Britain’s connections with Finland long predate the establishment of an independent Finnish state. In general, the Finns have sought to avoid being caught up in rivalry between the British and another major power, such as Russia or Germany. During the Crimean War, the Royal Navy (together with the French) attacked the Tsarist Russian fortressĀ of Bomarsund in southern Finland. After the First World War, the Royal Navy helped to shield the emergence of the new state of Finland, a function she also exercised with regard to Estonia just across the Gulf of Bothnia. A few years later, British diplomats played an important role in mediating the intractable ‘Aland island dispute’ between Finland and Sweden, one of the first issues which the young League of Nations helped to resolve. In 1939-1940, after Finland was attacked by Stalin, Britain and especially British civil society sought to help. In 1945, the UK played a more controversial role in the vindication of Soviet claims against Finland. As the resolution of the Aland island dispute nears its 100 anniversary, and as Brexit means that Finland and the UK are no longer part of the same politico-legal ordering system, our distinguished panel looks back at Britain’s relationship with the Finns and Finland over time, one which has been shaped by law as much as war.


Juhana Aunesluoma, Professor of Political History, University of Helsinki. Author of Britain, Sweden and the Cold War, 1945-1954 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

H.E. Theresa Bubbear, HMA Helsinki

Rt. Hon Charles Clarke, Former UK Home Secretary and Co-Chair of Baltic Geopolitics Programme at Centre for Geopolitics, Cambridge

Henrik Meinander, Professor of History, University of Helsinki. Author of History of Finland (Hurst, 2022)

Chair: Professor Brendan Simms, Director of the Centre for Geopolitics, Cambridge