Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.
Around 5.4 million people reside in Finland, with the majority concentrated in the southern region. It is the eighth largest country in Europe in terms of area and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Finland is a parliamentary republic with a central government based in Helsinki and local governments in 336 municipalities, and an autonomous region of the Åland Islands. About one million residents live in the Greater Helsinki area, which consists of Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa, and a third of the country's GDP is produced there. Other larger cities include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Jyväskylä, Lahti and Kuopio.
Finland was a part of Sweden from the 12th to 19th century, and from 1809 to 1917 was an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. The Finnish Declaration of Independence from Russia in 1917 was followed by a civil war in which the red side was defeated with German support. Finland fought World War II as essentially three separate conflicts: the Winter War (1939–40), the Continuation War (1941–44), and the Lapland War (1944–45). Finland joined the United Nations in 1955, the OECD in 1969, the European Union in 1995, and the eurozone at its inception in 1999.
Finland was a relative latecomer to industrialisation, remaining a largely agrarian country until the 1950s. Thereafter, economic development was rapid. Finland is one of the world's wealthiest nations, with a per capita income of $49,349. It built an extensive welfare state and balanced between the East and the West in global economics and politics. With the best educational system in Europe according to some measures, Finland has recently been ranked as one of the world's most peaceful, competitive and livable countries
The name "Finland" appears on three rune-stones. Two were found in the Swedish province of Uppland and have the inscription finlonti (U 582). The third was found in Gotland, in the Baltic Sea. It has the inscription finlandi (G 319) and dates from the 13th century
According to archaeological evidence, the area now comprising Finland was settled at the latest around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice sheet of the last ice age receded. The artifacts the first settlers left behind present characteristics that are shared with those found in Estonia, Russia and Norway. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, using stone tools. The first pottery appeared in 5200 BCE when the Comb Ceramic culture was introduced. The arrival of the Corded Ware culture in southern coastal Finland between 3000 and 2500 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture. Even with the introduction of agriculture, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy.
The Bronze Age (1500–500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE–1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with other cultures in the Fennoscandian and Baltic regions. There is no consensus on when Uralic languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland. During the 1st millennium AD, early Finnish was spoken at least in agricultural settlements of Southern Finland, whereas Sámi-speaking populations occupied most parts of the country.
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