Photo's of Finland
Coat of Arms Finland
Finland officially the Republic of Finland (Finnish: Suomi; Swedish: Finland) is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of northern Europe. It borders Sweden on the west, Russia on the east, and Finland on the north, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland. The capital city is Helsinki.
Around 5.3 million people reside in Finland, with the majority concentrated in the southern part of the country. It is the eighth largest country in Europe in terms of area and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. The native language for most of the population is Finnish, a member of the Finno-Ugric language family most closely related to Estonian, and is one of only four official EU languages not of Indo-European origin. The other official language of Finland, Swedish, is the mother tongue of 5.5 percent of the population. Finland is a democratic, parliamentary republic with a mostly Helsinki-based central government and local governments in 348 municipalities. A total of a million residents live in Greater Helsinki (including Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa) and a third of the country's GDP is produced there. Other major cities include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Jyväskylä, Kuopio and Lahti.
Finland was historically a part of Sweden and from 1809 an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. Finland's declaration of independence from Russia in 1917 was followed by a civil war, wars against the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and a period of official neutrality during the Cold War. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955, the OECD in 1969, and the European Union in 1995 and participates in the Eurozone. Finland has been ranked the second most stable country in the world, in a survey based on social, economic, political, and military indicators.
Finland has good results in many international comparisons of national performance such as the share of high-technology manufacturing, public education, health care, the rate of gross domestic product growth, and the protection of civil liberties.
Astuvansalmi rock paintings at Saimaa, the oldest dating from 3000-2500 BC.
According to archaeological evidence, the area now composing Finland was settled at the latest around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice shield of the last ice age receded. The artifacts the first settlers left behind present characteristics that are shared with those found in for example Estonia, Russia and Finland. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, using stone tools. There is also evidence of carved stone animal heads. The first pottery appeared in 3000 BCE when settlers from the East brought in the Comb Ceramic culture. The arrival of the Corded Ware culture in southern coastal Finland between 3,000–2,500 BCE coincided with the start of agriculture. Even with the introduction of agriculture, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy, especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
The Bronze Age (1500–500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE–1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with other cultures in the Fennoscandian and Baltic regions. There is no consensus on when Finno-Ugric languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland.
The first verifiable written documents appeared in the 12th century.
Swedish era (1249–1809)
Swedish speaking settlers arrived in the coastal regions during the medieval time. Swedish kings established their rule in 1249. The area of present day Finland became fully consolidated part of the Swedish kingdom. Swedish became the dominant language of the nobility, administration and education; Finnish was chiefly a language for the peasantry, clergy and local courts in predominantly Finnish-speaking areas. The Bishop of Turku was the most socially pre-eminent person in Finland before the Reformation.
During the Reformation, the Finns gradually converted to Lutheranism. In the 16th century, Mikael Agricola published the first written works in Finnish. The first university in Finland, The Royal Academy of Turku, was established in 1640. Finland suffered a severe famine in 1696-1697 and almost one third of the population died. In the 18th century, wars between Sweden and Russia led to the occupation of Finland twice by Russian forces, known to the Finns as the Greater Wrath (1714–1721) and the Lesser Wrath (1742–1743). By this time Finland was the predominant term for the whole area from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Russian border.
On March 29, 1809, after being taken over by the armies of Alexander I of Russia in the Finnish War, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. During the Russian era, the Finnish language started to gain recognition. From the 1860s onwards, a strong Finnish nationalist movement, known as the Fennoman movement, grew. Milestones included the publication of what would become Finland's national epic, the Kalevala, in 1835, and the Finnish language achieving equal legal status with Swedish in 1892.
The Finnish famine of 1866–1868 killed 15 percent of the population, making it one the largest famines in European history. The famine led the Russian Empire to ease financial regulations, and investment rose in following decades. Economic and political development was rapid. The GDP per capita was still a half of United States and a third of Great Britain.
In 1906, universal suffrage was adopted in the Grand Duchy of Finland. However, the relationship between the Grand Duchy and the Russian Empire soured when the Russian government made moves to restrict Finnish autonomy. For example, the universal suffrage was, in practice, virtually meaningless, since the emperor did not have to approve any of the laws adopted by the Finnish parliament. Desire for independence gained ground, first among radical liberals and socialists.
Civil war and early independence
The road to civil war and independence
After the February Revolution the position of Finland as part of the Russian Empire was questioned, mainly by the social democrats. Since the head of state was the Czar of Russia, it was not clear who was the chief executive of Finland after the revolution. The parliament, controlled by social democrats, passed the so-called Power Law, which would give the highest authority to the parliament. This was rejected by the Russian Provisional Government and by the right wing parties in Finland. The Provisional Government dissolved the parliament by force, which the social democrats considered illegal, since the right to do so was stripped from the Russians by the Power Law.
New elections were conducted, in which right wing parties won a slim majority. Some social democrats refused to accept the result and still claimed that the dissolution of the parliament (and thus the ensuing elections) were extralegal. The two nearly equally powerful political blocs, the right wing parties and the social democratic party, were highly antagonized.
The October Revolution in Russia changed the game anew. Suddenly, the right wing parties in Finland started to reconsider their decision to block the transfer of highest executive power from the Russian government to Finland, as radical socialists took power in Russia. Rather than acknowledge the authority of the Power Law of a few months earlier, the right wing government declared independence.
The civil war
The new republic
In 1917 the population was 3 million. Credit-based land reform was enacted after the civil war, increasing the proportion of capital-owning population. About 70% of workers were occupied in agriculture and 10% in industry. The largest export markets were the United Kingdom and Germany. The Great Depression in the early 1930s was relatively light in Finland.
World War II
During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–40 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland and in the Continuation War of 1941–44, following Operation Barbarossa, in which Germany invaded the Soviet Union. For 872 days during World War II, German and Finnish armies besieged Leningrad, the Soviet Union's second largest city. Following German losses on the Eastern Front and the subsequent Soviet advance, Finland was forced to make peace with the Soviet Union and accept their demands for reparations and control. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–45, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland.
The treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included Finnish obligations, restraints, and reparations as well as further Finnish territorial concessions (cf. the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940). Finland was force to cede most of Finnish Karelia, Salla, and Pechenga, which amounted to ten percent of its land area and twenty percent of its industrial capacity, including the ice free port of Vyborg (Viipuri). Some 400,000 evacuees, mainly women and children, fled these areas.
Finland had to reject Marshall aid. However, the United States provided secret development aid and helped the still non-communist Social Democratic Party in hopes of preserving Finland's independence. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as the United Kingdom, and the reparations to the Soviet Union caused Finland to transform itself from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrialised one. Even after the reparations had been paid off, Finland, which is poor in certain resources necessary for an industrialized nation (such as iron and oil), continued to trade with the Soviet Union in the framework of bilateral trade.
Officially claiming to be neutral, Finland lay in the grey zone between the Western countries and the Soviet Union. The YYA Treaty (Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance) gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics. This was extensively exploited by President Urho Kekkonen against his opponents. He maintained an effective monopoly on Soviet relations from 1956 on, which was crucial for his continued popularity. In politics, there was a tendency of avoiding any policies and statements that could be interpreted as anti-Soviet. This phenomenon was given the name ‘Finlandisation’ by the German press (fi. suomettuminen). Self-censorship vis-à-vis anything negative associated with the Soviet Union was prevalent in the media. Public libraries pulled from circulation thousands of books that were considered anti-Soviet, and the law made it possible for the authorities to directly censor movies with supposedly anti-Soviet content. Asylum-seeking Soviet citizens were frequently returned to the Soviet Union by the Finnish authorities.
Despite close relations with the Soviet Union, Finland remained a Western European market economy. Various industries benefited from trade privileges with the Soviets, which explains the widespread support that pro-Soviet policies enjoyed among business interests in Finland. Economic growth was rapid in the postwar era, and by 1975 Finland's GDP per capita was the 15th highest in the world. In the 1970s and 1980s, Finland built one of the most extensive welfare states in the world. Finland also negotiated a treaty with the EEC (a predecessor of the European Union) that mostly abolished customs duties towards the EEC starting from 1977, although Finland did not fully join. In 1981, President Urho Kekkonen's failing health forced him to retire after holding office for 25 years.
Miscalculated macroeconomic decisions, a banking crisis, the collapse of a primary trading partner (the Soviet Union) and a global economic downturn caused a deep recession in Finland in the early 1990s. The depression bottomed out in 1993, and Finland has seen steady economic growth ever since.
The population is aging with the birth rate at 10.42 births per 1,000 population, or a fertility rate of 1.8. With a median age of 41.6 years, Finland is one of the oldest countries; half of voters are estimated to be over 50 years old. Like most European countries, without further reforms or much higher immigration, Finland is expected to struggle with demographics, even though macroeconomic projections are healthier than in most other developed countries.
The exonym Finland has resemblance with, e.g., the Scandinavian placenames Finnmark, Finnveden and hundreds of other toponyms starting with Fin(n) in Sweden and Finland. Some of these names are obviously derived from finnr, a Germanic word for a wanderer/finder and thus supposedly meaning nomadic ‘hunter-gatherers’ or slash and burn agriculturists as opposed to the Germanic sedentary farmers and seafaring traders and pirates. The term ‘Finn’ often refers to Sami people, too. Finn started referring to the people of Finland Proper after the 15th century, when the church appointed a bishop - who became one of the most powerful men in the province - over the whole area corresponding roughly to today's Finland. The fact that there was no other ecclesiastical authority of the same level, coupled with the Bishop's temporal authority, engendered a sense of ‘the Finns’ belonging to one geographical area over which the name spread from the 15th century onwards to refer to the people of the entire country.
Among the first documents to mention ‘a land of the Finns’ are two rune-stones. There is one in Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont (U-582) and one in Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, with the inscription finlandi (G-319), dating from the 11th century.
Map of Finland
Geography of Finland
The landscape is covered mostly (seventy-five percent of land area) by coniferous taiga forests and fens, with little arable land. The most common type of rock is granite. It is a ubiquitous part of the scenery, visible wherever there is no soil cover. Moraine or till is the most common type of soil, covered by a thin layer of humus of biological origin. Podzol profile development is seen in most forest soils except where drainage is poor. Gleysols and peat bogs occupy poorly drained areas. The greater part of the islands are found in the southwest in the Archipelago Sea, 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 whose surface area is still growing. Owing to the post-glacial rebound that has been taking place since the last ice age, the surface area of the country is growing by about 7 square kilometres (2.7 square miles) a year.
The distance from the most Southern point - Hanko - to the most northern point of Finland - Nuorgam - is 1,445 kilometres (898 miles) (driving distance), which would take approximately 18.5 hours to drive. This is very similar to Great Britain (Land's End to John o' Groats - 1,404 kilometres (872 miles) and 16.5 h).
Flora and fauna
All terrestrial life in Finland was completely wiped out during the last ice age that ended some 10,000 years ago, following the retreat of the glaciers and the appearance of vegetation. Today, there are over 1,200 species of vascular plant, 800 bryophytes and 1,000 lichen species in Finland, with flora being richest in the southern parts of the country. Plant life, like most of the Finnish ecology, is well adapted to tolerate the contrasting seasons and extreme weather. Many plant species, such as the Scots Pine, spruce, and birch, spread throughout Finland from Finland and only reached the western coast less than three millennia ago.
Similarly, Finland has a diverse and extensive range of fauna. There are at least sixty native mammalian species, 248 breeding bird species, over seventy fish species and eleven reptile and frog species present today, many migrating from neighbouring countries thousands of years ago.
Large and widely recognised wildlife mammals found in Finland are the Brown Bear (the national animal), Gray Wolf, elk (moose) and reindeer. Other common mammals include the Red Fox, Red Squirrel, and Mountain Hare. Some rare and exotic species include the flying squirrel, Golden Eagle, Saimaa Ringed Seal and Arctic fox. Two of the more striking birds are the Whooper Swan, a large European swan and the national bird of Finland, and the Capercaillie, a large, black-plumaged member of the grouse family. The latter is considered an indicator of old-growth forest connectivity, and has been declining due to landscape fragmentation. The most common breeding birds are the Willow Warbler, Chaffinch and Redwing. Of some seventy species of freshwater fish, the northern pike, perch and others are plentiful. Atlantic salmon remains the favorite of fly rod enthusiasts.
The endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal, one of only three lake seal species in the world, exists only in the Saimaa lake system of southeastern Finland, down to only 300 seals today. It has become the emblem of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation. Due to hunting and persecution in history, many animals such as the Deer, Golden Eagle, Brown Bear and Eurasian Lynx all experienced significant declines in population. However, their numbers have increased again in the 2000s, mainly as a result of careful conservation and the establishment of vast national parks.
Finland has a humid and cool semi continental climate. The climate type in southern Finland is a northern temperate climate. Winters of southern Finland (average temperature of day is below 0) are usually 4–5 months long, and the snow covers the land about 4 months of every year, and in the southern coast, it can melt many times during winter, and then come again. The coldest winter days of southern Finland are usually -20 C, and the warmest days of July and early August can be 25-30 C. Summers in the southern Finland last 4 months (from the mid of May to mid of September). In Northern Finland, particularly in the Province of Lapland, a subarctic climate dominates, characterized by cold, occasionally severe, winters and relatively warm summers. Winters in north Finland are nearly 7 months long, and snow covers the land almost 6–7 months every year. Summers in the north are quite short, only 2–3 months. The highest temperatures on the warmest summer days of July, are rarely above 20-25 degrees in northern Finland. The main factor influencing Finland's climate is the country's geographical position between the 60th and 70th northern parallels in the Eurasian continent's coastal zone, which shows characteristics of both a maritime and a continental climate, depending on the direction of air flow. Finland is near enough to the Atlantic Ocean to be continuously warmed by the Gulf Stream, which explains the unusually warm climate considering the absolute latitude.
A quarter of Finland's territory lies above the Arctic Circle and the midnight sun can be experienced - for more days, the farther north one travels. At Finland's northernmost point, the sun does not set for 73 consecutive days during summer, and does not rise at all for 51 days during winter.
Demographics of Finland
The share of foreign citizens in Finland is 2.5 percent being among the lowest of the European Union countries. Most of them are from Russia, Estonia and Sweden.
Language: Finnish alphabet, Finnish grammar, and Finnish phonology
Most of the Finnish people (92 percent) speak Finnish as their mother tongue. Finnish is a member of the Baltic-Finnic subgroup of the Uralic languages and is typologically between inflected and agglutinative languages. It modifies and inflects the forms of nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numerals and verbs, depending on their roles in the sentence. In practice, this means that instead of prepositions and prefixes there is a great variety of different suffixes and that compounds form a considerable percentage of the vocabulary of Finnish. It has been estimated that approximately 65–70 percent of all words in Finnish are compounds. A close linguistic relative to the Finnish language is Estonian, which, though similar in many aspects, is not mutually intelligible with it. These languages, together with Hungarian (all members of the Uralic language family), are the primary non-Indo-European languages spoken in Europe. Finland is one of three independent countries where a Uralic language is spoken by the majority, the other two being Estonia and Hungary.
The largest minority language and the second official language is Swedish spoken by 5.6 percent of the population. Other minority languages are Russian (0.8 percent), Estonian (0.3 percent), Finnish Romani, and Finnish Sign Language (spoken as a first language by 4,000–5,000 people). To the north, in Lapland, are also the Sami people, numbering around 7,000 and recognized as an indigenous people. About a quarter of them speak a Sami language as their mother tongue. There are three Sami languages that are spoken in Finland: Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami. The right of the minority groups (in particular Sami, Swedish-speaking Finns and Romani people) to cherish their culture and language is protected by the constitution.
In a 2005 Eurobarometer survey studying languages of the European Union, 60% percent of adult residents claimed to know English, 38% claimed to know Swedish as a second language (41% in 2008), and 17% claimed to know German. Ranking those claiming a knowledge of English, Finland ranked fifth behind Malta, the Netherlands (86%), Sweden (85%), and Denmark (83%). Relatively many Finns knew German, while relatively few knew French or Spanish.
Historically, in the prehistoric, ancient and early mediaeval periods of Finnish history, Finnish paganism was the majority religion. It has been revived recently through the form of Finnish neopaganism.
The main Lutheran and Orthodox churches are constitutional national churches of Finland with special roles such as in state ceremonies and schools. A university degree in theology is compulsory for Lutheran priests. Representatives at Lutheran Church assemblies are selected in church elections every four years.
Over half of Finns say they pray at least once a month, the highest proportion in Nordics. Most children are baptized and have confirmation at the age of 15. Nearly all funerals are Christian. The majority of Lutherans attend church only for special occasions like Christmas ceremonies, weddings and funerals. According to a 2005 Eurobarometer poll, 41 percent of Finnish citizens responded that ‘they believe there is a God’; 41 percent answered that ‘they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force’; and 16 percent that ‘they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force’.
Finnish family life is centered on the nuclear family. Relations with the extended family are often rather distant, and Finnish people do not form politically significant clans, tribes or similar structures. According to UNICEF, Finland ranks fourth in the world in child well-being.
In a comparison of 16 countries by Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, Finland used the least resources and got average result, making Finland the most efficient according to the study's authors.
The life expectancy is 82 years for women and 75 years for men. After having one of the highest death rates from heart disease in the world in the 1970s, improvements in the Finnish diet and exercise have paid off. Finland has exceptionally low smoking rates: 26 % for males and 19 % for females.
Finland's health problems are similar to other developed countries: circulatory diseases make up about half of all causes of death and cancer is the second most common cause of death.
The total annual consumption of pure alcohol by residents is lower than other European countries, even though heavy drinking is common at parties on the weekend. However, becoming intoxicated has remained the central characteristic of Finnish drinking habits. In the working-age population, diseases or accidents caused by alcohol consumption have recently surpassed coronary artery disease as the biggest single cause of death.
Schools teach sports, health and hands-on cooking classes. Finnish schoolchildren have one of the lowest amounts of sport classes in the European Union and according to National Public Health Institute only a third of adults exercise enough. National Public Health Institute claims 54 % male obesity and 38 % female obesity, while other estimates put obesity rates at 70 % and 50 %. The rate of diabetes is predicted to grow to 15 % by 2015. Finland has the world's highest rate of Type I diabetes.
The largest subdivisions are the six administrative provinces (lääni, pl. läänit), which mainly function as divisions of the state organisation, i.e. police, prosecutors, and other state services operate under their administration. After 1997 reforms the provinces have been Southern Finland, Western Finland, Eastern Finland, Oulu, Lapland, Åland. The province of Åland Islands is autonomous.
The fundamental administrative divisions of the country are the municipalities, which may also call themselves towns or cities. They account for half of public spending. Spending is financed by municipal income tax, state subsidies, and other revenue. As of 2009, there are 348 municipalities and most have less than 6,000 residents. People often identify with their municipality.
In addition to municipalities, two intermediate levels are defined. Municipalities co-operate in seventy-four sub-regions and twenty regions. These are governed by the member municipalities, but have only limited powers. The Åland region has a permanent, democratically elected regional council as a part of the autonomy. In the Kainuu region, there is a pilot project underway, with regional elections. Sami people have a semi-autonomous Sami Domicile Area in Lapland for issues on language and culture.
In the following chart, the number of inhabitants includes those living in the entire municipality (kunta/kommun), not just in the built-up area. The land area is given in km², and the density in inhabitants per km² (land area). The figures are as of 31 March 2009. Notice that the capital region - comprising Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen (see Greater Helsinki) - forms a continuous conurbation of one million people. However, common administration is limited to voluntary cooperation of all municipalities, e.g. in Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council.
Further information: List of Finnish municipalities, List of Finnish municipalities by population, List of Finnish municipalities by area, and Former municipalities of Finland
Politics and government
According to the Constitution, the President is the head of state and responsible for foreign policy (which excludes affairs related to the European Union) in cooperation with the cabinet. Other powers include Commander-in-Chief, decree, and appointive powers. Direct vote is used to elect the president for a term of six years and maximum two consecutive terms. The current president is Tarja Halonen (SDP).
The 200-member unicameral Parliament of Finland exercises the supreme legislative authority in Finland. The parliament may alter laws, the constitution, bring about the resignation of the Council of State, and override presidential vetoes. Its acts are not subject to judicial review. Various parliament committees listen to experts and prepare legislation. Proportional vote in multi-seat constituencies is used to elect the parliament for a term of four years. The Speaker of Parliament is currently Sauli Niinistö (National Coalition Party). The cabinet (the Finnish Council of State) exercises most executive powers. It is headed by the Prime Minister of Finland and includes other ministers and the Chancellor of Justice. Parliament majority decides its composition and a vote of no confidence can be used to modify it. The current prime minister is Matti Vanhanen (Centre Party).
Since equal and common suffrage was introduced in 1906, the parliament has been dominated by the Centre Party (former Agrarian Union), National Coalition Party, and Social Democrats, which have approximately equal support, and represent 65–80 percent of voters. After 1944 Communists were a factor to consider for a few decades. The relative strengths of the parties vary only slightly in the elections due to the proportional election from multi-member districts, but there are some visible long-term trends. The autonomous Åland islands has separate elections, where Liberals for Åland was the largest party in 2007 elections.
The Judicial system of Finland
The abovementioned local court of first instance (käräjäoikeus) for civil and criminal cases consists of professional judges, or, in complex cases, 1-2 professional judges and 3-4 lay judges (lautamies) appointed by municipal councils. Administrative courts, appellate courts and supreme courts consist of professional judges only. Like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, Finland has no constitutional court, and courts may not strike down laws or pronounce on their constitutionality. In principle, the constitutionality of laws in Finland is verified by parliament's constitutional law committee and a simple vote in the parliament.
Around 92% of residents are confident in Finland's security institutions. Crime in Finland has some unique features. The overall crime rate of Finland is not high in the EU context. Some crime types are above average, notably the highest homicide rate in Western Europe. Crime is prevalent among lower educational groups and is often committed by intoxicated persons. A day fine system is in effect and also applied to offences such as speeding. Jail sentences tend to be among the world's lowest, with an official emphasis on rehabilitation.
Finland has successfully fought against the corruption which was larger in the 1970s and 1980s. For instance, economic reforms and EU membership introduced stricter requirements for open bidding and many public monopolies were abolished. Today Finland has a very low number of corruption charges; Transparency International ranks Finland as one of the least corrupted countries. Also, Finland's public records are among the world's most transparent.
Finland has strict libel standards, and in one case a blogger was convicted for incitement to hatred when referring to statistics about an ethnic group. The voluntary Internet censorship list, similar to other Nordic countries, is classified ‘nominal’ censorship by the ONI.
Foreign relations of Finland
During the Cold War, Finland conducted its foreign policy in association with the Soviet Union and simultaneously stressed Nordic cooperation (as a member of the Nordic Council). After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Finland freed itself from the last restrictions imposed on it by the Paris peace treaties of 1947 and the Finno-Soviet Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance. Although opposed by socialists and agrarians, the government filed an EU membership application three months after the dissolution of the USSR and became a member in 1995. Finland did not attempt to join NATO, even though other post-Soviet countries in the Baltic sea and elsewhere joined. Nevertheless, defense policymakers have quietly converted to NATO equipment and contributed troops.
President Martti Ahtisaari and the coalition governments led Finland closer to the core EU in the late 1990s. In 2008 Ahtisaari was awarded the Nobel Peace Price. Finland was considered a cooperative model state, and Finland did not oppose proposals for a common EU defence policy. This was reversed in the 2000s, when Tarja Halonen and Erkki Tuomioja made Finland's official policy to resist other EU members' plans for common defense. However, Halonen allowed Finland to join European Union Battlegroups in 2006 and the NATO Response Force in 2008.
Finnish Defence Forces and Military history of Finland
The Finnish Defense Forces favor partnership with Western institutions such as the NATO, WEU and EU, but are careful to avoid politics. Finland's defence budget equals about 2 billion euro or 1.4–1.6 % of the GDP. In international comparisons the defense expenditure is around the third highest in the EU. The voluntary overseas service is highly popular and troops serve around the world in UN, NATO and EU missions. Residents claim around 80 % homeland defense willingness, one of the highest rates in Europe. The Finnish Defence Forces are under the command of the Chief of Defence (currently Ari Puheloinen), who is directly subordinate to the President of the Republic in matters related to the military command. The military branches are the Finnish Army, Finnish Navy and Finnish Air Force. The Border Guard is under the Ministry of the Interior but can be incorporated into the Defence Forces when required by defence readiness.
Economy of Finland
Finland is highly integrated in the global economy, and international trade is a third of GDP. The European Union makes 60 % of the total trade. The largest trade flows are with Germany, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom, USA, Netherlands and China. Trade policy is managed by the European Union, where Finland has traditionally been among the free trade supporters, except for agriculture. Finland is the only Nordic country to have joined the Eurozone.
The 40 largest Finland-registered companies by turnover in 2007 or 2006 were (Oy and Oyj abbreviations removed): Nokia, Stora Enso, Neste Oil, UPM-Kymmene, Kesko, SOK, Metsäliitto, Outokumpu, Metso, Tamro, Fortum, Sampo, Kone, Elcoteq, Rautaruukki, Wärtsilä, YIT, Varma, Cargotec, Sanoma, Kemira, Ilmarinen Keskinäinen Eläkevakuutusyhtiö, TeliaSonera Finland, Luvata International (former Outokumpu Copper), Huhtamäki, Finnair, Lemminkäinen, HKScan, Onvest, RTF Auto, Tieto, Ahlstrom, Konecranes, Valio, ABB, Itella, Amer Sports, Teboil, Elisa, and Myllykoski.
Private sector employees amount to 1.8 million, out of which around a third with tertiary education. The average cost of a private sector employee per hour was 25.1 euro in 2004. As of 2008 average purchasing power-adjusted income levels are similar to those of Italy, Sweden, Germany, and France. In 2006, 62 % of the workforce worked for enterprises with less than 250 employees and they accounted for 49 % of total business turnover and had the strongest rate of growth. The female employment rate is high. Gender segregation between male-dominated professions and female-dominated professions is higher than in the US. The proportion of part-time workers was one of the lowest in OECD in 1999.
Employment rate 68 % and unemployment rate was 6.8 % in early 2008. 18 % of residents are outside job market at the age of 50 and less than a third working at the age of 61. Unfunded pensions and other promises such as health insurances are a dominate future liability, though Finland is much better prepared than countries such as France or Germany. Directly held public debt has been reduced to around 32 percent of GDP in 2007. In 2007, the average household savings rate was -3.8 and household debt 101 percent of annual disposable income, a typical level in Europe. Home ownership rate is 60 %.
As of 2006, 2.4 million households reside in Finland. The average size is 2.1 persons; 40 % of households consist of a single person, 32 % two persons and 28 % three or more persons. Residential buildings total 1.2 million and the average residential space is 38 m2 per person. The average residential property without land costs 1,187 euro per sq metre and residential land 8.6 euro per sq metre. 74 % of households had a car. There are 2.5 million cars and 0.4 other vehicles. Around 92 % has a mobile phone and 58 % Internet connection at home. The average total household consumption was 20,000 euro, out of which housing at around 5500 euro, transport at around 3000 euro, food and beverages excluding alcoholic at around 2500 euro, recreation and culture at around 2000 euro. Purchasing power-adjusted average household consumption is about the same level as it is in Germany, Sweden and Italy. According to Invest in Finland, private consumption grew by 3 % in 2006 and consumer trends included durables, high quality products, and spending on well-being.
Education in Finland
In tertiary education, two, mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the profession-oriented polytechnics and the research-oriented universities. Finns used to take student loans and scholarships, but for the past decades the financial risk has been moved solely to the government. There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. The World Economic Forum ranks Finland's tertiary education #1 in the world. Around 33% of residents have a tertiary degree, similar to Nordics and more than in most other OECD countries except Canada (44%), United States (38%) and Japan (37%). The proportion of foreign students is 3% of all tertiary enrolments, one of the lowest in OECD, while in advanced programs it is 7.3%, still below OECD average 16.5%.
More than 30 % of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields. Finnish researchers are leading contributors to such fields as forest improvement, new materials, the environment, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications.
Finland is highly productive in scientific research. In 2005, Finland had the fourth most scientific publications per capita of the OECD countries. In 2007, 1801 patents were filed in Finland.
In 2006, the energy market was around 90 terawatt hours and the peak demand around 15 gigawatts in winter. This means that the energy consumption per capita is around 7.2 tons of oil equivalent per year. Industry and construction consumed 51% of total consumption, a relatively high figure reflecting Finland's industries. Finland's hydrocarbon resources are limited to peat and wood, while neighboring Finland has oil and Estonia oil shale. Finland has little hydropower capacity compared to Sweden or Finland. Most energy demand is satisfied with fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Finland has four privately owned nuclear reactors producing 18 percent of the country's energy, one research reactor in Otaniemi campus, and the fifth AREVA-Siemens-built reactor - the world's largest at 1600 MWe and a focal point of Europe's nuclear industry - is scheduled to be operational by 2011. Renewable energy forms (industry-burned wood, consumer-burned wood, peat, industrial residue, garbage) make high 25 % compared to the EU average 10 %. A varying amount (5–17 percent) of electricity has been imported from Russia (at around 3 gigawatt power line capacity), Sweden and Finland. A new submarine power cable from Russia has been considered a national security issue and one permit application has already been rejected. Finland negotiated itself expensive Kyoto and EU emission terms. They are causing a sharp increase in energy prices and 1-2 billion euro annual cost, amplified by the aging and soon decommissioned production capacity. Energy companies are already ready to increase nuclear power production, if parliament granted permits for new reactors.
Transport in Finland
Helsinki International Airport lounge
The main international passenger gateway is Helsinki-Vantaa Airport with over 13 million passengers in 2007. Tampere-Pirkkala airport is the second largest and around 25 airports have scheduled passenger services. The Helsinki-Vantaa based Finnair, Blue1 and Finncomm Airlines sell air services both domestically and internationally, and there are many others offering direct flights around the world. Helsinki has an optimal location for great circle routes between Western Europe and the Far East. Hence, many international travelers visit Helsinki-Vantaa airport on a stop-over between Asia and Europe. Despite low population density, taxpayers spend annually around 350 million euro in maintaining 5,865 km railway tracks even to many rural towns. Only one rail company operates in Finland, VR Group, which has 5 % passenger market share (out of which 80 % are urban trips in Greater Helsinki) and 25 % cargo market share. Helsinki has an urban rail network.
The majority of international cargo utilizes ports. Port logistics prices are low. Vuosaari harbour in Helsinki is the largest container port after completion in 2008 and others include Hamina, Hanko, Pori, Rauma, Oulu. There is passenger traffic from Helsinki and Turku, which have ferry connections to Tallinn, Mariehamn and Stockholm. The Helsinki-Tallinn route, one of the busiest passenger sea routes in the world, is also served by a helicopter line.
Finland's judiciary is efficient and effective. Finland is highly open to investment and free trade. Finland has top levels of economic freedom in many areas, although there is a heavy tax burden and inflexible job market. Finland is ranked 16th (ninth in Europe) in the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom. Recently, Finland has topped the patents per capita statistics, and overall productivity growth has been strong in areas such as electronics. While the manufacturing sector is thriving, OECD points out that the service sector would benefit substantially from policy improvements. Finland is one of the most fiscally responsible EU countries.
IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2007 ranked Finland 17th most competitive. The World Economic Forum 2008 index ranked Finland the 6th most competitive. In both indicators, Finland's performance was next to Germany, and significantly higher than most European countries. In the Business competitiveness index 2007-08 Finland ranked third in the world.
Economists attribute much growth to reforms in the product markets. According to OECD, only four EU-15 countries have less regulated product markets (UK, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden) and only one has less regulated financial markets (Denmark). Nordic countries were pioneers in liberalizing energy, postal, and other markets in Europe. The legal system is clear and business bureaucracy less than most countries. Property rights are well protected and contractual agreements are strictly honored. Finland is rated one of the least corrupted countries in Corruption Perceptions Index. Finland is rated 13th in the Ease of Doing Business Index. It indicates exceptional ease to trade across borders (5th), enforce contracts (7th), and close a business (5th), and exceptional hardship to employ workers (127th) and pay taxes (83rd).
Finnish job market regulation is a remaining example of Nordic neocorporatist model. In the 1990s, Denmark liberalized its job market, Sweden moved to more flexible decentralized contracts, and Finnish trade unions blocked most reforms. Finnish law forces all workers to obey the national contracts that are drafted every few years for each profession and seniority level. The agreement becomes universally enforceable provided that more than 50% of the employees support it, in practice by being a member of a relevant trade union. The unionization rate is high (70%), especially in the middle class (AKAVA - 80%). A lack of a national agreement in an industry is considered an exception. More flexibility is generally recommended by economists for various reasons.
Overall taxation has been reduced to nearly 10 percentage points lower level than in Sweden, but it is still nearly 10 percentage points higher than in Germany. The middle income worker receives only 40% of his income after the median tax wedge and effective marginal tax rates are high. Value-added tax is 22 percent for most items. Capital gains tax is 28% and corporate tax is 26 percent, about the EU median. Property taxes are low, but there is a stamp duty of 4% for home sellers. For instance, McKinsey estimates that a worker has to pay around 1600 euro for another worker's 400 euro service when both workers' taxes are counted. Tax cuts have been in every post-depression government's agenda and the overall tax burden is now around 43% of GDP compared to 51.1% in Sweden, 34.7% in Germany, 33.5% in Canada, and 30.5% in Ireland.
Public consumption is 51.7% of GDP compared to 56.6% in Sweden, 46.9% in Germany, 39.3% in Canada, and 33.5% in Ireland. Much of the taxes are spent on public sector employees, many of which are jobs-for-life and amount to 124,000 state employees and 430,000 municipal employees. That is 113 per 1000 residents (over a quarter of workforce) compared to 74 in the US, 70 in Germany, and 42 in Japan (8% of workforce). The Economist Intelligence Unit's ranking for Finland's e-readiness is high at 13th, compared to 1st for United States, 3rd for Sweden, 5th for Denmark, and 14th for Germany. Also, early and generous retirement schemes have contributed to high pension costs. Social spending such as health or education is around OECD median. Social transfers are also around OECD median. In 2001 Finland outsourced more than most Western European countries, although less than Sweden.
Finland also has a rich collection of collectors' coins, with face value ranging from 5 to 100 euro. These coins are a legacy of an old national practice of minting silver and gold commemorative coins. Unlike normal issues, these coins are not legal tender in all the eurozone; for instance, a €5 Finnish commemorative coin cannot be used in any other country.
Tourism in Finland
Culture of Finland
One of the most traditional activities characterised by the Finnish culture is cottage life by a lake, often combined with going to sauna, swimming and barbecuing. Many Finns are emotionally connected to the countryside and nature, as urbanisation is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Finnish mentality is often characterised by less small talk and more honest and straight forward types of communication compared to other cultures.
There are still differences between regions, especially minor differences in accents and vocabulary. Minorities, such as the Sami, Finland Swedes, Romani, and Tatar, maintain their own cultural characteristics.
After Finland became independent there was a rise of modernist writers, most famously Mika Waltari. Frans Eemil Sillanpää was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1939. The second World War prompted a return to more national interests in comparison to a more international line of thought, characterized by Väinö Linna. Literature in modern Finland is in a healthy state, with detective stories enjoying a particular boom of popularity. Ilkka Remes, a Finnish author of thrillers, is very popular.
Classical and opera
The first Finnish opera was written by the German composer Fredrik Pacius in 1852. Pacius also wrote Maamme/Vårt land (Our Land), Finland's national anthem. In the 1890s Finnish nationalism based on the Kalevala spread, and Jean Sibelius became famous for his vocal symphony Kullervo. He soon received a grant to study runo singers in Karelia and continued his rise as the first prominent Finnish musician. In 1899 he composed Finlandia, which played its important role in Finland gaining independence. He remains one of Finland's most popular national figures and is a symbol of the nation.
Today, Finland has a very lively classical music scene. Finnish classical music has only existed for about a hundred years, and many of the important composers are still alive, such as Magnus Lindberg, Kaija Saariaho, Aulis Sallinen and Einojuhani Rautavaara. The composers are accompanied with a large number of great conductors such as Sakari Oramo, Mikko Franck, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Osmo Vänskä, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Susanna Mälkki and Leif Segerstam. Some of the internationally acclaimed Finnish classical musicians are Karita Mattila, Soile Isokoski, Kari Kriikku, Pekka Kuusisto, Réka Szilvay and Linda Brava.
In the 2000s, other Finnish rock bands started to sell well internationally. The Rasmus became more known in Europe (and other places, like South America) in the 2000s. Their 2003 album Dead Letters sold 1.5 million units worldwide and garnered them eight gold and five platinum album designations. So far the most successful Finnish band in the United States has been HIM; they were the first band from Finland to ever sell an album that was certified gold by the RIAA. Other notable Finnish rock and metal acts include Apocalyptica and the monster rockers Lordi.
Cinema of Finland
Media and communications
Today there are 200 newspapers; 320 popular magazines, 2,100 professional magazines and 67 commercial radio stations, with one nationwide, five national public service radio channels, three digital radio channels. Each year around twelve feature films are made, 12,000 book titles published and 12 million records sold.
SanomaWSOY publishes the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (the circulation of 434,000 making it the largest newspaper), the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, the commerce-oriented Taloussanomat, and the television channel Nelonen. The other major publisher Alma Media publishes over thirty magazines, including newspaper Aamulehti, tabloid Iltalehti and commerce-oriented Kauppalehti. Finns, along with other Nordic people and the Japanese, spend the most time in the world reading newspapers. The National Broadcasting Company YLE has five television channels and 13 radio channels in two national languages. YLE is funded through a mandatory license for television owners and fees for private broadcasters. All TV channels are broadcast digitally, both terrestrially and on cable. The most popular television channel MTV3 and the most popular radio channel Radio Nova are owned by Nordic Broadcasting (Bonnier and Proventus Industrier). International newspapers such as Aftonbladet or Financial Times are available, but according to the sole importer the readership is only around 600,000 copies per year or around 2,000 on average day.
Around 79 percent of the population use the Internet. Finland had around 1.52 million broadband Internet connections by the end of June 2007 or around 287 per 1,000 inhabitants. All Finnish schools and public libraries have Internet connections and computers. Most residents have a mobile phone. It's used mostly for contact and value-added services are rare.
Cuisine of Finland
Modern Finnish cuisine combines country fare and haute cuisine with contemporary continental cooking style. Today, spices are a prominent ingredient in many modern Finnish recipes, having been adopted from the east and west in recent decades.
Public holidays in Finland
In addition to this, all Sundays are official holidays, but they are not as important as the special holidays. The names of the Sundays follow the liturgical calendar and they can be categorised 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. Retail stores are prohibited by law from doing business on Sundays, except during the summer months (May through August) and in the pre-Christmas season (November and December). Business locations that have less than 400 square metres of floor space are allowed Sunday business throughout the year, with the exception of official holidays and certain Sundays, such as Mother's Day and Father's Day.
Sport in Finland
Relative to its population, Finland has been a top country in the world in automobile racing, measured by international success. Finland has produced three Formula One World Champions - Keke Rosberg (Williams, 1982), Mika Häkkinen (McLaren, 1998 and 1999) and Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari, 2007). Along with Räikkönen, the other Finnish Formula One driver currently active is Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren). Rosberg's son, Nico Rosberg (Williams), is also currently driving, but under his mother's German nationality. Other notable Finnish Grand Prix drivers include Leo Kinnunen, JJ Lehto and Mika Salo. Finland has also produced most of the world's best rally drivers, including the ex-WRC World Champion drivers Marcus Grönholm, Juha Kankkunen, Hannu Mikkola, Tommi Mäkinen, Timo Salonen and Ari Vatanen. The only Finn to have won a road racing World Championship, Jarno Saarinen, was killed in 1973 while racing.
Among winter sports, Finland has been the most successful country in ski jumping, with former ski jumper Matti Nykänen being arguably the best ever in that sport. Most notably, he won five Olympic medals (four gold) and nine World Championships medals (five gold). Among currently active Finnish ski jumpers, Janne Ahonen has been the most successful. Kalle Palander is a well-known alpine skiing winner, who won the World Championship and Crystal Ball (twice, in Kitzbühel). Tanja Poutiainen has won an Olympic silver medal for alpine skiing, as well as multiple FIS World Cup races.
Some of the most outstanding athletes from the past include Hannes Kolehmainen (1890–1966), Paavo Nurmi (1897–1973) and Ville Ritola (1896–1982) who won eighteen gold and seven silver Olympic medals in the 1910s and 1920s.
They are also considered to be the first of a generation of great Finnish middle and long-distance runners (and subsequently, other great Finnish sportsmen) often named the ‘Flying Finns’. Another long-distance runner, Lasse Virén (born 1949), won a total of four gold medals during the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics.
Also, in the past, Riku Kiri, Jouko Ahola and Janne Virtanen have been the greatest strength athletes in the country, participating in the World's Strongest Man competition between 1993 and 2000.
The 1952 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XV Olympiad, were held in 1952 in Helsinki, Finland. Other notable sporting events held in Finland include the 1983 and 2005 World Championships in Athletics, among others.
Some of the most popular recreational sports and activities include floorball, Nordic walking, running, cycling and skiing.
Editor for Asisbiz: Matthew Laird Acred
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