HELA1001 Finnish History, Culture and Society: an Introduction (5 op)

Opinnon taso:
Muut opinnot
Historian ja etnologian laitos
2020-2021, 2021-2022, 2022-2023, 2023-2024


Aims and content:

This course aims to provide an overview of Finnish history and culture as well as of contemporary society and its different sectors, such as the labor markets, political representation, social policy, migration, and families.

We will explore important tuning points and developments in a long-term perspective. The goal of the course is to enable students to understand the Finland’s past, present, and future; to identify and analyze the country’s past challenges, how they have been overcome, what are today’s most pressing issues, and what the past and present can tell us about tomorrow’s Finland in an increasingly interconnected world.

The course content is divided into two main segments: 1) Finnish history between East and West, with the main focus on the period since the Finnish Independence (1917); and 2) contemporary Finland. Its culture, politics, society, and position in global politics.

Modes of study:

- lectures (14)

- learning log (10-15 pages)

- group presentation (15 mins)

- Final exam (1,5h classroom)

All students are expected to attend at least 80% of the sessions and submit a learning log (10-15 pages) based on the lectures attended. The learning log should include a summary of the content lectures as well as the students´ analysis on the topics, drawing on additional reading materials recommended by the instructors.


- Final exam 40%

- Learning log 40%

- Group presentation 10%

- Classroom activity 10%

Schedule and main topics:

Part I: Finland in Historical Perspective (HELA)

1. Finland as part of the Swedish Realm
2. Finland in the Russian Empire (1809-1917)
3. The struggle for Independence and the Civil War
4. The Interwar Finland
5. Finland in the Second World War: Trends, debates and memories
6. Finland during the Cold War: Domestic and international histories
7. Finland in a post-Cold War Era

Part II: Contemporary Finland (YFI)

8. The Finnish System of Government

9. The Finnish Welfare State

10. Finland’s Relations with Russia

11. Finland and Migration

12. Finland and Climate Change

13. Finland and Human Rights

14. Finland and Globalization


Learning objectives

By the completion of the course, students will have acquired a good understanding of:

  • Finnish history, its key events, features and turning points as well as the politics of history in today’s society.
  • Finnish history as part of European and global history.
  • Finland’s role as an intermediary between East and West; Finland’s role in the EU; Finland’s intervention in current debates on the refugee crisis, climate change, and global security.



Required readings:

One article/book chapter per session (given by the lecturer, to be read in advance)

Additional readings:


Henrik Meinander, A History of Finland (2011)

David Kirby, A Concise History of Finland (2006)

Jason Lavery, The History of Finland (2006)

Jari Ojala et. al. (eds.), Road to Prosperity: An Economic History of Finland (2006)

Tuomas Tepora and Aapo Roselius (eds.), Finnish Civil War 1918: History, Memory, Legacy (2014)

Tiina Kinnunen and Ville Kivimäki (eds.), Finland in World War Two: History, Memory, Interpretations (2011)

Jussi Hanhimäki, Containing Coexistence: America, Russia, and the “Finnish Solution” 1945-1956 (1997)

Marek Fields, Defending Democracy in Cold War Finland: British and American Propaganda and Cultural Diplomacy in Finland 1944-1970 (2020)

Social Sciences

Kettunen, Pauli, “The Rise and Fall of the Nordic Utopia of an Egalitarian Wage Work Society,” in The Relational Nordic Welfare State: Between Utopia and Ideology, ed. S. Hänninen et al. (2019), 95-118.

Tapio Bergholm and Andreas Bieler, “Globalization and the Erosion of the Nordic model: A Swedish–Finnish Comparison,” European Journal of Industrial Relations 19:1 (2013): 55-70. 


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