There are five key dates that we can use to highlight the various stages of Finland’s independence. Regular parliamentary activities started on 15 September 1863 at the initiative of reformation-minded Emperor-Grand Duke Alexander II. From 1863 onwards, the four Estates, which had last convened in 1809, were convened every 3–5 years.
On 7 November 1917, the union between Russia and Finland was deemed severed, and on 15 November 1917 the Finnish parliament issued a declaration by which it assumed all powers of the Emperor-Grand Duke in Finland. These decisions were in practice a declaration of independence. On 26 January 1918, an armed socialist revolt started in Helsinki. The capital and the rest of Southern Finland were captured by the rebels. The government assembled an army of voluntary civil guards, reinforced by a Finnish Jäger battalion from Germany, and started systematic training. The government managed to create a well-disciplined army that began to stifle the revolt and expel some 75,000 Russian troops from the country. In April, German troops arrived to assist the government forces, and the war was over by early May as the rebels were defeated.
The monarchists’ dreams of a kingdom suffered a serious blow when Germany was defeated in the First World War and finally crumbled when the Republic of Finland was established on 17 July 1919.
The Moscow Armistice between Finland and the Soviet Union, signed on 19 September 1944, ended the hostilities between the two countries which had started on 30 November 1939. Finland lost about ten per cent of its territory, paid huge war reparations and sentenced its ten most important war-time leaders to jail at the victor’s request. Finland also had to expel any German troops left in the country; an operation which was later to be known as the Lapland War. The Porkkala peninsula to the west of Helsinki was handed over to the Soviet Union as a military base. An Allied Control Commission controlled Finland for three years after the war, but the country was not occupied and the parliamentary and administrative machinery remained intact. The first parliamentary elections were held in the spring of 1945, and communists were voted out of the government in 1948, which meant that Finland took to a different route than the Eastern European countries.