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Nordic FAQ - 4 of 7 - FINLAND
Section - 4.2 General information

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  4.2.1 Geography, climate, vegetation
   Finland (Finnish: Suomi) is the fifth largest country in Europe,
   excluding the Russian federation. Roughly 1/3 of the country lies
   north of the Arctic Circle. Finland shares a common border in the
   north with Norway, in the east a long border (1,269 km) with Russia,
   on the south it is bordered by the Gulf of Finland, and on the west by
   the Gulf of Bothnia and Sweden. Most of Finland is lowland, but in the
   far northwest (the "arm" of Finland) some mountains rise to over
   1000m. Most of Finland is made of ancient granite bedrock, which has
   been shaped and fractured by numerous ice ages, the marks of which can
   be seen e.g in the complex lake system, the equally complex
   archipelagos and the huge boulders scattered all over the country.
   Finland has three main physical regions: the coastal lowlands, the
   inland lake system, and the northern uplands. The coastal lowlands
   extend along coasts of the Gulfs of Finland and Bothnia, off which lie
   thousands of rocky islands; the principal archipelagos are the Ĺland
   (in Finnish: Ahvenanmaa) Islands and the archipelago of Turku. The
   lake district is an interior plateau of southern central, heavily
   forested and studded with lakes, swamps and bogs. The northern upland,
   much of which lies north of the Arctic Circle, has rather poor soils
   and is the most sparsely populated region of Finland. In the far
   north, arctic forests and swamps eventually change to tundra.
   Finland's climate shows both maritime and continental influences.
   Surrounding seas cool the climate on the coast in spring but on the
   other hand warm it up in the autumn.The climate becomes more
   continental, i.e more extreme, the further east and north one goes.
   The furtherst north, however, has a rather marine climate because of
   the influence of the Arctic Ocean. The summer lasts two to four
   months, the growing season four to six.
   The tourist cliche of Finland as "the country of thousands of lakes"
   has some basis; in one count, a number of 187,880 islands was reached
   (but it all depends on what counts as a lake). They are often
   connected by rivers and canals to form large lake-systems. Finland's
   largest lake, Saimaa, is in fact a system of more than a hundred
   interconnected smaller lakes. Finland's rivers are short and shallow,
   the longest being located in the north. Finland has about 30,000
   coastal islands, of which the especially the southwestern archipelago
   is known for its beauty.
   The country is situated entirely within the northern zone of
   coniferous forests. Forests cover about 65% of the total area (45%
   pines, 37% spruces, 15%). Oaks, lindens, elms, and ashes appear mostly
   in the southwest corner. Among the large wild animals are e.g ear,
   elk, deer, lynx, wolverine and wolf.
  4.2.2 Economy
   Forests are Finland's most important natural resource, and paper,
   timber, etc. are a major source of national income. The granite
   bedrock contains a diversity of minor mineral deposits, including
   copper, nickel, iron, zinc, chromium, lead, and iron pyrites. In
   recent years, diamonds have been found in eastern Finland, but they
   aren't mined yet. In addition, limestone, granite and sand are
   quarried for building materials.
   Wood processing has traditionally been the most important economy. The
   metal and engineering industries have developed rapidly and today are
   the largest source of industrial employment. Since the 1950s
   large-scale swamp drainage, fertilizing, and reforestation have
   improved woord production. The state owns 20% of the forests; the rest
   are privately controlled. The chemical, graphics, and food industries
   are also significant to the economy, followed by textile and
   electrochemical enterprises. Mining activity has decreased in
   importance, although Finland still produces one-half of the copper and
   nickel needed for the domestic market. In 1960, 30% of Finland's work
   force was engaged in farming; by 1990 the figure was less than 10%,
   and only 7% of the total land area was cultivated. Nevertheless, the
   agricultural sector produces a surplus of dairy products, meat, and
   eggs. Wheat and rye are the most important bread grains; other major
   crops include hay, potatoes, oats, and barley. Finland's climate and
   small farms favor dairy and livestock production, which account for
   most of the farm income. The problems created by overproduction have
   led to soil banking (a policy of purposely leaving farmland
   uncultivated) and reforestation.

[ the sections above are available at the www-page ]

  4.2.3 Population
   Finland is a bilingual country (with a Swedish-speaking minority
   living mostly in the coastal areas).
   The autonomous island-province of Ĺland is an exception: the province
   is monolingually Swedish-speaking.
   Ĺland Islands, with approximately 25,000 inhabitants, is a
   demilitarized area with its own flag (a red Nordic cross outlined in
   yellow, on blue background) and a separate local legislation. Its
   autonomy is based on international treaties.
   The Swedish-speaking minority of Finland descends chiefly from the
   settlers that arrived with the Christian missionaries and crusaders in
   the early middle ages. They speak a variety called "finlandssvenska"
   that differs slightly from Swedish spoken in Sweden ("rikssvenska"),
   most notably for its Finnish intonation and some archaic vocabulary.
   Today 5.7 % of Finland's population is registered as Finland-Swedish.
   The proportion has been steadily diminishing since the 18th century
   when 20% of the population had Swedish as mother tongue.
   The Romani, or Gypsies, who arrived to Finland in late 16th century
   have long had to experience the prejudices of the majority population,
   but in recent years their situation has been improving, and Romani
   language is now taught at schools. They number approximately 5.500.
   Different from the situation in Scandinavia the Gypsies of Finland
   have usually not preserved their own language, but have Finnish as
   their mother tongue. On the other hand, they have preserved their
   dress customs a lot more.
   In Lapland (the northernmost province of Finland), a small Sámi (Lapp)
   minority still survives. Their number is only around 5,000, with even
   fewer reporting Sami as their native language, but nowadays there are
   schools for Sámi-speakers and the language is considered official in
   municipalities with at least 7% of the population speaking Sámi. For
   more information about the Sámi, see section 2.3.
  4.2.4 Who is a Finn?
   Believe it or not, but this question does raise heated discussions in
   the news group now and then. The disputes have their base in the
   inability, general among Nordeners, to distinguish between ethnicity,
   nationality and citizenship.
   In the news group you can find citizens of Finland who declare that he
   or she "is certainly no Finn even if I am born in Finland (and my
   ancestors some 600 years back at least). If some bullshit Fascists
   think they can call everyone living in this country a Finn they are
   On the other hand ethnic Finns can be studied, who get insulted by any
   word referring to Finland's multi-ethnicity, arguing along the slogan
   In Finland we speak Finnish. They might claim that the distinction
   between Swedish-speaking and Finnish-speaking inhabitants of Finland
   is based on racism and the minority's need to feel superior.
   Be warned!
   This is a sensitive topic.
   The origin of Finns is still subject to a lot of discussion; the
   traditional theory is that Finns emigrated from the Urals to Finland
   some 2,000 years ago, but the current view seems to be that the
   Finnish people have evolved into what they are in Finland as a result
   of numerous successive waves of immigration coming from east, south
   and west.
   As Roman writers described the Fenni it is unclear whether they
   referred to nomadic Lapps exclusively, or if also the Finnish speaking
   farmers and sea-farers were included.
   In any case: Written medieval sources exhibit great confusion on this
   point. When the king of Norway (who for long was the king of Denmark),
   or the Norse Sagas, refer to "Finns" they mostly mean Sámis or Lapps.
   The Swedish administration wasn't much better in making the
   distinctions we today put such a great importance to.
   Still today "a Finn" is a Sámi or Lapp for many speakers of Norwegian.
   Until the national awakening of the 19th century Swedish speakers
   meant people from Finland, or with ancestry from Finland, when talking
   about "Finns" (finne, plural: finnar). Then the Finnish nationalistic
   movement led to the majority language (Finnish) being given equal
   status to the old administrative language (Swedish). It became
   fashionable for the educated class to learn Finnish, to start using
   Finnish as much as possible, and to make Finnish the mother tongue of
   their children.
   Then the remaining parts of the Swedish speaking minority in Finland
   started to stress their "Swedishness" - in reaction to the Finnish
   nationalistic movement from the mid-1800's on with its expectation
   that all inhabitants of Finland should switch from Swedish to Finnish.
   The Swedish speakers began to label themselves as "Finland-Swedes"
   defending their language's position in Finland as much as they could.
   The battle was long and hard between proponents for Finnish as the
   national language of Finland and the proponents for Swedish as the
   language linking Finland to Germanic nations of Western Europe. And "a
   Finn" became a term which for the Swedish speaking minority referred
   to members of the Finnish speaking majority.
   By the time of Finland's liberation from Russia the language-battle
   was almost won by the proponents for Finnish, but the Swedish speakers
   were still well represented in the government and among State
   officials. The independent Finland became officially bilingual, and
   during the Second World War (if not before) a consensus was
   established that both "Finns" and "Swedes" of Finland belonged to the
   same nation, a nation which thus in conflict with the 19th century
   Nationalism's dogma comprised two very different languages: Finnish
   and Swedish.
   But still, for the Finland-Swedes the term en finne ("a Finn") denotes
   an ethnic Finn, and the term finländare (literally: Finlandener) is
   used to denote nationality or citizenship. The Finnish language has a
   term (suomenruotsalainen) for the Finland-Swedes, of course, but uses
   the same term (suomalainen) for ethnic Finns and citizens of Finland.
   In Sweden people try to show the Finland-Swedes basal courtesy by
   remembering to distinguish between en finne and en finländare. In
   Norway people try to avoid the word finne perceived as derogatively as
   the word "Lapp" when denoting the Sámis, and the word finlender (the
   equivalent term to "Finlandener") is the recommended form, especially
   by people interested in politicial correctness.
   The problem usually arises when Swedes or Norwegians remember the
   political correctness but forget the sensitive nature of this matter.
   The word "a Finn" can be avoided in English, by exchanging it to
   citizen of Finland, inhabitant of Finland, ethnic Finn, or
   Thereby, however, nothing is implicated for the question of Ĺland's
   status as being a part of the country Finland or not, its population
   belonging to the nation of ethnic Finns and Finland-Swedes or not, or
   other disputable issues...
  4.2.5 The Finnish language
   Whatever the roots of Finns are, a fact is that they speak a language
   that isn't Indo-European like the other Nordic languages, but
   Finno-Ugric; its closest major relative is Estonian (but even those
   two languages aren't really mutually intelligible), and it is
   distantly related to Hungarian, Sámi, and several minor languages
   spoken in European Russia and Siberia.
   Eugene Holman writes:
     Even though Finnish is not related to the Scandinavian languages,
     like Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, it has its sister languages
     which it is more or less mutually intelligible spoken by people of
     essentially the same ethnic stock as the Finns. Many people know
     that the difference between Finnish and Estonian is approximately
     the same as the difference between Swedish and Danish. Fewer know
     that the same holds for Finnish and the indigenous speech forms
     behind the Russian border: Karelian (karjala), Olonetsian (aunus),
     Lydian (lyydi) and Vepsian (Vepsä). These three speech forms are
     essentially part of the eastern Finnish dialect continuum with an
     increasingly strong Russian superstratum the further east one goes.
     Twice in this century, specifically during the Finnish Civil War
     1918-1920 and then again during the so-called Continuation War
     (1941-1944), certain nationalist circles in Finland have aspired to
     join these areas of Karelia to Finland.
     Finnish military rule in White Sea Karelia during the Continuation
     War meant the erection of concentration camps, and the internment
     and eventual death of many Russians, communists, and other
     "undesirables", a large number of them children. It also meant the
     establishment of a school system teaching in local speech forms and
     a serious effort to make the inhabitants literate in their local
     "dialects" as a first step towards making them Finnish. The story,
     although not without its positive aspects, is not one that official
     Finland is particularly proud of.
  4.2.6 Culture
   Finnish culture could be characterized as a mixture of Swedish and
   Finnish elements, with a touch of Russian influence especially in the
   eastern provinces. Mikael Agricola (1510-57) established Finnish as a
   written language. The national epic Kalevala, collected from Karelian
   oral poetry by the scholar Elias Lönnrot, has had enormous effect on
   the forming of the Finnish culture in the last century, as did the
   poetry of Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-72) and the drama of the author
   Aleksis Kivi (1834-72). The scholar H. G. Porthan (1739-1804) awakened
   the public interest in Finnish mythology and folk poetry, and laid a
   firm basis to humanist sciences. Tove Jansson (1914--) has won
   popularity with her books about the Moomins.
   Music has had a special place in Finnish culture, the best known and
   loved composer being of course Jean Sibelius (1865-1957); others
   include Fredrik Pacius (1809-91), Oskar Merikanto (1868-1924), and
   Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958), Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947), and Uuno
   Klami (1900-61). Aulis Sallinen, Joonas Kokkonen and Magnus Lindberg
   are major contemporary composers. Hundreds of music festivals draw
   large crowds in the summer; among the best known are Kaustinen Folk
   Festival, Savonlinna Opera Festival which is held in a medieval
   castle, and Ruisrock in Turku.
   Finnish architecture has won international fame; it is represented by
   people such as Eliel Saarinen (and his son Eero Saarinen, who worked
   chiefly in North America) Wivi Lönn (1872-1966), and Lars Sonck
   (1870-1956) who were pioneers of the national romantic style.
   Neoclassicism was introduced by J. S. Siren (1889-1961), and
   functionalism by Alvar Aalto (1898-1976). Aalto is also well known as
   an urban planner, interior designer, and industrial and furniture
   designer. Reima and Raili Pietilä are contemporary architects well
   known for their unconventional, expressionistic style.
   Among painters, Albert Edelfelt (1854-1905) and Akseli Gallen-Kallela
   (1865-1931) are the best known representatives of the golden era of
   Finnish painting; their styles were naturalism, realism, and
   symbolism, the themes often being taken from Finnish history or
   mythology. Helene Schjerbeck (1862-1946) was a leader in the break
   with realism, Hugo Simberg (1873-1917) was one of the foremost
   symbolists, and Tyko Sallinen (1879-1955) was one of the first

[ the sections above are available at the www-page ]

  4.2.7 Government
   The Finnish constitution was adopted in 1919. Finland is a republic,
   headed by a president elected for a 6-year term. The president is
   chosen by the general electorate (all citizens over 18). Supreme
   executive power is vested in the president, who heads the country's
   foreign policy. Legislative power is shared by the president and the
   one-chamber parliament of 200 members. The government which is headed
   by a prime minister, is responsible for the country's general
   administration. Judicial power is vested in independent courts of
   justice. Finland has had an ombudsman (oikeusasiamies), an impartial
   public officer whose duty is to handle public complaints against
   actions of the government, since 1919.
   The constitution of Finland guarantees a freedom of religion, but the
   Evangelical Lutheran church is an official state church to which 84 %
   of the population belongs to. The Orthodox church is also a state
   church, 1.1 % of Finns are members (mainly in the east); those with no
   religious affiliation constitute 12 % of the population.
   See section 4.4 for more information about the current parliament,
   cabinet and political parties. The virtual Embassy by the Finnish
   Ministry for Foreign Affairs publishes on the web among a lot of
   interesting documents also weekly newsletter on arts and sports.
  4.2.8 The School system
   Parents choose between placing their children in the Finnish-language
   or the Swedish-language school. Education on either of the languages
   is provided on all levels.
   The compulsory education (Fi: peruskoulu, Sw: grundskolan) starts when
   the child is 6 or 7 years old. The 9-year schooling is normally
   completed when the pupil is 15 or 16.
   High schools (Fi: lukio, Sw: gymnasium) are either academically or
   vocationally oriented, with roughly half of the students attending
   university-preparatory study programs, culminating with high school
   diploma (Fi: ylioppilastutkinto, Sw: studentexamen) after rigorous
   examination where grades are given on basis of the student's
   achievement in relation to the nationwide graduating class. The more
   vocationally oriented high schools (Fi: ammattikoulu, Sw: yrkesskola)
   train their students in things such as auto mechanics, hairdressing,
   Virtually all students attend public schools. Some private and
   semi-private schools exist, in many cases offering education based on
   a specific education philosophy or religious affiliation.
   The teaching language in all schools in Ĺland is Swedish. The
   nine-year comprehensive school, for which the local districts are
   responsible, provides a general basic education. The English language
   is a compulsory subject at comprehensive school, while the Finnish
   language is optional. Pupils completing their schooling there may sit
   for either the Finnish State Matriculation Examination, or else the
   special Ĺland Leaving Examination in which Finnish is not a compulsory

[ the sections above are available at the www-page ]


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