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Greater Finland (Finnish: Suur-Suomi) was an irredentist and nationalist idea which emphasized territorial expansion of Finland in the context of pan-Fennicism. The most coined version of Greater Finland was thought to be limited by natural borders encompassing the territories inhabited by Finns and Karelians, ranging from the White Sea to Lake Onega and along the Svir River and Neva River – or, more modestly, the Sestra River – to the Gulf of Finland. Some proponents also included the Kola Peninsula (as part of a natural border), Finnmark (in Norway), Torne Valley (Sweden), Ingria (around Leningrad) and Estonia.
The Greater Finland idea gained dramatically in popularity and influence in 1917, and lost its ground and support after World War II and the Continuation War.
The most extended Greater Finland included the entire area from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Ural Mountains including areas where related peoples such as Volga Finns live and where the urheimat of the Uralic languages is thought to be located.
In Finland, interest in the landscape and the culture of Karelia was first expressed in a 19th century cultural phenomenon called Karelianism, a form of Finnish national romanticism. Later, some of the ideas included in Karelianism were taken over by proponents of a greater Finland.
Wars in the beginning of the 20th century
After Finland's declaration of independence in 1917, in connection with the October Revolution and the Russian Civil War, the situation in the Finnic inhabited areas adjacent to Finland's eastern border was considered unstable and exploitable by Nationalist activism. For example, some Finnish volunteer troops carried out operations across the border into Soviet-Russian territory. These activities, along with the participation of Finnish volunteer troops in the Estonian War of Independence (1918-1920) are known in Finland's history as heimosodat ("kindred peoples wars," in the sense of wars related to the Finnic kinship).