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The Republic of Finland (Finnish: Suomen tasavalta Swedish: Republiken Finland) is a Nordic country in northeastern Europe, bounded by the Baltic Sea to the southwest, the Gulf of Finland to the south and the Gulf of Bothnia to the west. Finland has land frontiers with Sweden, Norway and Russia. The Åland Islands, off the southwestern coast, are under Finnish sovereignty while enjoying extensive autonomy. The Finnish name for Finland is Suomi; in Swedish it is Finland. The Latin language name is Fennia. Finland has a population of only five million people in three hundred thousand square kilometres, making it the 162nd most densely populated country in the world. It ranked thirteenth on the 2005 United Nations Human Development Index.

Living in Finland

The climate in Southern Finland is a northern temperate climate. In Northern Finland, particularly in the Province of Lapland, a subarctic climate dominates, characterised by cold, occasionally severe, winters and relatively warm summers.

A quarter of Finland's territory lies above the Arctic Circle, and as a consequence the midnight sun can be experienced — for more and more days, the further up north one comes. At Finland's northernmost point, the sun does not set for 73 days during summer, and does not rise at all for 51 days in winter.

There are two official languages in Finland: Finnish, spoken by 92% of the population, and Swedish, mother tongue for 5.5% of the population. Ethnic Finns and Finland Swedes are generally considered to comprise a common nation. The Finland-Swedes are concentrated in the coastal areas; and there is a slight cultural difference between the culture of the Ethnic Finns, focused on lakes and woods, and the more outward-oriented coastal culture of the Finland-Swedes. This difference may be considered as an ethnic division, but the difference is slight and not more pronounced than the difference between East Finnish and West Finnish culture.

Other minority languages include Russian and Estonian. To the north, in Lapland, are found the Sami, numbering less than 7,000, who like the Finns speak a Finno-Ugric languages. There are three Sami languages that are spoken in Finland: Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami.

Most Finns (84%) are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, with a minority of 1% belonging to the Finnish Orthodox Church (see Eastern Orthodoxy). These two churches are the state church of Finland.

The remainder of the population consists of relatively small groups of other Protestant denominations, Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews beside the 14% who are unaffiliated.

Today, Finland has 6 administrative provinces (lääni, pl. läänit) The province authority is part of the executive branch of the national government; a system that had not changed drastically since its creation in 1634 to the new division to "greater provinces" in 1997. Since then, the six provinces are:

  • Southern Finland
  • Western Finland
  • Eastern Finland
  • Oulu
  • Lapland
  • Åland
  • The Åland Islands enjoy a degree of autonomy. According to international treaties and Finnish laws, the regional government for Åland handles some matters which belong to the province authority in Mainland Finland.

Another kind of provinces are those echoing the pattern of colonisation of Finland. Dialects, folklore, customs and people's feeling of affiliation are associated with these historical provinces of Finland, although the re-settlement of 420,000 Karelians during World War II and urbanization in the latter half of the 20th century have made differences less pronounced.

Local government is further organised in 432 (1.1.2005) municipalities of Finland. Since 1977, no legal or administrative distinction is made between towns, cities and other municipalities. The municipalities co-operate in 20 regions of Finland.

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