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After a brief attempt to establish a kingdom, the country became a republic.During World War II, the Soviet Union sought repeatedly to occupy Finland, with Finland losing parts of Karelia, Salla, Kuusamo, Petsamo and some islands, but retaining independence.Finland became a common name for the whole country in a centuries-long process that started when the Catholic Church established missionary diocese in Nousiainen in the northern part of the province of Suomi possibly sometime in the 12th century.

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The area that is now Finland was settled in, at the latest, around 8,500 BCE during the Stone Age towards the end of the last glacial period.The word originally referred only to the province of Finland Proper, and later to the northern coast of Gulf of Finland, with northern regions such as Ostrobothnia still sometimes being excluded until later.Earlier theories suggested derivation from suomaa (fen land) or suoniemi (fen cape), and parallels between saame (Sami, a Finno-Ugric people in Lapland), and Häme (a province in the inland) were drawn, but these theories are now considered outdated.At the time Finland had three main cultural areas, Southwest Finland, Tavastia and Karelia, as reflected in contemporary jewellery.From the late 13th century, Finland gradually became an integral part of Sweden through the crusades and the Swedish part-colonisation of coastal Finland, a legacy reflected in the prevalence of the Swedish language and its official status.

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