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

Suomen tasavalta
Republiken Finland

Republic of Finland
Flag of Finland Coat of arms of Finland
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: none
(the words vapaa, vankka, vakaa, i.e., "free, tough, stable," were suggested as addition to the coat of arms, but were dropped)
Anthem: Maamme ( Finnish) / Vårt land ( Swedish)
(English: Our Land)
Location of Finland
(and largest city)
60°10′N 24°56′E
Official languages Finnish, Swedish
Government Parliamentary democracy 1
 - President Tarja Halonen
 - Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen
Independence From Bolshevist Russia 
 - 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
 - 2006 estimate 5,274,820 ( October 2006) ( 112th)
 - 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 ( 32nd)
 - Per capita $37,504 ( 11th)
HDI  (2004) 0.947 (high) ( 11th)
Currency Euro ( €)2 ( EUR)
Time zone EET ( UTC+2)
 - Summer ( DST) EEST ( UTC+3)
Internet TLD .fi 3
Calling code +358
1 Semi-presidential system
2 Prior to 2002: Finnish markka.
3 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 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 south-western coast, are an autonomous province of Finland.

Finland has a population of 5,274,820 people spread over more than 330,000 km² (127,000  sq. mi) making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world.

Finland is ranked 11th on the 2006 United Nations Human Development Index.

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.


Prehistory (8500 BCE– )

According to archaeological evidence, the area now comprising 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). It has been postulated and held probable that the 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. 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 3rd millennium B.C. Hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy, especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

The Bronze Age ( 1500– 500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE– 1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with Scandinavia, northern Russia and the Baltic region. Inhabitants of Finland - like the Kvens - and their "kings" are mentioned in some historic chronicles and other writings such as the Scandinavian sagas. There are also some written documents from the 13th century.

The Swedish reign (1154–1809)

Olavinlinna (the medieval St. Olaf's Castle) in Savonlinna, the venue for the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival. Built in 1475.
Olavinlinna (the medieval St. Olaf's Castle) in Savonlinna, the venue for the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival. Built in 1475.

The beginning of Finland's nearly 700-year association with the Kingdom of Sweden is traditionally connected with the year 1154 and the hypothesised introduction of Christianity by Sweden's King Erik. However, archaeological evidence points to prior Christian influences in south-western and south-eastern Finland and include both western and eastern Christian artefacts. Historically (more documented), the union began upon Birger jarl's expedition to Finland in 1249. 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. Not until the 16th century were the first written works published in Finnish by Mikael Agricola.

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 18th century, virtually all of Finland was twice occupied by Russian forces (1714–1721 and 1742–1743), known by the Finns as the Greater Wrath and the Lesser Wrath. 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 – i.e. the south-western 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.

Finland as a Grand Duchy of Russia (1809–1917)

The 13 of 19 women elected to Parliament in 1907. The Finnish Parliament is celebrating its centenary in 2006–2007.
The 13 of 19 women elected to Parliament in 1907. The Finnish Parliament is celebrating its centenary in 2006–2007.

On March 29, 1809, after being conquered by the armies of Russian Emperor Alexander I, Finland became an 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. 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.

The independent republic, 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 property–less 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.

The inter-war era (1918–1939)

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 30´s. However, legislators reacted against Communism and the relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union remained tense.

Finland in World War II (1939–1945)

Fokker D.XXI planes of the Finnish Air Force during World War II.
Fokker D.XXI planes of the Finnish Air Force during World War II.

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–1940 and in the Continuation War of 1941–1944 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 sea 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 Petsamo, which amounted to 10% of its land area, 20% of industrial capacity and 400,000 evacuees. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as 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 finally cleared it in 2006.

The post-war era and modern history

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 by President Urho Kekkonen against his opponents in instances such as the 1958 crisis in Finno-Soviet relations (the so-called "night frost," yöpakkaset, in the relations). 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 a sophisticated social welfare system. When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the bilateral trade disappeared overnight, and Finland was simultaneously hit by a "home-cooked" severe recession. This left a mass unemployment problem, but the economy survived and began growing at a high rate after the recession. 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.

The first modern democracy

The Parliament of Finland is celebrating its centenary in 2006 and 2007. The 100th anniversary of the approval of the Parliament Act and Election Act by the Diet was on 1 June 2006. On 23 May 2007 is the 100th anniversary of the first plenary session of Finland's unicameral parliament. The theme of the centenary is "The right to vote – trust in law. One hundred years of Finnish democracy." The anniversary festivities focus on the parliamentary reform of the early 20th century and the introduction of equal and universal suffrage and full political rights for women. These reforms included the introduction of a proportional representation, open list voting system as well as the right to vote and to also be elected for all citizens, including women. A total of 19 female MPs were elected in the first election.

On May 23rd 2006, a statue was unveiled to honour the work of female MPs.

A hundred years ago, Finland was an autonomous part of the Russian Empire. The members of the four estates in the then autonomous legislative assembly, the diet, represented only a small fraction of the population. A reform of the parliamentary system and electoral law gave Finland the first modern representative institution and democracy in the world. Universal and equal suffrage was introduced and Finnish women became the first in the world to enjoy full political rights, resulting in 19 elected women in the first modern democratic election.


The name Suomi has uncertain origins but a strong candidate for a cognate is the Baltic word zeme meaning "ground, earth, country." In another approach, Finnish suo means " fen," which is one of the characteristic biotypes of Finland; it is thought that Finland might have been called Suomaa by the early Finns. In Finnish, suomaa means Fen Land (Land of the Fens).

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 11th century.

Geography and nature

Koli, one of the many national parks of Finland.
Koli, one of the many national parks of Finland.
Lake Päijänne, one of the largest lakes. Päijätsalo island on the right belongs to the Päijänne National Park.
Lake Päijänne, one of the largest lakes. Päijätsalo island on the right belongs to the Päijänne National Park.


Finland is a country of thousands of lakes and islands; 187,888 lakes (larger than 500 m²) and 179,584 islands to be precise . One of these lakes, Saimaa, is the 5th largest in Europe. The Finnish landscape is mostly flat with few hills and its highest point, the Halti at 1,328 metres, is found in the extreme north of Lapland. Besides the many lakes the landscape is dominated by extensive boreal forests (about 75 per cent of land area) and little arable land. The greater part of the islands are found in south-west, part of the archipelago of the Åland Islands, and along the southern coast in the Gulf of Finland. Finland is one of the few countries in the world that is still growing. Owing to the 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 a year.


The climate in Southern Finland is a northern temperate climate. In Northern Finland, particularly in the Province of Lapland, a subarctic climate dominates, characterised by cold, occasionally severe, winters and relatively warm summers. Finland is near enough to the Atlantic 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 days during summer, and does not rise at all for 51 days in winter.

Administrative divisions

Municipalities and regions

Legally, Finland has two levels of democratic government: the state, and 432 municipalities. 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 74 sub-regions and 20 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 similar regional elections.

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 December 31, 2005. Notice that the capital area - comprising Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen - forms a continuous conurbation and might sometimes be considered as a single city in economic terms although the four of them are all independent cities.

Rank Municipality Population Land Area Density
Helsinki 564,643 184.47 3,060.89
Espoo 234,520 312 751.66
Tampere 206,171 523.4 393.9
Vantaa 189,694 240.84 787.63
Turku 175,508 243.4 721.06
Oulu 129,960 369.43 351.78
Lahti 98,721 134.95 731.53
Kuopio 91,087 1,127.4 80.79
Jyväskylä 84,916 105.9 801.85
Pori 76,195 503.17 151.42
Lappeenranta 59,121 758 77.99
Rovaniemi 58,072 7,600.73 7.64
Joensuu 57,851 1,173.4 49.30
Vaasa 57,664 183 315.10
Kotka 54,680 272 201.02

Subdivisions and provinces

Provinces of Finland

The state organization is divided into 6 administrative provinces (lääni, pl. läänit) The provinces are further divided into 90 state local districts. The provincial authority is part of the executive branch of the national government, and is not democratically controlled except through the national parliament. 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 – referring to the 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.

Another kind of provinces are those echoing the pattern of colonization 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 20th century have made differences less pronounced.

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


Detailed map of Finland
Detailed map of Finland


Finland numbers 5.2 million inhabitants and has an average population density of 17 inhabitants per square kilometre. 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 20th century urbanisation. The biggest and most important cities in Finland are the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area (including the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa), Tampere, Turku, and Oulu.

After the Winter War (1939) (and confirmed by the outcome of the Continuation War) 12% of Finland's population had to be re-settled. War reparations, unemployment, and uncertainty regarding Finland's chances to remain sovereign and independent of the Soviet Union contributed to considerable emigration, abating first in the 1970s. Until then, some 500,000 Finns had emigrated, chiefly to Sweden, although half of the emigrants ultimately immigrated 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. A considerable number of immigrants have come from the former Soviet Union claiming ethnic ( Finnic) kinship. However, over 20 languages are now spoken in Finland by immigrant groups of significant size — that is, with at least a thousand speakers.


Most Finns (92%) speak Finnish as their mother tongue, while the largest minority language is Swedish (5.5%). To the north, in Lapland, are found 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. Swedish-speaking Finns are considered the same ethnicity as the Finnish-speaking majority. 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 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.

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 language, 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 about 7,000 live in Finland. That is about 0.14% of the population of Finland.


Most people are secular in their views, and religion plays no significant part in everyday life in Finland. Most Finns (83.1%) are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, with a minority of 1.1% belonging to the Finnish Orthodox Church (see Eastern Orthodox Church). These two churches are the official churches of Finland. The remainder of the population consists of relatively small groups of other Protestant denominations, Catholics, Muslims and Jews beside the growing population of unaffiliated (14.7%). Church attendance however is much lower than these figures may suggest: most Finns 'rarely or never' visit a church, and even then it is mostly for occasions like weddings.


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.


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.

Finland has a public healthcare system. 18.9% of healthcare is funded by the households themselves, 76.6% is publicly funded, and the rest of the funding comes from elsewhere. There is 307 population for one doctor.

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

Government and politics

The Finnish Parliament House in Helsinki.
The Finnish Parliament House in Helsinki.

Political system

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. Their jurisdiction can be illustrated with an example: Parents unsatisfied with the school placement of their child would appeal against the board of education in an administrative court as the school placement is subject to an administrative decision. Finnish law is codified and its court system consists of local courts, regional appellate courts, and the Supreme Court. The administrative branch of justice consists of administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court. The administrative process has more popularity as it is cheaper and has lower financial risk to the person making claims. In addition to the regular courts, there are a few special courts in certain branches of administration. There is also a High Court of Impeachment for criminal charges (for an offence in office) against the President of the Republic, the justices of the supreme courts, members 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. 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 US 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 Finnish-Soviet Agreement of Friendship, Co-operation, 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 their survey for the last several years.

Presidents of Finland

Name Born–Died In office
Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg 1865– 1952 1919– 1925
Lauri Kristian Relander 1883– 1942 1925– 1931
Pehr Evind Svinhufvud 1861– 1944 1931– 1937
Kyösti Kallio 1873– 1940 1937– 1940
Risto Heikki Ryti 1889– 1956 1940– 1944
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim 1867– 1951 1944– 1946
Juho Kusti Paasikivi 1870– 1956 1946– 1956
Urho Kaleva Kekkonen 1900– 1986 1956– 1981
Mauno Henrik Koivisto 1923– 1982– 1994
Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari 1937– 1994– 2000
Tarja Kaarina Halonen 1943– 2000–


The Finnish Parliament consists of one chamber with 200 members. The members are elected for a four-year term by direct popular vote under a system of proportional representation.

After the parliamentary elections on March 16, 2003, the seats were divided among eight parties as follows:

Party Seats % of votes
The Centre Party
The Social Democratic Party
The National Coalition Party
The Left Wing Alliance
The Green League
The Swedish People's Party
The Christian Democrats
The True Finns
Others (province of Åland representative)

The next Finnish parliamentary election is scheduled to be held on March 18, 2007.

Energy policy

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. It has thus done pioneering work on developing more efficient ways of using energy.

Until the 1960s, Finnish energy policy relied on the electricity produced by hydropower stations and extensive decentralized 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 '50s. In 2001, 18% of all electricity consumed in Finland was produced by the country's four nuclear power plants. Energy policy became a burning issue in Finland when industry applied for permission to build a new nuclear power unit, Finland'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 is currently under construction.

About one fifth of all the energy consumed in Finland is still wood-based. About 7% of electricity is produced from peat harvested from Finland's extensive bogs. In recent years, a varying amount (5-17%) of power has been imported from Russia and Sweden.

Foreign relations

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 neighbors, 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 authorized 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 program 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.

Defence Forces

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 6 to 12 months. However, inhabitants of Finland's Åland islands and Jehovah's Witnesses are exempt. Also a 13-month-long non-military service is possible. As of 1995, women were permitted to serve 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
  • 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.

Industry, economy and globalisation

Headquarters of Fortum Corporation in Espoo.
Headquarters of Fortum Corporation in Espoo.
Headquarters of Nokia, the largest company in Finland.
Headquarters of Nokia, the largest company in Finland.

General situation

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.

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 for example Sweden, UK, France and Germany. Its key economic sector is manufacturing of principally wood, metal, engineering, telecommunications and electronic products. 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 fell into a deep recession 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. 1991 and again in 1992, Finland devalued the markka to promote export competitiveness. This helped stabilise the economy; the recession bottomed out in 1993, with continued growth through 1995. Since then the growth rate has been one of the highest of OECD countries.

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 11 countries joining the euro monetary system ( EMU) on January 1, 1999. The national currency markka (FIM) in circulation was withdrawn and replaced by euro (EUR) in the beginning of 2002. (See also: Finnish euro coins)

Finland has been declared the most competitive country in the world for three consecutive years 2003–2005 (four times in the last five years) by the World Economic Forum. In recent years there has been national focus on research and product development, with special emphasis on information technology. It could be said that Nokia, in its own right, is the secret behind the Finns' success in harnessing what is one of today's most promising branches of industry, the telecommunications sector.

Public transport

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.
Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.

The transport system of Finland 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 has 148 airports, the largest being Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, and a considerable number of large ports.

The Finnish rail system is called VR. It offers InterCity and express trains throughout the country and the faster Pendolino trains connecting the major cities. There are very 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) to Russia. Connections to Sweden are by bus due to rail gauge differences. It's possible to take the Silja 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 visa versa.


Strong Finnish sauna culture is one of the remains of the aboriginal Finnish culture.
Strong Finnish sauna culture is one of the remains of the aboriginal Finnish culture.

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. Especially in Eastern Finland and Karelia, many influences from Russia (Orthodox) are present. 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 maintain their own cultural characteristics, such as the Sami and Swedish Finns. Many Finns are emotionally connected to the countryside and nature, as urbanisation is a relatively recent phenomenon.


Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), a Finnish composer of classical music.
Jean Sibelius ( 1865- 1957), a Finnish composer of classical music.

Much of the music of Finland is influenced by Karelian traditional tunes 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. The people of northern Finland, the Sami, have their own musical traditions, collectively Sami music.

Modern Finnish popular music includes a renowned death 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 a large amount of opera and various kinds of dance music; tango, a style of Argentinian music, is also popular.

Nightwish, Amorphis, Waltari, Stratovarius, Kotipelto, Sentenced, Sonata Arctica, Children of Bodom, Charon, HIM, and The 69 Eyes 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 songs 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. 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.


A bowl of mämmi.
A bowl of mämmi.

Finnish cuisine is a mixture of European, Scandinavian (Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden) and Russian elements; table manners are European. The food is traditionally simple; fish, meat, potatoes and vegetables play prominent roles. Spices are usually sparse in Finnish cuisine. Finnish breakfast can be quite substantial. The prototypical breakfast is oatmeal. Lunch is usually taken between 11.00 and 13.00. A typical lunch break at work lasts less than one hour. Lunch is usually a full warm meal, served by a canteen at workplaces. Dinner is eaten at around 17.00–18.00 at home; in restaurants, evening meals are served at around 19.00–20.00. Many restaurants stop serving some time before they actually close, so it is worthwhile checking the opening hours when booking a table. Concerts and theatre performances usually begin at 19.00 or 19.30, and audiences adjourn to restaurants at around 22.00.

Public holidays

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 Independence Day.

In addition to this all Sundays are official holidays but they are not as important as the special holidays. The names of the Sundays follow the liturgical calendar and they can be categorised as Christian holidays. When the standard working week in Finland was reduced to 40 hours by an act of Parliament it also meant that all Saturdays became a sort of de facto public holidays, though not official ones. Easter Sunday and Pentecost are Sundays that form part of a main holiday and they are preceded by a kind of special Saturdays. Retail stores are prohibited by law from doing business on Sundays, except during the summer months (May through August) and in the pre-Christmas season (November and December). Business locations that have less than 400 square 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.


Sport is considered a national pastime in Finland and many Finnish people regularly visit different sporting events. The most popular sport in Finland is ice hockey and the Finnish ice hockey team is considered one of the best in the world. Football and Finnish baseball are also very popular and Finland is the home for Kimi Räikkönen and Mika Häkkinen who are both well-known in Formula 1. Historically, Finland has produced the worlds best rally drivers with ex-world champion drivers Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola, Tommi Mäkinen and Marcus Grönholm among others all hailing from Finland. During the past century there has been a rivaly in sporting between Finland and Sweden, mostly in ice hockey and athletics ( Finnkampen).

Facts and figures

Linus Torvalds, a famous Finnish software engineer.
Linus Torvalds, a famous Finnish software engineer.

International rankings

Organization Survey Year Ranking
A.T. Kearney /
Foreign Policy
Globalization Index 2004
Rank 5 out of 62 countries
Rank 10 out of 62 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 Programme for International
Student Assessment
2003 Rank 1 out of 41 countries in mathematics
Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Ranking 2002
Rank 1 out of 139 countries (tied with Iceland, Netherlands and Norway)
Rank 1 out of 166 countries (tied with Iceland, Netherlands and Norway)
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
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 1999
Rank 2 out of 85 countries
Rank 2 out of 99 countries
Rank 1 out of 91 countries
Rank 1 out of 102 countries
Rank 1 out of 133 countries
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 2005 Rank 13 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

Neighbouring countries

Flag of Norway Norway
Flag of Sweden Sweden
Gulf of Bothnia
North Flag of Russia Russia
West   Flag of Finland Finland    East
Baltic Sea Gulf of Finland
Flag of Estonia Estonia
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