Finland, officially the Republic of Finland, is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. It borders Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and Sweden to the west. It has coasts on the Gulf of Botnia in the west and the Gulf of Finland in the south. Estonia is located across the Gulf of Finland. Its area is 338,455 km² and its population is 5.5 million. Helsinki is the country’s capital and largest city. Finnish, the mother tongue of the Finns, is one of the few Baltic-Finnish languages on earth. Finland’s climatic features vary according to latitude: humid continental climate in the south and sub-polar climate in the north. The country is generally included in the taiga biome. There are more than 180 thousand lakes in Finland.
Human life in Finland began after the Last Glacial Period in 9000 BC. Various ceramic cultures emerged in the Stone Age. Relations with other Fennoskandian and Baltic cultures were strengthened during the Bronze and Iron Ages. From the end of the 13th century, Finland came under Swedish rule as a result of the Northern Crusades. After the Finnish War in 1809, the country became an autonomous administration under the name of the Grand Principality of Finland. During this period, Finnish national art made a great leap forward and the idea of independence spread. In 1906, Finland became the first European country to grant universal suffrage, and the first country in the world to grant the right to vote for all adults. The last Russian tsar, II. Although Nicholas wanted to Russify the country and end its autonomy, Finland declared its independence after the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 1918, the newly formed country experienced the Finnish Civil War. II. During World War II, he fought against the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War, and against Nazi Germany in the Lapland War. After the wars, the country lost part of its territory but managed to maintain its independence.
Finland remained an agricultural country until the 1950s. II. After World War II, the country rapidly industrialized and developed, and built a welfare state that took the Swedish model as an example. As a result, welfare spread to the base and the country had a high per capita income. It joined the United Nations in 1955 and declared a policy of neutrality. It joined the OECD in 1969, NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in 1994, the European Union in 1995, and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997. and entered the Eurozone in 1999.
Finland is a leader in many international assessments such as education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life and human development. In 2015, the country ranked first in the Human Capital Report and the Press Freedom Index, was the strongest country in a row in the Fragile Countries Index between 2011 and 2016, and was the second most unequal in the Global Gender Inequality Report. It was also at the top of the World Happiness Report in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
The Finnish people are originally from the Uralic part of the Ural-Altaic language group. This people, originating from Central Asia and Siberia, was later nordicized. The Finnish language structure is very similar to the Turkish language and the Altaic language group. For example, the word I is “mina” in Finnish, and the word you is “sina”.
Those who call Finland “the land of a thousand lakes” have actually been unfair; because there are not 1000, but about 55,000 lakes of various sizes. Although they have been under the influence of their neighbors Sweden and Russia for centuries, Finns have managed to preserve their national identity with the significant contribution of their language and culture being different from Scandinavian and Slavic peoples. Today, Finland, in addition to maintaining good relations with Russia, has also established close economic and cultural relations with its neighbors in Scandinavia and Central Europe.
Although it is not clear exactly when the ancestors of the present-day people of Finland came to Finland, it is known that in BC. They settled on the shores of the Baltic Sea in the 1st century AD. II.-III. It is thought that they migrated to the southern part of Finland in the 19th century. XI. Starting from the 19th century, close relations were established with the western world through Christian missionaries from Sweden, and soon after, Orthodox missionaries from Novgorod began to spread their sects in the eastern part of Finland. in 1191 and in 1202, The majority of Finns today are Protestants, but there is also a small minority of the Orthodox church in the country.
The close relations established with Sweden through religion, XIII. In the 19th century, most of Finland joined the Swedish sovereignty region. Finland was part of Sweden for over 600 years, from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 19th century. During this period, Russia and Sweden fought many times for dominance in Finland. Finally, in 1809, Russia defeated Sweden, with which it was at war, and all Finland came under Russian rule. Although Sweden lost its sovereignty over Finland after the Napoleonic wars, the country occupied by Russian troops during the reign of Tsar Alexander was transformed into an autonomous grand principality under Russian rule. Between 1809 and 1917 Finland became part of Russia. During this period, Finland was autonomous; in other words, the Finns were able to decide independently on many issues, but the ruler of Finland was the Emperor of Russia.
The Finnish language, Finnish culture and economy developed greatly when Finland was a part of Russia. In 1865, Finland issued its own currency, the Markka. In 1863 Finnish took its place in administrative affairs and in 1892 it became an equal official language. After the defeat of Russia by Japan in 1905, a unicameral parliament was established in 1906. Thus, another important step was taken on the way to an independent Finland. Finland also became the first country to grant women the right to vote in 1906. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, Russia began to restrict Finland’s autonomy, and the Finns did not agree to this.
Finland managed to leave Russia only in the turmoil of the 1917 Russian revolution, and in the short but bloody civil war that broke out right after, the “White Guards” led by Carl Gustaf Freiherr von Mannerheim, supported by the German troops, helped the Soviet troops and destroyed the Finnish society. They defeated the “Red Guards” who wanted to reorganize according to the Soviet example. At the end of the First World War, the Finnish Parliament approved the declaration of independence on December 6, 1917, and Finland seceded from Russia. On this date, Finland became an independent country and this day is still celebrated as Finland’s Independence Day.
The independence of the country, in which the foundations of a democratic state were laid by voting on a republican constitution in 1919, was also recognized by the new Soviet administration in 1920 with the Dorpat peace. However, the attempts of the USSR to increase its influence over Finland and annex some regions to its territory led to the Finnish-Soviet war in the winter of 1939, when Finland, relying only on its own power, could only resist its powerful neighbor for a short time. At the end of November 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland. During the Second World War, Finland fought two wars against the Soviet Union: first the Winter War of 1939–1940 and then the Continuation War of 1941–1944. In the wars with the 1940 peace, Finland lost territory to the Soviet Union. More than 400,000 Finns came as refugees from lost territories to the leftover lands of Finland. With the ceasefire made in September 1944, Finland lost some of its lands in the northeast of the country to the Soviet Union, as well as Karelia. This was confirmed by the 1947 Paris Agreement, and in 1948 the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance was signed between Finland and the Soviet Union.
The said Treaty, signed with the Soviet Union, formed the basis of Finnish foreign policy during the Cold War. In this period, Finland, afraid of the reaction of the Soviets, did not join the East and West blocks, followed a policy of non-alignment and limited its relations with the West. However, in this period, Finland tried to take an active role in platforms such as the United Nations and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and also developed its relations with other Nordic countries within the framework of the Nordic Council. Starting from the last periods of the Cold War, Finland, which accelerated the development of relations with the Western world, became a member of EFTA (European Free Trade Association) in 1986 and the Council of Europe in 1989. Finland, which joined the EU in 1995 after the Cold War, maintains its military neutrality policy, and strives to improve its cooperation with NATO within the framework of the Partnership for Peace Program, by trying not to stay out of the Union’s Security and Defense Policy. The fact that it had to pay a large amount of war reparations to the Soviet Union within the framework of the 1947 Paris Agreement played a triggering role in the development of Finnish industry. Finland, with its investment in technology and education, has taken its place among the most developed countries in the world today. However, the most important thing for the Finns was that Finland maintained its position as an independent country.
Finland, which sided with Germany in the Second World War starting from 1941 in order to take back these lost areas, saw that the situation became hopeless, and had to sign an armistice with the USSR in 1944. While withdrawing, they destroyed many roads, bridges, railways and settlements. Meanwhile, the city of Rovaniemi, located in the arctic circle, was more or less completely destroyed. The obligations brought by the peace agreement signed later brought Finland closer to the USSR line economically and politically after that date, and the Finnish governments avoided conflicts about Russian interests in order to preserve the independence of the country. Since the Soviet Union brought the socialist regime to many of its European neighbors; After the wars, many Finns feared that the Soviet Union would also make Finland a socialist country. Despite this, Finland managed to establish relations with the Soviet Union, maintain its democratic regime and develop trade with western countries. For a long time, Finland had to balance its foreign policy between the Soviet Union and western countries.
After the wars, Finland transformed from an agricultural country into an industrial country. As Finland industrialized, Finns increasingly began selling industrial products to foreign countries. Finland especially exported paper and other forest industry products to foreign countries. Many things have changed in Finnish society. People began to move from the countryside to the cities, and more and more women began to go to work outside the home. Public services began to be developed and thus the public health system, social security and primary school were born. Hundreds of thousands of Finns moved to Sweden in the 1960s because there were more jobs and salaries were higher in Sweden than in Finland.
In the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed and trade with the Soviet Union ceased, there was an economic recession. During the recession, many companies went bankrupt and many people lost their jobs as a result. After the recession, numerous high-tech industries and businesses sprang up in Finland. More and more people began to work in professions in different service areas. In the 1990s, more and more people began to move to Finland from other countries. Refugees from many countries and the Finnish population of the former Soviet Union came to Finland. Many people came to Finland as students for work or family relationships. Finland became a member of the European Union (EU) in 1995. In 2002, Finland took the Euro, the common currency of the EU, among the first group of EU countries and gave up its own currency.
The state structure of Finland is a parliamentary republic. The President is elected for a six-year term in two-round elections. The political powers of the President have been reduced over time and most recently with the new Constitution adopted in 2000. The Government (State Council) consists of 20 Ministers including the Prime Minister and is politically responsible to the Parliament. The parliament consists of 200 deputies who serve for four years. The Speaker of the Finnish Parliament is elected for one legislative year, and elections are held every February before the opening of the New Year’s session. Administratively, Finland consists of 6 states, 20 regions and 416 municipalities. Governors appointed by the President are at the head of the state administration. Although the mother tongue of only 5.6 percent of the country’s population is Swedish, besides Finnish, Swedish has been accepted as an official language with equal status. Aland Islands, which is one of the 6 states, located between Finland and Sweden and whose people (26,000) are of Swedish descent, has been in an autonomous position since 1920. Swedish is the only official language in the autonomous region of Aland. On the other hand, around 7,000 “Sami” are considered “indigenous” people living in Finland, the majority (about 4,000) of whom live in areas close to Finland’s northern borders since 1973 have a Parliament of 20 members and some cultural rights.
Finland was incorporated into the Kingdom of Sweden in 1155. In the period that lasted until 1809, when it was under Swedish rule, the foundations of solid institutions were laid in the fields of western-style justice, public administration, political system and social services. In addition to secular organizations, the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church after the Reforms in the 16th century took their place among the powerful organizations.
At the end of the 18th century, as Swedish power waned, the idea of an independent Finland emerged. In 1809, Finland became the Autonomous Tsar Duchy of the Russian Tsar. Finland has maintained its own legal system, thriving national economy and military units. In 1865, Finland issued its own currency, the Markka. It has developed a parliamentary government system and a government based on the rule of law. Thus, an important step was taken towards an independent Finland.
With the Russian Revolution, Finland had a great opportunity to declare its independence on December 6, 1917. The Government of Soviet Russia recognized Finnish independence on 31 December. The process of recognition by neighboring states and western nations was also rapid. The Finnish Constitution, similar to the French system, was adopted on 17 July 1919.
The most important feature of Finland’s land is its land structure. The majority of the country consists of plains. Hilly and mountainous structures are very rare. It usually appears in the north-western part of the country. Mount Halti, Finland’s highest mountain, is located in Lapland near the intersection of the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish borders.
It is very rich in terms of fresh water resources. Most of the Eastern Finland region consists of lakes. The biggest examples of this are Lake Saimaa (Eastern Finland) and Lake Inari (Lapland). There are also springs such as the Kemi and Oulu rivers at the same time.
Due to the geographical coordinates of the country, a cold climate seems to dominate. The closer one gets to the borders of Russia and the further north one goes, the more severe the climate.
Constitution and form of State
On December 6, 1917, Finland declared its independence from Russia. More than a century ago, Finland continued its existence as an autonomous state with its own constitution and form of government as a Tsarist Duchy of the Russian Empire. The Finnish Constitution has remained in effect for quite some time.
Constitutional Law (Hallitusmuoto), which determines the importance and balance of powers between the Parliament, the Government and the President, remained unchanged after the Second World War and the Cold War.
An important constitutional reform took place in 2000. Under the amended Constitution, the powers of the President were restricted. Parliamentary groups played a leading role in the formation of the government. The President’s powers to issue decrees are subject to the Cabinet’s decision. Except for the European Union issues, in which the Prime Minister and the cabinet play a central role, the President maintained Finland’s leadership in foreign policy.
The Parliament is the highest level of Government under the Constitution. The Parliament consists of 200 Members of Parliament, each elected for four-year terms. In addition to its legislative mandate, the Finnish Parliament has the power to broadly oversee both the reasons for the Government’s policies regarding the European Union, as well as the Government’s activities in relation to the European Union’s decision-making process.
In practice, Parliament’s legislative enactment is based on Government proposals. The general political direction of the country is expressed in the Government program designed with the establishment of the Cabinet after the parliamentary elections. The new Government puts its program to a vote, determining the vote of confidence given by the Parliament. The Government in question is subject to Parliamentary control during this period, such as no-confidence questions.
The Head of State is the President of the Republic of Finland, elected by direct majority votes for a six-year term. The same person can only be elected twice for the presidency.
The President has the power to make decisions on security and foreign policy matters, appoint and dismiss the Minister, senior civil servants, judges and civil servants. The President also holds the title of commander of the defense forces. The President submits Government bills to the Parliament, the Parliament approves the laws and approves the decrees on administrative matters and their implementation. The leadership of the President in foreign policy is a privilege that has been given to him for years. According to the new Constitution, the President maintains his leadership in foreign policy and implements his decisions in close cooperation with the Government.
Finland’s President is Sauli Niinistö, elected after Tarja Halonen, the country’s first female President. In the 2012 elections, she was elected president with 36.96% of the votes in the first round and 62.59% in the second round. In the elections held in 2018, she was elected president for the second time with 62.6% of the votes she received in the first round.
State cabinet and administration
The government consists of the Prime Minister and 19 other Ministers. Ministers have extensive and independent powers to administer their Ministries and sub-organisations. Government bills submitted to the Parliament are prepared in the Ministries.
Finland is administratively divided into 6 provinces, 446 municipalities or local administrations. Local governments are required by law to provide welfare services. The main sources of income are municipal tax collected at a standard rate on income in conjunction with progressive State income tax.
The highest decision-making authority in local governments is the Municipal Council, which is directly elected. This Assembly appoints statutory and voluntary committees to carry out administrative tasks. Due to the majority election system, the parties that gain strength in the Assemblies are also reflected in the committees. The representation of women in these organizations is guaranteed by laws. Tens of thousands of citizens in the country participate in local government work.
The Åland Islands in the North Baltic Sea have a special status, declared as a demilitarized zone by an international treaty. The roots of this status date back to the Crimean War in the middle of the 19th century. The island’s international position and autonomy are confirmed by the Aland Autonomous Administration Act. The law, enacted in the 1920s, protects the linguistic and cultural rights of the Swedish-speaking people of Åland.
Finland has had a universal and equal suffrage system since 1906, when Finnish women had the right to vote and participate in elections for the first time in the world. The voting age is 18. Parliamentary elections are held once every four years.
The parties that have the most place in the political scene are the Center Party (Suomen keskusta), the Social Democratic Party (Suomen Sosialisemokrattinen Puolue) and the National Coalition Party (Kansallinen kokoomus).
After the Civil War of 1918, the Social Democratic Party led the workers’ movement towards a western-type democracy. Social Democrats have close ties with strong labor unions. The Center Party, which is mainly represented in rural areas, maintains its strong position in the country despite the rapid decline in the agricultural population. The Conservative National Coalition is Finland’s third major political force. While it was a middle-class urban party, it developed into a nationwide white-collar workers’ party.
The independence of the courts in Finland is protected by the Constitution. There are three types of courts in the Civil and Criminal Courts: the first example is the Court of Appeal, the second is the Supreme Court and the highest example is the Constitutional Court. In provinces, administrative cases are heard in provincial administrative courts where appeals can be made to the Supreme Administrative Court.
The only link between the judiciary and the political system is that the President appoints the presidents and members of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Administrative Court. The highest public prosecutor is the Chief Public Prosecutor. The Criminal Departments of the Ministry of Justice are responsible for enforcing prison sentences.
The Attorney General is the supreme guardian of the law. He is appointed by the President. By attending meetings in the government, it ensures that the authorities fulfill their duties within the framework of the law. Parliament elects an Ombudsman (Investigator) whose job is to oversee the courts and public servants. Citizens have the right to appeal to both of them to complain about the unfair behavior of the authorities.
In addition to the general courts, there are also some special courts dealing with housing, insurance, water and the market. Administrative courts also act as the Supreme Court when it comes to administrative processes. Accusations made against a minister or the country’s top legal professionals are examined by the Supreme Court.
II. After World War II, Finland became a semi-industrialized country with the majority of its population engaged in agriculture and forestry. The country had to rapidly industrialize to pay the heavy burden of war reparations. Between 1950 and 1974, the real increase in gross national product averaged 6% per year. The per capita national product was 26,097 USD in 2001. This is why Finland is among the richest countries in the world.
Finland is dominated by a free market economy, where the economy is generally in private hands. Still, there is a state monopoly in certain areas, such as the legal sale of monopoly goods or de facto railways (Valtionrautatiet) and energy (Fortum). Most state-owned companies have the same legal status as private ones and operate on the same principle: they are also expected to generate profits and leave a dividend to the government.
From the 1960s Finland established a Scandinavian-style welfare state that offered a comprehensive range of services. Welfare services account for about a quarter of the State budget and more than 40 percent of local government expenditures. Besides the excellent public hospitals, the biggest expense item is the comprehensive family support system. Families of newborn children are entitled to one year’s leave with an allowance determined based on their previous income.
The goal of public health care is to provide individuals with equal access to health care services, regardless of their place of residence or economic status. Public health centers and hospitals offer free services.
All children under school age can benefit from public day care services. The family allowance, which is determined by the number of children in the family, is one of the biggest expenses in the budget. Compulsory education covers children between the ages of 7 and 17.
Nine years of comprehensive school education, including teaching, books and school meals, is free. Education in vocational or higher education is not paid. The state provides allowances and loans to all students over the age of 17.
The national health insurance system improves the quality of health of all citizens. National sickness insurance provides partial compensation for the use of private medical services, as well as covers the costs of testing, treatment, medication and transportation. National sickness insurance offers an income-related allowance of approximately 75 percent of the recipient’s income. The entire population is insured by national sickness insurance.
There are two types of unemployment insurance in Finland, state-supported national unemployment benefits and income-related unemployment benefits. Income-related unemployment benefit is obtained from unemployment insurance. Since such payments are dependent on need, the income of a person’s spouse may prevent them from benefiting from this benefit.
Most workers are covered by their industry’s unemployment fund, where they are entitled to income-related daily allowances, usually 60 percent of their regular pay.
Public services are maintained by central or local governments and financed by taxes. The most important direct tax is the local tax collected by the municipality from the income of the local residents, which varies between 15 and 20% depending on the municipality. State income tax, on the other hand, is progressive, at a maximum of just over 60%. In addition, wage earners pay social security contributions.
Exports correspond to approximately 40% of the domestic national product (GDP). Finland is a world leader in the high-tech electronics industry, with an advanced metal and engineering sector and high-tech forestry industries. About 80% of Finland’s exports go to the European Union and the United States.
Finland is also a member of the European Monetary Union. Finland’s membership in the APB brought with it a fixed currency and low profit rates to its economic policy. In January 2002, Finland, along with other EU member states, adopted the single currency, the Euro.
Place in Popular Culture
A campaign launched in Norway aims to present a mountain to the neighbor in honor of the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence. The campaign, which asked the people to present the top of Halti mountain, which will be Finland’s highest point, as a gift by pulling Norway’s border in 200 meters, also attracted great attention from the public. If this campaign, which will change Norway’s total surface area, is successful, Finland will have a new mountain. “With so little land we lose, we’re making a very nice gift for our neighbor,” said campaign owner Bjørn Geirr Harsson in an interview with The Telegraph. There are many positive comments about giving mountains to Finland, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary of independence in 2017. Also, a presenter from Norwegian Public Television stated that the idea was a very nice idea, making it heard all over the country and getting full support from the public. However, Norwegian Prime Minister Solberg, in a letter he sent to Kaafjord Mayor Svein Leiros, who supported the campaign, reminded that the Norwegian constitution prepared in 1814 stipulated the indivisibility of the country and stated that they would “look for another gift” to Finland.
Finns make up more than 90% of its population of approximately 5,509,717. In addition, Lapps live in the north and Swedes live in the south and west. The characteristic features of the Finns are that they are tall, have blond hair, blue or gray eyes. Each ethnic group speaks their own language. The official language of the country is Finnish. The population density is very high in the south. In the north, it gradually decreases. 20% of the population resides around Helsinki, its capital city. The majority live in cities. The majority of the population adheres to the Protestant denomination of Christianity, and the remainder to various denominations. The Greek Orthodox make up the majority of the remaining religious minority. There are also very few Jews. There are 20 universities in Finland, where education and training are free to EU citizens. In the country where education and training is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 15, the rate of literate people is approximately 100%. 25% of the working population is engaged in agriculture and forestry. Lapps living in the north make their living by traditional reindeer herding and hunting. Annual population growth is 0.3%. There are 14.7 people per square kilometer.