The geography of Finland differs from that of other Nordic countries. Bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, as well as Sweden, Norway, and Russia, Finland is the northernmost country on the European continent. Although other countries have points extending north, virtually all of Finland is north of 60 degrees north latitude; nearly a quarter of the land area and fully one-third of the latitudinal extent of the country lie north of the Arctic
Size, external boundaries & geology
Finland's total area is 337,030 km2 (130,128 sq mi). Finland is the seventh largest country in Europe after Russia, France, Ukraine, Spain, Sweden, and Germany. Of this area 10% is water, 69% forest, 8% cultivated land and 13% other.
The most predominant influences on Finland's geography were the continental glaciers that scoured and gouged the country's surface. When the glaciers receded about 10,000 years ago, they left behind moraines, drumlins, and eskers. Other indications of their presence are the thousands of lakes they helped to form in the southern part of the country. The force of the moving ice sheets gouged the lake beds, and meltwaters helped to fill them. The recession of the glaciers is so recent (in geologic terms) that modern-daydrainage patterns are immature and poorly established. The direction of glacial advance and recession set the alignment of the lakes and streams in a general northeast to southwest lineation. The two Salpausselkä Ridges, which run parallel to each other about twenty-five kilometres apart, are theterminal moraines. At their greatest height they reach an elevation of about 200 metres (660 ft), the highest point in southern Finland.
As a whole, the shape of Finland's boundaries resembles a figure of a one-armed human. In Finnish, parallels are drawn between the figure and the national personification of Finland – Finnish Maiden (Suomi-neito) – and the country as a whole can be referrerd in the Finnish language by her name. Even in official context the area around Enontekiö in northwestern part of the country between Sweden and Norway can be refererred to as the "Arm" (käsivarsi). After the Continuation War Finland lost major land areas to Russia in the Moscow Armisticeof 1944, and the figure was said to have lost the other of her arms, as well as a hem of her "skirt".
Many countries of the world can be divided into distinct geographic regions, in each of which some physical characteristic is dominant, almost to the exclusion of others. In Finland, the same physical characteristics are common to each of the four geographic regions into which the country is divided. Regional differences in Finland lie, therefore, in subtle combinations of physical qualities. In archipelago Finland, rock and water are dominant. Coastal Finland consists of broad clay plains where agriculture plays a leading role. The interior Finnish lake district supports extensive forests. Upland Finland is covered by Arctic scrub.
Archipelago Finland, consisting of thousands of islands and skerries, extends from the southwestern coast out into the Baltic Sea. It includes the strategically significant Åland Islands, positioned at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia. After World War I, both Finland and Sweden laid claim to the islands, which are culturally more Swedish than Finnish. For strategic reasons, however, the League of Nations awarded the Åland Islands to Finland in 1921 . A principal reason for this decision was that, during the winter, the islands are physically linked to Finland by the frozen waters of the sea and are thus essential for the country's defense. These forest-covered and bare bedrock islands were, and continue to be, formed by the process of uplift following the last glaciation.
The rest of the country is also still emerging from the sea. The weight of the continental glaciers depressed the land over which they moved, and even now, a hundred centuries after their recession, Finland is rising up from this great load through the process of isostatic rebound. In the south and the southwest, this process is occurring slowly, at a rate of twenty-five to thirty centimetres a century. Farther north in the Ostrobothnia area, uplift is more rapid, it amounts to eighty or ninety centimetres a century. The process also means that Finland is growing about seven square kilometres yearly as land emerges from the sea.
Coastal Finland consists of broad clay plains extending from the coast inland, for no more than 100 kilometres (62 mi). These plains slope southward from the morainic Salpausselkä Ridges in southern Finland. Along the Gulf of Bothnia coast, the plains slope southwest from upland areas. The land of coastal Finland is used foragriculture and dairy farming.
The interior lake district is the largest geographic region, and it is perhaps what most foreigners think of when they imagine Finland. The district is bounded to the south by the Salpausselkä Ridges. Behind the ridges extend networks of thou sands of lakes separated by hilly forested countryside. This landscape continues to the east and extends into Russia. As a consequence, there is no natural border between the two countries. Because no set definition of what constitutes a lake and no procedures for counting the number of lakes exist, it has been impossible to ascertain exactly how many lakes the region has. There are, however, at least 55,000 lakes that are 200 or more metres wide. The largest is Lake Saimaa, which, with a surface area of more than 4,400 square kilometres (1,700 sq mi), is the fifth largest lake in Europe. The deepest lake has a depth of only 100 metres (330 ft); the depth of the average lake is 7 metres (23 ft). Because they are shallow, these many lakes contain only slightly more water than Finland's annual rainfall. The hilly, forest-covered landscape of the lake plateau is dominated by drumlins and by long sinuous eskers, both glacial remnants.
Upland Finland extends beyond the Arctic Circle. The extreme north of this region is known as Lapland. The highest points in upland Finland reach an elevation of about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), and they are found in theKilpisjärvi area of the Scandinavian Keel Ridge. In the southern upland region the hills are undulating, while in the north they are rugged. Much of upland Finland is not mountainous, but consists of bogs.