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Flag of FinlandThe Republic of Finland is in Northern Europe and is bordered by Norway, Sweden, Russia, the Gulf of Bothnia, the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. There are thousands of islands along the coastline (the largest are the Aland Islands). Helsinki is the capital city and Tampere and Turku are important Finnish cities.

Finland is divided into the provinces of Ahvenanmaa, Lappi, Hame, Keski-Suomi, Kuopio, Kymi, Mikkeli, Oulu, Pohjois-Karjala, Turku Ja Pori, Uusimaa and Vaasa.

Finland is mostly flat with rolling plains and low hills.

The winters are cold with warm summers. The winter months are dark with only six hours of daylight in the south and two months when the sun does not rise in the north. During the summer the sun does not set for over two months in the far north.

Around two-thirds of Finland is covered with forests and woodlands. Trees include birch, linden, oak, pine and spruce.

Finland took steps to protect its environment in the 1920s passing the Nature Conservation Act setting out guidelines for the nature preserves.

Over forty-five regions are listed by Ramsar as Wetlands of International Importance. These sites include a number of National Parks: Kauhaneva- Pohjankangas National Park, Lemmenjoki National Park, Oulanka National Park, Patvinsuo National Park, Riisitunturi National Park, Salamajarvi National Park, Torronsuo National Park and Valkmusa National Park.

The High Coast and the Kvarken Archipelago is a shared World Heritage site with Sweden. The High Coast, on the west shore of the Gulf of Bothnia, consists of lakes, inlets and flat hills. The Kvarken Archipelago covers 5,600 islands and islets.

Many species of birds can be found throughout Finland, especially in the wetlands such as the Bird Wetlands of Haapavesi and the Bird Wetlands of the Vanajavesi Area. Animals are the Artic fox, elk, deer, lynx, reindeer, bears and wolves.

Over the centuries both Sweden and Russia vied for possession of Finland. The Swedish crown held Finland for hundreds of years and during this time, the Swedes built many castles: Turku, Hame, Viipuri, Raseborg, Kastelholm, Olavinlinna and Kuusisto.

Today the National Board of Antiquities aims to preserve Finland’s architectural heritage and a number of places in Finland are UNESCO World Heritage sites. These include Rauma, an old city constructed in wood, the Verla Groundwood and Board Mill and Petajavesi Old Church.

After gaining independence from Russia in the early twentieth century, Finnish architects became influenced by European styles of architecture. Erik Bryggman (1891-1955), inspired by Italian architecture, designed hospitals, schools and power plants. Around the same time, Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), originally interested in the Neoclassical Movement, went on to become an influential figure of the Modern Movement. Aalto designed civic centres, churches and houses.

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