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Finland lies in Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, between Sweden and Russia

Ruled by Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries and by Russia from 1809, Finland finally won its independence in 1917. During World War II, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and fend off invasions by the Soviet Union and Germany. In the subsequent half century, the Finns have made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is now on par with Western Europe. As a member of the European Union, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999.

Finland is a republic. The head of state is the president. Ultimate political power is vested in the 200-member unicameral parliament. The semi-autonomous province of the Åland Islands occupies a special position because it has been declared a demilitarised area under international law.

The population of Finland today is a little over 5 million. Finland is rightly known as a land of forests: they cover roughly three quarters of the country's surface area of 338,000 sq. km.

Other outstanding features of Finland's scenery are its myriad lakes and islands. Lakes and other bodies of water cover 10% of the national territory. The principal archipelago lies off the southwest coast while the main lake district, centred on Lake Saimaa, is in the east.

The capital of Finland is the city of Helsinki, the White Pearl of the North. Helsinki is a city of changing seasons, sea, parks and beautiful architecture. The city is almost surrounded by the sea and changes its appearance with the seasons; warm, light summer evenings, autumn colours in parks and on islands, buildings shrouded
in sparkling snow, and the emerging life of springtime are all part of the diverse charm of Helsinki.

In spite of its modern international appearance, Helsinki retains a warm and natural atmosphere. There is plenty to see and do in Helsinki even on a long stay; diversity is one of Helsinki’s chief attractions.

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