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A modern city, Helsinki is the capital of the Republic of Finland, is situated on the Baltic Sea and is the second most northern capital in the world. It is located in the region of Uusimaa in the south of the country on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. The sea and the many islands off the coastline play a pivotal role in the city, with water surrounding the city on three sides.
The city has been strongly influenced over the years from a number of cities to the east and west. Stockholm in Sweden, St Petersburg in Russia and Tallinn in Estonia are probably the most notable. More than half a million people live in the city, with around 70% of all foreign companies operating in Finland, choosing Helsinki as their base.
The history of Helsinki
The King of Sweden, Gustavus Vasa, founded Helsinki (then known as Helsingfors) in 1550 at the mouth of the River Vantaanjoki in the hope that he could challenge the Baltic Sea Trade and rival Reval, a nearby city and its main competition (now known as Tallinn, Estonia). The city did not grow as quickly as he would have hoped and the King lost interest, in 1640 the centre moved to its current location at the mouth of the river Vantaa.
In 1748, Sweden began to construct the Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress to protect Helsinki from Russia attacks. This massive project attracted many merchants and trade to the area. Russia finally conquered Finland in 1809 and the status of Helsinki was raised to capital of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland just 3 years later with an Empire-style plan for city drawn up in the hope that they could create a new centre to rival St Petersburg.
Finland gained its independence in 1917 and Helsinki maintained the title of capital of the republic becoming its economic and cultural centre. In 1952 Helsinki hosted the summer Olympics and was such a success that it created a great reputation for the fledgling country. In 1995 Finland became a member state of the EU.
At the turn of the century while Helsinki was celebrating its 450th birthday, the city was named the ‘European City of Culture’ and has proved itself a popular destination for many political summits over recent years. In 1999 and 2006 Finland held the EU Presidency and also in 2006 the city was host to the ASEM6 Summit. In 2007 the country raised its notoriety as it became the host of the ever popular Eurovision Song Contest and in 2009, Helsinki was chosen by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design to be the ‘World Design Capital’ for 2012.
It was back in 1952 that Helsinki hosted the Summer Olympics but to this day the stadiums that were erected for the purpose still host a number of national and international events throughout the year both in terms of sport and musical concerts.