Musical Theme: Ievan Polkka (a traditional Finnish polka melody which got lyrics in the 1930s)
The city of Helsinki was founded in 1550 by King Gustav I of Sweden, who hoped to create a rival port city to the nearby Fortress. However, fate decided that Helsinki would remain a small, unimportant town - plagued by poverty and war - for the next two centuries. Helsinki's outlook was not improved when the plague hit the city in 1710, killing off a full two-thirds of the inhabitants. It wasn't until The Grand Duchy of Finland was created by Russia's defeat of Sweden during the Finnish War of 1809 that the city began to improve and grow - slowly.
The capital of the new country was moved to Helsinki in a bid to improve its stunted development, but to little avail. Later the country's only university, the Royal Academy of Turku, was moved to the Helsinki in 1827 in a further attempt to drive people to the city. This turned out to the best thing to happen to Helsinki since its founding. With the influx of students and teachers (not to mention money) provided by the university, the city began to develop and rapidly grow, quickly modernizing and installing the new advances in transportation and industrialization.
Helsinki suffered a setback in 1918 when it fell to the Red Guards on the first day of the Finnish Civil War. The city only sustained very minor damage from its quick capture, and was liberated by the allied German and White forces later in the year. The quality of life in the city began to slowly improve after the civil war's end, but growth was stunted once again when the city was repeatedly bombed during the Winter and Continuation Wars of the 1940s.
The second best thing since the city's founding occurred in 1952, when it hosted the Summer Olympics (the city was supposed to have hosted the 1940 Summer Olympics, but these were cancelled due to World War II). The influx of tourism and money helped push the late-blooming city into a period of rapid urbanization, tripling the population in a short twenty years. While the city is still the second most sparsely populated EU capital (after Brussels), it is now one of the fastest growing suburban centers in Europe.