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Republic of Finland

Anthem: 
Maamme  (Finnish)
Vårt land  (Swedish)
(English: "Our Land")
EU-Finland (orthographic projection).svg
EU-Finland.svg
Location of  Finland  (dark green)

– on the European continent  (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend]

Capital
and largest city
Helsinki
60°10′N 24°56′E / 60.167°N 24.933°E / 60.167; 24.933
Official languages
Recognised national languages
  • Finnish Sign Language
  • Sámi
  • Finland-Swedish Sign Language
  • Karelian
  • Finnish Kalo
Ethnic groups
(2020)
Religion
(2020)
Demonym(s)
  • Finnish
  • Finn
Government Unitary parliamentary republic
Sauli Niinistö
Sanna Marin
Anu Vehviläinen
Legislature Eduskunta/Riksdagen
Independence 
from Russia
• Autonomy
29 March 1809
• Declared
6 December 1917
January – May 1918
• Constitution
17 July 1919
30 November 1939 – 13 March 1940
25 June 1941 – 19 September 1944
• Joined the EU
1 January 1995
Area
• Total
338,455 km2 (130,678 sq mi) (65th)
• Water (%)
9.71 (as of 2015)
Population
• December 2020 estimate
Neutral increase 5,536,146 (116th)
• Density
16/km2 (41.4/sq mi) (213th)
GDP (PPP) 2020 estimate
• Total
$257 billion (60th)
• Per capita
$49,334 (19th)
GDP (nominal) 2020 estimate
• Total
$277 billion (43rd)
• Per capita
$48,461 (14th)
Gini (2020)  26.5
low
HDI (2019) Increase 0.938
very high · 11th
Currency Euro () (EUR)
Time zone UTC+2 (EET)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+3 (EEST)
Date format d.m.yyyy
Driving side right
Calling code +358
ISO 3166 code FI
Internet TLD .fi, .axa
  1. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.
Europe location FIN
Finland on a map of Europe

Finland (Suomi in Finnish) is a country in Northern Europe and is a member state of the European Union. Finland is one of the Nordic countries. It is also part of Fennoscandia. Finland is between the 60th and 70th latitudes North. Its neighbours are Sweden to the west, Norway to the north, Russia to the east and Estonia to the south, beyond the sea called Gulf of Finland. Most of western and southern coast is on the shore of the Baltic Sea.

The capital of Finland is Helsinki. The currency of Finland is the euro (EUR); before 2002 it was the markka, the Finnish mark (FIM). The president of Finland is Sauli Niinistö. 5.3 million people live in Finland. Finnish and Swedish are the official languages of Finland. Most people in Finland speak Finnish, but about six percent of Finland's people speak Swedish as their mother tongue, living mostly in the western part of Finland and on Åland (Finnish Ahvenanmaa). Finland became independent of Russia in 1917.

The most important cities and towns in Finland are Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Turku, Oulu, Lahti, Kuopio, Jyväskylä and Pori.

Finland is a highly industrialized First World country. The most important Finnish industrial products are paper, steel products such as machines, and electronics.

Nokia (the mobile company) is originally a company of Finland, named after a small town called Nokia.

Finland has been top of the list of least corrupt countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index more times than any other country.

History of Finland

People first came to Finland 10,000 years ago. That was just after an ice age, after a glacier that covered the ground had receded.

Some think the first people in Finland already spoke a language that is related to Finnish that is spoken today. It is known for sure that an early form of the Finnish language was spoken in Finland in the Iron Age. (The Iron Age in Finland was 2,500–800 years ago).

The first residents in Finland hunted animals, as "hunter-gatherers". Some people started to farm crops about 5,200 years ago. Farming slowly became more and more popular and became the major way of life until the modern age.

Vasarakirves
Stone axe from Finland.

The ancient Finns were pagans, like most Europeans, as well as most people everywhere. The most important god of the Finnish pantheon was Ukko. He was a god of sky and thunder, much like Odin, another Scandinavian god-king. These powers were common among the pagan god kings in pantheons ranging from the Finnish Ukko, to the Scandinavian/Germanic/Saxon Odin, all the way east to Zeus of the Greeks and Jupiter of the Romans.

Around a thousand years ago when most of Europe were adopting Christianity, eventually Finland followed suit. During the Reformation of Christianity in the 16th century, most Finns became Protestants. Some pagan practices still remain amongst the now Christian Finns, such as bear worship.

From the Middle Ages Finland was a part of Sweden. Then, in the year 1809, Russia took Finland from Sweden. Finland was a part of Russia, but after a short period of time it became autonomous, which means that the Finns essentially controlled Finland, though the Tsar was in control officially. Finns could create their own laws and had their own currency, (called the markka), their own stamps and own customs. However, Finland did not have its own army.

Finnish soldiers during the Winter War
Finnish soldiers at the time of war

On 6 December 1917, Finland became independent, which meant that it no longer was a part of Russia. There was a communist revolution in Russia and after 1922 Russia was a part of the Soviet Union. There were communists in Finland too, who tried to create a revolution in Finland. This attempt at revolution caused the Finnish civil war. The communists lost the civil war, and Finland did not change its old capitalist system.

Stalin, who was the leader of the Soviet Union, did not like having a capitalist country as its neighbour. Stalin wanted Finland to become a communist state and be a part of the Soviet Union. The leaders of Finland refused: they wanted to stay independent. The Soviet Union sent many troops across the eastern border of Finland to try to make Finland join them, which resulted in the Winter War. There were many battles, that eventually resulted in Finland losing areas along its eastern border to the Soviet Union.

Adolf Hitler was the dictator of Germany, and wanted to invade the Soviet Union. Finland wanted to retrieve the areas that it had lost, so they joined the German invasion, which started in 1941. This part of the Second World War is called the Continuation War in Finland. However, Finland was not a fascist or an antisemitic country. Finns were interested in freedom rather than dictatorship.

While Germany was losing the war, Finland had already progressed into the Soviet Union in order to regain the areas lost in the previous peace. Finland wanted to end the war with the Soviet Union, which resulted in peace, but once again Finland had to relinquish the areas that they had conquered. This time, the peace with the Soviet Union made Finland and Germany enemies. Finns fought Germans, and Germans retreated to Norway, burning down all of Lapland behind them. This is called War of Lapland. Finland remained independent.

After the war, many factories were built in Finland. Many people moved from farms to cities. At that time, big factories manufactured products like paper and steel. More and more people worked in more advanced jobs, like high technology. Also, many people went to universities to get a good education. Finland was one of the first countries where most people had Internet connections and mobile phones. A well-known company that makes mobile phones, Nokia, is from Finland.

Finland joined the European Union in 1995. The Finnish currency, the markka (mark), was changed to the European Union's currency, the euro, in 2002.

Geography

Map of Finland-en
Topographic map of Finland

Lying approximately between latitudes 60° and 70° N, and longitudes 20° and 32° E, Finland is one of the world's northernmost countries. Of world capitals, only Reykjavík lies more to the north than Helsinki. The distance from the southernmost point – Hanko in Uusimaa – to the northernmost – Nuorgam in Lapland – is 1,160 kilometres (720 mi).

Finland has about 168,000 lakes (of area larger than 500 m2 or 0.12 acres) and 179,000 islands. Its largest lake, Saimaa, is the fourth largest in Europe. The Finnish Lakeland is the area with the most lakes in the country; many of the major cities in the area, most notably Tampere, Jyväskylä and Kuopio, are located in the immediate vicinity of the large lakes. The greatest concentration of islands is found in the southwest, in the Archipelago Sea between continental Finland and the main island of Åland.

Much of the geography of Finland is a result of the Ice Age. The glaciers were thicker and lasted longer in Fennoscandia compared with the rest of Europe. Their eroding effects have left the Finnish landscape mostly flat with few hills and fewer mountains. Its highest point, the Halti at 1,324 metres (4,344 ft), is found in the extreme north of Lapland at the border between Finland and Norway. The highest mountain whose peak is entirely in Finland is Ridnitšohkka at 1,316 m (4,318 ft), directly adjacent to Halti.

Imatran kylpylä
There are some 187,888 lakes in Finland larger than 500 square metres and 75,818 islands of over 0,5 km2 area, leading to the denomination "the land of a thousand lakes".

The retreating glaciers have left the land with morainic deposits in formations of eskers. These are ridges of stratified gravel and sand, running northwest to southeast, where the ancient edge of the glacier once lay. Among the biggest of these are the three Salpausselkä ridges that run across southern Finland.

Having been compressed under the enormous weight of the glaciers, terrain in Finland is rising due to the post-glacial rebound. The effect is strongest around the Gulf of Bothnia, where land steadily rises about 1 cm (0.4 in) a year. As a result, the old sea bottom turns little by little into dry land: the surface area of the country is expanding by about 7 square kilometres (2.7 sq mi) annually. Relatively speaking, Finland is rising from the sea.

The landscape is covered mostly by coniferous taiga forests and fens, with little cultivated land. Of the total area 10% is lakes, rivers and ponds, and 78% forest. The forest consists of pine, spruce, birch, and other species. Finland is the largest producer of wood in Europe and among the largest in the world. 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.

Biodiversity

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. Taiga covers most of Finland from northern regions of southern provinces to the north of Lapland. On the southwestern coast, south of the Helsinki-Rauma line, forests are characterized by mixed forests, that are more typical in the Baltic region. In the extreme north of Finland, near the tree line and Arctic Ocean, Montane Birch forests are common. Finland had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 5.08/10, ranking it 109th globally out of 172 countries.

Ähtärin karhut 7
The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is Finland's national animal. It is also the largest carnivora in Finland.

Similarly, Finland has a diverse and extensive range of fauna. There are at least sixty native mammalian species, 248 breeding bird species, over 70 fish species, and 11 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, gray wolf, wolverine, and elk. The brown bear, which is also nicknamed as the "king of the forest" by the Finns, is the country's official national animal, which also occur on the coat of arms of the Satakunta region is a crown-headed black bear carrying a sword, possibly referring to the regional capital city of Pori, whose Swedish name Björneborg and the Latin name Arctopolis literally means "bear city" or "bear fortress". Three of the more striking birds are the whooper swan, a large European swan and the national bird of Finland; the Western capercaillie, a large, black-plumaged member of the grouse family; and the Eurasian eagle-owl. The latter is considered an indicator of old-growth forest connectivity, and has been declining because of landscape fragmentation. The most common breeding birds are the willow warbler, common chaffinch, and redwing. Of some seventy species of freshwater fish, the northern pike, perch, and others are plentiful. Atlantic salmon remains the favourite of fly rod enthusiasts.

The endangered Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis), one of only three lake seal species in the world, exists only in the Saimaa lake system of southeastern Finland, down to only 390 seals today. Ever since the species was protected in 1955, it has become the emblem of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation. The Saimaa ringed seal lives nowadays mainly in two Finnish national parks, Kolovesi and Linnansaari, but strays have been seen in a much larger area, including near Savonlinna's town centre.

Climate

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. In the Köppen climate classification, the whole of Finland lies in the boreal zone, characterized by warm summers and freezing winters. Within the country, the temperateness varies considerably between the southern coastal regions and the extreme north, showing characteristics of both a maritime and a continental climate. Finland is near enough to the Atlantic Ocean to be continuously warmed by the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream combines with the moderating effects of the Baltic Sea and numerous inland lakes to explain the unusually warm climate compared with other regions that share the same latitude, such as Alaska, Siberia, and southern Greenland.

Winters in southern Finland (when mean daily temperature remains below 0 °C or 32 °F) are usually about 100 days long, and in the inland the snow typically covers the land from about late November to April, and on the coastal areas such as Helsinki, snow often covers the land from late December to late March. Even in the south, the harshest winter nights can see the temperatures fall to −30 °C (−22 °F) although on coastal areas like Helsinki, temperatures below −30 °C (−22 °F) are rare. Climatic summers (when mean daily temperature remains above 10 °C or 50 °F) in southern Finland last from about late May to mid-September, and in the inland, the warmest days of July can reach over 35 °C (95 °F). Although most of Finland lies on the taiga belt, the southernmost coastal regions are sometimes classified as hemiboreal.

In northern Finland, particularly in Lapland, the winters are long and cold, while the summers are relatively warm but short. The most severe winter days in Lapland can see the temperature fall down to −45 °C (−49 °F). The winter of the north lasts for about 200 days with permanent snow cover from about mid-October to early May. Summers in the north are quite short, only two to three months, but can still see maximum daily temperatures above 25 °C (77 °F) during heat waves. No part of Finland has Arctic tundra, but Alpine tundra can be found at the fells Lapland.

The Finnish climate is suitable for cereal farming only in the southernmost regions, while the northern regions are suitable for animal husbandry.

A quarter of Finland's territory lies within 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.

Economy

Finland has a mixed economy. Free market controls a lot of production and sales of goods, but public sector is involved in services. In 2013, taxes were 44% of gross national product. This is 4th largest in Europe, after Denmark, France and Belgium.

In 2014 services were 70% of the gross national product.

The largest company in 2014 was oil refinery Neste Oil. Second largest was Nokia. Two forest industries Stora Enso and UPM-Kymmene, are numbers three and four. Number five is Kesko which sells everyday goods in K-supermarkets.

Transport

A VR Class Sr2 locomotive
Three VR Class Sr3 locomotives
Soviet-made electric locomotive VR Class Sr1 model from 1981
The state-owned VR operates a railway network serving all major cities in Finland.

Finland's road system is utilized by most internal cargo and passenger traffic.

The main international passenger gateway is Helsinki Airport, which handled about 17 million passengers in 2016. Oulu Airport is the second largest, whilst another 25 airports have scheduled passenger services. The Helsinki Airport-based Finnair, Blue1, and Nordic Regional Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle sell air services both domestically and internationally. Helsinki has an optimal location for great circle (i.e. the shortest and most efficient) routes between Western Europe and the Far East.

Despite having a low population density, the Government annually spends around €350 million to maintain the 5,865-kilometre-long (3,644 mi) network of railway tracks. Rail transport is handled by the state owned VR Group, which has a 5% passenger market share (out of which 80% are from urban trips in Greater Helsinki) and 25% cargo market share. Since 12 December 2010, Karelian Trains, a joint venture between Russian Railways and VR Group, has been running Alstom Pendolino operated high-speed services between Saint Petersburg's Finlyandsky and Helsinki's Central railway stations. These services are branded as "Allegro" trains. The journey from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg takes only three and a half hours. A high-speed rail line is planned between Helsinki and Turku, with a line from the capital to Tampere also proposed. Helsinki opened the world's northernmost metro system in 1982, which also serves the neighbouring city of Espoo since 2017.

The majority of international cargo shipments are handled at ports. Vuosaari Harbour in Helsinki is the largest container port in Finland; others include Kotka, Hamina, Hanko, Pori, Rauma, and Oulu. There is passenger traffic from Helsinki and Turku, which have ferry connections to Tallinn, Mariehamn, Stockholm and Travemünde. The Helsinki-Tallinn route – one of the busiest passenger sea routes in the world – has also been served by a helicopter line, and the Helsinki-Tallinn Tunnel has been proposed to provide railway services between the two cities. Largely following the example of the Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark, the Kvarken Bridge connecting Umeå in Sweden and Vaasa in Finland to cross the Gulf of Bothnia has also been planned for decades.

People and culture

Torvisen kansakoulu 1924-26
Pupils at the school of Torvinen in Sodankylä, Finland, in the 1920s
Finlandbronzecelebration2010WinterOlympics
Finland's men's national ice hockey team is ranked as one of the best in the world. The team has won two world championship titles (in 1995 & 2011) and six Olympic medals.

The population of Finland is currently about 5.5 million. The people of Finland are called Finns. Most Finns speak Finnish as their mother tongue; 6% of Finns have the Swedish language as their mother tongue. Finns also study mandatory English and Swedish in school. Most Finns work either in services (that is: shops, banks, offices or businesses) or in factories. Finns often like saunas and nature. Many Finnish families have summer cottages, small houses where they go to relax on their summer holidays. The most important festivals that Finnish people celebrate are Midsummer and Christmas. Santa Claus is an old Finnish tradition, although later the Coca-Cola company introduced him to the world.

The most popular sports in Finland are ice hockey, skiing, track and field and association football (soccer). Recently Finns have also won many events in swimming, motor sports and gymnastics.

There is a very small group (a minority) of a few thousand Samis (also called Lapps) in the most northern part of Finland, called Lapland. Most of the Samis live in Norway and Sweden. Many Sami people farm reindeers. Originally Samis were hunter-gatherers. In the past the Sami were nomads, but nowadays they live in regular houses.

Very few people in Finland, approximately 2%, are from other countries, The number of foreigners in Finland has recently been growing rapidly.

Cuisine

Karjalanpiirakka-20060227
Karelian pasty (karjalanpiirakka) is a traditional Finnish dish made from a thin rye crust with a filling of rice. Butter, often mixed with boiled egg (eggbutter or munavoi), is spread over the hot pastries before eating.

Finnish cuisine is notable for generally combining traditional country fare and haute cuisine with contemporary style cooking. Fish and meat play a prominent role in traditional Finnish dishes from the western part of the country, while the dishes from the eastern part have traditionally included various vegetables and mushrooms. Refugees from Karelia contributed to foods in eastern Finland. Many regions have strongly branded traditional delicacies, such as Tampere has mustamakkara and Kuopio has kalakukko.

Finnish foods often use wholemeal products (rye, barley, oats) and berries (such as bilberries, lingonberries, cloudberries, and sea buckthorn). Milk and its derivatives like buttermilk are commonly used as food, drink, or in various recipes. Various turnips were common in traditional cooking, but were replaced with the potato after its introduction in the 18th century.

Finland has the world's highest per capita consumption of coffee. Milk consumption is also high, at an average of about 112 litres (25 imp gal; 30 US gal), per person, per year.

Famous Finnish people

Anefo 932-2378 Keke Rosberg, Zandvoort, 03-07-1982
Rosberg at the 1982 Dutch Grand Prix
Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds, the Finnish software engineer best known for creating the popular open-source kernel Linux

Images for kids

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