Facts and figures about Finland

AP News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2011 12:15 PM
Facts and figures about Finland

Facts and figures about Finland, which is holding parliamentary elections Sunday.

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OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Finland

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GEOGRAPHY: Covering about 135,000 square miles (340,000 square kilometers), Finland sits at the northeastern edge of Europe, sharing a border with Russia to the east, Norway to the north and Sweden to the west. About one-fourth of Finland's land stretches above the Arctic Circle.

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POPULATION: Finland's population of 5.3 million is relatively homogenous. The government doesn't keep statistics on ethnicity, but less than 5 percent of residents were born abroad, according to the official statistics agency. About 96 percent speak Finnish or Swedish _ the two official languages _ as their mother tongue. Smaller groups include Russian-speakers and indigenous Sami.

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GOVERNMENT: Finland is a parliamentary democracy. The country has been dominated by consensus politics since the 1950s, with various coalition governments. The current center-right coalition took office in April 2007. The head of state is the president, who is responsible for foreign and defense policy in close cooperation with the government.

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RELIGION: About 78 percent of the population belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church; 1 percent are Russian Orthodox. There are about 30,000 Muslims.

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HISTORY: Independent and governed by a parliamentary democracy since 1917, Finland was under Swedish rule for centuries and has been invaded several times by Russia. After World War II, it allowed foreign policy to be influenced by the Soviet Union in return for political and economic freedoms. Finland, which is militarily nonaligned, joined the European Union in 1995.

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ECONOMY: Finland's export-dependent economy was badly hit in the global downturn. Last year, the economy grew by 3.1 percent after contracting by a record 8 percent in 2009 _ its largest drop since 1918. Nokia Corp., the world's largest cell phone maker, once a symbol of a boom in the Finnish technology industry, has recently suffered against stiff competition from rivals in North America and Asia. The forest-covered nation is also a big exporter of timber, paper and pulp. Finland has had one of the lowest inflation rates in Europe, at 1.2 percent in 2010. Unemployment _ 8.4 percent in February _ has remained among the highest in the EU.