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Finland

Finland

 

Geography & Topography

Capital: Helsinki; 1,075,000

Area: 338,145 square kilometers (130,558 square miles)

Language: Finnish, Swedish

Religion: Evangelical Lutheran

Currency: Euro

 

History

Finland, in Northern Europe, is low-lying in the south and center with mountains in the north. A quarter of its territory lies north of the Artic Circle and hence, the country often experiences long, harsh winters. Located between the West and the East, bordering Russia, Estonia and Norway, Finland has managed to blend these different cultural influences in a harmonious way, adopting various customs from the neighboring countries. Finnish culture is much influenced by the huge technological development, allowing people to communicate with phones and computers whilst retaining great interpersonal relationships regardless of the nature of interaction. Finns consists of many minorities such as Sami, Romani, Jews and Tatar who are fully recognized by the state and retained their own cultural characteristics, enhancing the Finnish culture scene in the country.

Performing Arts

Music

Finnish music has many facets and the country as a whole has a vibrant music scene, spanning from the Romantic classical compositions of Jean Sibelius to the rich Finnish folk tradition to homegrown jazz, rock and pop. Much of the music of Finland is influenced by the Karelian traditional tunes and lyrics, as comprised in the Kalevala. Karelian culture is perceived as the purest expression of the Finn myths and beliefs.

The most recognisable instruments in traditional Finnish music are:

Kantele

Kantele, the national instrument of Finland

 

Kantele: A traditional plucked string instrument of the zither family native to Finland. The oldest forms of Kantele have 5 or 6 horsehair strings and a wooden body carved from one piece, more modern instruments have metal strings and often a body made from several pieces.

Jouhikko

Jouhikko

 

Jouhikko: A traditional 2 or 3 stringed bowed lyre. Its strings are traditionally of horsehair. The typical Jouhikko has a long, narrow outline, with only a small hand hole which is offset to one side, allowing only one of the three strings to be stopped. The jouhikko only has a range of six notes. It takes some time and practise to play the notes relaibly in tune.

Dance

The most important common characteristic of Finnish folk dances is that they have always been social dances, never competitive or show dances as are found in many other countries. Consequently they do not contain any acrobatics, showy jumps or lifts. Furthermore, descriptive dances such as animal or work dances are very rare and seem to have been newly adopted from other countries. Being a peace-loving nation, the Finns have no war or sword dances, so popular elsewhere in Europe. Neither are there dances only for men or women, but everyone can take part. Naturally their roles are different, but both are just as important.

Examples of traditional Finnish dances are:

Finnish Tango

Finnish Tango Dancers

 

Finnish Tango: Finnish tango is an established variation of the Argentine tango and one of the most enduring and popular music forms in Finland. Brought to Europe in the 1910s by travelling musicians, Finns began to take up the form and write their own tangos in the 1930s. Special characteristics of Finnish tango include the change of rhythm to beguine during chorus. The Finnish tango is distinguished from other forms of tango by its almost exclusive performance in minor keys and themes reflecting established conventions in Finnish folklore.

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Finland is known as the land of a thousand lakes because it has over 180,000 lakes (larger then 500 square meters). The lakes are used for swimming and fishing in, for drinking water and even as roads in the winter when they are frozen over.
  • Finland was the first country in the world to allow all women to vote.
  • The world-famous Nokia is a Finnish company.
  • Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, however, English is widely spoken in the country. An interesting fact about the Finish language is that it has 15 cases and no prepositions.

Finnish Community in Australia:

More information on the Finnish community: