Åland Islands or Åland (Swedish: Åland, IPA: [ˈoːland];
Finnish: Ahvenanmaa) is an archipelago province at the entrance to the
Gulf of Bothnia
Gulf of Bothnia in the
Baltic Sea belonging to Finland. It is
autonomous, demilitarised and is the only monolingually
Swedish-speaking region in Finland. It is the smallest region of
Finland, constituting 0.49% of its land area and 0.50% of its
Fasta Åland on which 90% of the population
resides and a further 6,500 skerries and islands to its east.
Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of
Sweden by 38 kilometres
(24 mi) of open water to the west. In the east, the Åland
archipelago is contiguous with the Finnish
Archipelago Sea. Åland's
only land border is located on the uninhabited skerry of Märket,
which it shares with Sweden.
Åland's autonomous status means that those provincial powers normally
exercised by representatives of the central Finnish government are
largely exercised by its own government.
10.1 Births and deaths
11.1 Ethnicity and language
12 See also
14 External links
Special member state territories and the European Union
The autonomous status of the islands was affirmed by a decision made
League of Nations
League of Nations in 1921 following the
Åland Islands dispute.
It was reaffirmed within the treaty admitting
Finland to the European
Union. By law, Åland is politically neutral and entirely
demilitarised, and residents are exempt from conscription to the
Finnish Defence Forces. The islands were granted extensive autonomy by
the Parliament of
Finland in the Act on the Autonomy of Åland of
1920, which was later replaced by new legislation by the same name in
1951 and 1991. The constitution of
Finland defines a "constitution of
Åland" by referring to this act. Åland remains exclusively
Swedish-speaking by this act.
In connection with Finland's admission to the European Union, a
protocol was signed concerning the
Åland Islands that stipulates,
among other things, that provisions of the European Community Treaty
shall not force a change of the existing restrictions for foreigners
(i.e., persons who do not enjoy "home region rights" — hembygdsrätt
— in Åland) to acquire and hold real property or to provide certain
Åland's original name was in the
Proto-Norse language *Ahvaland which
means "land of water". In Swedish, this first developed into Áland
and eventually into Åland, literally "river land"—even though
rivers are not a prominent feature of Åland's geography. The Finnish
and Estonian names of the island, Ahvenanmaa and Ahvenamaa ("perch
land"), are seen to preserve another form of the old name.
Another theory suggests that the Finnish Ahvenanmaa would be the
original name of the archipelago, from which the Swedish Åland
The official name, Landskapet Åland, means "the Region of Åland";
landskap is cognate to English "landscape".
Main article: History of the Åland Islands
Swedish Map of Åland from before 1667 with shipping lanes, harbors,
churches and various boundaries marked
Members of the
Comb Ceramic culture started settling the
islands some 7000 years ago, after the islands had begun to re-emerge
from the sea after being pushed down by the weight of the continental
ice of the latest ice age. Two neolithic cultures met on Åland: Comb
Ceramic culture and later Pit-Comb Ware culture which spread from the
Stone Age and
Bronze Age people obtained food by hunting seals and
birds, fishing, and gathering plants. They also started agriculture
early on. In the Iron Age, contacts to Scandinavia were increasing.
From the Viking age there are over 380 documented burial sites and six
In the 1200s,
Finland became part of Sweden. The Åland Islands
formed part of the territory ceded to
Sweden under the
Treaty of Fredrikshamn
Treaty of Fredrikshamn in September 1809. As a result, they became
part of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland.
During this process,
Sweden failed to secure a provision that the
islands not be fortified. The issue was important not only for Sweden
but also for the United Kingdom, which was concerned that a military
presence on the islands could threaten Britain's military and
Russia started to fortify the islands with the great fortress
of Bomarsund. A combined British and French force of warships and
marines captured and destroyed the fortress in 1854 as part of the
campaign in the Baltic during the Crimean War. The 1856 Treaty of
Paris demilitarised the entire Åland archipelago.
During the Finnish Civil War, in 1918, Swedish troops intervened as a
peacekeeping force between the Russian troops stationed on the islands
and "White" and "Red" Finnish troops who came from
Finland over the
frozen sea. (Historians[who?] point out that
Sweden may have in
reality planned to occupy the islands.) Within weeks, the Swedish
troops gave way to German troops who occupied Åland by request of the
"White" (conservative) Senate of Finland.
Åland (blue) with historical and modern provinces of
After 1917 the residents of the islands worked towards having them
ceded to Sweden. In 1919 a petition for secession from
Sweden was signed by 96.4% of the voters on the
islands, with over 95% in favour. Swedish nationalist sentiments
had grown strong particularly as a result of the anti-Swedish
Finland and Finnish nationalism fueled by Finland's
struggle to retain its autonomy and resistance against Russification.
The conflict between the Swedish-speaking minority and the
Finnish-speaking majority on the mainland, prominent in Finnish
politics since the 1840s, contributed to the apprehension of the
Åland population about its future in Finland.
Finland, however, declined to cede the islands and instead offered
them an autonomous status. Nevertheless, the residents did not approve
the offer, and the dispute over the islands was submitted to the
League of Nations. The latter decided that
Finland should retain
sovereignty over the province but that the
Åland Islands should be
made an autonomous territory. Thus
Finland was obliged to ensure the
residents of the
Åland Islands the right to maintain the Swedish
language, as well as their own culture and local traditions. At the
same time, an international treaty established the neutral status of
Åland, prohibiting the placing of military installations or forces on
The combination of disappointment about insufficient support from
Sweden in the League of Nations, Swedish disrespect for Åland's
demilitarised status in the 1930s, and some feelings of a shared
Finland during and after
World War II
World War II has changed the
islanders' perception of Åland's relation to
Finland from "a Swedish
province in Finnish possession" to "an autonomous part of
Finland". The islanders enjoyed safety at sea during World War II,
as their merchant fleet sailed for both the Allied countries and
Germany. Consequently, Åland shipping was not generally attacked as
each side rarely knew which cargo was being carried to whom.
Finland marked the 150th anniversary of demilitarisation of the Åland
Islands by issuing a high-value commemorative coin, the €5 150th
Anniversary of Demilitarisation of
Åland Islands commemorative coin,
minted in 2006. The obverse depicts a pine tree, very typical in the
Åland Islands. The reverse design features a boat's stern and rudder,
with a dove perched on the tiller, a symbol of 150 years of peace.
Main article: Politics of Åland
The Parliament of Åland.
Åland Islands during the Crimean War. It was here that the Battle
of Bomarsund was fought.
Åland Islands are governed according to the Act on the Autonomy
of Åland and international treaties. These laws guarantee the
islands' autonomy from Finland, which has ultimate sovereignty over
them, as well as a demilitarised status. The Government of Åland, or
Landskapsregering, answers to the Parliament of Åland, or Lagting, in
accordance with the principles of parliamentarism.
Åland has its own flag, has issued its own postage stamps since
1984, runs its own police force, and is an associate member of the
Nordic Council. Since 2005, the
Åland Islands also have had their
own airline, Air Åland. The islands are demilitarised, and the
population is exempt from conscription. Although Åland's autonomy
preceded the creation of the regions of Finland, the autonomous
government of Åland also has responsibility for the functions
undertaken by Finland's regional councils. Åland is a member of the
Small European Postal Administration Cooperation. The islands are
considered a separate "nation" for amateur radio purposes and have
their own call sign prefix granted by Finland, OH0, OF0 and OG0 (last
character is zero).
Åland Islands are guaranteed representation in the Finnish
parliament, to which they elect one representative. Åland also has a
different system of political parties from the mainland (see List of
political parties in Finland).
Homeschooling, which was effectively banned in
Sweden in 2011, is
allowed by the Finnish government. Due to the islands' proximity to
Sweden and because the islands are Swedish speaking, a number of
Swedish homeschooling families have moved from the Swedish mainland to
Åland, including Jonas Himmelstrand, the chairman of the Swedish
association for homeschooling.
An Åland license plate.
The State Department of Åland represents the Finnish central
government and performs many administrative duties. It has a somewhat
different function from the other Regional Administrative Agencies,
owing to its autonomy. Before 2010, the state administration was
handled by the Åland State Provincial Office.
Åland has its own postal administration but still uses the Finnish
five-digit postal code system, using the number range 22000-22999,
with the prefix AX. The lowest numbered postal code is for the capital
Mariehamn, AX 22100, and the highest AX 22950 for Jurmo.
Main article: Municipalities of Åland
Main article: Geography of Åland
Geographical features and municipalities of the Åland Islands.
Sheep grazing on a small island.
Åland Islands occupy a position of strategic importance, as they
command one of the entrances to the port of Stockholm, as well as the
approaches to the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to being situated near
the Gulf of Finland.
The Åland archipelago includes nearly three hundred habitable
islands, of which about eighty are inhabited; the remainder are merely
some 6,200 skerries and desolate rocks. The archipelago is
Åboland archipelago in the east (Finnish: Turunmaan
saaristo, Swedish: Åbolands skärgård)—the archipelago adjacent to
the southwest coast of Finland. Together they form the Archipelago
Sea. To the West from Åland is the
Sea of Åland
Sea of Åland and to the North is
the Bothnian Sea.
The surface of the islands is generally rocky and the soil thin due to
glacial stripping at the end of the most recent ice age. The
islands also contain many meadows that are home to many different
kinds of insects, such as the
Glanville fritillary butterfly. There
are several harbours.
The islands' landmass occupies a total area of 1,527 square kilometres
(590 sq mi). Ninety percent of the population live on
Fasta Åland, which is also the site of the capital town of Mariehamn.
Fasta Åland is the largest island in the archipelago. Its area is
difficult to estimate due to its irregular shape and coastline, but
estimates range from 740 square kilometres to 879 square
kilometres to over 1,010 square kilometres, depending on what is
included or excluded.
Åland Islands dispute, the parties sought support from
different maps of the islands. On the Swedish map, the most densely
populated main island dominated, and many skerries were left out. On
the Finnish map, many smaller islands or skerries were, for technical
reasons, given a slightly exaggerated size. The Swedish map made the
islands appear to be closer to the mainland of
Sweden than to Finland;
the Finnish map stressed the continuity of the archipelago between the
main island and mainland Finland, while a greater gap appeared between
the islands and the archipelago on the Swedish side. One consequence
is the often repeated number of "over 6,000" skerries that was given
authority by the outcome of the arbitration.
Åland has a humid continental climate that is influenced by its
maritime position, especially in summer. While summers are cooler than
on both the Swedish and Finnish mainland, winters see little
difference to the adjacent parts of
Sweden and are only narrowly
milder than in mainland Finland.
Climate data for
Mariehamn normals 1981–2010
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Source #1: Météo Climat
Source #2: Météo Climat
Ferry port in Överö, Föglö.
Åland's economy is heavily dominated by shipping, trade and tourism.
Shipping represents about 40% of the economy, with several
international carriers owned and operated off Åland. Most companies
aside from shipping are small, with fewer than ten employees. Farming
and fishing are important in combination with the food industry. A few
high-profile technology companies contribute to a prosperous economy.
Wind power is rapidly developing, aiming at reversing the direction in
the cables to the mainland in coming years. In December 2011, wind
power accounted for 31.48% of Åland's total electricity
The main ports are
Mariehamn (south), Berghamn (west) and
the eastern shore of the Main Island.
Mariehamn was the base for the last large oceanic commercial sailing
ships in the world. Their final tasks were bringing Australian wheat
to Great Britain, on which Åland shipowner
Gustaf Erikson kept going
until after WW2, 1947 being his last year. The ships latterly made
only one round-trip from South Australia to Britain per year, (the
grain race), after each marathon voyage going back to
Mariehamn to lay
up for a few months. The ship Pommern, now a museum in Mariehamn, was
one of these last vessels.
The abolition of tax-free sales on ferry boats travelling between
destinations within the
European Union made
Finland demand an
exception for the
Åland Islands on the
European Union value added tax
rules. The exception allows for maintained tax-free sales on the
Finland (provided they stop at
Långnäs) and at the airport, but has also made Åland a different
tax-zone, meaning that tariffs must be levied on goods brought to the
Unemployment was 3.9% in January 2014
The Finnish State collects taxes, duties and fees also in Åland. In
return, the Finnish Government places a sum of money at the disposal
of the Åland Parliament. The sum is 0.45% of total Government income,
excluding Government loans. If the sum paid to the Finnish state
exceeds 0.5%, then any amount above that will go back to the
Parliament of Åland
Parliament of Åland as "diligence money". In 2010, the amount of
taxes paid by Åland Islanders was 0.65% of the total taxes paid in
According to Eurostat, in 2006 Åland was the 20th wealthiest of the
EU's 268 regions, and the wealthiest in Finland, with a GDP per
inhabitant 47% above the EU mean.
While the official currency is the Euro, the
Swedish krona is
unofficially accepted by most businesses in Åland.
Births and deaths
Births and deaths:
Crude birth rate (per 1000)
Crude death rate (per 1000)
Natural change (per 1000)
A mock wedding in Jomala. This event, a reenactment of an 1800s
farmer's wedding (bondbröllop) is held annually, mostly as a tourist
Ethnicity and language
See also: Languages of Åland
Most inhabitants speak Swedish (the sole official language) as their
first language: 90.2% in 2009, while 5.0% spoke Finnish. The language
of instruction in publicly financed schools is Swedish (In the rest of
Finland, bilingual municipalities provide schooling both in Finnish
and in Swedish). (See
Åland Swedish for information about the
The issue of the ethnicity of the Ålanders, and the correct
linguistic classification of their language, remains somewhat
sensitive and controversial. They may be considered either ethnic
Swedes or Swedish-speaking Finns, but their language is closer to the
Uppländska dialect of
Sweden than to
Finland Swedish. See Languages
Regional citizenship or the right of domicile (hembygdsrätt) is a
prerequisite for voting, standing as a candidate for the Legislative
Assembly, or owning and holding real estate situated in unplanned
areas of Åland.
The St. Olaf's Church, Jomala, is the oldest in Finland.
The majority of the population, 75.9%, belongs to the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of Finland. The Åland islands contain Finland's
oldest Christian churches, including St. Olaf's Church, Jomala, which
dating from the late 13th century is likely to be the oldest in
Finland. The Åland Islands' largest church is the Church of St.
George in Sund, dating from shortly after.
The sailing ship Linden (center) in Östra Hamnen, Mariehamn's eastern
Åland competes in the biennial Island Games, which it hosted in 1991
Åland United and IFK
Mariehamn are the islands' leading football
Åland Stags is the islands' only Rugby Union club.
Outline of the Åland Islands
Index of Åland-related articles
Bibliography of the Åland Islands
Åland Islands dispute
Åland Islands official football team
Åland Swedish ·
Coat of arms of Åland
Languages of Åland
Flag of Åland
Government of Åland
Provincial Governors of Finland
Public holidays in Åland
Transport on the Åland Islands
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Wikimedia Atlas of Åland
Åland official site (in English)
Government of Åland
Government of Åland (in Swedish)
B7 Baltic Islands Network
The example of Åland, autonomy as a minor protector The Åland
example: autonomy protects a minority
Ålandstidningen (local newspaper).
Regions of Finland
Climate of the Nordic countries
Comparison of the Nordic countries
Nordic Cross flag
Subdivisions of the Nordic countries
Former provinces of Finland
In parentheses are years when provinces were established and
Turku and Pori (1634)
Nyland and Tavastehus (1634)
Viborg and Nyslott (1634–1721)
Kymmenegård and Nyslott (1721–1747)
Savolax and Kymmenegård (1747–1775)
Turku and Pori (1634)
Nyland and Tavastehus (1634–1831)
Savolax and Karelia (1775–1831)
Turku and Pori (1634)
Turku and Pori (1634–1997)
Northern Karelia (1960–1997)
Inhabited islands in the Baltic Sea
Archipelago Sea Islands (Åland Islands)
Sovereign states and dependencies of Europe
Bosnia and Herzegovina
States with limited
autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark
Akrotiri and Dhekelia2
Sovereign Base Areas
British Overseas Territory
Isle of Man
Special areas of
autonomous region subject to the Åland Convention of 1921
unincorporated area subject to the
country of the
United Kingdom subject to the British-Irish Agreement
1 Oceanic islands within the vicinity of
Europe are usually grouped
with the continent even though they are not situated on its
2 Some countries completely outside the conventional geographical
Europe are commonly associated with the continent due to
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