Finland (in Finnish: Suomi) is a republic located in Northern Europe, with a population of about 5 million. Capital: Helsinki. Official languages are Finnish and Swedish. Especially younger Finns understand English relatively well.
Finland was part of Sweden until 1809, then autonomous grand duchy within the Russian empire. It has been independent since the 6th of December, 1917. The political system is a parliamentary republic with several parties and usually with coalition governments.
Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union in 1939 and was again at war with it in 1941-44 but managed to remain independent. However, Finland lost most of Finnish Carelia, including the second-largest Finnish city Viipuri. After the war Finland was compelled to a sort of military pact with the Soviet Union, and in Western countries Finland was often regarded almost as a satellite of the Soviet Union. However, Finland preserved its economical and political system.
Culturally Finland has always been part of the Western civilization and one of the Nordic countries (together with Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland), but it has had and has special features due to the separateness of the Finnish language and geopolitical location as a neighbor of Russia, among other things.
Finland joined the European Union (EU, former EEC or EC) the 1st of January, 1995, and is part of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), too. From year 1999, the national currency unit markka (abbr. mk or FIM) was a unit for the currency euro, with a fixed conversion rate 1 euro = 5.94573 marks. Since March 2002, the euro is the only valid currency.
Finland was industrialized relatively lately, mostly after the World War II. It is fairly competitive not only in pulp and paper industry but also in metal industry and electronics. The GNP was 135 500 milliard US dollars (by purchasing power parity) in 2001; export was worth 40 000 milliard dollars. Agriculture suffers from overproduction and from the need to adapt to EU agricultural policy. Mainly due to the effect of the high unemployment rate on state budget, the level of the extensive social security system is being lowered somewhat. The rate of inflation is one of the lowest in Europe.