Capital – Helsinki
Population – 5m
Currency – Euro
Language – Finnish, Swedish, Saami
The Republic of Finland, like that of Estonia was formerly part of both the Swedish and Russian Empires. Alexander the Great turned Finland into a Grand Duchy in 1809 after the Finnish War, and remained so until the October 1917 Revolution, despite a nationalist resistance to the Russians. The power vacuum created by the death of the Czar (then the head of state) resulted in a bitter civil war between left and right wing opponents. The whites, backed by Germany defeated the reds and while there was a brief flirtation with installing a monarchy, a president was elected in 1919.
Finland repelled both German and Soviet advances during the second World War and even signed an armistice with the Soviets in 1944. During the cold war Finland remained neutral.
Finland joined the European Union in 1995 and became an adopter of the Euro from the beginning. As a result Finnish tourism has grown relatively quickly compared to other European states. Visitors are attracted by the enormous pristine lands including 35 national parks. Commercial cruises operate along the lakes and between other destinations along the Baltic Sea. Part of the country is within the Arctic Circle where the sun does not set for 70 days during the summer and doesn’t rise for 50 days in the winter. The wildlife is rich and diverse, attracting bird watchers and hunters alike.
The capital Helsinki, has a population of over 500,000 and has been chosen as the World Design Capital for 2012.