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Helsinki History, Finland

When the Swedish King Gustav Vasa decided to establish a new settlement in 1550, he did so for very pragmatic reasons: he wanted the new town, Helsingfors, to become the most important trading centre in the region. As ambitious as the king's plan might have been, determining entire families to move their residence to the new town, Helsinki history was to follow another route: Helsingfors proved to be closer to a military strategic point rather than a commercial hub. During the next centuries, despite an attempt to relocate it further north, the city's development was rather slow.

Helsinki History - Helsinki under Russian Occupation

Across the 18th century, the Swedish influence began to decrease. Under Tsar Peter I, the Russian Empire went through a serious economical growth and territorial expansion. The city of Saint Petersburg was founded right across the bay from Helsinki and Helsinki was occupied two times by the Russian troops. As a part of the Swedish defensive plan, the Suomelinna sea fortress was built on an island adjacent to Helsinki. The construction of the 'Gibraltar of the North’, as the fortress is sometimes called, had been a huge project that brought many workers and investors in town. Nevertheless, as a consequence of the Finish War, Russia annexed Finland in 1809.

Under Russian occupation, Helsinki went through important transformations: Tsar Alexander I moved the capital from Turku to Helsinki, drew a massive architectural reconstruction plan and relocated the University of Turku in Helsinki in 1812 (see also Turku History). During the 19th century, Helsinki registered an unprecedented growth: by the end of the century, it was a capital in every sense: cultural, economical, and political, with a population of over 100,000.

Helsinki History - Modern Helsinki

1917 marks a decisive year in Helsinki's history: Finland declared its independence and soon gained it as a consequence of the Finnish Civil War (1918). In 1956, Helsinki entered the attention of the entire world, as it hosted the Olympic Games. After World War II, the city went under another wave of reconstruction: architects like Alvar Aalto gave Helsinki it's modern look. The economy rapidly switched from agrarian to industry and the process of urbanization almost tripled Helsinki's population in the 70's. In 1991, Suomelinna was included in the universal patrimony, becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1995, Finland joined the European Union, and in 2000, Helsinki received the distinction "The European City of Culture", which coincided with the city's 450 years celebration.

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  • andra88Uspenski Cathedral
    travel tip by andra88 posted more then 30 days ago
    In Finland, the Orthodox church doesn't have many followers, but despite that, there are some pretty amazing Orthodox churches in the city. The best example is Uspenski Cathedral, a majestic building with a Russian-style dome. In...
  • evike14Korjaamo Cultural Factory
    travel tip by evike14 posted more then 30 days ago
    Korjaamo defines itself as Helsinki's "living rooms", which sounds a but abstract, as expected from a huge building that basically serves as a meeting point for all the imaginable art types in the world. Karjaamo ...
  • lizzy_aMuseum of Cultures
    travel tip by lizzy_a posted more then 30 days ago
    Normally when you visit a country, you want to go to museums that will help you learn more about that country, but obviously there are exceptions to this rule. One such example is the Museum of Cultures in Helsinki, where you can...
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