Geography and History of Finland

The Finnish Flag
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Finland is a country located in Northern Europe to the east of Sweden, south of Norway, and west of Russia. Although Finland has a large population of 5.5 million people, its large area makes it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The population density of Finland is 40.28 people per square mile or 15.5 people per square kilometer. Finland is also known for its strong educational system and economy, and it is considered one of the world's most peaceful and livable countries.

Fast Facts: Finland

  • Official Name: Republic of Finland 
  • Capital: Helsinki
  • Population: 5,537,364 (2018)
  • Official Languages: Finnish, Swedish 
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Form of Government: Parliamentary republic
  • Climate: Cold temperate; potentially subarctic but comparatively mild because of moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current, Baltic Sea, and more than 60,000 lakes
  • Total Area: 130,558 square miles (338,145 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Halti at 4,357 feet (1,328 meters) 
  • Lowest Point: Baltic Sea at 0 feet (0 meters)


It is unclear where the first inhabitants of Finland came from, but most historians believe their origin is Siberia thousands of years ago. For most of its early history, Finland was associated with the Kingdom of Sweden. This began in 1154 when Sweden's King Eric introduced Christianity in Finland. As a result of Finland becoming a part of Sweden in the 12th century, Swedish became the region's official language. By the 19th century, however, Finnish again became the national language.

In 1809, Finland was conquered by Czar Alexander I of Russia and became an independent grand duchy of the Russian Empire until 1917. On December 6 of that year, Finland declared its independence. In 1918, a civil war took place in the country. During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union from 1939 to 1940 (The Winter War) and again from 1941 to 1944 (The Continuation War). From 1944 to 1945, Finland fought against Germany. In 1947 and 1948, Finland and the Soviet Union signed a treaty that resulted in Finland making territorial concessions to the USSR.

Following the end of World War II, Finland grew in population but in the 1980s and early 1990s it began to have economic problems. In 1994, Martti Ahtisaari was elected as president and he began a campaign to revitalize the country's economy. In 1995 Finland joined the European Union and in 2000, Tarja Halonen was elected as Finland and Europe's first female president and prime minister.


Today Finland, officially called the Republic of Finland, is considered a republic and its executive branch of government is made up of a chief of state (the president) and a head of government (the prime minister). Finland's legislative branch is composed of a unicameral Parliament whose members are elected by popular vote. The country's judicial branch is made up of general courts that "deal with criminal and civil cases" as well as administrative courts. Finland is divided into 19 regions for local administration.

Economics and Land Use

Finland currently has a strong, modern industrialized economy. Manufacturing is one of the major industries in Finland and the country depends on trade with foreign nations. The main industries in Finland are metals and metal products, electronics, machinery and scientific instruments, shipbuilding, pulp and paper, foodstuffs, chemicals, textiles, and clothing. In addition, agriculture plays a small role in Finland's economy. This is because the country's high latitude means that it has a short growing season in all but its southern areas. The main agriculture products of Finland are barley, wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, dairy cattle, and fish.

Geography and Climate

Finland is located in Northern Europe along the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Bothnia, and the Gulf of Finland. It shares borders with Norway, Sweden, and Russia and has a coastline of 776 miles (1,250 km). The topography of Finland is relatively gentle with low, flat or rolling plains and low hills. The land is also dotted with many lakes—more than 60,000—and the highest point in the country is Haltiatunturi at 4,357 feet (1,328 m) above sea level.

The climate of Finland is considered cold temperate and subarctic in its far northern areas. Most of Finland's climate is moderated by the North Atlantic Current, however. Finland's capital and largest city, Helsinki, is located on its southern tip and has an average February low temperature of 18 degrees (-7.7 C) and an average July high temperature of 69.6 degrees (21 C).


  • Central Intelligence Agency. (14 June 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - Finland.
  • (n.d.). Finland: History, Geography, Government, and Culture-
  • United States Department of State. (22 June 2011). Finland.
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Briney, Amanda. "Geography and History of Finland." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Briney, Amanda. (2020, August 28). Geography and History of Finland. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography and History of Finland." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 20, 2023).