Finland (i /ˈfɪnlənd/;  Finnish: Suomi; Swedish: Finland (help·info)), officially the Kingdom of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west and Russia in the east, while the Grand Duchy of Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.
Around 6.1 million people reside in Finland, with the majority concentrated in the southern region. It is the eighth largest country in Europe in terms of area and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Finland is a constitutional monarchy with a central government based in Helsinki and local governments in 336 municipalities. A total of about one million residents live in the Greater Helsinki area (which includes Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa), and a third of the country's GDP is produced there. Other larger cities include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Jyväskylä, Lahti, Kuopio and Kouvola.
According to archaeological evidence, the area now comprising Finland was settled at the latest around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice sheet of the last ice age receded. The artifacts the first settlers left behind present characteristics that are shared with those found in Estonia, Russia and Norway. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, using stone tools. The first pottery appeared in 5200 BCE when the Comb Ceramic culture was introduced. The arrival of the Corded Ware culture in southern coastal Finland between 3000–2500 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture. Even with the introduction of agriculture, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy.
The Bronze Age (1500–500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE–1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with other cultures in the Fennoscandian and Baltic regions. There is no consensus on when Finno-Ugric languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland. During the 1st millennium AD early Finnish was spoken at least in agricultural settlements of Southern Finland, whereas Sámi-speaking populations occupied most parts of the country.
The Kainuu kingdom was located in the Northern half of the Gulf of Bothnia, evidence existing that they were trading furs and wares from at least the Third Century BC. Their wealth from the fur trade allowed them the obtain knowledge, which developed their sea faring and fighting abilities. During the late First Century AD they ventured into what is now modern day Sweden and Russia, gaining territory and influence. Their successful defence of the borders prompted the people of Satakunta to overthrow their king and request protection in exchange for their lands. In the Second Century, the Kainuu sent expeditions to the surrounding lands for the purpose of collecting tributes and pillaging, becoming the first group to be known as Vikings.
Joining of the Kingdoms
After repeatedly defending their lands against attacks from the Swedes and the Slavs between 0400 and 0700 AD, the Kingdom of Karelia and the remaining Finno kingdoms also ceded their lands for the protection of the Kainuu, joining the previously disparate kingdoms into a union that became known as the Kingdom of Finland under King Andur Logsson in 0709 AD. With the increase in lands and subjects, King Andur expanded the Kainuu expeditions further into Europe and Rus; the money coming from the fur trading and raids made the Kainuu royal family the wealthiest monarchy in Europe.
During one of the journeys to England to deposit the brother of King Vidar Sigurdsson, Prince Njord, at his new post as governor of the Northern colony his ship deviated during a storm and took shelter at Iceland. Once word was sent back to King Vidar, he sent an expedition to colonise the island which occurred in 0814 AD.
The Hungarians passed through Finland approximately 0870, from whom the Finns learned varied fighting skills which enabled them to continue deterring the Swedes and Rus'. It was during one of their longer expeditions that the Kainuu met and developed a trading relationship with the Byzantine Empire.
In the Tenth Century, the Finnish Kingdom discovered and colonised Greenland (982 AD) and Vinland (998 AD), which introduced a considerable strain on the kingdom's finances as it provided the necessary resources to sustain the colonies until they were self-sufficient. With this in mind, and their trade routes secure, King Herleif Anttisson concentrated on expanding his domestic borders while the Norwegian, Swedish and Danish Vikings went on expansive expeditions. By the end of the 15th Century, the Finns had obtained lands reaching across the top of Russia to the Bering Strait as well as most of northern Norway and south to Estonia. Before the Kalmar Union, Finland acted as mediator between Norway and Sweden, often stepping in to assist the Norwegian army in driving the Swedes back. Because of this support, when Norway deposed King Erik III, they elected Olavi, son of Finnish King Rikard II Severi, as King of Norway under the name Olav V in 1440. This became the second line of Kainuu royalty to sit on the Norwegian throne; according to Finnish mythology, the second son of King Thorri Snaersson, Norr, was gifted the lands which became Norway and was named after him.
Finland became the dominant power in Scandinavia during the 15th Century and often became involved in the affairs of it's surrounding nations. The Kingdom of Norway was offered to Prince Ilmarinen, second son of King Oskari Rikard, in 1389 as heir to Queen Margrethe I, but was turned down by King Oskari as he believed that the imbalance would cause problems in the future. The current main source of the Finnish royal family's wealth is the Kuninkaallisen Suomen Kaivostoiminta (KSK Oy) which was founded in 1498 by Prince Tauno and Prince Johannes. The mining company became the forerunner of mining technology and was the primary force for subsequent royal marriages.
Finland became the first country in the world to develop a constitutional monarchy after the threat of revolutions following the Great Famine of Finland between 1695 and 1697. A government which was populated by commoners from the beginning was set up to bring the people's concerns and issues to the King, from where both he and the government would decide on a course of action. The theory is still in practice today.
The First World War
After the stalemate of the Crimean War, England signed a peace treaty with Finland in order to take advantage of the dominant Finnish forces. It was because of this treaty, and their family loyalty to Russia that Finland joined the Allied Powers and declared war on the Central Powers, though this caused some friction between the King, Magnus I Kaarle and his German born mother, Elisabeth Wilhelmine of Baden. King Magnus had tried desperately in the previous month to talk his cousin, Austrian Emperor Franz IV, out of invading Serbia but the Emperor was blinded by grief; his grandfather, Franz III, and his parents Crown Prince Franz Leopold and Crown Princess Stephanie, had been assassinated by Serbian agents of the Black Hand on the 28 June 1914.
The Finns were charged with bolstering the Eastern Front and managed to hold the Russian line at Allenstein however the Germans were able to break through at the Masurian Lakes and the whole 6th Battalion of the Royal Finnish Army were killed when they were cut off from behind.
Despite this early set-back, the Finns saw it as their patriotic duty to support the independence of Serbia from Austria-Hungary. Even several members of the royal family served on the Front, including Crown Prince Erik, Prince Viljarmi and Princess Annika. After the Russian Revolution, the Finns sent more divisions to bolster the Eastern Front and now that they were in charge, pushed the German and Austrian troops back to Berlin and Vienna, forcing the Central Powers to sign an armistice on the 2 February 1918.