Finland–Sweden relations

Finland and Sweden share a long history, similar legal systems, and an economic and social model. Finland was part of Sweden for almost 700 years from around 1150 until the Finnish War of 1809 after which Finland became an autonomous part of the Russian Empire as the Grand Duchy of Finland. Since Finland gained its full independence from Russia in 1917, the two countries have been close partners enjoying a special relationship. The number of Finnish-Swedish connections and the quality of cooperation in most areas of the government is unique when compared to other international relations involving both countries. Swedish language has an official status in Finland whilst Finns form the largest ethnic minority in Sweden, estimated to be about 675,000.[1]

Finnish–Swedish relations


Diplomatic mission
Embassy of Finland, StockholmEmbassy of Sweden, Helsinki
Ambassador Liisa TalonpoikaAmbassador Anders Ahnlid

Both Finland and Sweden joined the European Union together in 1995. Relationships are maintained at the highest political level on a regular basis, and interactions between public authorities and civil society are very strong. New elements of the special relationship are the official minority language status that Finnish language received in Sweden as well as the business integration between the two countries.[2] Both countries are also united by the fact that neither Finland or Sweden have decided to join NATO, whereas all the other Nordic Countries as well as the Baltic States are NATO members.

Finland has an embassy in Stockholm, Consulate General in Gothenburg and 21 Consulates in Borlänge, Borås, Eskilstuna, Gävle, Haparanda, Halmstad, Karlshamn, Karlskoga, Karlstad, Landskrona, Luleå, Malmö, Norrköping, Oskarshamn, Skellefteå, Sundsvall, Trollhättan, Uppsala, Umeå, Visby and Västerås.[3] Sweden has an embassy in Helsinki, Consulate General in Mariehamn, and 17 Consulates in Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Kokkola, Kotka, Kuopio, Lahti, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, Oulu, Jakobstad, Pori, Raseborg, Rovaniemi, Tampere, Tornio, Turku and Vaasa.[4]

On a larger scale both Finland and Sweden also share a special relationship with all the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Iceland and Norway).


Viking period and Swedish crusades

Contact between Sweden and what is now Finland was considerable even during pre-Christian times. The Vikings were known to Finns due to both their participation in commerce and their plundering. There is evidence of possible Viking settlements on the Finnish mainland.[5] The Åland Islands were probably settled from Sweden during the Viking period.

During the 11th and 12th centuries, Sweden gradually became a unified Christian kingdom. According to the archaeological finds, Christianity first gained a foothold in Finland during the 11th century as well. Later medieval legends describe Swedish attempts to conquer and 'Christianize' Finland by the First Swedish Crusade sometime in the mid-1150s. In the early 13th century, Bishop Thomas became the first bishop of Finland. There were several secular powers who aimed to bring Finland under their rule but the Swedish regent Birger Jarl established Swedish rule in Finland through the Second Swedish Crusade, which is most often dated at 1249.

According to a more modern historical description, Finland became integrated with the Swedish realm mainly due to trade and settlements via the Åland Islands and the crusades had no decisive significance. Swedish historians of the 17th century claimed that Finland was conquered by crusades, since this account was considered more glorious. The myth was later used by Finnish historians after the Finnish Civil War. The cohesion of Finland was strengthened by a view of Sweden as a former enemy. Sweden also adopted the myth as true, which made the subsequent loss of Finland easier to accept.[6]

Middle Ages

The traditional lands of Sweden. (Different stages of expansion marked by shades. Borders as of year 1700.)

Finland gradually became an integrated and important part of Sweden. Finland became known as Österland, and its main urban settlement evolved in Åbo. Åbo was one of the biggest towns in the kingdom of Sweden, and its population included German merchants and craftsmen. Otherwise the degree of urbanization was very low in medieval Finland. During the 12th and 13th centuries, great numbers of Swedish settlers moved to the southern and north-western coasts of Finland, including the Åland Islands and the archipelago between Åbo and the Åland Islands. In these regions, the Swedish language is widely spoken even today. Swedish came to be the language of the high-status people in many other parts of Finland as well.

In 1362, representatives from Finland were called to participate in the elections for king of Sweden. That year is often held to signify the incorporation of Finland into the kingdom of Sweden. As in the Scandinavian part of the kingdom, a gentry or (lower) nobility consisted of magnates and yeomen who could afford armament for a man and a horse. These were concentrated in the southern part of Finland.

After the Black Death and internal power struggles in Sweden, Queen Margaret I of Denmark united the Nordic countries in the Union of Kalmar in 1397, with the approval of the Swedish nobility. Finland was sometimes involved in these struggles, but in general the 15th century seems to have been a relatively prosperous time, characterized by population growth and economic development. Towards the end of the 15th century, however, the situation on the eastern border was becoming more tense. The Principality of Moscow conquered Novgorod, preparing the way for a unified Russia, and soon tensions arose with Sweden. In 1495–1497, a war between Sweden and Russia was fought. The fortress-town of Viborg stood against a Russian siege.

Vasa era and Cudgel War

Gustav I portrayed in 1542 by Jakob Bincks.

In 1521 the Kalmar Union collapsed and Gustav Vasa became the King of Sweden. During his rule, the Swedish church was reformed. The state administration underwent extensive reforms and development too, giving it a much stronger grip on the life of local communities as well as the ability to collect higher taxes. Following the policies of the Reformation, in 1551 Mikael Agricola, bishop of Åbo, published his translation of the New Testament into the Finnish language. In 1550 Helsinki was founded by Gustav Vasa under the name of Helsingfors, but remained little more than a fishing village for more than two centuries.

King Gustav Vasa died in 1560 and his crown was passed to his three sons in separate turns. The common people of Finland suffered during this period because of drafts, high taxes, and abuse by military personnel. This resulted in the Cudgel War of 1596–1597, a desperate peasant rebellion, which was suppressed brutally and bloodily. A peace treaty (the Treaty of Teusina) with Russia in 1595 moved the border of Finland further to the east and north, very roughly where the modern border lies.

An important part of the 16th-century history of Finland was growth of the area settled by the farming population. Farmers from the province of Savonia settled the vast wilderness regions in Middle Finland, and the original Sami population often had to leave. Some of the wilderness settled was traditional hunting and fishing territory of Karelian hunters. During the 1580s, this resulted in a bloody guerrilla warfare between the Finnish settlers and Karelians in some regions, especially in Ostrobothnia.

19th century

In 1809 Sweden lost Finland to Russia after the Finnish War.


In 1917 Finland got independence, during World War I. Sweden recognized the independence, but required Åland Islands to become part of Sweden. During the Finnish Civil War 1918 Sweden occupied Åland. The League of Nations solved the dispute by not changing the border, but requiring the Swedish language of Åland to be kept.

World War II

During World War II Sweden declared its neutrality, but in the Winter war it declared itself non-belligerent and supported Finland's cause to a limited extent. This included over 8,000 Swedish army and air force volunteers. Sweden also accepted and cared for a host of Finnish "war"-children during World War II. After the war, Sweden had a clear headstart in the post-war economical development, much due to its neutrality in the war.

In September 1944, Finland relocated elements of its signals intelligence capabilities to Sweden as part of the Stella Polaris operation, allowing Sweden access to intercepted Soviet communications in exchange for security in the event of a renewed Soviet invasion of Finland.[7][8]

Postwar era

It is an old tradition for the first official foreign visit of a new prime minister from either country to visit the other. Although in June 2014, then newly elected Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb broke with tradition and used his first official visit abroad to visit Estonia.[9] Since then, Antti Rinne also made his first official visit to Estonia but Juha Sipilä and Sanna Marin both made their first official visit to Sweden.[10][11][12]

In 2014, the two countries announced a special defense partnership between them.[13]

In 2020 and 2021 COVID-19 hit Europe, Sweden and Finland chose differing national responses. Sweden has generally speaking implemented slightly more lax restrictions while Finland has closed borders and had slightly stronger restrictions. This is due to both countries differing histories, Finland had a more traumatic experience during World War 2, which has left its mark on the Finnish society to this day and has thus maintained a larger preparedness for crisis. While after the end of the Cold War Sweden cutback on its preparedness and decided to used those funds for other purposes. However, what, if any, impact this will have on the official state relations are unclear, but there are officials in both countries that have had to comment on public concerns about the Finland–Sweden relationship in the each other's countries medias.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

See also


  1. "Kahdenväliset suhteet Ruotsiin (Bilateral Relations to Sweden)". (in Finnish). Embassy of Finland, Stockholm. 16 September 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  2. "Suomesta virallinen vähemmistökieli Ruotsissa (Finnish becomes an official minority language in Sweden)". (in Finnish). The Institute for the Languages of Finland (KOTUS). 2000. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  3. "Suurlähetystö (Embassy)". (in Finnish). Embassy of Finland, Stockholm. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  4. "Ambassaden & konsulat (Embassies and Consulates)". (in Swedish). Sweden's Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  5. [Viklund, K. & Gullberg, K. (red.): Från romartid until vikingatid. Pörnullbacken – en järnålderstida bosättning i Österbotten, Vasa, Scriptum, 2002, 264 pages. Series: Acta antiqua Ostrobotniensia, ISSN 0783-6678 ; nr 5, and Studia archaeologica universitatis Umensis, ISSN 1100-7028; nr 15, ISBN 951-8902-91-7.]
  6. Engman, Max: Ett långt farväl - Finland mellan Sverige och Ryssland efter 1809. Atlantis, Stockholm 2009.
  7. Bengt Beckman (2002). Codebreakers: Arne Beurling and the Swedish Crypto Program During World War II. American Mathematical Soc. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-8218-2889-2.
  8. Nigel West (12 November 2007). Historical Dictionary of World War II Intelligence. Scarecrow Press. pp. 81–83. ISBN 978-0-8108-6421-4.
  9. Stubb Makes First Foreign Visit to Estonia, ERR Estonian Public Broadcasting, 30 June 2014.
  10. Hakala, Heidi. "Kort men kärt möte mellan Rinne och Löfven: "Vi är gamla vänner"". Hufvudstadsbladet. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  11. "Sipilä besöker Sverige". Vasabladet. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  12. Andelin, Jan-Erik. "Sanna Marin på sitt första statsbesök till Sverige: Tas trupper hem från Irak sker det i samarbete med andra aktörer". Hufvudstadsbladet. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  13. O’DWYER, GERARD (24 January 2014). "Finland, Sweden Eye Non-NATO Defense Partnership". Gannett Government Media Corporation. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  15. Guardians of the North: The Finnish Army Improves Readiness and Mobility to Counter Hybrid Threats, by Dr Michael Jonsson & Dr Johan Engvall