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Finland (Finnish: Suomi; Republic of), independent republic of northern Europe, east of the Scandinavian peninsula. This “land of thousands of lakes” is bounded by 2 arms of the Baltic Sea in the southwest and south, Russia in the east, and Norway and Sweden in the north and northwest. About one-fourth of Finland lies inside the Arctic Circle, and about one-tenth consists of inland waters. Cessions to the former Soviet Union cost the Finns about one-tenth of their pre-World War II area. The principal cities are the capital, Helsinki; Tampere, a major industrial city on the southwestern rim of the lake district; and Turku, a leading port on the southwest coast and Finnish capital until 1812. Finland has one important natural resource: timber. Forestry and allied industries in wood products are successful.

Land and climate

Finland has tens of thousands of lakes, linked in many cases by rivers and canals. Around the lakes are extensive areas of swamps and forests. Most of the rivers are short and swift, and rapids render navigation difficult. The longest river is the Kemi (340 mi/547 km). The coastal plain extends to about 80 mi (130 km) in width and includes most of the larger cities and the bulk of the farming land. The plateau region is heavily forested and ranges from 300 to 600 ft (90 to 180 m) above sea level. In the third region (Lapland), the uplands in the north rise to 1,500 ft (450 m) and contain the highest point in Finland, Mount Haltia (4,343 ft/1,324 m) on the Norwegian border. Wildlife includes large numbers of seabirds and waterfowl. The reindeer is disappearing from the northern forests, but bears, wolves, lemmings, and lynxes can be found. Salmon, trout, and whitefish are plentiful in the rivers, and seals and herring are caught off the coasts. The Gulf Stream helps keep the climate relatively mild in the south and central areas, with short, warm summers and long, cold winters. The north has a subarctic climate, with long, severe winters and the famous “midnight sun” from May to the end of July.


The Finns are related directly to the Estonians and, more distantly, to Hungarians and Russians. Most live on farms or in small villages; only 6 cities have a population over 100,000. There is a Swedish minority of and a Lapp minority (largely nomads). The Swedes, who controlled Finland from the 13th century to the beginning of the 19th, have had a marked cultural influence on the nation. Both Finnish and Swedish are official languages. Finnish is not a Scandinavian language, but is a member of the Finno-Urgic group, which includes Hungarian and Estonian.


About 10% of the work force is in agriculture, 30% in industry, and 60% in other sectors. The government exercises considerable control over economic activities, operating the rail system and communications. It also monopolizes trade with the former USSR. Paper, pulp, and wood-working products account for over half of total exports. Other exports include dairy products, copper, and furs and hides.


Finland was colonized from the south and by the 9th century formed 3 tribal states, Karelia, Tavastenland, and Suomi. Sweden progessively colonized the area, and after the 14th century Finland became a Swedish grand duchy. In 1809 Sweden was forced to cede it to Russia. Tsar Alexander I maintained the country as a grand duchy but allowed it considerable autonomy under a governor-general. This period saw the rise of nationalism: The Swedish language was replaced by Finnish, particularly after the publication of the national folk-epic, the Kalevala (1835). Under Alexander III a policy of “Russification” was adopted and generally bitterly resisted until World War I. In 1917 the parliament declared independence from the new regime in Russia, and Bolshevik forces were defeated in a brief civil war. In 1919 a republic was declared. In 1939, in breach of a nonaggression pact, the USSR invaded Finland, but was stalled by fierce resistance. For the German aid Finland received during World War II, it was made to pay massive postwar reparations to the USSR and lost southern Karelia. During the postwar period the Finnish government sought a peaceful rapprochement with the USSR, despite much Soviet interference in Finnish affairs. In 1994 Finland joined the European Union.


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