Finland is located in north-eastern Europe, and as one of the most northern countries in the region, the top half of the country actually lies above the Arctic Circle. The country borders Norway and Sweden to the west, and Russia to the east, while the southern west coast of Finland meets the waters of the Baltic Sea.
In the north of Finland winters are long and harsh, with temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius, and a polar night that lasts for nearly two months. During the summer this region is warm, with temperatures reaching the mid-20s. In the southern part of Finland, winter temperatures are typically around 10 degrees warmer, with lows of up to -10 degrees Celsius.
Finland’s northern projection is also responsible for the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis. This natural light display is seen when solar winds react with magnetic particles in the earth’s atmosphere, showcasing lights of green, yellow, and orange, and occasionally reddish tints.
Finland is nicknamed the Land of a Thousand Lakes, but there are actually tens of thousands of lakes, all over the country. Most are small, with a depth of 5-10 metres. The country’s coastline is equally intricate. There are around 100,000 islands—ranging from tiny “skerries” of rock to larger chunks of land—along the Finnish coast.
Finland was first settled by humans by 8,500 BC. Written Finnish history begins around 1300 CE, and during the Middle Ages, Finland became part of the Kingdom of Sweden.
At the end of the 17th century severe famine, followed by plague, resulted in the deaths of well over a third of Finland’s population. Early in the 18th century, war between Sweden and Russia resulted in the deaths of virtually an entire generation of young Finnish men. As a result of these losses, Finland’s noble elite began to actively seek independence for the country.
Early in the 19th century, Finland was invaded by Russia, and was then no longer under Swedish rule, but was still not an independent country. Famine decimated the population again late in the 19th century. Finally, the turmoil in Russia as the Bolsheviks took power early in the 20th century, was what eventually allowed Finland to establish its own independence, and elect its first president in 1919.
Finland’s native animals include the brown bear, gray wolf, the wolverine, and the Eurasian lynx. The country is also home to the Saimaa ringed seal, one of the world’s most endangered mammals. This rare seal is found in just one location in the world—on Finland’s Lake Saimaa—and there are only around 250 of the animals in existence. Finland’s diversity of bird life is especially rich, with rare species of owl, woodpecker, eagles, and others.
The plant life in Finland has naturally adapted to tolerate extremely cold temperatures. More than 70% of the country is covered in coniferous forestland, made up mostly of spruce and pine. There’s much more variety in the warmer region to the south, with many species of trees and flowering shrubs, including wildflowers and wild berries. Few plants are unique to Finland, being limited to just two species: varieties of hawkweed and dandelion.
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