Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a sovereign state in Europe. A peninsula with the Gulf of Finland to the south and the Gulf of Bothnia to the west, the country has land borders with Sweden to the northwest, Norway to the north, and Russia to the east. Estonia is south of the country across the Gulf of Finland. Finland is situated in the geographical region of Fennoscandia, which also includes Scandinavia. Finland’s population is 5.5 million (2014), staying roughly on the same level over the past two decades. The majority of the population is concentrated in the southern region. In terms of area, it is the eighth largest country in Europe and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union.
World War II
During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–1940 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland; and in the Continuation War of 1941–1944, following Operation Barbarossa, during which Finland aligned, however not allied, with Germany following its invasion of the Soviet Union. After fighting a major Soviet offensive in June/July 1944 to a standstill, Finland reached an armistice with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–1945, when Finland fought against the retreating German forces in northern Finland.
The treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included Finnish obligations, restraints, and reparations—as well as further Finnish territorial concessions in addition to those in the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940. As a result of the two wars, Finland was forced to cede most of Finnish Karelia, Salla, and Petsamo, which amounted to 10% of its land area and 20% of its industrial capacity, including the ports of Vyborg (Viipuri) and the ice-free Liinakhamari (Liinahamari). Almost the whole population, some 400,000 people, fled these areas. Finland was never occupied by Soviet forces; it retained its independence, however, at a loss of about 93,000 soldiers.
Finland rejected Marshall aid, in apparent deference to Soviet desires. However, the United States provided secret development aid and helped the (non-communist) Social Democratic Party in hopes of preserving Finland’s independence. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as the United Kingdom, and the reparations to the Soviet Union caused Finland to transform itself from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrialized one. For example, the Valmet corporation was founded to create materials for war reparations. Even after the reparations had been paid off, Finland—which was poor in certain resources necessary for an industrialized nation (such as iron and oil)—continued to trade with the Soviet Union in the framework of bilateral trade.
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Hjalmar Fridolf Siilasvuo (birthname: Hjalmar Fridolf Strömberg, 18 March 1892, Helsinki – 11 January 1947) was a Finnish lieutenant general who led troops in the Winter War, Continuation War and Lapland War. He also saw action as a part of the Finnish volunteer “Jägerbattalion 27” fighting on the German side in World War I.