Finland is one of the Nordic countries and a part of Northern Europe. The landscape is dominated by forests and lakes, but there is geographical variety from the unique archipelago of the southern and western coastlines to the rolling mountains and clear-water rivers of Lapland.
Finland and the Finnish way of life have been influenced by the country’s location between East and West. For five centuries Finland was a part of Sweden, then it became a part of Russia and traces of both eras can still be seen today. Finland declared itself independent in 1917 and managed to keep this independence throughout World War ll. Since the war, Finland has pursued a policy of military non-alliance, and this created the basis for the present welfare state. Finland is a democracy in the normal western sense of the word, a parliamentary republic with a multiparty political system. The social structure is typically Nordic resembling particularly that of Sweden.
The most important recent change in Finland’s position in Europe took place at the beginning of 1995, when Finland joined the European Union.
The politics of Finland take place within the framework of a parliamentary representative democracy. Finland is a republic whose head of state is President Sauli Niinistö, who leads the nation’s foreign policy and is the supreme commander of the Finnish Defense Forces. Finland’s head of government is the Prime Minister, who leads the nation’s executive branch, called the Finnish Government. Because the Constitution of Finland vests power to both the President and Government, the President has veto power over parliamentary decisions, although this power can be overruled by a majority vote in the Parliament.
In Finland both Finnish and Swedish are official languages. Finnish is spoken by 90.7 percent of the population, whereas 5.4 percent have Swedish as their mother tongue (around 1700 people in Lapland speaks Saami). Most Finnis speak English, and many have skills in German, French or some other European language.
The weather in Finland is quite diverse and can change very quickly. The Finnish summer can be mild and warm whereas Finland’s winters can be long and cold. In northern parts of Finland you can find snow on the ground for upwards of 90 days each year. Finnish weather is the warmest in July and the coldest in February – but February is also the driest month. Most importantly, the air is fresh, clean, pure and invigorating at all times of the year.
Facts about Finland
- Finland is ranked as the happiest country in the world (the 2019 World Happiness Report)
- The Finnish language is one of the ten most challenging languages in the world to learn and translate.
- The Finnish Sauna is a critical piece of the country’s heritage, with over 2 million saunas in Finland – approximately one per households.
- Helsinki, Finland’s capital, ranks in the top 10 cities with the cleanest air in the world.
- Finland declared independence as recently as 1917, previously being under the rule of Sweden and Russia.
- After gaining its independence from Sweden and Russia, Finland established its own monarchy, which lasted a whole three months before the newly appointed king stepped down. In fact, Frederick-Charles of Hesse never even had time to be crowned in his 67-day reign.
- Finland installed its first female prime minister (Anneli Jäätteenmäki) in April 2003, making it the only country in Europe with both a female president (Tarja Halonen) and prime minister.