Helsinki (Swedish Helsingfors), largest city, capital, and chief seaport of Finland. The city is located in southern Finland, on a small peninsula extending into the Gulf of Finland. Small islands fringe the peninsula, and the entrance to Helsinki Harbor is protected by the fortifications of Suomenlinna (Swedish Sveaborg), covering seven of the islands.
Helsinki is laid out with spacious streets interspersed with many gardens and parks. Architecturally, Helsinki is a mixture of old and modern styles, with the old senate house and the Tuomiokirkko, representing the older buildings, and the railroad station, designed in 1918 by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, as a notable example of modern architecture. Other points of interest include the Jean Sibelius Monument, the Ataneum Art Museum, the Sports Museum, and Helsinki's islands, with a zoo, recreational park, and museums. Helsinki is the cultural, commercial, and political center of Finland. The University of Helsinki has been in the city since 1828, when it was moved from Åbo (Turku), where it was founded in 1640. The National Museum of Finland, the Finnish National Opera, and several theaters, presenting works in both Finnish and Swedish, are located in the city.
The port can accommodate any vessel, but it is icebound from January to May, except for a channel that is kept clear by an icebreaker. Helsinki is also an international airline center.The city was founded by Gustav I Vasa, king of Sweden, in 1550 on a site some distance inland from its present location, to which it was moved in 1640. In 1713, during the Northern War (1700-1721) between Russia and Sweden, the city was destroyed by a retreating Swedish force; the present fortifications were begun in 1729. Finland was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1809, and Helsinki was made the administrative capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812; since 1917 the city has been the capital of the Finnish Republic. In 1952, Helsinki was the site of the Olympic Games.
Turku or Åbo, city, southwestern Finland, at the mouth of the Aurajoki River. Shipbuilding is the main industry. The harbor, with four entrances, is kept open in winter with icebreakers. The fire of 1827 destroyed a cathedral, built in 1258, and the university, founded in 1640. The new University of Turku was established in 1920. The city also has a school of economics. The city, founded in 1157 by Eric IX, king of Sweden (reigned 1150-60), was capital of Finland until 1812, when the seat of government was moved to Helsinki.
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