Finland is situated in the North-east of Europe and its neighbouring countries are the Russian Federation, Sweden and Norway. The surface is 338 145 km2 and the population is 5.1 million with a relatively low density of 16 per square kilometre. The capital is Helsinki and other largest city are Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere and Turku. The population is highly concentrated in the south and west parts of the country. The two official languages are Finnish and Swedish. The Swedish speaking minority consists of 6% of the population. The state religion is Lutheranism, but there is also a small minority of Orthodox, Catholics and other religions.

Finland was under the Swedish rule for a long period until 1809 when it became an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire. However, the Swedish social order continued with its own currency and constitutional system with self-government by Finns. Finland was granted independence from Russia in 1917. General suffrage was granted in 1906. Finland became member of European Union in 1995.

The constitutional system is multiparty parliamentary democracy. The Parliament of 200 members is elected every 4 years. The president is elected for every six years. The present president is Ms. Tarja Halonen. The Government consists of the Prime Minister and up to 17 ministers. The cabinets have recently been primarily coalitions. Administratively, Finland is divided into five provinces, one semi-autonomous Swedish speaking province (Ă…land), 19 regions, 90 state local districts and 452 municipalities.

The main economic sectors are information technology, especially cellular phones, and the forest and paper industry. Basic social services are guaranteed by the state and municipalities, and relatively extensive public sector covers social and health care, free education, cultural services and subsidised public transport.

Last Modified: 27.10.2000

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