Finland is a republic which became independent in 1917. The head of state is the president. Ultimate political power is vested in the 200-member unicameral parliament. The semiautonomous province of the Åland Islands occupies a special position because it has been declared a demilitarize area under international law. The population of Finland today is a little over 5 million. Finland is rightly known as a land of forests: they cover roughly three quarters of the country's surface area of 338,000 sq. km.

Other outstanding features of Finland's scenery are its myriad lakes and islands. Lakes and other bodies of water cover 10% of the national territory. The principal archipelago lies off the southwest coast while the main lake district, centered on Lake Saimaa, is in the east.

BACK