Finland is the northernmost country on the European continent. Although other countries have points extending farther 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 Circle.
Size, External Boundaries, and Geology
In area, Finland has 304,623 square kilometers of land and 33,522 square kilometers of inland water, a total of 338,145 square kilometers. It shares borders on the west with Sweden for 540 kilometers, on the north with Norway for 720 kilometers, and on the east with the Soviet Union for 1,268 kilometers. There are approximately 1,107 kilometers of coastline on the Gulf of Finland (south), the Baltic Sea (southwest), and the Gulf of Bothnia (west). The rugged coastline is deeply indented with bays and inlets. The offshore region is studded with islands.
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 them 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-day drainage 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 Salpausselka Ridges, which run parallel to each other about twenty-five kilometers apart, are the terminal moraines. At their greatest height they reach an elevation of about 200 meters, the highest point in southern Finland.
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