The Finland reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Finland

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The Republic of Finland (Finnish: Suomi, Swedish: Finland) is a Nordic country in northeastern Europe, bounded by the Baltic Sea to the southwest, the Gulf of Finland to the southeast and the Gulf of Bothnia to the west, and has land frontiers with Sweden, Norway and Russia and a maritime border with Estonia. The Åland Islands, off the southwestern coast, are under Finnish sovereignty while enjoying extensive Home Rule.

Suomen Tasavalta
Republiken Finland
Flag of Finland
Finnish Coat of Arms
(In Detail)
''National motto: None''
image:LocationFinland.png
Official languages Finnish and Swedish
Capital Helsinki
President Tarja Halonen
Prime minister Matti Vanhanen
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 63rd
337,030 kmò
9.4%
Population [1]
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 106th
5,211,311
17.1/km²
Independence
 - Declared
 - Recognized
From Russia
December 6, 1917
December 22, 1917
Currency Euro (€), Finnish euro coins
Time zone EET (UTC+2; UTC+3 in summer)
National anthem Maamme/
Vårt land
Internet TLD .fi
Calling Code 358

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Public Holidays
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 International rankings
11 External links

History

Main article: History of Finland

Conclusive archaeological evidence exists that the area now comprising Finland was settled during the Stone Age, as the inland ice of the last ice age receded. The earliest inhabitants are thought to have been hunters and gatherers, living primarily off what the forests and sea could offer.

Old Scandinavian sagas and some historians like Danish Saxo Grammaticus and Arabian Al Idrisi tell that there have been Finnish kings before Sweden conquered Finland.

Finland's nearly 700-year association with the Kingdom of Sweden began in 1154 with the introduction of Christianity by Sweden's King Erik. Swedish became the dominant language of administration and education, although Finnish recovered its predominance after a 19th century resurgence of Finnish nationalism (fennomania) following the publication of Finland's national epic, the Kalevala.

In 1808, Finland was conquered by the armies of Russian Emperor Alexander I and thereafter remained an autonomous Grand Duchy in personal union with the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence following Treaty of Tartu 1920, where borders of new nation were defined.

The social frontier between the ruling and the working class has been broader in Finland than in most comparable countries. Into the 19th century there was a most obvious language barrier; then during the 19th century Finland developed a proud University-educated meritocracy that felt as being the true representation of "the people" since they spoke the people's language and since a great deal of their ancestors really had been poor peasants.

In 1918, the country experienced a brief but bitter Civil War that coloured domestic politics for many years. The Civil War was chiefly fought between the educated class, supported by Germany and the big class of independent small farmers, against propertyless rural and industrial workers who despite universal suffrage in 1906 had found themselves without political influence.

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939-1940 (with some support from Sweden), during which the Soviet Union attempted to proclaim a Karelo-Finnish S.S.R composed of the territories of Finland and the Karelian A.S.S.R of the R.S.F.S.R, and again in the Continuation War of 1941-1944 (with considerable support from Germany). This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944-1945, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland.

Treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included obligations and restraints on Finland vis-à-vis the Soviet Union as well as further territorial concessions by Finland (compared to the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940).

After the Second World War, Finland was in the grey zone between western countries and Soviet Union. The so-called "YYA Treaty" (Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance) gave Soviet Union some right of determination in Finnish domestic politics. Many politicians used their Soviet Union relations to solve party controversies, which meant that the Soviet Union got more power. The others, on the other hand, did single-minded work to oppose the communists.

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 Finland was surprised, but they used it immediately to their advantage. Finland was free to follow her own course and joined the European Union in 1995. Even today Russia's influence can be seen; Finland supports federal country development more than the other Nordic countries.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Finland

Finland has a primarily parliamentary system, although the president also has some notable powers. Most executive power lies in the cabinet (Council of State) headed by the prime minister chosen by the parliament. The Council of State is made up of the prime minister and the ministers for the various departments of the central government as well as an ex-officio member, the Chancellor of Justice.

Constitutionally, the 200-member, unicameral parliament, the Eduskunta (Finnish) or Riksdag (Swedish), is the supreme legislative authority in Finland. It may alter the constitution, bring about the resignation of the Council of State, and override presidential vetoes. Its acts are not subject to judicial review. Legislation may be initiated by the Council of State, or one of the Eduskunta members, who are elected for a four-year term on the basis of proportional representation through open list multimember districts.

The judicial system is divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and special courts with responsibility for litigation between the public and the administrative organs of the state. Finnish law is codified and its court system consists of local courts, regional appellate courts, and a Supreme Court.

The parliament has, since equal and common suffrage was introduced in 1906, been dominated by Agrarians, Social Democrats and Communists; although all of the political spectrum is more influenced by anti-Socialist currents than in similar countries having less contacts with the Soviet Union.

The constitution and its place in the judicial system are unique, as there is no constitutional court and the supreme courts don't have an explicit right not to enforce laws on the basis that they are unconstitutional. The constitutionality of laws in Finland is verified by a simple vote in the parliament. The only other European countries that lack a constitutional court are the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (the latter doesn't have a constitution at all).

Provinces

Main articles: Provinces of Finland, Historical provinces of Finland
Provinces of Finland
Finland consists of 6 provinces (lääni, läänit or län). The province authority is part of the central government's executive branch; a system that hasn't changed drastically since its creation in 1634. The six provinces are:

  1. Southern Finland
  2. Western Finland
  3. Eastern Finland
  4. Oulu
  5. Lapland
  6. Åland

The Åland Islands enjoy a high degree of autonomy. According to international treaties and Finnish laws, the regional government for Åland handles some matters which belong to the province authority in Mainland Finland.

Another kind of provinces are the echoing the pattern of colonization of Finland. Dialects, folklore, customs and people's feeling of affiliation are associated with these historical provinces, although the re-settlement of 400,000 Karelians during World War II and urbanization in the latter half of the 20th century have made differences less pronounced.

Local government is further organized in 450 municipalities of Finland. Since 1977, no legal or administrative distinction is made between towns, cities and other municipalities. The municipalities cooperate in 20 regions of Finland.

Geography

Main article: Geography of Finland

Map of Finland

Finland is a country of thousands of lakes and islands; 187,888 lakes and 179,584 islands to be precise. One of these lakes, Saimaa, is the 5th largest in Europe. The Finnish landscape is mostly flat with few hills and its highest point, the Haltitunturi at 1,328 m, is found in the extreme north of Lapland. Beside the many lakes the landscape is dominated by extensive boreal forests (about 68 percent of land area) and little arable land. The greater part of the islands are found in southwest, part of the archipelago of the Åland Islands, and along the southern coast in the Gulf of Finland. Finland is one of the few countries in the world that is still growing. Owing to the isostatic adjustment that has been taking place since the last ice age, the surface area of the country is growing by about 7 sq. kilometres a year.

The climate in Southern Finland is a northern temperate climate and in Lapland subarctic climate, characterised by cold, occasionally severe winters and relatively warm summers. A quarter of Finland's territory lies above the Arctic Circle, and as a consequence the sun does not set for 73 days during summer, and does not rise for up to 51 days during winter.

See also: List of towns in Finland, Population of Finland

Economy

Main article: Economy of Finland

Finland has a highly industrialized, largely free-market economy, with per capita output roughly that of the UK, France, Germany, and Italy. The Finnish standard of living is high. Its key economic sector is manufacturing - principally the wood, metals, engineering, telecommunications (especially Nokia), and electronics industries. Trade is important, with exports equaling almost one-third of GDP. Except for timber and several minerals, Finland depends on imports of raw materials, energy, and some components for manufactured goods.

Because of the climate, agricultural development is limited to maintaining self-sufficiency in basic products. Forestry, an important export earner, provides a secondary occupation for the rural population. Rapidly increasing integration with Western Europe - Finland was one of the 11 countries joining the euro monetary system (EMU) on January 1, 1999 - will dominate the economic picture over the next several years. Growth was anemic in 2002, but slowed down in 2003 because of global depression.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Finland

There are two official languages in Finland: Finnish, spoken by 93% of the population, and Swedish, mother tongue for 6% of the population. Ethnic Finns and Finland Swedes are generally considered to comprise a common nation. The Finland-Swedes are concentrated in the coastal areas; and there is a slight cultural difference between the culture of the Ethnic Finns, focused on lakes and woods, and the more outward-oriented coastal culture of the Finland-Swedes. This difference may be considered as an ethnic division, but the difference is slight and not more pronounced than the difference between East Finnish and West Finnish culture.

Other minority languages include Russian and Estonian. To the north, in Lapland, are found the Sami, numbering less than 7,000, who like the Finns speak a Finno-Ugric language (Sami).

Most Finns (89%) are members of the Lutheran Church of Finland, with a minority of 1% belonging to the Finnish Orthodox Church (see Eastern Orthodoxy). The remainder consist of relatively small groups of other Protestant denominations, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews beside the 9% who are unaffiliated.

population densityEnlarge

population density

After the Winter War (confirmed by the outcome of the Continuation War) 12% of Finland's population had to be re-settled. War reparations, unemployment and uncertainty regarding Finland's chances to remain sovereign and independent of the Soviet Union contributed to considerable emigration, abating first in the 1970s. Until then, half-a-million Finns had emigrated, chiefly to Sweden, although half of the emigrants ultimately re-migrated again.

Now, since the late 1990s, Finland receives refugees and immigrants in a rate comparable with the Scandinavian countries, although the accumulated number remains far lower in Finland. A considerable share of the immigrants has come from the former Soviet Union claiming ethnic (Finnic) kinship. However, over twenty languages are now spoken in Finland by immigrant groups of significant size — that is: with at least a thousand speakers.

Finland's population has always been concentrated in the southern parts of the country, which is even more pronounced after the 20th century urbanization. The biggest and most important cities in Finland are Helsinki, Tampere, Turku and Oulu, with Oulu being the only city in central–northern Finland with more than 100,000 inhabitants.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Finland

Public Holidays

Main article:
Public holidays in Finland

All official holidays in Finland are established by acts of Parliament. The official holidays can be divided into Christian and secular holidays. The main Christian holidays are Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost and All Saints Day. The secular holidays are New Year's Day, May Day and Midsummer Day.

In addition to this all Sundays are official holidays but they not as important as the special holidays. The names of the Sundays follow the liturgical calendar and they can be categorized as Christian holidays. When the standard working week in Finland was reduced to 40 hours by an act of Parliament it also meant that all Saturdays became a sort of de facto public holidays, though not official ones. Easter Sunday and Pentecost are Sundays that form part of a main holiday and they are preceded by a kind of special Saturdays.

Miscellaneous topics

International rankings

External links


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