The history of Finland extracted from the Guggenheim Helsinki Museum Competition Brief (***in no particular order)
***Poised on the northern edge of Europe, on the seam between East and West, Finland is a country with complex ancient origins, whose modern history reflects a constant tension between empires. Historically isolated from the rest of Europe and speaking a language wholly unrelated to Indo-European tongues, Finland has nonetheless come to embrace and embody European integration. Though located on challenging geopolitical terrain, Finnish creativity and ingenuity have generated a remarkable national success story.
***The ensuing decades were largely peaceful, and, for the most part, Finland thrived. A multiparty system was adopted and, to this day, it is common for the Finnish government to be composed of parties representing a broad range of political philosophies. One of the strengths of the Finnish political system appears to be its inherent ability to solve problems through consensus.
***Despite its limited strategic importance, ongoing conflicts between Sweden and Russia led to devastating attacks by the Russian navy that repeatedly leveled the town over the next 150 years.
***This pattern of conflict between the Swedes and Russians would repeat time and time again over the next six centuries, with Finland almost invariably caught in the middle.
***Though the turn of the century was a high point for Finnish art and was characterized by a quest for indigenous national motifs and styles, many artists during this period looked to Paris for inspiration.
***The heyday of early Finnish modernism, which spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries, featured artists who further defined the Finnish national identity.
***…creating a unique arrangement in which Finland received a degree of autonomy in exchange for its allegiance to the Tsar.
***Since then, Finland’s economy has grown quickly, with corporations like Nokia and Kone gaining important positions in the global marketplace.
***Throughout the majority of the 19th century, Finland gradually expanded its level of autonomy, but in the late 1890s Russia made attempts to tighten its control.
***The square — which features the Palace of the Council of State, the University of Helsinki’s main building, the Helsinki Cathedral, and other notable structures — remains the heart of Helsinki to this day.
***By the end of the 19th century, the quest for identity, a particularly modernist project, had spread to all spheres of civic activity. Finnish artists were quick to seize the moment, and ultimately the pursuit for national independence was articulated and realized on the cultural stage as opposed to the battlefield.
***The exploratory spirit of modernism – the desire to exist with and pursue the cutting edge of development and innovation in a variety of fields – has over the past century and a half been Finland’s driving force.
***The so-called spirit of the Winter War ultimately brought different national factions together and united a country torn by the 1918 civil war. Despite heroic resistance during the Winter War, the Finns eventually capitulated and were forced to forfeit over 10% of their territory in exchange for peace.
***Nevertheless, Helsinki endued as a minor fishing village and trading post on the Baltic, through its early history was marked chiefly by struggles and setbacks.
***Today, Finland is a vibrant nation that makes social, economic, and cultural contributions to the world that are far out of proportion to its relatively small population.
***Finland had few viable options other than turning to Germany for assistance against the Soviet threat, regardless of many Finnish leaders’ abhorrence of Nazi ideology. Despite its alliance with Germany against the Soviets, Finland’s unusual circumstances persuaded the United States to regrain from ever declaring war or entering into a conflict against the Finns.
***Russia’s annexation cemented Helsinki’s status as an important city.
***This approach mirrored the relationship between the Grand Duchy of Finland and the Russian Empire, and would remain a common theme in Finnish foreign politics in the years to come.
***From humble beginnings, the city has developed into an efficient, well-run and sophisticated metropolis with a distinctive character based on its unique history. Today, Helsinki ranks among the best cities of the world in terms of quality of services, life and livability.