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keskiviikko 24. helmikuuta 2016

Norway, Cool Facts #101

<= 100. Finland                                                                                                              102. Iceland => 

1. Norwegian Flag 

In 1821 Frederik Meltzer designed the Norwegian flag. Before that Norway had had only modified Danish and Swedish flags as it had been part of Denmark and was at the moment part of Sweden. 

Meltzer used the Nordic cross in the flag demonstrating close ties to Sweden and Denmark. With the blue-white-red tricolor it also showed Norway's liberal ideas as this color combination was used by the revolutionary France, which influenced the flags of many other countries. 

Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the Finnish Åland Islands took afterwards in use a similar flag design as Norway with different colors only. 

Norwegian flag design by Frederik Meltzer

2. Norwegian Vikings

The Viking age started in 792 when the Vikings destroyed a church in Northeast England, killed the monks or took them as slaves and looted the treasures. The end of the Viking age is the Norman conquest of England in 1066. 

Between this time Norway took shape as a nation when Harald Fairhair unified the Norwegians after the Battle of Hafrsfjord. Norwegian and Danish Vikings travelled to the west across the Atlantic as the Swedish Vikings had travelled to the east. 

Norwegian Vikings occupied Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland and established the first settlements. Leif Erikson and other Norwegian Vikings reached even North America from Greenland in about 986 when they arrived to the present-day Newfoundland. 

The settlement on "Vinland" as they called the area was abandoned after a few years after some conflicts with indigenous people and without no support from Greenland. 

Leif Erikson
Viking Routes

3. Danish and Swedish rule in Norway 

In 1387 Olav IV of Norway died and he was the last Norwegian king to be born on Norwegian soil for the next 567 years. In 1397 Sweden, Norway and Denmark united as the Kalmar Union. Sweden left the union in 1523 and left Norway in an unequal union with Denmark.

Danish kings ruled Denmark-Norway between 1523-1814. The king had aligned Denmark-Norway with France during the Napoleonic Wars which was fatal. France lost the war so Denmark was forced to cede Norway to Sweden but Denmark kept Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, which had been in fact Norwegian areas at first.

So between 1814-1905 Norway was in a union with Sweden which ended in a referendum in 1905 and since then Norway has been independent. In the beginning of the independence Norway Haakon VII was crowned as the king of Norway.

He was a Danish Prince and his real name was Carl and he's the grandfather of the current king of Norway, Harald V, the first prince after Olav IV to have born on Norwegian soil. 

Haakon VII
4. Norway's Geography 

Norway's coastline is 21.300 km long which is more than half of the circumference of the Earth, 40.075 km. 

Norway has claims on areas in the Antarctica because the Norwegian Roald Amundsen reached the area as the first person in 1911. Amundsen was the first person in history to have reached both poles. 

Dependency = an autonomous territory without full political independence

Norwegian territories

Svalbard - since 1925 part of Norway 
Jan Mayen - since 1930 part of Norway 

Norwegian dependencies

Bouvet Island - Norwegian dependency since 1930
Peter I Island - Norwegian dependency since 1933
Queen Maud Land in Antarctica - Norwegian dependency since 1957

Lost areas to Denmark

Faroe Islands - 1035-1814
Greenland - 1261-1814  
Iceland - 1262-1814

Possessions of Norway
5. Oil and Wealth in Norway 

In the beginning of the Norwegian independence in the early 1900s Norway was one of the poorest countries in Europe. This led the people to emigrate out of Norway and for example about 600.000 Norwegians moved to USA at the time of gaining independence.

Nowadays Norway is the biggest donor of development aid considering the percentage of its Gross national income.

Oil was found in Norway's waters and 5085 oil wells had been drilled by Norwegian companies between 1966-2013 mostly in the North Sea. Currently the oil and gas export revenues constitute almost 50% of the total exports and 20% of the GDP.

Norway is the fifth-largest oil and third-largest gas exporter in the world. It has used its revenues from natural resources to create one of the most prosperous nation in the world.


10,000 BC The ice started melting in Norway
793 Viking Age starts after a looting event in Northeast England
872 Harald Fairhair unified the Norwegians after the Battle of Hafrsfjord
986 Leif Erikson was estimated to have arrived at the coast of North America
995 Olav Tryggvasson became the king of Norway and built the first church in Norway the same year
1130 Norway drifted into a spiral of civil wars
1319 Sweden and Norway were united under King Magnus VII
1349 Black Death killed 50-60% of the Norwegian population
1380 Denmark and Norway entered a personal union
1389 Eric of Pomerania, grandson of Queen Margaret's sister, was crowned the king of all three Scandinavian countries
1397 Sweden, Norway and Denmark enter the Kalmar Union together
1523 Sweden left Kalmar Union, Norway tried to leave it also after a rebellion which the Danes defeated forcing Norway to stay in the union until 1814
1536 Norway lost its independence becoming a colony of Denmark and Protestantism was also introduced in Norway
1695-1696 The famine killed about 10% of Norwegian population
1812 Mass starvation during the Napoleonic Wars
1814 As Denmark was on the losing side of the war it was forced to cede Norway to Sweden under terms of the Treaty of Kiel
1821 Norway gets its own flag designed by Frederik Meltzer 
1905 Norway gets independence after a referendum, Prince Carl of Denmark was then elected as Haakon VII, king of Norway
1940-1945 Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany during the World War II
1949 Norway joined Nato
1970s Norway started drilling oil and natural gas
1974 and 1994 Norway voted against joining the European Union
2011 Anders Behring Breivik conducted terrorist attacks at Utoya island and government quarter in Oslo 

perjantai 19. helmikuuta 2016

Finland, Cool Facts #100

<= 99. Sweden                                                                                                               101. Norway =>

1. Flag of Finland

During the beginning of Finnish independence there was a dispute about the Finnish flag. The question was whether the flag should be red-yellow or blue-white. 

For over 350 years the red-yellow coat-of-arms with a lion was Finland's only symbol and red and yellow were thus considered as Finnish national colors. 

In 1863 two famous Finns had argued about the flag as the author Zacharias Topelius supported the red-yellow flag and Juhani Aho supported the blue-white flag. 

The red-yellow lion flag became the official flag after the February Revolution in Russia in 1917, when the Tsar was overthrown. After the October Revolution Finland declared independence and the civil war started between the Whites and Reds. 

In 1918 after the Finnish civil war ended the anti-Russian red-yellow lion flag was lifted but it quickly lost popularity as red was the symbol of the Reds, who lost the civil war against the Whites. So after all the current blue-white flag was taken in use.

Finnish flag December 1917 - May 1918
Finnish flag 1918-now

The Sami people are indigenous people living in northern Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. They were the first inhabitants in Finland when the ice age ended in northern Europe. Petroglyphs and archeological findings have found marks of Sami settlements dating to 10,000 BC. The Sami languages are of Uralic origins. 

The Sami people are actually the only indigenous people in Europe. There are still about 6000 Sami people in Finland and in total about an estimated 137,000 people, with the majority living in Norway and then in Sweden. 

One controversial thing in Finland considering the Sami people is that it still hasn't ratified the ILO convention 169, an international agreement about the rights of the indigenous people. Norway and Denmark have ratified it already. The problem in Finland has been deciding whose descendants can be counted as Sami people. 

Areas with Sami occupation

3. Between Russia and Sweden

Already in the 1100s Swedish and Russian people visited Finland. Swedish crusaders arrived from the west and Russian Novgorod Emperors spread Orthodox faith to Finland from the east.

In 1249 or 1250 Birger Jarl annexed Finland to Sweden starting a centuries long Swedish occupation in Finland.

In 1323 Sweden and the Novgorod Republic defined the Finnish borders during the Treaty of Nöteborg (Pähkinäsaaren Rauha).

Sweden left the Kalmar Union in 1523 and rose as a superpower in the 1600s fighting against Russia for the dominance of the Baltic Sea region. This made Finland as the battlefield many times when these two countries fought against each other.

Greater Wrath (Isoviha) 1714-1721

During the Great Northern War Russia manages to occupy Finland for the first time in history. After the end of the war the Russian troops retreated.

Lesser Wrath (Pikkuviha) 1742-1743

During the Russo-Swedish War between 1741-1743 Russia occupied Finland for the second time as Sweden entered the war trying to regain the lost areas during the Great Northern War. Sweden lost again.

Russia conquered Finland finally during the Napoleonic Wars in 1809. Finland became the autonomic Grand Duchy of Finland, which it remained until Finnish independence in 1917.

Treaty of Nystad 1323

4. Finnish Sports Success

For such a small country Finland is extremely successful in different sports. Here is a list of Finnish sports achievements.

- 4 Formula One Championships (1xRosberg, 2xHäkkinen, 1xRäikkönen)
- Most World Rally Championship: 14 Championships, 7 World Champion drivers
- Most Olympic Medals per capita: 302 medals, 17.907 people/medal
- Most Gold Medals in the 10.000m at the Olympics: 6, and most in total with Ethiopia: 13
- Most Gold and total Medals in the 5000m at the Olympics: 6 golds, 12 in total
- Most successful country in Javelin throw at the Olympics: 7 golds, 22 in total
- 2 Ice Hockey World Championships, 12 medals in total
- One of the most successful countries in Ski Jumping

Mika Häkkinen
Matti Nykänen
Lasse Viren

5. Urho Kekkonen 

The most legendary president of Finland is definitely Urho Kekkonen, the man who was the president of Finland for 25 years. In 1948 Finland's president Juho Kusti Paasikivi signed the Finno-Soviet Treaty also known as YYA Treaty

The intention of it for the Soviet Union was to ensure that no one would attack it through Finland and for Finland it ensured the survival as a liberal democracy near strategic Soviet regions. 

After Paasikivi ended his term Kekkonen stepped to presidency continuing the political line that Paasikivi had used. It's debated that Kekkonen used this policy intentionally to continue his own influence and damaging his opponents.

This is one reason why Kekkonen was able to continue so long in office and also the fact that he managed to be a valued statesman both in the west and the east, which wasn't easy during the Cold War as Finland was the only pro-Western neighbor of the Soviet Union.

Finnish Presidents:
Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg 1919-1925
Lauri Kristian Relander 1925-1931
Per Evind Svinhufvud 1931-1937
Kyösti Kallio 1937-1940
Risto Ryti 1940-1944
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim 1944-1946
Juho Kusti Paasikivi 1946-1956
Urho Kekkonen 1956-1982
Mauno Koivisto 1982-1994
Martti Ahtisaari 1994-2000
Tarja Halonen 2000-2012
Sauli Niinistö 2012-

Urho Kekkonen

This is Finland:


8500 BC Finland was being settled by hunter-gatherers
800-900s Swedish and Danish Vikings make voyages to the coasts of South Finland from which the Finns retreated to the inland
1100s Swedish crusaders made crusades to Finland and Russian Novgorod Emperors came to spread Orthodox faith from Russia
1249 or 1250 Birger Jarl annexed Finland to Sweden
1323 Treaty of Nöteborg (Pähkinäsaaren Rauha) Sweden and Novgorod Republic defined the borders of Finland
1397 Finland as a part of Sweden joined the Kalmar Union
1500s Mikael Agricola published first written works in Finnish 
1523 Sweden left the Kalmar Union and Gustav Vasa performed reformation which converted the Finns to Lutheranism
1618-1648 Finnish "hakkapeliitta" cavalrymen fight various times during the Thirty Years' War
1640 The Royal academy of Turku was the first university established in Finland
1697-1698 About 33% of the Finnish population died in a severe famine
1714-1721 Great Wrath during the Great Northern War when Russian troops occupied Finland
1742-1743 Lesser Wrath during the Russo-Swedish War Russian troops occupied Finland again
1809 During the Napoleonic Wars Russia finally conquered Finland from Sweden and formed the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland
1835 The Finnish national epic "Kalevala" was released
1848 The Finnish flag was used for the first time in Helsinki and the national song was played for the first time as well
1853-1856 During the Russo-Turkish War the British-French navy attacked the Finnish coast destroying the Bomarsund fortress in Åland
1863 The Finnish language achieved equal legal status with Swedish
1866-1868 The famine killed 15% of the population
1906 Universal suffrage was adopted in Finland
1917 February Revolution in Russia, Tsardom is abolished
1917 Finland declared independence after the October Revolution on 6, December
1918 Finnish civil war started between the Whites and Reds
1919 Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg became the first president of Finland 
1939-1940 Winter War started when Soviet Union attacked Finland during the World War II, Finland defended successfully from the Soviet Union but lost Karelia
1941-1944 Continuation War when Finland allied with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union
1944-1945 Lapland War, Finnish troops fought against retreating Nazi German troops 
1948 The Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed by Juho Kusti Paasikivi
1956 Urho Kekkonen became the Finnish president until 1981
1995 Finland joined the European Union
2000 Tarja Halonen became the first female president of Finland

lauantai 13. helmikuuta 2016

Sweden, Cool Facts #99

<= 98. Denmark                                                                                                            100. Finland =>

The yellow-blue combination was first used in the coat-of-arms of Österland, which is now Southwest Finland. Gustav Vasa started using the yellow-blue flag as Sweden's flag and adopted the design from Denmark's flag after Sweden had left the Kalmar Union in 1523. 

John III, the son of Gustav Vasa ruled Finland, then a Swedish region used the yellow-blue cross flag in their coat-of-arms, which is still in use in Southwest Finland's coat-of-arms. When John III became the king of Sweden in 1568 he made the yellow-blue cross flag as the official flag of Sweden. 

Swedish flag

The coat-of-arms of Southwest Finland (Varsinais-Suomi)

2. Swedish Vikings 

The Swedish Vikings started sailing across the Baltic Sea to the east in the 800s as the Danish and Norwegian Vikings sailed across the Atlantic to the west and south. The Swedish Vikings eventually reached Dniepr river along which they sailed to the Black Sea and even Volga. There are speculations that the Swedish Vikings reached Constantinople and even Baghdad.

The Byzantine Emperor Theophilus noticed the great battle skills of the Swedish Vikings and invited them to serve as his personal bodyguards, known as the Varangian guards. The Swedish Vikings were also believed to be the founding fathers of the Kievan Rus'. The most powerful state of Europe in the 900s and 1000s, which developed later into the modern Ukraine.

Viking voyages and territories
Varangian Guards

3. Kalmar Union 

The Kalmar Union was created as a counterforce for the German Hanseatic League, which dominated the trade in the Baltic Sea countries. With the lead of Queen Margaret I of Denmark, the three Scandinavian countries Sweden, Norway and Denmark united as the Kalmar Union. 

It was a personal union, meaning that all the countries were independent but they had a common monarch. Denmark was a dominant country in the union and the Swedish nobility wasn't satisfied with Sweden's position. 

In 1520 king Christian II of Denmark ordered the massacre of 80-90 clergy and nobility supporting the anti-unionist. Shortly after the Stockholm Bloodbath Sweden left the union when Gustav Vasa became the king of Sweden in 1523. 

4. Superpowers of the Baltic Sea

The beginning of Sweden's "Great Power era" started in 1611 and ended in 1721 after the Great Northern War. In 1611 Gustavus Adolphus, who ruled Sweden until his death in 1632 transformed Sweden into one of the greatest European powers. 

Sweden became the biggest European country after Russia and Spain during his reign. At the time Sweden was fighting against the supremacy of the Baltic Sea throughout the 1600s against Denmark and Russia. 

After the end of the Thirty Years' War in 1638 Sweden got areas from northern Germany and in 1658 Sweden had reached its largest territorial extent. Sweden had even colonies in the Caribbean and North America. The colony of New Sweden was along the Delaware River. 

In 1700 Denmark, Poland and Russia allied against Sweden starting the Great Northern War. This was the end of the Swedish Empire. Sweden lost the war in 1721 losing most of its territories except Finland, which Russia took in 1809 from Sweden.

The Swedish defeat allowed Russia to start transforming into the superpower that it was to become in the coming centuries.

Swedish Empire 1658

The House of Bernadotte has ruled Sweden since 1818 and between 1818-1905 they ruled also Norway before it gained independence. 

In the beginning of the 1800s the previous Swedish royal family had problems of providing a new heir to the throne while the contemporary king Charles XIII was very old and Sweden had to decide his successor. 

Sweden chose Danish prince to become their king, but he died the same year as he was chosen as the heir to the throne. 

Napoleon I of France controlled much of continental Europe at the time so Sweden decided to choose a king that Napoleon would approve. 

On 1810 the Riksdag elected the French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte as their king. When the king Charles XIII of Sweden finally died in 1818 Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte became the king with the name of Karl Johan or Charles XIV. 

Since 1973 the king of Sweden has had only ceremonial duties without any real power. 

Marshal Jean-Baptise Bernadotte

Bernadotte Royal family currently 


98 Sweden is mentioned for the first time in a written source "Germania" by Tacitus
700-1000 The Swedish Viking Age lasted roughly between this time
829 St. Ansgar introduced Christianity which fully replaced paganism in the 12th century
1050 From this date on Sweden was counted as a Christian nation
1249 Birger Jarl annexed the current Finland to Sweden
1319 Sweden and Norway were united under King Magnus Eriksson
1335 Slavery and serfdom was abolished by King Magnus IV
1364 The Swedish nobility chose the German Albrekt av Mecklenburg as the king
1397 Queen Margaret I of Denmark united Denmark, Sweden and Norway as the Kalmar Union as a counterforce against the German Hanseatic League
1520 Danish King Christian II ordered the massacre of Swedish nobles in Stockholm
1523 Gustav Vasa becomes the King of Sweden and Sweden leaves the Kalmar Union
1630 Sweden's most powerful leader in history, Gustav Adolphus engaged Sweden into the Thirty Years' War, which had started in 1618. He died in 1632 himself at the battle of Lützen
1648 The Thirty Years' War ends and Sweden gets large areas in Northern Germany and Sweden also conquered colonies like New Sweden (Delaware) and Gold Coast (Ghana), which were lost quickly
1696 A famine killed one third of the population in current Finnish areas
1700 The Great Northern War starts with Swedish and Russian troops fighting against each other and later Swedish and Poland-Lithuania's troops, Sweden was victorious against both of them
1709 Sweden loses a battle against Russia, which meant the beginning of the end for the Swedish Empire
1721 Treaty of Nystad, Sweden lost large areas of land and its place as an empire and the dominant state in the Baltic Sea. As a result Russia started emerging as an empire becoming one of Europe's most dominant nations
1809 Sweden loses its eastern part to Russia which became the Grand Duchy of Finland
1814 Sweden's last time at war as it takes Norway by force from Denmark after the Napoleonic Wars
1905 Norway becomes independent from Sweden after a referendum
1850-1910 An estimated amount of million Swedes emigrated to USA from the poverty and famine in Sweden
1917 Communist revolution was avoided in Sweden which was becoming a modern parliamentary democracy
1943 Sweden helped to rescue the Danish Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps
1986 Prime Minister Olof Palme is murdered
1994 Sweden joined the European Union 

maanantai 8. helmikuuta 2016

Denmark, Cool Facts #98

<= 97. Lithuania                                                                                                              99. Sweden =>

1. Dannebrog 

Denmark has the world's oldest national flag still in use, Dannebrog is the name of the flag. The flag with a cross on red background was adopted in 1625 and the current square shaped flag was adopted in 1748. 

Different variations of the flag had been although used since the 1300s, when it was used in king Valdemar IV Atterdag's coat-of-arms. The legend behind the flag dates back to the 1200s to a battle in Estonia.

It's told that the Danes were fighting against the Estonians in the battle of Lyndanisse. The Danes were losing but then miraculously the Dannebrog fell from the sky, which the king took and showed to the troops, who won the battle after being filled with courage.

No historical record support this legend, which was mentioned twice in written sources from the 1600s.

The Danish flag was a model to all the other Nordic flags and the half-mast custom spread to the world from Denmark. 

Danish flag falling from the sky miraculously

2. Vikings 

The Viking Age extends roughly from the 790s to 1066 until the Norman conquest of England. Norway, Sweden and Denmark were the central areas of the Vikings from where they raided, traded and traveled around Europe.

A large part of the Vikings were Danish and the designation Viking comes from the word "vik", which means "bay" referring to the bay areas in Scandinavia where they lived.

The Viking flag with the black raven spread fear and the illusion of the apocalypse as it was almost 1000 years since the birth of Jesus. The Vikings conquered areas from Germany, France, Scotland and England, mainly from the coastal areas.

First king Gudfred united the Danes in the 800s to defend the expansion of Charlemagne's Empire and in the end of the 900s Harald Bluetooth united Norway and Denmark and succeeded to convert Denmark into Christianity.

Viking Age

3. Kalmar Union

The Kalmar Union was a personal union between Norway, Denmark and Sweden. 

Norway = then including Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Northern Isles
Sweden = then including Finland 

The union lasted from 1397 until 1523 and there were several short interruptions. The countries remained separate independent states, which only had a common monarch with their domestic and foreign policies. 

The union was formed to defend the increasing power of the German Hanseatic League in the Baltic Sea, but the union had internal conflicts between the dominant Danish nobility and the Swedes. 

In 1523 Sweden broke up from the union when Gustav Vasa became the king of Sweden. Norway remained a part of Denmark until 1814.

Kalmar Union map

4. Danish Colonies

Denmark was a colonial empire between the 1500s and 1944, when it lost Iceland. At its apex the Danes had colonies in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia covering an area of about 3 million square km in 1800. 

The downfall of the Danish colonial empire was caused by the lack of sufficient resources. Thus Denmark was quickly eclipsed by France, Britain and the Netherlands as a colonial power. 


Estonia - In the 13th-14th century and between 1559-1645 other parts of Estonia 
Greenland 1814 - Denmark took Greenland from Norway as Norway was annexed to Sweden after the Napoleonic Wars
Faroe Island 1814 - Denmark inherited them from Norway after the Napoleonic Wars

Iceland 1814 - Denmark inherited them from Norway after the Napoleonic Wars


India 1620 - Denmark-Norway's first colony at Tranquebar, later the towns of Achne and Pirapur near Calcutta in the late 1700s
Nicobar Islands -  in the Indian Ocean 1754 to 1868


Ghana 1661 - various trading stations, which were later purchased by Sweden

South America 

Danish West Indies - St. Thomas in 1671, St. Jan in 1718, St. Croix in 1733. These all were sold to USA in 1916 for 25 million dollars

Danish colonies, green areas and dots

5. Danish Society 

- 4th highest ratio of tertiary degree holders in the world 
- one of the highest minimum wages in the world - first country to legalize porn in 1969
- first country to create "registered partnership" laws in 1989
- one of the lowest levels of income inequality

Porn in the world: Green = legal, Yellow = legal under some restrictions, Red = illegal 
Same-sex marriages, blue = marriage open to same-sex couples


700 Denmark's oldest city, Ribe was founded
700-1000s Dans, Swedes and Norwegians colonized, raided and traded in all parts of Europe
800s Viking explorers discovered Iceland by accident
965 Harald Bluetooth united and Christianized the Danes
1000s Danish vikings conquered and settled parts of England and Ireland and together with Norwegian vikings founded Normandy in France
1000s Cnut the Great united England, Norway and Denmark for almost 30 years
1200s Danes occupied Sweden's southern parts from where king Valdemar II started conquering areas from northern Estonia
1219 Danish rule in Tallinn and northern Estonia started
1397 Denmark enters into a personal union with Sweden and Norway called the Kalmar Union
1459 Schleswig-Holstein is incorporated into Denmark
1523 Sweden separated from the Kalmar Union
1536 Denmark converted into Lutheranism
1611-1613 Kalmar War, Denmark tried to force Sweden to return to the union
1644 Sweden claimed Scania from Denmark
1645 Treaty of Bromsebro, Denmark surrenders Halland, Gotland and the last parts of Danish Estonia
1658 Peace of Roskilde, Denmark had unsuccessfully attacked Sweden and lost a lot of areas to Sweden
1675-1679 Denmark tried to regain Scania in the unsuccessful Scanian War
1700-1721 Great Northern War, Denmark restored the control of Schleswig and Holstein
1807-1814 Gunboat War, Denmark-Norway against the United Kingdom
1814 After the Napoleon Wars the Danish-Norwegian union was dissolved, but Denmark kept Iceland, Greenland and Faroe Islands, which had been governed by Norway for centuries
1849 After the European Revolutions in 1848 Denmark became a constitutional monarchy
1864 Second Schleswig War against Prussia and Habsburg Austria, where it lost Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia
1910s Denmark remained neutral during the World War 
1920 Northern Schleswig was recovered by Denmark after a plebiscite
1939 Denmark signed a 10-year non-aggression pact with Germany
1940 Despite the pact, Nazi Germany invaded Denmark 
1944 Iceland, which was occupied by the British, became independent from Denmark
1945 German occupation ended in Denmark after the Germans surrendered and lost the war
1949 Denmark joined Nato
1973 Denmark joined the European Economic Community
2000 After a referendum Denmark rejected using the Euro
2009 Denmark awarded Greenland self-determination 

"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

tiistai 2. helmikuuta 2016

Lithuania, Cool Facts #97

<= 96. Latvia                                                                                                                98. Denmark =>

1. King Mindaugas  

In 1251 the kingdom of Lithuania was established and in 1253 Mindaugas was crowned as the first and only king of Lithuania. King Mindaugas made deals with the Livonian Order so that Lithuania got some more land and the royal crown in exchange for his conversion to Catholicism. 

Lithuania had the last areas in Europe, where Christianity hadn't spread yet. King Mindaugas died in 1263 with his two sons in a conflict. After that Lithuania reverted to paganism and its status as a kingdom was lost. 

The state survived though as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which became the biggest country in Europe in the 1400s. In 1387 Lithuania the Grand Dukes finally converted into Christianity. 

Coronation of King Mindaugas

2. Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 

In 1386 the Lithuanian ruler Jogaila aka Wladyslaw II Jagiello, married the young 12-year old queen Jadwiga. This meant the beginning of the centuries-long Polish-Lithuanian union. The two countries established the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569 after the Union of Lublin. The two countries had been a personal union before this but now they were a federation, which had a common monarch.

Personal Union = combination of two or more countries, who have the same monarch but their boundaries, laws and interests remain separate
Federation = unlike a personal union, the parties of the federation are united by a central government

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the largest and most populous countries in Europe with its 11 million inhabitants. Poland was the more dominant party in the federation and in 1696 Polish became the only official language.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Habsburg Austria in the three partitions in 1772, 1792 and 1795. The European superpower had disappeared from the map and its areas had been incorporated into surrounding countries.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at its largest extent in 1619

3. Lithuanian Jews 

Lithuania had been an important center of Jewish scholarship and culture from the 18th century until the Second World War. The genocide of Lithuanian Jews was one of the most severe from the German occupied countries.

About 91-95% of the pre-war Jews had died during the holocaust. The Germans also killed a lot of Lithuanian intellectuals, army officers and Romani people. The amount of killed Jews was around 190,000. In 2009 there were only about 4000 Jews in Lithuania.

Percentage of Jews who died in the Holocaust

4. Kaliningrad

The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was ready to cede the Kaliningrad region, former Königsberg, to the Lithuanian SSR in the 1950s like it ceded Porkkala back to Finland and Crimea to Ukraine.

The leader of the Lithuanian SSR refused taking it and thus avoided the growing Russian influence as the Russian speaking population would have increased after obtaining Kaliningrad.

Compared to other Baltic countries Lithuania hasn't had problems with its current Russian minority and it's also significantly smaller than in Estonia and Latvia.

5. Curonian Spit

The Curonian Spit is an UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in Lithuania and Kaliningrad, which belongs to Russia. The Curonian Spit has the highest drifting sand dunes in Europe.

The average height of the dunes is 35 meters but some of them attain even a height of 60 meters. Several wetlands, meadows and forests are on or near the Spit so it's home to several ecological communities.

Curonian Spit Lagoon 
Dunes in the Curonian Spit


1009 First written mention of Lithuania in a medieval German manuscript
1252 Mindaugas becomes the first king of Lithuania
1300s Lithuania becomes the last European country where Christianity spreads
1386 Grand Duke Jogaila married the 12-year old Polish queen Jadwiga becoming the king of Poland and Lithuania
1410 Battle of Grunwald, one of the largest medieval battles in Europe, Poland and Lithuania defeat the German Teutonic Knights
1569 The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is established
1696 Polish language became the only official language 
1772, 1792 and 1795 the Commonwealth was partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Habsburg Austria
1800s Russia starts Russification policies in Lithuania
1831 and 1863 uprising against Russia by the Lithuanians
1867-1868 Large amounts of Lithuanians went to USA after a famine 
1915 Germany occupied Lithuania during the World War I
1918 During the German occupation, Antennas Smetanon and his council declared Lithuania independent
1919 After German capitulation the Red Army occupied Lithuania
1920 The Russians had to leave and recognize the Lithuanian independence, the Polish had conquered Vilnius and the area around it without ceding it to Lithuania
1922 Land reform in Lithuania
1926 After a coup d'état Antanas Smetona became the president from the Tautininkai party
1939 Memel was ceded to Germany
1940 Soviet troops occupied the country forming a Soviet friendly puppet regime, which pleaded for joining the Soviet Union
1941 Germany occupies Lithuania
1944 Soviet rule was returned in Lithuania
1949 Agriculture was collectivized and 60,000 people were forced to move to Siberia
1990 The Sajudis popular front declared Lithuania independent. Soviet Union imposed an economic blockade and Soviet troops attacked some places in Lithuania
1991 Lithuanian independence was recognized internationally after the Moscow coup attempt
1992 Algirdas Brazauskas becomes the first president
1998 Valdas Adamkus becomes is elected as the president
2004 Lithuania joined both Nato and EU