Full name: The Republic of Finland
Population: 5.4 million
Largest Cities: Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Turka
Area: 338,144 sq km (130,558 sq miles)
Density Population: 17.98 / km sq ( 2014 World Bank Records)
Life Expectancy: 78 (Male) 84 (Female)
Currency: The Euro
GDP: $221.00 billion (World record in 2014)
Government: Proportional Representative Parliamentary Democracy
Major Languages: Officially bilingual...Finish (88.9%) and Swedish (5.5%)
Other Languages: 1700 Laplanders speak Sami or Lapp languages
Major Religions: Evangelical –Lutheran ( 82%) Orthodox (1.1%)
Independence Day: 6th December
International Dialling Code: +358
Time Zones: GMT +2 hours (EET European Eastern Time)
Finland is the 8th largest country in Europe after Russia, Ukraine, France, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Germany. The country shares three land borders with Sweden (614km) to its west, Norway (736km) to the north and Russia (1340km) to the east. However, including inlets, Finland has a longer coastline border measuring some 4600km with the Gulf of Bothnia, The Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland all sea areas lying to the south and south west of Finland. Although geographically large, 10% of the country is water and 69% is forest. Amazingly there are 188,000 lakes in Finland and over 98,000 islands on these lakes. With over 81,000 islands dotted along its coast, it is not surprising that Finland boasts the largest archipelago in Europe. The Aland Islands, part of this archipelago, is an autonomous Swedish-speaking province of Finland.
Finland enjoys a milder climate than most other regions that lie as far north because the warm current of the North Atlantic Gulf Stream flows off Norway’s west coast keeping the gulfs of Bothnia and Finland relatively warm.
In mid summer temperatures range between 13 degrees C and 17 degrees C with as much as 19 hours of daylight in the southern regions whilst in winter temperatures in the far north regions can drop as low as minus 30 degrees C. However around the southern tip and in the capital city Helsinki snow will be largely evident from December to April with an average temperature of minus 5 degrees C when the country is largely icebound, including the adjoining seas of the Gulf of Bothnia and The Gulf of Finland. The northernmost areas, referred to as the Land of the Midnight Sun. have periods of continuous daylight during parts of the summer which can last for up to 2.5 months in the farthest north regions. By contrast continuous darkness covers these regions in mid winter, but southern Finland will still receive as much as 6 hours of daylight in mid winter.
The winter night skies over Finland are regularly enriched by the brilliant display of the Aurora Borealis otherwise known as The Northern Lights.
In autumn and winter heavy snowfall accompanied by strong winds is common and Finns have to be careful to guard against sudden weather changes and must always carry suitable clothing when venturing on any outdoor expedition.
Finnish culture combines an indigenous heritage with common Nordic, Russian and European culture. Finnish culture has been strongly influenced by the country’s history and its geographical location. Proximity to various Finnic and Baltic peoples, as well as long historical periods of subordinacy to the former dominant powers of Russia and Sweden has served to mould Finnish culture.
Today Finns celebrate their individual and political freedoms illustrated by the traditional widespread ideal of self-sufficiency, epitomised by the predominant acceptance of the rural life. Finns have a deep-seated emotional connection with nature and the countryside emphasised by the existence of the 475,000 ‘summer cottages’ dotted throughout the country.
Some sub cultural differences exist in language where accent and vocabulary differ across the regions. Minority groups such as the Sami, Swedish-speaking Finns, Romani, Jews, and Tatar all maintain their own individual cultural characteristics. Contrasting with these historically based minority cultures, during the past 20 years, new subcultures have formed due to the increase in immigration with many migrants settling in Finland from Russia, Estonia, the Balkans, Somalia and Iraq.
Before Christianity was introduced in Finland, Finnish Paganism was the primary religion worshipping a number of different deities. The principal god worshipped was Ukko, god of thunder and the sky.
Complete religious freedom has existed in Finland since 1923. Whilst religious education is a compulsory school subject, the core principal of freedom, so endemic in Finnish society, is upheld, as each pupil can receive education peculiar to his or her religion.
Today most Finns are at least nominally members of the Christian Church with 82% being members of the Lutheran Church of Finland and 1.1% belonging to Finland’s Orthodox Church.
Finland has maintained a mixed economy and since the second World War enjoyed an economic boom into the 1970s with the GDP per capita being amongst the world’s highest. The expansion of its welfare state from 1970 to 1990 increased the size of the public sector and the burden of the tax payer. From 1992 Economic instability started to develop leading to Finland joining the European Union in 1995.
Since joining the EU, modern Finland has seen a fluctuating economic performance. Whilst intrinsically economically strong having adopted open-market policies that support dynamic trade and investment, over the past few years there has been a slowdown in Finland’s economy where the soundness of the public finance sector has declined notably. Government spending accounts for over half Finland’s GDP and has proven to be a drag on the economy with budget deficits widening.
However, the spirit and determination of the Finns to work hard is an underlying factor in allowing Finland to look to a positive economic future.
HISTORY & POLITICS
The first settlers arrived in Finland about 7000BC after the end of the last ice age. Developing through the centuries from stone-age hunters to early farmers, these indigenous Finns started making tools with bronze and iron by about 500BC. However there was little or no contact with the classical Greek or Roman civilisations over this early period.
Many skirmishes with Sweden, Norway and Russia ensued over the centuries leading to varying states of control but modern Finland has now resolved the differences with its immediate neighbours. One result of the new 1992 treaty with Russia reached after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was the acceptance of about 450,000 refugees which added serious pressures on Finland’s economy
Having declared independence in 1917, Finland is now a republic with a proportionally representative democratically elected government with all legislative power vested in the Parliament of Finland. The main executive power lies in the cabinet headed by the Prime Minister but the Head of State, the President, has some notable powers in such areas as foreign policy and national security.
Mount Haltia is the highest peak in Finland at 4357 feet ( 1328 metres).
Kimi Raikkonen, the Finnish Racing Driver, won the Formula One World Championship in 2007. He was born on Espoo, the second largest city in Finland, in 1979.
Finland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe with only 17.9 people per square kilometre.
In 2008 Finland was ranked the second most stable country in the world by The Fund for Peace. This ranking is assessed on social, political, economic and military indicators. But even better than this Finland was ranked first in the 2009 Legatum Prosperity rating survey which examines economic performance and quality of life!
Greater Helsinki’s population exceeds 1 million but the next largest cities have comparatively low populations, namely: Espoo (267,000) Tampere (223,000) Vantaa (212,000) and Oulu (196,000).
Finnish women became the first in the world to have unrestricted rights to vote and to stand for parliament.
National military service is compulsory for all males in Finland with a yearly intake of around 27,000 conscripts. A minimum of 6 months has to be served. Around 300 females volunteer to join annually.
The Finnish Lapphund, more commonly called The Lapland Dog, dates back to 7000BC and originates from the dogs kept by the first Lapp people.
Lapland is the largest and northernmost region of Finland.
Everybody has the right to pick wild mushrooms in Finland, even on private land, providing the land owner is not disturbed!
The national sport of Finland is Pesapallo. Often referred to as Finnish baseball, Pesapallo is a fast moving bat-and- ball sport.
The 1952 Summer Olympic Games were held in Helsinki.
Finland is one of six countries that have won medals at every Winter Olympic Games but has never hosted the Winter Olympics.
‘Flying Finn’ is a nickname often given to Finnish athletes. It was originally given to long distance runners. The last ‘Flying Finn’ was Lasse Viren who won the Olympic Gold Medals in the 5000 metres and 10000 metres running events in 1972 and 1976.
Few things have been so important to the preservation of the Sami culture in Finland as the reindeer. For centuries, reindeer have been the source of food, clothing, and shelter and it is undoubtedly true that the Sami people and the reindeer have sustained one another.
Rovaniemi being the largest city in Finnish Lapland lies near the Arctic Circle. It has a population of 34,700.
Home of Santa Claus, Santa Park is designed to emulate the cavern existence of Santa Claus on Arctic Circle. Popular culture depicts Santa Claus himself coming from Lapland, therefore tourists come every year to Rovaniemi to meet Santa Claus. Popular attractions at the amusement park are the Elf show and Santa's workshop.