Between 1634 and 2009, Finland was administered as several provinces ( fi|Suomen läänit, sv|Finlands län). Finland had always been a unitary state: the provincial authorities were part of the central government's executive branch and apart from the Åland Islands, the provinces had little autonomy. There were never any elected provincial parliaments in continental Finland. The system was initially created in 1634. Its makeup was changed drastically in 1997, when the number of the provinces was reduced from twelve to six. This effectively made them purely administrative units, as linguistic and cultural boundaries no longer followed the borders of the provinces. The provinces were eventually abolished at the end of 2009. Consequently, different ministries may subdivide their areal organization differently. Besides the former provinces, the municipalities of Finland form the fundamental subdivisions of the country. In current use are the regions of Finland, a smaller subdivision where some pre-1997 ''lääni''s are split into multiple regions. Åland Islands retain their special autonomous status and their own regional parliament.


Each province was led by a governor (Finnish ''maaherra'', Swedish ''landshövding'') appointed by the president on the recommendation of the cabinet. The governor was the head of the State Provincial Office (Finnish ''lääninhallitus'', Swedish ''länsstyrelse''), which acted as the joint regional authority for seven ministries in the following domains: *social services and health care *education and culture *police administration *rescue services *traffic administration *competition and consumer affairs *judicial administration The official administrative subentities under the Provincial Office authorities were the Registry Offices (Finnish ''maistraatti'', Swedish ''magistrat''). Formerly there was also a division to state local districts (Finnish ''kihlakunta'', Swedish ''härad''), which were districts for police, prosecution, and bailiff services, but there was reorganization such that 24 police districts were founded. These usually encompass multiple municipalities. Provinces governed only state offices, such as the police. Most services, such as healthcare and maintenance of local streets, were and remain today the responsibility of municipalities of Finland. Many municipalities are too small for a hospital and some other services, so they cooperate in municipality groups, e.g. health care districts, using borders that vary depending on the type of service. Often Swedish-language municipalities cooperate even if they do not share a border.

List of all provinces that ever existed

In 1634, administratives provinces were formed in Sweden, and therefore in Finland, which was a part of Sweden until 1809. Five of the provinces covered what is now Finland; some of these also covered parts of what are now Russia. The exact division of the country into provinces has fluctuated over time. The boundaries of the old provinces partly survive in telephone area codes and electoral districts. The exception is Helsinki: there is a telephone numbering area that comprises Greater Helsinki (code 09), while only the city of Helsinki proper comprises the electoral district of Helsinki, the rest of Greater Helsinki belonging to the Uusimaa electoral district.

Geographical evolution of provincial administration

Provinces of Finland at abolition

a. Some duties, which in Mainland Finland are handled by the provinces, are on the Åland Islands transferred to the autonomous Government of Åland.
b. The Åland Islands are unilingually Swedish.

After abolition

The provinces were abolished altogether effective 1 January 2010. Since then, the regional administration of the Finnish state has two parallel top-level organs in the hierarchy: the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment on the one hand, and the Regional State Administrative Agencies on the other. Five Regional State Administrative Agencies (''aluehallintovirasto, regionförvaltningsverk'', abbr. ''avi'') – in addition to the State Department of Åland – are primarily responsible for law enforcement. Among these, South-Western Finland and Western and Central Finland cover the former province of Western Finland, and the former province of Oulu was revamped as Northern Finland; other old provincial boundaries remain much the same in the new disposition. In parallel, there are 15 Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (Finnish: ''elinkeino-, liikenne- ja ympäristökeskus'', usually abbreviated ''ely-keskus''), which are responsible for other state administration: employment, road and transport infrastructure, and environmental monitoring. They are each responsible for one or more of regions of Finland, and include offices of the Ministries of Employment and the Economy, Transport and Communications and Environment.

See also

*Historical provinces of Finland *ISO 3166-2:FI *NUTS statistical regions of Finland *Provincial Governors of Finland *Regions of Finland *Subdivisions of the Nordic countries

External links

State Provincial Offices
fficial site {{Terms for types of country subdivisions Category:Finland geography-related lists Category:Lists of populated places in Finland Category:2010 disestablishments in Finland