The theme of Finland’s centenary celebration year is ‘Together’. On 6th December 1917 Finland became independent after a long struggle. The newly born state was willed into being by the Finns but despite hard times, the Finnish people would thereafter engage in the building of the country and togetherness of the nation. With the same courage, determination, feeling for equality and democracy, the Finns now lead their country into a new century. The activities and events taking place throughout 2017 will help Finland and the world better understand Finland’s past, experience the jubilee in partnership and set the course for the country’s future.
The concept of ‘Together’ will be explored in a variety of ways from a variety of partnerships across disciplines as well as regional and national borders. Overall responsibility for putting the programme together rests with the ‘Finland 100 Years’ organisation established in the Prime Minister’s Office. However as the centenary programme is also being created through the joint efforts of Finns and friends of Finland, it is expected that the programme’s implementation and themes will be as diverse as Finland itself.
On this page you will find information about some exciting projects being run jointly by Finland and the UK to celebrate Suomi 100.
"Finland’s struggle to achieve independence illustrates the extent to which the First World War challenged the political map of Europe. The war was unlike any that had been fought before in the modern era."
Dr Henry Irving, historian.
Historian Dr Henry Irving on changes in European international relations since 1917
Dr Henry Irving (pictured in the main image, above) is a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University in the UK. His background is in the history of official communications, with a particular focus on the Second World War and the way in which the British government and British public communicated with one another at this time.
Following a recent visit to Finland where he took part in an international conference marking the centenary of Finnish independence, Henry spoke to the British Council about his trip and contribution.
I was asked to present at the conference, which was pulled together by an interesting range of organisations: the National Archives of Finland; the Finnish Historical Society; the Swedish Finn Historical Society; and the organisation Historians Without Borders. Rather aptly, considering various situations in Europe today, the conference was focused on changes in European international relations since 1917. The aim was to develop a deeper understanding of the context of Finland’s declaration of independence from Russia – which was achieved in 1917 - and the challenges it faced during a turbulent century.
Finland’s struggle to achieve independence illustrates the extent to which the First World War challenged the political map of Europe. The war was unlike any that had been fought before in the modern era. It was a war that demanded great sacrifices from the public and had profound economic consequences. It also led to significant political change, as Europe’s pre-war rulers were discredited or deposed. For Finland, it was the collapse of the Imperial Russia that provided the opportunity to establish an independent republic in place of a subordinate duchy. Its history was echoed by that of other small nations born, or reborn, after the war.
I was asked to speak about the situation in Britain and the British Empire at this time. Britain’s experience of the First World War was very different from Finland’s, but the conflict was still hugely significant. As Britain’s own centenary commemorations attest, the war marked a decisive moment in the country’s history. The war’s intertwining with the idea of nationhood also appeared to be a direct challenge to the British Empire, which covered a quarter of the world’s surface in 1919.
But the end of the war was also a time of optimism. Britain’s leaders believed that the Empire’s vast resources could be transformed to meet the challenges of the post-war world. My presentation explored this belief by describing the history of an ambitious ‘Empire Exhibition’ held at Wembley in 1924 and 1925. I suggested that the exhibition – which aimed ‘to replicate the empire in miniature’ – provides a glimpse into the mindset of Britain’s foreign policy during the 1920s.
It was an honour to be able to share this history with the other delegates at the conference. As a first-time visitor to Finland, I was also pleased to have the opportunity to explore Helsinki and gain insight into the Finnish academic system. These experiences have given me a new understanding of Finland’s rich history and heritage. They have also illuminated possible links between my research and that being undertaken at Finnish universities. I am hopeful that these links can be strengthened as a result of my visit. After all, as Finland’s centenary celebrations have shown, it is important to consider the future as well as the past.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the National Archives of Finland for their invitation, the British Council for co-ordinating my visit, and the British Embassy for their generous support.