Here is some general information about Finland.








Foreign Policy









Flag of Finland

Finland is a republic which became independent in 1917. The head of state is the president. Ultimate political power is vested in the 200-member unicameral parliament. The semi-autonomous province of the Åland Islands occupies a special position because it has been declared a demilitarized area under international law. The population of Finland today is a little over 5 million. Finland is rightly known as a land of forests: they cover roughly three quarters of the country's surface area of 338,000 sq. km. Other outstanding features of Finland's scenery are its myriad lakes and islands. Lakes and other bodies of water cover 10% of the national territory. The principal archipelago lies off the southwest coast while the main lake district, centered on Lake Saimaa, is in the east.



Finland is situated in northern Europe between the 60th and 70th parallels of latitude. A quarter of its total area lies north of the Arctic Circle. Finland's neighboring countries are Sweden to the west, Norway to the north, Russia to the east and Estonia to the south, across the Gulf of Finland. Much of the country is a gently undulating plateau of worn bedrock and boreal forests, presenting a striking mixture of wooded hills and waters. High rounded fells form the landscape in the most northerly part of the country, Finnish Lapland.


Ruska (autumn foliage) in Lapland

The climate is marked by cold winters and warm summers but temperatures in winter are moderated by the influence of the Baltic Sea and west winds from the Atlantic warmed by the Gulf Stream. The mean annual temperature in the capital, Helsinki, is 5.3 degrees Celsius. The highest daytime temperature in southern Finland during the summer occasionally rises close to 30 Celsius. During the winter months, particularly in January and February, temperatures of minus 20 Celsius are not uncommon. In the far north, beyond the Arctic Circle, the sun does not set for about 73 days, producing the white nights of summer. In the same region, during the dark winter period, the sun remains below the horizon for 51 days, creating the polar night known in Finnish as kaamos.



The population of Finland is approximately 5,132,000. Population density is a modest 16 persons per square kilometer (40 per square mile). Most Finns, some 62 %, now live in urban areas while about 38% remain in a rural environment. Helsinki, the capital, with a population of 525,031, Espoo (population 191,247) and Vantaa (population 166,480) form the Helsinki metropolitan region which is home to roughly a sixth of the country's total population. This drift of population into the southern province of Uusimaa began in the post-war years and continues. Other important cities are: Tampere (population 182,742), Turku (population 164,744) and Oulu (population 109,094).

In 1995 there were 1.4 million families in Finland. Among families with children the average number of offspring was 1.79. In 1960 the figure was 2.27. In 1995 there were 2.2 million people who had graduated from a senior secondary school, a vocational college, a professional institution or a university. Half of the number were women. In 1995, women made up 47.5 per cent of the total work force of 2.5 million. While efforts have been made to eliminate pay differentials between the genders, in 1994 average earnings of women were 81.4 % of average male earnings.

At the last parliamentary elections in 1995 women won 67 of the 200 seats in the national assembly (the Eduskunta). Women on average outlive men in Finland: in 1995 the average life expectancy for females was 80.2 years and for males 72.8 years.

Where the Finns migrated from before arriving in Finland and when they began to settle the country are still matters of debate, but the latest theory is that the Finns have been living in what is now Finland since 3,000 B.C.

Finnish Population

Back to Top


The Finnish language is a member of the Finno-Ugric linguistic family that includes, in one branch, Finnish, Estonian and a number of other Finish tongues and, in the other, Hungarian, by far the biggest language of the Ugric group. The official languages of Finland are Finnish and Swedish, the latter now spoken as a mother tongue by about 6% of the people. Another indigenous minority language is Sami, spoken by the Samis of Lapland. The official standing of Swedish has historical roots in the period when Finland was part of the Swedish realm, a status that began approximately at the beginning of the 13th century and lasted until 1809.

The number of foreign citizens living permanently in Finland was about 69,000 in 1995, the biggest groups coming from the neighboring countries, Russia, Estonia and Sweden.

The Finnish Language


There has been complete freedom of worship in Finland since 1923. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the country's biggest denomination - 88% of the people are baptised as Lutherans while just under 1% belong to the Finnish Orthodox Church. Both denominations are designated as state churches. Although Christianity had probably reached Finland before the end of the first millennium, it was not until the 12th century that the Roman Catholic Church became established. This followed a missionary expedition to southwest Finland led by King Erik of Sweden with the English-born bishop Henry. The influence of the Orthodox faith spread into the country from the east.

Churches and Religion in Finland


Some important dates in the history of Finland:

1155 The first missionaries arrive in Finland from Sweden. Finland becomes part of the Swedish realm. 1809 Sweden surrenders Finland to Russia. The Czar declares Finland a semi-autonomous Grand Duchy with himself as constitutional monarch represented by a governor general. 1917 Finland declares independence from Russia on December 6. The new state is first recognised by the Soviet Union, France, Germany and Sweden. 1919 The present constitution is adopted and Finland becomes a republic with a president as head of state. 1939 - 40 The Soviet Union attacks Finland and the Winter War is fought. 1941 - 44 Fighting between Finnish and Russian forces resumes in the campaign known as the Continuation War. A massive offensive by Soviet forces in summer 1944 forces the Finns to sue for peace. Some territory was ceded to the Soviet Union but Finland was never occupied and preserved its independence and sovereignty. 1955 Finland joins the United Nations. 1995 Finland becomes a member of the European Union.

Porvoo, an old city 50 km east of Helsinki, founded in 1346.

Back to Top

Main Outlines of Finnish History


The head of state is the President of the Republic who is elected for a period of six years at a time and may serve a maximum of only two consecutive terms. The present incumbent, President Martti Ahtisaari, was elected in February 1994. The President is chosen by direct popular vote, with a run-off between the two leading candidates if no candidate wins an outright majority on the first ballot. The government must enjoy the confidence of parliament (the Eduskunta) which has 200 members elected by universal suffrage every four years. After the general election of 1995 the Social Democratic Party had 63 parliamentary seats, the Centre Party 44, the National Coalition 39, the Left Wing Alliance 22, the Swedish People's Party 12, the Greens 9, the Finnish Christian League 7, the Finnish Progressive Party 2, the Finnish Rural Party 1, the Ecological Party 1.

The Political year in Finland, 1996


As one of the EU and Nordic countries, Finland is committed to the values of freedom, democracy and human rights. Finland is not a member of any military alliance and maintains an independent defense capability but has signed a Partnership for Peace agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and has observer status in the Western European Union (the nascent defense arm of the European Union) and in the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Cooperation within the Nordic Council covers a wide range of social, cultural and technical matters of interest to the five members: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. After a lengthy period of involvement in the process of European integration Finland applied to join the European Economic Community in 1992 and in 1995 became a member of the European Union. Since becoming a member of the United Nations in 1955 Finland has taken part in many of the world organization's peacekeeping operations. Finland considers that the UN Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) should continue to function as the political mandatory of international peacekeeping and crisis management operations in which Finland could take part. Due to cutbacks in public spending in the 1990s, Finland had to reduce its contribution to development cooperation work from over 0.7% of GDP nearer to 0.3%. However, Finland has committed itself politically and publicly to the goal of regaining the earlier level by the first decade of the next century.

Finland's Foreign Policy


Finland has 56 newspapers that are published 4 to 7 times a week and 172 with 1 to 3 issues per week. The total circulation of all newspapers is 3.6 million. In terms of total circulation relative to population Finland ranks second in Europe and third in the world, after Norway and Japan. Most newspapers are bought on subscription rather than from newsstands. Only two newspapers depend entirely on newsstand sales. There are 2,585 registered periodicals with a total circulation of approximately 17.4 million.

The five best selling newspapers in 1996 were the following:


Helsingin Sanomat

475, 091


209, 490


129, 658

Turun Sanomat

111, 615


103, 896

The best selling newspaper in the Swedish language is Hufvudstadsbladet: circulation 59,206.

Back to Top

News and Media


The Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE, is the biggest national radio and television service provider. YLE is a non-commercial public service broadcaster. YLE operates two television channels with full national coverage. The second biggest television broadcaster, the privately owned Commercial MTV3, has one nationwide channel. A new private TV channel, Ruutunelonen, started in 1997. Television programmes from TV Sweden are transmitted over YLE's channel 4. Satellite broadcasts of YLE's programmes to all Europe began in 1997. TV Finland is sent digitally via Intelsat, which also carries two Radion Finland channels.

Some 40 foreign TV-channels can be seen via cabel networks. There are some thirty local TV stations, that mainly relay foreign and domestic programmes over cable and radio waves in addition to locally produced material. The expansion of local television is being slowed down by programme production costs.

The only radio broadcaster with full nationwide coverage is YLE. It transmits three national channels in Finnish and one in Swedish, as well as various regional channels, including one in Sami in Lapland. There are more than 60 private, local radio stations. Two of them, the news and music stations Nova and Classic, cover almost 60 % of the population.

News and Media


All children receive compulsory basic education at comprehensive schools between the ages of 7 and 16. Education beyond the age of 16 is voluntary, taking the form of either a three-year course in upper secondary school or a 2 to 5 year course at a vocational school. There are 20 universities or other institutes of higher education, with a total student population of 130,865, of whom 52% are women.



Last century Finland embarked on the road to industrialization by harnessing its forest resources. Today, forests are still Finland's most crucial raw material resource, although the metal and engineering industry has long been Finland's leading branch of manufacturing both in terms of value added and as an employer. Today, Finland is a typical advanced industrial economy: two thirds of its total output is generated in the service sector. The net wealth of Finnish households is close to the average for the European Union. In 1994 Finland's GDP per capita was USD 18,845 while the average for EU countries was USD 19,529. Unemployment is the most serious problem burdening the Finnish economy. In 1990 the unemployment rate stood at only 3.4%. Many jobs were subsequently lost as a result of recession and by 1994 the jobless rate had soared to 18.4 %. By the end of 1996 unemployment fell to 16.3%.

Visit one of the world's- and Finland's biggest high tech Information Technology company, NOKIA.


The unit of currency was the markka before, also known as the Finnish mark (symbols: mk, FIM). 1 USD = 6,4 MK. Beginning of the year 2002 we changed to use Euro (€) like 12 other European Union members (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Austria and Portugal). More information about Euro and European Union, click here.

Back to Top