FinlandArchaeological evidence suggests that the area now comprising Finland was first settled during the Stone Age – around 8500 BC – as the ice shield of the last ice age receded. Scientists believe it is probable that speakers of the Finno-Ugric language arrived in the area during this period, and were possibly among the first Mesolithic settlers in Europe. The arrival of the Battle Axe culture (or Cord-Ceramic Culture) in southern coastal Finland around 3200 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture.

Christianity was introduced to Finland en masse in the 1150s by Sweden's King Erik, following a military expedition later known as the First Swedish Crusade. However, archaeological evidence suggests prior Christian influences in south-western and south-eastern Finland, and includes both western and eastern Christian artifacts.

1249 brought about the so-called Second Swedish Crusade. Swedish became the dominant language of administration and education, with Finnish becoming a language primarily for the peasantry, clergy and local courts. Society was fragmented into four castes, or ‘estates of the realm’: nobility, clergy, burghers and peasants (the latter representing the majority), as well as the outsiders who became known as ‘the estateless’.

Twice during the eighteenth century, virtually all of Finland was occupied by Russian forces, in periods referred to by the Finns as the Greater Wrath (1714–1721) and the Lesser Wrath (1742–1743). During this time "Finland" became the predominant term for the whole land area from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Russian border ".

On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence. The independence was approved by Bolshevist Russia but the brief but bitter Finnish Civil War of 1918 had an effect on the Finno-Russian relationship – not to mention Finnish domestic politics – for years to come. The war was fought between "the whites", bourgeois forces who gained support from Imperial Germany, and "the reds", leftist workers supported by Bolshevist Russia who felt they were not granted sufficient political voice or influence, despite having universal suffrage since 1906.

Finnish democracy survived the upsurge of the extreme right and financial crisis during the early '30s. However, legislators reacted against Communism and the relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union remained tense.

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–1940 and in the Continuation War of 1941–1944, in accordance with Operation Barbarossa in which Germany invaded the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–1945, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland. After the wars there were land mine clearance operations in Karelia and Lapland plus the enormous task of naval mine clearance in the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea during 1944–1950. The mines in Lapland especially slowed down the rebuilding and caused many casualties.

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