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Suomen tasavalta
Republiken Finland
Flag of Finland Finland: Coat of Arms
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: None
Location of Finland
Official language Finnish, Swedish
Capital Helsinki
Largest City Helsinki
President: Tarja Halonen
Prime minister: Matti Vanhanen
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 63rd
338,145 km²
 - Total (2005)
 - Density
Ranked 110th
 - Declared
 - Recognized
From Russia
6 December 1917
3 January 1918
Currency Euro (€)1
GDP per capita 2003 $30,850
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem de facto Maamme
/Vårt land
Internet TLD .fi
Calling Code +358
1 Prior to 1999: Finnish markka. Euro a bank currency since 1999, in public circulation since 2002.
For an alternative usage of the Finnish word "suomi", see Finnish language.

The Republic of Finland (Finnish: Suomen tasavalta Swedish: Republiken Finland) is a Nordic country in northeastern Europe, bounded by the Baltic Sea to the southwest, the Gulf of Finland to the south and the Gulf of Bothnia to the west. Finland has land frontiers with Sweden, Norway and Russia. The Åland Islands, off the southwestern coast, are under Finnish sovereignty while enjoying extensive autonomy. The Finnish name for Finland is Suomi; in Swedish it is Finland. The Latin language name is Fennia. Finland has a population of only five million people in three hundred thousand square kilometres, making it the 162nd most densely populated country in the world. It ranked thirteenth on the 2005 United Nations Human Development Index.



Main article: History of Finland

Conclusive archaeological evidence exists indicating that the area now comprising Finland was settled around 8500 BC, during the Stone Age, as the inland ice of the last ice age receded. The earliest inhabitants are thought to have been hunter-gatherers, living primarily off what the forests and sea could offer. Pottery is known from around 5300 BC. The existence of extensive exchange systems is indicated by the spread of asbestos and soapstone from Eastern Finland, and by finds of flint from South Scandinavia and Russia, chisels from Lake Onega, and spearheads from North Scandinavia. It is considered probable that the speakers of the Finno-Ugric language arrived in Finland during the Stone Age, possibly even among the first Mesolithic settlers. The arrival of the Battle-Axe Culture (or Cord-Ceramic Culture) in Southern Finland around 3200 BC is considered as the start of agriculture. However, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy, especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

The Bronze Age (1500–500 BC) and Iron Age (500 BC–AD 1200) were characterized by extensive contacts with Scandinavia, Northern Russia and the Baltic region. There is little written information of Finnish history before the 13th century AD, discounting the obscure and possibly fictitious stories of Finnish kings in Scandinavian sagas.

The beginning of Finland's nearly 700-year association with the Kingdom of Sweden is traditionally connected with the year 1154 and the hypothesized introduction of Christianity by Sweden's King Erik. Actually many of the Finnish pagans were already Christianized hundreds of years before. Historically the union began from Birger Jarl's expedition in Central Finland of 1249. Swedish became the dominant language of administration and education; Finnish chiefly a language for the peasantry and clergy, considered useful mainly for printing religious literature.

During the 18th century, virtually the whole of Finland was twice occupied by Russian forces (17141721 and 17421743), known by the Finns as the Greater Wrath and the Lesser Wrath. After that, "Finland" became the predominant term for the area — both in domestic Swedish debate and in Russians promising protection from Swedish oppression.

In 1808, Finland was conquered by the armies of Russian Emperor Alexander I and thereafter remained an autonomous Grand Duchy in personal union with the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. To sever the cultural and emotional ties with Sweden, the Finnish language was ardently promoted by both the imperial court and the Finnish government and a strong nationalist movement, known as fennomania, since about 1860s. Milestones in this development were the publication of what would become Finland's national epic, the Kalevala, in 1835; and Finnish getting a legally equal status with Swedish in 1892.

On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence. The independence was approved by Bolshevist Russia, but the following civil wars in Russia and in Finland, and activist expeditions (called Heimosodat, "tribal wars", in Finnish), for example to White Karelia and to Aunus, complicated the relations.

In 1918, the country experienced a brief but bitter Civil War that coloured domestic politics for many years. The Civil War was chiefly fought between "the whites", supported by Imperial Germany, and "the reds", supported by Bolshevist Russia. The reds consisted mostly of property–less rural and industrial workers who, despite universal suffrage in 1906, had found themselves without political influence.

The Finnish–Russian border was agreed at the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, largely following the historic border but adding Petsamo and its Barents Sea harbour to Finland.

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 19391940 and in the Continuation War of 19411944, in time closely following Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 19441945, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland.

Treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included obligations, restraints and reparations on Finland vis-à-vis the Soviet Union as well as further territorial concessions by Finland (compared to the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940). Finland ceded most of Finnish Karelia, Salla and Petsamo.

After the Second World War, Finland was in the grey zone between western countries and Soviet Union. The "YYA Treaty" (Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance) gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics and included a guarantee whereby Finland promised to defend her territory and airspace against Germany or her allies, in practice NATO. Many politicians, like President Kekkonen (195681), used their relations with Moscow to solve party controversies, which meant that the Soviet Union gained even more influence; other people worked single-mindedly to oppose the Kremlin. However, Finland maintained a democratic goverment and market economy, unlike other countries bordering the Soviet Union.

The post-war era was a period of rapid economic growth and increasing wealth and stability for Finland. The war-ravaged agrarian country was transformed into a technologically advanced market economy with a sophisticated social welfare system.

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 Finland was surprised and suffered economically, but was free to follow her own course and joined the European Union in 1995, where Finland is an advocate of federalism contrary to the other Nordic countries that are predominantly supportive of confederalism.


Main article: Politics of Finland

Finland has a semi-presidential system with Parliamentarism. The President of Finland is formally responsible for foreign policy. Most executive power lies in the cabinet (the Finnish Council of State) headed by the prime minister chosen by the parliament. The Council of State is made up of the prime minister and the ministers for the various departments of the central government as well as an ex-officio member, the Chancellor of Justice.

The 200-member unicameral Parliament of Finland is called the Eduskunta (Finnish) or Riksdag (Swedish). It is the supreme legislative authority in Finland. The parliament may alter the Constitution of Finland, bring about the resignation of the Council of State, and override presidential vetoes. Its acts are not subject to judicial review. Legislation may be initiated by the Council of State, or one of the Eduskunta members, who are elected for a four-year term on the basis of proportional representation through open list multimember districts.

The judicial system of Finland is divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and administrative courts with responsibility for litigation between the individuals and the administrative organs of the state and the communities. Their jurisdiction can be illustrated with an example: Parents unsatisfied with the school placement of their child would appeal against the board of education in an administrative court as the school placement is subject to an administrative decision. Finnish law is codified and its court system consists of local courts, regional appellate courts, and the Supreme Court. The administrative branch of justice consists of administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court. The administrative process has more popularity as it is cheaper and has lower financial risk to the person making claims. In addition to the regular courts, there are a few special courts in certain branches of administration. There is also a High Court of Impeachment for criminal charges (for an offence in office) against the President of the Republic, the justices of the supreme courts, members the Council of State, the Chancellor of Justice and the Ombudsman of Parliament.

The parliament has, since equal and common suffrage was introduced in 1906, been dominated by Conservative Nationalists, Agrarians, and Social Democrats — after 1944 Communists have been a factor to consider. Liberal parties and ideologues may have been somewhat less prominent in Finland than in many comparable countries. Since Finland is constitutionally bilingual, there also exists a language-minority party, the Swedish People's Party. The relative strengths of the parties vary only slightly in the elections due to the proportional election from multimember districts but there are some visible long-term trends.

It should be noted that the Finnish political system remained democratic during the Cold War, although the political atmosphere was largely influenced by the neighbouring Soviet Union and a certain degree of self-censorship.

The constitution of Finland and its place in the judicial system are unusual in that there is no constitutional court and the supreme court does not have an explicit right to declare a law unconstitutional. In principle, the constitutionality of laws in Finland is verified by a simple vote in the parliament. However, the Constitutional Law Committee of the parliament reviews any doubtful bills and recommends changes, if needed. In practice, the Constitutional Law Committee fulfils the duties of the constitutional court. A Finnish peculiarity is the possibility to make exceptions to the constitution in usual laws that are enacted in the same procedure as constitutional amendments. An example of such law is the State of Preparedness Act which gives the Council of State certain exceptional powers in cases of national emergency. As these powers, which correspond the US executive orders, affect the constitutional basic rights, the law was enacted in the same manner as a constitutional amendment. However, it can be repealed in the same manner as a usual law. In addition to the preview of the Constitutional Law Committee, all Finnish courts of law have the obligation to give precedence to the constitution when there is an obvious conflict between the constitution and a regular law. There has, however, never been a case in which this provision would have been used. The only other European countries that lack a constitutional court are the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (which does not have a codified constitution).


Main articles: Provinces of Finland, Historical provinces of Finland

Provinces of Finland

Today, Finland has 6 administrative provinces (lääni, pl. läänit) The province authority is part of the executive branch of the national government; a system that had not changed drastically since its creation in 1634 to the new division to "greater provinces" in 1997. Since then, the six provinces are:

  1. Southern Finland
  2. Western Finland
  3. Eastern Finland
  4. Oulu
  5. Lapland
  6. Åland

The Åland Islands enjoy a degree of autonomy. According to international treaties and Finnish laws, the regional government for Åland handles some matters which belong to the province authority in Mainland Finland.

Another kind of provinces are those echoing the pattern of colonisation of Finland. Dialects, folklore, customs and people's feeling of affiliation are associated with these historical provinces of Finland, although the re-settlement of 420,000 Karelians during World War II and urbanization in the latter half of the 20th century have made differences less pronounced.

Local government is further organised in 432 (1.1.2005) municipalities of Finland. Since 1977, no legal or administrative distinction is made between towns, cities and other municipalities. The municipalities co-operate in 20 regions of Finland.


Click for larger satellite image
Click for larger satellite image
Map of Finland
Map of Finland

Main article: Geography of Finland

Finland is a country of thousands of lakes and islands; 187,888 lakes and 179,584 islands to be precise. One of these lakes, Saimaa, is the 5th largest in Europe. The Finnish landscape is mostly flat with few hills and its highest point, the Haltitunturi at 1,328 m, is found in the extreme north of Lapland. Beside the many lakes the landscape is dominated by extensive boreal forests (about 68 percent of land area) and little arable land. The greater part of the islands are found in southwest, part of the archipelago of the Åland Islands, and along the southern coast in the Gulf of Finland. Finland is one of the few countries in the world that is still growing. Owing to the isostatic uplift that has been taking place since the last ice age, the surface area of the country is growing by about 7 sq. kilometres a year.

The climate in Southern Finland is a northern temperate climate. In Northern Finland, particularly in the Province of Lapland, a subarctic climate dominates, characterised by cold, occasionally severe, winters and relatively warm summers.

A quarter of Finland's territory lies above the Arctic Circle, and as a consequence the midnight sun can be experienced — for more and more days, the further up north one comes. At Finland's northernmost point, the sun does not set for 73 days during summer, and does not rise at all for 51 days in winter.

See also: List of towns in Finland, Population of Finland, List of lakes in Finland


Main article: Economy of Finland

Finland has a highly industrialised, largely free-market economy, with per capita output roughly that of the UK, France, or Italy. The Finnish standard of living is high. Its key economic sector is manufacturing - principally the wood, metals, engineering, telecommunications (especially Nokia), and electronics industries. Trade is important, with exports equalling almost one-third of GDP. Except for timber and several minerals, Finland depends on imports of raw materials, energy, and some components for manufactured goods.

Because of the climate, agricultural development is limited to maintaining self-sufficiency in basic products. Forestry, an important export earner, provides a secondary occupation for the rural population. Rapidly increasing integration with Western Europe - Finland was one of the 11 countries joining the euro monetary system (EMU) on January 1, 1999 - will dominate the economic picture over the next several years. Growth was anaemic in 2002 but slowed down in 2003 because of global depression.

According to Transparency International, Finland has the second lowest level of corruption in all the countries studied in their survey. (Finland had topped the list of least corruption for several years, but Iceland took the best ranking in 2005.) Finland has been declared the most competitive country in the world for three consecutive years 2003-2005 (four times in the last five years) by the World Economic Forum. [1]

See also: Finnish innovation system


Finland's unique relationship with Czarist Russia, the Soviet Union, and now the Russian Federation, has profoundly impacted Finland's foreign policies and ability to globalise. Finnish globalisation was tempered by their necessity to remain unprovoking to their neighbour. Even with these barriers, Finland eventually became one of the most globalised nations in the world.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's, Finland took that opportunity to free itself from the restrictions imposed on it by the Paris Peace Treaties, 1947. Free from the fear of Soviet influence, Finland was able to begin pursuing goals that better fit Finnish ideology. The Finnish-Soviet Agreement of Friendship, Co-operation, and Mutual Assistance (and the restrictions included therein) was declared null and void, but Finland recognised the Russian Federation as the successor to the USSR and was quick to draft bilateral treaties of goodwill between the two nations.

Finland began integrating into Western institutions, while not abandoning neutrality completely. Finland's policy of neutrality was moderated further from "active neutrality" to "military non-alignment," with an emphasis on maintaining a competent independent defence. This policy allowed them to join the European Union in 1995, and any other international organisation, provided that Finland would not be forced to contribute militarily in a way that would threaten their neutrality. United Nations Peacekeeping is the only real extra-national military responsibilities that Finland participates in.


Main article: Demographics of Finland

Approximate distribution of Finland-Swedes shown in yellow
Approximate distribution of Finland-Swedes shown in yellow

There are two official languages in Finland: Finnish, spoken by 92% of the population, and Swedish, mother tongue for 5.5% of the population. Ethnic Finns and Finland Swedes are generally considered to comprise a common nation. The Finland-Swedes are concentrated in the coastal areas; and there is a slight cultural difference between the culture of the Ethnic Finns, focused on lakes and woods, and the more outward-oriented coastal culture of the Finland-Swedes. This difference may be considered as an ethnic division, but the difference is slight and not more pronounced than the difference between East Finnish and West Finnish culture.

Other minority languages include Russian and Estonian. To the north, in Lapland, are found the Sami, numbering less than 7,000, who like the Finns speak a Finno-Ugric languages. There are three Sami languages that are spoken in Finland: Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami. The right of minority groups (in particular Sami and Roma people) to cherish their culture and language is protected by law, but usually only Sami is considered to be an official minority language.

Most Finns (84%) are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, with a minority of 1% belonging to the Finnish Orthodox Church (see Eastern Orthodoxy). These two churches are the state church of Finland.

The remainder of the population consists of relatively small groups of other Protestant denominations, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews beside the 14% who are unaffiliated.

population density
population density

After the Winter War (confirmed by the outcome of the Continuation War) 12% of Finland's population had to be re-settled. War reparations, unemployment and uncertainty regarding Finland's chances to remain sovereign and independent of the Soviet Union contributed to considerable emigration, abating first in the 1970s. Until then, some 500,000 Finns had emigrated, chiefly to Sweden, although half of the emigrants ultimately re-migrated again.

Since the late 1990s, Finland has received refugees and immigrants at a rate comparable with the Scandinavian countries, although the total ethnic-minority population remains far lower in Finland than the rest. A considerable number of immigrants have come from the former Soviet Union claiming ethnic (Finnic) kinship. However, over 20 languages are now spoken in Finland by immigrant groups of significant size — that is, with at least a thousand speakers.

Finland's population has always been concentrated in the southern parts of the country, which is even more pronounced after the 20th century urbanization. The biggest and most important cities in Finland are Helsinki metropolitan arean including cities of Espoo and Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu, with Oulu being the only city in central–northern Finland with more than 100,000 inhabitants.

After having one of the highest death rates from heart disease in the world in the 1970s, a concerted government programme to improve the Finnish diet and exercise has paid off. Finland is now one of the fittest countries in the world. [2]


Main article: Culture of Finland

Public holidays

Main article: Public holidays in Finland

All official holidays in Finland are established by acts of Parliament. The official holidays can be divided into Christian and secular holidays, although some of the Christian holidays have replaced holidays of pagan origin. The main Christian holidays are Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost and All Saints Day. The secular holidays are New Year's Day, May Day and Midsummer Day.

In addition to this all Sundays are official holidays but they are not as important as the special holidays. The names of the Sundays follow the liturgical calendar and they can be categorised as Christian holidays. When the standard working week in Finland was reduced to 40 hours by an act of Parliament it also meant that all Saturdays became a sort of de facto public holidays, though not official ones. Easter Sunday and Pentecost are Sundays that form part of a main holiday and they are preceded by a kind of special Saturdays.

Retail stores are prohibited by law from doing business on Sundays, except during the summer months (May through August) and in the pre-Christmas season (November and December). Business locations that have less than 400 square meters of floor space are allowed Sunday business throughout the year, with the exception of official holidays and certain Sundays, such as Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day.

Miscellaneous topics

Other related articles

main article: *List of Finland-related topics

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