City (pop., 2002 est.: city, 559,718; metro. area, 964,953), capital of Finland. Located in southern Finland on a peninsula with natural harbours, it is the country's leading seaport. Often called the “white city of the north” because many of its buildings are made of a local light-coloured granite, it was founded by Sweden in 1550 and moved to its present site in 1640. With Finland it came under Russian rule in 1808. Under Russian Tsar Alexander I, Helsinki became the capital of the grand duchy of Finland in 1812, and it remained as the capital of the country. In 1917 Finland declared independence from Russia, and a brief but bloody civil war ensued in the capital. In subsequent decades it developed into an important trade centre. It was damaged by Russian bombing during World War II (see Russo-Finnish War) but was rebuilt. It was the site of a 1975 international diplomatic conference (see Helsinki Accords). Helsinki has theatres, an opera and ballet company, and several symphony orchestras, and it hosted the 1952 Olympic Summer Games.
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