Celebrating the centenary of Finland’s independence – together

Finland became independent in 1917. The country was born from the strong will and hard work of the Finnish people. A moment came one hundred years ago that gave Finland an opportunity – which it took with gusto.

For one hundred years now, Finns have been building an independent country and making decisions about its future together. Finland’s journey is a globally unique success story. In just one hundred years, the small and poor country evolved into one of the most progressive and advanced in the world.

The year 2017 marked the most important national anniversary in our generation’s lifetime. The anniversary was celebrated throughout the year, both in Finland and around the world. The Finland 100 celebrations also became the biggest and most diverse public event in Finland’s history.

All Finns and friends of Finland were invited to contribute to the programme. The most important goal was to strengthen the sense of togetherness in Finnish society. Based on surveys, this was achieved. The aim of the celebrations around the world was to strengthen Finland’s international profile, and this objective was also reached.

The theme chosen for the Finland 100 celebrations was together. This was based on a desire to make the centenary of Finland’s independence a shared, empowering experience for everyone. As the year went on, the significance of the together theme grew deeper and broader, until it defined every aspect of the celebrations. The programme focused on celebrating Finland’s strengths, such as equality and democracy, and showcasing Finland’s successes. It provided an opportunity to learn about the past, take stock of the present, and set the course for Finland’s future.

Throughout the year, throughout Finland and around the world

The centenary celebrations exceeded all expectations. A total of 5,000 projects were incorporated into the programme in Finland and abroad. Approximately 800,000 people contributed to the implementation of the programme in Finland, which included an estimated 170,000 individual events. According to the Finland 100 follow-up study (Statistics Finland, 2015–2018), as many as 93% of Finns were happy with the centenary celebrations on the whole. Four in five (84%) felt that the celebrations had strengthened the sense of togetherness in Finnish society, which was the programme’s most important goal. 

The centenary of Finland’s independence was also widely celebrated abroad. Events relating to the anniversary were held on all continents and in more than 100 countries. Finland also received a record number of congratulatory visits. One of the aims of the Finland 100 programme was to strengthen Finland’s international profile, and, according to the follow-up study, more than nine out of 10 Finns (94%) felt that this had been achieved. 

Alongside the programme, which was based on a public call for projects, communications became the other cornerstone of the celebrations. Communications helped to unite the people involved in implementing the programme and showcase its diversity. “Finland 100” was the most popular online search topic in Finland in 2017, and #Finland100 was one of the most used keywords on social media. The centenary celebrations also received an unusually high level of attention from traditional media both in Finland and around the world. 

The programme for the centenary celebrations was launched with the Finland 100 opening ceremony on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 2016, and reached its climax on Finland’s 100th Independence Day, 6 December 2017. There were events throughout the year, and the summer of 2017 was the most eventful summer in Finland’s history.  The programme covered the entire country, and its scale was unprecedented in other ways as well.

The year culminated in a week of anniversary celebrations at the beginning of December. The traditional timescale of Independence Day celebrations was extended, and several new elements were added.  The eve of the big day, 5 December, turned into a national holiday in its own right. A large percentage of Finns felt that the Independence Day celebrations of 2017 were more cheerful than during other years and also that the event touched them more personally.

A year that looks like Finns

The Finland 100 project introduced new tones and approaches to the traditional way of celebrating national milestones. The programme was based on content chosen and implemented by various segments of society, and there was no traditional planning committee. The people were free to celebrate the anniversary exactly as they wanted. The role of the Government and the Finland 100 organisation was to advertise the project, build networks, and create opportunities. 

Responsibility for planning and coordinating the celebrations was given to the Prime Minister’s Office, which set up a Finland 100 Secretariat and a Finland 100 Board and Commission, in addition to which there was a network of central, regional, and local governments that coordinated events in different parts of the country. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ network of Finnish missions and expatriate organisations coordinated most of the events abroad.

The Government earmarked EUR 19 million for the Finland 100 project, to be spent during the years 2013–2018.  The total amount of money spent on the celebrations was many times higher, as all key non-governmental organisations contributed to the events and used their own resources. The total budget therefore amounted to at least several hundred million euros.

We did it together

Finland’s centenary celebrations grew into an exceptionally prominent and inclusive event. Thanks to extensive public participation, the event provided a comprehensive representation of what Finland was in 2017. The anniversary brought up emotions, inspired people to make tangible changes, and provoked wide debate. It created new perspectives, traditions, networks – and friendships.

The celebrations gave Finland an excellent springboard for the next 100 years. They demonstrated the power of cooperation and the importance of the strengths of Finnish society. The anniversary increased trust in society, broadened cultural diversity, inspired tangible actions, and created new approaches. 

This final report is a summary of Finland’s centenary celebrations and their legacy. Its aim is to explain to people the significance of the event and the huge amount of work that Finns and friends of Finland put into the celebrations.

Helsinki, September 2018

Finland 100 Secretariat

Pekka Timonen
Secretary General, the centenary of Finland’s independence