Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Finland (Suomi)

Suomi' is a shortened form of 'Suomen tasavalta' or 'Republic of Finland'.

Capital : Helsinki (Helsingfors)

Size: 131 000 sq m Popn: 5 042 000

Provinces (läänit)

Hame (Hämeen lääni), Keski-Suomen lääni, Kuopion lääni, Lappi (Lapin lääni), Mikkeli (Mikkelin lääni), Oulu (Oulun Lääni), Turun ja Porin lääni, Uudenmaan Lääni, Vaasen Lääni, Kymi (Kymen lääni), Pohjois-Karjalan lääni (Northern Carelia) Uusimaa (Uudenmaan lääni), Ahvenanmaa Islands (Ahvenanmaan maakunta)

Mikkeli, Oulu, Turku, Pori, Vaasa and Kuopio are Finnish towns with the -n ending signifying a genitive and 'lääni' being a governmental district similar to an English county. 'Lappi' is the Finnish for Lapland. The governmental districts were changed recently and there are now only five major provinces: Etelä-Suomen lääni (southern Finland), Itä-Suomen lääni (eastern Finland) Länsi-Suomen lääni (western Finland), Oulun lääni and Lapin lääni

Ahvenanmaa is a group of Swedish speaking islands whose possession was disputed by Finland and Sweden in the 1920s after Finnish independence. Finland recognises Swedish as an official language with Finnish but it is only spoken by about 6% of the population and the Swedish claim that Ahvenanmaa is culturally, historically and linguistically part of Sweden had some basis in fact but Finland would not give it up. The commonwealth of nations judged it to be part of Finland on condition that the area was demilitarised and its cultural and linguistic features were protected. Even today, owning land is almost impossible to anyone born outside Ahvenanmaa, and services available in Finnish are scarce. The people of Ahvenanmaa are exempt from military service and the Finns have no military installations on the islands. There is special legislation concerning Ahvenanmaa and it has a separate parliament with legislative power over the internal matters of the archipelago.


The Finnish language, along with its close neighbours, Lapp, Estonian and Karelian and more distant relatives, Vogul, Ostiak, Permian, Mordvinian and Magyar, is a survivor from the ancient Finno-Ungrian languages which had a possible Asian origin. It has been heavily influenced from the Viking era onwards by a Norse element from the neighbouring Scandinavian countries. The name 'Finland' comes from the Latin 'Fennia' which became Finland or Finmark in Swedish. The earliest known inhabitants were a nomadic people, the Lapps or Saami, who were gradually driven north by Finnic nomads from Asia from the C1st BC.

In the C12th and 13th, the area was conquered by Sweden and over the next two centuries was the scene of several battles between Sweden and Russia. Finland became a duchy of Sweden and had some autonomy, becoming a grand duchy in 1581. In 1809, during the Napoleonic wars, Russia invaded and annexed the country but nationalist feeling grew and Finland proclaimed its independence under the world's first democratically elected socialist prime minister in 1917, during the Russian revolution. The new Soviet regime tried to regain control but acknowledged Finnish independence in 1920.

The USSR invaded in 1939 after Finland rejected its request for military bases on its territory. In the 15 week Winter War, Finland was defeated and lost territory, joining Nazi Germany in attacking the USSR to try to regain it. In 1944, it agreed to a separate armistice and was forced to cede 12% of its total area and make huge war reparations. It signed the Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance (the YYA Treaty) in 1948. The war reparations to the USSR amounted to 5% of the Gross Domestic Product in 1945-8 but were paid off in 1952. Finland joined the UN in 1955 and also became a member of the Nordic Council which includes Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The YYA Treaty, extended in 1955, 1970 and 1983, required Finland to repel any attack on the USSR through Finnish territory but otherwise the country maintained a policy of strict neutrality. It signed a trade agreement with the EC in 1973 and a 15 year trade agreement with the USSR in 1977 and was admitted to the Council of Europe in 1989.

There have been over 60 governments since independence, many of them minority coalitions which has led to political instability but the presidency has remained steady with only two incumbents in over thirty years. Urho Kekkonen was elected in 1956 and re-elected in 1962, 1968 and 1978. He resigned on grounds of ill-health in 1981 and in January 1982 was replaced by Mauno Koivisto who was re-elected in 1988. Coalition politics were dominated by the Social Democratic and Centre parties until the 1987 general election resulted in a coalition between the Social Democrats and their arch-enemies, the Conservatives (KOK), which forced the Centre Party into opposition. In the elections of 1991, the Centre party won 55 seats, the Social Democrats, 48, the Conservatives, 40, the Alliance of the Left, 19 and the Greens, 10. In March 1992 the Finnish government agree to apply formally for membership of the EC. The world recession and disruption of trade with the former USSR damaged the economy. The marrka was devalued and there were cutbacks in the extensive welfare system.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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