18.09.2017

Finland

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The republic of Finland is one of the Nordic countries and – in terms of area – the seventh largest in Europe. It is a modern welfare state with a high standard of living, a small but educated population of five million and pioneering high-tech know-how.

Finns are proud of their advanced welfare system, the high level of education, and Finnish design and architecture.

The country and its people have been moulded by the location between East and West.

From the 13th century Finland was part of the kingdom of Sweden. In 1809 it became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire and finally, in 1917, declared itself independent. During World War II, Finland retained its independence and has since then pursued a policy of neutrality and military non-alliance. Finland joined the European Union in January 1995. The head of the state is the President, currently Mr Sauli Niinistö (since 2012).

Finland is bounded by the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland, and its neighbouring countries are Sweden, Norway, Estonia and Russia. St. Petersburg is only a three hour train trip away from Helsinki.

Languages

The Finnish language belongs to the Finno-Ugric family. There are two official languages in Finland: Finnish and Swedish, the latter of which is spoken by 5.5% of the population. The most widely spoken foreign language is English. You will be able to deal with all your official business in English.

Religion

About eighty percent of Finns are Christians. Most Finns belong to the Lutheran Church of Finland. About one percent of the population belongs to the Orthodox Church.

Climate

finland_talvikavely.jpgFinland is the northernmost country in the world after Iceland, but the climate is not as cold as that might suggest. Owing to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, Finland enjoys a temperate climate. The mean temperature in the warmest summer months may exceed 20 degrees centigrade and in winter the temperature may fall to 30 degrees centigrade below zero. However, due to the dry climate, it feels warmer than the thermometer actually indicates at all times of the year. 

Also, as a result of climate change, the winters are becoming warmer. If you are going to stay in Finland during the winter months, you will need a good pair of warm, insulated shoes or boots, a warm winter coat as well as woollen sweaters and long underwear.

The year in Finland is divided into four distinct seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn. Southern and central Finland is covered with snow for an average of four to five months, from November/December until April. Nature is in many ways part of everyday life here. With the vast forests, about 188,000 lakes, and the unspoiled countryside Finland has often been described as “one great national park”. The archipelago to the south and south west of the country, containing around 30,000 islands, is one of the most beautiful marine areas in the world.

Culture

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Nature has always been an endless source of inspiration for Finnish artists. Jean Sibelius, one of the greatest modern composers, wrote recognisably Finnish music glorifying his people and the Finnish landscapes. Along with the nationalistic painter Akseli Gallén-Kallela, Sibelius fell under the spell of the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic based on ancient Karelian folklore. The epic includes, among others, creation stories and the fight between good and evil.

The writer credited with being the founder of modern Finnish literature is Aleksis Kivi, whose classic epic Seven Brothers is a realistic description of rural life in Finland in the 19th century. Väinö Linna, Mika Waltari and the Nobel Prize winner Frans Emil Sillanpää represent the Finnish literature from the early 20th century. One of the most widely translated Finnish authors is Tove Jansson, whose Moomin-trolls have an international reputation.

Among our most distinguished modern composers is Kaija Saariaho, famous for her use of electronics alongside traditional instruments. Finland has had more than its share of internationally known conductors, such as Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jukka-Pekka Saraste. Finland also enjoys a strong operatic tradition, and singers like Karita Mattila, Soile Isokoski and Matti Salminen have established impressive international careers.

Economy

Before World War II, Finland was predominantly an agricultural country with a rather narrow industrial sector – exports came almost only from the wood-processing industry. The subsequent development into a complex market economy took place very rapidly. Today, the main export sectors are electronics and other metal industry products, as well as timber, paper and chemical industries. Finland is also one of the leading European countries in biotechnology and high-tech.

Education system

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The Finnish education system comprises a comprehensive school system, post-compulsory general and vocational education, higher education and adult education. Most of Finland’s six-year-olds attend voluntary pre-school education in day care centres or special classes. The comprehensive school provides a nine-year educational programme for all school-aged children from the age of seven. After completing their compulsory education, students may continue to the upper secondary school (three years, ending in a national matriculation examination), which qualifies students for higher education, or to vocational institutions (two to three years, leading to a basic vocational qualification).

Finland has one of the most comprehensive university networks in Europe with 16 universities, all of which carry out research and confer doctorates. Ten of these universities are of the traditional multidisciplinary type, and six focus on special fields. Finnish university degrees correspond to bachelor’s (kandidaatti), master’s (maisteri) and doctoral degrees (tohtori). In most fields, students can also take a licentiate degree (lisensiaatti) before a doctorate. Non-university higher education is provided at 25 universities of applied sciences. They are multi-field institutes of professional higher education which emphasise close contacts with business, industry and services. The universities of applied sciences have been formed by upgrading and merging specialised institutions of higher vocational education.

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