2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Countries; European Countries

Landskapet Åland
Ahvenanmaan maakunta

Åland Islands
Flag of Åland Coat of arms of Åland
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: none
Anthem: Ålänningens sång
Location of Åland
(and largest city)
60°7′N 19°54′E
Official languages Swedish
Government Autonomous province
 - Governor Peter Lindbäck1
 - Premier Roger Nordlund
 - Declared 1920 
 - Recognized 19212 
Accession to EU January 1, 19953
 - Total 13,517 km² ( n/a)
5,267 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 89
 - 2005 estimate 26,711 ( n/a)
 - n/a census n/a
 - Density 17.5/km² ( n/a)
45.3/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) n/a estimate
 - Total n/a ( n/a)
 - Per capita n/a ( n/a)
HDI  (2003) n/a (n/a) ( unranked)
Currency Euro (€)4 ( EUR)
Time zone EET ( UTC+2)
 - Summer ( DST) EEST ( UTC+3)
Internet TLD .ax5
Calling code +358 (area code 18)
1 The governor is an administrative post appointed by the Government of Finland, and does not have any authority over the autonomous Government of Åland.
2 Settled by the League of Nations following the Åland crisis.
3 Åland held a separate referendum and then joined at the same time as the rest of Finland.
4 Until 1999, the Finnish mark.
5 Replacing .aland.fi from August 2006.

Åland (pronounced IPA: ['oːland] in Swedish), also called the Åland Islands or Ahvenanmaa(n maakunta) (in Finnish, meaning " Perch Land"), is an archipelago in the Baltic Sea. It is situated at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia and forms an autonomous, demilitarised, monolingually Swedish-speaking administrative province of Finland.

The islands consist of the main island Fasta Åland (where 90% of the population resides) and an archipelago to the east that consists of over 6,500 skerries and islands. Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Sweden by forty kilometres (twenty-five miles) of open water to the west. In the east, the Åland archipelago is virtually contiguous with the Finnish Archipelago Sea. Åland's only land border is extremely short and strangely shaped; it is located on the uninhabited island of Märket, which it shares with Sweden.

Due to Åland's autonomous status, the powers exercised at the provincial level by representatives of the central state administration in the rest of Finland are largely exercised by the Government of Åland in Åland.

Autonomy of Åland

The autonomous status of the islands was affirmed by a decision made by the League of Nations in 1921 and, in a somewhat different context, reaffirmed in the treaty on Finland's admission to the European Union. By law, Åland is politically neutral and entirely demilitarised. The islands were granted extensive autonomy by the Parliament of Finland in the Act on the Autonomy of Åland of 1920, which was last replaced by new legislation by the same name in 1951 and 1991.

In connection with Finland's admission to the European Union, a protocol was signed concerning the Åland Islands that stipulates, among other things, that provisions of the European Community Treaty shall not force a change of the existing restrictions for foreigners (i.e. persons who do not enjoy "home region rights" (hembygdsrätt) in Åland) to acquire and hold real property or to provide certain services, implying a recognition of a separate nationality.


The museum ship Pommern is anchored in the more western of Mariehamn's two harbours, Västerhamn
The museum ship Pommern is anchored in the more western of Mariehamn's two harbours, Västerhamn

The Åland Islands were part of the territory ceded to Russia by Sweden under the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in September 1809. As a result, they became part of the semi- autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland.

During this process, Sweden was unable to secure a provision that the islands not be fortified. The issue was important not only for Sweden but also for the United Kingdom, which was concerned that a military presence on the islands could threaten Britain's security and commercial interests.

In 1832, Russia started to fortify the islands with the great fortress of Bomarsund. This was captured and destroyed by a combined British and French force of warships and marines in 1854 as part of the campaign in the Baltic during the Crimean War. In the Treaty of Paris (1856), the entire Åland Islands were demilitarized.

During the Finnish Civil War, in 1918, Swedish troops intervened as a peacekeeping force between the Russian troops stationed on the islands and "White" and "Red" Finnish troops that came from Finland over the frozen sea. Historians however point out that Sweden may have in reality planned to occupy the islands. Within weeks, the Swedish troops gave way to German troops that occupied Åland by request of the "White" ( conservative) Finnish Senate.

After 1917, the residents of the islands worked towards having the islands ceded back to their mother country, Sweden. A petition for secession from Finland was signed by 96.2% of Åland's native adults (those working or living abroad excluded), although serious questions were later raised regarding this extraordinarily high figure. Swedish nationalist sentiments had grown strong particularly due to the following issues: anti-Swedish tendencies in Finland, Finnish nationalism fuelled by Finland's struggle to retain its autonomy, and the Finnish resistance against Russification. In addition, the conflict between the Swedish-speaking minority and the Finnish-speaking majority (on the mainland), which since the 1840s had been prominent in Finland's political life, contributed to the Åland population's apprehension about its future in Finland.

Finland was however not willing to cede the islands and instead offered them an autonomous status. Nevertheless the residents did not approve the offer, and the dispute over the islands was submitted to the League of Nations. The latter decided that Finland should retain the sovereignty over the province but that the Åland Islands should be made an autonomous territory. Thus Finland was obliged to ensure the residents of the Åland Islands the right to maintain the Swedish language, as well as their own culture and local traditions. At the same time, an international treaty established the neutral status of Åland, whereby it was prohibited to place military headquarters or forces on the islands.

In the course of the 20th century, increasing numbers of the islanders have perceived Finnish sovereignty as benevolent and even beneficial. The combination of disappointment about insufficient support from Sweden in the League of Nations, Swedish disrespect for Åland's demilitarised status in the 1930s, and some feelings of a shared destiny with Finland during and after World War II has changed the islanders perception of Åland's relation to Finland from "a Swedish province in Finnish possession" to "an autonomous part of Finland".


The Åland Islands during the Crimean War.
The Åland Islands during the Crimean War.

The Åland Islands are governed according to the Act on the Autonomy of Åland and international treaties, which guarantee autonomy and a demilitarised status. The Government of Åland, or Landskapsregering, is dependent on the Parliament of Åland, or Lagting, according to the principles of parliamentarism.

Åland has its own national flag, has issued its own postage stamps since 1984, has its own police force, and is a member of the Nordic Council. The islands are demilitarised, and the male population is exempt from conscription. Åland autonomy preceded the creation of the regions of Finland, but the autonomous government of Åland also handles what the regional councils do.

Finland has sovereignty over Åland, which is thus not independent. The Åland Islands are guaranteed representation in the Finnish parliament, to which they elect one representative.


The State Provincial Office on the Åland Islands has a somewhat different function from the other Provinces of Finland, due to its autonomy. Generally, a State Provincial Office is a joint regional authority of seven different ministries of the Government of Finland. In Åland, the State Provincial Office also represents a set of other authorities of the central government, which in Mainland Finland has separate bureaucracies. On the other hand, duties which in Mainland Finland are handled by the provincial offices, are transferred to the autonomous government of Åland.

Åland has its own post office but uses the Finnish five-digit postal code system, in which postal codes beginning with 22XXX are reservated for it. The smallest postal code is for the capital Mariehamn, 22100, and the highest 22950 for Jurmo.


  • Brändö
  • Eckerö
  • Finström
  • Föglö
  • Geta
  • Hammarland
  • Jomala
  • Kumlinge
  • Kökar
  • Lemland
  • Lumparland
  • Mariehamn
  • Saltvik
  • Sottunga
  • Sund
  • Vårdö


Åland Islands (larger map)
Åland Islands ( larger map)

The Åland Islands occupy a position of great strategic importance, as they command one of the entrances to the port of Stockholm, as well as the approaches to the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to being situated near the Gulf of Finland.

The Åland archipelago consists of nearly three hundred inhabitable islands, of which about eighty are inhabited; the remainder are merely some 6,000 skerries and desolate rocks. The archipelago is connected to Turkuland archipelago in the east ( Finnish: Turunmaan saaristo, Swedish: Åbolands skärgård) — the archipelago adjacent to the southwest coast of Finland. Together they form the Archipelago Sea.

The surface of the islands is generally rocky, the soil thin, and the climate keen. There are several excellent harbours, most notably at Ytternäs.

The islands' landmass occupies a total area of 1,512 square kilometres (583  sq. mi). Ninety per cent of the population live on Fasta Åland (the Main Island), also the site of the capital town of Mariehamn. Fasta Åland is the largest island in the archipelago, extending over 1,010 square kilometres, more than 70% of the province's land area, and stretching 50 kilometres (31  mi) from north to south and 45 kilometres (28 mi) from east to west.

During the Åland crisis, the parties sought support from different maps of the islands. On the Swedish map, the most densely populated main island dominated, and many skerries were left out. On the Finnish map, a lot of smaller islands or skerries were, for technical reasons, given a slightly exaggerated size. The Swedish map made the islands appear to be closer to the mainland of Sweden than to Finland; the Finnish map stressed the continuity of the archipelago between the main island and mainland Finland, while a greater gap appeared between the islands and the archipelago on the Swedish side. Although both Finns and Swedes of course argued for their respective interpretations, in retrospect it is hard to say that one is more correct than the other. One consequence is the oft-repeated number of "over 6,000" skerries, that was given authority by the outcome of the arbitration.


A transnational Euroregion encompasses Åland and nearby coastal archipelagoes (skärgårdar).
A transnational Euroregion encompasses Åland and nearby coastal archipelagoes (skärgårdar).

Åland's economy is heavily dominated by shipping, trade and tourism. Shipping represents about 40% of the economy, with several international carriers owned and operated off Åland. Most companies aside from shipping are small, with fewer than ten employees. Farming and fishing are important in combination with the food industry. A few high-profile technology companies contribute to a prosperous economy.

The main ports are Mariehamn (south), Berghamn (west) and Långnäs on the eastern shore of the Main Island.

The abolition of tax-free sales on ferry boats travelling between destinations within the European Union made Finland demand an exception for the Åland Islands on EU's VAT rules. The exception allows for maintained tax-free sales on the ferries between Sweden and Finland (provided they stop at Mariehamn), but has also made Åland a different tax-zone, meaning that tariffs must be levied on goods brought to the islands.

Unemployment is well below that of surrounding regions, 1.8% in 2004.

The Finnish State collects taxes, duties and fees also in Åland. In return, the Finnish Government places a sum of money at the disposal of the Åland Parliament. The sum is 0.45 per cent of total Government income, excluding Government loans. In 2005, the sum was over 225 million USD.


Most inhabitants have Swedish (the sole official language) as their first language: 92.4% in 2004, and 5.0% speak Finnish. The language of instruction in publicly financed schools is Swedish, but an Ålandic municipality is free to provide teaching of Finnish. (In the rest of Finland, both Finnish and Swedish are official languages.) 0.3% (77 people) are English speakers.

Regional citizenship or the right of domicile (hembygdsrätt/ kotiseutuoikeus) is a prerequisite for the right to vote or stand as a candidate in elections to the Legislative Assembly, to own and hold real estate in Åland or to exercise without restriction a trade or profession in Åland.

The vast majority of the population, 94.8%, belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The issue of the ethnicity of the Ålanders, and the correct linguistic classification of their language, remains somewhat sensitive and controversial. They may be considered either ethnic Swedes or Swedish-speaking Finns, but their language is closer to the adjacent dialects in Sweden, i.e. Uppländska, than to adjacent dialects of Finland Swedish.

  • Listen to Ålandish


  • The Åland Islands are mentioned as the location where the character Hooper Hamilton in H.G. Wells' book The Shape of Things to Come committs suicide.


Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day Nyårsdagen  
January 6 Epiphany Trettondagen  
March 30 Åland's Demilitarisation Day   Peace in 1856 after the Crimean war
Moveable Friday Good Friday Långfredag The Friday before Easter Sunday
Moveable Sunday Easter Sunday Påskdagen  
Moveable Monday Easter Monday Annandag påsk The day after Easter Sunday
April 30 Walpurgis Night Valborgsmässoafton  
May 1 May Day Första maj  
Moveable Thursday Ascension Day Kristi himmelsfärdsdag 40 days after Easter
Moveable Sunday Pentecost Pingstdagen 50 days after Easter
Moveable Monday Whitmonday Annandag Pingst 51 days after Easter
June 9 Åland's national holiday   First congregation of the regional government
Third Friday of June Midsummer Eve Midsommarafton  
Third Saturday of June Midsummer Day Midsommardagen  
First Saturday of November All Saints Day Alla helgons dag  
December 6 Independence day Självständighetsdagen Independence of Finland ( 1917)
December 24 Christmas Eve Julafton  
December 25 Christmas Day Juldagen  
December 26 Boxing Day Annandag jul  


Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%85land"