Citizens of Finland are very religious – up to 84,1% of the population endorse one the churches: 81,8% Lutheran, 1,1% orthodox and 1,2% Catholics (or other allowed and statistically observed churches). 15,9% of the population is without religion.
Source: Statistics Finland
For a country with a relatively small population, Finland has made an impressive mark on the world. Finns have excelled – and continue to excel - on the international fields of sports, music, architecture, design, literature and industry. Much credit for the success of Nokia, for instance, goes to the management in recent years of CEO Jorma Ollila, while Linus Torvalds is the pioneer of the Linux computer operating system. On a broader stage, Finland’s Presidents are respected for their diplomatic roles in world affairs. President Tarja Halonen is regarded with affection at home and abroad, while her predecessor Martti Ahtisaari played an important role in recent Indonesian peace talks, for example.
Finns are an especially creative nation. Their contribution to the music of the world, for example, is both prolific and diverse. The most famous of them all, of course, was composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), whose stirring yet melancholy music serves as a rallying cry for the collective Finnish soul. Pianist Ralf Gothoni, singers Monica Groop, Karita Mattila and Matti Salminen, and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen are representative of a vast pool of classical talent, while rock and dance bands HIM, The Rasmus, Darude and Nightwish are well known names across Europe and beyond. Traditional musical elements are given a contemporary edge by the female harmonies of Värttinä. Finland were the proud winners of the Eurovision song concert in 2006 with the group Lordi and the song ’Hard Rock Hallelujah".
|Jean Sibelius - source|
As for art, the paintings of Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) have attracted high prices at international auctions. Architecture has a prominent tradition here as well, with modern architects such as Juha Leiviskä and Pekka Helin following in the tradition of masters such as Juhani Pallasmaa and Alvar Aalto (1898-1976). Aalto’s Finlandia Hall in Helsinki is a landmark and a magnet for students of architectural design from all over the world.
|Helsinki University of Technology, designed by Alvar Aalto - source|
Aalto and his wife Aino were also trend-setting designers, and their enduring work joins that of Tapio Wirkkala, Timo Sarpaneva, Vuokko Nurmesniemi and Maija Isola in the distinguished catalogue of Finnish design artists. Nurmesniemi and Isola are names closely associated with the fashionable, bold and distinctive Marimekko textile motifs. In other visual arts, Hollywood action-movie director Renny Harlin hails from Finland, as does the more offbeat art film director Aki Kaurismäki.
Sport is something of a Finnish addiction, encouraged by a host of international stars and champions. Finnish athletics rose to prominence at the 1924 Paris Olympics when Paavo Nurmi (1897-1973) won five gold medals in just six days, and Lasse Viren kept the tradition alive in the 1970s and 1980s. In other sports, Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Räikkönen have taken the lead in Formula One while Finland produces an endless procession of rally drivers, including World Champion Marcus Grönholm. Footballers Jari Litmanen, Sami Hyypiä, Teemu Tainio and Mikael Forsell have emerged as stars at their respective European clubs.
More about winter sports:
Traditional skiing: Cross-country skiing in Finland is very popular.
The Finns used to say of themselves that they were born on skis, and the world outside believed them. There has been many world champions in cross-country skiing, for example:
- Veikko Hakulinen, Olympic and world champion of the 1950s.
- Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi (Hämäläinen) in the 1980s and 1990s
- Harri Kirvesniemi in the 1980s and 1990s
- Juha Mieto in the 1980s
- Marjo Matikainen-Kallström,
MEP, winner of 4 Olympic
medals and 7 world
championship medals in the 1980s.
- Mika Myllylä, world champion skier of the new millennium
- Virpi Kuitunen in the 2000s
|Salpausselkä ski jumps, Lahti - source|
Finnish ski jumpers have great history of success. Matti Nykänen in the 1980s has been the most successful ski jumper in the world. After that Toni Nieminen, Jani Soininen and Ari-Pekka Nikkola followed with several gold medals in the 1990s. In the 2000s the most famous ski-jumper has been Janne Ahonen who has won The Four Hills Tournament (in German:Vierschanzentournee) 5 times and has several silver and gold medals from the world championships.
From winter sports ice-hockey is also very popular and in the 2000s Finnish ice-hockey team has played many times among the top 4 countries of world championships. There are many Finns who are playing as professionals in the NHL league (among others: Teemu Selänne, Saku Koivu, Olli Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu, Sami Kapanen, Teppo Numminen, Petteri Nummelin and Niklas Bäckström).
Last but not least, the new Queen of alpine skiing is Tanja Poutiainen. Also snow boarding is becoming popular sport and young professionals are at the beginning of their careers: Antti Autti, Heikki Sorsa, Risto Mattila for example.
Looked at from the heart of continental Europe, Finland is rather remote. Despite this, the Finns have been in touch with the Baltic area and European culture for thousands of years. Influences have usually come from the west, but some have come from the east, too. Many aspects of our cultural heritage have been better preserved in the outlying parts of Finland than in their areas of origin. The wealth of Finnish folk poetry is a good example of this.
National awareness was kindled in Finland in the last century. The ’building blocks’ of the Finnish national identity were sought from many sources, with folklore being one of the foremost. In those days, folk poetry was still a living tradition in the areas along Finland’s eastern border; old people would chant runo poems about the birth of fire and the world . Finns may have been singing those very verses even before the birth of Christ. The Viking Age introduced heroic figures such as Väinämöinen and Ilmarinen into the Finnish epic tradition.
|Väinämöinen with a sword - source|
In a spirit of nationalist fervour, people began to collect the old oral traditions, which were then compiled in the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, published in 1835.
It is now a full hundred years since the last of the Finnish runo singers died, but the tradition lives on in more modern folk songs, proverbs, riddles and stories, many of them representatives of an international tradition. Nursery rhymes for babies, for instance, may follow the Swedish pattern of "pata-cake" or the Russian pattern of "the magpie making porridge".
Yet folklore is more than old poetry. It is a combination of all the phenomena in life which are transferred from one generation to the next. During the last century, it was generally felt, all in the spirit of National Romanticism, that rural life had most accurately preserved folk traditions dating back to ancient times. Although this was only partly true, it was supported by the fact that Finland, which up to the late 19th century had been almost completely agrarian, was now shaken by what were probably the most decisive changes in its history. As a result, preserving the oral tradition was no longer enough; people turned their attention to other old and disappearing things as well, to everything from wedding customs to tools, and from costumes to buildings.
From the 18th century onwards, women wore bright striped skirts and red or blue jackets. Men wore waistcoats with red stripes and yellow chamois trousers This traditional dress fell into disuse in the 19th century, but it lives on in the Finnish national costume, which is still worn, particularly at festivities in the summer.
The old rural traditions have also attained a new lease of life in textiles and festive foods not to mention souvenirs.
The question of what is distinctive and particularly Finnish about our folklore has often been raised. There are many possible answers, such as the unique treasures of folk poetry, the five string kantele, the smoke sauna, the brown malted porridge mämmi eaten at Easter, birchbark shoes and rucksacks. Such specialities helped create the national identity, and are still considered romantic or even exotic by Finns today. Yet the truly unique character of our heritage is not apparent from isolated phenomena or curiosities, but is to be found in the way the old, local traditions have found their place among a constant stream of international innovations.
Remarkable features of Finland plus some common misconceptions