The Port of Helsinki is Finland's main seaport and industrial city. It is also the nation's capital. The Port of Helsinki lies on the shores of the Gulf of Finland off the Baltic Sea about 160 nautical miles west of St. Petersburg in Russia, about 42 nautical miles north-northeast of the Port of Tallinn in Estonia, and about 56 kilometers east of Finland's Port of Inkoo. The northernmost capital in continental Europe, the Port of Helsinki handles over half of Finland's imports. In 2005, almost 560 thousand people lived in the Port of Helsinki, and more than a million lived in the urban area.
The Port of Helsinki is for the most part a service-based economy, but industry still employs many people. The major industries in the Port of Helsinki include textiles, printing, and processing of metals and chemicals. Manufacturers produce electrical equipment and the world-famous Arabia porcelain. Shipbuilding is a major source of jobs in the Port of Helsinki. Most of Finland's major companies headquarter there, and many international companies have regional headquarters in the Port of Helsinki.
Sweden's King Gustav I Vasa founded the Port of Helsinki in 1550, calling it Helsingfors, as a rival to Estonia's Tallinn. The new settlement suffered disease, poverty, and many wars. In 1710, the Black Death arrived to kill all but a third of the Port of Helsinki's residents.
For many years, it was a small coastal village lost in the shadows of more prosperous Baltic trade centers. Its fortunes improved just a little when the Suomenlinna naval fortress was built, yet Swedish power over Finland suppressed the Port of Helsinki's growth.
In the early 19th Century, Russia's Czar Alexander I sought to break Sweden's hold on Finland. In 1809, the Finnish War ended in Finland's annexation into Russia as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, making Helsinki the capital.
The Port of Helsinki finally began to grow into a modern city, even though it was devastated by a terrible fire in 1813. In the decades following, the Port of Helsinki grew rapidly, developing a neo-classical downtown reminiscent of St. Petersburg and gaining modern railroads and industries. With just four thousand residents in 1810, the Port of Helsinki grew to a city of 60 thousand by 1890. By 1900, it was home to more than one hundred thousand people.
In 1917, Finland declared its independence from Russia, and civil war soon followed. In 1918, during the Finnish Civil War, the Port of Helsinki was taken by the Red Guard on the first day of the war, and Red forces soon controlled all of southern Finland. Aided by German troops, the Finnish White Guard retook the capital and imprisoned Red soldiers and sympathizers. Some 13 thousand prisoners were held in the Port of Helsinki's old naval fortress on Suomenlinna Island. Though scarred, the standard of living soon recovered. In 1919, the parliament in the Port of Helsinki elected the country's first president.
The Port of Helsinki was attacked by Soviet bombers in the Winter War and the Continuation War of the early 1940s. Unlike other European countries, Finland was not occupied by foreign powers during World War II.
In 1944, two thousand planes from the USSR dropped around 16 thousand bombs on the city, yet it was spared extensive destruction by an effective air defense. Just a few years after the end of World War II, the Port of Helsinki hosted the 1952 Olympic Games.
After the war, suburbs began to grow around the Port of Helsinki through the 1960s.The Port of Helsinki continued to grow despite the turbulence of the early 20th Century. During the 1970s, its population tripled when urbanization took hold. In the 1990s, the Port of Helsinki was one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the European Union.
The Port of Helsinki has been a popular venue for international conferences and meetings since the middle of the 20th Century. In 1995, Finland joined the European Union, beginning a new era for the Port of Helsinki, which was named one of nine European Capitals of Culture in 2000. Still, it is the second most sparsely populated capital in the European Union today.