Around 5.4 million people reside in Finland, with the majority concentrated in the southern region. It is the eighth largest countryin 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. A total of about one million residents live in the Greater Helsinki area (which includes Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa), and a third of the country's GDP is producedthere. Other larger cities include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Jyväskylä, Lahti, Kuopio and Kouvola.
Finland was historically a part of Sweden and from 1809 on, an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. Finnish Declaration of Independence from Russia in 1917 was followed by a civil war, wars against the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, and a period of official neutrality during the Cold War.Finland joined the United Nations in 1955, the OECD in 1969, the European Union in 1995, and the eurozone since its inception.
Finland was a relative latecomer to industrialisation, remaining a largely agrarian country until the 1950s. Thereafter, economic development was rapid, Finland built an extensive welfare state and balanced between the East and the West in global economics and politics. Thecountry tops continuously the international comparisons of national performance. Finland ranks the best country in the world in the 2010 Newsweek survey based on health, economic dynamism, education, political environment and quality of life. Finland has also been ranked the second most stable country in the world and the first in the 2009 Legatum Prosperity rating. In 2010, the WorldEconomic Forum deemed Finland the 7th most competitive country in the world. Finland is currently ranked as having the 3rd highest graduation rate, percentage of graduates to the population at the typical age of graduation, in the OECD Factbook 2010
The name Suomi (Finnish for "Finland") has uncertain origins, but a candidate for a cognate is the Proto-Baltic word *zeme, meaning"land". In addition to the close relatives of Finnish (the Baltic-Finnic languages), this name is also used in the Baltic languages Latvian and Lithuanian. Alternatively, the Indo-European word *gʰm-on "man" (cf. Gothic guma, Latin homo) has been suggested, being borrowed as *ćoma. The word originally referred only to the province of Finland Proper, and later to the northern coast of Gulf ofFinland, with northern lands Ostrobothnia still being excluded as late as the 18th century. Earlier theories suggested derivation from suomaa (fen land) or suoniemi (fen cape), and parallels between saame (Sami, a non-Finnish people in Finland) and Häme (a Finnish people and a province) were drawn, but these theories are now considered outdated.
Among the first documents to mention "a land of theFinns" are two rune-stones. There is one in Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont (U 582) and one in Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, with the inscription finlandi (G 319), dating from the 11th century
Civil war and early independence
Main articles: Finnish Declaration of Independence and Finnish Civil War
Soviet approval of Finland's independence in Russian.
After the1917 February Revolution the position of Finland as part of the Russian Empire was questioned, mainly by Social Democrats. Since the head of state was the Czar of Russia, it was not clear who the chief executive of Finland was after the revolution. The parliament, controlled by social democrats, passed the so-called Power Law, which would give the highest authority to the parliament. This was...