Finland, rich in lakes and forests, is part of Northern Europe. The many lakes, especially in the area of the Finnish Lake District in the south of the country, are a relic of the ice ages. The capital Helsinki is by far the largest and most important city in Finland. Alongside Finnish, Swedish is the second official language spoken mainly by the residents of the Åland Islands in the Gulf of Bothnia. In the north of the country, in Lapland, live Sami (Lappen), a people with their own language and culture. They live mainly from reindeer herding, fishing and tourism. The modern industrial country has an important timber industry. With the Nokia brand, it is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of mobile phones.
Abbreviated as FI by ABBREVIATIONFINDER, Finland is one third north of the Arctic Circle (Fig. 1). It borders the Gulf of Bothnia to the west, Sweden to the northwest, Norway to the north, Russia to the east and the Gulf of Finland to the south. The Åland Islands, 40 km off the Swedish coast in the Baltic Sea, belong to Finland.
Important data about the country
|Official name:||Finnish Suomen Tasavalta, short form Suomi, Swedish Republiken Finland|
|Surface:||338 145 km²|
|Population density:||15 residents / km²|
|Growth of population:||about 0.2% / year|
(men / women)
|Form of government:||Parliamentary republic divided into five provinces and the Åland Islands|
|Languages:||Finnish and Swedish are official languages.|
|Religions:||Lutherans around 85.3%, Finnish Orthodox 1.1%|
|Climate:||continental boreal climate with subpolar features|
|Land use:||Arable land 6.4%, forest 69%, pasture land 0.7%|
(percentage of employees)
|Agriculture 5.4%, industry 26.9%, services 67.7%|
|Export goods:||Paper and cardboard, electronic devices (cell phones), machines and apparatus, wood and wood products, iron and steel|
|Gross domestic product:||$ 161,876 million (2003)|
|Gross National Product:||US $ 27,060 / residents (2003)|
Geologically, Finland belongs to the old Baltic Shield (Fennoskandia), which is made up of granites, gneiss, mica schists, limestone and quartzites. During the Ice Ages, the entire land area was covered by glacier masses that shaped the landscape. They left a landscape with lakes, round humps, moraines and boulder blocks. The south of Finland is particularly rich in lakes: the Finnish Lake District has around 55,000 bodies of water. The largest lakes are the Saimaa with 1460 km², followed by Päijänne with 1090 km². The third largest lake Inari is located in the far north of the country. This is where the longest river, the Kemijoki, has its source, and after 520 km it flows into the Gulf of Bothnia near Kemi.
In the north the surface is hilly. Bogs and swamps take the place of lakes. The relief reaches its highest heights in Lapland in the northwest. The highest mountain in Finland is Haltiatunturi with 1328 m. The Gulf of Bothnia in the west and the Gulf of Finland in the south are the two large bays that divide the Finnish coast. The coastal plain is preceded by numerous islands and skerries, especially in the south and south-west. The largest archipelago is formed by the Åland Islands at the southern end of the Gulf of Bothnia.
Climate and vegetation
Finland has a comparatively mild climate for the northern location. The continental boreal climate is tempered by the influence of the sea and the Gulf Stream. The north of the country has subpolar features (Fig. 4). Winters are cold and snowy, while summers are relatively dry and warm. Helsinki has a February mean of –7 °C, in Northern Finland it even reaches –12 °C. The mean July temperature in Helsinki is 17 °C, in the far north it still reaches 13 °C.
The icing of the coastal waters, which begins towards the end of the year, usually progresses rapidly in the middle of winter, so that from the beginning of the year to mid-March an ice bridge connects the Åland Islands with south-west Finland (Fig. 5). Precipitation varies between 700 mm and more in the southwest and below 400 mm in the north.
Most of the country belongs to the boreal coniferous forest vegetation zone. Finland is the most forested country in Europe. More than two thirds of the land area is covered with forests (mainly spruce, pine, birch and alder). Moors also cover large areas. Tundra vegetation predominates in the far north.
Between reindeer herding and tourism – the Sami
About 1,800 Sami live in Finnish Lapland(Rag); Estimates also speak of more, as many of the Sami who still live traditionally are semi-nomads. They speak their own Finno-Ugric language, in which the word “Sami” means human. In total there are around 60,000 Sami in Lapland, most of which live in Norway and Sweden. From their original activity as fishermen and hunters, some of them have switched to reindeer herding or they have settled down as lumberjacks or miners. The reindeer herders live in huts or traditional koten (cone-shaped tents) near the summer pastures in the mountains and in houses near the summer pastures in the woodlands. The Chernobyl reactor accident (1986) radioactively contaminated large parts of the reindeer herds. Recently, many Sami have made a living from tourism and sell skins, antlers, leather goods and other items to tourists.
Finland is only sparsely populated with an average population density of 15 residents / km². In the north and in the middle of the country the actual value is far below, in the south the value increases to more than 100 residents / km². Many Finns move from the north to the big cities in the south or emigrate to Sweden. 67% of the population belong to the urban population. The largest cities besides the capital Helsinki are Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Turku and Oulu.
Finnish education is considered exemplary. General compulsory schooling exists from 7 to 16 years of age. The nine-year comprehensive school period comprises a first level of six years for all pupils and a differentiated second level with vocational and general education forms. As in the other Scandinavian countries, the adult education system is traditionally strongly developed.
The Åland Islands form a separate administrative area with autonomous status. The more than 25,000 residents are almost all of Swedish descent, but the islands have been administratively linked to Finland since the Middle Ages. Agriculture and tourism, especially in the capital Mariehamn, are the most important branches of the economy.
Economy and Transport
Finland joined EFTA in 1986 and switched to the EU in 1995. It belongs to the euro area. Even after the end of the Cold War, the country remained politically neutral.
Due to the climatic conditions, agriculture only plays a subordinate role. The most fertile areas are in the south and south-west of Finland, where potatoes, fodder beets, oats, barley and wheat are mainly grown on small farms. The dairy industry is economically more important than arable farming. Dairy products, eggs and pork can even be exported. Reindeer and fur farming are practiced in the north.
The vast forests are used intensively for forestry, although Finland’s share of the world market for wood products has recently decreased. Around one in five Finns earns their living with wood and its processing. The Finnish wood processing industry supplies 140 countries with its products. Logging machines fell the trees, debark them and cut them to the desired length. Most of the timber is still transported on rafts, but the more expensive but faster truck transport is constantly increasing.
The mining is a major industry. Iron, zinc, copper, nickel, chromium, titanium, lead, vanadium and cobalt ores as well as pyrite, selenium, asbestos and peat are mined. Almost all ores are refined in the country. One of the most productive copper mines in Europe is located in Outukumpu in central Finland.
Like its Scandinavian neighbors, Finland is a modern industrial country with increasing growth rates, also as a result of innovative technologies. In the industry, wood processing dominates, especially with paper, pulp and furniture producing companies, and the metal industry, especially ore smelting, metal processing, machine, vehicle and shipbuilding. Many of these products are also exported (Fig. 9). Electrotechnical companies and manufacturers of modern communication media are a special growth sector. The name Nokia, named after the Finnish industrial city not far from Tampere, is familiar to every cell phone owner. Quality and design from Finland are particularly valued for consumer and luxury items. Finland’s most important trading partners are Germany, Sweden, Russia, Great Britain, the USA and the Baltic states. The tourism plays an important role economically, especially in the Helsinki area and in the lakes areas. The city of Rovaniemi in Lapland has its own Santa Claus tourism.
In transport, rail and air traffic play an important role because of the great distances involved. The well-developed rail network uses the Russian broad gauge. The road network is only very dense in the south of the country. The lakes, which are often connected by canals, are important for timber transport. A part of south-east Finland is connected to Russia via the 46 km long Saimaa Canal. Helsinki, Naantali, Kotka, Hamina and Rauma have important seaports. The main international airport is that of Helsinki-Vantaa.
from 2nd century: Finnish tribes coming from the Baltic states and the east settle in southern and central Finland.
13./14. Century: Sweden takes possession of the area.
1721: Sweden has to cede parts of Karelia and Wiborg to Russia.
1809: Finland becomes an autonomous principality within Russia.
1917: Finland declares its sovereignty.
1918: Civil War and War against Russia. Victory of the Finns with German help
1939/40: attack of the Soviet Union on Finland (winter war)
1948: Friendship and assistance treaty with the Soviet Union
1986: Joined EFTA
1995: Accession to the EU