Finland is a sovereign state in Northern Europe, formally known as the Republic of Finland. The nation, which is a peninsula with the Gulf of Finland to the south and the Gulf of Bothnia to the west, has land boundaries with Sweden to the northwest, Norway to the north, and Russia to the east. Estonia is located to the south of the nation, across the Gulf of Finland. Finland is located in the Fennoscandia area, which also encompasses Scandinavia. Finland’s population is 5.5 million (2014), and has been fairly constant over the last two decades. The southern area is home to the bulk of the people. It is the seventh biggest nation in Europe in terms of land area and the most sparsely inhabited country in the European Union.
Finland is a parliamentary republic with a central government headquartered in Helsinki, local governments in 317 municipalities, and the land Islands as an autonomous territory. The Greater Helsinki metropolitan region is home to about 1.4 million people and accounts for one-third of the country’s GDP. Finland has been an important part of Sweden since the late 12th century, as shown by the predominance of the Swedish language and its official position. In the spirit of Adolf Ivar Arwidsson’s (1791–1858) idea, “we are no longer Swedes, we do not wish to become Russians, let us therefore be Finns,” the Finnish national identity began to emerge. Nonetheless, Finland was included into the Russian Empire in 1809 as the independent Grand Duchy of Finland. In 1906, Finland became the second country in the world to provide all adult citizens the right to vote, and the first to grant all adult citizens the right to run for public office. Finland proclaimed its independence after the 1917 Russian Revolution.
The young state was split by civil war in 1918, with the Bolshevik-leaning “Reds,” backed by the equally new Soviet Russia, battling the “Whites,” backed by the German Empire. The nation became a republic after a short effort to create a monarchy. During WWII, the Soviet Union attempted to invade Finland many times, with Finland losing portions of Karelia, Salla and Kuusamo, Petsamo, and several islands but maintaining its freedom. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and adopted an official neutrality stance. During the Cold War, the Finno-Soviet Treaty of 1948 gave the Soviet Union considerable clout in Finnish internal affairs. Finland joined the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1969, NATO Partnership for Peace in 1994, the European Union in 1995, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997, and the Eurozone in 1999.
Finland was a latecomer to industrialisation, being mostly agricultural until the 1950s. It quickly built a sophisticated economy while establishing a large Nordic-style welfare state, resulting in widespread affluence and one of the world’s highest per capita incomes. However, Finnish GDP growth has been negative from 2012 to 2014 (-0,698 percent to -1,426 percent), after a trough of 8% in 2009. Finland ranks first in a variety of national performance indicators, including education, economic competitiveness, civil freedoms, quality of life, and human development. Finland was rated top in the World Human Capital and Press Freedom Indexes in 2015, as well as the most stable nation in the Failed States Index and second in the Global Gender Gap Report. Despite the fact that religious freedom is guaranteed by the Finnish Constitution, the Evangelical Lutheran Church is the religion of the vast majority of Finns.
In 2005, Finnish tourism earned more than €6.7 billion, a 5% increase over the previous year. Much of the rapid development may be ascribed to the country’s globalization and modernization, as well as an increase in favorable publicity and awareness. Finland has numerous attractions that drew nearly 8 million tourists in 2013.
The Finnish landscape is characterized by dense pine woods and undulating hills, as well as a maze of lakes and inlets. From the southern beaches of the Gulf of Finland to the high fells of Lapland, most of Finland remains pure and virgin. It has 37 national parks. Finland also boasts urbanized areas with a plethora of cultural events and activities.
Commercial cruises connecting major Baltic coastal and port towns such as Helsinki, Turku, Tallinn, Stockholm, and Travemünde play an important part in the local tourist sector. Finland is known locally as the home of Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus, who lives in northern Lapland. Above the Arctic Circle, there is a polar night, a time when the sun does not rise for days, weeks, or even months, and, in the summer, there is midnight sun, with no sunset even at midnight (for up to 73 consecutive days, at the northernmost point). Because Lapland lies so far north, the Aurora Borealis, or light in the upper atmosphere caused by solar wind, may be viewed on a regular basis throughout the autumn, winter, and spring.
Among the numerous outdoor activities available are Nordic skiing, golf, fishing, yachting, lake cruises, hiking, and kayaking. Finland has a plethora of wildlife. Bird-watching is popular among people who like avifauna, but hunting is also popular. In Finland, elk and hare are common game. The annual Savonlinna Opera Festival is held at Olavinlinna, Savonlinna.
Finland is one of the world’s northernmost nations, located roughly between latitudes 60° and 70° N and longitudes 20° and 32° E. Only Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is farther north than Helsinki. The distance between the country’s southernmost point, Hanko, and its northernmost point, Nuorgam, is 1,160 kilometers (720 mi).
Finland has hundreds of lakes and islands, with about 188,000 lakes (greater than 500 m2 or 0.12 acres) and 179,000 islands. Saimaa, its biggest lake, is the fourth largest in Europe. The region with the most lakes is known as Finnish Lakeland. The Archipelago Sea between mainland Finland and the major island of Land has the highest number of islands.
The Ice Age explains much of Finland’s geography. Fennoscandia’s glaciers were thicker and lasted longer than the rest of Europe’s. Their eroding impacts have resulted in a largely flat Finnish environment with few hills and even fewer mountains. The Halti, at 1,324 metres (4,344 feet), is located in the very north of Lapland, on the boundary between Finland and Norway. Ridnitsohkka (1,316 m/4,318 ft), which is immediately next to Halti, is the tallest mountain whose summit is completely in Finland.
The terrain has been left with morainic deposits in the shape of eskers by receding glaciers. These are ridges of stratified gravel and sand that stretch northwest to southeast, where the glacier’s old margin originally lay. The three Salpausselkä ridges that stretch through southern Finland are among the largest of them.
The post-glacial rebound is causing the ground in Finland to rise after being crushed by the tremendous weight of the glaciers. The impact is most pronounced in the Gulf of Bothnia, where land gradually rises by approximately 1 cm (0.4 in) each year. As a consequence, the ancient sea floor gradually transforms into dry land: the country’s surface area grows by approximately 7 square kilometers (2.7 square miles) each year. Finland, in relative terms, is rising from the sea.
The terrain is dominated by coniferous taiga woods and fens, with just a small amount of farmed land. Lakes, rivers, and ponds account for 10% of the overall land, while forest accounts for 78%. The forest is made up of pine, spruce, birch, and other tree types. Finland is Europe’s biggest producer of wood and one of the world’s largest. Granite is the most prevalent kind of rock. It is a common feature of the landscape, evident anywhere there is no soil cover. The most prevalent kind of soil is moraine or till, which is coated by a thin layer of organic humus. Except in areas with inadequate drainage, Podzol profile development may be observed in most forest soils. Gleysols and peat bogs thrive in poorly drained environments.
Finland has a moderate climate that is really mild for its latitude due to the moderating effect of the Gulf Stream. Winter, on the other hand, is just as gloomy as it is elsewhere in these latitudes, with temperatures reaching -30°C in the south and even dipping to -50°C in the north, with 0 to -25°C being typical in the south. The short Finnish summer is much more pleasant, with day temperatures ranging from +15 to +25°C (on occasion reaching +35°C), and is usually the best time to visit. July is the hottest month of the year. Early spring (March–April) is when the snow begins to melt and Finns prefer to travel north for skiing and winter sports, while the transition from fall to winter (October–December) is the worst season to visit since it is damp, gloomy, dark, and generally unpleasant.
Due to its high latitude, Finland sees the renowned Midnight Sun around the summer solstice, when (if above the Arctic Circle) the sun never sets throughout the night and it never truly gets dark even in southern Finland. The Arctic Night (kaamos) in the winter is the polar opposite, when the sun never rises in the north. In the south, daylight is restricted to a few miserable hours, with the sun barely breaking through the trees before setting again.
After centuries of being buffeted by its neighbors and absorbing influences from the west, east, and south, Finnish culture as a separate identity emerged only in the nineteenth century: “we are not Swedes, and we do not want to become Russian, therefore let us be Finns.”
The Kalevala, a collection of ancient Karelian tales and poetry compiled in 1835, chronicles the origin of the universe and the exploits of Väinämöinen, a shamanistic hero endowed with magical abilities. The Sampo, a legendary cornucopia, has been a significant influence for Finnish painters, and characters, settings, and ideas from the epic continue to color their paintings.
While Lutheranism, a kind of Protestant Christianity, is the official religion of Finland, the country enjoys complete religious freedom, and for the vast majority of people, religious practice is lax or nonexistent. Nonetheless, Luther’s lessons of a strong work ethic and belief in equality remain strong, both in the good (women’s rights, non-existence of corruption) and the bad (conformity, high rates of depression and suicide). The Finnish character is frequently summed up by the term sisu, which is a combination of remarkable persistence and pig-headed stubbornness in the face of hardship.
Finnish music is most known for the symphonies of classical composer Jean Sibelius, whose works continue to be performed in concert halls throughout the globe. Finnish pop, on the other hand, has very seldom gone outside its boundaries, although heavy metal bands such as Nightwish, Children Of Bodom, and HIM have received considerable attention, as have rubber monsters. Lordi won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006, which was a very improbable feat.
In addition to renowned architect and designer Alvar Aalto, Finland has produced writers Mika Waltari (The Egyptian) and Väinö Linna (The Unknown Soldier), as well as painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela, well known for his Kalevala drawings.
Because Finland has a 5.5 percent Swedish-speaking minority and is legally bilingual, maps almost usually include both Finnish and Swedish names for cities and towns. Turku and bo, for example, are the same city despite their very different names. Roads are particularly perplexing: what appears on a map as a road that changes names is, in most instances, the Finnish and Swedish names of the same road (e.g., Turuntie/bovägen are both “Turku Road”). This is more prevalent in Swedish-speaking regions on the southern and western coastlines, including Helsinki, while inland Swedish names are far less popular. In far northern Lapland, you’ll virtually never see Swedish, but you may encounter Sámi signs instead. Google Maps, in instance, seems to choose the language at random.
Language groups mingle effectively in bilingual regions, with minimal problems. Even in Finnish-speaking areas like Jyvärskylä, Pori, and Oulu, many Finnish speakers appreciate the contacts with Swedish that the minority and minority institutions provide; the few Swedish schools in such areas have many Finnish students, and language immersion daycare is popular where it is available. Bilingualism is a problem in politics. Some Finnish speakers still see the country’s bilingual status as a tool of oppression by the Swedish speaking population and a relic from the time of a Swedish speaking elite, while many Swedish speakers are concerned that administrative reforms merging small Swedish institutions with larger Finnish ones will marginalize their language.
The constitution also recognizes Sámi, Romani, and Finnish sign language, although Finnish and Swedish are the “national languages.”
Finland presently has a population of about 5,500,000 people. Finland has a population density of 18 people per square kilometer. This is the third-lowest population density of any European nation, behind only Norway and Iceland, and the lowest in the EU. Finland’s population has traditionally been concentrated in the country’s south, a tendency that grew much more apparent throughout the twentieth century’s urbanization. Finland’s biggest cities are those in the Greater Helsinki metropolitan region, which includes Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa. Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Jyväskylä, Kuopio, and Lahti are other cities with populations over 100,000.
In 2014, Finland had 322,700 individuals of foreign origin (5.9 percent of the population), the majority of whom were from Russia, Estonia, Somalia, Iraq, and Yugoslavia. Foreigners’ children are not automatically awarded Finnish citizenship since Finnish nationality law follows and maintains a jus sanguinis principle in which only children born to at least one Finnish parent are granted citizenship. They become citizens if they are born in Finland and are unable to get citizenship in another nation. Furthermore, some people of Finnish ancestry who live in countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union have the right of return, which allows them to acquire permanent residence in the nation and ultimately qualify for citizenship.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, which was disestablished by the Church Act in 1869, has about four million members (or 73.0 percent at the end of 2015). It was the first state church to be abolished in the Nordic nations, with the Church of Sweden following suit in 2000. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is one of the world’s biggest Lutheran churches, despite the fact that its proportion of the country’s population has been declining by around 1% each year in recent years. Church membership resignations and decreasing baptism rates have also contributed to the decrease. The second biggest group has no religious connection, accounting for 24.3 percent of the population in 2015. From slightly about 13 percent in 2000, the irreligious minority grew rapidly. The Finnish Orthodox Church has a tiny minority (1.1 percent ). Other Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as Muslim, Jewish, and other non-Christian groups, are considerably smaller (totalling 1.6 percent ). The major Lutheran and Orthodox churches in Finland are national churches with specific functions such as state ceremonies and schools.
By enacting the Church Act in 1869, Finland became the first Nordic nation to disestablish its Evangelical Lutheran church. Despite the fact that the church still has a particular connection with the state, it is not defined as a state religion in the Finnish Constitution or any legislation enacted by the Finnish Parliament. Until 1809, Finland’s state church was the Church of Sweden. Finland maintained the Lutheran State Church system as an independent Grand Duchy under Russia from 1809 to 1917, and a distinct state church from Sweden, subsequently called the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, was formed. When the new church law went into effect in 1869, it was separated from the state as a distinct judicial body. After Finland achieved independence in 1917, religious freedom was proclaimed in the 1919 constitution and a separate religious freedom legislation was passed in 1922. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland lost its position as a state church as a result of this agreement, but acquired constitutional standing as a national church alongside the Finnish Orthodox Church, whose position is not enshrined in the constitution.
In 2014, 72.4 percent of Finnish children were baptized, and 82.3 percent were confirmed at the age of 15, while Christian funerals account for more than 90 percent of all funerals. The bulk of Lutherans, however, only attend church on exceptional occasions such as Christmas services, weddings, and funerals. According to the Lutheran Church, about 1.8 percent of its members attend weekly church services. Church members make about two church visits each year on average.
According to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2010, 33% of Finnish people said “they think there is a God,” 42% said “they believe there is some kind of spirit or life force,” and 22% said “they do not believe there is any form of spirit, God, or life force.” According to ISSP survey data (2008), 8% consider themselves “very religious,” while 31% consider themselves “moderately religious.” In the same poll, 28% identified as “agnostic,” while 29% identified as “non-religious.”
Finland’s economy has a per capita production comparable to that of major European economies such as France, Germany, Belgium, or the United Kingdom. Services account for 66 percent of the GDP, followed by manufacturing and refining at 31 percent. Primary production accounts for 2.9 percent of total output. Manufacturing is the most important economic sector in terms of international trade. In 2007, the biggest industries were electronics (22%), equipment, automobiles, and other engineered metal goods (21.1%), the forest sector (13%), and chemicals (11 percent ). In 2008, the gross domestic product reached its high. The country’s economy is still at 2006 levels in 2015.
Finland has abundant wood, mineral resources (iron, chromium, copper, nickel, and gold), and freshwater. Forestry, paper mills, and agriculture (on which taxpayers spend about 3 billion euros each year) are politically sensitive to rural people. The Greater Helsinki region accounts for about one-third of GDP. In an OECD comparison from 2004, Finland placed second behind Ireland in terms of high-technology manufacturing. Knowledge-intensive services have also placed the smallest and slowest-growing industries – including agriculture and low-tech manufacturing – as the second biggest after Ireland. The overall short-term prognosis was positive, and GDP growth has been higher than that of many EU counterparts.
Finland’s economy is strongly linked with the global economy, with foreign commerce accounting for one-third of GDP. The European Union accounts for 60% of overall commerce. Germany, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, and China have the highest trade flows. Except for agriculture, trade policy is handled by the European Union, and Finland has historically been a proponent of free trade. Finland is the only Nordic nation to be a member of the Eurozone.
Growing crops in Finland is particularly difficult due to the temperature and soils. The nation is located between latitudes 60°N and 70°N, and it has harsh winters and relatively short growth seasons, which are sometimes interrupted by frosts. However, due to the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift Current, Finland has half of the world’s arable land north of 60° north latitude. Annual precipitation is generally enough, although it falls nearly entirely in the winter, making summer droughts a continuous danger. Farmers have depended on quick-ripening and frost-resistant crop types in response to the environment, and they have planted south-facing slopes as well as richer bottomlands to guarantee output even in years with summer frosts. Most farmland was initially forest or marsh, and the soil needed lime treatment and years of cultivation to neutralize excess acid and establish fertility. Irrigation was seldom required, but drainage systems were often required to remove surplus water. Agriculture in Finland was efficient and productive, at least when compared to farming in other European nations.
Forests are important to the country’s economy, making it one of the world’s top wood producers and supplying raw materials at reasonable rates to the vital wood-processing industries. As in agriculture, the government has long taken the lead in forestry, controlling tree cutting, supporting technological advances, and developing long-term plans to guarantee that the country’s woods continue to feed the wood-processing industries. To preserve the country’s competitive edge in forest products, Finnish authorities sought to increase timber production to ecological limitations. The Forest 2000 plan, developed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, was released by the government in 1984. The strategy intended to increase forest harvests by approximately 3% each year while also preserving forestland for leisure and other purposes.
There are 1.8 million private sector workers, with about one-third having a tertiary degree. In 2004, the average hourly wage for a private sector employee was 25.1 euros. In 2008, the country’s average buying power-adjusted income levels were comparable to those of Italy, Sweden, Germany, and France. In 2006, 62 percent of the workforce worked for businesses with less than 250 workers, which accounted for 49 percent of total company turnover and grew at the fastest pace. The female labor force participation rate is high. Gender segregation between male-dominated and female-dominated occupations is greater than in the United States. In 1999, the percentage of part-time employees was among the lowest in the OECD. Itella, Nokia, OP-Pohjola, ISS, VR, Kesko, UPM-Kymmene, YIT, Metso, and Nordea were the top ten private sector employers in Finland in 2013.
The unemployment rate in 2015 was 9.4 percent, up from 8.7 percent in 2014. The percentage of youth unemployment increased from 16.5 percent in 2007 to 20.5 percent in 2014. At the age of 50, one-fifth of inhabitants are unemployed, and fewer than one-third are working at the age of 61. As of today, over one million individuals are living on minimum wage or are jobless in amounts insufficient to meet their living expenses.
Finland had 2.4 million homes in 2006. The average household size is 2.1 people; 40% of homes have a single person, 32% have two people, and 28% have three or more people. There are 1.2 million residential structures, and the average living area is 38 square metres (410 square feet) per person. The typical residential house without land costs 1,187 euros per square metre, whereas residential land costs 8.6 euros per square metre. 74% of households had a vehicle. There are 2.5 million automobiles and 0.4 million other vehicles in the country.
Around 92 percent own a cell phone, and 83.5 percent have a home Internet connection (2009 data). The average total household consumption was 20,000 euros, with housing accounting for approximately 5,500 euros, transportation accounting for approximately 3,000 euros, food and beverages excluding alcoholic beverages accounting for approximately 2,500 euros, and recreation and culture accounting for approximately 2,000 euros. According to Invest in Finland, private consumption increased by 3% in 2006, with consumer trends including durables, high-quality goods, and well-being expenditure.