Facts about Finland:
- Finland has a population of five million people spread over more than 330,000 sq. kilometres (127,000 sq. mi) making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world.
- Finland is ranked thirteenth on the 2005 United Nations Human Development Index.
- Along with Estonian and Hungarian, Finnish is one of the few official languages in Europe that is not of Indo-European origin.
- 64th largest nation in the world in the size of the land mass.
- 112th in size of the population in the world.
- Finland is the least corrupt and most democratic country in the world according to the World Audit study. (There are 243 countries in the world.)
- Finland is 75 per cent forested; the other 25 per cent is shared by the hills, the people, the beasts and the nearly 190,000 lakes and islands.
- The citizens of Finland begin their life with the lowest mortality rate in the whole world for the live births for both the mother & the child, yet end up being one of the sickest as in the death rates in the cardiovascular diseases.*
One thing that has immensely affected Finland is having that particular eastern neighbour on our side. Finland was under the Russian rule between 1809 -1917 that is when we became an independent nation on the 6TH December 1917. Sweden is the other neighbour on our western side and Finland was under her rule from 1352-1808. Specially, the wars with Russia that Finland had to fight during the WWII are the wars that have shaped the national psyche vastly in these modern times; i.e., alcoholism on a large scale.
The war of 1808-1809 was the very last war that Sweden as a country has suffered while Finland, on the other hand, has been forced to go through several wars such as the Civil War of 1918 and the Russian-Finnish Wars, because there were two wars during the WW II. The first one is called The Winter War, which began in November 1939. It lasted until March 1940, when both of the countries signed a peace treaty where Finland agreed to cede 10 per cent of its territory and 20 per cent of her industrial production to the Soviet Union. This is a compiled account in English about the events of that war.
The amazing thing about that war was that even though the Russians outnumbered the Finns by 3 to 1, the battle was not a walk-over for the Russians looking at the statistics of the casualties and other details. Stalin and his cohorts had thought that it would be just that. The arrogance and attitude of superiority of the Soviets, was such that they started the war with the marching bands and soldiers arm in arm singing stirring Soviet anthems while advancing towards the Finnish lines!! What they had planned, was a short and sharp victory. But God had decided otherwise. My future would have been very, very different to what it has been, IF, Finland had been a state within the USSR. We could have suffered the fate of the states like Estonia, our ‘relatives’. There would have been NO freedom to travel to begin with, so I would have been ‘stuck’ and not being able to go anywhere at all!
The Continuation War is the war that was fought between the years 1941-1944. The Lapland War against the former German allies was battled from September 1944 until April 1945. The reason for this war was the Soviet demand that all German troops were to be expelled from Finland. The task of expelling was made particularly hard because of the other simultaneous Soviet demand of demobilizing the major part of the Finnish armed forces.
The withdrawing Germans used the scorched earth tactics, so that more than one third of the dwellings were destroyed in Lapland. The provincial capital, Rovaniemi, was burned to the ground. This is the town where my mother was born and where she spent her first few years before the family moved to the Tornio Valley in the 1930’s. Rovaniemi was rebuilt after war and the world famous Finnish architect called, Alvar Aalto was very much at forefront of the same.
Finland has paid a very heavy price for her independence and as I am getting older; I am beginning to put a much much greater value to this fact and to see things differently with the eyes of experience of living in many nations; yet never departing from my own roots and my Finnish citizenship.
Presently Finland is chairing the European Union – from July 1, until December 31, 2006 as every six months the chair is changed to one of the nations in the EU. Austria chaired the first half of this year. Germany will take on after Finland in January 1, 2007. I wrote about the European Union in an earlier blog entry called: ‘ Wanted: Europeans Unity.‘ In Latin, In varietate concordia, “UNITY IN DIVERSITY.” The emphasis in this slogan is on the word ‘unity’ in this wording. The new proposed motto is this, “United in Diversity.” The emphasis in this expression is on the word ‘diversity’, in my mind.
The amazingly bright-right-through the nights in Finland; in particular, in Lapland are absolutely the most fantastic part of being and living in here. The few summer weeks that the sun does not want to hit-the-sack is the time when the Finns burst with good humour, energy and joviality. The people smile and are so good-humouredly relaxed that one would think that the stereotypical Finn of not being able to utter a word is such an untrue tale of pure fiction. The Finn People suddenly turn into their summer-side-personalities of lackadaisical, smiling and good-humoured super-outgoing humans as the layers upon layers of the winter woollens are peeled off. There is a different pace to the whole race.
The Latin in the Finnish nation that is hidden – remember, we are the nation with Argentina, where Tango is passionately loved (by some), me not included – comes to the fore. The colours in the nature are manifold and intoxicating when the all the bushes, the plants and the trees burst one after the other into full bloom. Exuberant and happy, the whole creation gets speedily into the task to get it all done before the short, intense and bright-thru-night summer is over.
Just wait ’til the winter comes – brr – then that Finn meets you in the street wrapped up in so many layers looking more like a Michelin Man scowling at you under the layers upon layers of clothes. The first snow in Central Finland where I am living at present came last year at the end of October and pretty much stayed on the ground until the end of April. Hmm…There were long spells of about minus 30 – yes, Three-O! Madness. I was so cold and so freezing, no words to express it. The coldest I have experienced is -44*C in Lapland. BRRR… Need I say more?! Plus the wind chill factors – ARCTIC so tis.