From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Suomen tasavalta
Republiken Finland

Republic of Finland
Flag of Finland Coat of arms of Finland
Flag Coat of arms
Maamme  (Finnish)
Vårt land  (Swedish)
Our Land
Location of Finland
Location of  Finland  (orange)

– on the European continent  (camel & white)
– in the European Union  (camel)                  [Legend]

(and largest city)
60°10′N, 24°56′E
Official languages Finnish, Swedish
Government Parliamentary democracy2
 -  President Tarja Halonen
 -  Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen
Independence from Bolshevist Russia 
 -  Autonomy March 29, 1809 
 -  Declared December 6, 1917 
 -  Recognised January 3, 1918 
Accession to EU January 1, 1995
 -  Total 338,145 km² (65th)
130,558 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 9.4
 -  20063 estimate 5,276,571[1][2] (111th)
 -  2000 census 5,181,115 
 -  Density 16 /km² (190th)
40 /sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 -  Total $163 billion (52nd)
 -  Per capita $31,208 (13th)
GDP (nominal) 2005 estimate
 -  Total $193.491 billion (31st)
 -  Per capita $37,504 (11th)
Gini? (2000) 26.9 (low
HDI (2004) 0.947 (high) (11th)
Currency Euro ()4 (EUR)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Internet TLD .fi 5
Calling code +358
1 The words "Vapaa, vankka, vakaa" ("Free, tough, stable") were offered for addition to the coat of arms in 1936, but were not included.
2 Semi-presidential system.
3 December 2006.
4 Prior to 2002: Finnish markka.
5 The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

The Republic of Finland (Finnish: Suomi, Suomen tasavalta, Swedish: Republiken Finland ) is one of the Nordic countries. Situated in Northern Europe, it shares land borders on the Scandinavian Peninsula with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, and Norway to the north while Estonia lies to its south. Finland is bounded by the Baltic Sea, with the Gulf of Finland to the south and the Gulf of Bothnia to the west. The Åland Islands, off the southwestern coast, are an autonomous, demilitarised administrative province of Finland.

Finland has a population of 5,276,571 people spread over more than 330,000 km² (127,000 sq mi) making it the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Finland is a democratic republic with a semi-presidential system and parliamentarism. Finland was previously part of the Swedish kingdom and later an autonomous Duchy in the Russian Empire, until it declared its independence on December 6, 1917. Finland is eleventh on the 2006 United Nations Human Development Index[3] and ranked as the sixth happiest nation in the world by a subjective independent scientific study heavily weighted on literacy rates.[4]

The Republic of Finland is a member state of the United Nations and the European Union. Along with Estonian, Hungarian and Maltese, Finnish is one of the few official languages of the European Union that is not of Indo-European origin.


[edit] History

Main article: History of Finland
Prehistoric paintings in Astuvansalmi in Ristiina, the Southern Savonia region.
Prehistoric paintings in Astuvansalmi in Ristiina, the Southern Savonia region.[5]

[edit] Prehistory (from 8500 BCE)

According to archaeological evidence, the area now composing Finland was first settled around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice shield of the last ice age receded. The earliest people were probably hunter-gatherers, living primarily off what the tundra and sea could offer. Pottery is known from around the 5300 BCE (see Comb Ceramic Culture). Scientists believe it is probable that speakers of the Finno-Ugric language arrived in the area during the Stone Age (see Finno-Ugric peoples), and were possibly even among the first Mesolithic settlers in Europe.[6] The arrival of the Battle Axe culture (or Cord-Ceramic Culture) in southern coastal Finland around 3200 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture. However, the earliest certain records of agriculture are from the late third millenium BC. 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 (1500500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE–1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with other cultures in the Fennoscandian and the Baltic region. The first verifiable written documents appeared in the twelfth century.

[edit] The Swedish reign (early Middle Ages to 1809)

Olavinlinna, the medieval St. Olaf's Castle built in 1475, is the venue for the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival.
Olavinlinna, the medieval St. Olaf's Castle built in 1475, is the venue for the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival.

The beginning of Finland's seven-century association with the Kingdom of Sweden is traditionally connected with the year 1155[7] and the 1150s hypothesised introduction of Christianity by Sweden's King Erik after a military expedition later dubbed as the First Swedish Crusade. However, archaeological evidence points to prior Christian influences in southwestern and southeastern Finland and include both western and eastern Christian artifacts. Historically verifiable date of the conquest is 1249 when Birger jarl conducted the so-called Second Swedish Crusade to Finland. Swedish became the dominant language of administration and education; Finnish chiefly a language for the peasantry, clergy and local courts in predominantly Finnish-speaking areas. The society was divided in four estates of the realm: nobility, clergy, burghers and peasants, who represented the majority, and the estateless.

In the sixteenth century the first written works were published in Finnish by Mikael Agricola, and during this time, the Swedish Empire converted to Lutheranism, the current mainstream religion. The Swedish kingdom systematically settled areas and built cities in Finland, particularly in the east, such as in Ingria and Kainuu. Governor General Per Brahe the Younger founded ten cities and the first university in Finland, the The Royal Academy of Turku. The establishment of universal literacy and rule of law also dates to this time. Finnish people participated in wars of the Swedish kingdom, and Finnish warriors of Sweden's army became known as Hakkapeliittas.

The Swedish Kingdom strove to push the borders eastward, which led to wars of varying success with Novgorod. The expansion was halted by the unification of Russia and was eventually rolled back. During the eighteenth century, virtually all of Finland was twice occupied by Russian forces, known by the Finns as the Greater Wrath (17141721) and the Lesser Wrath (17421743). During this time "Finland" became the predominant term for the whole land area from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Russian border; both in domestic Swedish debate and by Russians promising protection from "Swedish oppression".

The earlier Finland – that is, the southwestern area – was from then on called "Finland Proper". The Finnish areas ceded to Russia in 1721 and 1743 (excluding Ingria) were called "Old Finland". In these areas the traditional freedom of peasants was constantly pushed towards the oppressed position peasants had in other parts of Russia.

[edit] Finland as a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire (1809–1917)

Thirteen of the nineteen women elected to Parliament in 1907. The Finnish Parliament celebrates its centenary in 2006–2007.
Thirteen of the nineteen women elected to Parliament in 1907. The Finnish Parliament celebrates its centenary in 2006–2007.
See also: Finland's language strife and Russification of Finland

On March 29, 1809, after being conquered by the armies of Russian Emperor Alexander I from Sweden in the Finnish War, Finland became an semi-autonomous Grand Duchy under the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. Old Finland was returned to the Grand Duchy in 1812. During the Russian era, the Finnish language started to gain recognition by both the imperial court and the governing bodies, first probably to sever the cultural and emotional ties with Sweden and thereafter, from the 1860s onwards, as a result of a strong nationalist movement, known as the Fennoman movement. Milestones included the publication of what would become Finland's national epic, the Kalevala, in 1835; and the Finnish language achieving equal legal status with Swedish in 1892.

In 1906, universal suffrage was adopted in the Grand Duchy of Finland, as the second country in the world. However, the relationship between the Grand Duchy and the Russian Empire gradually soured when the Russian government made moves to restrict the Finnish autonomy. Wishes for national independence gained ground, first among radical nationalists and socialists.

[edit] The Independent Republic and Civil War (1917–1918)

On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence. The independence was approved by Bolshevist Russia but the Civil Wars that followed in Russia and in Finland and activist expeditions (see Heimosodat), including the ones to White Karelia and Aunus, complicated relations.

In 1918, the country experienced a brief but bitter Civil War that coloured domestic politics for many years. The Civil War was fought between "the Whites", who gained support from Imperial Germany, and "the Reds", supported by Bolshevist Russia. The Reds consisted mostly of leftist propertyless rural and industrial workers who, despite universal suffrage in 1906, felt that they lacked political influence. The white forces were mostly made up of bourgeoisie and wealthy peasantry, politically more to the right. Eventually, the Whites overcame the Reds. The deep social and political dividing line and mutual enmity between the Reds and Whites remained.

[edit] The Inter-war era (1918–1939)

See also: Monarchy of Finland

Despite the Declaration of Independence calling Finland a Republic after the Civil War, the parliament, cleared of its Social Democrat members, voted with a narrow majority to establish the Kingdom of Finland. Frederick Charles of Hesse, a German prince, was elected King, putatively with the name "Väinö I of Finland", with Pehr Evind Svinhufvud and General Mannerheim serving as Regents. However, Germany's defeat in World War I meant that the idea was abandoned. Finland instead became a Republic, with Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg elected as its first President in 1919.

The Finnish–Russian border was agreed upon in the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, largely following the historic border but granting Pechenga (Finnish: Petsamo) and its Barents Sea harbour to Finland.

Finnish democracy survived the upsurge of the extreme right and financial crisis during the early '30s. However, legislators reacted against Communism and the relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union remained tense.

[edit] Finland during World War II (1939–1945)

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 19391940 and in the Continuation War of 19411944 in accordance with Operation Barbarossa in which Germany invaded the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–1945, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland. After the wars there were land mine clearance operations in Karelia and Lapland plus the enormous task of naval mine clearance in the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea during 1944–1950. The mines in Lapland especially slowed down the rebuilding and caused casualties.

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 Finnish territorial concessions (cf. the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940). Finland ceded most of Finnish Karelia, Salla, and Pechenga, which amounted to 10% of its land area, 20% of industrial capacity and 400,000 evacuees, mainly women and children. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as the Great Britain, and the reparations to the Soviet Union caused Finland to transform itself from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrialised one. Even after reparations were fulfilled, Finland continued to trade with the Soviet Union in the framework of bilateral trade. Ultimately, the Soviet Union had a national debt to Finland. Russia assumed the debt after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and cleared it in 2006.

[edit] The post-war era and modern history

Urho Kekkonen (then Prime Minister of Finland) in 1953, who later became Finland's longest-standing President.
Urho Kekkonen (then Prime Minister of Finland) in 1953, who later became Finland's longest-standing President.

After the Second World War, neutral Finland lay in the grey zone between the western countries and the Soviet Union. The "YYA Treaty" (Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance) gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics. This was extensively exploited, perfectly legally and constitutionally, by President Urho Kekkonen against his opponents. He maintained an effective monopoly on Soviet relations, which gave him a status of "only choice for president". There was also a tendency of self-censorship regarding Finno-Soviet relations. This phenomenon was given the name "Finlandisation" by the German press. However, Finland maintained a democratic government and a market economy unlike most other countries bordering the Soviet Union.

The post-war era was a period of rapid economic growth and increasing wealth and stability for Finland. In all, the war-ravaged agrarian country was transformed into a technologically advanced market economy with an extensive social welfare system. When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the bilateral trade disappeared overnight. Finland was simultaneously hit by a "home-cooked" severe depression. This left a mass unemployment problem, but the economy survived and began growing at a high rate after the depression. Finland joined the European Union in 1995, where it is an advocate of federalism contrary to the other Nordic countries that are predominantly supportive of confederalism.[8]

[edit] Etymology

The name Suomi has uncertain origins but a strong candidate for a cognate is the Baltic word zeme meaning "ground, earth, country".

The exonym Finland has resemblance with e.g. the Scandinavian placenames Finnmark, Finnveden and Finnskogen and all are thought to be derived from finn, a Germanic word for nomadic "hunter-gatherers" (as opposed to sedentary farmers). How, why and when this designation would have started to mean the Finns in particular is largely unknown. Among the first written documents mentioning a "land of the Finns" are two rune stones. There is one in Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont (U 582 †) and one in Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, with the inscription finlandi (G 319 M) dating from the eleventh century.[9]

[edit] Geography and environment

Detailed map of Finland.
Detailed map of Finland.
Main article: Geography of Finland
See also: List of cities and towns in Finland, List of lakes in Finland, and List of national parks of Finland

[edit] Topography and geology

Finland is a country of thousands of lakes and islands; 187,888 lakes (larger than 500 m²) and 179,584 islands to be precise.[10] One of these lakes, Saimaa, is the fifth largest in Europe. The Finnish landscape is mostly flat with few hills and its highest point, the Halti at 1,328 metres, is found in the extreme north of Lapland at the border between Finland and Norway. Landscape is covered mostly (75% of land area) by coniferous taiga forests, fens, and little arable land. The most common type of rock is granite. It is a ubiquitous part of the scenery, visible wherever there is no soil cover. Moraine or till is the most common type of soil, covered by a thin layer of humus of biological origin. The greater part of the islands are found in southwest in the Archipelago Sea, 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 whose surface area is still growing. Owing to the post-glacial rebound that has been taking place since the last ice age, the surface area of the country is growing by about 7 square kilometres (2.7 square miles) a year.[11]

[edit] Flora and fauna

The Wolverine, generally only found in Lapland.
The Wolverine, generally only found in Lapland.

Finland has a diverse array of flora and fauna. Both plant and animal species generally vary from region to region as a result of the differentiating climates of the northern, western and southern regions of Finland. There are over 1,200 species of vascular plant, 800 bryophytes and 1,000 lichen species in Finland, with flora being richest in the southern mainland and Åland Islands. Plant life, like most of the Finnish ecology, is well adapted to tolerate the contrasting seasons and extreme weather. Many plant species, such as the Scots Pine, spruce, birch and oak, spread throughout Finland from Norway and only reached the western coast less than three millennia ago. Therefore, it could be said that Finland has a relatively new ecology.

The Archipelago Sea, between the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland, is the largest archipelago in the world by number of islands; estimates vary between 20,000 and 50,000.
The Archipelago Sea, between the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland, is the largest archipelago in the world by number of islands; estimates vary between 20,000 and 50,000.

Similarly, Finland has a diverse and extensive range of fauna. Interestingly, all terrestrial animals were completely wiped out during the last ice age. The animals arrived in Finland about 10,000 years ago, following the retreat of the glaciers and the appearance of vegetation. Nowadays there are at least sixty native mammalian species, 248 breeding bird species, over seventy fish species and eleven reptile and frog species present today, many migrating from neighbouring countries thousands of years ago.

Of large wildlife mammals, the most common are the Brown Bear (the national animal), Gray Wolf, moose and reindeer. Other common mammals include the Red Fox, Red Squirrel, and Mountain Hare. Some rare and exotic species include the flying squirrel, Golden Eagle, Saimaa Ringed Seal and the Arctic fox, which is considered the most endangered. Whooper Swan, the national bird of Finland, is a large Northern Hemisphere swan. The most common breeding birds are the Willow Warbler, Chaffinch and Redwing.[12] Of some seventy species of freshwater fish, the northern pike, perch and others are plentiful. Salmon remains the favorite of fly rod enthusiasts.

The Saimaa Ringed Seal, one of only three lake seal species in the world, exists only in the Saimaa lake system of southeastern Finland. It has become the emblem of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and only through dedicated work by conservationists has this amazing seal been saved from extinction. However, it is still an endangered mammal, under WWF protection; there are currently around 270 Saimaa Ringed Seals in existence. It has been estimated that the immediate threat of extinction would be alleviated if the population of Saimaa seals could be brought up to 400 individuals.[13]

Due to hunting and persecution in history, many animals such as the Golden Eagle, Brown Bear and Eurasian Lynx all experienced significant declines in population. However, numbers have increased dramatically in recent years, mainly as a result of careful conservation and the establishment of vast national parks.

[edit] Climate

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. The main factor influencing Finland's climate is the country's geographical position between the 60th and 70th northern parallels in the Eurasian continent's coastal zone, which shows characteristics of both a maritime and a continental climate, depending on the direction of air flow. Finland is near enough to the Atlantic Ocean to be continuously warmed by the Gulf Stream, which explains the unusually warm climate considering the absolute latitude.

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 consecutive days during summer, and does not rise at all for 51 days during winter.

[edit] Everyman's right

The traditional Finnish legal concept of everyman's right allows free right of access to the land and waterways, and the right to collect natural products such as wild berries and mushrooms, no matter who owns the land. These rights also generally apply to foreign citizens, with certain exceptions related to local boating, fishing and hunting rights.[14]

[edit] Administrative divisions

[edit] Provinces

Provinces of Finland

The state organisation is divided into six administrative provinces (lääni, pl. läänit) The provinces are further divided into ninety state local districts.

The provincial authority is part of the executive branch of the national government, and has no elected officials. This system was created in 1634, and underwent few major changes until the redivision of the country into "greater provinces" in 1997. Since then, the six provinces have been (see picture on the right):

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

These provinces are merely administrative divisions. Western Finland, for example, spans four major linguistic and dialectal areas (Ostrobothnian dialects, Southwestern dialects, Savo in mideast, and some Swedish speakers in the area around Vaasa).

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. Also, due to the same international treaties, Åland is the only part in the European Union where language discrimination is officially enforced: you must speak Swedish to own land in Åland.

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 urbanisation in the latter half of the twentieth century have made differences less pronounced. The regions are subdivisions of these provinces.

The old provinces or counties (1634–1997) survive in the telephone numbering areas.

[edit] Regions and municipalities

Municipalities and regions map of Finland (2007).Black borders refer to municipalities, red to regions.
Municipalities and regions map of Finland (2007).
Black borders refer to municipalities, red to regions.

Legally, Finland has two levels of democratic government: the state, and 416 municipalities (as of January 1, 2007). The municipality is the same as a "city" level of government, except that rural municipalities are not called "cities". Since 1977, no legal or administrative distinction is made between towns, cities and other municipalities. Although a municipality must follow the laws set by the state, it makes independent decisions. That is, the decisions of a municipal council, if legal, cannot be appealed. People often identify with their municipality, although their nationality is usually more important.

Municipalities co-operate in seventy-four sub-regions and twenty regions. These are governed by the member municipalities. The Åland region has a permanent, democratically elected regional council, as a part of the autonomy. In the Kainuu region, there is a pilot project underway, with regional elections.

Sami people have a semi-autonomous Sami Domicile Area in Lapland for issues on language and culture.

[edit] Largest municipalities

In the following chart, the number of inhabitants includes those living in the entire municipality (kunta), not just in the built-up area. The land area is given in km², and the density in inhabitants per km² (land area). The figures are as of January 1, 2007. Notice that the capital region – comprising Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen – forms a continuous conurbation of about one million people and is effectively a single city in economic terms. However, common admistration is limited to voluntary cooperation of all municipalities, e.g. in Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council.

Municipality Population Land area Density
Helsinki &&&&&&&&&&564474.0564,474 184.47 &&&&&&&&&&&&3061.03,061.00
Espoo &&&&&&&&&&235100.0235,100 312.00 751.60
Tampere &&&&&&&&&&206171.0206,171 523.40 393.90
Vantaa &&&&&&&&&&189442.0189,442 240.54 780.40
Turku &&&&&&&&&&177502.0177,502 243.40 720.50
Oulu &&&&&&&&&&130049.0130,049 369.43 351.40
Lahti &&&&&&&&&&&98773.098,773 134.95 730.10
Kuopio &&&&&&&&&&&91026.091,026 &&&&&&&&&&&&1127.4000001,127.40 81.00
Jyväskylä &&&&&&&&&&&84482.084,482 105.90 789.00
Pori &&&&&&&&&&&76211.076,211 503.17 150.83
Lappeenranta &&&&&&&&&&&59077.059,077 758.00 77.70
Rovaniemi &&&&&&&&&&&58100.058,100 &&&&&&&&&&&&7600.7300007,600.73 7.60
Joensuu &&&&&&&&&&&57879.057,879 &&&&&&&&&&&&1173.4000001,173.40 49.10
Vaasa &&&&&&&&&&&57266.057,266 183.00 311.20
Kotka &&&&&&&&&&&54860.054,860 270.74 203.00
Further information: List of Finnish municipalities, List of Finnish municipalities by population, List of Finnish municipalities by area, and Former municipalities of Finland

[edit] Demographics

Population density of Finland.© 2001 Statistics Finland
Population density of Finland.
© 2001 Statistics Finland
Population of Finland, 1750–2000[15]
Year Population Year Population
1750 421,000 1880 2,060,800
1760 491,000 1890 2,380,100
1770 561,000 1900 2,655,900
1780 663,000 1910 2,943,400
1790 705,600 1920 3,147,600
1800 832,700 1930 3,462,700
1810 863,300 1940 3,695,617
1820 1,177,500 1950 4,029,803
1830 1,372,100 1960 4,446,222
1840 1,445,600 1970 4,598,336
1850 1,636,900 1980 4,787,778
1860 1,746,700 1990 4,998,478
1870 1,768,800 2000 5,181,000

[edit] Population

Finland numbers 5,276,571 inhabitants and has an average population density of 17 inhabitants per square kilometre.[1] This makes it, after Norway and Iceland, the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Finland's population has always been concentrated in the southern parts of the country, which is even more pronounced after the twentieth century urbanisation. The biggest and most important cities in Finland are the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area (including the cities of Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen), and Tampere, Turku and Oulu.

After the Winter War of 1939 (and confirmed by the outcome of the Continuation War of 1941), 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 migrated back.

Since the late 1990s, Finland has received refugees and immigrants at a rate comparable with the other Nordic countries, although the total ethnic-minority population remains far lower in Finland than the rest. Finland is an ethnically very homogeneous country. Foreigners comprise only 2% of the population. A considerable proportion of immigrants originates 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.

[edit] Language

See also: Finnish alphabet, Finnish grammar, Finnish phonology, and Spoken Finnish

Most Finns (92%) speak Finnish as their mother tongue. Finnish is an agglutinative language of the Uralic language family, and the subgroup that it belongs to, Baltic-Finnic languages, is isolated between unrelated Indo-European languages (Russian, Swedish, Baltic languages).

The largest minority language is Swedish (5.5%), which is also an official language of the state and some municipalities. To the north, in Lapland, are the Sami, numbering less than 7,000, who like the Finns speak a Finno-Ugric language. There are three Sami languages that are spoken in Finland: Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami.

The majority of Finns also learn enough English in school to be proficient in that language. Other common secondary languages are German, French, and Swedish; knowledge of Estonian, Russian, or Norwegian is rare.

Swedish has an official language status in Finland, and the right of other minority groups (in particular Sami people) to cherish their culture and language is protected by law. Culturally, the Swedish-speaking Finns represent a combination of Swedish and Finnish cultures and have more coastal-oriented traditions.

Immigrants represent 2% of the population. Largest immigrant groups are the Russians, Estonians, Swedish, Somali and various Yugoslavs. A small population of Finland also speak English as their secondary native language.

There is a Tatar-speaking minority, about one thousand speakers of the language, whose ancestors came to the country during the Russian rule. They are the most assimilated of the Muslim minorities in the country. All are fluent speakers of Finnish, and their mosques serve rather as centers of community life than as places of worship. Interethnic marriages to ethnic Finns are common, and it is possible that the minority will disappear entirely after a couple of generations.

[edit] Indigenous peoples

The Sami are an indigenous people living in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. Known widely in the past as Lapps, the term "Lapp" is now considered derogatory by many Sami. In addition to their own Sami languages, they have their own way of life, identity and culture. Common history, traditions, livelihoods and customs unite the Sami living in different countries. In total, there are about 75,000 to 100,000 Samis, of which less than 7,000 live in Finland, forming roughly 0.13% of the population.

[edit] Religion

The Helsinki Cathedral with the statue of Emperor Alexander II of Russia.
The Helsinki Cathedral with the statue of Emperor Alexander II of Russia.
See also: Roman Catholicism in Finland, Judaism in Finland, Islam in Finland, and Hinduism in Finland

Most Finns are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (82.5%)[16]. A minority belongs to the Finnish Orthodox Church (1.1%) (see Eastern Orthodox Church). Other Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church in Finland are significantly smaller, as are the Muslim, Jewish and other non-Christian communities (totaling 1.2%). 15.1%[17] of the population is unaffiliated. The main Lutheran and Orthodox churches are the official churches of Finland. However, church attendance is much lower than these figures may suggest. Most of the population holds generally secular views. A majority of members of the state Lutheran Church do not participate actively, and even then it is mostly for occasions like weddings and funerals.[18]

[edit] Family structure

Finnish family life is centered around the nuclear family. Relations with the extended family are often rather distant, and Finnish people do not form politically significant clans, tribes or similar structures. According to UNICEF, Finland ranks fourth in child well-being.[19]

[edit] Education

Auditorium in the Helsinki University of Technology's main building, designed by Alvar Aalto.
Auditorium in the Helsinki University of Technology's main building, designed by Alvar Aalto.
Main article: Education in Finland
See also: List of universities in Finland

The Finnish education system is a comparatively egalitarian Nordic system, with no tuition fees for full-time students. Attendance is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16, and free meals are served to pupils at primary and secondary levels. The first nine years of education (primary and secondary school) are compulsory, and the pupils go to their local school. Secondary education is not compulsory; it is either a trade school, or preparation for tertiary education. In tertiary education, two, mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the higher vocational schools and universities. In the OECD's international assessment of student performance, PISA, Finland has consistently been among the highest scorers worldwide; in 2003, Finnish 15-year-olds came first in reading literacy, science, and mathematics; and second in problem solving, worldwide. The World Economic Forum ranks Finland's tertiary education #1 in the world.[20]

[edit] Health

Finland has a developed public health care system. 18.9% of health care is funded by households themselves, 76.6% is publicly funded, and the rest of the funding comes from elsewhere. There are 307 residents for each doctor.[21]

After having one of the highest death rates from heart disease in the world in the 1970s, improvements in the Finnish diet and exercise have paid off. Finland is now one of the fittest countries in the world.[22]

The life expectancy is 82 years for women and 75 years for men.

[edit] Government and politics

Eduskuntatalo, the main building of the Parliament of Finland (Eduskunta) in Helsinki.
Eduskuntatalo, the main building of the Parliament of Finland (Eduskunta) in Helsinki.
Main article: Politics of Finland

[edit] Political system

Unlike the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) which are constitutional monarchies, Finland has a republican form of government. Finland has a semi-presidential system with parliamentarism. The president is responsible for foreign policy outside of the European Union. Most executive power lies in the cabinet (the Finnish Council of State) headed by the Prime Minister. Responsibility for forming the cabinet out of several political parties and negotiating its platform is granted to the leader of the party gaining largest support in the elections for the parliament. This person also becomes Prime Minister of the cabinet. Any minister and the cabinet as a whole, however, must have continuing trust of the parliament and may be voted out, resign or be replaced. 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 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 multi-member 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. 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. 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 of 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 secular Conservatives, the Centre Party (former Agrarian Union), and Social Democrats, which have approximately equal support, and represent 65–80% of voters. After 1944 Communists were a factor to consider for a few decades. The relative strengths of the parties vary only slightly in the elections due to the proportional election from multi-member districts but there are some visible long-term trends.

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 (see Parliamentary sovereignty). 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 a constitutional court. A Finnish peculiarity is the possibility of making exceptions to the constitution in ordinary laws that are enacted in the same procedure as constitutional amendments. An example of such a 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 to United States executive orders, affect 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 an ordinary law. In addition to preview by 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. That is, however, very rare. The only other European countries that lack a constitutional court are the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (which does not have a codified constitution).

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Finland freed itself from the last restrictions imposed on it by the Paris peace treaties of 1947. The Finno-Soviet Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance (and the restrictions included therein) was annulled but Finland recognised the Russian Federation as the successor of the USSR and was quick to draft bilateral treaties of goodwill as well as reallocating Soviet debts.

Finland deepened its participation in the European integration by joining the European Union with Sweden and Austria in 1995. It could be perhaps said that the country's policy of neutrality has been moderated to "military non-alignment" with an emphasis on maintaining a competent independent defence. Peacekeeping under the auspices of the United Nations is the only real extra-national military responsibility which Finland undertakes.

According to Transparency International, Finland has had the lowest level of corruption in all the countries studied in its survey for the last several years.[23]

[edit] President

Finland's current President,  Tarja Halonen.
Finland's current President, Tarja Halonen.
Main article: President of Finland

The President of Finland is the Head of State of Finland. Under the Constitution of Finland, executive power is vested in the President and the government, with the President possessing extensive powers. The President is elected directly by the people for a term of six years. Since 1991, no President can be elected for more than two consecutive terms. The President must be a native-born Finnish citizen. The office was established by the Constitution Act of 1919.

The current office-holder is President Tarja Halonen. She began her first term of office in 2000 and was re-elected on January 29, 2006. Her current term expires in 2012. She is the eleventh President of Finland and the first woman to hold the office.

Presidents of Finland
Name Born–Died In office
K.J. Ståhlberg 18651952 19191925
Lauri Kristian Relander 18831942 19251931
P.E. Svinhufvud 18611944 19311937
Kyösti Kallio 18731940 19371940
Risto Ryti 18891956 19401944
C.G.E. Mannerheim 18671951 19441946
J.K. Paasikivi 18701956 19461956
Urho Kekkonen 19001986 19561981
Mauno Koivisto 1923 19821994
Martti Ahtisaari 1937 19942000
Tarja Halonen 1943 2000

[edit] Parliament

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen at the 32nd G8 Summit in Russia.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen at the 32nd G8 Summit in Russia.
Main article: Parliament of Finland
See also: List of political parties in Finland

The Finnish Parliament consists of one chamber with two hundred members. The members are elected for a four-year term by direct popular vote under a system of proportional representation. According to the Constitution of Finland, the Parliament elects the Prime Minister, who is appointed to office by the President. Other Ministers are appointed by the President on the Prime Minister's proposal. The current Prime Minister of Finland, as well as Chairman of the Centre Party is Matti Vanhanen (who in the second half of 2006 was President of the European Council).

After the parliamentary elections on March 18, 2007, the seats will be divided among eight parties as follows:

Party Seats Net Gain/Loss % of seats % of votes
The Centre Party 51   –4 25.5 23.1
The National Coalition Party 50 +10 25.0 22.3
The Social Democratic Party 45   –8 22.5 21.4
The Left Wing Alliance 17   –2 8.5 8.8
The Green League 15   +1 7.5 8.5
The Swedish People's Party 9   +1 4.5 4.5
The Christian Democrats 7     0 3.5 4.9
The True Finns 5   +2 2.5 4.1
Others  1*     0 0.5 2.4

* Province of Åland representative.

[edit] Foreign relations

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is responsible for Finnish foreign policy. Current Minister for Foreign Affairs and Head of Office is Erkki Tuomioja. Finland's foreign policy is based on the membership of the European Union with its customs union, military non-alliance, and neutrality. Finland is also in the Nordic Council, and has long traditions of co-operation with the Nordic countries. Finland has good relations with all its neighbours, Sweden, Norway, Russia and Estonia, and is not involved in international conflicts or border disputes. The military doctrine is strictly self-defensive, and indeed, the Constitution of Finland allows participation only in military operations authorised by the UN or the OSCE. Public opinion is against joining any military alliances, such as NATO, although Finland is involved in the Partnership for Peace programme with NATO. Foreign trade is highly important, as about a third of the gross domestic product comes from foreign trade, and Finland depends on imports for most raw materials.

[edit] Defence Forces

Finnish troops on skis. Most conscripts receive training for ski warfare.
Finnish troops on skis. Most conscripts receive training for ski warfare.
See also: Military history of Finland and List of Finnish wars

The Finnish Defence Forces is a cadre army of 16,500, of which 8,700 professional soldiers (officers), with a standard readiness strength of 34,700 people in uniform (27,300 Army, 3,000 Navy, and 4,400 Air Force). Finland's defence budget equals about 1.4% of the GDP. A universal male conscription is in place, under which all men above 18 years of age serve from six to twelve months. Inhabitants of Finland's Åland Islands and Jehovah's Witnesses are exempt, but there are no other general exemptions. Non-military service for thirteen months is also possible. Since 1995, Finnish women have been able to do military service on a voluntary basis. The defence is based on a large trained reserve. During the Cold War, Finland could have mobilised 490,000 reservists in a conflict, but this number has since been reduced to some 350,000 due to ongoing budget cuts.

The Finnish Defence Forces are under the command of the Chief of Defence, who is directly subordinate to the President of the Republic in matters related to the military command. The current Chief of Defence is Admiral Juhani Kaskeala.

The military branches are Finnish Army, Finnish Navy and Finnish Air Force. The Border Guard is under the Ministry of the Interior but can be incorporated into the Defence Forces when required by defence readiness.

[edit] Energy policy

See also: Nuclear power in Finland

The Ministry of Trade and Industry is responsible for the Government's energy policy. Energy policy is of exceptional importance, for Finland needs a lot of energy because of its cold climate and the structure of its industry, but has no fossil fuel energy resources, like oil or coal. It has thus done pioneering work on developing more efficient ways of using energy. Also, Finland refines oil to cover domestic needs: the Finnish corporation Neste Oil has two oil refineries. Finland is connected to the Nordpool, the Nordic electricity market.

Until the 1960s, Finnish energy policy relied on the electricity produced by hydropower stations and extensive decentralised use of wood for energy. Finland's 187,888 lakes do not lie much above sea level – less than 80 metres in the case of the two biggest lakes, Saimaa and Päijänne. Consequently, Finland has less hydropower capacity than Sweden, for example, not to mention Norway.

Finland started planning the introduction of nuclear power in the 1950s. In 2001, 18% of all electricity consumed in Finland was produced by the country's four nuclear power plants.[24] Energy policy became a burning issue in Finland when industry applied for permission to build a new nuclear power unit, the country's fifth. On May 24, 2002, Parliament supported the application by 107 votes to 92. After the vote, the The Green League resigned from the government where they had held the environment portfolio. All the other parties were divided over the nuclear issue. The fifth nuclear power station – world's largest at 1600 MWe – is currently under construction and is scheduled to be operational by 2011. It is being built by the French AREVA.

Most of the energy is produced from fossil fuels, mainly coal and oil. Fossil fuels are, however, all imported, because Finland doesn't have any fossil fuel sources, unlike neighboring Norway with oil and Estonia with oil shale. Nevertheless, Finland fares exceptionally well with renewable energy. About one fifth of all the energy consumed in Finland is wood-based. This is not a remnant of old ages; the pulp and paper industry – Finland's largest industry – burns its byproducts, such as black liquor residues and waste wood chippings. A pulp mill is a net energy seller, not buyer. Also, many homeowners also own renewed forests, and use wood as an additional (but not primary) heat source. About 7% of electricity is produced from peat harvested from Finland's extensive bogs. Peat is "bioenergy", but there is no consensus whether it is renewable (carbon neutral) or not.

Currently, some electricity is imported to Finland. In recent years, a varying amount (5–17%) of power has been imported from Russia, Sweden and Norway. The Norwegian and Swedish hydroelectric plants remain an important source for imported power. The current energy policy debate is centred on self-sustainability. There are plans to build an submarine power cable from Russia, but this is also considered a national security issue. The government already rejected one plan for a powerful cable.

[edit] Industry, economy and globalisation

Headquarters of Fortum Corporation in Espoo.
Headquarters of Fortum Corporation in Espoo.
Main article: Economy of Finland
See also: List of Finnish companies and Helsinki Stock Exchange

[edit] Overview

In the past, Finnish trade relationships and politics were by large determined by avoidance of provoking first the feudally ruled Imperial Russia and then the totalitarian Soviet Union. Despite the hindrance caused by an influential neighbouring country, Finland eventually became one of the most globalised nations in the world. After the Second World War, the growth rate of the GDP was high compared to other Europe, and Finland was often called "Japan of the North". In the beginning of the 1970s, Finland's GDP per capita reached the level of Japan and the UK.

Headquarters of Nokia, Finland's largest company.
Headquarters of Nokia, Finland's largest company.

For decades now, Finland has had a highly industrialised, largely free-market economy with a per capita output equal to that of other western economies such as Sweden, the UK, France and Germany. Services is the largest sector of the economy. However, with respect to foreign trade, the key economic sector is manufacturing of principally wood, metal, engineering, telecommunications and electronic products. International 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.

In 1991, Finland experienced an economic collapse and fell into a severe depression caused by economic overheating, depressed foreign markets and the dismantling of the barter system between Finland and the former Soviet Union. More than 20% of Finnish trade was with the Soviet Union before 1991, and in the following two years the trade practically ceased. The growth in the 1980s was based on debt, and when the defaults began rolling in, an avalanche effect increased the unemployment from a virtual full employment to one fifth of the workforce. However, civil order remained and the state alleviated the problem of funding the welfare state by taking massive debts. 1991 and again in 1992, Finland devalued the markka to promote export competitiveness. This helped stabilise the economy; the depression bottomed out in 1993, with continued growth through 1995. Since then the growth rate has been one of the highest of OECD countries, and national debt has been reduced to 41.1% (fulfilling the EU's Stability and Growth Pact requirement).

Because of the northern climate, agricultural development is limited to maintaining self-sufficiency. Forestry, an important export earner, provides a secondary occupation for the rural population.

Finland was one of the eleven countries joining the euro monetary system (EMU) on January 1, 1999. The national currency markka (FIM), in use since 1860, was withdrawn and replaced by euro (EUR) in the beginning of 2002 (see Finnish euro coins).

The World Economic Forum has declared Finland to be the most competitive country in the world for three consecutive years (2003–2005) and four times since 2002.[25] In recent years there has been national focus on innovation and research and development, with special emphasis on information technology.[26] Nokia, the telecommunications company, is generally regarded as the single most significant cause of Finland's success.

[edit] Public transport

Main article: Transport in Finland
See also: Highways in Finland, List of airports in Finland, and Public transport in Helsinki

Finland's transport network is developed. As of 2005, the country's network of main roads has a total length of 13,258 km, and is mainly centred on the capital city of Helsinki. The total length of all public roads is 78,186 km, of which 50,616 km are paved. The motorway network is still to a great extent under development, and currently totals 653 km. There are 5,865 km of railways in the country. Helsinki has an urban rail network, and light rail systems are currently being planned in Turku and Tampere. Finland also has a considerable number of airports and large ports.

The national railway company is VR (Valtion Rautatiet, or State Railways). It offers InterCity and express trains throughout the country and the faster Pendolino trains connecting the major cities. There are large discounts (usually 50%) available for children (7–16 yr), students, senior citizens and conscripts. There are international trains to St. Petersburg (Finnish and Russian day-time trains) and Moscow (Russian over-night train), Russia. Connections to Sweden are by bus due to rail gauge differences. It's possible to take the Silja Line and Viking Line ferries from Helsinki to Mariehamn in the Åland archipelago, Stockholm (Sweden) and Tallinn (Estonia).

There are about 25 airports in Finland with scheduled passenger services. Finnair, Blue1 and Finncomm Airlines provide air services both domestically and internationally. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is Finland's global gateway with scheduled non-stop flights to such places as Bangkok, Beijing, Delhi, Guangzhou, Nagoya, New York, Osaka, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Helsinki has an optimal location for great circle airline traffic routes between Western Europe and the Far East. Hence, many foreign tourists visit Helsinki on a stop-over while flying from Asia to Europe or vice versa.

[edit] Tourism

The M/S Silja Symphony on Kustaanmiekka strait. Cruises are a popular tourist activity throughout Finland.View from the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress.
The M/S Silja Symphony on Kustaanmiekka strait. Cruises are a popular tourist activity throughout Finland.
View from the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress.
Main article: Tourism in Finland

Tourism is an expanding industry in Finland and in recent years has become a significant aspect of its economy. In 2005, Finnish tourism grossed over €6.7 billion with a 5% increase from the previous year. Much of the sudden growth can be attributed to the globalisation and modernisation of the country as well as a rise in positive publicity and awareness. There are many attractions in Finland which attracted over 4 million visitors in 2005.

The Finnish landscape is covered with thick pine forests, rolling hills and complemented with a labyrinth of lakes and inlets. Much of Finland is pristine and virgin as it contains 35 national parks from the Southern shores of the Gulf of Finland to the high fells of Lapland. It is also an urbanised region with many cultural events and activities.

Commercial cruises between major coastal and port cities in the Baltic region, including Helsinki, Turku, Tallinn, Stockholm and Travemünde, play a significant role in the local tourism industry.

[edit] Tourism in winter

Although many tourists visit for the ideal weather during the summer, winter also attracts hundreds of thousands for its Christmas festivities and winter sports and activities such as skiing, dog sledding and Nordic walking. Finland is regarded as the home of Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus. Santa’s Post Office is also located in Finland, up in the northern Lapland region. Above the Arctic Circle, there is a polar night, a period when the sun doesn't rise for days or weeks. Lapland, the extreme north of Finland, is so far north that Aurora Borealis, atmospheric fluorescence, is seen regularly in winter. This exquisite spectacle draws people from around the globe, particularly from Japan.

[edit] Tourism in summer

Throughout the summer there are a range of international festivals, markets and performing arts including song and dance. The receding snow and everlasting sunlight also provide an opportunity for an array of outdoor activities. These activities range from golf, fishing, yachting, lake cruises, hiking, kayaking among many others. At Finland's northernmost point, in the heart of summer, the Sun does not completely set for 73 consecutive days. Wildlife is abundant in Finland. Bird-watching is popular for those fond of flying fauna, however hunting is also popular. Moose, elk, reindeer and hare are all common game in Finland. The sport is highly regulated and also helps the economy.

[edit] Cultural attractions

Finland is also a place rich in culture for history, tradition and religion. There are churches and cathedrals scattered all across Finland reflecting the strong Finnish Lutheran following. There are also museums and examples of ancient architecture remaining from the reign of the Swedish Empire over much of Finland. These sites allure thousands for their significance and historical insight. Castles from the Swedish reign are found, for example in Turku, Hämeenlinna and Savonlinna. The Turku Castle is a museum. Olavinlinna in Savonlinna hosts the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival. The capital city of Helsinki, on the other hand, is famous for its Grand Duchy era architecture, which resembles that of imperial St. Petersburg.

[edit] Culture

Chimneyless sauna building in Enonkoski. Strong Finnish sauna culture is one of the remains of the aboriginal Finnish culture.
Chimneyless sauna building in Enonkoski. Strong Finnish sauna culture is one of the remains of the aboriginal Finnish culture.
Main article: Culture of Finland

Like the people, Finnish culture is indigenous and most prominently represented by the Finnish language. Since its earliest contact with foreign peoples and monarchs, Finns have been influenced by Western Europe (particularly Sweden and Germany) and, more recently, North America. There are very few Russian influences, with the exception of the 1.1% Orthodox minority. Into the twenty-first century, many Finns have been willing to incorporate many other cultural styles from even further abroad, such as Asia and Africa. More than just for tourism, Finnish youth in particular have been increasing their contact with peoples from the outside by travelling abroad to both work and study.

There are still differences between regions, especially minor differences in accents and vocabulary. Minorities, such as the Sami and Finland Swedes, maintain their own cultural characteristics. Many Finns are emotionally connected to the countryside and nature, as urbanisation is a relatively recent phenomenon.

[edit] Literature

Main article: Finnish literature

Though Finnish written language could be said to exist since Mikael Agricola translated the New Testament into Finnish in the sixteenth century as a result of the Protestant Reformation, few notable works of literature were written until the nineteenth century, which saw the beginning of a Finnish national Romantic Movement. This prompted Elias Lönnrot to collect Finnish and Karelian folk poetry and arrange and publish them as Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. The era saw a rise of poets and novelists who wrote in Finnish, notably Aleksis Kivi.

After Finland became independent there was a rise of modernist writers, most famously Mika Waltari. The second World War prompted a return to more national interests in comparison to a more international line of thought, characterized by Väinö Linna. Literature in modern Finland is in a healthy state, with detective stories enjoying a particular boom of popularity.

[edit] Music

Main article: Music of Finland

[edit] Folk music

Much of the music of Finland is influenced by traditional Karelian melodies and lyrics, as comprised in the Kalevala. Karelian culture is perceived as the purest expression of the Finnic myths and beliefs, less influenced by Germanic influence, in contrast to Finland's position between the East and the West. Finnish folk music has undergone a roots revival in recent decades, and has become a part of popular music.

Sami music

Main article: Sami music

The people of northern Finland, Sweden and Norway, the Sami, are known primarily for highly spiritual songs called Joik. The same word sometimes refers to lavlu or vuelie songs, though this is technically incorrect.

[edit] Classical and opera

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), a significant figure in the history of classical music.
The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (18651957), a significant figure in the history of classical music.

The first Finnish opera was written by the German composer Fredrik Pacius in 1852. Pacius also wrote Maamme/Vårt land (Our Land), Finland's national anthem. In the 1890s Finnish nationalism based on the Kalevala spread, and Jean Sibelius became famous for his vocal symphony Kullervo. He soon received a grant to study runo singers in Karelia and continued his rise as the first prominent Finnish musician. In 1899 he composed Finlandia, which played its important role in Finland gaining independence. He remains one of Finland's most popular national figures and is a symbol of the nation.

Today, Finland has a very lively classical music scene. Finnish classical music has only existed for about a hundred years, and many of the important composers are still alive, such as Magnus Lindberg and Einojuhani Rautavaara. The composers are accompanied with a large number of great conductors such as Mikko Franck, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Osmo Vänskä, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Susanna Mälkki and Leif Segerstam.

[edit] Popular music

Modern Finnish popular music includes a renowned heavy metal scene, in common with other Nordic countries, as well as a number of prominent rock bands, jazz musicians and hip hop performers. Iskelmä (coined directly from the German word Schlager, meaning hit) is a traditional Finnish word for a light popular song. Finnish popular music also includes various kinds of dance music; tango, a style of Argentinean music, is also popular.

[edit] Heavy metal and hard rock music

Amorphis, Charon, Children of Bodom, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Hanoi Rocks, HIM, The Rasmus, Kotipelto, Nightwish, Sentenced, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, The 69 Eyes and Waltari have had success in European and Japanese heavy metal and hard rock scenes since the 1990s, and has been gaining popularity rapidly in the United States since the late 1990s. In the later 1990s the symphonic metal group Apocalyptica played Metallica cover versions as cello quartettos and sold half a million records worldwide. The recently retired Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus were one of Finland's most popular metal acts in the early 2000s, having risen from the ashes of late 1980s – early 1990s cult band Lyijykomppania.

Another band to enjoy recent commercial success is The Rasmus. After eleven years together and several domestic releases, the band finally captured Europe (and other places, like South America). Their Dead Letters album sold 1.5 million units worldwide and garnered them eight gold and five platinum album designations. The single "In the Shadows" placed on Top 10 charts in eleven countries and was the most played video on MTV Europe for 2005.

Most recently, the Finnish hard rock/heavy metal band Lordi won the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest with a record 292 points, giving Finland its first ever victory. The song they used was the controversial "Hard Rock Hallelujah" and they celebrated the victory with a free concert in the Market Square in Helsinki, Finland, on May 26, 2006.

[edit] Cinema

Main article: Cinema of Finland
See also: List of Finnish films

Finland has a growing film industry with a number of famous directors such as Aki Kaurismäki, Timo Koivusalo, Klaus Härö and actors such as Mikko Leppilampi. Hollywood film director/producer Renny Harlin (born Lauri Mauritz Harjola) was born in Finland.

[edit] Media and communications

See also: Communications in Finland, List of newspapers in Finland, and List of Finnish television stations

Finland is one of the most advanced information societies in the world. There are 200 newspapers; 320 popular magazines, 2,100 professional magazines and 67 commercial radio stations:

Each year around twelve feature films are made, 12,000 book titles published and 12 million records sold. 67% of the population use the Internet.[27]

Finns, along with other Nordic people and the Japanese, spend the most time in the world reading newspapers. The most read newspaper in Finland is Helsingin Sanomat, with a circulation of 434,000. The media group SanomaWSOY behind Helsingin Sanomat also publishes the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat and commerce-oriented Taloussanomat. It also owns the Nelonen television channel. SanomaWSOY's largest shareholder is Aatos Erkko and his family. The other major publisher Alma Media publishes over thirty newspapers, including Aamulehti, Iltalehti and Kauppalehti.

Finland's National Broadcasting Company YLE is an independent state-owned company. It has five television channels and 13 radio channels in two national languages. YLE is funded through a television licence and private television broadcasting license fees. Ongoing transformation to digital TV broadcasting is in progress and analog broadcasts will cease at the end of August, 2007. The most popular television channel MTV3 and the most popular radio channel Radio Nova are owned by Nordic Broadcasting (Bonnier and Proventus Industrier).

The people of Finland are accustomed to technology and information services. The number of cellular phone subscribers as well as the number of Internet connections per capita in Finland are among the highest in the world. According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Finnish mobile phone penetration exceeded 50% of the population as far back as August 1998 – first in the world – and by December 1998 the number of cell phone subscriptions outnumbered fixed-line phone connections. By the end of 2005 there were 5.38 million cellular phone subscribers, or 103% of the population.[28]

Another fast-growing sector is the use of the Internet. According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Finland had more than 1.3 million Internet connections by the end of 2005, i.e., about 250 per 1,000 inhabitants. The Finns are not only connected; they are heavy users of Internet services. All Finnish schools and public libraries have for years been connected to the Internet.

[edit] Cuisine

Karjalanpiirakka, a traditional Finnish pastry.
Karjalanpiirakka, a traditional Finnish pastry.
Main article: Cuisine of Finland

Traditional Finnish cuisine is a combination of European, Fennoscandian and Western Russian elements; table manners are European. The food is generally simple, fresh and healthy. Fish, meat, berries and ground vegetables are typical ingredients whereas spices are not common due to their historical unavailability. In years past, Finnish food often varied from region to region, most notably between the west and east. In coastal and lakeside villages, fish was a main feature of cooking, whereas in the eastern and also northern regions, vegetables and reindeer were more common. Breakfast may be quite substantial, and many nutritionists consider breakfast a very important meal, since it provides vital nourishment and energy for starting the day. The prototypical breakfast is oatmeal or other continental-style foods such as bread. Lunch is usually a full warm meal, served by a canteen at workplaces. Dinner is eaten at around 17.00 to 18.00 at home.

Modern Finnish cuisine combines country fare and haute cuisine with contemporary continental cooking style. Nowadays, spices are a prominent ingredient in many modern Finnish recipes, having been adopted from the east and west in recent decades.

[edit] Public holidays

See also: Flag days 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, Midsummer Day, and the Independence Day. Christmas is the most extensively celebrated holiday: usually at least 23th to 26th of December are holidays.

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 metres of floor space are allowed Sunday business throughout the year, with the exception of official holidays and certain Sundays, such as Mother's Day and Father's Day.

[edit] Sports

Main article: Sport in Finland

Sport is considered a national pastime in Finland and many Finnish people regularly visit different sporting events. Pesäpallo (reminiscent of baseball) is the national sport of Finland, although the most popular sport in Finland in terms of television viewers and media coverage are ice hockey and Formula One. The Finnish ice hockey team is considered one of the best in the world. During the past century there has been a rivalry in sporting between Finland and Sweden, mostly in ice hockey and athletics (Finnkampen). Football is also very popular in Finland, though their national football team has never qualified for a finals tournament of the World Cup or the European Championships.

Finland is the home of Kimi Räikkönen and Mika Häkkinen who are both well-known in Formula One. Historically, Finland has produced most of the world's best rally drivers, including the ex-world champion drivers Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola, Juha Kankkunen, Tommi Mäkinen and Marcus Grönholm. Well-known alpine skiing winners are Kalle Palander, who won the World Championship and Crystal Ball (twice, in Kitzbühel). Tanja Poutiainen has won an Olympic silver medal for alpine skiing, as well as multiple World Championship competitions.

Some of the most outstanding athletes from the past include Hannes Kolehmainen (18901966), Paavo Nurmi (18971973) and Ville Ritola (18961982). Between them they won twenty-five Olympic medals on the track: eighteen gold and seven silver medals. They are also considered to be the first of a generation of great Finnish middle and long-distance runners (and, subsequently, other notable Finnish sportsmen) often named the "Flying Finns". Another long distance runner, Lasse Virén (born 1949), won a total of four gold medals during the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics.

The 1952 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XV Olympiad, were held in 1952 in Helsinki, Finland. Helsinki had been earlier given the 1940 Summer Olympics but they were canceled due to World War II. Other notable sporting events held in Finland include the 1983 and 2005 World Championships in Athletics, among others.

Some of the most popular recreational sports and activities include floorball, Nordic walking, running and skiing.

[edit] Finnishness

Below are listed some of the characteristics of Finnishness. The term "Finnishness" is often referred to as the national identity of the Finnish people and its culture. It can be seen as a highly traditional concept, utilizing different kinds of stereotypes and established clichés about Finland and its people.[citation needed]

Finnish Maiden   symbolising Finland
Kalevala   the national epic of Finland, and Finnish mythology in general
Kantele   traditional musical instrument
Mämmi   traditional Easter food
Kalakukko   traditional Savonian food
Karelian pasties   traditional pasties from the region of Karelia
Joulupukki   Santa Claus
Jean Sibelius   one of the most popular national figures (composer of the symphonic poem Finlandia)
Sauna   a Finnish national institution (see also Finnish sauna)
Sisu   will, determination, perseverance
Perkele   swear word (see Finnish profanity)
Talkoot   community work
Ice swimming   swimming in a body of water with a frozen crust of ice
Nordic walking   a sport first popularized in Finland
Makkara and sinappi   sausage and mustard
Pulla   Finnish dessert bread
Salmiakki   salty liquorice
Sahti   traditional beer
Koskenkorva   Finnish vodka
Reilu meininki   fair dealing
Flying Finn   a nickname given to notable Finnish sportsmen

[edit] Facts and figures

[edit] Miscellaneous

Linus Torvalds, a famous Finnish software engineer.
Linus Torvalds, a famous Finnish software engineer.
  • According to the World Audit study, Finland is the least corrupt and most democratic country in the world as of 2006.[29]
  • In the PISA study, Finland has ranked at the top in education; the study measured the skills of 15-year-olds in topics relevant to everyday life.
  • Finland has been at the top of the worldwide Press Freedom Ranking list every year since the publication of the first index by Reporters Without Borders in 2002.[30]
  • Finland is home to the world's leading mobile phone company, Nokia.
  • Cellular technology: GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS.
  • Cellular frequency: GSM 900, GSM 1800, UMTS 2100
  • The currency is euro, abbreviated , e, or eur, divided into 100 sentti, abbreviated snt (see Finnish euro coins). The smallest coin is the five cent piece; one and two cent euro coins are not actively issued but are in principle legal tender.
  • Voltage: 230V, 50 Hz
  • Power connector, ungrounded: Type C (European 2-pin) – for more details, see CEE 7/16 (Europlug 2.5 A/250 V ungrounded)
  • Power connector, grounded: Type F (German 2-pin round, side clip ground) – for more details, see CEE 7/4 (German "Schuko" 16 A/250 V grounded)
  • Postal code: 5 digits
  • Date format: DD.MM.YYYY (ex. 1.12.2007), DD.MM.YY (ex. 1.12.07) or DD.MM. (ex. 1.12.). Dates written out are written DD. MMta YYYY (e.g. 1. joulukuuta 2007), where the partitive case -ta must be used for months. Month names are never abbreviated (use numerical date instead).
  • The first day of the week is Monday, and the weekdays are maanantai, tiistai, keskiviikko, torstai, perjantai, lauantai, sunnuntai. Weekday names are not capitalized and may be abbreviated with the two first letters (i.e. ma, ti, ke, to, pe, la, su).
  • The Gregorian calendar is used. Week numbers are commonly used in businesses and institutions.
  • Decimal separator is a comma: 123,45
  • Thousands are (optionally) separated by a space: 10 000
  • Currency sign is placed after the digits, with a space as a mandatory separator: 10 €
  • Percent sign is placed after the digits, with a separating space: 10 %
  • The Finnish alphabet includes no accented letters, but the additional letters Ä and Ö are used in Finnish. Furthermore, Å is used in Swedish, and is included in the Finnish alphabet. In some rare instances, one also needs the letters Š and Ž.
  • The Finnish QWERTY keyboard layout is shared with Swedish. A demo version of a new keyboard layout, which is meant to help typing accented characters, was released in Summer 2006.

[edit] International rankings

This list contains a maximum of three years per survey. For a more complete list, see International rankings of Finland.
Organisation Survey Year Ranking
A.T. Kearney /
Foreign Policy
Globalization Index 2004
Rank 5 out of 62 countries
Rank 10 out of 62 countries
Rank 13 out of 62 countries
Columbia University /
Yale University
Environmental Sustainability Index 2001
Rank 1 out of 122 countries
Rank 1 out of 142 countries
Rank 1 out of 146 countries
Heritage Foundation /
The Wall Street Journal
Index of Economic Freedom 2006 Rank 12 out of 157 countries
IMD International World Competitiveness Yearbook 2004
Rank 8 out of 60 economies (countries and regions)
Rank 10 out of 61 economies
NationMaster Technological Achievement 2001 Rank 1 out of 68 countries
OECD, PISA Programme for International
Student Assessment
Rank 1 of 43 countries in reading performance.
Out of 41 countries: rank 2 in mathematics, rank 1 in reading literatucy, rank 1 in science (tied with Japan), rank 2 in problem solving
Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Ranking 2004
Rank 1 out of 167 countries (tied with Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland)
Rank 1 out of 167 countries (tied with Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland)

Rank 1 out of 168 countries (tied with Iceland, Ireland and Netherlands)
Save the Children State of the World’s Mothers 2004
Rank 2 out of 119 countries (tied with Denmark)
Rank 3 out of 109 countries
Rank 2 out of 125 countries (tied with Denmark)
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2004
Rank 1 out of 146 countries
Rank 2 out of 158 countries (tied with New Zealand)
Rank 1 out of 163 countries (tied with Iceland and New Zealand)
UNDP Human Development Index 2004
Rank 13 out of 177 countries
Rank 13 out of 177 countries
Rank 11 out of 177 countries
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2005–2006
Growth Competitiveness Index Ranking – Rank 1 out of 117 countries
Growth Competitiveness Index Ranking – Rank 2 out of 125 countries World Democracy Audit 2006 Rank 1 out of 150 countries

[edit] See also

Runeberg's tart is a Finnish pastry available on the poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg's birthday on February 5.
Runeberg's tart is a Finnish pastry available on the poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg's birthday on February 5.

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Suomen ennakkoväkiluku joulukuun lopussa 5 276 571 (Finnish). Statistics Finland, December 2006. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  2. ^ The population of Finland. Population Register Center. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  3. ^ Human Development Report. United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved on January 29, 2007.
  4. ^ Psychologist Produces The First-ever 'World Map Of Happiness'. Science Daily (2006-11-14). Retrieved on January 29, 2007.
  5. ^ The Rock paintings of Astuvansalmi at Ristiina. UNESCO World Heritage Centre (UNESCO). Retrieved on January 23, 2007.
  6. ^ Prehistory. Virtual Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  7. ^ Finland at a glance. Virtual Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  8. ^ List of entities considered to be confederations. Retrieved on January 23, 2007.
  9. ^ National Archives Service, Finland (in English). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  10. ^ Statistics Finland. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  11. ^ Trends in sea level variability. Finnish Institute of Marine Research (2004-08-24). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  12. ^ BirdLife Finland. BirdLife International (2004) Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. Cambridge, UK. (BirdLife Conservation Series No. 12). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  13. ^ Saimaa ringed seal. Virtual Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland). Retrieved on March 20, 2007.
  14. ^ Everyman's right. Finland's Environmental Administration. Retrieved on March 21, 2007.
  15. ^ Aunesluoma, Juhana; Heikkonen, Esko; Ojakoski, Matti (2006). Lukiolaisen yhteiskuntatieto. WSOY. 
  16. ^ Kirkon väestötilastot tarkentuneet – Suomalaisista 82,4 prosenttia kuuluu luterilaiseen kirkkoon (Finnish). Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (2007-02-19). Retrieved on February 19, 2007.
  17. ^ Finland in Figures. Statistics Finland. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  18. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2004. U.S. Department of State (2004-09-15). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  19. ^ Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child weill-being in rich countries (PDF). UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre. Retrieved on February 14, 2007.
  20. ^ The Global Competitiveness Report 2006–2007: Country Highlights. World Economic Forum. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  21. ^ Health (2004). Statistics Finland. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  22. ^ Fat to fit: how Finland did it. Guardian Unlimited (2005-01-15). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  23. ^ Global Corruption Report. Transparency International. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  24. ^ Energy Consumption in 2001 (PDF). Statistics Finland. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  25. ^ Global Competitiveness Report. World Economic Forum. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  26. ^ Virtual Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  27. ^ The Finnish Media: outlets increase, audiences diversify. Virtual Finland (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  28. ^ Suomalaisilla on 5,4 miljoonaa matkapuhelinliittymää (Finnish). (2006-04-26). Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  29. ^ Finland: World Audit Democracy Profile. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.
  30. ^ Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006. Reporters Without Borders. Retrieved on January 22, 2007.

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

Find more information on Finland by searching Wikipedia's sister projects
 Dictionary definitions from Wiktionary
 Textbooks from Wikibooks
 Quotations from Wikiquote
 Source texts from Wikisource
 Images and media from Commons
 News stories from Wikinews
 Learning resources from Wikiversity

 Geographic locale
International membership