| Åland belongs to the Republic of Finland, but the
islands constitute an autonomous landscape. Almost the
entire population is Swedish-speaking. The most important
industries are shipping, trade and tourism. Fishing is also
important as a source of income.
Geography and population
The Åland archipelago is located in the Baltic Sea,
approximately between Turku in Finland and Stockholm in
Sweden. It occupies a special position in the Republic of
Finland by being an autonomous landscape.
Åland consists of over 6,700 islands, islets and islets.
Around 60 of the islands are inhabited. The archipelago's
land area is 1,553 square kilometers.
Of the nearly 29,000 Ålanders (2015), about two-thirds
live on the main island of Fasta Åland, where the capital
Mariehamn is located. In 2015 Mariehamn had about 11,500
inhabitants. Eight of ten Ålanders belong to the Evangelical
Lutheran Church of Finland.
Almost all Ålanders speak Swedish and according to law,
Åland is to be preserved in Swedish. As the only foreign
language, English is a compulsory subject in the Åland
schools, while teaching in Finnish and other languages is
Already in ancient times, the people of Åland spoke
Swedish. During the Viking Age, the islands developed into
one of the most densely populated areas in the Nordic
region, with extensive trade links with the neighbors.
When Finland was handed over to Russia after the Finnish
war 1808-1809 (see Modern history), Åland followed. Although
under an agreement Russia was not allowed to build defense
facilities in Åland, a large fortress was built in Bomarsund
during the period 1836–1853. It was occupied and blasted in
1854 by an English-French naval force. According to the
so-called Åland servitude, which was part of the peace
agreement signed in Paris two years later, no military
fortifications would be allowed on Åland.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 a new dispute arose
about Åland between Sweden and Finland. The Ålanders
demanded increased self-determination and to be able to join
Sweden. The Finnish government declared that Åland belonged
to Finland but in 1920 gave the archipelago some autonomy.
In 1921, the League of Nations (the forerunner of the
United Nations) decided that Åland would not be separated
from Finland, but that the Ålanders would be guaranteed that
the Swedish would be preserved, that Åland should retain its
neutrality and that no military associations be placed
there. These guarantees were enshrined in the Åland
Convention, which replaced the Åland Service in the same
During World War II, Finland built fortifications on
Åland. In 1945, Åland again requested to join Sweden, which
did not, however, want to tear up the decision on Finland's
sovereignty over the archipelago.
The peace treaty between Finland and the Soviet Union in
1947 was reaffirmed. As a result of Åland's special
position, Ålanders are exempt from military service.