A chronology of key events:
1100s - Swedish crusades subjugate Finns and convert them to Christianity.
Capital - population 570,000 - is surrounded by natural harbours
Founded as Helsingfors by Swedish king in 1550
Became capital of grand duchy of Finland in 1812
1323 - Territory of present-day Finland becomes part of the Swedish realm
1808 - Russian invasion of Sweden supported by Napoleon.
1809 - Finland is ceded to Russia by the Swedes. The Finns retain a considerable amount of autonomy. They keep their own legal system, religion, and are exempt from Russian military service.
1812 - Helsinki becomes capital.
1899 onwards - Russian Tsar Nicholas II inaugurates policy of Russification of Finland, to include conscription of Finnish men into the Russian army and the imposition of Russian as the official language. Protests and a campaign of civil disobedience begin.
Living with the Soviet Union
1917 - The Russian Revolution allows Finland to declare its independence.
Composer's music helped shape a Finnish national identity
1918 - Bitter civil war, which leads to some 30,000 deaths. A rebellion by leftwing Red Guards is put down by General Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim.
1919 - Finland becomes a republic. Kaarlo Stahlberg becomes first president.
1939 - Outbreak of World War II. Finland declares its neutrality. In November the Soviet Union invades. The Winter War begins.
1940 - Despite fierce resistance, the Finns are forced to concede. The Treaty of Moscow gives around 10% of Finnish territory to the Soviet Union.
Finland resisted Soviet conquest but lost territory in November 1939 to March 1940 conflict
1941 - Germany attacks USSR in June. Finland launches military campaign to retake territory lost under Treaty of Moscow. Britain declares war on Finland in December.
1944 - The Red Army invades. An armistice is signed in September. Finland concedes more land to the Soviet Union and agrees to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in war reparations.
1947 - Peace treaty signed between Finland and Soviet Union.
1948 - Finland signs friendship treaty with the Soviet Union and agrees to resist any attack through Finnish territory on the Soviet Union.
1950 - Urho Kekkonen becomes prime minister and is subsequently elected as president in 1956. He pursues a policy of friendly neutrality with the Soviet Union.
1952 - Payment of reparations completed.
1955 - Finland joins United Nations and Nordic Council.
1973 - Trade agreements signed with the European Economic Community and Comecon.
Leaning towards Europe
1989 - Soviet Union recognises Finnish neutrality.
1990 - Economic difficulties as former Soviet and eastern European markets collapse.
Kalevi Sorsa: Prime Minister four times between 1972-87
1991 - Centre Party coalition elected. Austerity measures introduced.
1992 - Friendship treaty with Soviet Union of 1948 declared null and void. New treaty with Russia involves no military agreements. Finland applies for membership of the European community.
1995 - Finland becomes member of the European Union. The social democrats emerge as strongest party in elections and form a "rainbow coalition" government with Paavo Lipponen as prime minister.
1999 - Paavo Lipponen's social democrats are returned to power.
2000 February - Tarja Halonen elected as Finland's first female president.
2002 January - Euro replaces the Finnish mark.
2002 May - Parliament narrowly approves construction of a fifth nuclear reactor, the first in Western Europe since 1991 and the first in the country for 30 years. Green Party decides to withdraw from government coalition in protest.
2003 March/April - Anneli Jaatteenmaki's Centre Party narrowly defeats Lipponen's Social Democrats in general election. Forms new coalition with Social Democrats and Swedish People's Party.
2003 June - Prime Minister Jaatteenmaki resigns in leak row. Matti Vanhanen takes over as prime minister.
2004 March - Former PM Anneli Jaatteenmaki acquitted of charges of illegally obtaining secret documents about Iraq war while she was opposition leader.
2006 January - Tarja Halonen re-elected for second term as president.
2006 May - Parliament votes in favour of EU constitution, paving way for ratification.
2007 March - Centre Party wins parliamentary elections by a razor-thin margin and goes on to govern in a centre-right coalition.
2007 November - An 18-year-old gunman kills seven children and a school principal before shooting himself, drawing attention to Finland's accommodating gun laws.
2008 June - Parliament approves EU's Lisbon Treaty.
The shopping centre in Espoo where a gunman went on the rampage in 2009
2008 September - A 22-year-old gunman kills 11 people - including himself - in a shooting spree at a vocational college, prompting the government to impose stricter rules for handgun ownership.
2008 December - Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari receives 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.
2009 May - May start-up date for OL3 nuclear reactor postponed until 2012. The project is also about $2.4bn dollars (1.7bn euros) over budget.
2009 December - Five die in a shooting spree in a shopping mall in the southern city of Espoo.
2010 June - Matti Vanhanen resigns as Centre Party leader and prime minister, and is succeeded by Mari Kiviniemi.
2010 July - Finland becomes world's first country to give its citizens a legal right to broadband internet.
2011 April - National Coalition Party conservatives emerge as largest party in parliamentary elections. Populist True Finns break through to third-party status on the back of anti-EU sentiment.
2011 May - Parliament approves the EU bailout of Portugal over the debt crisis, allowing it to go ahead.
2011 June - National Coalition Party leader Jyrki Katainen forms grand coalition with six other parties, excluding the True Finns.
2012 February - National Coalition Party candidate and former finance minister Sauli Niinisto wins presidential election, easily beating his Green rival Pekka Haavisto. He is first conservative president since 1956.