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Finland (pronounced ), officially the Republic of Finland ( ), is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of northern Europe. It is bordered by Swedenmarker on the west, Russiamarker on the east, and Norwaymarker on the north, while Estoniamarker lies to its south across the Gulf of Finlandmarker. The capital city is Helsinkimarker.

Around 5.3 million people reside in Finland, with the majority concentrated in the southern part of the country. It is the eighth largest country in Europe in terms of area and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. The native language of nearly all of the population is Finnish, which is a member of the Finno-Ugric language family and most closely related to Estonian. The language is one of only four official EU languages not of Indo-European origin. The second official language of Finland – Swedish – is the native language of 5.5 percent of the population. Finland is a parliamentary republic with a mostly Helsinki-based central government and local governments in 348 municipalities. A total of about one million residents live in the Greater Helsinki area (which includes Helsinkimarker, Espoomarker, Kauniainenmarker, and Vantaamarker), and a third of the country's GDP is produced there. Other major cities include Tamperemarker, Turkumarker, Oulumarker, Jyväskylämarker, Kuopiomarker, and Lahtimarker.

Finland was historically a part of Sweden and from 1809 an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empiremarker. Finland's declaration of independence from Russiamarker in 1917 was followed by a civil war, wars against the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and a period of official neutrality during the Cold War. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955, the OECD in 1969, the European Union in 1995, and the eurozone since its beginning. Finland has been ranked the second most stable country in the world, in a survey based on social, economic, political, and military indicators.

Finland was a relative latecomer to industrialization, remaining a largely agrarian country until the 1950s. Thereafter, economic development was rapid, and the country reached the world's top income levels in the 1970s. Between 1970 and 1990, Finland built an extensive welfare state. In the aftermath of the country's severe depression in the early 1990s, successive governments have reformed the Finnish economic system through some privatisation, deregulation, and tax cuts.

Finland is well placed in many international comparisons of national performance such as the share of high-technology manufacturing and health care. The country is ranked 1st in the 2009 Legatum Prosperity rating, which is based on economical performance and quality of life.

Etymology

The name Suomi (Finnish for "Finland") has uncertain origins but a candidate for a cognate is the Proto-Baltic word *zeme, meaning "land". In addition to the close relatives of Finnish (the Baltic-Finnic languages), this name is also used in the Baltic languages Latvian and Lithuanian. According to an earlier theory the name was derived from suomaa (fen land) or suoniemi (fen cape).

The exonym Finland has resemblance with, e.g., the Scandinavian placenames Finnmarkmarker, Finnveden and hundreds of other toponyms starting with Fin(n) in Sweden and Norway. Some of these names are obviously derived from finnr, a Germanic word for a wanderer/finder and thus supposedly meaning nomadic "hunter-gatherers" or slash and burn agriculturists as opposed to the Germanic sedentary farmers and seafaring traders and pirates. The term "Finn" often refers to Sami people, too. Finn started referring to the people of Finland Propermarker after the 15th century, when the church appointed a bishop — who became one of the most powerful men in the province — over the whole area corresponding roughly to today's Finland. The fact that there was no other ecclesiastical authority of the same level, coupled with the Bishop's temporal authority, engendered a sense of "the Finns" belonging to one geographical area over which the name spread from the 15th century onwards to refer to the people of the entire country.

Among the first documents to mention "a land of the Finns" are two rune-stones. There is one in Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont (U 582) and one in Gotlandmarker, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, with the inscription finlandi (G 319), dating from the 11th century.

History

Prehistory

According to archaeological evidence, the area now comprising Finland was settled at the latest around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice shield of the last ice age receded. The artifacts the first settlers left behind present characteristics that are shared with those found in Estonia, Russia and Norway. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, using stone tools. There is also evidence of carved stone animal heads. The first pottery appeared in 3000 BCE when settlers from the East brought in the Comb Ceramic culture. The arrival of the Corded Ware culture in southern coastal Finland between 3,000–2,500 BCE coincided with the start of agriculture. Even with the introduction of agriculture, 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 other cultures in the Fennoscandian and Baltic regions. There is no consensus on when Finno-Ugric languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland.

The first verifiable written documents appeared in the 12th century.

Swedish era (1249–1809)

[[File:Sweden in 1658.PNG|thumb|upright|The Swedish Empire following the Treaty of Roskilde of 1658.

]]
Swedish-speaking settlers arrived in the coastal regions during the medieval time. Swedish kings established their rule in 1249 . The area of present-day Finland became a fully consolidated part of the Swedish kingdom. Swedish became the dominant language of the nobility, administration and education; Finnish was chiefly a language for the peasantry, clergy and local courts in predominantly Finnish-speaking areas. The Bishop of Turku was the most socially pre-eminent person in Finland before the Reformation.

During the Reformation, the Finns gradually converted to Lutheranism. In the 16th century, Mikael Agricola published the first written works in Finnish. The first university in Finland, The Royal Academy of Turku, was established in 1640. Finland suffered a severe famine in 1696 -1697 and almost one third of the population died. In the 18th century, wars between Sweden and Russia led to the occupation of Finland twice by Russian forces, wars known to the Finns as the Greater Wrath (1714–1721) and the Lesser Wrath (1742–1743). By this time Finland was the predominant term for the whole area from the Gulf of Bothniamarker to the Russian border.

Russian Empire era

On March 29, 1809, after being taken over by the armies of Alexander I of Russia in the Finnish War, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empiremarker until the end of 1917. During the Russian era, the Finnish language started to gain recognition. From the 1860s onwards, a strong Finnish nationalist movement, known as the Fennoman movement, grew. Milestones included the publication of what would become Finland's national epic – the Kalevala – in 1835, and the Finnish language's achieving equal legal status with Swedish in 1892.

The Finnish famine of 1866–1868 killed 15 percent of the population, making it one of the largest famines in European history. The famine led the Russian Empire to ease financial regulations, and investment rose in following decades. Economic and political development was rapid. The GDP per capita was still a half of United States and a third of Great Britain.

In 1906, universal suffrage was adopted in the Grand Duchy of Finland. However, the relationship between the Grand Duchy and the Russian Empire soured when the Russian government made moves to restrict Finnish autonomy. For example, the universal suffrage was, in practice, virtually meaningless, since the tsar did not have to approve any of the laws adopted by the Finnish parliament. Desire for independence gained ground, first among radical liberals and socialists.

Civil war and early independence

The road to civil war and independence

Soviet approval of Finland's independence in Russian.
After the February Revolution the position of Finland as part of the Russian Empire was questioned, mainly by the Social Democrats. Since the head of state was the Czar of Russia, it was not clear who was the chief executive of Finland after the revolution. The parliament, controlled by social democrats, passed the so-called Power Law, which would give the highest authority to the parliament. This was rejected by the Russian Provisional Government and by the right wing parties in Finland. The Provisional Government dissolved the parliament by force, which the social democrats considered illegal, since the right to do so was stripped from the Russians by the Power Law.

New elections were conducted, in which right wing parties won a slim majority. Some social democrats refused to accept the result and still claimed that the dissolution of the parliament (and thus the ensuing elections) were extralegal. The two nearly equally powerful political blocs, the right wing parties and the social democratic party, were highly antagonized.

The October Revolution in Russia changed the game anew. Suddenly, the right-wing parties in Finland started to reconsider their decision to block the transfer of highest executive power from the Russian government to Finland, as radical socialists took power in Russia. Rather than acknowledge the authority of the Power Law of a few months earlier, the right-wing government declared independence.

The civil war

In 1918, months after the Russian October Revolution, the revolutionary wing of the Social Democratic Party staged a coup. They succeeded in controlling southern Finland and Helsinki, but the right-wing government continued in exile from Vaasamarker. The stage was set for a brief but bitter civil war. The Whites, who were supported by Imperial Germanymarker, prevailed over the Reds, supported by Bolshevist Russia. After the war tens of thousands of Reds and suspected sympathizers were interned in camps, where thousands died by execution or from malnutrition and disease. Deep social and political enmity was sown between the Reds and Whites and would last until the Winter War and beyond. The civil war and activist expeditions (see Heimosodat) to the Soviet Union strained Eastern relations.

The new republic

After a brief flirtation with monarchymarker, Finland became a presidential republic, with Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg elected as its first president in 1919. The Finnish–Russian border was determined by the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, largely following the historic border but granting Pechenga ( ) and its Barents Seamarker harbour to Finland. Finnish democracy did not see any more Soviet coup attempts and survived the anti-Communist Lapua Movement. The relationship between Finland and the Soviet Unionmarker was tense. Germany's relations with Finland were also not good. Military was trained in France instead and relations to Western Europe and Sweden were strengthened.

In 1917 the population was 3 million. Credit-based land reform was enacted after the civil war, increasing the proportion of capital-owning population. About 70% of workers were occupied in agriculture and 10% in industry. The largest export markets were the United Kingdom and Germany. The Great Depression in the early 1930s was relatively light in Finland.

World War II

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Unionmarker twice: in the Winter War of 1939–40 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland and in the Continuation War of 1941–44, following Operation Barbarossa, in which Germany invaded the Soviet Union. After fighting a major Soviet offensive to a stand still, Finland made peace with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–45, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland.

The treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included Finnish obligations, restraints, and reparations – as well as further Finnish territorial concessions (cf. the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940). Finland was forced to cede most of Finnish Karelia, Sallamarker, and Petsamo, which amounted to ten percent of its land area and twenty percent of its industrial capacity, including the ports of Vyborgmarker (Viipuri) and ice-free Liinakhamarimarker (Liinahamari). Some 400,000 evacuees, mainly women and children, fled these areas.

Finland had to reject Marshall aid. However, the United States provided secret development aid and helped the still non-communist Social Democratic Party in hopes of preserving Finland's independence. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as the United Kingdommarker, and the reparations to the Soviet Union caused Finland to transform itself from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrialised one. For example, the Valmet corporation was founded to create materials for war reparations. Even after the reparations had been paid off, Finland – poor in certain resources necessary for an industrialized nation (such as iron and oil) – continued to trade with the Soviet Union in the framework of bilateral trade.

Cold War

In 1950 half of the Finnish workers were occupied in agriculture and a third lived in urban areas. The new jobs in manufacturing, services and trade quickly attracted people to the towns. The average number of births per woman declined from a baby boom peak of 3.5 in 1947 to 1.5 in 1973. When baby-boomers entered the workforce, the economy did not generate jobs fast enough and hundreds of thousands emigrated to the more industrialized Swedenmarker, with emigration peaking in 1969 and 1970. The 1952 Summer Olympics brought international visitors. Finland took part in trade liberalization in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fundmarker and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.


Officially claiming to be 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. He maintained an effective monopoly on Soviet relations from 1956 on, which was crucial for his continued popularity. In politics, there was a tendency of avoiding any policies and statements that could be interpreted as anti-Soviet. This phenomenon was given the name "Finlandisation" by the German press (fi. suomettuminen). Self-censorship vis-à-vis anything negative associated with the Soviet Union was prevalent in the media. Public libraries pulled from circulation thousands of books that were considered anti-Soviet, and the law made it possible for the authorities to directly censor movies with supposedly anti-Soviet content. Asylum-seeking Soviet citizens were frequently returned to the Soviet Union by the Finnish authorities.

Despite close relations with the Soviet Union, Finland remained a Western European market economy. Various industries benefited from trade privileges with the Soviets, which explains the widespread support that pro-Soviet policies enjoyed among business interests in Finland. Economic growth was rapid in the postwar era, and by 1975 Finland's GDP per capita was the 15th highest in the world. In the 1970s and 1980s, Finland built one of the most extensive welfare states in the world. Finland also negotiated with the EEC (a predecessor of the European Union) a treaty that mostly abolished customs duties towards the EEC starting from 1977, although Finland did not fully join. In 1981, President Urho Kekkonen's failing health forced him to retire after holding office for 25 years.

Miscalculated macroeconomic decisions, a banking crisis, the collapse of a primary trading partner (the Soviet Union) and a global economic downturn caused a deep recession in Finland in the early 1990s. The depression bottomed out in 1993, and Finland has seen steady economic growth ever since.

Recent history

Like other Nordic countries, Finland has liberalized its economy since the late 1980s. Financial and product market regulation was loosened. Some state enterprises have been privatized and there have been some modest tax cuts. Finland joined the European Union in 1995, and the Eurozone in 1999.

The population is aging with the birth rate at 10.42 births per 1,000 population, or a fertility rate of 1.8. With a median age of 41.6 years, Finland is one of the oldest countries; half of voters are estimated to be over 50 years old. Like most European countries, without further reforms or much higher immigration, Finland is expected to struggle with demographics, even though macroeconomic projections are healthier than in most other developed countries.

Geography and environment

Topography and geology

Finland is a country of thousands of lakes and islands – 187,888 lakes (larger than 500 m²) and 179,584 islands. One of these lakes, Saimaamarker, is the fourth largest in Europe. The Finnish landscape is mostly flat with few hills, and its highest point, the Haltimarker at 1,324 metres, is found in the extreme north of Laplandmarker at the border between Finland and Norwaymarker.

The landscape is covered mostly (seventy-five percent of land area) by coniferous taiga forests and fens, with 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. Podzol profile development is seen in most forest soils except where drainage is poor. Gleysols and peat bogs occupy poorly drained areas. The greater part of the islands are found in the southwest in the Archipelago Seamarker, part of the archipelago of the Åland Islandsmarker, and along the southern coast in the Gulf of Finlandmarker.

Finland is one of the few countries in the world whose surface area is still expanding. Owing to the post-glacial rebound that has been taking place since the last ice age, the surface area of the country is expanding by about a year.

The distance from the southernmost – Hankomarker – to the northernmost point in the country – Nuorgammarker – is in driving distance, which would take approximately 18.5 hours to drive. The distance is comparable to that in Great Britain (Land's Endmarker to John o' Groatsmarker – and 16.5 h).

Wildlife

Spruce forest in southern Finland
Phytogeographically, Finland is shared between the Arctic, central European and northern European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Finland can be subdivided into three ecoregions: the Scandinavian and Russian taiga, Sarmatic mixed forests and Scandinavian Montane Birch forest and grasslands. Actual tundra with permafrost is not found in Finland except for a narrow area in the extreme north. Similarly, temperate broadleaf mixed forests, with oak, elm, hazel and maple growing in the wild, are found only in the narrow area extreme south.

All terrestrial life in Finland was completely wiped out during the last ice age that ended some 10,000 years ago, following the retreat of the glaciers and the appearance of vegetation.Today, 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 parts of the country. 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, and birch, spread throughout Finland from Norwaymarker and only reached the western coast less than three millennia ago.

Similarly, Finland has a diverse and extensive range of fauna. 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 neighboring countries thousands of years ago.

Large and widely recognized wildlife mammals found in Finland are the brown bear (the national animal), gray wolf, elk (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 Arctic fox. Two of the more striking birds are the Whooper Swan, a large European swan and the national bird of Finland, and the Capercaillie, a large, black-plumaged member of the grouse family. The latter is considered an indicator of old-growth forest connectivity, and has been declining due to landscape fragmentation. The most common breeding birds are the willow warbler, chaffinch and redwing. Of some seventy species of freshwater fish, the northern pike, perch and others are plentiful. Atlantic salmon remains the favorite of fly rod enthusiasts.

The endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal, one of only three lake seal species in the world, exists only in the Saimaamarker lake system of southeastern Finland, down to only 300 seals today. It has become the emblem of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.Due to extensive hunting, animals such as deer, Golden eagle, Brown bear and Eurasian lynx all experienced significant declines in population. Their numbers have increased again in the 2000s, mainly as a result of careful conservation and the establishment of vast national parks.

Climate

Viinikkala
The Finnish climate is suitable for grain farming in the southernmost regions, but not further north.

Finland has a humid and cool semi continental climate. The climate type in southern Finland is a northern temperate climate. Winters of southern Finland (average temperature of day is below 0 °C) are usually 4–5 months long, and the snow covers the land about 4 months of every year, and in the southern coast, it can melt many times during winter, and then come again. The coldest winter days of southern Finland are usually -20 °C, and the warmest days of July and early August can be 25-30 °C. Summers in the southern Finland last 4 months (from the mid of May to mid of September). In Northern Finland, particularly in the Province of Laplandmarker, a subarctic climate dominates, characterized by cold – occasionally severe – winters and relatively warm summers. Winters in north Finland are nearly 7 months long, and snow covers the land almost 6–7 months every year. Summers in the north are quite short, only 2–3 months. The highest temperatures on the warmest summer days of July, are rarely above 20-25 °C in northern Finland. 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 Oceanmarker 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 the midnight sun can be experienced – for more days, the farther north one travels. 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.

Demographics

Population of Finland, 1750–2000
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

Population

Finland currently numbers 5,350,156 inhabitants and has an average population density of 17 inhabitants per square kilometre. This makes it, after Norwaymarker and Icelandmarker, the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Finland's population has always been concentrated in the southern parts of the country, a phenomenon even more pronounced after 20th century urbanisation. The biggest and most important cities in Finland are the cities of the Greater Helsinki metropolitan areaHelsinkimarker, Espoomarker and Vantaamarker. Other large cities include Tamperemarker, Turkumarker and Oulumarker.

The share of foreign citizens in Finland is 2.5 percent, among the lowest in the European Union. Most of them are from Russia, Estonia and Sweden.

Languages

Most of the Finnish people (92 percent) speak Finnish as their mother tongue. Finnish is a member of the Baltic-Finnic subgroup of the Uralic languages and is typologically between inflected and agglutinative languages. It modifies and inflects the forms of nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numerals and verbs, depending on their roles in the sentence. In practice, this means that instead of prepositions and prefixes there is a great variety of different suffixes and that compounds form a considerable percentage of the vocabulary of Finnish. It has been estimated that approximately 65–70 percent of all words in Finnish are compounds. A close linguistic relative to the Finnish language is Estonian, which, though similar in many aspects, is not mutually intelligible with it. These languages, together with Hungarian (all members of the Uralic language family), and Basque are the primary non-Indo-European languages spoken in Europe. Finland is one of three independent countries where an Uralic language is spoken by the majority, the other two being Estoniamarker and Hungarymarker.

The largest minority language and the second official language is Swedish spoken by 5.6 percent of the population. Other minority languages are Russian (0.8 percent), Estonian (0.3 percent), Finnish Romani, and Finnish Sign Language (used as a first language by 4,000–5,000 people). To the north, in Laplandmarker, are also the Sami people, numbering around 7,000 and recognized as an indigenous people. About a quarter of them speak a Sami language as their mother tongue. There are three Sami languages that are spoken in Finland: Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami. The right of the minority groups (in particular Sami, Swedish-speaking Finns and Romani people) to cherish their culture and language is protected by the constitution.

In a 2005 Eurobarometer survey studying languages of the European Union, 60% of adult residents claimed to know English, 38% claimed to know Swedish as a second language (41% in 2008), and 17% claimed to know German. Ranking those claiming a knowledge of English, Finland ranked fifth behind Malta, the Netherlands (86%), Sweden (85%), and Denmark (83%). Relatively many Finns knew German, while relatively few knew French or Spanish.

Religion

Religion in Finland

year Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Finnish Orthodox Church Other (Islam etc) Not religious
1950 95.7% 1.7% 0.4 % 2.7 %
1980 90.3% 1.1% 0.7 % 7.8%
1990 87.9% 1.1% 0.9 % 10.2 %
2000 85.1% 1.1% 1.1 % 12.7 %
2005 83.1% 1.1% 1.1 % 14.7 %
2006 82.5% 1.1% 1.2 % 15.1 %
2007 81.8% 1.1% 1.2 % 15.9 %
2008 80.7% 1.1% 1.3 % 16.9 %


Most Finns are members of the shrinking Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (80.7 percent). With approximately 4.3 million members, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is one of the largest Lutheran churches in the world, although its membership is - especially lately see overview in table - on the decline. The second largest and growing group of 16.9 percent of the population has no religious affiliation. A small minority belong to the Finnish Orthodox Church (1.1 percent; 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 percent).

During the prehistoric, ancient and early mediaeval periods of Finnish history, Finnish paganism was the majority religion. It has been revived recently through the form of Finnish neopaganism.

The main Lutheran and Orthodox churches are constitutional national churches of Finland with special roles such as in state ceremonies and schools. A university degree in theology is compulsory for Lutheran priests. Representatives at Lutheran Church assemblies are selected in church elections every four years.

Most children are baptized and have confirmation at the age of 15 and nearly all funerals are Christian, however the majority of Lutherans attend church only for special occasions like Christmas ceremonies, weddings and funerals. According to a somewhat outdated 2005 Eurobarometer poll, 41 percent of Finnish citizens responded that "they believe there is a God"; 41 percent answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force"; and 16 percent that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force".

Family structure

Finnish family life is centered on 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 the world in child well-being.

Health

There are 307 residents for each doctor. About 18.9 % of health care is funded directly by households and 76.6 % by the public and other insurances. Finland limits medicine sales to about 800 licensed pharmacies. Some significant institutions include Ministry of Health and National Public Health Institute.

In a comparison of 16 countries by Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, Finland used the least resources and got an average result, making Finland the most efficient public sector health service producer according to the study's authors.

The life expectancy is 82 years for women and 75 years for men. 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 has exceptionally low smoking rates: 26 % for males and 19 % for females.

Finland's health problems are similar to other developed countries: circulatory diseases make up about half of all causes of death and cancer is the second most common cause of death.

The total annual consumption of pure alcohol by residents is lower than other European countries, even though heavy drinking is common at parties on the weekend. However, becoming intoxicated has remained the central characteristic of Finnish drinking habits. In the working-age population, diseases or accidents caused by alcohol consumption have recently surpassed coronary artery disease as the biggest single cause of death.

Schools teach sports, health and hands-on cooking classes. Finnish schoolchildren have one of the lowest amounts of sport classes in the European Union and according to National Public Health Institute only a third of adults exercise enough.National Public Health Institute claims that 54 % of males and 38 % of females are overweight, while other estimates put the rates at 70 % and 50 %. The rate of diabetes is predicted to grow to 15 % by 2015. Finland has the world's highest rate of Type I diabetes.

Administrative divisions

The largest subdivisions are the six administrative provinces (lääni, pl. läänit), which mainly function as divisions of the state organisation, i.e. police, prosecutors, and other state services operate under their administration. After 1997 reforms the provinces have been Southern Finlandmarker, Western Finlandmarker, Eastern Finlandmarker, Oulumarker, Laplandmarker, Ålandmarker. The province of Åland Islandsmarker is autonomous.

The fundamental administrative divisions of the country are the municipalities, which may also call themselves towns or cities. They account for half of public spending. Spending is financed by municipal income tax, state subsidies, and other revenue. As of 2009, there are 348 municipalities and most have less than 6,000 residents. People often identify with their municipality.

In addition to municipalities, two intermediate levels are defined. Municipalities co-operate in seventy-four sub-regions and twenty regions. These are governed by the member municipalities, but have only limited powers. The Ålandmarker region has a permanent, democratically elected regional council as a part of the autonomy. In the Kainuumarker region, there is a pilot project underway, with regional elections. Sami people have a semi-autonomous Sami Domicile Areamarker in Laplandmarker for issues on language and culture.

In the following chart, the number of inhabitants includes those living in the entire municipality (kunta/kommun), 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 . Notice that the capital region – comprising Helsinkimarker, Vantaamarker, Espoomarker and Kauniainenmarker (see Greater Helsinki) – forms a continuous conurbation of one million people. However, common administration is limited to voluntary cooperation of all municipalities, e.g. in Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council.

City Population Land area Density Helsinkimarker Espoomarker Tamperemarker Vantaamarker Turkumarker Oulumarker Jyväskylämarker Lahtimarker Kuopiomarker Kouvolamarker Porimarker Joensuumarker Lappeenrantamarker Hämeenlinnamarker Rovaniemimarker


Largest cities

Politics and government

The Constitution of Finland defines the political system. Finland is a representative democracy with a semi-presidential parliamentary system. Aside from state-level politics, residents use their vote in municipal elections and in the European Union elections.

According to the Constitution, the President is the head of state and responsible for foreign policy (which excludes affairs related to the European Union) in cooperation with the cabinet. Other powers include Commander-in-Chief, decree, and appointive powers. Direct vote is used to elect the president for a term of six years and maximum two consecutive terms. The current president is Tarja Halonen (SDP).

The 200-member unicameral Parliament of Finland exercises the supreme legislative authority in Finland. The parliament may alter laws, the constitution, bring about the resignation of the Council of State, and override presidential vetoes. Its acts are not subject to judicial review. Various parliament committees listen to experts and prepare legislation. Proportional vote in multi-seat constituencies is used to elect the parliament for a term of four years. The Speaker of Parliament is currently Sauli Niinistö (National Coalition Party). The cabinet (the Finnish Council of State) exercises most executive powers. It is headed by the Prime Minister of Finland and includes other ministers and the Chancellor of Justice. Parliament majority decides its composition and a vote of no confidence can be used to modify it. The current prime minister is Matti Vanhanen (Centre Party).

Since equal and common suffrage was introduced in 1906, the parliament has been dominated by the Centre Party (former Agrarian Union), National Coalition Party, and Social Democrats, which have approximately equal support, and represent 65–80 percent 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 autonomous Åland islands has separate elections, where Liberals for Åland was the largest party in 2007 elections.

After the parliamentary elections on March 18, 2007, the seats were divided among eight parties as follows:
Party Seats Net Gain/Loss % of seats % of votes
Centre Party 51   –4 25.5 23.1
National Coalition Party 50 +10 25.0 22.3
Social Democratic Party 45   –8 22.5 21.4
Left Alliance 17   –2 8.5 8.8
Green League 14   +1 7.5 8.5
Swedish People's Party 9   +1 4.5 4.5
Christian Democrats 7     0 3.5 4.9
True Finns 5   +2 2.5 4.1
Others  1*     0 0.5 2.4


Foreign relations

According to the latest constitution of 2000, the President (currently Tarja Halonen) leads foreign policy in cooperation with the government (currently Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb), except that the government leads EU affairs.

During the Cold War, Finland conducted its foreign policy in association with the Soviet Union and simultaneously stressed Nordic cooperation (as a member of the Nordic Council). 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 and the Finno-Soviet Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance. Although opposed by socialists and agrarians, the government filed an EU membership application three months after the dissolution of the USSR and became a member in 1995. Finland did not attempt to join NATO, even though other post-Soviet countries in the Baltic sea and elsewhere joined. Nevertheless, defense policymakers have quietly converted to NATO equipment and contributed troops.

President Martti Ahtisaari and the coalition governments led Finland closer to the core EU in the late 1990s. In 2008 Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Peace Price. Finland was considered a cooperative model state, and Finland did not oppose proposals for a common EU defence policy. This was reversed in the 2000s, when Tarja Halonen and Erkki Tuomioja made Finland's official policy to resist other EU members' plans for common defense. However, Halonen allowed Finland to join European Union Battlegroups in 2006 and the NATO Response Force in 2008.

Law

The courtroom of Raasepori District Court
The judicial system of Finland is a civil law system divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and administrative courts with jurisdiction over litigation between the individuals and the public administration. Finnish law is codified and based on Swedish law and in a wider sense, civil law or Roman law. The court system for civil and criminal jurisdiction consists of local courts (käräjäoikeus), regional appellate courts (hovioikeus), and the Supreme Court (korkein oikeus). The administrative branch of justice consists of administrative courts (hallinto-oikeus) and the Supreme Administrative Court (korkein hallinto-oikeus). 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 against certain high-ranking officeholders.

The abovementioned local court of first instance (käräjäoikeus) for civil and criminal cases consists of professional judges, or, in complex cases, 1—2 professional judges and 3—4 lay judges (lautamies) appointed by municipal councils. Administrative courts, appellate courts and supreme courts consist of professional judges only. Like the Netherlandsmarker and the United Kingdommarker, Finland has no constitutional court, and courts may not strike down laws or pronounce on their constitutionality. In principle, the constitutionality of laws in Finland is verified by parliament's constitutional law committee and a simple vote in the parliament.

Around 92% of residents are confident in Finland's security institutions. Crime in Finland has some unique features. The overall crime rate of Finland is not high in the EU context. Some crime types are above average, notably the highest homicide rate in Western Europe. Crime is prevalent among lower educational groups and is often committed by intoxicated persons. A day fine system is in effect and also applied to offences such as speeding. Jail sentences tend to be among the world's lowest, with an official emphasis on rehabilitation.

Finland has successfully fought against the corruption which was larger in the 1970s and 1980s. For instance, economic reforms and EU membership introduced stricter requirements for open bidding and many public monopolies were abolished. Today Finland has a very low number of corruption charges; Transparency International ranks Finland as one of the least corrupted countries. Also, Finland's public records are among the world's most transparent.

Military

The Finnish Defence Forces consists of a cadre of professional soldiers (mainly officers and technical personnel), currently serving conscripts and a large reserve. The standard readiness strength is 34,700 people in uniform, of which 25% are professional soldiers. A universal male conscription is in place, under which all male Finnish nationals above 18 years of age serve for 6 to 12 months of armed service or 12 months of civilian (non-armed) service. Alternative non-military service and volunteer service by women (chosen by around 500 annually) are possible. Finland is the only non-NATO EU country bordering Russia. Finland's official policy states that the 350,000 reservists, armed mostly with ground weaponry are a sufficient deterrent. Finland has one of the largest armies in the world per capita.

The Finnish Defense Forces favor partnerships with Western institutions such as NATOmarker, WEU and the EU, but are careful to avoid politics. Finland's defence budget equals about €2 billion or about 1.4–1.6 % of the GDP. In international comparisons Finnish defense expenditure is around the third highest in the EU. Voluntary overseas service is popular and troops serve around the world in UN, NATO and EU peace-keeping missions. Residents claim around 80 % homeland defense willingness, one of the highest rates in Europe. The Finnish Defence Forces are under the command of the Chief of Defence (currently Ari Puheloinen), who is directly subordinate to the President of the Republic in matters related to military command. The branches of the military are the 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 for defence readiness.

Economy

Finland has a highly industrialized free-market economy with a per capita output equal to that of other western economies such as Francemarker, Germanymarker, Belgiummarker or the UKmarker. The largest sector of the economy is services at 65.7 %, followed by manufacturing and refining at 31.4 %. Primary production is at 2.9 %. With respect to foreign trade, the key economic sector is manufacturing. The largest industries are electronics (21.6 %), machinery, vehicles and other engineered metal products (21.1 %), forest industry (13.1 %), and chemicals (10.9 %). Finland has timber and several mineral and freshwater resources. Forestry, paper factories, and the agricultural sector (on which taxpayers spend around 3 billion euro annually) are politically sensitive to rural residents. The Greater Helsinki area generates around a third of GDP. In a 2004 OECD comparison, high-technology manufacturing in Finland ranked second largest after Ireland. Knowledge-intensive services have also ranked the smallest and slow-growth sectors – especially agriculture and low-technology manufacturing – second largest after Ireland. Overall short-term outlook was good and GDP growth has been above many EU peers. Inflation has been low, averaging 1.8 % between 2004 and 2006.
Real GDP growth, 1998–2007.


Finland is highly integrated in the global economy, and international trade is a third of GDP. The European Union makes 60 % of the total trade. The largest trade flows are with Germany, Russiamarker, Sweden, United Kingdom, USAmarker, Netherlandsmarker and Chinamarker. Trade policy is managed by the European Union, where Finland has traditionally been among the free trade supporters, except for agriculture. Finland is the only Nordic country to have joined the Eurozone.

The 40 largest Finland-registered companies by turnover in 2007 or 2006 were (Oy and Oyj abbreviations removed): Nokia, Stora Enso, Neste Oil, UPM-Kymmene, Kesko, SOK, Metsäliitto, Outokumpu, Metso, Tamro, Fortum, Sampo, Kone, Elcoteq, Rautaruukki, Wärtsilä, YIT, Varma, Cargotec, Sanoma, Kemira, Ilmarinen Keskinäinen Eläkevakuutusyhtiö, TeliaSonera Finland, Luvata International (former Outokumpu Copper), Huhtamäki, Finnair, Lemminkäinen, HKScan, Onvest, RTF Auto, Tieto, Ahlstrom, Konecranes, Valio, ABB, Itella, Amer Sports, Teboil, Elisa, and Myllykoski.


Private sector employees amount to 1.8 million, out of which around a third with tertiary education. The average cost of a private sector employee per hour was 25.1 euro in 2004. As of 2008 average purchasing power-adjusted income levels are similar to those of Italy, Sweden, Germany, and France. In 2006, 62 % of the workforce worked for enterprises with less than 250 employees and they accounted for 49 % of total business turnover and had the strongest rate of growth . The female employment rate is high. Gender segregation between male-dominated professions and female-dominated professions is higher than in the US. The proportion of part-time workers was one of the lowest in OECD in 1999.

Employment rate 68 % and unemployment rate was 6.8 % in early 2008. 18 % of residents are outside job market at the age of 50 and less than a third working at the age of 61. Unfunded pensions and other promises such as health insurances are a dominate future liability, though Finland is much better prepared than countries such as Francemarker or Germanymarker. Directly held public debt has been reduced to around 32 percent of GDP in 2007. In 2007, the average household savings rate was -3.8 and household debt 101 percent of annual disposable income, a typical level in Europe. Home ownership rate is 60 %.

As of 2006, 2.4 million households reside in Finland. The average size is 2.1 persons; 40 % of households consist of a single person, 32 % two persons and 28 % three or more persons. Residential buildings total 1.2 million and the average residential space is 38 m2 per person. The average residential property without land costs 1,187 euro per sq metre and residential land 8.6 euro per sq metre. 74 % of households had a car. There are 2.5 million cars and 0.4 million other vehicles.Around 92 % have a mobile phone and 58 % Internet connection at home. The average total household consumption was 20,000 euro, out of which housing consisted of about 5500 euro, transport about 3000 euro, food and beverages excluding alcoholic at around 2500 euro, recreation and culture at around 2000 euro. Purchasing power-adjusted average household consumption is about the same level as it is in Germany, Sweden and Italy. According to Invest in Finland, private consumption grew by 3 % in 2006 and consumer trends included durables, high quality products, and spending on well-being.

Education and science



Most pre-tertiary education is arranged at municipal level. Even though many or most schools were started as private schools, today only around 3 % students are enrolled in private schools (mostly Helsinki-based schools such as SYKmarker), many times less than in Sweden and most other developed countries. Pre-school education is rare compared to other EU countries. Formal education is usually started at the age of 7. The primary school takes normally 6 years, the lower secondary school 3 years, and most schools are managed by municipal officials. The flexible curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education and the Education Board. Attendance is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. According to PISA assessments of the age group 15, Finnish students had a high average score and a low variation among schools and students. McKinsey has attributed the result distribution to high teacher education (Master's degree), high continuing teacher training, and emphasis on laggards. After lower secondary school, graduates may either enter the workforce directly, or apply to trade schools or gymnasiums (upper secondary schools). Trade school prepare for professions. Academically oriented gymnasium have higher entrance requirements and specifically prepare for Abitur and tertiary education. Graduation from either formally qualifies for tertiary education.

In tertiary education, two, mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the profession-oriented polytechnics and the research-oriented universities. Finns used to take student loans and scholarships, but for the past decades the financial risk has been moved solely to the government. There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. The World Economic Forum ranks Finland's tertiary education #1 in the world. Around 33% of residents have a tertiary degree, similar to Nordics and more than in most other OECD countries except Canada (44%), United States (38%) and Japan(37%). The proportion of foreign students is 3% of all tertiary enrolments, one of the lowest in OECD, while in advanced programs it is 7.3%, still below OECD average 16.5%.

More than 30 % of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields. Finnish researchers are leading contributors to such fields as forest improvement, new materials, the environment, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications.

Finland is highly productive in scientific research. In 2005, Finland had the fourth most scientific publications per capita of the OECD countries. In 2007, 1801 patents were filed in Finland.

Energy

Anyone can enter the free and largely privately owned Nordic energy market traded in Nord Pool exchange, which has provided competitive prices compared to other EU countries. As of 2007, Finland has roughly the lowest industrial electricity prices in the EU-15 (equal to Francemarker).

In 2006, the energy market was around 90 terawatt hours and the peak demand around 15 gigawatts in winter. This means that the energy consumption per capita is around 7.2 tons of oil equivalent per year. Industry and construction consumed 51% of total consumption, a relatively high figure reflecting Finland's industries. Finland's hydrocarbon resources are limited to peat and wood, while neighboring Norwaymarker has oil and Estoniamarker oil shale. Finland has little hydropower capacity compared to Sweden or Norway. Most energy demand is satisfied with fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Finland has four privately owned nuclear reactors producing 18 percent of the country's energy, one research reactor in Otaniemimarker campus, and the fifth AREVA-Siemens-built reactor – the world's largest at 1600 MWe and a focal point of Europe's nuclear industry – is scheduled to be operational by 2011. Renewable energy forms (industry-burned wood, consumer-burned wood, peat, industrial residue, garbage) make high 25 % compared to the EU average 10 %. A varying amount (5–17 percent) of electricity has been imported from Russia (at around 3 gigawatt power line capacity), Sweden and Norway. A new submarine power cable from Russia has been considered a national security issue and one permit application has already been rejected. Finland negotiated itself expensive Kyoto and EU emission terms. They are causing a sharp increase in energy prices and 1-2 billion euro annual cost, amplified by the aging and soon decommissioned production capacity. Energy companies are already ready to increase nuclear power production, if parliament granted permits for new reactors.

Transportation

The extensive road system is utilized by most internal cargo and passenger traffic. As of 2009, the country's network of main roads has a total length of and all public roads , of which are paved. The motorway network totals . The annual road network expenditure of around 1 billion euro is paid with vehicle and fuel taxes which amount to around 1.5 billion euro and 1 billion euro.

The main international passenger gateway is Helsinki-Vantaa Airportmarker with over 13 million passengers in 2008. Oulu Airportmarker is the second largest and around 25 airports have scheduled passenger services. The Helsinki-Vantaa based Finnair, Blue1 and Finncomm Airlines sell air services both domestically and internationally, and there are many others offering direct flights around the world. Helsinki has an optimal location for great circle routes between Western Europe and the Far East. Hence, many international travelers visit Helsinki-Vantaa airport on a stop-over between Asia and Europe.Despite low population density, taxpayers spend annually around 350 million euro in maintaining railway tracks even to many rural towns. Only one rail company operates in Finland, VR Group, which has 5% passenger market share (out of which 80% are urban trips in Greater Helsinki) and 25% cargo market share. Helsinki has an urban rail network.

The majority of international cargo utilizes ports. Port logistics prices are low. Vuosaari harbourmarker in Helsinki is the largest container port after completion in 2008 and others include Haminamarker, Hankomarker, Porimarker, Raumamarker, Oulumarker. There is passenger traffic from Helsinki and Turku, which have ferry connections to Tallinnmarker, Mariehamnmarker and Stockholmmarker. The Helsinki–Tallinn route, one of the busiest passenger sea routes in the world, is also served by a helicopter line.

Industry

Finland has developed greatly since 1945, when it was a primarily agricultural nation, and created major firms in electronics like DICRO Oy, metalworking, forestry and construction like Pöyry. Shipbuilding industry is important for the Finnish economy and the world's biggest cruise ships are built in Finnish shipyards.

Public policy

Finnish politicians have often emulated other Nordics and the Nordic model. Nordics have been free-trading and relatively welcoming to skilled migrants for over a century, though in Finland immigration is relatively new. The level of protection in commodity trade has been low, except for agricultural products.

Finland's judiciary is efficient and effective. Finland is highly open to investment and free trade. Finland has top levels of economic freedom in many areas, although there is a heavy tax burden and inflexible job market. Finland is ranked 16th (ninth in Europe) in the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom. Recently, Finland has topped the patents per capita statistics, and overall productivity growth has been strong in areas such as electronics. While the manufacturing sector is thriving, OECD points out that the service sector would benefit substantially from policy improvements. Finland is one of the most fiscally responsible EU countries.

IMDmarker World Competitiveness Yearbook 2007 ranked Finland 17th most competitive. The World Economic Forum 2008 index ranked Finland the 6th most competitive. In both indicators, Finland's performance was next to Germany, and significantly higher than most European countries. In the Business competitiveness index 2007-08 Finland ranked third in the world.

Economists attribute much growth to reforms in the product markets. According to OECD, only four EU-15 countries have less regulated product markets (UK, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden) and only one has less regulated financial markets (Denmark). Nordic countries were pioneers in liberalizing energy, postal, and other markets in Europe. The legal system is clear and business bureaucracy less than most countries. Property rights are well protected and contractual agreements are strictly honored. Finland is rated one of the least corrupted countries in Corruption Perceptions Index. Finland is rated 13th in the Ease of Doing Business Index. It indicates exceptional ease to trade across borders (5th), enforce contracts (7th), and close a business (5th), and exceptional hardship to employ workers (127th) and pay taxes (83rd).

Finnish job market regulation is a remaining example of Nordic neocorporatist model. In the 1990s, Denmark liberalized its job market, Sweden moved to more flexible decentralized contracts, and Finnish trade unions blocked most reforms. Finnish law forces all workers to obey the national contracts that are drafted every few years for each profession and seniority level. The agreement becomes universally enforceable provided that more than 50% of the employees support it, in practice by being a member of a relevant trade union. The unionization rate is high (70%), especially in the middle class (AKAVA – 80%). A lack of a national agreement in an industry is considered an exception. More flexibility is generally recommended by economists for various reasons.

Overall taxation has been reduced to nearly 10 percentage points lower level than in Sweden, but it is still nearly 10 percentage points higher than in Germany. The middle income worker receives only 40% of their income after the median tax wedge and effective marginal tax rates are high. Value-added tax is 22 percent for most items. Capital gains tax is 28% and corporate tax is 26 percent, about the EU median. Property taxes are low, but there is a stamp duty of 4% for home sellers. For instance, McKinsey estimates that a worker has to pay around 1600 euro for another worker's 400 euro service when both workers' taxes are counted. Tax cuts have been in every post-depression government's agenda and the overall tax burden is now around 43% of GDP compared to 51.1% in Sweden, 34.7% in Germanymarker, 33.5% in Canadamarker, and 30.5% in Irelandmarker.

Public consumption is 51.7% of GDP compared to 56.6% in Sweden, 46.9% in Germany, 39.3% in Canada, and 33.5% in Irelandmarker. Much of the taxes are spent on public sector employees, many of which are jobs-for-life and amount to 124,000 state employees and 430,000 municipal employees. That is 113 per 1000 residents (over a quarter of workforce) compared to 74 in the US, 70 in Germany, and 42 in Japan (8% of workforce). The Economist Intelligence Unit's ranking for Finland's e-readiness is high at 13th, compared to 1st for United States, 3rd for Sweden, 5th for Denmark, and 14th for Germany. Also, early and generous retirement schemes have contributed to high pension costs. Social spending such as health or education is around OECD median. Social transfers are also around OECD median. In 2001 Finland outsourced more than most Western European countries, although less than Sweden. Municipalities spend a half of taxes.

Numismatics



In Finland, the euro was introduced in 2002. As a preparation for this date, the minting of the new euro coins started as early as 1999; this is why the first euro coins from Finland have the year 1999 on them, instead of 2002 like some of the other countries of the Eurozone. Three different designs (one for €2 coin, one for €1 coin and one for the other six coins) were selected for the Finnish coins. In 2007, in order to adopt the new common map like the rest of the Eurozone countries, Finland changed the common side of their coins.

Finland also has a rich collection of collectors' coins, with face value ranging from 5 to 100 euro. These coins are a legacy of an old national practice of minting silver and gold commemorative coins. Unlike normal issues, these coins are not legal tender in all the eurozone; for instance, a €5 Finnish commemorative coin cannot be used in any other country.

Tourism

In 2005, Finnish tourism grossed over €6.7 billion with a five percent 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 Finlandmarker to the high fells of Laplandmarker. 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 Helsinkimarker, Turkumarker, Tallinnmarker, Stockholmmarker and Travemündemarker, play a significant role in the local tourism industry. Finland is regarded as the home of Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus, living in the northern Laplandmarker region. Above the Arctic Circle, there is a polar night, a period when the sun doesn't rise for days or weeks, or even months. Laplandmarker, the extreme north of Finland, is so far north that the Aurora Borealis, atmospheric fluorescence, is seen regularly in winter.Outdoor activities range from Nordic skiing, 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. Elk, reindeer and hare are all common game in Finland. Olavinlinnamarker in Savonlinnamarker hosts the annual Savonlinna Opera Festivalmarker.

Culture

Throughout Finland's prehistory and history, cultural contacts and influences have concurrently, or at varying times, come from all directions. As a result of Swedish and Russian rule, cultural influences are still notable. Today, cultural influences from North Americamarker are prominent. Into the twenty-first century, many Finns have contacted cultures from distantly abroad, such as with those in Asia and Africa. Beyond tourism, Finnish youth in particular have been increasing their contact with peoples from outside Finland by travelling abroad to both work and study.

One of the most traditional activities characterised by the Finnish culture is cottage life by a lake, often combined with going to sauna, swimming and barbecuing. Many Finns are emotionally connected to the countryside and nature, as urbanisation is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Finnish mentality is often characterised by less small talk and more honest and straight forward types of communication compared to other cultures.

There are still differences between regions, especially minor differences in accents and vocabulary. Minorities, such as the Sami, Swedish-speaking Finns, Romani, and Tatar, maintain their own cultural characteristics.

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 and Eino Leino.

After Finland became independent there was a rise of modernist writers, most famously Mika Waltari. Frans Eemil Sillanpää was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1939. 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. Ilkka Remes, a Finnish author of thrillers, is very popular.

Visual arts



Finns have made major contributions to handicrafts and industrial design. Finland's best-known sculptor of the twentieth century was Wäinö Aaltonen, remembered for his monumental busts and sculptures. Finnish architecture is famous around the world. Among the top of the twentieth century Finnish architects to win international recognition are Eliel Saarinen (designer of the widely recognised Helsinki Central railway stationmarker and many other public works) and his son Eero Saarinen. Alvar Aalto, who helped bring the functionalist architecture to Finland, is also famous for his work in furniture and glassware.

Music

Folk music

Much of the music of Finland is influenced by traditional Karelianmarker 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

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.

Classical and opera

The first Finnish opera was written by the Germanmarker composer Fredrik Pacius in 1852. Pacius also wrote Maamme/Vårt 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, Kaija Saariaho, Aulis Sallinen and Einojuhani Rautavaara. The composers are accompanied with a large number of great conductors such as Sakari Oramo, Mikko Franck, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Osmo Vänskä, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Susanna Mälkki and Leif Segerstam. Some of the internationally acclaimed Finnish classical musicians are Karita Mattila, Soile Isokoski, Kari Kriikku, Pekka Kuusisto, Réka Szilvay and Linda Brava.

Popular music

Modern Finnish popular music includes a number of prominent rock bands, jazz musicians, hip hop performers, and dance music acts such as Bomfunk MCs and Darude. Finnish electronic music such as the Sähkö Recordings record label enjoys underground acclaim. 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 Argentine music, is also popular. One of the most productive composers of popular music was Toivo Kärki, and the most famous singer Olavi Virta (1915–1972). Among the lyricists, Sauvo Puhtila (born 1928), Reino Helismaa (1913–1965) and Veikko "Vexi" Salmi are the most remarkable authors. The composer and bandleader Jimi Tenor is well known for his brand of retro-funk music.

Dance music

Notable Finnish dance and electronic music artists include Jori Hulkkonen, Darude, JS16, DJ Proteus and DJ Orkidea.

Rock music

The Finnish rock-music scene emerged in 1960s with pioneers such as Blues Section and Kirka. In the 1970s Finnish rock musicians, such as Juice Leskinen, and a pop rock group called Kaseva started to write their own music instead of translating international hits into Finnish. During the decade some progressive rock groups, such as Tasavallan Presidentti and Wigwam, gained respect abroad but failed to make a commercial breakthrough outside Finland. This was also the fate of the rock and roll group Hurriganes. The Finnish punk scene produced some internationally acknowledged names including Terveet Kädet in 1980s. Hanoi Rocks was a pioneering 1980s glam rock act that left perhaps a deeper mark in the history of popular music than any other Finnish group, giving inspiration for Guns N' Roses. In the 1980s some of the first Finnish metal bands were constituted including power metal band Stratovarius (1984) inspiring greatly among other things Sonata Arctica, Stone (1985), and Amorphis (1989). 1985 also saw the popular band CMX form, originally as a hardcore punk band, and later experimenting with various genres including progressive, metal and hard rock. In the 90s many successful modern metal bands were founded, such as Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Children of Bodom, Ensiferum, Norther and Impaled Nazarene. Finnish modern metal has been the most sold metal music in Asian countries from 90s to nowadays, and has had a remarkable influence on loads of other modern metal bands all over the world.

In the 2000s, other Finnish rock bands started to sell well internationally. The Rasmus became more known in Europe (and other places, like South America) in the 2000s. Their 2003 album Dead Letters sold 1.5 million units worldwide and garnered them eight gold and five platinum album designations. So far the most successful Finnish band in the United States has been HIM; they were the first band from Finland to ever sell an album that was certified gold by the RIAA. Other notable Finnish rock and metal acts include Apocalyptica, the Battle Metal band Turisas, and the monster rockers Lordi.

Cinema

In film industry, notable directors include Aki Kaurismäki, Mauritz Stiller, Spede Pasanen and Hollywoodmarker film director and producer Renny Harlin.

Media and communications

Today there are 200 newspapers; 320 popular magazines, 2,100 professional magazines and 67 commercial radio stations, with one nationwide, five national public service radio channels, three digital radio channels.Each year around twelve feature films are made, 12,000 book titles published and 12 million records sold.

Sanoma publishes the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (the circulation of 412,000 making it the largest newspaper), the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, the commerce-oriented Taloussanomat, and the television channel Nelonen. The other major publisher Alma Media publishes over thirty magazines, including newspaper Aamulehti, tabloid Iltalehti and commerce-oriented Kauppalehti. Finns, along with other Nordic people and the Japanese, spend the most time in the world reading newspapers. The National Broadcasting Company YLE has five television channels and 13 radio channels in two national languages. YLE is funded through a mandatory license for television owners and fees for private broadcasters. All TV channels are broadcast digitally, both terrestrially and on cable. The most popular television channel MTV3 and the most popular radio channel Radio Nova are owned by Nordic Broadcasting (Bonnier and Proventus Industrier). International newspapers such as Aftonbladet or Financial Times are available, but according to the sole importer the readership is only around 600,000 copies per year or around 2,000 on average day.

Around 79 percent of the population use the Internet. Finland had around 1.52 million broadband Internet connections by the end of June 2007 or around 287 per 1,000 inhabitants. All Finnish schools and public libraries have Internet connections and computers. Most residents have a mobile phone. It's used mostly for contact and value-added services are rare. In October 2009, Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications committed to ensuring that every person in Finland will be able to access the internet at a minimum speed of one megabit-per-second beginning July, 2010.

Cuisine

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. 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 16.00 to 18.00 at home.

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

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 the Independence Day. Christmas is the most extensively celebrated holiday: usually at least 23rd to 26th of December are holidays. Also in the region of Bothnia (usually referred at the city of Kokkolamarker) there is an celebration called Venetsialaiset, the celebration of water and fire.

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.

Sports



Various sporting events are popular in Finland. Pesäpallo (reminiscent of baseball) is the national sport of Finland, although the most popular sports in Finland in terms of media coverage are Formula One, rallying, ice hockey and football. Finland has won ice-hockey world championship only once in 1995 when the Finland-Sweden final ended 4–1 in their favour. Jari Kurri and Teemu Selänne are the two Finnish-born ice hockey players to have scored 500 goals in their NHL careers. Other prominent NHL players from Finland include Miikka Kiprusoff, the starting goaltender for the Calgary Flames, Mikko Koivu and Niklas Bäckström of the Minnesota Wild, Saku Koivu of the Anaheim Ducks and Valtteri Filppula of the Detroit Red Wings. Kiprusoff and Bäckström are regarded as two of the premier NHL goalies playing today. Football is also popular in Finland, though the national football team has never qualified for a finals tournament of the World Cup or the European Championships. Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypiä are the most internationally renowned of the Finnish football players. Snowboarding is also very popular in Finland, and there are many Finnish professional snowboarders such as Heikki Sorsa, Jussi Oksanen, Eero Ettala and Joni Malmi.

Relative to its population, Finland has been a top country in the world in automobile racing, measured by international success. Finland has produced three Formula One World ChampionsKeke Rosberg (Williams, 1982), Mika Häkkinen (McLarenmarker, 1998 and 1999) and Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari, 2007). Along with Räikkönen, the other Finnish Formula One driver currently active is Heikki Kovalainen (McLarenmarker). Rosberg's son, Nico Rosberg (Williams), is also currently driving, but under his mother's German nationality. Other notable Finnish Grand Prix drivers include Leo Kinnunen, JJ Lehto and Mika Salo. Finland has also produced most of the world's best rally drivers, including the ex-WRC World Champion drivers Marcus Grönholm, Juha Kankkunen, Hannu Mikkola, Tommi Mäkinen, Timo Salonen, and Ari Vatanen. The only Finn to have won a road racing World Championship, Jarno Saarinen, was killed in 1973 while racing.

Among winter sports, Finland has been the most successful country in ski jumping, with former ski jumper Matti Nykänen being arguably the best ever in that sport. Most notably, he won five Olympic medals (four gold) and nine World Championships medals (five gold). Among currently active Finnish ski jumpers, Janne Ahonen has been the most successful. Kalle Palander is a well-known alpine skiing winner, who won the World Championship and Crystal Ball (twice, in Kitzbühelmarker). Tanja Poutiainen has won an Olympic silver medal for alpine skiing, as well as multiple FIS World Cup races.

Some of the most outstanding athletes from the past include Hannes Kolehmainen (1890–1966), Paavo Nurmi (1897–1973) and Ville Ritola (1896–1982) who won eighteen gold and seven silver Olympic medals in the 1910s and 1920s.

They are also considered to be the first of a generation of great Finnish middle and long-distance runners (and subsequently, other great 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.

Also, in the past, Riku Kiri, Jouko Ahola and Janne Virtanen have been the greatest strength athletes in the country, participating in the World's Strongest Man competition between 1993 and 2000.

The 1952 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XV Olympiad, were held in 1952 in Helsinkimarker, Finland. 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, cycling and skiing.

See also

Lists
List of cities and towns in Finland
List of Finns
List of Swedish-speaking Finns
List of Finnish companies
List of Finnish television stations
List of newspapers in Finland
List of universities in Finland
List of bands from Finland
List of Finnish wars
History
History of Finland
Finlandization
Finnish Railway Museummarker
Kansallisbiografia
Politics
Foreign relations of Finland
Military of Finland
Gun politics in Finland
Infrastructure
Education in Finland
Communications in Finland
Crime in Finland
Transport in Finland
Fire fighting in Finland
VR Group (Finnish State Railways)
Culture and sports
Cuisine of Finland
Music of Finland
Football in Finland
Ethnic issues in Finland
Miscellaneous
Protected areas of Finland
Tourism in Finland


International rankings

References

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  2. The Failed States Index 2008
  3. http://prosperity.com/country.aspx?id=FI
  4. PEOPLE, MATERIAL CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT IN THE NORTH Proceedings of the 22nd Nordic Archaeological Conference, University of Oulu, 18-23 August 2004 Edited by Vesa-Pekka Herva GUMMERUS KIRJAPAINO
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Further reading

  • Chew, Allen F. The White Death: The Epic of the Soviet-Finnish Winter War (ISBN 0-87013-167-2)
  • Engle, Eloise and Paananen, Pauri,The Winter War: The Soviet Attack on Finland 1939-1940 (ISBN 0-8117-2433-6)
  • Insight Guide: Finland (ISBN 981-4120-39-1)
  • Jakobson, Max. Finland in the New Europe (ISBN 0-275-96372-1)
  • Jutikkala, Eino; Pirinen, Kauko. A History of Finland (ISBN 0-88029-260-1)
  • Klinge, Matti. Let Us Be Finns: Essays on History (ISBN 951-1-11180-9)
  • Lavery, Jason. The History of Finland (The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations), Greenwood Press 2006 (ISBN 0-313-32837-4) (ISSN 1096-2905)
  • Lewis, Richard D. Finland: Cultural Lone Wolf (ISBN 1-931930-18-X)
  • Lonely Planet: Finland (ISBN 1-74059-791-5)
  • Mann, Chris. Hitler's Arctic War: The German Campaigns in Norway, Finland, and the USSR 1940-1945 (ISBN 0-312-31100-1)
  • Rusama, Jaakko. Ecumenical Growth in Finland. (ISBN 951-693-239-8)
  • Singleton, Fred. A Short History of Finland (ISBN 0-521-64701-0)
  • Subrenat, Jean-JacquesListen, there's music from the forest; a brief presentation of the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival (ISBN 952-92-0564-3)
  • Swallow, Deborah. Culture Shock! Finland: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette (ISBN 1-55868-592-8)
  • Trotter, William R.. A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 (ISBN 1-56512-249-6)


External links




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