The Åland Islands, or Landskapet Åland in Swedish, is an autonomous, demilitarized and unilingually Swedish province of Finland, consisting of more than 6,500 islands and skerries. The Åland Islands are an archipelago at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia, about 40 km from the coast of Sweden, and 25 km from that of Finland.

Landskapet Åland
(In Detail) (Heraldry)
Official languageSwedish
PremierRoger Nordlund
GovernorPeter Lindbäck
Total Area
 - Land
 - Water
6,784 km²
1,527 km²
5,258 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density

IndependenceNone - autonomous province of Finland
CurrencyEuro, Finnish euro coins
Time zoneUTC +2
Internet TLD.FI
Calling Code358

The Finnish language name for the province is Ahvenanmaa. In English the Latin name Alandia might sometimes be seen.

The status of the Swedish language, the extensive autonomy and the competence of Åland's legislative assembly are provided for in a specific Act on the Autonomy of Åland (last revision from 1991) given by Finland's legislative assembly, the Eduskunta, based on international treaties giving Åland also a neutral and demilitarised status, which means that no military headquarters or forces may be placed on the islands. The special status of the Åland Islands is based on a decision given by the League of Nations in 1921, and in a somewhat different context reafirmed in the treaty on Finland's admission to the European Union.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Administration
4 Municipalities
5 Geography
6 Economy
7 Demographics
8 Culture
9 Holidays
10 Miscellaneous topics
11 External Links


Main article: History of Åland

The Åland Islands belonged to the provinces Sweden had to cede to Russia by the treaty of Fredrikshamn in September 1809, and came then to be a part of the semi-autonomous Grand duchy of Finland.

When the islands were ceded to Russia, the Swedes were unable to secure a provision that the islands should not be fortified. The question was, however, a vital one not only for Sweden but for Great Britain, whose trade in the Baltic was threatened, why the islands were demilitarized following the Crimean War.

During the Civil War in Finland, 1918, Swedish troops intervened as a peacekeeping force between the Russian troops, until then stationed on the islands, and White and Red troops arriving over the ice from Finland. Within weeks the Swedes were replaced by German troops occupying on request of independent Finland's "White" government.

From 1917 the residents of the islands aimed at having the islands ceded back to their mother country, Sweden. A petition for secession from Finland was signed by 96.2% of Åland's native adults (those working or living abroad excluded, although serious questions are later raised regarding this extraordinary high figure). These sentiments had grown strong particularly in the face of anti-Swedish tendencies in Finland, Finnish nationalism fueled by Finland's struggle to retain its autonomy, and the Finnish resistance against Russification. Also the conflict between the privileged Swedish speaking minority in Finland and the Finnish speaking majority, which since the 1840s had been prominent in Finland's political life, contributed to the Åland population's fear for its future in Finland.

However, as Finland was not willing to cede the islands, they were offered an autonomous status instead of reannexation. The residents did nevertheless not approve the offer, and the dispute over the islands was submitted to the League of Nations. The latter decided that Finland should retain the sovereignty over the province, but the Åland Islands should be made an autonomous territory. Thus Finland is under an obligation to ensure the residents of the Åland Islands a right to maintain the Swedish language, as well as their own culture and local traditions. At the same time, an international treaty was concluded on the neutral status of Åland, under which it is prohibited to place military headquarters or forces on the islands.

In the course of the 20th century, the Finnish sovereignty has been perceived as benevolent, and even beneficial, by increasing majorities of the islanders. Together with disappointment over insufficient support from Sweden in the League of Nations, over Swedish disrespect for Åland's demilitarized status in the 1930s, and to some degree a feeling of shared destiny with Finland during and after World War II, this has resulted in a changed perception of Åland's relation to Finland: from "a Swedish province in Finnish possession" to "an autonomous part of Finland".

In connection with Finland's admission to the European Union a protocol on the Åland Islands provides, i. a., 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 "regional citizenship" (hembygdsrätt) in Åland) to acquire and hold real property, implicating a recognition of a separate nationality.


Main article: Government of Åland

In 1634 Åland was made part of the Åbo and Björneborg County as a part of the grand administrative reforms initiated by count Axel Oxenstierna. In 1918, following dominant separatist opinions on Åland in connection with Finland's independence and the Civil War in Finland, it was separated into its own administrative entity. The League of Nations' resolution of 1921 left Åland under Finland's sovereignty, but with a high degree of autonomy and some exclusive rights for the nationals of Åland.

Åland has its own national flag, issues postal stamps of its own, has its own police force, and is a member of the Nordic Council. The islands are demilitarised and the male population is exempted from conscription. Parliamentarism has been the custom since 1988. Liberals and Agrarians are the main political forces, mostly competing for power, but currently (2002) in coalition. The Åland autonomy preceded the creation of the Regions of Finland, but the autonomous government of Åland also handles what the regional councils do.


Main article: State Provincial Office of Åland

The State Provincial Office on the Åland Islands has a somewhat different function than the other Provinces of Finland due to its autonomy. Generally a State Provincial Office is a joint regional authority of sevend different ministries of the Government of Finland. In Åland the State Provincial Office also represents a set of other authorities of the central government, which in mainland-Finland has separate bureaucracies. On the other hand duties, which on mainland-Finland are handled by the provincial offices, are transferred to the autonomous government of Åland.


Main article: Municipalities of Åland


Main article: Geography of Åland

Åland Islands

The Åland Islands occupy a position of great strategic importance, commanding as they do both one of the entrances to the port of Stockholm and the approaches to the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to being situated proximate to the Gulf of Finland.

The group consists of nearly three hundred inhabitable islands, of which about eighty are inhabited, the remainder being desolate rocks. These islands form a continuation of Åbo skärgård (in Finnish, Turunmaan saaristo), the archipelago adjacent to the southeast coast of Finland.

The surface of the islands is generally sandy, the soil thin and the climate keen. There are several excellent harbours most notably that of Ytternäs

The islands' landmass occupy a total area of 1,512 km². The largest island is Fasta Åland (the Main Island), where 90% of the population live, and upon which the capital town of Mariehamn is situated. It extends over more than 70% of the province's land area, stretching 50 km from north to south and 45 km from east to west.

Långnäs is a port on the eastern mainland of Åland.


Main article: Economy of Åland

The abolishment of tax-free sales on ferry boats travelling between destinations within the European Union made Finland demand an exception for the Åland Islands. The exception allows for maintained tax-free sales on the ferries between Sweden and Finland, but has created Åland a different tax-zone, meaning that tarrifs must be levied on goods brought to the islands.


Main article: Demographics of Åland


Main article: Culture of Åland

Most inhabitants have Swedish mother tongue: 93.5% in 2001. The province is unilingually Swedish, while the rest of Finland has both Finnish and Swedish as official languages. The majority of the population, 94.8%, belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran church.

Åland issues its own stamps since 1984.


DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
January 1New Year's Day
January 6Epiphany

Moveable FridayGood Friday
LångfredagThe Friday before Easter Sunday
Moveable SundayEaster Sunday
Moveable MondayEaster Monday
Annandag påskThe day after Easter Sunday
April 30Walpurgis Night
May 1May Day
Första maj 
Moveable ThursdayAscension DayKristi himmelsfärdsdag40 days after Easter
Moveable SundayPentecost
Pingstdagen50 days after Easter
Moveable MondayWhitmonday
Annandag Pingst51 days after Easter
Third Friday of JuneMidsummer Eve
Third Saturday of JuneMidsummer Day
First Saturday of NovemberAll Saints Day
Alla helgons dag 
December 6Independence day
SjälvständighetsdagenIndependence of Finland (1917)
December 24Christmas Eve
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26Boxing DayAnnandag jul 

Miscellaneous topics

External Links

Nordic Council:

Denmark  |  Finland  |  Iceland  |  Norway  |  Sweden
Åland  |  Faroe Islands  |  Greenland

Countries of the world  |  Europe