Helsinki is the capital and forms together with Espoo and Vantaa the Helsinki metropolitan area with nearly 20% of the total population.
Finland is situated in northern Europe approximately between 60 and 70°N. A
third of Finland is lying north of the Arctic Circle. The country extends for about 1,200
km from north to south and 550 km from east to west at its widest. Finland borders in the
north to Norway, northwest to Sweden, west to Gulf of Bothnia, south to the Gulf of
Finland, and in the east to Russia.
The climate is characterized by cold winters and warm summers. The mean temperature in
Helsinki in February is -7.5°C and in July 17°C. Summer temperatures occasionally rise
above 30°C. In winter temperatures of -20°C are not uncommon. In Sodankylä in northern
Finland the mean temperature in February is -13°C and in July 14.7°C. The rainfall is
usually moderate in all seasons.
The population is a little over 5 million. Most people live in urban areas. The
largest cities are Helsinki, Espoo and Tampere. Moreover, there is an
ongoing movement of people to urban areas.
Finland is a republic since 1919, the country became an independent state in 1917. The head of state is the president whose mandate is for six years. The country is governed by a unicameral parliament with 200 seats, which is elected every four years. In the election of 1995 the largest parties where: Social Democratic Party (63), Centre Party (44), National Coalition (39), Leftist Alliance (22), Swedish People's Party (12), and the Green League (9 seats).
Finland joined the European Union 1995. The net wealth of Finnish households (USD 18,845) is close to the avearge for the EU (19,529).
Finland's export consists mainly of wood products; paper, board, wood pulp and also metals and engineering industry. The main trade partners are Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom, Russia and USA.. Unemployment was 1996 about 16% and has since decreased.
The earliest stages of the settlement of Finland date back to about 7,000 BC. At that time, Stone age, hunters followed the prehistoric shoreline of the Baltic Sea in climatic conditions similar to those of the tundra.
During the Iron age Finnish settlement expanded from central Finland, Häme and the Ladoga region of Karelia towards the north, driving the Sami population before them.
During the medieval crusades from Scandinavia, Swedish settlements were established on the coasts and Swedish rule was established.
Sweden ceded Finland to Russia in 1809. The Czar declared Finland a semi-autonomous Grand Duchy with himself as constitutional monarch represented by a governor general.
During the 19th century the scholar Elias Lönnrot compiled old ballads, lyrics and incantations to the epic Kalevala. Together with music by the composer J. Sibelius a national consciousness and pride was created.
Finland declares independence from Russia in 1917.
The Soviet Union attacks
Finland in 1939 - 40 and the Winter war is fought. Fighting between
Finnish and Russian troups resumes in 1941-44. First areas lost in the
Winter war are regained by Finnish forces. However, a massive offensive by
the Soviet Union forces the Finnish to sue for peace. Some territory
is ceded to the Soviet Union but Finland preserved its independence and