Population: 5.35 million.
Major cities: The capital of Finland is Helsinki. Other major cities include Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Turku and Oulu.
Total area: 390 920 square kilometres, of which land 303 907 square kilometres. Finland is the seventh largest country in Europe, while the lowest in population density. Finland has over 188 000 lakes and over 179 000 islands. The archipelago of Finland, located in the southwest coast, is the largest in Europe, with an autonomous Swedish-speaking province of Åland Islands.
Land boundaries: Sweden to the west, Russia to the east and Norway to the north. Finland’s neighbour to the south is Estonia, located across the Gulf of Finland.
Time zone: GMT +2.
Languages: Finland is officially bilingual. Finnish is the mother tongue of 91 % of the population, while 5 % speak Swedish as their first language. English is widely spoken as a foreign language.
Religion: Christianity reached Finland approximately a thousand years ago, almost simultaneously from the East and the West. 80 % of Finns belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church and 1 % are Finnish Orthodox. 18 % do not belong to any church, while 1 % represent other religious groups.
Political history: Finland was a part of Sweden from the 12th to the 19th century. After the wars between Sweden and Russia, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia in 1809, until declaring independence in 1917. The current Head of State is Tarja Halonen, who is also the first woman to be elected the President of the Republic of Finland.
Climate: Finland has four distinct seasons. The coldest month is February (average temperature -4.2˚C, 24˚F) and the warmest month is July (average temperature 17.2˚C, 63˚F). In the parts of Finland located above the Arctic Circle, the sun does not set for several weeks during the summer months.
Education: The average length of schooling is 17.1 years and education is free for all. Partially due to the high standard of schooling, Finland ranked as the Best Country in the World in a comparison by Newsweek magazine in August 2010.
Population: 584 420 inhabitants in the city, 1.25 million in the Helsinki metropolitan area. In terms of population, Helsinki is the largest city in Finland.
History: Founded in 1550 by King Gustav Vasa of Sweden. Helsinki was originally established as a trade town to compete with Reval (now Tallinn, the capital of Estonia). However, Helsinki remained a small town until the beginning of the 19th century. Helsinki has been the capital of Finland since 1812, when it replaced the old capital, Turku.
Honours: Recovering from the wars, Helsinki hosted the Summer Olympics in 1952. In 2007, Helsinki hosted the popular European Song Contest. Helsinki will serve as the official World Design Capital in 2012.