Facts & Figures
President: Sauli Niinisto (2012)
Prime Minister: Juha Sipilä (2015)
Land area: 117,942 sq mi (305,470 sq km); total area: 130,558 sq mi (338,145 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 5,268,799 (growth rate: 0.56%); birth rate: 10.35/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.36/1000; life expectancy: 79.69
Capital and largest city (2014 est.): Helsinki, 1.17 million
Other large cities: Espoo, 229,500; Tampere, 201,200; Vantaa, 189,200; Turku, 178,100
Monetary unit: Euro (formerly markka)
- Finland Main Page
- Finland Becomes First European Country to Have Female President and Prime Minister
- Opposition Wins 2015 Election, Ousts Prime Minister
Finland is three times the size of Ohio. It is heavily forested and contains thousands of lakes, numerous rivers, and extensive areas of marshland. Except for a small highland region in the extreme northwest, the country is a lowland less than 600 ft (180 m) above sea level. Off the southwest coast are the Swedish-populated Åland Islands (581 sq mi; 1,505 sq km), which have had an autonomous status since 1921.
The first inhabitants of Finland were the Sami (Lapp) people. When Finnish speakers migrated to Finland in the first millennium B.C., the Sami were forced to move northward to the arctic regions, with which they are traditionally associated. The Finns' repeated raids on the Scandinavian coast impelled Eric IX, the Swedish king, to conquer the country in 1157. It was made a part of the Swedish kingdom and converted to Christianity.
By 1809 the whole of Finland was conquered by Alexander I of Russia, who set up Finland as a grand duchy. The period of Russification (1809–1914) sapped Finnish political power and made Russian the country's official language. When Russia became engulfed by the March Revolution of 1917, Finland seized the opportunity to declare independence on Dec. 6, 1917.
The USSR attacked Finland on Nov. 30, 1939, after Finland refused to give in to Soviet territorial demands. The Finns staged a strong defense for three months before being forced to cede to the Soviets 16,000 sq mi (41,440 sq km). Under German pressure, the Finns joined the Nazis against Russia in 1941, but they were defeated again and forced to cede the Petsamo area to the USSR. In 1948, a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance was signed by the two nations. Finland continued to pursue a foreign policy of nonalignment throughout the cold-war era.
Running on a platform to revitalize the economy, Martti Ahtisaari, a Social Democrat, won the country's first direct presidential election in a runoff in Feb. 1994. Previously, presidents had been chosen by electors. Finland became a member of the European Union in Jan. 1995. On Jan. 1, 1999, Finland, along with ten other European countries, adopted the euro as its currency. In 2000, Tarja Halonen, who had been Finland's foreign minister, became its first woman president.
Finland Becomes First European Country to Have Female President and Prime Minister
Since 1998, Finland has been judged to be the world's least corrupt country, according to the annual survey by the Berlin-based organization Transparency International. In April 2003, Finland appointed its first female prime minister, making it the only country in Europe with both a female president and prime minister. But Prime Minister Jaatteenmaki resigned after only two months in office when it was revealed that she had used leaked classified information against her rival in the election (she was acquitted of the charges the following year). In June, Defense Minister Matti Vanhanen was selected by parliament to replace her. In Jan. 2006, President Halonen was reelected. Vanhanen's Centre Party narrowly won parliamentary elections in March 2007, and he was reelected to a second term.
In the second round of presidential elections in Feb. 2012, Sauli Niinisto, a center-right former finance minister, took 63% of the vote, against 37% for the Greens' Pekka Haavisto. Mr. Niinisto will be Finland's first conservative head of state in more than 60 years.
Jyrki Katainen, prime minister under President Niinisto, resigned in June 2014 in order to vie for a senior position in the EU. Alexander Stubb, 46, of the center-right National Coalition party, was sworn in on June 24.
Opposition Wins 2015 Election, Ousts Prime Minister
In the general election held in April 2015, the opposition Centre Party won, taking 21.1% of the vote, and 49 out of parliament's 200 seats. The win meant that Centre Party leader Juha Sipilä would become prime minister.
Current Prime Minister Alexander Stubb resigned on April 28. Parliament approved Sipilä by a vote of 128-62 on May 28. An IT millionaire and political newcomer, Sipilä took office the following day.