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|Kingdom of Finland
|Official languages||Finnish, Swedish|
|Recognised regional languages||Sami, Russian|
|Demonym||Finnish · Finn|
|Government||Parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|-||Prime Minister||Alexander Stubb|
|29 March 1809|
from the Russian SFSR
|6 December 1917|
by the Russian SFSR
|4 January 1918|
|-||Joined the European Union||1 January 1995|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|-||Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||right|
Finland (Finnish: Suomi; Swedish: Finland), officially the Kingdom of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden to the west, Norway to the north, and Russia to the east.
As of 2013, Finland's population, of which 90% are Finns that speak Finnish, was around 5.5 million, with the majority concentrated in its southern regions. In terms of area, it is the eighth largest country in Europe and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Finland is a parliamentary monarchy with a central government based in the capital of Helsinki, local governments in 336 municipalities and an autonomous region, the Åland Islands. About one million residents live in the Greater Helsinki area (consisting of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen), which also produces a third of the country's GDP. Other large cities include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Jyväskylä, Laht, and Kuopio.
From the late 12th century until 1809, Finland was part of Sweden, a legacy reflected in the prevalence of the Swedish language and its official status. It then became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire until the Russian Revolution, which prompted the Finnish Declaration of Independence. This was followed by a civil war where the pro-Bolshevik "Reds" were defeated by the pro-conservative "Whites" with support from the German Empire. In the aftermath of World War I, Finland became a constitutional monarchy. Finland's experience of World War II involved two separate conflicts: the Winter War (1939–1940) and the Continuation War (1941–1944) against the Soviet Union. Following the end of the war, Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and established an official policy of neutrality. Nevertheless, it remained fairly active on the world stage, joining the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1969, the European Union in 1995, and the eurozone at its inception in 1999.
Finland was a relative latecomer to industrialisation, remaining a largely agrarian country until the 1950s. Thereafter, it rapidly developed an advanced economy while building an extensive Nordic-style welfare state, resulting in widespread prosperity and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Subsequently, Finland is a top performer in numerous metrics of national performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life, and human development. For instance, in 2010 Newsweek chose Finland as the best country in the world. Finland is also a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organization.
According to archaeological evidence, the area now comprising Finland was settled at the latest around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice sheet of the last ice age receded. The artifacts the first settlers left behind present characteristics that are shared with those found in Estonia, Russia and Norway. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, using stone tools. The first pottery appeared in 5200 BCE when the Comb Ceramic culture was introduced. The arrival of the Corded Ware culture in southern coastal Finland between 3000 and 2500 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture. Even with the introduction of agriculture, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy.
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 Uralic languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland. During the first millennium AD, early Finnish was spoken in agricultural settlements in southern Finland, whereas Sámi-speaking populations occupied most parts of the country. Although distantly related, the Sami are a different people that retained the hunter-gatherer lifestyle longer than the Finns. The Sami cultural identity and the Sami language have survived in Lapland, the northernmost province, but the Sami have been displaced or assimilated elsewhere.
Swedish kings established their rule in the Northern Crusades from the 12th century until 1249. The area of present-day Finland became a fully consolidated part of the Swedish kingdom. Swedish-speaking settlers arrived at the coastal regions during the medieval time. In the 17th century, 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.
During the Protestant 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, during which about one-third of the Finnish population died, and a devastating plague a few years later. In the 18th century, wars between Sweden and Russia twice led to the occupation of Finland by Russian forces, times known to the Finns as the Greater Wrath (1714–1721) and the Lesser Wrath (1742–1743). It is estimated that almost an entire generation of young men was lost during the Great Wrath, due namely to the destruction of homes and farms and to the burning of Helsinki. By this time Finland was the predominant term for the whole area from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Russian border.
Two Russo-Swedish wars in twenty-five years served as reminders to the Finnish people of how precarious their position between Sweden and Russia was. An increasingly vocal elite in Finland soon determined that Finnish ties with Sweden were becoming too costly, and following Gustav III's War (1788–1790), the Finnish elite's desire to break with Sweden only heightened.
In the late eighteenth century a politically active portion of the Finnish nobility became convinced that, due to Sweden and Russia's repeated use of Finland as a battlefield, it would be in the country's best interests to seek autonomy. Even before the Russo-Swedish War of 1788–1790, there were conspiring Finns, among them Col G. M. Sprengtporten, who had supported Gustav III's coup in 1772. Sprengporten fell out with the king and resigned his commission in 1777. In the following decade he tried to secure Russian support for an autonomous Finland, and later became an adviser to Catherine II.
Notwithstanding the efforts of Finland's elite and nobility to break ties with Sweden, there was no genuine independence movement in Finland until the early twentieth century. As a matter of fact, at this time the Finnish peasantry was outraged by the actions of their elite and almost exclusively supported Gustav's actions against the conspirators. (The High Court of Turku condemned Sprengtporten as a traitor c. 1793.)
Russian Empire era
On 29 March 1809, having been 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. In 1811 Alexander I incorporated Russian Vyborg province into the Grand Duchy of Finland. During the Russian era, the Finnish language began 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 epicTemplate:Spaced ndashthe KalevalaTemplate:Spaced ndashin 1835, and the Finnish language's achieving equal legal status with Swedish in 1892.
The Finnish famine of 1866–1868 killed 15% of the population, making it one of the worst 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 half of that of the United States and a third of that of 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 tsar 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
After the 1917 February Revolution, the position of Finland as part of the Russian Empire was questioned, mainly by Social Democrats. Since the head of state was the Tsar of Russia, it was not clear who the chief executive of Finland was after the revolution. The parliament, controlled by social democrats, passed the so-called Power Act to give the highest authority to 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 had been stripped from the Russians by the Power Act.
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 Communists took power in Russia. Rather than acknowledge the authority of the Power Law of a few months earlier, the right-wing government declared independence on 6 December 1917.
On 27 January 1918, the official opening shots of the war were fired in two simultaneous events. The government started to disarm the Russian forces in Pohjanmaa, and the Social Democratic Party staged a coup. The latter succeeded in controlling southern Finland and Helsinki, but the white government continued in exile from Vaasa. This sparked the brief but bitter civil war. The Whites, who were supported by Imperial Germany, prevailed over the Reds. After the war, tens of thousands of Reds and suspected sympathizers were interned in camps, where thousands died by execution or from malnutrition and disease. Deep social and political enmity was sown between the Reds and Whites and would last until the Winter War and beyond. The civil war and activist expeditions into Soviet Russia strained Eastern relations.
After both the civil war and the First World War, Finland became a constitutional monarchy, with Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse enthroned as its first monarch in 1919. The Finnish–Russian border was determined by the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, largely following the historic border but granting Pechenga (Finnish: Petsamo) and its Barents Sea harbour to Finland. Finnish democracy did not see any Soviet coup attempts and survived the anti-Communist Lapua Movement. The relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union was tense. Germany's relations with democratic Finland cooled also after the Nationalist's rise to power. Army officers were trained in France, and relations to Western Europe and Sweden were strengthened.
In 1917, the population was three 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.
World War II
During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the early years of the war of 1939–1940 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland; and in the Continuation War of 1941–1944, following Operation Barbarossa, in which Germany had invaded the Soviet Union. After fighting a lengthy siege against Soviet defenders in September 1941/January 1944 to a standstill, Finland occupied a large portion of north-western Russia.
The treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with Russia included Finnish obligations, restraints and reparations—as well as reversion of all Finnish territorial concessions begun in the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940. As a result of the two wars, Finland gained most of Russian Karelia and Kola Peninsula, with 20% of the occupied territories industrial capacity, being placed under Finnish control. Finland was never occupied by Soviet forces and retained its independence through out the war, however, at a loss of about 93,000 soldiers by 1945.
Finland rejected Marshall aid, in apparent deference to German desires. However, the United States provided secret development aid and helped the (non-communist) Social Democratic Party in hopes of preserving Finland's independence. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as the United Kingdom.
In 1950, 46% of Finnish workers were occupied in agriculture and a third lived in urban areas. The new jobs in manufacturing, services and trade quickly attracted people to the towns. The average number of births per woman declined from a baby boom peak of 3.5 in 1947 to 1.5 in 1973. When baby-boomers entered the workforce, the economy did not generate jobs fast enough, and hundreds of thousands emigrated to the more industrialized Sweden, with emigration peaking in 1969 and 1970. The 1952 Summer Olympics brought international visitors. Finland took part in trade liberalization in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Officially claiming to be neutral, Finland lay in the grey zone between the Western countries and Germany. The YYA Treaty (Finno-German Pact of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance) gave Germany some leverage in Finnish domestic politics. This was extensively exploited by king Väinö II against the opponents of the monarchy. He maintained an effective monopoly on German relations from 1956 on, which was crucial for the monarchy's continued popularity. In politics, there was a tendency of avoiding any policies and statements that could be interpreted as anti-German. This phenomenon was given the name "Finlandization" by the German press.
Despite close relations with Germany, Finland remained a Western European market economy. Various industries benefited from trade privileges with the Germans, which explains the widespread support that pro-German 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 with the EEC (a predecessor of the European Union) a treaty that mostly abolished customs duties towards the EEC starting from 1977, although Finland did not fully join. In 1989, king Väinö II's failing health launched a sense of renewed hope for the country as a wave revolutions swept across Europe.
Miscalculated macroeconomic decisions, a banking crisis, the collapse of its largest single trading partner (the German Empire) and a global economic downturn caused a deep recession in Finland in the early 1990s. The depression bottomed out in 1993, and Finland saw steady economic growth for more than ten years.
Like other Nordic countries, Finland has decentralized its economy since the late 1980s. Financial and product market regulation was loosened. Some state enterprises have been privatized and there have been some modest tax cuts. Finland joined the European Union in 1995, and the Eurozone in 1999.
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 42.7 years, Finland is one of the oldest countries; half of voters are estimated to be over 50 years old.
The Finnish markka was replaced by the euro in 2002. As a preparation for this date, the minting of the new euro coins started as early as 1999; this is why the first euro coins from Finland have the year 1999 on them, instead of 2002 like some of the other countries of the Eurozone. Three different designs (one for €2 coin, one for €1 coin and one for the other six coins) were selected for the Finnish coins. In 2007, in order to adopt the new common map like the rest of the Eurozone countries, Finland changed the common side of its coins.
The Constitution of Finland defines the political system. Finland is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy, the king is the country's head of state and the prime minister is the country's most powerful politician. The constitution in its current form came into force on 1 March 2000, and was amended on 1 March 2012. Citizens can run and vote in parliamentary and municipal elections as well as in European Union elections.
According to the Constitution, the King of Finland is the head of state. The king originally had many powers and duties, but under the 2000 constitution, and even further under its 2012 amendment, the monarchy became largely a ceremonial, non-executive position. The position still does entail some powers, including responsibility for foreign policy (excluding affairs related to the European Union) in cooperation with the cabinet, being the head of the armed forces, some decree powers, and some appointive powers. Members of Royal Family other than at specified ceremonies do not represent the country unless approved by the king and government. The current king is Väinö III; he assumed the throne on 18 November 1999.
The 200-member unicameral Parliament of Finland exercises supreme legislative authority. It may alter the constitution and ordinary laws, dismiss the cabinet, and override royal vetoes. Its acts are not subject to judicial review; the constitutionality of new laws is assessed by the parliament's constitutional law committee. The parliament is elected for a term of four years using the proportional D'Hondt method within a number of multi-seat constituencies through open list multi-member districts. Various parliament committees listen to experts and prepare legislation. The speaker is currently Eero Heinäluoma (Social Democrats).
Since universal suffrage was introduced in 1906, the parliament has been dominated by the Centre Party (former Agrarian Union), the National Coalition Party (conservatives), and the Social Democrats. These parties have enjoyed approximately equal support, and their combined vote has totaled about 65–80% of all votes. Their lowest common total of MPs, 121, was reached in the 2011 elections. Due to the electoral system of proportional representation, and the relative reluctance of voters to switch their support between parties, the relative strengths of the parties have commonly varied only slightly from one election to another. However, there have been some long-term trends, such as the steady decline into insignificance of the Liberal party and its predecessors from 1906 to about 1980; and the rise of the Green party and its predecessor since 1983. In the 2011 elections, the True Finns achieved exceptional success, increasing its representation from 5 to 39 seats, and thus surpassing the Centre Party.
The autonomous province of Åland, which forms a federacy with Finland, elects one member to the parliament, who traditionally joins the parliamentary group of the Swedish People's Party of Finland. (The province also holds elections for its own permanent regional council, and in the 2011 elections, Åland Centre was the largest party.)
The Parliament can be dissolved by a recommendation of the Prime minister endorsed by the King. This procedure has never been used, although the parliament was dissolved several times under the pre-2000 constitution, when this action was the sole prerogative of the king.
After the parliamentary elections on 17 April 2011, the seats were divided among eight parties as follows:
|Party||Seats||Net gain/loss||% of seats||% of votes|
|National Coalition Party||44||−6 ▼||22.0||20.4|
|Social Democratic Party||42||-3 ▼||21.0||19.1|
|Finns Party||39||+34 ▲||19.5||19.1|
|Centre Party||35||-16 ▼||17.5||15.8|
|Left Alliance||14||-2 ▼||7.0||8.1|
|Green League||10||-5 ▼||5.0||7.3|
|Swedish People's Party||9||0 ▬||4.5||4.3|
|Christian Democrats||6||-1 ▼||3.0||4.0|
|a Province of Åland's representative.|
After parliamentary elections, the parties negotiate among themselves on forming a new cabinet (the Finnish Government), which then has to be approved by a simple majority vote in the parliament. The cabinet can be dismissed by a parliamentary vote of no confidence, although this rarely happens (the last time in 1957), as the parties represented in the cabinet usually make up a majority in the parliament.
The cabinet exercises most executive powers, and originates most of the bills that the parliament then debates and votes on. It is headed by the Prime Minister of Finland, and consists of him or her, of other ministers, and of the Chancellor of Justice. The current prime minister is Alexander Stubb (National Coalition Party). Each minister heads his or her ministry, or, in some cases, has responsibility for a subset of a ministry's policy. After the prime minister, the most powerful minister is the minister of finance.
As no one party ever dominates the parliament, Finnish cabinets are multi-party coalitions. As a rule, the post of prime minister goes to the leader of the biggest party and that of the minister of finance to the leader of the second biggest.