Suomen tasavalta
Republiken Finland

Republic of Finland

Flag of Finland Coat of Arms of Finland
Vårt land
Our land
Map of Finland
Terijoki Government (1939-40) Flag of the Karelo-Finnish SSR
Government Republic and parliamentary democracy
- 1919-1925Kaarlo Ståhlberg
- 1925-1931Lauri Relander
- 1931-1937Pehr Evind Svinhufvud
- 1937-1940Kyösti Kallio
- 1940-1944Risto Ryti
- 1944-1946Carl Gustaf Mannerheim
Prime minister
- 1917-1918Pehr Evind Svinhufvud
- 1918Juho Kusti Paasikivi
- 1918-1919Lauri Ingman
- 1919Kaarlo Castrén
- 1919-1920Juho Vennola
- 1920-1921Rafael Erich
Legislature Parliament
December 6, 1917 Declaration of Independence
July 17, 1919Republican constitution
EU accessionJanuary 1, 1995
Area338,424 km²
- 20105,374,781
GDP2010 (PPP)
- TotalUS$ 182.9 billion
- Per capitaUS$ 34,044
NUTS RegionFI1
Flag of the Kingdom of Finland Finland

The Republic of Finland is a parliamentary democracy in Europe.


Finland's nearly 700-year association with the Kingdom of Sweden began in 1154 with the introduction of Christianity by Sweden's King Eric. During the ensuing centuries, Finland played an important role in the political life of the Swedish-Finnish realm, and Finnish soldiers often predominated in Swedish armies. Finns also formed a significant proportion of the first "Swedish" settlers in 17th-century America.

Following Finland's incorporation into Sweden in the 12th century, Swedish became the dominant language, although Finnish recovered its predominance after a 19th-century resurgence of Finnish nationalism. Publication in 1835 of the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala--a collection of traditional myths and legends--first stirred the nationalism that later led to Finland's independence from Russia.

In 1809, Finland was conquered by the armies of Czar Alexander I and thereafter remained an autonomous grand duchy connected with the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence. In 1918, the country experienced a brief but bitter civil war that colored domestic politics for many years. During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice--in the Winter War of 1939-40 and again in the Continuation War of 1941-44. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944-45, when Finland fought against the Germans as they withdrew their forces from northern Finland.

During the Continuation War (1941-1944) Finland was a co-belligerent with Germany. However, Finnish Jews were not persecuted. Of the approximately 500 Jewish refugees who arrived in Finland, eight were handed over to the Germans, for which Finland submitted an official apology in 2000. Also during the war, approximately 2,600 Soviet prisoners of war were exchanged for 2,100 Finnish prisoners of war from Germany. In 2003, the Simon Wiesenthal Center submitted an official request for a full-scale investigation by the Finnish authorities of the prisoner exchange. It was established there were about 70 Jews among the extradited prisoners. However, none was extradited as a result of ethnic background or religious belief.

Treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included obligations and restraints on Finland vis-a-vis the U.S.S.R. as well as territorial concessions by Finland; both have been abrogated by Finland since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union (see Foreign Relations).[1]


Finland has a mixed presidential/parliamentary system with executive powers divided between the president, who has primary responsibility for national security and foreign affairs, and the prime minister, who has primary responsibility for all other areas, including EU issues. Under the constitution that took effect in March 2000, the established practice for managing foreign policy is that the president keeps in close touch with the prime minister, the minister for foreign affairs, and other ministers responsible for foreign relations. Constitutional changes strengthened the prime minister--who must enjoy the confidence of the parliament (Eduskunta)--at the expense of the president. Finns enjoy individual and political freedoms, and suffrage is universal at 18. The country's population is relatively ethnically homogeneous. Immigration to Finland has significantly increased over the past decade, although the foreign-born population, only 2.9% of the total population (December 2009), is still much lower than in any other EU country. Few tensions exist between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority.

President and cabinet
  • Elected for a 6-year term, the president:
  • Handles foreign policy, except for certain international agreements and decisions of peace or war, which must be submitted to parliament, and EU relations, which are handled by the prime minister;
  • Is commander in chief of the armed forces and has wide decree and appointive powers;
  • May initiate legislation, block legislation by pocket veto, and call extraordinary parliamentary sessions; and
  • Appoints the prime minister and the rest of the cabinet (Council of State). The Council of State is made up of the prime minister and ministers for the various departments of the central government as well as an ex officio member, the Chancellor of Justice. Ministers are not obliged to be members of the Eduskunta and need not be formally identified with any political party.
  • The president may, upon proposal of the prime minister and after having heard the parliamentary groups, order parliament to be dissolved, and a new election held.

Constitutionally, the 200-member, unicameral Eduskunta is the supreme authority in Finland. It may alter the constitution, bring about the resignation of the Council of State, and override presidential vetoes; its acts are not subject to judicial review. Legislation may be initiated by the president, the Council of State, or one of the Eduskunta members.

The Eduskunta is elected on the basis of proportional representation. All persons 18 or older, except military personnel on active duty and a few high judicial officials, are eligible for election. The regular parliamentary term is 4 years; however, the president may dissolve the Eduskunta and order new elections at the request of the prime minister and after consulting the speaker of parliament.

Judicial system

The judicial system is divided between courts with regular civil and criminal jurisdiction and special courts with responsibility for litigation between the public and the administrative organs of the state. Finnish law is codified. Although there is no writ of habeas corpus or bail, the maximum period of pretrial detention has been reduced to 4 days. The Finnish court system consists of local courts, regional appellate courts, a Supreme Court, and a Supreme Administrative Court.

Administrative divisions

As of January 1, 2010, Finland is divided into six Regional State Administrative Agencies; namely Etelä-Suomi, Itä-Suomi, Lounais-Suomi, Länsi- ja Sisä-Suomi, Pohjois-Suomi, Lappi) plus Åland – replacing the old division of six provinces . Finland has 20 regions, the regions are divided into 72 sub-regions and the sub-regions are divided into 342 municipalities. Fifteen Centers for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centers) form part of the government’s reform project for regional administration. The tasks and services of the former Employment and Economic Centers, Regional Environmental Centers, Road Districts, and State Provincial Offices’ departments for transport and communications and for education and culture have been pooled in the ELY Centers. They manage the regional implementation and development tasks of the state administration, and are tasked with promoting regional competitiveness, well-being and sustainable development, as well as curbing climate change.

The island province of Aland is located near the 60th parallel between Sweden and Finland. It enjoys local autonomy and demilitarized status by virtue of an international convention of 1921, implemented most recently by the Act on Aland Self-Government of 1951. The islands are further distinguished by the fact that they are entirely Swedish-speaking. Government is vested in the provincial council, which consists of 30 delegates elected directly by Aland's citizens.


Finland's defense forces consist of 13,000 active duty personnel (9000 army; 2,000 navy; and 2000 air force). The country's defense budget equals about 1.3% of GDP. There is universal male conscription under which all men serve from six to 12 months. As of 1995, women were permitted to serve as volunteers. A reserve force ensures that Finland can field 350,000 trained military personnel in case of need.[2]


Finland's proportional representation system encourages a multitude of political parties and has resulted in many coalition governments. Political activity by communists was legalized in 1944, and although four major parties have dominated the postwar political arena, none now has a majority position. In March 2007 parliamentary elections, the Center Party (Keskusta), traditionally representing rural interests, kept its position as the largest party, getting 23.1% of the votes. The Conservative Party's support increased by 3.7 percentage points, the most of all parties, and it received 22.3% of all votes, making it the second largest political party in the country. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) suffered a defeat in these elections and fell to third position among the larger parties, receiving 21.4% of the votes. Of the other parties, the True Finns, the Green League, and the Swedish People's Party were able to gain seats in parliament. The Center then formed a four-party governing coalition with the Conservatives, the Swedish People's Party, and the Greens. The Conservative Party received the portfolios of foreign minister, finance minister, and defense minister, among others, and became an important participant again after a long absence.[3]

Foreign Policy

Finland's basic foreign policy goal from the end of the Continuation War with the U.S.S.R. in 1944 until 1991 was to avoid great-power conflicts and to build mutual confidence with the Soviet Union. Although the country was culturally, socially, and politically Western, Finns realized they must live in peace with the U.S.S.R. and take no action that might be interpreted as a security threat. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 opened up dramatic new possibilities for Finland and has resulted in the Finns actively seeking greater participation in Western political and economic structures. Finland joined the European Union in 1995.

Relations With the Soviet Union and With Russia

The principal architect of the post-1944 foreign policy of neutrality was J.K. Paasikivi, who was President from 1946 to 1956. Urho Kekkonen, President from 1956 until 1981, further developed this policy, stressing that Finland should be an active rather than a passive neutral. This policy is now popularly known as the "Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line."

Finland and the U.S.S.R. signed a peace treaty at Paris in February 1947 limiting the size of Finland's defense forces and providing for the cession to the Soviet Union of the Petsamo area on the Arctic coast, the Karelian Isthmus in southeastern Finland, and other territory along the former eastern border. Another provision, terminated in 1956, leased the Porkkala area near Helsinki to the U.S.S.R. for use as a naval base and gave free access to this area across Finnish territory.

The 1947 treaty also called for Finland to pay to the Soviet Union reparations of 300 million gold dollars (amounting to an estimated $570 million in 1952, the year the payments ended). Although an ally of the Soviet Union in World War II, the United States was not a signatory to this treaty because it had not been at war with Finland.

In April 1948, Finland signed an Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union. Under this mutual assistance pact, Finland was obligated--with the aid of the Soviet Union, if necessary--to resist armed attacks by Germany or its allies against Finland or against the U.S.S.R. through Finland. At the same time, the agreement recognized Finland's desire to remain outside great-power conflicts. This agreement was renewed for 20 years in 1955, in 1970, and again in 1983 to the year 2003, although the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union led to the agreement's abrogation.

The Finns responded cautiously in 1990-91 to the decline of Soviet power and the U.S.S.R.'s subsequent dissolution. They unilaterally abrogated restrictions imposed by the 1947 and 1948 treaties, joined in voicing Nordic concern over the coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and gave increasing unofficial encouragement to Baltic independence.

At the same time, by replacing the Soviet-Finnish mutual assistance pact with treaties on general cooperation and trade, Finns put themselves on an equal footing while retaining a friendly bilateral relationship. Finland now is boosting cross-border commercial ties and touting its potential as a commercial gateway to Russia. It has reassured Russia that it will not raise claims for Finnish territory seized by the U.S.S.R. and continues to reaffirm the importance of good bilateral relations.

Multilateral Relations

Finnish foreign policy emphasizes its participation in multilateral organizations. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and the EU in 1995. As noted, the country also is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Partnership for Peace as well as a member in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. As a NATO partner, Finland has 178 military troops and 39 civil crisis management experts in Afghanistan (November 2010) serving with a Swedish-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in the province of Mazar-e-Sharif, working to create a secure environment for reconstruction in northern Afghanistan.

Finland is well represented in the UN civil service in proportion to its population and belongs to several of its specialized and related agencies. Finnish troops have participated in UN peacekeeping activities since 1956, and the Finns continue to be one of the largest per capita contributors of peacekeepers in the world. Finland is an active participant in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and in early 1995 assumed the co-chairmanship of the OSCE's Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Finland chaired the OSCE in 2008 and was part of the Chairmanship Troika in 2009.

Cooperation with the other Scandinavian countries also is important to Finland, and it has been a member of the Nordic Council since 1955. Under the council's auspices, the Nordic countries have created a common labor market and have abolished immigration controls among themselves. The council also serves to coordinate social and cultural policies of the participating countries and has promoted increased cooperation in many fields.

In addition to the organizations already mentioned, Finland became a member of the following organizations: Bank for International Settlements, 1930; International Monetary Fund, 1948; International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1948; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), 1950; International Finance Corporation, 1956; International Development Association, 1960; European Free Trade Association, 1961; Asian Development Bank, 1966; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1969; Inter-American Development Bank, 1977; African Development Bank, 1982; Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, 1988; the Council of Europe, 1989; European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Central and Eastern Europe, 1991; World Trade Organization, 1995; and INTELSAT, 1999. Finland entered Stage Three of EMU (the European Monetary Union) in 1999. All the Nordic countries, including Finland, joined the Schengen area in March 2001.[4]


Finland has a highly industrialized, free-market economy with a per capita output equal to that of other western economies such as France, Germany, Sweden, or the U.K. The largest sector of the economy is services (65.5%), followed by manufacturing and refining (31.6%). Primary production is at 2.9%.

The Finnish economy had made enormous strides since the severe recession of the early 1990s. Finland successfully joined the euro zone and outperformed euro-area partners in terms of economic growth and public finance. Following a period of sustained and robust growth, the Finnish economy suddenly slowed in the wake of the international financial crisis. GDP growth shrank from 0.9% in 2008 to -8% in 2009 (the sharpest contraction since Finland gained independence from Russia in 1917). Exports declined 32%, and unemployment climbed to 8.2%.

In 2010 the Finnish economy recovered from the 2009 financial crisis better than most forecasts predicted. GDP growth for 2010 is projected to be 3.2%, growth of 2.9% is projected for 2011 and 2.7% for 2012. The unemployment rate for 2010 is projected to be 8.4% and as the economy recovers forecasts predict a drop to 7.4% in 2012. At the end of 2010 the inflation rose to more than 2%. During 2011, inflation is expected to accelerate to 2.4%, mainly due to tax changes and international price pressures in the raw materials (Ministry of Finance estimates 12/20/2010).

Exports of goods and services contribute over 37.4% of Finland's GDP. Metals and engineering (including electronics) and timber (including pulp and paper) are Finland's main industries. The United States is Finland's third most important trading partner outside of Europe. With a 3.4% share of imports in 2009, the United States was Finland's ninth-largest supplier. Major exports from the United States to Finland continue to be machinery, telecommunications equipment and parts, metalliferous ores, road vehicles and transport equipment, computers, peripherals and software, electronic components, chemicals, medical equipment, and some agricultural products. The primary competition for American companies comes from Russia, Germany, Sweden, and China. The main export items from Finland to the United States are electronics, machinery, ships and boats, paper and paperboard, refined petroleum products, telecommunications equipment and parts. In 2009, the United States was Finland's third-largest customer after the EU (55.6%), and Russia (9%). However, trade is only part of the totality: the 10 biggest Finnish companies in the United States have a combined turnover that is three times the value of Finland's total exports to the United States. About 2.0% of the Finnish GDP comes from exports to the United States.

Except for timber and several minerals, Finland depends on imported raw materials, energy, and some components for its manufactured products. Farms tend to be small, but farmers own sizable timber stands that are harvested for supplementary income in winter. The country's main agricultural products are dairy, meat, and grains. Finland's EU accession has accelerated the process of restructuring and downsizing of this sector.[5]


The origins of the Finnish people are still a matter of conjecture, although many scholars argue that their original home was in what is now west-central Siberia. The Finns arrived in their present territory thousands of years ago, pushing the indigenous Lapps into the more remote northern regions. Finnish and Lappish--the language of Finland's small Lapp minority--both are Finno-Ugric languages and are in the Uralic rather than the Indo-European family.[6]


  • Kaarlo Ståhlberg () (July 27, 1919 - March 1, 1925)
  • Lauri Relander () (March 1, 1925 - March 1, 1931)
  • Pehr Evind Svinhufvud () (March 1, 1931 - March 1, 1937)
  • Kyösti Kallio () (March 1, 1937 - December 19, 1940)
  • Risto Ryti () (December 19, 1940 - August 4, 1944)
  • Carl Gustaf Mannerheim () (August 4, 1944 - March 11, 1946)
  • Juho Paasikivi () (March 11, 1946 - March 1, 1956)
  • Urho Kekkonen () (March 1, 1956 - January 27, 1982)
  • Mauno Koivisto () (January 27, 1982 - March 1, 1994)
  • Martti Ahtisaari () (March 1, 1994 - March 1, 2000)
  • Tarja Halonen () (March 1, 2000 - )

Prime minister

  • Pehr Evind Svinhufvud () (November 27, 1917 - May 27, 1918)
  • Juho Kusti Paasikivi () (May 27, 1918 - November 26, 1918)
  • Lauri Ingman () (November 26, 1918 - April 17, 1919)
  • Kaarlo Castrén () (April 17, 1919 - August 15, 1919)
  • Juho Vennola () (August 15, 1919 - March 15, 1920)
  • Rafael Erich () (March 15, 1920 - April 9, 1921)
  • Juho Heikki Vennola () (April 9, 1921 - June 2, 1922)
  • Kaarlo Cajander () (June 2, 1922 - November 14, 1922)
  • Kyösti Kallio () (November 14, 1922 - January 18, 1924)
  • Kaarlo Cajander () (January 18, 1924 - May 31, 1924)
  • Lauri Ingman () (May 31, 1924 - March 31, 1925)
  • Antti Tulenheimo () (March 31, 1925 - December 31, 1925)
  • Kyösti Kallio () (December 31, 1925 - December 13, 1926)
  • Väinö Tanner () (December 13, 1926 - December 17, 1927)
  • Juho Emil Sunila () (December 17, 1927 - December 22, 1928)
  • Oskari Mantere () (December 22, 1928 - August 16, 1929)
  • Kyösti Kallio () (August 16, 1929 - July 6, 1930)
  • Pehr Evind Svinhufvud () (July 6, 1930 - February 16, 1931)
  • Juho Heikki Vennola () (February 16, 1931 - March 21, 1931)
  • Juho Sunila () (March 21, 1931 - December 14, 1932)
  • Toivo Mikael Kivimäki () (December 14, 1932 - October 7, 1936)
  • Kyösti Kallio () (October 7, 1936 - March 12, 1937)
  • Kaarlo Cajander () (March 12, 1937 - December 1, 1939)
  • Risto Ryti () (December 1, 1939 - December 21, 1940)
  • Karl Walden () (December 21, 1940 - January 3, 1941)
  • Johan Rangell () (January 3, 1941 - March 5, 1943)
  • Edwin Linkomies () (March 5, 1943 - August 8, 1944)
  • Verner Hackzell () (August 8, 1944 - September 21, 1944)
  • Jonas Castrén () (September 21, 1944 - November 17, 1944)
  • Juho Kusti Paasikivi () (November 17, 1944 - March 26, 1946)
  • Mauno Pekkala () (March 26, 1946 - July 29, 1948)
  • Karl August Fagerholm () (July 29, 1948 - March 17, 1950)
  • Urho Kekkonen () (March 17, 1950 - November 17, 1953)
  • Sakari Tuomioja () (November 17, 1953 - May 5, 1954)
  • Gustaf Törngren () (May 5, 1954 - October 20, 1954)
  • Urho Kekkonen () (October 20, 1954 - February 17, 1956)
  • Karl Fagerholm () (February 17, 1956 - May 27, 1957)
  • Väinö Sukselainen () (May 27, 1957 - November 29, 1957)
  • Rainer von Fieandt () (November 29, 1957 - April 26, 1958)
  • Reino Kuuskoski () (April 26, 1958 - August 29, 1958)
  • Karl August Fagerholm () (August 29, 1958 - January 13, 1959)
  • Väinö Sukselainen () (January 13, 1959 - May 19, 1961)
  • Vihtori Luukka () (May 19, 1961 - July 14, 1961)
  • Martti Miettunen () (July 14, 1961 - April 13, 1962)
  • Ahti Karjalainen () (April 13, 1962 - December 18, 1963)
  • Reino Ragnar Lehto () (December 18, 1963 - September 12, 1964)
  • Johannes Virolainen () (September 12, 1964 - May 27, 1966)
  • Kustaa Paasio () (May 27, 1966 - March 22, 1968)
  • Mauno Koivisto () (March 22, 1968 - May 14, 1970)
  • Teuvo Aura () (May 14, 1970 - July 15, 1970)
  • Ahti Karjalainen () (July 15, 1970 - October 29, 1971)
  • Teuvo Aura () (October 29, 1971 - February 23, 1972)
  • Kustaa Paasio () (February 23, 1972 - September 4, 1972)
  • Kalevi Sorsa () (September 4, 1972 - June 13, 1975)
  • Keijo Liinamaa () (June 13, 1975 - November 30, 1975)
  • Martti Miettunen () (November 30, 1975 - May 15, 1977)
  • Kalevi Sorsa () (May 15, 1977 - May 26, 1979)
  • Mauno Koivisto () (May 26, 1979 - January 27, 1982)
  • Eino Uusitalo () (January 27, 1982 - February 19, 1982)
  • Kalevi Sorsa () (February 19, 1982 - April 30, 1987)
  • Harri Holkeri () (April 30, 1987 - April 26, 1991)
  • Esko Aho () (April 26, 1991 - April 13, 1995)
  • Paavo Lipponen () (April 13, 1995 - April 17, 2003)
  • Anneli Jäätteenmäki () (April 17, 2003 - June 24, 2003)
  • Matti Vanhanen () (June 24, 2003 - June 22, 2010)
  • Mari Kiviniemi () (June 22, 2010 - )


Finnish Polities

Neighbouring Nations


  1. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  2. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  3. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  4. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  5. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  6. The United States Department of State - Background Note