Sunday, 12 July 2009

Finland: A Brief Background

Finland, or Suomi in Finnish, is a Nordic country sharing borders with Sweden, Russia, and Norway.  Across the Gulf of Finland lies its neighbor, Estonia.  

See here for an excellent map of the Nordic countries.

Approximately 5.3 million people live in Finland.  The capital city is Helsinki.  

Finland is a bilingual country, with Finnish and Swedish as its official languages.  Finnish a Finno-Ugric language, is most closely related to Estonian and has no linguistic relation to most European languages.  Swedish, an Indo-European language, has close ties to other Scandinavian languages and other Germanic languages.  

Swedish as an official language directly relates to Finland's history.  Finland was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden for approximately 600 years, then part of Russia for approximately 100 years.  Finland gained independence in December, 1917.  

Finland is a representative democracy with semi-presidential parliamentary system.  The current president (in July 2009) is Tarja Halonen, and the prime minister is Matti Vanhanen.  

Finland follows the Nordic model of a Welfare State, with egalitarian values, expansive child care, free education, and free heath care.  

Many also recognize Finland for its products, most significantly mobile phone company Nokia.  Fans of design will also recognize Finland for companies such as Iittala, Arabia, and Marimekko, among others.  Architect and designer Alvar Aalto has also made a significant impact in the design industry.  Fiskars scissors dominate cutting in homes, offices, and schools, and many Finnish athletes have made an international name for themselves, including my favorite, Teemu Selanne.  

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