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"Finland, Finland, Finland; The country where I want to be,Finland, Finland, Finland; Finland has it all."
Your mountains so lofty, your treetops so tall,
Finland is a large, mostly empty country squeezed between Sweden and Russia. Though ethnically distinct from both, it has generally been ruled by one or other for most of its history. After centuries of Swedish domination (leading to Finland still having a sizeable Swedish-speaking minority), it was handed over to Russia in 1809 and remained under the Tsar until the revolutions of 1917 gave it the chance to break free.
Finland was neutral in World War Two right up to the Soviet invasion. In one of the less likely outcomes of the recent memory, the Finnish army (outnumbered 4 to 1 in men and 200 to 1 in tanks) handed the Red Army their asses on a plate and preserved Finnish independence. The Soviets gained the port of Viborg and a slice of Finnish territory. Better people than tropers have tried to determine which side actually won. Finland attacked the USSR in 1941 with the Nazi invasion in 1941, becoming the only democratic state on the Axis side. Finland lost but retained its independence, and after making peace with the Soviets had (at Moscow's insistence) to expel the Germans from its soil by force. This sequence of events has given wargame designers headaches to this day.
Finland was the first country to paint swastikas on its aircraft, though in their case it was the personal insignia of the Swedish count who paid to set the Air Force up, and pre-dates the Nazi use of the symbol. It still looks odd to see British-supplied Hurricane fighters and American Brewsters with swastikas painted on the side, though.
War reparations to the Soviet Union required heavy industry and turned out to jump-start Finland's development from rural backwoods to advanced, well-to-do backwoods. The country remained neutral throughout the Cold War through concessions ("Finlandization," including buying MiG-21s and other weapons from the USSR) and fancy footwork. Afterwards it joined the European Union in 1995 and adopted the Euro in 2002.
Modern Finland is a wealthy and stable nation. There's a high tax rate and a lot of vaguely Minnesotan, rather than Alaskan, nature. The country is probably best known as an exporter of mobile phones (Nokia is a Finnish firm), heavy metal bands, and racing drivers. Finns successful in any form of racing, be it on skis, wheels or feet, are invariably known as "Flying Finns."
For some unknown reason, Finnish overrepresentation is almost a Running Gag amongst online communities. Finns have a large presence on this wiki, possibly the largest from a non-English-speaking nation. Finland was one of the first countries on adopting the Internet, and many IT innovations - social media, My SQL, mobile technology - originate in Finland.
Finland is the world's best country chosen by the Newsweek (Take that Sweden!). In fact, due to its awesome school system and Newsweek's dodgy scoring system Finland got 102 points for education -- out of 100.
The Finnish language is notoriously alien-looking to speakers of Indo-European languages (such as English), it is part of the completely unrelated Finno-Ugric group (including the closely related Estonian, the very distantly related Hungarian, and a number of minority languages in Russia). It was this strangeness that attracted JRR Tolkien to the language, and he used Finnish as the basis for his invented Elvish languages (specifically Quenya) -- though he later changed the spelling to a more Latinate form that would look more appealing to English eyes. That said, Finnish is actually spelled very much like classical Latin, probably because Finnish spelling was deliberately created a relatively short time ago.
- Jean Sibelius - Composer
- Tove Jansson - writer of The Moomins
- HIM - 'Love Metal' band
- The Rasmus - Alternative rock band
- Lordi - Hard Rock band, Eurovision Song Contest winners
- Nightwish -
- Finntroll - polka-metal band
- Stratovarius - Power Metal band
- Skepticism - Doom Metal band (Trope Codifier for the funeral doom subgenre)
- Circle and Pharoah Overlord - Experimental rock bands (the latter began as an offshoot of the former).
- Aki Kaurismäki - Film director, makes Jim Jarmusch-esque movies.
- Alvar Aalto - Influential architect and designer.
- Linus Torvalds - Open-source OS kernel developer.
- Elias Lönnrot - Philologist and creator of The Kalevala.
- Aleksis Kivi - The Finnish national author responsible for the first Finnish-language novel, Seven Brothers.
- Joosa Riekkinen - Creator of the computer game Liero.
- Rovio - Makers of Angry Birds.
- Remedy Entertainment - Software developers, creators of Max Payne and Alan Wake.
- Bugbear Entertainment - Another software developer, focused on racing games. Probably best known for the Flat Out games.
- Several classical musicians, including composers (Kaija Saariaho, Einojuhani Rautavaara), opera singers (Karita Mattila, Matti Salminen, Juha Uusitalo) and conductors (Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jorma Panula).
- Mika Waltari - One of the most successful Finnish writers of fiction. Is best known for his historical epics like The Egyptian, especially outside of Finland, but he has also written detective novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry and non-fiction.
- Väinö Linna - Not so well-known abroad but second to only possibly Aleksis Kivi as an author within Finland. He is best known for his books The Unknown Soldier (depicting the Continuation War (between Finland and Russia in 1941-1944 during WWII) from the point of view of ordinary soldiers) and Under The North Star (depicting the Finnish Civil War).
- Johan Ludvig Runeberg - writer of the epic The Tales of Ensign Stal and the lyrics for the national anthem.
- Johan Gadolin - Chemist, physicist and mineralogist who discovered yttrium. Gadolinium was also named after him.
- Anders Johan Lexell - Astronomer, mathematician and physicist.
- Herman Spöring - Botanist and explorer who sailed with James Cook.
- Anders Chydenius - Highly influential liberal philosopher, champion of democracy and freedom of press in the 1700s.
- Adolf E. Nordenskjöld - Expeditor, first to sail the Northeastern Passage
- Artturi I. Virtanen - Chemist, Nobel chemistry prize winner 1946
- Gustav Komppa - Chemist, one of the first synthetic fuel researchers
- Ragnar Granit - Biochemist, Nobel medicine prize winner 1967
- Esko Valtaoja - Astronomer, university professor and writer.
- Edvard Westermarck - Swedish-speaking Finnish philosopher and sociologist. Among other subjects, he studied exogamy and the incest taboo.
- Johan Helsingius – creator and operator of The Penet remailer.
- Jarkko Oikarinen – creator of Internet Relay Chat (IRC).
- Linus Torvalds – Initial creator of Linux kernel.
- Michael Widenius – creator of My SQL.
- Nico Hämäläinen – creator of Draynor.
- Tatu Ylönen – creator of SSH.
- Gustav Erikson-last of the great sailing ship Magnates . Maintained a line of merchant vessels from his headquarters in the Aland Islands until just after World War II.
- Marshal Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim - Field marshal and Commander-in-Chief during the Winter War, president 1944-46, and top of the "100 Greatest Finns" list on TV recently. Also a noted expeditor and ethnoscientist.
- Simo Häyhä - Sniper during the Winter War and all-round badass, nicknamed "White Death"
- Lauri Törni/Larry Thorne - A Finnish officer and a legendary soldier during World War II. He is most famous for serving as a military officer in three different armies: He left the Finnish Army after the end of the Continuation War in 1944 and joined the German Waffen-SS so he could keep fighting the Soviets, then eventually made his way to the United States after the end of World War II and joined the U.S. Army in 1954 under the name of Larry Thorne. He was reported MIA in Vietnam while serving as an officer in the Green Berets; there is a rumor that he inspired the John Wayne feature of the same name. Again belongs to Names to Run Away From Really Fast.
- Ilmari Juutilainen - top Finnish fighter ace with 94 kills. 2 scored on Fokker D.XXI, 36 on Brewster Buffalo and 54 with Messerschmitt 109G. Highest scoring fighter ace outside Luftwaffe.
- Keke Rosberg - Formula One driver (world champion 1982 and first Finn to compete successfully; there had been two before him but neither made a dent.)
- Nico Rosberg - his son, a Formula One driver, races under a German license.
- Mika Häkkinen - Formula One driver (world champion 1998 & 1999, considered by Michael Schumacher his only real rival).
- Kimi Räikkönen - Formula One driver (world champion 2007), has moved on to the World Rally Championship - only to return to F1 after two seasons
- Heikki Kovalainen - Formula One driver
- Jyrki Järvilehto ("JJ Lehto") - Formula One and endurance driver (Le Mans 24h overall win 1995 (GT 1) & 2005 (LMP 1))
- Markku Alén - Rally driver (world champion 1978)
- Ari Vatanen - Rally driver (world champion 1981)
- Hannu Mikkola - Rally driver (world champion 1983)
- Timo Salonen - Rally driver (world champion 1985)
- Juha Kankkunen - Rally driver (world champion 1986, 87, 91 and 93)
- Tommi Mäkinen - Rally driver (world champion 1996, 97, 98 and 99)
- Marcus Grönholm - Rally driver (world champion 2000 & 2002)
- Jarno Saarinen - Motorcycle road racer (250cc world champion 1972 and the first driver to use the now predominant style of riding corners with the knee on the ground)
- Kari Tiainen - Motorcycle enduro racer (world champion in various classes, 1990-92, 1994-95, 1997 and 2000)
- Juha Salminen - Motorcycle enduro racer (world champion in various classes, 1999-2004 & 2007, grand national cross country champion 2005-06)
- Petteri Silván - Motorcycle enduro racer (world champion in various classes, 1995, 99, 01 & 02.)
- Yrjö Vesterinen - Motorcycle trials racer (world champion 1976-78)
- Lasse Virén - Runner (four-time Olympic gold medallist in 1972 & 1976)
- Kalle Palander - Alpine skier (World slalom champion 2003)
- Janne Ahonen - Ski-jumper (Five world championships in team & individual events)
- Ari-Pekka Nikkola - Ski-jumper (Olympic gold medallist 1988 & 1992)
- Matti Nykänen - Former ski-jumper (four-time Olympic gold medallist in 1984 & 1988), now the main source of income for the Finnish yellow press. The guy literally just divorces and remarries Mervi. Seriously, he'll soon probably have 20 divorces with that woman. Also received some international press attention after he was sentenced to prison after the attempted murder of a friend while drunk and after losing in finger-wrestling. The press attention was because he is an olympic gold winner.
- Paavo Nurmi - Long-distance runner (9 time Olympic gold medalist between 1920 & 1924), and incidentally, the original Flying Finn.
- Jari Kurri - Hockey great who played alongside Wayne Gretzky on the powerful Edmonton Oilers during the 80s, and until now, the only Finn in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
- Teemu Selänne - Another hockey great who will most likely be the second Finn inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Also known as the "Finnish Flash".
- Sami Hyypiä - Football (proper football) player, central defender and captain for Liverpool FC for ten years. Now turns out for Leverkusen in Germany in what Liverpool fans consider a great mistake.
- Jari Litmanen - One of the first Finns to achieve great success and recognition in football. Best remembered from his time with Ajax, but also played with Barcelona and briefly ended up at Liverpool alongside Hyypiä.
- Kiira Korpi - Figure skater, 2007 European bronze medalist.
- Susanna Pöykiö - Figure skater, 2005 European silver medalist.
- Laura Lepistö - Figure skater, the 2009 European Champion and 2010 World bronze medalist.
- Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko - Ice dancers, 1995 European Champions and World silver medalists.