In this book historians Osmo Jussila, Seppo Hentilä, and Jukka Nevakivi cover the three periods of Finland’s history since 1809. Their fast-moving narrative style brings to life the interaction of social and political forces and powerful personalities in a country whose destiny has been determined by its geopolitical situation between Eastern and Western Europe.
From the twelfth to the early nineteenth century, Finland was ruled by Sweden, which bequeathed to it Western-style political, economic, and cultural institutions. From 1809 to the Bolshevik Revolution, it was an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire with its own parliament, army, and currency. The Finns won their independence in 1917 but had to fight two wars against the Sovietsthe Winter War of 193940 and the so-called Continuation War of 194144to maintain their freedom.
The Cold War presented further challenges as Finland sought to balance its position within the Soviet sphere of influence without succumbing to communist dictatorship. This balancing act was successfully achieved by adroit diplomatic and economic means, with Finland acting as a bridgehead between East and West in both spheres. In the 1960s and 1970s, the country achieved a high level of economic and social development supported by an extensive welfare state and in 1995 voted to join the European Union.