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Learn more about Finland...

Population: 5.4 million, 18.1 inhabitants per km² ( 46.6 per square mile)

Religion: Christianity; 73.8 % Lutheran and about 1.1% Orthodox. In practice society is fairly secularized

Key features: High standard of education, social security and healthcare, all financed by the state

GDP per capita: 37,559 euros (2014)

Main exports: Electro technical goods, metal products, machinery, transport equipment, wood and paper products, chemicals

Main imports: Raw materials, investment goods, energy, consumer goods (for example cars and textiles)

Geography

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Area: 338,440 km² (131,991 square miles), the fifth-largest country in Western Europe

Greatest length from north to south: 1,157 km (717 miles)

Greatest width from east to west: 542 km (336 miles)

Capital: Helsinki (1.4 million inhabitants in metropolitan area)

History

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Independence: Declared on December 6, 1917. Previously a grand duchy in the Russian empire for 108 years, and a part of Sweden for 600 years before that

Form of government: Republic, parliamentary democracy

Parliament: 200 members in one chamber, elected every 4 years in a direct vote (next elections in 2019)

Cabinet: Multiparty coalition cabinet. The current Cabinet is run by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä

Head of State: President of the Republic, elected every 6 years, two-term maximum. Currently Mr Sauli Niinistö, elected in 2012.

International cooperation: Member of United Nations since 1955 and European Union since 1995

Nature

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Finland is so far north that it lies on the same latitudes as Alaska or Central Siberia. About a quarter of the country is north of the Arctic Circle.

Thanks to the ocean current known as the North Atlantic Drift, the average temperatures in the southern Finland are around +5°C (41F), and even up north they are only a couple of degrees below zero (27F)..

The winters are nevertheless so cold that every single lake freezes over during the coldest months. The coastal waters of the Baltic Sea also typically freeze over, and snow covers the ground for several months.

But on summer days, temperatures can rise up to 25 (77F)or even 30°C (86F). The growing season for plants is still comparatively short, however, averaging just 3–4 months. Over the ages, nature has adapted to Finland’s pronounced seasonal swings. Most of the country’s plants and animals lie dormant through the winter months, and three-quarters of bird species are migratory.

On the world map Finland also lies between east and west, and the climate combines continental influences from the east, and maritime influences from the Atlantic to the west.

This factor is also evident in Finland’s flora and fauna. Finland is home to species associated with the taiga of continental Eurasia, such as Ural owls and Labrador tea, as well as maritime species including many waders and water birds.

The most obvious contrast is between the annual seasons. The same lake where people come to swim and sail in summer forms a perfect skating rink or skiing arena in the winter. Warm, light summer nights gradually lengthen, until the snow settles and the late dawn merges colorfully into the early sunset during the midwinter season known to Finns as kaamos.

The country’s population is concentrated in the south, especially around the Helsinki region, which is home to about a million people. At the other end of the country lie the vast unpopulated forests and fells of arctic Lapland.

But the scenery also changes on a smaller scale. Water is never far away. Dense forests always await somewhere nearby. And there is also sure to be open bog or farmland within easy reach. All of these landscapes are part of Finland’s varied natural scene.