Finland had 250,000 inhabitants in the sixteenth century. As a result of wars, the population did not reach the 1 million mark until 1810. Mortality remained high even in the nineteenth century. The famine of 1867 to 1868, for example, killed 5 percent to 10 percent of the population, and it was not until 1880 that there were 2 million Finns. In the last part of the century, improved living conditions began to lower the death rate, but a simultaneous fall in the birth rate and increased emigration retarded growth. As a result, shortly before World War I the country's inhabitants still numbered only 3 million. A short-lived "baby boom" in the first five years after the upheavals of World War II allowed the population to reach 4 million by 1950. Since then the country's population growth has been among the lowest in the world. Low birth rates coupled with heavy emigration resulted in a population of only 4,937,000 in 1987. The annual birth rate since the early 1970s has averaged fewer than 14 births per 1,000 persons, a rate that has caused demographers to estimate that Finland's population would peak at just under 5 million by about the turn of the century, after which it would decline.
At the beginning of the 1980s, Finland's average population density fourteen persons per square kilometer, was the second lowest in Western Europe, just behind Norway's, thirteen and ahead of Sweden's seventeen. Actual population density varied widely, however. The province of Lapland, covering 29.3 percent of the nation's area but containing only about 4 percent of its population, had a population density of about 2 persons per square kilometer, making it one of the earth's emptiest regions. Uusimaa, Finland's second smallest province, which contains the capital city, Helsinki, accounted for only 3.1 percent of the national territory; however, it was home for more than 20 percent of the country's inhabitants, who lived together at a density of 119 per square kilometer, a figure identical to that of Denmark. The provinces of Kymi, Hame, and Turku ja Pori in south-central Finland, which had a mix of rural and urban areas with economies based on both agriculture and industry, were perhaps more truly representative of Finnish conditions. During the 1980s, their population densities ranged from thirty to forty persons per square kilometer.
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