Europe

Finland country profile

  • 24 February 2016
  • From the section Europe
Finland Flag

After having lived for decades in the shadow of the Soviet Union, Finland is now well settled in the European Union.

Following its defeat at the hands of the Soviet Union in the Second World War, the country endured strong influence from Moscow during the Cold War, though retaining its sovereignty.

When the Soviet Union collapsed Finland joined the EU and is the only Nordic EU member to use the euro as its national currency.

The country spends heavily on education, training and research - investment which pays dividends by delivering one of the best-qualified workforces in the world.

Two pillars of the Finnish economy have been in serious decline in recent years: the timber industry, amid a drop in global demand for paper, and Nokia, once a source of national pride but which lost its spot as world leader in mobile phones in 2012, before its mobile phone unit was finally sold.

FACTS

Republic of Finland

Capital: Helsinki

  • Population 5.4 million

  • Area 338,145 sq km (130,559 sq miles)

  • Major languages Finnish, Swedish

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 77 years (men), 83 years (women)

  • Currency euro

Getty Images

LEADERS

Image copyright Getty Images

President: Sauli Niinisto

Sauli Niinisto (left) won the presidential election in 2012 to become the country's first conservative head of state in five decades.

He is the first president from the conservative National Coalition Party since 1956, and the first in 30 years from a party other than the Social Democrats.

The victory of the pro-Europe politician suggested to observers that voters wanted to keep the country in the eurozone despite misgivings over European Union bailouts.

Mr Niinisto is credited with leading Finland's economy towards growth following the collapse of the Soviet Union, during his tenure as finance minister from 1996 to 2001.

Finland's president has a largely ceremonial role with fewer powers now than in previous decades, and is not directly involved in daily politics.

However, the head of state is seen as an important shaper of public opinion.

Prime Minister: Juha Sipila

Juha Sipila became prime minister in April 2015 following his Centre Party victory in the parliamentary election.

He heads a coalition government made up of the Centre Party, the Finns Party and the National Coalition Party.

Described as a millionaire, Mr Sipila made his fortune managing several electronics and financial services companies in the late 1980s and 1990s.

He entered politics in 2011, becoming a member of parliament for the first time, and a year later was elected chairman of the Centre Party.

MEDIA

Finland has made broadband access a legal right for every citizen.

By 2015 more than 93% of the population was online, one of the highest rates of internet penetration in the European Union.

TIMELINE

Some key events in Finland's history:

Image caption Finish forces put up fierce resistance to Soviet advances in the Winter War of 1939

1809 - Finland is ceded to Russia by Sweden, which has dominated the country since the 1300s. The Finns retain a considerable amount of autonomy.

1899 onwards - Attempt at Russification of Finland, including conscription of Finnish men into the Russian army and the imposition of Russian as an official language. Campaign of civil disobedience begins.

1906 - Parliament Act establishes universal suffrage, including the right for women to stand for elected office, for the first time in Europe.

1917 - The Russian Revolution allows Finland to declare its independence.

1918 - Civil war. A rebellion by leftwing Red Guards is put down by General Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim.

1939 - Winter War: Despite fierce resistance to invading Soviet troops, the Finns are forced to concede 10% of their territory.

1941-44 - The Continuation War: Conflict between Finland and the Soviet Union during the Second World War, which ended in an armistice and Finland having to pay reparations.

1948 - Finland signs friendship treaty with the Soviet Union, and throughout Cold War pursues a policy of friendly neutrality towards Moscow.

1992 - Friendship treaty with Soviet Union of 1948 declared null and void following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Finland turns increasingly towards the west.

1995 - Finland joins the European Union.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The capital Helsinki lies on the shores of the Baltic Sea

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