During the last Ice Age, Finland was covered by a thick layer of ice. When that ice sheet retreated (or melted) about 10,000 years ago, it gouged the surface of the land and left in its wake innumerable islands, rivers and streams, as well as countless lakes.
Subsequently, the exposed lands turned green and fertile, wildlife returned, and Stone Age hunter-gatherers from northern Russia arrived. Early settlements soon developed, and early man lived and farmed throughout Finland on through the Bronze and Iron Ages.
At the end of the Viking era, during a series of exploratory crusades into Finland, the Swedes brought Christianity, and in short-order, mostly undefended Finnish lands were incorporated into the Kingdom of Sweden, and 650 years of Swedish influence began.
As a province of Sweden, the now subjugated Finns were forced to adopt the culture and traditions of Sweden, including its language and dominate religion. The imposed Protestant faith motivated many in the Orthodox religion to move east into Russia.
Debilitating skirmishes with Russia for control of Finland's land raged on, and then, at the very end of the 17th century, a severe famine was out of control, and across Finland food shortages caused mass starvation.
In 1808, the so-called "Finnish War" between Russia and Sweden began. On March 28, 1809, victorious Russia transformed long-suffering Finland into a Grand Duchy (or separate state), with some level of autonomy.
During Russia's sway, the Finnish language surfaced once again, Helsinki became the capital city and a strong national pride swept across the land. Russia, now worried about this reformation of sorts, clamped down.
It was to no avail as the era of Russian Tzars came to an end in 1917 during the Communist Revolution. On December 6th of that year Finland declared its independence. A short (but bloody) civil war followed between "Whites" (Finland forces) and "Reds" (Russian supported factions), and the "Whites" prevailed and the country's freedom was at hand.