On the 6th December 1917, the Finnish Parliament adopted its Declaration of Independence, formally putting an end to the its ties with Russia and giving birth to a fully independent Republic. On the 100th anniversary of its independence, here are some things you might not know about Finland!
1. It conducts business through sauna diplomacy
Finns officials often conduct business in their saunas – with great results! During the Cold War, then Finnish President Kekkonen would leave his political guests to steam in his sauna until a deal had been hammered out. In 1960, political tensions between Finland and the Soviet Union ran high due to the latter’s continuous efforts to thwart Finnish neutrality. After keeping him in his sauna until 5 o’clock in the morning, Kekkonen managed to convince Soviet leader Khrushchev to support Finland’s desire to integrate and cooperate with the West. In another similar event in 1978, the Soviet Defence Minister, Marshal Ustinov, visited Finland with the aim of pulling neutral Finland toward the Warsaw Pact. When Ustinov suggested such while in the President’s sauna, Kekkonen threw more water on the burning hot stones, raising the temperature until the Soviet Union desisted in his attempts.
2. It used peculiar units of measurements
The Sami people of Northern Finland used to employ a rather interesting a unit of measurement for length, called the ‘porunkusema’. That translates to the distance a reindeer can walk before needing to urinate, approximately 7.5km.
3. It is the home of heavy metal
Blame the weather, or maybe the cold, but Finland has the most heavy metal bands per capita, averaging 630 bands per one million of inhabitants.
4. It is the only country to have fully repaid its WW2 reparations
Following the Moscow Armistice, which put an end to the Continuation War and the conflicts between the Soviet Union and Finland between 1941 and 1944, Finland was obliged to pay US$300,000,000 in war reparations. In the Summer of 1948, the price was then negotiated down to $226,500,000, to be paid in the form of ships and machinery. On the 18th September 1952, the last batch of delivery paying the war reparations crossed the border between Finland and the Soviet Union, making Finland the only country known to have fully repaid all of its World War 2 debts.
5. Finns are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers
Averaging a 12kg consumption per capita every year, Finland tops the chart when it comes to coffee drinking. That’s twice more than the Italians, and four times the amount of the British. They also have the highest annual consumption of milk per capita – around 1 litre per person every day. Weird if you consider that 17% of the Finnish population is lactose intolerant.
6. They have some very eccentric past-times
When it comes to eccentric hobbies, Finland is a gold trophy winner. It hosts annual world championships in Wife Carrying, Mobile Phone Throwing, and Air Guitar Playing. As if that weren’t peculiar enough, the country also accomodates annual world championships in mosquito hunting, swamp football, and rubber boot throwing.
7. It was the first nation to make internet access a legal right
In 2010, Finland made history by being the first country in the world to make access to broadband a legal right. All of its citizens have the right to access to a 1Mbps (megabit per second) broadband connection, and the government is now working to ensure everyone has access to a 100Mbps connection.
8. There are over 2 million saunas in the country
Little says Finland quite like a sauna. The country boasts over 2 million saunas for a population of 5.3 million. That’s more than one every 3 people – enough for the whole population to be in a sauna at the same time! Saunas play such a fundamental role in Finnish culture that when Finnish troops are sent overseas, building a sauna is the first thing they do when setting up camp – even if they are in the desert.
9. Finns don’t like laziness
Every 27th July, the Finns celebrate National Sleepy Head Day. On this day, the last person in the family to wake up gets woken up by water – either by being thrown into a lake or the sea by the rest of the household, or by having water thrown on them. The belief, coming from a Middle Age tradition, was that whoever slept the latest on this day would be lazy and non-productive for the rest of the year.
10. Finland keeps growing in size
Every year, Finland increases in surface area by about 7km2, because it is rebounding from the weight of ice-age glaciers and rising out of the sea. The country is already the most sparsely populated one in the European Union, counting 18 inhabitants per km2, and it is becoming more and more so with every passing year!