Åland in brief
The archipelago’s islands, mild climate and location between Sweden and Finland make Åland unique. The Ålanders have always travelled by sea and used the sea to support themselves. The sea has also set the conditions for island life. The position in the middle of the Baltic Sea has always made Åland a natural meeting point both for seafarers and travellers.
A history defined by the sea
The first people came to the Åland Islands 7,000 years ago when people came from a long way to hunt seals and to fish. Ever since has Åland been a strategic place for seafarers and its history is defined by the sea and shipping. An important era in Åland history is the age of the sailing ship that bloomed in Åland about 100 years ago.
Mariehamn was at that time a home of shipping companies and windjammers, such as Pommern. It’s the only four-masted merchant sailing ship in the world still in its original state and now a museum.
20,000 islands and skerries, of which about 6,700 have names and 60 are inhabited
Total area: 13,517 km2, of which 1,527 km2 land area
Longest distance on the main island: 50 km
Average temperature: in July +19C, in January -2C
Time zone: +2 GMT
Best-known historical sights: the Kastelholm Castle, the Bomarsund fortress, the Eckerö Post and Customs House and the museum ship Pommern.
To do in Åland: Hiking, Disc Golf, cottage life, boatlife, fishing, golf
A Swedish-speaking part of Finland
The era 100 years ago is important in the Åland history in another way as well. A few years after Finland became an independent republic in 1917, it was affirmed by the League of Nations in June 1921 that the Åland Islands would get the status of an autonomous island province within the republic of Finland. Åland was then determined to be exclusively Swedish-speaking, demilitarised and granted extensive autonomy.
The Åland autonomy
Åland has been an autonomous province in the republic of Finland since 1921. The first Åland parliament convened 9 June 1922 and 9 June is thus celebrated as the Åland “national day”. Ålanders have their own government and parliament, their own budget and the right to legislate within education and training, healthcare, trade and industry, municipal administration and traffic and transport.
They also have their own flag, their own stamps and car registration plates, not to mention the top domain “ax” which all are important labels on Åland’s autonomous status.
The right of domicile
Åland is represented in Finnish parliament and it also has its own representation in Nordic co-operation. According to its basic law, Åland is monolingual Swedish and its inhabitants are entitled to the right of domicile – either from birth or after they have lived in Åland for five years. The right of domicile is a prerequisite for owning land and carrying on a trade in Åland.
In 2022 Åland will celebrate its 100th anniversary as an autonomy starting on 9 June 2021. The celebration will consist of a lot of cultural events all around Åland during the year and continue until 9 June 2022.
A modern society
Today, Åland is a modern society with nearly 30,000 inhabitants and great connections both to the east and to the west. The Åland history is deeply anchored in the maritime and there are still many shipping companies acting in Åland. Nowadays modern ferries take care of traffic around Åland – there is at least one departure per hour.
The only town Mariehamn has about 11,700 inhabitants and offers a wide range of services. In addition, there are 15 rural and archipelago municipalities. Åland offers education at University level, it has successful companies, two local newspapers and local radio.
Unique nature and culture
The greatest number of hours of sunshine in the Nordic area, a mild coastal climate and a myriad small islands have given Åland a species-rich and varied landscape. The sea and the environment are important to people living in Åland and outdoor life, cottage-life and boating are appreciated by many.
People in Åland are proud of their history, archipelago and cultural heritage. The spirit of fellowship and communion live strongly in the locals – on an island in the middle of the sea people need each other and in storms you need to help each other and row in the same direction.
Did you know this about Åland?
People in Åland often use points of the compass when they give a road description. The locals are also well aware of the current wind force and wind direction.
Ålanders are proud of their locally produced food and the people working with it. Åland has its own dairies, breweries, bakeries, soft drink, and chocolate production, apple juice producers, and a wide range of local food artisans.
The smallest municipality in Finland is Sottunga in Åland. There are about 90 inhabitants on the island!
Despite the fact that Åland is surrounded by water and many people live outside urban areas, many locals have a summer house too.
In Åland everybody seems to know everybody or at least, people have common acquaintances. This builds up familiarity that is appreciated by most locals.