Early Finnish wars
There are scattered descriptions of early Finnish wars, conflicts involving the Finnish tribes, some of which took place before the Middle Ages. The earliest historical accounts of conflicts involving Finnish tribes, such as Tavastians, Karelians, Finns proper and Kvens, have survived in Icelandic sagas and in German, Norwegian, Danish and Russian chronicles as well as in Swedish legends and in Birch bark manuscripts. The most important sources are Novgorod First Chronicle, Primary Chronicle and Eric Chronicles.
Fortifications are known from Finland already from the Stone Age onwards. In Yli-Ii by the Iijoki river is located the Kierikki Stone Age fortress, which was built on piles and fortified with palisade. Also the approximately 40 Giant's Churches from the Neolithic period (3500–2000 BCE) found from the northwest coast of Finland may have served as fortifications. Bronze Age hillforts have also been found from Finland, such as Hautvuori in Laitila and Vanhalinna in Lieto. According to archeological finds belligerence and military hierarchy were emphasized in Finland in the Merovingian period. Hillforts get more common from Iron Age forward. According to the earliest historical documents in the Middle Ages Finnic tribes around the Baltic Sea were often in conflict with each other as well as against other entities in the area. Oldest historical traces of conflicts in Finland are runestones GS 13 and U 582 which are dated to the early 11th century. Runestones are commemorating Vikings killed in Finland. Runestone G 319, which is dated to the early 13th century, also mentions Viking killed in Finland.
Early written sources
Several medieval sagas, chronicles and other early historical sources mention wars and conflicts related to Finnish tribes and to Finland.
Finland was probably the same as Terra Feminarum which was attacked by Sweden in the 1050s CE, as described in Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum (Deeds of Bishops of the Hamburg Church) by Adam of Bremen in 1075. According to the source, the attack ended in the Swedish defeat, and led to the death of the king's son who was in charge of the campaign. Information on the conflict is however convoluted.
Ynglingasaga written in early 13th century describes military expedition to Finland at the end of the 4th century by mythological Swedish king Agne. However, it is disputed whether the Old Norse concept of Finland refers to the present country of Finland; alternatively it could have meant the land of the Sámi.
Legendary Orkneyinga saga written around 1230 tells about Nor who travelled from Kvenland to Norway and took over the entire country. Based on the saga's internal chronologies, the war would have taken place on the 6th or 7th century CE. Another version of the saga, Hversu Noregr byggdist, however omits the Kvenland part completely.
Norna-Gests þáttr saga from the early 14th century tells that Kvens (probably referring to a group of Finns) were raiding in Sweden in the mid-8th century. In the late 9th century, king Eric Anundsson was said to have conquered Finland, with several other eastern countries. However, all other accounts of the king exclude Finland from his conquests. Norwegian Ohthere tells in the Old English Orosius from 890 that Norwegians and Kvens (Qwenas) were in conflict with each other from time to time.
The best-known Swedish war against Finland presumably took place in the 1150s known as the legendary First Swedish Crusade. Whether it ever actually happened, is however not certain as the information is based on the late 13th century legends. Sweden eventually took over Finland during the so-called Second Swedish Crusade around 1249 against Tavastians and the Third Swedish Crusade against Karelians in 1293. By the beginning of the 14th century, records of independent Finnish military activities ceased to surface.
Saga of Olaf Haraldson tells how the Saint Olaf himself, the King of Norway, plundered in Finland around 1008 and almost got killed at the Battle at Herdaler. Vague chronicle entries briefly mention Danish expeditions to Finland in the 1190s and 1202. Nothing is known about their results except what can be read from a papal letter from 1209 to the Archbishop of Lund which lets the reader understand the church in Finland be at least partly established by Danish efforts. According to Icelandic chronicles, Kvens were raiding in northern Norway in 1271.
Most of the historical sources mentioning Finns are the Finnish-Novogorodian wars described mainly in Novgorod First Chronicle and in the Primary Chronicle. Some of these conflicts are also described in Sofia First Chronicle, Nikon Chronicle and in Laurentian Codex. Finnic groups and the Republic of Novgorod waged a series of wars between the 11th and 14th centuries. They probably contributed to the Finns' eventual subjugation to the Catholic Church and the Kingdom of Sweden.
List of early Finnish wars and conflicts
|Conflicts before the 11th century|
|4th century||Mythological king Agne makes expedition to Finland||Ynglingan saga tells of a campaign by the mythical Swedish king Agne to Finland. The Finnish army was led by a person whose name in the saga is translated to Froste.|
|7th century||Finns as mercanaries in Scandinavia||Finnish warriors served in the courts of Denmark and Uppland.|
|9th century||Kvens raid Sweden||Story of Norna-Gest tells of raids done by Kvens to Sweden. Ohthere of Hålogaland tells of skirmishes between Finns and Norwegians.|
|9th century||Mythological king Eric Anundsson makes campaigns to East||Heimskringla written in c. 1230 describes Eric Anundsson conquering for himself "Finland, Kirjalaland, Courland, Estonia, and the eastern countries".|
|c. 818||Finnish king Matul supports Bjarms against Danish king Ragnar Lodbrok||According to Saxo Grammaticus in Gesta Danorum Finnish king Matul supported Bjarms against Danish king Ragnar. Suomen kronikka dates the event to c. 818.|
|11th century||Viking raid to Finland||Runestone Gs 13 in Gävle describes the death of a Viking named Egil on a campaign to Tavastia lead by Freygeirr sometime in the early 11th century.|
|1008||Battle at Herdaler||Olaf II of Norway is defeated by Finns somewhere in Uusimaa.|
|c. 1030–1050||Viking raid to Finland||Runestone U 582 describes Viking named Ótrygg killed in Finland. According to historian Unto Salo the raid was done between 1030 and 1050.|
|1042||Vladimir Yaroslavich makes expedition against Finns||The prince of Novgorod Vladimir Yaroslavich makes a campaign against Finns.|
|c. 1060–1080||Lithuanians make campaign against Karelians.||Birchbark manuscript 590 describes Lithuanians making a campaign against Karelians.|
|1123||Vsevolod of Pskov makes campaign against Finns||The prince of Novgorod Vsevolod of Pskov makes a campaign in spring during the fasting against Finns.|
|1142||Finns make campaign against Novgorod||Finns make a campaign against Novgorod and Ladoga and are defeated.|
|1143||Karelians make campaign against Tavastians||Karelians attack against Tavastians via sea, but escape after losing two ships.|
|1149||Finns make campaign against Votes||Finns make campaign with few thousand men against Votes who are supported by Novgorod with 500 men.|
|1149||Karelians support Novgorod against Suzdalians||Karelians make a campaign with Novgorod and Pskovians against Suzdalians.|
|c. 1155||First Swedish crusade||Swedish king Eric IX and English clergyman Henry make possibly the first Swedish crusade to Finland against Finns proper.|
|1171 or 1172||Gravis Admodum||Pope Alexander III calls for capturing the possible fortifications of Finns proper in Gravis Admodum on 9. September, since every time they are not threatened by enemies they renounce Catholic Faith and return to Finnish Paganism.|
|1186||Vyshata Vasilevits makes campaign against Finns||Vyshata Vasilevits from Novgorod makes a campaign against Finns.|
|1187||Pillage of Sigtuna||Karelians (or Estonians or Curonians) pillage the city on 12 July. The Bishop of Uppsala and the Yarl are killed.|
|1191||Novgorod and Karelians campaign against Tavastians||Novgorod and Karelians make a campaign against Tavastians with ships.|
|1191||Danish crusade to Finland||Danes make a crusade to Finland.|
|1202||Danish crusade to Finland||Danes make a crusade to Finland which is led by the Archbishop of Lund Anders Sunesen and his Brother.|
|1221||The bishop of Finland attends to embargo against Novgorod||Pope Honorius III recommends on 13 January that the bishop of Finland, most likely Thomas, to organize embargo against Novgorod eventough it is unpleasant measure to Gotland and Hanseatic League.|
|1222||Norwegians attack Bjarmaland||Norwegians attack Bjarmaland.|
|1223||Karelians make expedition to Norway with Novgorod||Karelians make expedition against Norwegian settlements in northern Scandinavia with Novgorod.|
|1226||Karelians make another expedition to Norway with Novgorod||Karelians make another expedition against Norwegian settlements in northern Scandinavia with Novgorod.|
|1227||Yaroslav II makes campaign against Finns||Prince of Novgorod Yaroslav II makes a campaign against Finns.|
|1228||Finns make campaign against Novgorod||Finns make a campaign to ladoga with over 2000 men.|
|1229||Finns proper fight to eradicate Christianity from their lands||Pope Gregory IX condemns Gotland in his letter on 16 February for providing Finns proper with weapons, horses, ships and supplies which they use in their battle to eradicate Christian faith from their lands.|
|1237||Häme insurrection||Pope Gregory IX urge Catholic men to fight against Tavastians who have returned from Catholism to Finnish paganism in his letter on 9 December.|
|1240||Battle of the Neva||Swedes, Norwegians, Finns proper and Tavastians makes a campaign against Novgorod.|
|1241||Karelians ally with Novgorod against Germans in Koprye||Karelians, Ingrians and men from Staraya Ladoga participate in a campaign led by Alexander Nevsky against Germans in the castle of Koporye.|
|1249–1250||Second Swedish crusade||Second Swedish crusade to Finland against Tavastians.|
|1253||Karelians make a raid against Germans||Karelians raid against Germans in the area of Narva.|
|1256||Alexander Nevskiy makes a campaign to Finland||Alexander Nevskiy makes a campaign to Finland after unsuccessful campaign of Finns proper, Tavastians and Swedes to Narva.|
|1257||Karelians make expedition to Sweden||Karelians make a devastating campaign to Sweden which lead King Valdemar to request Pope Alexander IV to commence a crusade against them.|
|1271||Karelians and Kvens make campaign to Norway.||Karelians and Kvens attack Hålogaland in Norway.|
|1278||Dmitry Alexandrovich makes campaign to Karelia||Prince of Novgorod Dmitry Alexandrovich decide to punish Karelians by conquering them.|
|1279||Karelians attack Hålogaland||Karelians slay three dozen people in Hålogaland including the king's official.|
|1283||Finns and Swedes make campaign to Neva and Ladoga.||Swedes and Finns make a campaign to Neva and Ladoga area.|
|1284||Germans make campaign to Karelia||German warlord Trunda makes campaign by boats and ships to Karelia via river Neva. His goal was the taxation of Karelians. Trunda and his men are defeated at the mouth of the river by Novgorodians with the men of Staraya Ladoga on the 9th of September.|
|1292||Novgorod makes a campaign to Finland||Novgorod makes a campaign to Finland.|
|1293||Third Swedish crusade||Third Swedish crusade to Finland against Karelians.|
|1302/3||Karelians campaign to Norway||Karelians campaign in or near Norway but are turned away by a large Norwegian army.|
|1318||Novgorod makes campaign to Finland||Novgorod makes campaign to Finland proper and burns the town of Turku.|
|1323||Treaty of Nöteborg||The Treaty of Nöteborg is signed 12 August. It divides Karelia between kingdom of Sweden and Novgorod.|
|1337||The Revolt of Käkisalmi||Karelians revolt against Novgorod in Käkisalmi due to heavy taxation by Lithuanian Narimantas whom Novgorod had assigned to rule Karelia.|
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