Finland borders in south to the Bay of Finland, to the west to the northern parts of the Baltic Sea with its northernmost part called Bay of Bothnia, to the north to Sweden and Norway and to the east to Russia. Around one third of the country lies north of the Arctic circle.
From the early medieval period up until 1809, Finland was a part of the kingdom of Sweden.
In 1809 Sweden had to cede Finland to the Russian empire, after which the land became known as the Grand Duchy of Finland, a title held by the Russian emperor. The grand duchy however was allowed to keep its old laws and customs from the Swedish time, meaning that Finland never became russified in the same way as other parts of the growing colonial Russian empire.
During the Russian revolution in 1917 Finland declared its independence. What followed was a Finnish civil war between communist supporters – “red” Finns – and the “white” Finns which ended with the white’s victory. After a brief plan to install a German prince as king of Finland, the country after 1918 instead opted to become a republic.
During the Second World War the Soviet Union declared war against Finland, aiming to invade, but the fierce Finnish military response forced Soviet to settle for a peace in which the Soviet Union annected parts of Karelia and the northern Petsamo area. The constant threat from Soviet however forced Finland to maintain a forced friendship with the communist state all up until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
After that date, Finland got more able to form its own independent foreign policy, leading to membership in the European Union in 1995. In response to the Russian Federation invading Ukraine in 2022, Finland became a NATO member in 2023.
The population in Finland is unevenly distributed with a large swathe living in the southern parts along the coast. The area between Åbo and Helsinki is the most densely populated.
Culture and travel
The Åland archipelago with over 6000 islands and skerries is spread out from the southwest corner of the Finnish mainland towards west where it more or less connects to the Swedish archpelago outside Stockholm. Almost all ferries between Sweden and Finland make a stop at Åland’s main city Mariehamn, much due to tax purposes – Åland is considered a duty-free zone in the EU which means that a stop over there gives the ferry companies legal right to sell duty free goods onboard.
The Finnish lake district has over 55000 lakes and is a paradise for water sports and fishing.
Helsinki, or Helsingfors in Swedish, is the capital of Finland since 1812 and the country’s economical and cultural centre.
Embedded in the forests, mires and tundra of Finnish Lapland Enare Träsk (Enare marshlands) provides great nature experences.
Rovaniemi is Finnish Lapland’s only city and as it was almost completely destroyed during World War II, it was rebuilt after the war under the influence of the world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Rovaniemi is also – according to Finland – the home of Santa Claus.
In Savonlinna (Nyslott) lies Olofsborg and in the neighbouring town of Kerimäki is one of the world’s largest wooden churches.
Tampere (Tammerfors) is Finland’s second biggest city and has a history as an important industrial centre.
In the former capital city of Åbo you can visit Åbo castle and the romanesque cathedral from the 13th century.