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Åland Islands
Landskapet Åland
(Ahvenanmaan maakunta)
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Islands of Peace"[1]
AnthemÅlänningens sång
Capital
(and largest city)
Mariehamn
60°07′N 019°54′E / 60.117°N 19.9°E / 60.117; 19.9
Official language(s) Swedish
Government Autonomous region of Finland
 -  Governor Peter Lindbäck1
 -  Premier Viveka Eriksson
Autonomy
 -  Declared 1920 
 -  Recognized 19212 
EU accession January 1, 19953
Area
 -  Total 13,324.36 km2 (unranked)
1,581.55 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 89
Population
 -  2009 estimate 27,700 
 -  Density 17.51/km2 
45.6/sq mi
Currency Euro (€)4 6 (EUR)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Internet TLD .ax5
Calling code +358 (area code 18)
1 The governor is an administrative post appointed by the Government of Finland, and does not have any authority over the autonomous Government of Åland.
2 Settled by the League of Nations following the Åland crisis.
3 Åland held a separate referendum and then joined at the same time as the rest of Finland.
4 Until 1999, the Finnish markka.
5 Replacing .aland.fi from August 2006. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with Finland and the rest of European Union member states.
6 Swedish currency is also widely used.

The Åland Islands (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈoːland]; Finnish: Ahvenanmaa) form an archipelago in the Baltic Sea. They are situated at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia and form an autonomous, demilitarized, monolingually Swedish-speaking region and historical province of Finland. The islands collectively are the smallest region of Finland, comprising 0.5% of Finland's population and 0.49% of land area.

The islands consist of the main island Fasta Åland (literally "Firm Åland"), where 90% of the population resides,[2] and an archipelago to the east that consists of over 6,500 skerries and islands. Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Sweden by 40 kilometres (25 mi) of open water to the west. In the east, the Åland archipelago is virtually contiguous with the Finnish Archipelago Sea. Åland's only land border is located on the uninhabited skerry of Märket,[3] which it shares with Sweden.

Due to the Åland Islands' autonomous status, the powers exercised at the provincial level by representatives of the central state administration in the rest of Finland are largely exercised by the Government of Åland in Åland.

Contents

Autonomy of Åland

The autonomous status of the islands was affirmed by a decision made by the League of Nations in 1921 following the Åland crisis. 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.

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 services, implying a recognition of a separate nationality.

Name

According to one theory, Åland's original name was Germanic *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 name of the island, Ahvenanmaa ("perch land"), is seen to preserve another form of the old name.[4]

Another theory suggests that the Finnish Ahvenanmaa would be the original name of the archipelago, from which the Swedish Åland derives.[5]

History

The museum ship Pommern is anchored in the more western of Mariehamn's two harbours, Västerhamn.

The Åland Islands were part of the territory ceded to Russia by Sweden under the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in September 1809. As a result, along with all other parts of Finland, they became part of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland.

During this process, Sweden was unable 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 security and commercial interests.

In 1832, Russia started to fortify the islands with the great fortress of Bomarsund. This was captured and destroyed by a combined British and French force of warships and marines in 1854 as part of the campaign in the Baltic during the Crimean War. In the Treaty of Paris (1856), the entire Åland Islands were demilitarized.

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 that came from Finland over the frozen sea. Historians, however, point out that Sweden may have in reality planned to occupy the islands. Within weeks, the Swedish troops gave way to German troops that occupied Åland by request of the "White" (conservative) Finnish Senate.

Åland with historical and modern provinces of Finland juxtaposed.

After 1917, the residents of the islands worked towards having them ceded to Sweden. A petition for secession from Finland was signed by 96.2% of the Åland Islands' native adults (those working or living abroad excluded), although serious questions were later raised regarding this extraordinarily high figure. Swedish nationalist sentiments had grown strong particularly due to the following issues: anti-Swedish tendencies in Finland, Finnish nationalism fuelled by Finland's struggle to retain its autonomy, and the Finnish resistance against Russification. In addition, the conflict between the Swedish-speaking minority and the Finnish-speaking majority (on the mainland), which since the 1840s had been prominent in Finland's political life, contributed to the Åland population's apprehension about its future in Finland.

Finland was, however, not willing 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, whereby it was prohibited to place military installations or forces on the islands.

In the course of the twentieth century, increasing numbers of the islanders have perceived Finnish sovereignty as benevolent and even beneficial.[citation needed] 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 destiny with Finland during and after 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 WWII as their merchant fleet sailed for both the allied countries and the Germans. Consequently Åland shipping was not generally attacked as each side rarely knew what cargo was being carried for whom.

Politics

The Åland Islands during the Crimean War

The 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 demilitarized 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 national flag, has issued its own postage stamps since 1984, runs its own police force, and is a member of the Nordic Council. Since 2005 the Åland Islands also have had their own national 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 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).

Administration

License Plate

The State Provincial Office on the Åland Islands has a somewhat different function from the other Provinces of Finland, due to its autonomy. Generally, a State Provincial Office is a joint regional authority of seven 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 in Mainland Finland are handled by the provincial offices are transferred to the autonomous government of Åland.

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.

Municipalities

Geography

Geographical features and municipalities of the Åland Islands.
Sheep grazing on Södra Linjen island, part of the Åland Islands.

The Åland Islands occupy a position of great 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 consists of nearly three hundred habitable islands, of which about eighty are inhabited; the remainder are merely some 6,000 skerries and desolate rocks. The archipelago is connected to 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 West from Åland is Sea of Åland and to North the Bothnian Sea.

The surface of the islands is generally rocky and the soil thin. There are several excellent harbours.

The islands' landmass occupies a total area of 1,512 square kilometres (584 sq mi). Ninety per cent of the population live on Fasta Åland (the Main Island), which is also the site of the capital town of Mariehamn. Fasta Åland is the largest island in the archipelago, extending over 1,010 square kilometres, more than 70% of the province's land area. It measures approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) from north to south and 45 kilometres (28 mi) from east to west.

During the Åland Crisis, 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, a lot of 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. Although both Finns and Swedes of course argued for their respective interpretations, in retrospect it is hard to say that one is more correct than the other. One consequence is the oft-repeated number of "over 6,000" skerries that was given authority by the outcome of the arbitration.

Economy

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.

The main ports are Mariehamn (south), Berghamn (west) and Långnäs on 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 Aland shipowner 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, 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 EU's VAT rules. The exception allows for maintained tax-free sales on the ferries between Sweden and Finland (provided they stop at Mariehamn or Långnäs), but has also made Åland a different tax-zone, meaning that tariffs must be levied on goods brought to the islands.

Unemployment is well below that of surrounding regions, 1.8% in 2004.

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 per cent of total Government income, excluding Government loans. In 2006, the sum was about 182 million EUR.[6]

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 percent above the EU mean.[7][8] Åland enjoys the largest state subsidies of any Finnish region (maakunta/landskap), totalling annually about 4,000 EUR per inhabitant more than the Ålanders pay in state taxes (2006 figures).[9]

While the official currency is the euro, the Swedish krona also circulates freely in Åland.

Demographics

A wedding in Jomala.

Most inhabitants have Swedish (the sole official language) as their first language: 91.2% in 2007, and 5.0% speak Finnish. The language of instruction in publicly financed schools is Swedish, but an Ålandic municipality is free to provide teaching of Finnish. (In the rest of Finland, bilingual municipalities provide schooling both in Finnish and in Swedish.) See Åland Swedish for information about the dialect.

Regional citizenship or the right of domicile (kotiseutuoikeus/hembygdsrätt) is a prerequisite for the right to vote or stand as a candidate in elections to the Legislative Assembly, to own and hold real estate in Åland or to exercise without restriction a trade or profession in Åland.

The vast majority of the population, 94.8%, belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.[citation needed] Åland islands is home to some of the oldest churches in Finland.

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 adjacent dialects in Sweden, i.e. Uppländska, than to adjacent dialects of Finland Swedish. See Languages of Sweden.

Sport

  • Åland competes in the bi-annual Island Games, which it hosted in 1991 and 2009.
  • IFK Mariehamn is the leading football club. It currently plays in the top level of Finnish football, the Veikkausliiga.

Popular culture

  • The 150th Anniversary of Demilitarisation of Åland Islands was celebrated in Finland 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.
  • The Åland Islands are mentioned as the location where the character Hooper Hamilton in H. G. Wells' book The Shape of Things to Come commits suicide.
  • In the Bruce Sterling short story, The Littlest Jackal, the Åland Islands feature in an attempted offshore-banking and royalty-lawsuit scam.
  • The author Sally Salminen is from the Åland Islands and her novel Katrina takes place there.

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20040718/ai_n11466101| Deseret News (Salt Lake City), Jul 18, 2004 by Tim Vickery Associated Press
  2. ^ The Aland Islands
  3. ^ an account of the border on Märket, and how it was redrawn in 1985, appears in Hidden Europe Magazine, 11 (November 2006) pp. 26-29 ISSN 1860-6318
  4. ^ Virrankoski, Pauli. Suomen historia. Ensimmäinen osa. SKS 2001. ISBN 951-746321-9. Page 59.
  5. ^ Lars Hulden: Finlandssvenska bebyggelsenamn, 2001, ISBN 951-583-071-0.
  6. ^ Budget för landskapet Åland 2008, page 308
  7. ^ Europe's Regions
  8. ^ "Ahvenanmaa on EU:n 20. vaurain alue". Helsingin Sanomat. February 19, 2009. http://www.hs.fi/talous/artikkeli/Ahvenanmaa+on+EUn+20+vaurain+alue/1135243664753. Retrieved July 19, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Pääkaupunkiseutu elättää suuren osan Suomea". Helsingin Sanomat. January 17, 2009. http://www.hs.fi/kotimaa/artikkeli/P%C3%A4%C3%A4kaupunkiseutu+el%C3%A4tt%C3%A4%C3%A4+suuren+osan+Suomea/1135242814280. Retrieved July 19, 2009. 

External links

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Åland article)

From Wikitravel

Europe : Scandinavia : Åland

Åland [1] (Finnish: Ahvenanmaa) is an autonomous area in the Baltic Sea, consisting of one main island and a surrounding archipelago. While legally a part of Finland, in practice the islands run their own affairs and are rather different from the mainland.

The Kastellholm castle
The Kastellholm castle

Regions

Åland is divided into 15 municipalities and one city Mariehamn.

  • Eckerö
  • Finström
  • Geta
  • Hammarland
  • Jomala
  • Lemland
  • Lumparland
  • Saltvik
  • Sund
  • Föglö
  • Brändö
  • Kumlinge
  • Kökar
  • Sottunga
  • Vårdö
The flag of Åland
The flag of Åland

The Åland Islands (pronounced "Oh-lahnd") are a group of small islands officially belonging to Finland but awarded a wide degree of autonomy by a League of Nations decision in 1921 that settled a long-running dispute between Sweden and Finland. Still at the time when Åland was under Russian sovereignty, a treaty was concluded between Russia, France and the United Kingdom at the issue of the Crimean War, by virtue of which the islands were demilitarized. Finland assumed the same obligation upon achieving independence. Among other things, Ålanders have their own parliament, publish their own stamps, are exempt from military service and maintain a special tax status in the European Union.

The archipelago consists of around 80 inhabited islands plus around 6000 uninhabited islands, islets and rocks. The total population is only 26,530 (2004), 90% of which lives on the main island Åland (also known as Fasta (Mainland) Åland), which includes the capital Mariehamn.

Talk

The islands are monolingually Swedish, a point of some contention in otherwise bilingual (or, in practice, frequently Finnish monolingual) Finland. English is widely spoken and generally spoken better than Finnish.

Finns from outside Åland who want to establish resident's rights have to reside for a minimum period and besides exhibit proficiency in Swedish. Moreover, if the Finnish Parliament passes legislation relevant to Åland, it must inform the Åland Assembly in Swedish.

Get in

There are plenty of ferry connections between Åland and mainland Sweden and Finland. Primarily for tax reasons, ferries plying between Helsinki and Stockholm all stop off at Mariehamn or the nearby (30km east, approximately) jetty of Långnäs, making this the easiest and cheapest way to get in (although docking often happens at inconvenient times in the middle of the night - the Långnäs stops). Mariehamn also has a small airport that serves flights to mainland Finland and Sweden.

  • Mariehamn airport [2] - the only airport on the islands. There are daily flights from Helsinki and Turku and international flights to/from Stockholm. The flight from Helsinki is less than an hour and the flight from Turku and Stockholm is only half an hour. Mariehamn airport is situated less than 3km north of Mariehamn.
  • From Grisslehamn (Sweden) to Eckerö (Åland) by Eckerölinjen [3]. It takes only two hours to travel between Eckerö and Grisslehamn. There are always buses providing transportation to all ferry depatures, both from Mariehamn and from Stockholm, as well as two buses per day from Uppsala.
  • From Kapellskär (Sweden) to Mariehamn (Åland) by Viking Line [4]. It takes two and a half hour to travel between Kapellskär and Mariehamn. There are always buses providing transportation to all ferry depatures from Stockholm.
  • From Stockholm to Mariehamn or Långnäs by Viking Line [5] and Silja Line [6]
  • From Turku to Mariehamn or Långnäs by Viking Line [9] and Silja Line [10]
  • From Osnäs (Gustavs, Finland) to Åva (Brändö) by Ålandstrafiken [13]
  • From Galtby (Korpo, Finland) to Kökar by Ålandstrafiken [14]

Ålandstrafiken ferries are free to pedestrians and to motorists between the smaller islands. For pedestrians bus lines 4 and 5 from Mariehamn go respectively to Hummelvik and Långnäs, each of which is a terminal for a route to the Finnish mainland.

Get around

A combination of ferry between the islands and a bicycle on the islands themselves is the most popular option.

  • Archipelago ferries

The trip to Åland through the archipelago is something you will never forget. Choose a route through either the southern or northern archipelago. Bookings can be made for trips to and from an intermediate port. Trips from one destination port to another can only be made if you spend a night on the some of the small islands. The archipelago ferries is served by Ålandstrafiken [16].

Pommern in the harbour of Mariehamn
Pommern in the harbour of Mariehamn
  • Kastelholm. A castle located in the northern part is worth paying a visit. Partly a ruin today, it was founded in the 1380's and home to many Swedish kings who reigned the combined kingdom of Sweden and Finland from this place. There are guided tours, also in English.
  • Jan Karlsgarden Open Air Museum - very close to Kastelholm castle, it has a number of traditional Aland buildings moved from other areas. Entry was free in 2008, although a fee was charged to visit the prison museum on the same site. Also has a tourist information center and a good restaurant and cafeteria.
In the Open Air Museum
In the Open Air Museum
  • The fortress of Bomarsund [17] was built by the Russians during the years 1830-1854. The establishment was thoroughly ruined during the Crimean War when attacked by the allied English-Frenchmen. On the other side of the channel, next to the bridge of Prästö, is a small museum where pictures and objects from Bomarsund are on display.
  • Postvägen [18] The Mail Road dates back to Queen Kristina´s days in the 17th century, when the Swedish postal service of that time was organized. Today the Mail Road looks different but it is still very much alive.
  • The 4-mb POMMERN [19] in the West Harbour in Mariehamn serves as a memory of the great fleet of sailingships, who once had the town as their homeport.
  • Maritime Quarter [20], a living marine centre with boat-building activity, a smithy and facilities for other traditional handicrafts, alongside a museum and a café.

Buy

The official currency is the euro (€). Swedish Krona (SEK) is usually accepted in most shops and restaurants during the peak season.

Please note: Shopping in Åland is very expensive. Due to import of most goods, with sometimes unsurmountable difficulties in filling the stores with enough supplies, prices in most stores are in the EU highs, mostly 10-50 percent higher than in the Stockholm or Helsinki metropolitan areas. Prices on some groceries can be even higher, with oatmeal and gruel costing more than double the price compared to Sweden.

Recipe: Ålands pancake

  • Porridge to be used in pancake:
    • 500 ml milk
    • 75 ml gruel rice OR wheat semoline (cream of wheat)
    • 1/2 ts salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 700 ml milk
  • 50 ml sugar
  • 350 ml wheat flour
  • 10 ml cardamom powder
  • 10 ml vanilla sugar
  • 100 ml melted butter
  1. Make the porridge using using the instructions of package. Let it cool a bit.
  2. Add other ingredients to the porridge and mix it to a stable pancake dough.
  3. Pour the dough in a well oiled pan and bake in 225°C oven about 30 minutes until the pancake is smoothly brown.
  4. Serve with plum jelly (or raspberry jelly) and whipped cream
  • Smoked flunder with potato salad.
  • Svartbröd, Blackbread, as the name implies the bread is almost black. It is round and quite flat but its most characteristic feature is the taste. The blackbread is sweet. The sweetness originates from the syrup that is added to the dough and from the manner in which the bread is baked in the oven.
  • Cheese from the local ÅCA dairy is of high quality. The Kastelholm cheese is particularly recommended, and works well with blackbread. Its roots can be traced back to the 16th century.
  • Åland’s pancake. Traditional and delicious Ålands dessert. The pancake is made on grain of rice or semolina and served with stewed plums and whipped cream.
  • Stallhagen beer made by Ålands Bryggeri AB and available in most bars and restaurants in the islands. It's a traditional, light lager and there's no doubt where it comes from: the flag of Åland is on the label.
  • Tjudö Vineyard [21] has three own home-distillers. They distils Scandinavian Vodka from the fruits at the vineyard. The apple vodka is called Ålvados, which is a kind of Calvados. They also make wine - Västergårds Äppelvin - with apples that has ripened on the farm's own trees. You can visit the vineyard, walk around among the fruit trees and see how the wine is produced. The guided tour ends in the old threshing house and here you can sample the drinks directly from the wine cellar.

Respect

Åland has its own parliament, its own executive government and is generally autonomous from Finland. The cultural heritage though is mostly Swedish.

Although most learn basic finnish in grade school, their language skills in finnish generally stays on the level of basic understanding. Don't expect them to speak it. For cultural and ethnic reasons, they won't unless their life depends on it.

Speaking Swedish and being a part of Finland, the people of Åland regard themselves as a separate and independent nation, and appreciate if you refer to them as one.

This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Simple English

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