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Factfile on Finland

14 April 2011
by eub2 -- last modified 14 April 2011

Finland, where voters go to the polls in parliamentary elections on Sunday, is a republic that won its independence from Russia in 1917. It has been a member of the European Union and the eurozone since 1995.


GEOGRAPHY: Finland borders Russia, Sweden and Norway, with the Baltic Sea to the south.

POPULATION: 5.4 million people. Native languages include Finnish (90.1 percent) Swedish (5.4 percent), and indigenous Saami dialects (0.03 percent).

CAPITAL: Helsinki, 588,549 inhabitants.

RELIGION: Two state churches: Evangelical Lutheran, to which 79.9 percent of Finns belong, and Finnish Orthodox with 1.1 percent.

HISTORY: After around 600 years of Swedish rule, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire in 1809, and declared independence on December 6, 1917.

After the war of independence, Finland suffered a bitter civil war, and during World War II it fought two Soviet invasions. During the Cold War, Finland pursued a policy of neutrality known as "finlandisation".

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Parliamentary democracy with a unicameral parliament of 200 members, elected for a four-year term by direct popular vote under a system of proportional representation. Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi took over the coalition government in June 2010 when her predecessor Matti Vanhanen stepped down. President Tarja Halonen was elected by direct popular vote for a six-year term in 2000 and re-elected in 2006.

ECONOMY: Finland is a Nordic welfare state, where a high taxation level funds universal social benefits. Its export-dependent economy shrank 8.2 percent in 2009 due to the global economic crisis, but has steadily regained its footing since 2010. Gross domestic product in 2010 was 180 billion euros, or 33,618 euros per capita, while the government debt was 41.7 percent of GDP. (Statistics Finland).

Unemployment stood at 8.4 percent in February.

PRIMARY EXPORTS: electronics (Nokia is the world's largest mobile phone maker), metals, industrial machinery, chemicals, wood, pulp and paper products.

CURRENCY: The euro.

ARMED FORCES: Finland is militarily non-aligned with a conscription army. Finland is not a member of NATO, but participates in the alliance's Partnership for Peace programme and provides troops for crisis management operations led by the EU and the UN.

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