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Republic of Finland

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The state of Finland consisted of six provinces (Finnish: läänit, Swedish: län) between the years 1997 and 2009. The provincial authority was part of the central government's executive branch, not directly elected. The system was created in 1634, and 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 did not follow the borders of the provinces.

The provinces were abolished altogether on January 1, 2010. Six Regional State Administrative Agencies (aluehallintovirasto) continue the government's regional administrative.


Since the late 19th century the state of Finland has been bilingual. Its governmental offices and agencies use both domestic languages in contacts with the public. Each province was led by a governor (maaherra, landshövding) who was appointed by the president on the recommendation of the cabinet. The governor was the head of the State Provincial Office (lääninhallitus, 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 the responsibility of municipalities of Finland.

Provinces of Finland, 1997–2009

No. Provinces Finnish and
Swedish names
Residence city Largest city Population (2003) Area (km²) Merged Provinces (1997)
1. Southern Finland Etelä-Suomen lääni
Södra Finlands län
Helsinki 2,116,914 34,378 Uusimaa, Kymi, Häme
2. Western Finland Länsi-Suomen lääni
Västra Finlands län
Tampere 1,848,269 74,185 Vaasa, Turku-Pori, Central Finland, Häme
3. Eastern Finland Itä-Suomen lääni
Östra Finlands län
S:t Michel
Kuopio 582,781 48,726 Kuopio, North Karelia, Mikkeli
4. Oulu Oulun lääni
Uleåborgs län
Oulu 458,504 57,000 No changes
5. Lapland Lapin lääni
Lapplands län
Rovaniemi 186,917 98,946 No changes
6. Åland¹ Ahvenanmaan lääni
Ålands län²
Mariehamn 26,000 6,784 No changes

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

Provinces before 1997

Former provinces of the Republic of Finland
name dates of existence
English Finnish Swedish
Province of Central Finland Keski-Suomen lääni Mellersta Finlands län 1960–1997
Province of Häme Hämeen lääni Tavastehus län 1917–1997
Province of Kuopio Kuopion lääni Kuopio län 1917–1997
Province of Kymi Kymen lääni Kymmene län 1947–1997
Province of Mikkeli Mikkelin lääni St. Michels län 1917–1997
Province of Northern Karelia Pohjois-Karjalan lääni Norra Karelens län 1960–1997
Province of Pechenga Petsamon lääni Petsamo län 1921
Province of Turku and Pori Turun ja Porin lääni Åbo och Björneborgs län 1917–1997
Province of Uusimaa Uudenmaan lääni Nylands län 1917–1997
Province of Vaasa Vaasan lääni Vasa län 1917–1997
Province of Viipuri Viipurin lääni Viborgs län 1917–1947

In 1634, these administratives provinces were formed in Sweden and Finland. They have been changed over time, escecially 1831, so all of them are not exactly or at all the same as those existing in the Republic after 1917.

The division survives in telephone numbering areas and electoral districts. The exception is Helsinki. There is a telephone numbering area that comprises Greater Helsinki (code 09). In contrast, only the city of Helsinki proper comprises the electoral district of Helsinki, the rest of Greater Helsinki belonging to the Uusimaa electoral district.

See also


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