The Medieval and Modern Eras
Finland was politically controlled by Sweden from the 12th century and throughout its medieval period. After 1581, the kings of Sweden regularly bestowed the title of “Duke of Finland” upon members of the Swedish royal family. The Finnish War between Sweden and Russia resulted in the Russian Emperor becoming the Duke of the Grand Duchy of Finland, an autonomous part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917. Since December 1917 Finland has been an independent country.
Other Groups in the Finland Area
Extended Swedish rule and immigration along the coast resulted in a significant population of Swedish speakers in the southwestern parts of Finland and intermixing of these ethnic groups. The northwestern corner of Russia bordering Finland is home to a subgroup of ethnic Finns referred to as Karelians. The Karelian language is closely related to the Finnish language and is considered by some to be a Finnish dialect. Others view Karelian as a distinct language.
Modern Finland is mostly homogeneous, ethnically, with the major ethnicity being Finns. The population of Finland in 2012 was 5.4 million.
Interestingly, a DNA study in 2008 showed no significant differences between the Swedish- speakers in the Ostrobothnia region of Finland (where 40% of all Swedish speakers in Finland live) and the adjacent Finnish-speaking populations.
Like the other Nordic countries, Finland has a highly egalitarian society with strong state-run social programs, including a comprehensive welfare system, education and health care. Finland is often rated among the world’s best in education, economy and quality of life. Finland is the only Nordic country to have joined the eurozone, replacing their previous currency, the markka, with the euro.