Official name

Official name

Republic of Finland; or in Finnish, Suomen Tasavalta.

Language

Two official ones: Finnish, spoken by the vast majority, and Swedish, spoken by some people in the south and south-west. There are a few lapp-speakers in the far north.

Size

338,000 sq km - 10 times the size of Belgium.

Population

About five million.

National dish

Reindeer meat is a delicacy in some parts of the north: Poronkaristys, or sauteed reindeer, is the best known dish, but reindeer steaks and warm or cold-smoked reindeer meat are also popular.

Best monument

More chauvinistic Finns might not like it but the statue in the centre of the main square of old Helsinki is actually of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. Defenders of the statue point to the fact that it was Alexander who acknowledged Finnish constitutionalism for the first time, in 1863.

Most famous citizen

Mika Hakkinen is Formula One World Champion, though one hopes that Finland will be remembered more for the music of Jean Sibelius.

Best moment in history

In 1906 Finland sprang out of the political dark ages with the introduction of a unicameral parliament elected by universal and equal suffrage - at the time, the most modern in Europe. After the Bolshevik revolution 11 years later in 1917, Finland was able to declare its independence.

Worst moment in history

In earlier Finnish history, there was the Great Wrath, the Long Wrath and the Lesser Wrath, all of which involved being attacked by Russians or Swedes. In more recent times there was the Second World War. At the beginning, thanks to a secret protocol in the Nazi-Soviet pact, Finland was attacked by the USSR and had to surrender a large part of the southeast of the country. In 1941 Finland joined the war on Germany's side - on the losing side again.

Essential accessory

In the summer, if you do not wish to turn into one big mosquito bite, do not forget your insect repellant.

What not to do

In the Aland Islands, to the southwest of the country, do not attempt to practise your Finnish. The Alanders are disgusted at the notion of being considered Finnish and insist on speaking only Swedish.

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