Fact sheet Finland
Finland (Finnish name Suomi) is a republic which became a member of the European Union in 1995. Its population is 5.2 million. The capital Helsinki has 560 000 residents. Finland is an advanced industrial economy: the metal, engineering and electronics industries account for 50 % of export revenues, the forest products industry for 30 %. Finland is one of the leading countries in Internet use. Today, there are more mobile phone than fixed network subscriptions.
Forests cover three quarters of the country’s surface area of 338 000 sq. km. Other outstanding features of Finland’s scenery are some 190 000 lakes and approximately as many islands. The principal archipelago and the self-governing province of the Åland Islands lie off the south-west coast while the main lake district, centred on Lake Saimaa, is in the east.
Geography and Nature
Finland is situated in northern Europe between the 60th and 70th parallels of latitude. A quarter of its total area lies north of the Arctic Circle. Finland’s neighbouring countries are Sweden, Norway, and Russia, which have land borders with Finland, and Estonia across the Gulf of Finland. Forest covers about 75 per cent of Finland, while bodies of water – mainly lakes – cover almost 10 per cent. Finland is the most heavily forested country in Europe, with 23 million hectares under forest cover. There are approximately 190,000 lakes and about 180,000 islands. Europe’s largest archipelago, which includes the self-governing province of the Åland Islands, lies off the south-west coast.
One notable effect of Finland’s northerly position on the globe is that the four seasons of the year are clearly distinct from one another. The climate is marked by cold winters and warm summers. The mean annual temperature in the capital, Helsinki, is 5.3 degrees Celsius. The highest daytime temperature in southern Finland during the summer occasionally rises to almost 30 degrees. During the winter months, particularly in January and February, temperatures of minus 20 Celsius are not uncommon. In the far north, beyond the Arctic Circle, the sun does not set for about 73 days, producing the white nights of summer. In the same region, during the winter period, the sun remains below the horizon for 51 days, creating the polar night known in Finnish as kaamos.
The population of Finland is 5.2 million. Finland is the sixth largest country in Europe in area, with a low population density of 17 persons per square kilometre. Most Finns, some two thirds, now live in urban areas, while one third remain in a rural environment. The capital, Helsinki, and the neighbouring towns, Espoo and Vantaa, form the fast growing Helsinki metropolitan region, which is now home to almost a million Finns. Other important towns are Tampere and Turku in southern Finland, and Oulu in the north. Ethnically, Finland is still a very homogeneous country. The foreign community accounts for about two per cent of the population. The biggest groups of immigrants are from Russia, Estonia and Sweden. Among them are a considerable number of people of Finnish descent.
The Finnish language is a member of the Finno-Ugric linguistic family that includes, in one branch, Finnish, Estonian and a number of other Finnic tongues, and in the other, Hungarian, by far the biggest language of the Ugric group. Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, the latter spoken as a mother tongue by about 6 % of the people. The official status of Swedish has historical roots in the period when Finland was a part of the Swedish realm, a period that lasted from the early 13th century until 1809. Another indigenous language is Sami, spoken within the small community of Sami people in Lapland (also known as Lapps). English has become the most popular foreign language and is widely spoken.
There has been complete freedom of worship in Finland since 1923. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the country’s biggest denomination while a fraction of Finns belong to the Finnish Orthodox Church. Both denominations are designated as state religions.
Education and Research
Finnish people have a high standard of education. All children receive compulsory basic education between the ages of 7 and 16. Education beyond the age of 16 is voluntary, taking the form of either a three to four-year course in upper secondary school or 2 to 5 years at a vocational school. Finnish higher education consists of two sectors: universities and polytechnics. There are 20 universities and 29 polytechnics in the country. Nearly 60 per cent of the population have completed post-primary education and 13 per cent have a university degree or comparable qualification.In recent years there has been national focus on research and product development, with special emphasis on information technology.
1155 The first missionaries arrive in Finland from Sweden. Finland becomes part of the Swedish realm.
1809 Sweden surrenders Finland to Russia. The Czar declares Finland an autonomous Grand Duchy with himself as constitutional monarch represented by a governor general.
1917 Finland declares independence from Russia on December 6.
1919 The constitution is adopted and Finland becomes a republic with a president as head of state.
1939 – 40 The Soviet Union attacks Finland and the Winter War is fought.
1941 – 44 Fighting between Finnish and
Soviet forces resumes in the Continuation War. Some territory is ceded to the Soviet Union but Finland is never occupied and preserves its independence and sovereignty.