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social sciences

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Finland, officially known as the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in Northern Europe, bordered by Sweden, Norway, and Russia. It has a population of approximately 5.3 million. Helsinki, the country's capital and largest city, is the center of Finnish gay and lesbian life.

Finland is a democratic, parliamentary republic, with a fully developed welfare system. It is generally perceived as liberal and egalitarian. It was the first country in Europe to give women the right to vote in 1906. It elected its first female president in 2000.

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Finland ranked eleventh (out of 177 countries) on the 2007/2008 United Nations Human Development Report, based on life expectancy, adult literacy rate, education, and Gross Domestic Product.

According to the 2007 World Democracy Audit, Finland is the freest nation in the world in terms of civil liberties, freedom of the press, and basic political and human rights.

Like other Nordic countries, Finland is liberal in regards to gay rights, though it has been slower than its neighbors to assure glbtq equality. Finnish gay men and lesbians now have the same legal status as heterosexuals, with the exception of adoption rights.

Languages and History

The first language of most Finns is Finnish, one of the few official languages of the European Union that is not of Indo-European origin. The second official language, Swedish, is spoken as a first language by a small minority. Reflecting the country's complex history and its geographical location, Russian is also widely spoken in the country.

The Finnish language may have arrived as early as 8,900 B.C.E., long before the Norse language. However, in the thirteenth century Sweden established rule over Finland and Swedish became the dominant language of the upper classes; Finnish then became chiefly a language for the peasantry, clergy, and local courts.

During the Reformation Finns gradually converted to Lutheranism. In the sixteenth century, the first works written in Finnish were published.

During the eighteenth century, as a result of wars between Sweden and Russia, Russian forces occupied Finland twice.

In 1809, Russia absorbed Finland into its empire as an autonomous Grand Duchy. During the Russian era, which lasted until 1917, the Finnish language became predominant, both as a way to lessen cultural ties with Sweden and as a means to assert Finnish nationalism.

In 1906, the Grand Duchy of Finland adopted universal suffrage. However, the relationship between the Grand Duchy and the Russian Empire deteriorated when the Russian government attempted to restrict Finnish autonomy.

On December 6, 1917, soon after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence from Russia.

Soon after independence, Finland experienced a brief but bitter civil war in which the opposing factions were supported by Germany and Russia. In 1919, after the triumph of the pro-German faction, Finland became a presidential republic.

During World War II, Finland fought both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The Winter War of 1939-1940 ensued after the Soviet Union attacked Finland as a result of Stalin's rapprochement with Hitler. The Continuation War of 1941-1944 occurred after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. In the Lapland War of 1944-1945, Finland forced the Germans out of Finland.

During the Cold War, Finland attempted to remain neutral while establishing strong trade ties with the Soviet Union. Against great odds, the country managed to maintain a democratic government and a market economy despite its proximity to the Soviet Union.

After the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, Finland sought membership in the European Union, which was granted in 1995.

GLBTQ Rights in Finland

In 1971, homosexuality was decriminalized in Finland and in 1999 the country's criminal code was revised, changing the age of consent to 16 for engaging in both heterosexual and homosexual sex.

Finland was the last of the Nordic countries to adopt a registered partnership act. A proposal for registered partnership legislation was first introduced in Finland in 1993, but did not pass. Revised, but equally unsuccessful, versions of the bill were next introduced in 1996 and 1999. Precedents for this act had already been set in neighboring Nordic countries: Denmark officially recognized same-sex civil unions in 1989, and Norway and Sweden followed suit in 1993.

On September 28, 2001, following heated debate and vehement opposition by conservative Christian groups, the Finnish Parliament finally passed the 1999 version of the Registered Partnership Act with a few minor revisions. The act took effect on March 8, 2002.

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Oras Tynkkynen, one of the the first openly gay parliamentarians in Finland, addresses global warming in 2007.
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