Coat of Arms Helsinki
Helsinki; Swedish: Helsingfors, is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the southern part of Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, by the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is 578,126 (31 March 2009), making it the most populous municipality in Finland by a wide margin. The foreign-born population stands at around 10%.
Helsinki, along with the neighboring cities of Vantaa (Vanda), Espoo (Esbo), and Kauniainen (Grankulla), constitutes what is known as the capital region, with over 1,000,000 inhabitants. The Greater Helsinki area contains 12 municipalities and has a population of over 1,300,000. The Greater Helsinki accounts for a quarter of the population of Finland, 29% of jobs, and a third of the GDP.
Helsinki is Finland's capital for business, education, research, culture, and government. Greater Helsinki has eight universities and six technology parks. Some 70% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region. The immigration of rural residents has made it one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in Europe.
Finland's main international airline hub, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is 40 minutes from the city center, with direct flights around the world. The busy Helsinki–Tallinn route takes 1.5 hours by sea and 18 minutes by helicopter. Two other big cities in Finland, Tampere and Turku, can be reached in 1.5–2 hours by train and 1.5–2.5 hours by car.
In early 2009, Helsinki has started contemplating a possible merger with Vantaa. On 30 March 2009, the city council of Vantaa agreed to do a review of Helsinki's proposal of a possible merger. The city council emphasises that the review is not about a possible discontinuation of the city of Vantaa.
History of Helsinki
In Helsinki slang the town is also called Stadi (from the Swedish word stad, meaning city) and Hesa in colloquial Finnish. Helsset is the North Sami name of Helsinki.
In order to reduce Swedish influence in Finland, Czar Alexander I of Russia moved the capital from Turku, which had close ties to Sweden, to Helsinki. The Royal Academy of Turku, back then the only university in the country, was relocated to Helsinki in 1827 and eventually became the modern University of Helsinki. The move consolidated the city's new role, and the following decades saw unprecedented growth and development for the city, creating the prerequisites for the birth of the modern world class capital in the 20th century. This transformation is highly apparent in the downtown core, which was rebuilt in neoclassical style to resemble St. Petersburg. As elsewhere, technological advancements such as railroads and industrialization were a key factor behind the growth.
In the aerial bombings of the Winter War (1939–40) and the Continuation War (1941–44) Helsinki was attacked by Soviet bombers. The most intense air raids took place in the spring of 1944, when over two thousand Soviet planes dropped some 16,000 bombs in and around the city. However, due to successful air defense the city was spared from the large-scale destruction that many other cities in Europe under bombings of similar scale suffered. Only a small number of bombs hit populated areas. Several years after the war, the XV Olympiad (1952 Olympic Games) was held in Helsinki.
Despite the tumultuous first half of the 20th century, Helsinki continued to develop steadily. Finland's rapid urbanization in the 1970s, which occurred relatively late in the European context, tripled the population in the metropolitan area and led to the development of the Helsinki Metro subway system. The Helsinki metropolitan area was one of the fastest growing urban centers in the European Union in the 1990s. The relatively sparse population density of Helsinki and its peculiar structure have often been attributed to the lateness of the urbanisation. Thus today the Helsinki metropolitan area is the second most sparsely populated EU-capital after Brussels.
Geography of Helsinki
Some notable islands in Helsinki include Seurasaari, Lauttasaari and Korkeasaari – which is also the country's biggest zoo – as well as the fortress island of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) and the military island of Santahamina.
Helsinki is, however, perhaps even more famous for its numerous Art Nouveau (Jugend in Finnish) buildings, designed in the early 1900s and strongly influenced by the Kalevala, which is a very popular theme in the national romantic art of that era. Helsinki's Art Nouveau style is also featured in large residential areas such as Katajanokka and Ullanlinna. The master of the Finnish Art Nouveau was Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950), whose architectural masterpiece was the Helsinki central railway station.
Helsinki also features several buildings by the world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898–1976), attributed as one of the pioneers in functionalism. Many of Aalto's works are either loved or hated. Aalto's buildings, such as the headquarters of the paper company Enso and the concert and congress house Finlandia Hall, have sparked much debate amongst Helsinki's inhabitants.
In addition to Aalto's work, there is a body of other noteworthy functionalist architecture in Helsinki, such as the Olympic Stadium, the Tennis Palace, the Rowing Stadium, the Swimming Stadium, the Velodrome, the Glass Palace, the Exhibition Hall (now Töölö Sports Hall) and Helsinki-Malmi Airport. The sports venues were built to serve the 1940 Helsinki Olympic Games (canceled due to the Second World War), but eventually got to fulfill their purpose in the 1952 Olympic Games. Many of them are listed by DoCoMoMo as significant examples of modern architecture. The Olympic Stadium and Helsinki-Malmi Airport are in addition catalogued by the National Board of Antiquities as cultural-historical environments of national significance.
During the 1960s and 1970s many aesthetically and historically important houses were swiftly demolished to make room for the rapidly expanding city and instead houses presenting more values of functionalism were built. This has later been widely regarded as a bad move and has led to a strong protectionism of old buildings in Helsinki. The plans made during the era of rapid growth expected Helsinki to have well over one million inhabitants at the turn of the millennium. Much due to the strong protectionism of today there are still many areas left with distinctive old wooden houses, such as Käpylä, Kumpula, Toukola and Puu-Vallila.
As a historical footnote, Helsinki's neoclassical buildings were often used as a backdrop for scenes set to take place in the Soviet Union in many Cold War era Hollywood movies. Some of the more notable ones are The Kremlin Letter (1970), Reds (1981) and Gorky Park (1983). Because some of the streetscapes were reminiscent of Leningrad's and Moscow's old buildings, they were used in the production – much to some residents' dismay. At the same time the government secretly briefed its white-collar workers to make producing these, often clearly Soviet-negative, films in Helsinki as hard as possible due to diplomatic pressure from Moscow.
Politics of Helsinki
The city has Finland's largest immigrant population in both absolute and relative terms. There are people of over 130 nationalities resident in Helsinki. The largest groups are from Russia, Estonia, Sweden, but also large numbers of residents from Somalia, Serbia, China, India, Iraq and Germany.
The Helsinki metropolitan area generates approximately one third of Finland's GDP. GDP per capita is roughly 1.5 times the national average, making Helsinki one of the wealthiest capitals in Europe. In 2004, the local economy grew by 3.2%. Helsinki's GDP per capita is one of the highest of any city in the world.
Since the 1950s, the economy has become largely service-based, although industries such as shipbuilding continue to employ a substantial number of people. Large service-based employers include the public sector and the information technology sector. Helsinki has many staffing agencies.
The metropolitan area is the location of choice for the headquarters of large Finnish companies as well as the regional headquarters of international companies. The Helsinki metropolitan area has the best availability of highly skilled employees in Finland, and good infrastructure and business support systems. Since June 2007, the city centre has hosted the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which has led to the relocation of several hundred international experts and their families to Helsinki.
The distribution of affluent to middle and working class neighbourhoods is relatively even in Helsinki. Expensive real estate is located on the main peninsula as well as on the coastline from west to east. Some neighbourhoods in the northwest and eastern parts show slightly higher unemployment levels and have more immigrants. Helsinki is also losing companies to Espoo. Improving the economy of Helsinki and cooperation between the municipalities of the Helsinki conurbation are seen as major future challenges for the economic development of the region.
Helsinki's population growth has been steady for some time even though intra-areal migration has favoured Espoo and surrounding areas until very recently. The population of Greater Helsinki grew by 14,500 in 2007 alone. The fastest growing area is the countryside belt between Ingå, Kirkkonummi, Vihti and Nurmijärvi and Pornainen, though absolute numbers were in hundreds between 2000–2004. Between 2000–2004 net migration in Helsinki was negative at −330 residents. 20–30 year olds compose a rough fifth of the population of Helsinki as opposed to a mere 14 percent in Finland as a whole.
The tap water is of excellent quality and it is supplied by 120 km (75 mi) long Päijänne Water Tunnel, one of the world's longest continuous rock tunnels. Bottled Helsinki tap water is even sold to countries such as Saudi Arabia.
The employment rate in the Helsinki metropolitan area stands at around 75% and employment growth has been good. Around 20% work in manufacturing and construction, compared to 10% in London and 30% in Milan. In private-sector services the distribution is that 34.5% work in trade, 17% in transport, 8% in hotels and restaurants, 5.7% in financial services, and 34.5% in other market services.
The metropolitan area's gross value-added per capita is 200% of the mean of 27 European metropolitan areas. It equals Stockholm or Paris. The gross value-added annual growth has been around 4%.
83 of the 100 largest Finnish companies are headquartered in Greater Helsinki. Two-thirds of the 200 highest-paid Finnish executives live in Greater Helsinki and 42% in Helsinki. The average income of the top 50 earners was 1.65 million euro.
Helsinki has 190 comprehensive schools, 41 upper secondary schools and 15 vocational institutes. Half of the 41 upper secondary schools are private or state-owned, the other half municipal. Higher level education is given in eight universities (see the section ‘Universities’ below) and four polytechnics.
Universities in Finland
The biggest historical museum in Helsinki is the National Museum of Finland, which displays a vast historical collection from prehistoric times to the 21st century. The museum building itself, a national romantic style neo-medieval castle, is a tourist attraction. Other major historical museum is the Helsinki City Museum, which introduces visitors to Helsinki's 500 year history. The University of Helsinki also has many significant museums, including the University Museum and the Natural History Museum.
The Finnish National Gallery consists on three museums: Ateneum Art Museum for classical Finnish art, Sinebrychoff Art Museum for classical European art, and Kiasma Art Museum for modern art. The old Ateneum, a neo-renaissance palace from 19th century, is one of the city's major historical buildings, whereas the highly modern Kiasma is probably the most debated building in Helsinki.
Helsinki has three major theatres: The Finnish National Theatre, the Helsinki City Theatre, and the Finland Swedish Svenska Teatern. The city's main musical venues are the Finnish National Opera and the Finlandia concert-hall. Bigger concerts and events are usually held at one of the city's two big ice hockey arenas: the Hartwall Areena or the Helsinki Ice Hall. Helsinki has Finland's largest fair centre.
Helsinki is considered as one of the main hubs of popular music in Northern Europe, many widely renowned and acclaimed bands have originated in Helsinki, including Norther, Wintersun, Ensiferum, HIM, The Rasmus, The 69 Eyes, Hanoi Rocks, Apocalyptica and Stratovarius.
* The Helsinki Festival is an annual arts and culture festival, which takes place every August (including the Night of the Arts).
Helsinki Arena hosted the Eurovision Song Contest 2007, the first ever Eurovision Song Contest arranged in Finland, following Lordi's win in 2006.
Sport in Helsinki
Helsinki also sees the development of other sports like rugby. There are two amateur clubs in Helsinki: Helsinki rugby club and the Warriors rugby club.
Helsinki region roads.
Helsinki has some 390 cars per 1000 inhabitants. This is less than in cities of similar density, for instance, Brussels' 483 per 1000 and Stockholm's 401, and Oslo's 413.
Public transport in Helsinki
Public transportation is generally a hotly debated subject in the local politics of Helsinki. In Helsinki, public transportation is mostly managed under Helsinki City Transport, the city's transportation authority. The diverse public transport system consists of trams, commuter rail, the subway, bus lines and two ferry lines. The Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council manages traffic to the surrounding municipalities of Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.
Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to have trams or subway trains. There used to be two other cities in Finland with trams: Turku and Viipuri (Vyborg, now in Russia), but both have since abandoned trams. The Helsinki Metro, opened in the year 1982, is so far the only subway system in Finland. In 2006, the construction of the long debated extension of the subway system west into Espoo was approved, and serious debate about an eastern extension into Sipoo has taken place.
Air traffic is handled primarily from the international Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, located approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of Helsinki's downtown area, in the neighboring city of Vantaa. The airport provides scheduled non-stop flights to many important cities in Europe, Asia and North America. Helsinki's second airport, Malmi Airport, is mainly used for general and private aviation. Copterline has provided fast (18 min.) helicopter flights to Tallinn, but discontinued the regular service in December 2008 on grounds of unprofitability.
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