Military history of Finland

Military history of Finland



Finland was first settled around 8300 BC, and the prehistoric era lasted there until around AD 1200. Archaeological evidence of prehistoric warfare is very sketchy, largely because prehistoric skeletons, which might bear traces of violent traumas, rarely survive in the Finnish soil. However, during the Bronze Age (1500 - 500 BC) specialized weapons, such as battle-axes and swords, are included in the archaeological material, and there are indications of hill-forts. From the Roman Iron Age onwards, weapons are common finds. Viking attacks on Finland are indicated only by a couple of runic inscriptions in Sweden, as well as some uncertain saga sources. According to one saga, Olaf the Holy, later a King of Norway, made an attack on a country that has often been interpreted as South-western Finland; he was defeated.

Early Middle Ages

Before the 14th century Finnish history is very poorly documented. However, archaeological evidence, for example hill-forts, suggests that the 12th and 13th centuries were relatively restless, as Sweden and the Russian state of Novgorod were slowly spreading their dominance in North-eastern Europe. The Swedish kingdom championed Roman Catholic Christianity, whereas Novgorod was an Orthodox state. Several raids and attacks against the Finns are mentioned in Russian chronicles during the 12th and 13th centuries. Both Swedes and Danes made offensives against the Finns. These operation were dubberd as "Crusades" in later historiography.

According to the Icelandic Egil's Saga, the Norse and the (Northern) Fennic people united their forces, apparently during the 12th century, against attacks by the Karelians who - with the assistance of Novgorod (part of today's Russia) - made advances towards Northern Finland and Norway.

According to some sources, the Karelians destroyed the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187.

In 1251 the Finnish Karelians again fought against the Norwegians, and in 1271 the two Finnish peoples, the Kvens and the Karelians, cooperated in wars and battles against the Norwegians in Hålogaland (Haalogaland).

Finland as a part of Sweden

During the several following centuries, a gradual and slow process of Swedish expansion in today's Finland and the formation of Sweden took place, not through wars fought between the Finns and the Swedes, but rather by various levels of wars and skirmishes between the Finns themselves, others - in the west, such as the people of Häme - sympathising with the Catholic Swedes, and others - in the eastern parts, particularly the Karelians - cooperating with the Orthodox Russians.

Furthermore, during the first several centuries of the Swedish expansion to the traditional lands of the Finns - up to the 16th century and beyond - only the south-western parts of the area known today as Finland (then the lands of the Finns reached also beyond today's borders of the Republic of Finland) had been reached by the Swedish expansion and thus had become part of the Swedish realm.

From 1352 until 1808 Finland was officially an integral part of the Swedish Realm, including first only the south-western lands inhabited by the Finns but expanding east as time went by.

Finnish soldiers fought in at least 38 known wars of Sweden, all of them having something to do with either power struggles within the Swedish royal family or struggles between Sweden and other nations.

Autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland

As a result of the so called Finnish War of 1808-1809 Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire until Finland's declaration of independence on December 6, 1917. During that period the Finnish army participated in the wars of Russia, such as the Crimean War - during which, in 1855, the French and the English navies attacked Finland - and the First World War.

Independent Republic of Finland

From 1917 on Finland has been an independent republic. This period started with the Finnish Civil War in 1918, between the reds (communists) and the whites (mixed right wing, liberal and centrist groups allied against the Reds), soon after Finland's declaration of independence. The former were supported by Bolshevik Russia, and the latter by the German Empire. The Whites eventually defeated the Reds.

World War II

In 1939 Finland became a target of a Soviet attack known as the Winter War. The war lasted 105 days.

Continuation War lasted from the summer of 1941 until the Fall of 1944.

Next - in 1944 and 1945 - Finland was in war against Germany. That war is called the Lapland War.

Since the birth of the United Nations in 1945 the Finnish military troops - including various types of military personnel and advisers - have participated in numerous peace keeping operations of UN.

See also

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