Helsinki was founded by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden in 1550 in order to compete with Tallin for Baltic Sea trade. In 1809 Finland became part of Russia, after which the status of Helsinki was raised to capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812. Helsinki rapidly grew to become a modern European city in the late 1800s. By the early 20th century, the population of Helsinki exceeded 100,000, helped by its university and growing industry.
The development of the urban infrastructure was accompanied by the development of social movements toward the end of the 19th century. Both women and men started to become organised politically and professionally. Associations of workers and of other social groups turned out to play an important role in the environmental politics in Helsinki. After a heated debate on the water pollution, the first wastewater treatment plant was built in 1910. In the early 1970s all municipal and indutrial wastewater originating from the City of Helsinki was finally purified.
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