Finnish is spoken by about five million people, most of whom reside in Finland. There are also notable Finnish-speaking minorities in Sweden, Norway, Russia, Estonia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. The majority of the population of Finland, 90.37% as of 2010, speak Finnish as their first language. The remainder speak Swedish (5.42%), Sami (Northern, Inari, Skolt) and other languages. It is spoken as a second language in Estonia by about 167,000 people.
Finnish is one of two official languages of Finland (the other being Swedish, spoken by 5.42% of the population as of 2010) and one of the official languages in the European Union since 1995. Finnish language started to gain its role during the Grand Duchy of Finland, along with the nationalistic Fennoman movement, and obtained its official status in the Finnish Diet of 1863. It enjoys the status of an official minority language in Sweden. Under the Nordic Language Convention, citizens of the Nordic countries speaking Finnish have the opportunity to use their native language when interacting with official bodies in other Nordic countries without being liable to any interpretation or translation costs. Concerns have been expressed about future status of Finnish language in Sweden.
Finnish is a member of the Finnic group of the Uralic family of languages. The Finnic group also includes Estonian and a few minority languages spoken around the Baltic Sea.
Finland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. It gained complete independence in 1917. During World War II, it successfully defend its independence through cooperation with Germany and resisted subsequent invasions by the Soviet Union—albeit with some loss of territory. In the subsequent half century, Finland transformed from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is among the highest in Western Europe. A member of the European Union since 1995, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro single currency at its initiation in January 1999. In the 21st century, the key features of Finland’s modern welfare state are high quality education, promotion of equality, and a national social welfare system—currently challenged by an aging population and the fluctuations of an export-driven economy.
Various groups in Finland advocate restoration of Karelia and other areas ceded to the Soviet Union, but the Finnish Government asserts no territorial demands.
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
(End of excerpt from the CIA World FactBook text.)
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