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Helsinki (hĕlˈsĭngkē), Swed. Helsingfors, city (1998 pop. 546,317), capital of Finland, located in Southern Finland prov., S Finland, on the Gulf of Finland. Situated on a peninsula, sheltered by islands, and protected by the island fortress of Suomenlinna, the city is a natural seaport (blocked by ice from January to May) and the commercial, administrative, and intellectual center of Finland. It has machine shops, shipyards, food-processing plants, textile mills, clothing and china factories, and printing plants.

The city, founded (1550) by Gustavus I of Sweden, was devastated by a great fire in 1808; it was rebuilt as a well-planned, spacious metropolis. Helsinki grew rapidly after Alexander I of Russia moved (1812) the capital there from Turku. When the Univ. of Helsinki (founded 1640) was moved from Turku in 1828, Helsinki became the center of Finnish nationalism. The construction of the first Finnish railway (1860), connecting Helsinki and Hämeenlinna, led to renewed prosperity for the capital.

In the city's older part are the state council building, the president's residence, the Univ. of Helsinki, the Church of St. Nicholas, the national art gallery, and the impressive railway station (designed by Eliel Saarinen). Other landmarks include Finlandia Hall (1971) and the Finnish National Opera House (1993); the House of Representatives building; the technical university (1879); the sports stadium (scene of the 1952 Olympic games); Kiasma, a contemporary art museum (1998); Seurasaari, a folk life museum housed in pre-20th-century wooden buildings; Temppeliaukio Church, excavated out of solid rock; and the Kamppi Chapel.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Swedish, Helsingfors), the capital and economic and cultural center of Finland; capital of the lääni (province) of Uusi-maa. Helsinki is in the southern part of the country, on the coast of the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea. It occupies the small, granite peninsula called Vironniemi and the tiny offshore islands and skerries that separate the harbor area from the open sea. The maximum elevation above sea level is 75 m. Helsinki has a temperate climate that is partly maritime and partly continental. The mean temperature is –9.7°C in January and 16.8°C in July. Average annual precipitation is approximately 700 mm. The summers are relatively warm, and the winters cold, but ice develops in the city’s harbors for only a short period.

Helsinki has a total administrative area of 448 sq km, but only 181.2 sq km consist of land. The metropolitan area encompasses such suburbs (communes) as Espoo (population, approximately 120,000), Vantaa (population, approximately 120,000), and Kau-niainen (population, approximately 7,000) and has an area of 2,623 sq km.

The comparatively rapid growth of Helsinki proper slowed in the mid–1970’s, and the city’s population declined. Population growth has continued in outlying areas, especially in the most distant ones, including Kerava, Järvenpää, Tuusula, Nurmijärvi, and Vihti. Helsinki, with its 495,000 residents (1976), is Finland’s most populous city. The metropolitan area contains 16 percent of the population of the country and more than 30 percent of its urban population. In 1812 the population of Helsinki proper was 4,000; by 1850 it had increased to 20,000, and by 1900 it numbered 79,000. The population reached 205,800 in 1930,368,500 in 1950,448,300 in 1960, and 523,700 in 1970.

In 1970 the economically active population of the Helsinki area exceeded 400,000. Of this total, 8 percent were employed in construction, 25.4 percent in industry, and 63 percent in the service sector. Approximately 12 percent of all industrial workers in Finland are in Helsinki proper, and 20 percent are within the metropolitan area.

Administration. Helsinki is a municipality. Every four years the people elect the city council, which is the local body of self-government. The council elects the city board members, including the mayor and his deputies. The city council establishes special commissions and boards to deal with such areas of governmental administration as welfare, public health, education, construction, and taxation.

History. Helsinki was founded in 1550 by King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden. In 1641 it was moved 5 km south, to the tip of Vironniemi. The city expanded in the second half of the 18th century as a result of the construction of the fortress of Sveaborg by the Swedes. In 1809, Finland was incorporated into the Russian Empire as the Grand Duchy of Finland, and in 1812 the tsarist authorities moved the capital of Finland from Turku to Helsinki. In 1862 the city was connected with the interior of the country by railroad, and in 1870 a railroad link was established with St. Petersburg.

By the end of the 19th century, Helsinki had become an important commercial, industrial, and cultural center. V. I. Lenin lived in the city in November 1905, in January (February) 1906, in March and April 1906, in November 1907, and in December 1907. The Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet (Tsentrobalt) was based in the city in 1917. Helsinki was an important center for the working-class and democratic movements in Finland. Workers of the city took part in the revolutionary events of 1905 to 1907 (including the Sveaborg Uprising of 1906) and of 1917 and played an important role in the Finnish Revolution of 1918. After independence was declared in December 1917, Helsinki became the capital of the Republic of Finland.

The secretariat of the World Peace Council is located in Helsinki. The 1952 Olympics were held in the city, and it has been the site of many international meetings, including the World Assembly of Peace (1955), the World Congress for Peace, National Independence, and General Disarmament (1965), the first and third stages of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (July 1973 and July-August 1975, respectively), and the World Conference to End the Arms Race, for Disarmament, and for Détente (1976).

Economy. Helsinki is the main commercial, financial, and industrial center of Finland. Important banks are located in the city, including the State Bank of Finland, the National Bank, and the United Bank of Finland. There are also insurance companies, and many businesses have offices and warehouses in the city.

The gross industrial product of Helsinki is approximately 12 percent of that of the country. More than one-seventh of Finland’s industrial enterprises are concentrated in the city. Helsinki’s industry is diversified. The gross industrial product is continually increasing, although the number of enterprises is decreasing somewhat; in 1960, for example, Helsinki had 1,129 industrial enterprises that used hired labor, as opposed to 1,037 such enterprises in 1970. There has been some movement of industry away from the city since the 1960’s.

The leading branch of industry is machine building, especially shipbuilding, instrument-making, and the production of electrical and electronic equipment. The chemical, textile, clothing, knitwear, leather and footwear, furniture, paper, printing, and food-processing industries are well developed. Helsinki’s most important industrial establishments include shipyards of the Wärtsilä Company, the Arabia china factory, and the government-owned Valmet Company, which produces, for example, paper machines. Other important factories produce crane equipment, light bulbs, and cables. A nuclear power plant was under construction near the city in 1977.

Shipping and navigation occupy an important place in the economy of Helsinki, which is the principal port of Finland; more than one-half of the country’s imports and approximately 15 percent of its exports pass through the city. Imports include petroleum, coal, rolled metal products, machinery, chemical products, iron, and iron alloys, and exports include timber, paper, ships, and industrial equipment. The port handled 5.8 million tons of cargo in 1975. Helsinki is connected by ferry and shipping lines with Stockholm (Sweden), Copenhagen (Denmark), Travemünde (Federal Republic of Germany), Tallinn (USSR), and Leningrad (USSR). The port of Helsinki is convenient for shipping and has several harbors. Its berthing facilities extend for more than 9 km and approach the center of the city. Navigation is possible throughout the year, since icebreakers are used in the winter to keep the port open. Passenger traffic and the transportation of goods by ferries and container ships is steadily increasing.

The principal railroad lines and highways in Finland lead to Helsinki. The city has an international airport. A highway connects the harbors and various regions of the city. In early 1972, registered vehicles numbered approximately 88,200 passenger cars, 1,500 buses, and 16,000 trucks. The city’s streetcar and bus system is being expanded. Public transportation is also being improved through the construction of a subway and an electric railroad system; work on these projects was in progress in 1977. The subway line will link the western and eastern parts of the city. Also under construction in 1977 was a highway connecting downtown Helsinki with new centers in outlying areas.

Helsinki is visited by 3 million visitors annually, approximately one-third of which are foreigners.

Architecture and city planning. Helsinki has undergone systematic development since the early 19th century in accordance with a plan drafted between 1808 and 1817 by a commission headed by J. Ehrenström. Noteworthy buildings in the classical style include the former Senate (1818–22), St. Nicholas Cathedral (1830–52), and the University of Helsinki with its observatory and library (1828–45), all of which were designed by the architect C. Engel. Other outstanding examples of architecture are the Finnish National Theater (1901, architect O. Tarjanne; addition, 1954, architects K. and H. Sirén), the National Museum (1906–09, architects E. Saarinen and others), the Central Station (1904–14, architect Saarinen), the Parliament building (1927–31, architect J. Siren), the Olympic Stadium complex (1934–40, architects J. Lindegren and T. Jäntti), the Olympic Village (1938–40, architects H. Ekelund and M. Vällikangas), the House of Culture (1955–58, architect A. Aalto), and Finlandia Hall (1967–71, architect A. Aalto).

A general plan drawn up in 1970 for further construction calls for the creation of three outlying centers in addition to the existing main center. The most important of these will be Pasila. Reconstruction of the historical center of Helsinki is being undertaken according to the plans of A. Ruusuvuori. There has also been intensive housing construction in the regions of Maunula (1951–56), Munkkivuori (1962–65), Tapiola, and Otaniemi.

Noteworthy are the monuments to E. Lönnrot (1902, sculptor E. Wikström) and J. Sibelius (1961–67, sculptor E. Hiltunen). The city has many parks, avenues, and rest areas, as well as an extensive network of hotels, restaurants, tourist centers, and camping grounds.

Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions. Helsinki has a number of higher educational institutions, including the University of Helsinki, the Technical Institute of Helsinki, the Institute of Commerce and Business Administration, the Helsinki School of Economics, the Swedish School of Economics, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Sibelius Academy, and the Academy of Fine Arts. Among the city’s scientific and scholarly institutions are the Academy of Finland, the Technical Research Center of Finland, several scientific societies, and research institutes for forestry, economics, agriculture, and biochemistry. Libraries and museums include the Helsinki University Library, the Helsinki City Library, the Library of Parliament, the National Museum, and the Zoological Museum of the University of Helsinki. The city has a botanical garden. Theaters include the Finnish National Opera, the Finnish National Theater, the Swedish National Theater, the Workers’ Theater, and the Little Theater.


Ikonnikov, A. Khel’sinki. Leningrad, 1967.
Helsinki: Arkkitehtuuriopas. Helsinki, 1963.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the capital of Finland, a port in the south on the Gulf of Finland: founded by Gustavus I of Sweden in 1550; replaced Turku as capital in 1812, while under Russian rule; university. Pop.: 559 330 (2003 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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