering a long coastal strip which also borders the north of Sweden.


The German chronicler Adam of Bremen discusses Kvens in Gesta. He calls Kvenland 'Terra Feminarum', or 'Women's Territory', paralleling remarks made by Tacitus in AD 98 and referring to the practice of matrilineal descent which is presumably still in vogue amongst the Kvens.

Despite occasional descriptive references from early writers such as Tacitus, pre-Viking Kvenland is shrouded in the mystery of a people with no writing and a lost oral tradition

fl 1154


Unnamed king of Finnmark, westernmost section of Kvenland.


The world atlas by the Arabic geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi, which is commissioned by the Norman count of Sicily, Roger II, mentions that the king of FMRK has possessions in Norway. 'FMRK' refers to Finnmark ('Finn land'), the name for the northernmost part of Kvenland. In the modern northern Norwegian county of Troms alone there are at least twelve prehistoric Kven place names, and Finnmark retains its name as Norway's northernmost county.


In his geographical chronicle, Leiðarvísir og borgarskipan, the Icelandic Abbot Níkulás Bergsson (Nikolaos) provides descriptions of the lands near Norway: Closest to Denmark is little Sweden (Svíþjóð), there is Öland (Eyland); then is [the island of] Gotland; then Hälsingland (Helsingaland); then Värmland (Vermaland); then two Kvenlands (Kvenlönd, perhaps Kvenland itself and Finland to the south, on the northern shore of the Baltic Sea), and they extend to north of Bjarmia (Bjarmalandi, the land of the Bjarmians).


The Historia Norvegiae (History of Norway) mentions Kvenland, stating that the Kvens serve pagan gods.


The 'pagans of the Eastern Sea' (Estonians of Saaremaa, Couronians, and Zembs of Prussia) conquer Sigtuna, the most important town of the Swedes, which they then burn down. The Swedish Eric's Chronicle of 1335 blames the Finnish Karelians for the attack. More recently, Professor Kustaa Vilkuna has suggested that the raid is in revenge for Sigtuna's merchants having intruded upon Kven fisheries on the River Kemijoki and on the hunting grounds of the Karelians. The medieval naming of a settlement in the village of Liedakkala by the River Kemijoki as 'Sihtuuna' may be additional confirmation of this.


The Danish historian, Saxo Grammaticus, writes in Gesta Danorum about Finnish and Kven kings and about the Scandinavian royal families which, based on several medieval sources, descend from them. Grammaticus' writings share a likeness and many characters and stories with those of Snorri Sturluson. Based on Grammaticus, many heroic Scandinavian figures have Finnic (or rather Kven) roots.


The Pope endorses the Northern Crusades to Christianise the Baltic peoples, and in this year he asks the Livonian Knights to aid the semi-Christianised Finns in their fight against the Orthodox Rus of the Novgorod republic.

Swedish Rulers of Österland (Kvenland / Finland)
AD c.1249 - 1581

Sweden and the neighbouring territory of Kvenland had been interacting for centuries, and the first Swedish royal house at Upsal had originated within Kvenland (although not necessarily originating with Kvens). Subsequently, Swedish interest in Kvenland grew as the Swedes themselves became increasingly powerful. By the ninth century, Swedes were raiding Kven, Sami, and Finnic lands (the latter being located on the southern coast of modern Finland), and they began to dominate the more fragmented people of Kvenland. The Kvens became an integral part of the kingdom of Sweden (which the Swedes called Österland or Osterlandia), while the westernmost section, Finnmark, eventually became a Norwegian county (after being dominated by Sweden to begin with), and the easternmost sections slowly became submerged within Russia.

From the thirteenth century onwards, the Swedish king began to appoint a governor or duke to manage his Finnic eastern territories. These were formed of the provinces of the Åland Islands (modern Åland), Finland Proper (modern Egentliga Finland), Karelia (the territory of the Karelians, modern Karelen), Uusimaa (modern Nyland), Satakunta (modern Satakunda), Savonia (modern Savolax), and Tavastia (modern Tavastland). While most of the governors are known (at least by name if not by deed) there are some gaps in the list. Additional, localised, governors were placed in Vyborg, while the bishops of Turku also wielded some authority. However, this does not mean that all of the Kven lands were subdued at the same time, and resistance and raiding by the Kvens was experienced for some time after this point.

(Additional information from working in conjunction with the Kvenland site, listed in the 'Northern Europe' section of the Sources page.)

1249 - 1255

Birger Magnusson of Bjälbo

Later power behind the Swedish throne.

1255 - 1280


Governor or governors unknown.


Icelandic annals report the following to have happened in the mid-northern area of modern Norway: "Then Karelians and Kvens pillaged widely in Hålogaland."

The medieval Swedes and Norse may have liked to think that they had the natives of Kvenland conquered by the thirteenth century, but intermittent raiding was continued by both sides in the struggle for superiority in Scandinavia and Fenno-Scandinavia

1280 - 1281

Carl Gustavsson / Carolus Gustavi

First castellan of Turku Castle.

1283 - 1291

Bengt I / Benedict

Grandson of Eric X. Duke of Finland. Bishop of Linköping (1286).


The first duke of Finland, Bengt is the son of Birger Magnusson of Bjälbo, the first confirmed Swedish ruler of Österland and the real power behind the Swedish throne between 1250-1266. His mother is almost certainly the late Ingeborg of Sweden (some sources conflict, but Ingeborg, who had died in 1254, is the most likely candidate). She had been the daughter of Eric X of Sweden, making King Valdemar and King Magnus I of Sweden his brothers.


Bengt becomes bishop of Linköping in southern central Sweden, one of the older dioceses in the kingdom (its first historical mention dates to 1104). The city also forms the capital of Östergötland.

1291 - 1305

Torkel Knutsson / Torgils

Governor. Shared power in 1302-1305 with Waldemar.

1302 - 1318

Prince Waldemar / Valdemar

Son of King Magnus I of Sweden. Duke.

1302 - 1305


Duchess, and consort of Prince Waldemar.


Torkel Knutsson, constable of Sweden and virtually its king during the early years of the young King Berger, is arrested and, in February 1306, he is executed. Prince Waldemar divorces his wife, the late constable's daughter, and in 1312 marries Ingeborg Eriksdottir, daughter of the late King Eric II of Norway.

1312 - 1353

Princess Ingeborg

Duchess, and second consort of Prince Waldemar.

1317 - 1318

To end the continuing conflict caused by the opposition of Prince Waldemar and his brother Duke Eric of Södermanland to Berger's reign in Sweden, the king has them both arrested and chained at the Nyköping Banquet (Nyköpings gästabud) on the evening of 10 December 1317. The two rebellious princes die mysteriously soon afterwards, possibly by being starved to death.

1318 - 1324

Lyder van Kyren of Holstein?

Governor unknown, but perhaps this Turku Castle castellan.

1324 - 1326

Matts Kettilmundson

Built up commerce in Turku.

1326 - ?

Carl Näskonungsson

1340 - 1347

Dan Niklinsson / Nilsson

1347 - ?

Gerhard Skytte

1353 - 1357

Bengt II Algotsson / Benedict

Duke. Also duke of Halland. Exiled.


Bengt is a descendant of Duke Canute of Reval, through the latter's younger son, Svantepolk of Skarsholm (died 1310). The duchy of Halland is inherited through this connection. Bengt repudiates his wife in 1356, and her powerful relatives have him exiled at the same time as a civil war begins against the Swedish king.

1356 - 1359


Eric XII of Sweden (1356-1359).


Eric is the last of the dukes to govern Österland, and a more normalised system of governors takes over from this point onwards. Sweden gradually includes an increasing amount of Österland (the heart of old Kvenland) within its territory.

c.1360 - 1365

Narve Ingvaldsson of Norway

? - 1371

Bo Jonsson Grip

Governor of Österland for an unknown period before rebelling.

1371 - 1386

King Albert of Sweden proves unpopular with his subjects, so much so that the governor of Österland, Bo Jonsson Grip, rules the territory as an independent state in opposition to him.

1371 - 1386

Bo Jonsson Grip

Independent governor of Österland.

1386 - 1395

Jakob Abrahamsson / Jeppe

1396 - 1421

Nils Tavast

1421 - 1435

Claes Lydekesson

1436 - 1437

Henrik Klasson

1437 - 1440

Hans Kröpelin

Former castellan of Turku Castle (1435).

1446 - 1450

Magnus Gren

1450 - 1458

Olav Nilsson

Shared power between 1457-1458 with his successor.

1457 - 1463?

Krister Bengtsson Oxenstierna

Also castellan of Turku Castle (1450-1463).

1465 - 1467

During this second break in his rule of Sweden, King Karl VIII holds the position of 'Lord of Finland', where he is recorded under the name of Karl Knutsson Bonde.

1465 - 1467

Karl Knutsson Bonde

King Karl VIII of Sweden as 'Lord of Finland'.

1481 - 1483

Laurens Axelsson

1483 - 1495


Name unknown.

1495 - 1496

Knut Jönsson Posse

1497 - ?

Magnus Frille

Castellan of Turku Castle (1499).

1497 - 1501

Sten Sture the Elder

Former castellan of Turku Castle (1469 & 1501).

1504 - 1515

Josef Persson

1520 - 1522

Thomas Wolf

1522 - 1525


Name unknown.

1525 - 1534

Johan av Hoya

fl 1530s

Tord Olofsson Bagge


The map of Scandinavia by Olaus Magnus shows a Kven settlement to the south of modern Tromsø in northern Norway, named 'Berkara Qvenar'. Integration is continuing, but Kvens are still easy to pick out in northern Scandinavia.

Map of Scandinavia 1581
This map of Scandinavia of 1581 shows just how far Swedish domination of Kvenland had progressed into the north and east


The first known Norwegian tax records mention Kvens. This is at a time, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, that the Swedish government is encouraging settlement in many wilderness and border areas in order to secure territories against fears of expansionism by the Russians. Even Sweden proper has its wilderness areas which require settlement.

Thanks to this policy, from the late 1580s, many Finns migrate westwards across Scandinavia. Thousands of farmers from Savonia and Northern Häme make the journey into regions as far afield as Telemark in south-western Norway and Sweden Proper, spreading from there to encompass territory between Tiveden in southern Sweden to Swedish Lapland in the north and Gästrikland, by the Gulf of Bothnia in the east. Appearing predominantly in central Scandinavia, these settlers become known as the Forest Finns. They help to turn forests to farmlands using slash-and-burn agriculture, and in return they are given land. More of them head north to Ostrobothnia and Kainuu, east towards Northern Karelia, and south towards Ingria (Swedish land at this time, but now within Russia). An estimated ten or fifteen per cent also cross the Baltic Sea in search of largely uninhabited land fit for their needs.

Those Kvens who settle in Norway prior to the twentieth century - and in some cases prior to the Second World War - and their descendants are called Kvens today, as they had originated from the medieval area of Kvenland. Also, the descendants of all the native Kvens in northern Scandinavia continue to be known by that name.

1556 - 1583


Duke. King John III of Sweden (1568-1592).


The future King John III of Sweden is granted part of Österland as a duchy, while his brothers also gain duchies of their own. It is John who raises all of Österland to a grand duchy upon his accession in 1581.

1562 - 1563

Princess Catherine Jagellon

Duchess, and consort of Prince John.

1561 - 1566

Gustav Fincke

Governor under Duke John.


Duke John has opposed the reign of his half-brother, Eric XIV of Sweden. For this he is imprisoned in this year, only to be subsequently released, probably due to Eric's increasing insanity. John rejoins the opposition and deposes Eric, becoming king himself in 1568. Princess Catherine, daughter of Zygmunt I Stary (the Old) of Poland, becomes queen consort of Sweden and grand princess of Finland.

1566 - 1568

Ivar Månsson Stiernkors

Governor under Duke John.

1568 - 1571

Hans Larsson Björnram

Governor under King John.

1571 - 1576

Henrik Claesson Horn

Governor under King John.

1576 - 1581

Klas Åkelsson Tott

Governor under King John.


The eastern provinces of Österland are raised to a grand duchy by the king of Sweden, probably using their Finnic name for the first time. Feudal privileges are abolished along with the old duchy.

Swedish Grand Duchy of Finland (Kvenland)
AD 1581 - 1809

With the accession of John III of Sweden, the provinces of Österland, which had been directly part of Sweden, were formed into a grand duchy. This was part of the king's policy of opposing the various grand duchies claimed by Czar Ivan IV of Russia. Ingria, Karelia, and Livonia were similarly raised, creating a line of grand duchies along the border with Russia. The king himself held the title and, firstly, a governor and later a governor-general was appointed under him to handle the day-to-day running of the region, pretty much on an independent basis. Swedish control lasted until 1809, with breaks beforehand, as the Russian empire gained an increasingly strong foothold in the country.

Perhaps encouraged by the increased opportunities that being joined to Sweden provided, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries many Finns migrated westwards in Scandinavia. Thousands of Savonians make the journey as far as eastern Norway and central Sweden and became known as the Forest Finns. They helped to turn forests to farmlands using slash-and-burn agriculture, and in return they were given land. In modern Sweden, young Princess Estelle, duchess of Östergötland, is a descendant of a Savonian Forest Finn on her father's side.

(Additional information from working in conjunction with the Kvenland site, listed in the 'Northern Europe' section of the Sources page.)

1581 - 1587

Klas Åkelsson Tott

Former governor of Österland.

1587 - 1590

Axel Stensson greve Leijonhufvud

1591 - 1597

Claes Erikson Fleming


The Teusina Treaty agrees peaceful terms between Sweden and Russia. Kvenland ('Kaianske landet') is mentioned for the first time in an official government document as a territory that is governed by Sweden, although in reality this claim is not entirely merited.

Olavinlinna Castle
The late fifteenth century Olavinlinna Castle was constructed in Savonlinna by Erik Axelsson in an attempt to lay claim to the recently acquired Russian side of the border

1597 - 1599

Arvid Stålarm

1599 - 1623


Name unknown.


Having strengthened his hold on the Swedish crown, Karl IX adds the title 'King of the Caijaners', referring to the inhabitants of Kainuu, otherwise known as Kvenland, apparently using the title for the first time on 16 March 1607. However, Kvenland is recognised as being distinct from the rest of Finland for a long time to come, and much of it never becomes part of Finland, either being absorbed by the Norwegians and Swedes in the west, or by Russia in the east..

1623 - 1631

Nils Turesson Bielke

Former governor of Estonia (1605). First gov-general of Finland.

1631 - 1633

Gabriel Bengtsson Oxenstierna

Former governor of Estonia (1611) & later of Livonia (1645).

1633 - 1637


Name unknown.

1637 - 1640

Per Brahe af Visingsborg 'the Younger'


The first wave of Swedish and Finnish settlers arrive in the New World colony of New Sweden, settling around Fort Christina. In Finland itself, Per Brahe's term in office is one of great improvements in administration, with his 'reign' being viewed as a minor golden age. Brahe founds ten new towns, creates a postal system, and serves to improve the duchy's infrastructure.

1640 - 1648


Name unknown.

1648 - 1654

Per Brahe af Visingsborg 'the Younger'

Second term of office.

1654 - 1657


Name unknown.


The colony of New Sweden in the Americas has its main settlement at Fort Christina captured in retaliation for a brief Swedish occupation of one of the Dutch forts in New Netherland. This ends the Swedish colony.

1657 - 1659

Gustav Evertsson Horn

Former governor of Livonia (1628 & 1652) & Ingria (1654).

1659 - 1669

Herman Claesson

1669 - 1674


Name unknown.


Henrik Henriksson

1674 - 1710


Name(s) unknown.

1696 - 1697

The country suffers a severe famine, known as the Great Famine, which leads to the death of almost one third of the entire Finnish population. The famine is theorised to be the result of climate change, and Finland is not the only victim. Estonia and Livonia also suffer large-scale death due to famine.


The most important Swedish scientist of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, Olaus Rudbeckius, publishes Atlantica. The territories of Västerbotten, north of Piteå, and Österbotten in northern Scandinavia and Fennoscandia are referred to as Kvenland.

1710 - 1712

Carl Gustaf von Nieroth

Former last governor of Swedish Estonia (1709).

1710 - 1712

During the Great Northern War, the disastrous Swedish defeat at the Battle of Poltava leads to the surrender of the army at Perevolochna and humiliation for the Swedish king. As a result, most of Finland is occupied by the Russian empire (with the period becoming known as the Greater Wrath). Livonia and Estonia are also lost to Russia at the same time. The governor of Finland, Carl Gustaf von Nieroth, is a successful field general, but he dies suddenly on campaign while taking a halt at Sarvlax Manor in Finland. The Russians set up their own military governors in opposition to the Swedes in the two years in which they continue to claim any element of control in Finland. From this point until 1809, control of Finland swings back and forth between the two powers. To differentiate them, Russian governors are shown in green during this period.

Capture of Malmo 1709
The capture of the town of Malmo in 1709 by Count Magnus Stenbock, probably one of the last Swedish victories as Russia and her allies defeated the Swedes later the same year

1710 - 1725

Aleksandr Danilovich, Prince Menshikov

First Russian military governor. Governed the eastern section.

1714 - 1721

Fyodor Matveyevich

Governed the western section.


Mikhail Mikhailovich, Prince Golitsyn

Governed the western section.


Sweden regains Finland as part of the terms of the Treaty of Nystad, which conclude the Great Northern War. Sweden is forced to cede Ingria, Estonia, and Livonia, although they have already been occupied by Russian troops since 1710, along with large sections of eastern territory above Lake Ladoga.

1717 - 1721

Gustaf Otto

Swedish administrator of the territory.

1721 - 1735


Governor, name(s) unknown.

1735 - 1736

Carl Gustaf Frölich

Former governor of Livonia (1702).

1736 - 1742


Name(s) unknown.


A Swedish attempt to regain territory lost to Russia backfires in the Russo-Swedish War (1741-1743). The war (also known as the Hats' Russian War) is also a tactic to divert Russia from supporting the Austrians during their War of the Austrian Succession. The Russian forces sweep the Swedes back to Helsinki where they surrender, and Finland is again occupied while peace negotiations rumble on. The Lesser Wrath, as this event is known, sees Sweden further diminished as a great power when it is forced to hand over the Finnish towns of Hamina and Lappeenranta, along with a strip of territory lying to the north-west of St Petersburg. The River Kymi is set as the new border.

1742 - 1743

Johann Balthasar von Campenhausen

Russian governor-general during the occupation.


Sweden regains control of Finland for the final time at the conclusion of the peace process.

1740s - 1747

Anders Johan greve Höpken

Swedish governor.

1747 - 1753

Gustaf Frederik von Rosen



For the past two centuries, Forest Finns have been settling a swathe of land in Norway from a point about 150 kilometres north of Oslo and covering a long stretch of border land between Norway and Sweden. That border is only now properly established between the two countries.

1753 - 1808


Name(s) unknown.

1808 - 1809

The Finnish War is fought between Sweden and Russia, part of the wider Napoleonic Wars. Russia has long coveted control of the grand duchy of Finland, and between February 1808 to September 1809 it is able to annexe what is in effect the eastern third of Sweden, detaching it as the now-autonomous grand duchy of Finland. The campaign is commanded by Barclay de Tolly, later Russian governor of Finland.

Russian Grand Duchy of Finland
AD 1809 - 1919

FeatureRussia's invasion of Finland eventually secured the duchy from Sweden on a permanent basis. This was a move that had previously been agreed between the Russian czar and Napoleon Bonaparte of France, much like the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact divided Europe in the twentieth century. The grand duchy was maintained but was now autonomous, with the title holder always being the Russian czar himself, beginning with Alexander I (remembered as the 'good grand duke').

This autonomous set-up was very different to the Swedish model for governing Finland, which saw it merely as an eastwards extension of Sweden proper. Now it was governed as a separate entity in its own right, and it can quite easily be said that modern Finland began in 1809. To start with, a military administrator governed the grand duchy, before the position of governor-general was reintroduced. Only the westernmost of the Finnish territories remained in Swedish hands, and these continued to be referred to as Österland. Nevertheless, Swedish influences remained strong throughout Finland, and do so even to this day.

(Additional information by Terhi Jääskeläinen, from a feature by Seppo Zetterberg: Main Outlines of Finnish History, part of the Virtual Finland site which no longer seems to be available, and from External Link: The Napoleon Series.)


Friedrich Wilhelm Graf von Buxhöveden

Russian military administrator, Feb-Dec.

1808 - 1809

Göran Magnus Sprengtporten

First Russian governor-general.


Although born in Finland, the sixty-eight year old Göran Magnus Sprengtporten proves to be so overwhelmingly unpopular that he is forced to resign his post. He is replaced by the general who had led the conquest of Finland.

The Finnish War of 1809
The Swedish plan of war in 1809 was largely based around the fortress of Sveaborg and waiting for reinforcements from Sweden itself, but the fortress' commanding officer, Karl Olof Cronstedt, inexplicably handed it over to the Russians following a brief barrage and the loss of six men

1809 - 1810

Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly

Died 1818.

1810 - 1824

Fabian Gotthard von Steinheil

Died 1831. Succeeded by Armfelt while fighting Napoleon.

1812 - 1813

Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt

Acting governor. Died 1814.


Helsinki is made the capital of Finland, replacing the ancient capital of Turku, which had been one of the first Finnic centres of power in the region.

1824 - 1831

Arseniy Andreievitch Zakrewsky

Died 1865.

1831 - 1861

Aleksander Sergeievitch Menschikov

Died 1869.


The Finnish national movement gains momentum during the Russian period. In this year the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, created by Elias Lönnrot, is published. Subsequently, J V Snellman (1806-1881), a senator and professor at the University of Helsinki during the reign of Czar Alexander II, works to promote the Finnish language and to make it an official language alongside Swedish.

1833 - 1846

Alexander Amatus Thesleff

Acting governor on various occasions. Died 1847.

1848 - 1855

Platon Ivanovitch Rokassowsky

Acting governor on various occasions. Died 1869.

1855 - 1861

Fredrik Wilhelm Rembert Berg

Acting governor on various occasions. Died 1874.

1861 - 1864

Platon Ivanovitch Rokassowsky

Promoted from acting governor. Died 1869.


The Language Decree is issued by Czar Alexander II. It marks the beginning of the process through which Finnish becomes an official administrative language. Although only one seventh of the Finnish population speaks Swedish as its first language, Swedish retains its dominant position until the beginning of the twentieth century. In the same year, the Finnish Diet is convened after a break of more than half a century. From now on, the Diet meets regularly, and active legislative work in Finland begins.


Johan Mauritz Nordenstam

Acting governor.

1864 - 1881

Nikolai Vladimirovitch Adlerberg

Died 1892.

1866 & 1867

Bernhard Indrenius

Acting governor twice.

1866 - 1868

Following a series of poor harvests and unseasonable weather, the country suffers a second severe famine which kills about fifteen per cent of the Finnish population.

1865 five pennia coin
Shown here are both sides of an 1865 five pennia coin issued during the Russian grand duchy period of Finnish history


1868 & 1870

Johan Mauritz Nordenstam

Acting governor again, twice.

1872 - 1873

Johan Mauritz Nordenstam

Acting governor for a fourth time. Died 1881.


The Conscription Act gives Finland an army of its own.

1881 - 1897

Feodor Logginovitch Heiden

Died 1900.

1897 - 1899

Stepan Osipovitsh Gontsharoff

Died 1912.

1899 - 1904

Nikolai Ivanovitch Bobrikov

Died 1904.

1899 - 1905

The grand duchy has long been a sore point for Russian imperialists. It is a state within a state, with its own senate and its own Diet, its own local officials, legislation, army, money (the mark) and postage stamps. And to top it all off, Finland is separated from the empire by an official border. The obliteration of 'Finnish separatism', a policy also known as Russification, begins during the 'First Era of Oppression'.


Nikolai Matvejevitsh Turbin

Acting governor.

1904 - 1905

Ivan Mikailovitch Obolensky

Died 1910.


Anton von Saltza

Acting governor. Died 1916.

1905 - 1906

The revolution in Russia gives Finland a short breathing space, while a new legislative body to replace the old Estates is created in 1906. This is the most radical parliamentary reform in Europe, because Finland moves in one bound from a four estate diet to a unicameral parliament and universal suffrages.

1905 - 1908

Nikolai Nikolaievitch Gerard

Died 1929.

1908 - 1909

Vladimir Aleksandrovitsh Boeckmann

Died 1923.

1909 - 1917

Frans Albert Seyn

Died 1918.

1909 - 1917

The 'Second Era of Oppression' is visited upon Finland as Russian pressure to end the differentiation of its many subject peoples increases.


Adam Josifovitch Lipsky

Acting governor.


Sergei Aleksandrovitch Korff

Acting governor. Died 1924.


Mikhail Aleksandrovitch Stahovitch

Mar-Sep. Died 1923.


Nikolai Vissarionovitch Nekrasov

Sep-Nov. Died 1918.

1917 - 1918

The Russian czarate is swept away. The Finnish parliament, itself a czarist institution, is evenly divided into left and right, and the question of what kind of relationship to establish with a friendly Imperial Germany leads to civil war in January 1918. The left seizes Helsinki and forms a provisional government, while the pro-German right retires into the northern provinces. The Bolshevik Soviets begin withdrawing their own remaining troops, fearful of a German invasion of Russia via Finland, but still backing the leftist forces. On 2 May 1918, the left is fully defeated and the last Russian troops cross the border, leaving Finland free.

The lakes and forests of Karelia formed the official eastern Finnish border from the start of the nineteenth century


The Finnish parliament contemplates creating a monarchy for the country, and a crown is offered to Frederick Charles, a member of the Hessian ducal dynasty. However, although he is recorded as being the country's king between 7 October to 4 December 1918, he declines the offer.


King Vaino

Frederick Charles, heir to Hessen-Kassel zu Rumpenheim.


Pehr Evind Svinhufvud

Regent. Later president of the Finnish republic (1937).

1918 - 1919

Carl Gustaf Mannerheim

Regent. Later president of the Finnish republic (1944).


Finland's First Republic is declared as a democratic parliamentary government. Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg becomes the first elected president of the country in the same year.

Modern Finland
AD 1919 - Present Day

Modern Finland is an eastern Scandinavian country on the northern edge of Europe. It is neighboured to the west by Sweden, to the north and north-west by Norway, to the east by Russia, and to the south, across the Gulf of Finland, by Estonia.

The original Finnic lands were along the northern coast of the Baltic Sea, claimed by the Finno-Ugric tribes who migrated there around 3000 BC. The rest of modern Finland, along with the northern two-thirds of modern Norway and Sweden and a vast north-western chunk of Russia, were all part of an ill-defined region known as Kvenland, which was populated by various groups of native Sami and Kvens who had been present since the end of the last ice age. This territory was slowly broken down during the later Viking Age and the medieval period through territorial gains by the Norwegians, Swedes, and Russians, with Sweden occupying most of central Kvenland as the territory known as Österland. It was only during the early modern period that this evolved into Finland. At least a couple of hundred thousand citizens of modern Norway are known to be descended from the Forest Finns, migrants from a group that is distinct from the Kvens, who headed westwards in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In Sweden that number is much larger.

Following a period as a grand duchy, Finland's First Republic was declared in 1919 as a democratic parliamentary government, and it survives to this day. It almost became a kingdom, after a crown was offered to Frederick Charles of Hessen-Kassel zu Rumpenheim. He would have ruled as King Vaino, but he declined the offer. Instead, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg became the first elected president of the country in 1919. Relations with Russia were rarely anything but tense, except during the Cold War period when the ruling president maintained close relations with the Soviets in order to maintain his own popularity. For the most part, though, the country looked instead to Sweden, France and the west for its trade and cultural links.

(Additional information from working in conjunction with the Kvenland site, and from External Links: Continuation War, and Modern Finland: The Postwar Years, Finland Today, and Finland Tomorrow.)


The Treaty of Tartu finalises the Finno-Russian border, resulting in Finland gaining Petsamo. Relations with Russia between the wars remain tense.

1939 - 1940

As part of the wider conflict of the Second World War, Finland fights the Winter War against Soviet Russia following a Russian attack in November 1939. The attack is prompted by Russia's (and Stalin's) almost paranoid need to restore the former Russian empire's borders in preparation for the expected German attack. Finland is seen as a weak link in Russia's northern defences so it must be captured. The war is brief, and the Finns give the Soviets a bloody nose before agreeing peace terms that are very generous for Russia. The Interim Peace period follows, and this itself is brief.

Map of Scandinavia
A map showing Finnish gains and loses after both world wars, with the Russian border creeping westwards for the most part, although Finland avoided the occupation suffered by its southern neighbours in 1944

1941 - 1942

The Continuation War is, as the name suggests, a renewal of the fighting of 1940. With Nazi Germany now occupying Denmark and Norway, Finland finds itself between two major powers. Germany does its best to tempt Finland to become an ally while the Soviets frequently violate the border agreement, entering Finnish territory on numerous occasions. Although better prepared than in 1939, the Finns face the very real threat of invasion by Russia. They send forces to occupy the demilitarised Åland Islands, a condition stipulated by international treaty for just these circumstances, and the only way of securing the islands against possible Russian occupation.

That attack follows immediately, when the Soviets attack the troop convoys, and three days later they launch coordinated bombing attacks on eighteen Finnish cities. This is accompanied by a Soviet infantry attack, crossing the Finnish border at Parikkala, and coastal artillery bombardment in Hanko, and a state of war exists without actually having been declared. With German weapons and some German units to assist, the Finns manage to halt the Russian advance into Finland but have to agree peace terms.

1944 - 1945

Finland now has to fight Nazi Germany, and manages to expel the German forces from Northern Lapland in the Lapland War. However, the peace treaties the country signs with Russia in 1947 and 1948 deprive it of a large swathe of its eastern territory.


The 1944 armistice with Russia is confirmed through a peace treaty signed in Paris. Finland is saddled with a debt to the Soviet Union of 300 million dollars as well as the loss of the Karelian Isthmus, the northern port of Petsamo, the second largest city, Viipuri (modern Viborg), and the loss of access to Lake Ladoga. Russia is also handed a fifty year lease for control of the Porkkala region. With the loss of Karelia, more than 420,000 Finns voluntarily migrate west across the new border between Finland and Russia, causing some social and housing problems.


Russia reduces the war debt by 74 million dollars, and Finland pays off the balance of the war reparations by 1952, but the heavy debt forces the country to become more heavily industrialised.

1955 - 1956

Finland joins the United Nations in 1955. The following year, the Porkkala region is returned to Finnish control, while Urho Kekkonen is elected president for the first time. He remains in office until 1981, and maintains close relations with the Soviet Union, overseeing a period known as 'Finlandisation' which encourages pro-Soviet attitudes and downplays 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 Soviet Union has been Finland's largest trading partner since the war (ironic, since the Soviet Union is the cause of Finland's industrialisation in order to pay off the huge war reparations). It has also been exerting influence over Finnish politics throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, and in this year it forces the withdrawal of a candidate for president.


Four years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and a severe recession in Finland due to the loss of trade, a re-strengthened economy allows Finland to join the European Union. The country subsequently enjoys a decade of economic growth and prosperity.

Modern Helsinki
Today, Helsinki is a true Scandinavian capital city, a seemingly calm and comfortable blend of the historical and modern