A Baltic country, sometimes considered part of Scandinavia. It is bounded by Norway on the north, Sweden and the Gulf of Bothnia on the west, and Russia on the east.
A long coastline round the west and south, studded with over 6000 Åland islands, thrusts into the Baltic Sea. Finland's 60,000 lakes are linked by short rivers, sounds, or canals to form busy waterways. A third of the country lies north of the Arctic Circle and is part of Lapland.
Finland is an industrialized country with little agriculture. Owing to its extensive forests paper, timber, and wood-pulp are significant exports. Other industry includes shipbuilding, and the manufacture of machinery, steel, clothing, and chemicals. The only significant mineral resources are chromium and copper.
Occupied between 100 and 800 ad by Finno-Ugrian tribes who drove the original Lapp population into its northernmost regions, Finland was conquered and converted to Christianity by Eric IX of Sweden in the late 1150s, and throughout the Middle Ages found itself at the centre of Swedish-Russian rivalry in the Baltic area. In 1556 Gustavus Vasa made Finland into a separate duchy for his second son John, and following the latter's succession to the Swedish throne as John III in 1568 it was elevated to a grand duchy. Although still dominated by Sweden, Finland was allowed its own Diet and granted a degree of autonomy.
However, the Treaty of Tilsit (1807) between Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon led to the annexation of Finland as a grand duchy of Russia until 1917. Attempts to impose the Russian language and military conscription brought widespread discontent and the Russian Revolution of 1917 offered opportunities for national assertion. Independence was achieved (1919) under Marshal Mannerheim, and a democratic, republican constitution introduced. In 1920 Finland joined the League of Nations, which achieved one of its few successes in resolving the dispute with Sweden over sovereignty of the Åland Islands in the Gulf of Bothnia. After the Nazi–Soviet Pact of 1939, Finland was invaded in the Finnish-Russian War (1939–40). Finnish resistance excited international admiration but no practical help, and surrender entailed a considerable loss of territory (Karelia and Petsamo). When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 the Finns sought to regain these territories by fighting on the side of the Axis Powers, but capitulated to the Soviet Union in 1944 and were burdened with a huge reparations bill. Since World War II Finland has accepted neutrality in international affairs. In January 1992 the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance (1948) with the former Soviet Union was replaced by a new treaty with Russia. Finland's economy suffered from the collapse of eastern European markets, and austerity measures were introduced in April 1992. Finland joined the European Union in 1995 and adopted the euro as its currency in 2002.
Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)
338,145 sq km (130,559 sq miles)
1 euro = 100 cents
Evangelical Lutheran 84.9%; Finnish (Greek) Eastern Orthodox 1.1%