Provinces of Finland

Between 1634 and 2009, Finland was administered as several provinces (Finnish: Suomen läänit, Swedish: Finlands län). Finland had always been a unitary state: the provincial authorities were part of the central government's executive branch and the provinces had little autonomy. There were never any elected provincial parliaments in continental Finland. The system was initially created in 1634. Its makeup was changed drastically in 1997, when the number of the provinces was reduced from twelve to six. This effectively made them purely administrative units, as linguistic and cultural boundaries no longer followed the borders of the provinces. The provinces were eventually abolished at the end of 2009. Consequently, different ministries may subdivide their areal organization differently. Besides the former provinces, the municipalities of Finland form the fundamental subdivisions of the country. In current use are the regions of Finland, a smaller subdivision where some pre-1997 läänis are split into multiple regions. Åland islands retain their special autonomous status and their own regional parliament.

Duties

Each province was led by a governor (Finnish maaherra, Swedish landshövding) appointed by the president on the recommendation of the cabinet. The governor was the head of the State Provincial Office (Finnish lääninhallitus, Swedish länsstyrelse), which acted as the joint regional authority for seven ministries in the following domains:

  • social services and health care
  • education and culture
  • police administration
  • rescue services
  • traffic administration
  • competition and consumer affairs
  • judicial administration

The official administrative subentities under the Provincial Office authorities were the Registry Offices (Finnish maistraatti, Swedish magistrat). Formerly there was also a division to state local districts (Finnish kihlakunta, Swedish härad), which were districts for police, prosecution, and bailiff services, but there was reorganization such that 24 police districts were founded. These usually encompass multiple municipalities.

Provinces governed only state offices, such as the police. Most services, such as healthcare and maintenance of local streets, were and remain today the responsibility of municipalities of Finland. Many municipalities are too small for a hospital and some other services, so they cooperate in municipality groups, e.g. health care districts, using borders that vary depending on the type of service. Often Swedish-language municipalities cooperate even if they do not share a border.

List of all provinces that ever existed

In 1634, administratives provinces were formed in Sweden, and therefore in Finland, which was a part of Sweden until 1809. Five of the provinces covered what is now Finland; some of these also covered parts of what are now Russia. The exact division of the country into provinces has fluctuated over time.

The boundaries of the old provinces partly survive in telephone area codes and electoral districts. The exception is Helsinki: there is a telephone numbering area that comprises Greater Helsinki (code 09), while only the city of Helsinki proper comprises the electoral district of Helsinki, the rest of Greater Helsinki belonging to the Uusimaa electoral district.

Map number English name Finnish name Swedish name Residence city Dates of existence Notes
1 Province of Turku and Pori Turun ja Porin lääni Åbo och Björneborgs län Turku 1634–1997 • one of the original provinces formed in 1634, though parts were split off since then
• merged into the Province of Western Finland
14 Province of Nyland and Tavastehus Uudenmaan ja Hämeen lääni Nylands och Tavastehus län Helsinki / Hämeenlinna 1634–1831 • one of the original provinces formed in 1634
18 Province of Ostrobothnia Pohjanmaan lääni Österbottens län Oulu / Vaasa 1634–1775 • one of the original provinces formed in 1634
20 Province of Viborg and Nyslott Viipurin ja Savonlinnan lääni Viborgs och Nyslotts län Vyborg 1634–1721 • one of the original provinces formed in 1634
21 Province of Kexholm Käkisalmen lääni Kexholms län Kexholm 1634–1721 • one of the original provinces formed in 1634
19 Province of Kymmenegård and Nyslott Savonlinnan ja Kymenkartanon lääni Kymmenegårds och Nyslotts län Lappeenranta 1721–1747 • former Province of Viborg and Nyslott
17 Province of Savolax and Kymmenegård Kymenkartanon ja Savon lääni Savolax och Kymmenegårds län Loviisa 1747–1775 • former Province of Kymmenegård and Nyslott
4 Province of Vaasa Vaasan lääni Vasa län Vaasa 1775–1997 • split off from the Province of Ostrobothnia
• merged into the Province of Western Finland
10 Province of Oulu Oulun lääni Uleåborgs län Oulu 1775–2009 • split off from the Province of Ostrobothnia
15 Province of Kymmenegård Kymenkartanon lääni Kymmenegårds län Heinola 1775–1831 • split off from the Province of Savolax and Kymmenegård
16 Province of Savolax and Karelia Savon ja Karjalan lääni Savolax och Karelens län Kuopio 1775–1831 • split off from the Province of Savolax and Kymmenegård
13 Province of Viipuri Viipurin lääni Viborgs län Vyborg 1812–1947 • Russian Vyborg Governorate 1744-1812; transferred as Province of Viipuri to autonomic Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812
• most of its area was lost to the Soviet Union in World War II, and the remainder became the Province of Kymi
2 Province of Uusimaa Uudenmaan lääni Nylands län Helsinki 1831–1997 • produced by splitting the Province of Nyland and Tavastehus
• merged into the Province of Southern Finland
3 Province of Häme Hämeen lääni Tavastehus län Hämeenlinna 1831–1997 • produced by splitting the Province of Nyland and Tavastehus
• merged into the Provinces of Southern Finland and Western Finland
6 Province of Mikkeli Mikkelin lääni St. Michels län Mikkeli 1831–1997 • former Province of Kymmenegård
• merged into the Provinces of Eastern Finland and Southern Finland
8 Province of Kuopio Kuopion lääni Kuopio län Kuopio 1831–1997 • former Province of Savolax and Karelia
• merged into the Province of Eastern Finland
12 Province of Åland Ahvenanmaan lääni Ålands län Mariehamn 1918–2009 • had a special status: even though the province was discontinued at the end of 2009 along with the others, there was (and still is) a coextensive "maakunta" (a translation of "province" with a slightly different meaning from the usual) that is semi-autonomous and demilitarized by international treaties
25 Province of Petsamo Petsamon lääni Petsamo län Pechenga 1921–1921 • gained from Soviet Russia
• merged into the Province of Oulu
• the entire area of the former Province of Pechenga was lost to the Soviet Union in World War II
11 Province of Lapland Lapin lääni Lapplands län Rovaniemi 1938–2009 • split off from the Province of Oulu
5 Province of Kymi Kymen lääni Kymmene län Kouvola 1945–1997 • formed from the part of the Province of Viipuri that remained on the Finnish side of the border with Russia
• merged into the Province of Southern Finland
7 Province of Central Finland Keski-Suomen lääni Mellersta Finlands län Jyväskylä 1960–1997 • split off from the Provinces of Vaasa, Häme, Mikkeli and Kuopio
• merged into the Province of Western Finland
9 Province of North Karelia Pohjois-Karjalan lääni Norra Karelens län Joensuu 1960–1997 • split off from the Province of Kuopio
• merged into the Province of Eastern Finland
22 Province of Southern Finland Etelä-Suomen lääni Södra Finlands län Hämeenlinna 1997–2009 • merged from Provinces of Uusimaa, Kymi, Häme (part) and Mikkeli (part)
23 Province of Western Finland Länsi-Suomen lääni Västra Finlands län Turku 1997–2009 • merged from Provinces of Turku and Pori, Vaasa, Central Finland and Häme (part)
24 Province of Eastern Finland Itä-Suomen lääni Östra Finlands län Mikkeli 1997–2009 • merged from Provinces of Kuopio, North Karelia and Michelle

Geographical evolution of provincial administration

Finnish counties 1635
Provinces of Finland 1634: 1: Turku and Pori, 14: Nyland and Tavastehus, 18: Ostrobothnia, 20: Viborg and Nyslott, 21: Kexholm
Finnish counties 1721
Provinces of Finland 1721: 1: Turku and Pori, 14: Nyland and Tavastehus, 18: Ostrobothnia, 19: Kymmenegård and Nyslott
Finnish counties 1747
Provinces of Finland 1747: 1: Turku and Pori, 14: Nyland and Tavastehus, 17: Savolax and Kymmenegård, 18: Ostrobothnia
Finnish counties 1776
Provinces of Finland 1776: 1: Turku and Pori, 4: Vaasa, 10: Oulu, 14: Nyland and Tavastehus, 15: Kymmenegård, 16: Savolax and Karelia
Finnish counties 1812
Provinces of Finland 1812:1: Turku and Pori, 4: Vaasa, 10: Oulu, 13: Viipuri, 14: Nyland and Tavastehus, 15: Kymmenegård, 16: Savolax and Karelia
Finnish counties 1831
Provinces of Finland 1831: 1: Turku and Pori, 2: Uusimaa, 3: Häme, 4: Vaasa, 6: Mikkeli, 8: Kuopio, 10: Oulu, 13: Viipuri
Finnish counties 1921
Provinces of Finland 1921: 1: Turku and Pori, 2: Uusimaa, 3: Häme, 4: Vaasa, 6: Mikkeli, 8: Kuopio, 10: Oulu, 12: Åland, 13: Viipuri, 25: Petsamo
Finnish counties 1938
Provinces of Finland 1938: 1: Turku and Pori, 2: Uusimaa, 3: Häme, 4: Vaasa, 6: Mikkeli, 8: Kuopio, 10: Oulu, 11: Lapland, 12: Åland, 13: Viipuri
Finnish counties 1945
Provinces of Finland 1945: 1: Turku and Pori, 2: Uusimaa, 3: Häme, 4: Vaasa, 5: Kymi, 6: Mikkeli, 8: Kuopio, 10: Oulu, 11: Lapland, 12: Åland
Finnish counties 1960
Provinces of Finland 1960: 1: Turku and Pori, 2: Uusimaa, 3: Häme, 4: Vaasa, 5: Kymi, 6: Mikkeli, 7: Central Finland, 8: Kuopio, 9: North Karelia, 10: Oulu, 11: Lapland, 12: Åland
Finnish counties 1996
Provinces of Finland 1996: 1: Turku and Pori, 2: Uusimaa, 3: Häme, 4: Vaasa, 5: Kymi, 6: Mikkeli, 7: Central Finland, 8: Kuopio, 9: North Karelia, 10: Oulu, 11: Lapland, 12: Åland
Finnish counties 1997
Provinces of Finland 1997: 10: Oulu, 11: Lapland, 12: Åland, 22: Southern Finland, 23: Western Finland, 24: Eastern Finland

Provinces of Finland at abolition

No. Coats of arms Provinces Finnish and
Swedish names
Residence city Largest city Population (2003) Area (km²) Merged Provinces (1997) Map
1.
Etelä-Suomen läänin vaakuna.svg
Southern Finland Etelä-Suomen lääni
Södra Finlands län
Hämeenlinna
Tavastehus
Helsinki 2,116,914 34,378 Uusimaa, Kymi, Häme FI-provinces-numbered
2.
Länsi-Suomen läänin vaakuna.svg
Western Finland Länsi-Suomen lääni
Västra Finlands län
Turku
Åbo
Tampere 1,848,269 74,185 Vaasa, Turku-Pori, Central Finland, Häme
3.
Itä-Suomen läänin vaakuna.svg
Eastern Finland Itä-Suomen lääni
Östra Finlands län
Mikkeli
S:t Michel
Kuopio 582,781 48,726 Kuopio, North Karelia, Mikkeli
4.
Oulun läänin vaakuna.svg
Oulu Oulun lääni
Uleåborgs län
Oulu
Uleåborg
Oulu 458,504 57,000 No changes
5.
Lapin läänin vaakuna.svg
Lapland Lapin lääni
Lapplands län
Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi 186,917 98,946 No changes
6.
Coat of arms of Åland.svg
Åland[a] Ahvenanmaan lääni
Ålands län[b]
Mariehamn[b]
Maarianhamina
Mariehamn 26,000 6,784 No changes

a. ^ Some duties, which in Mainland Finland are handled by the provinces, are on the Åland Islands transferred to the autonomous Government of Åland.
b. ^ The Åland Islands are unilingually Swedish.

After abolition

The provinces were abolished altogether effective 1 January 2010. Since then, the regional administration of the Finnish state has two parallel top-level organs in the hierarchy: the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment on the one hand, and the Regional State Administrative Agencies on the other.

Six Regional State Administrative Agencies (aluehallintovirasto, regionförvaltningsverk, abbr. avi) – in addition to the Government of Åland – are primarily responsible for law enforcement. Among these, South-Western Finland and Western and Central Finland cover the former province of Western Finland, and the former province of Oulu was revamped as Northern Finland; other old provincial boundaries remain much the same in the new disposition.

In parallel, there are 15 Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (Finnish: elinkeino-, liikenne- ja ympäristökeskus, usually abbreviated ely-keskus), which are responsible for other state administration: employment, road and transport infrastructure, and environmental monitoring. They are each responsible for one or more of regions of Finland, and include offices of the Ministries of Employment and the Economy, Transport and Communications and Environment.

See also

External links

Eastern Finland Province

Eastern Finland (Finnish: Itä-Suomen lääni, Swedish: Östra Finlands län) was a province of Finland from 1997 to 2009. It bordered the provinces of Oulu, Western Finland and Southern Finland. It also bordered Russia to the east.

Historical provinces of Finland

The historical provinces (Finnish: historialliset maakunnat, singular historiallinen maakunta, Swedish: historiska landskap) of Finland are a legacy of the country's joint history with Sweden. The provinces ceased to be administrative entities in 1634 when they were superseded by the counties, a reform which remained in force in Finland until 1997. The provinces remain as a tradition, but have no administrative function today. The spread of Finnish language dialects approximately follows their borders.

The first name in the parentheses is the Finnish name and the second is the Swedish one.

Finland Proper (Varsinais-Suomi, Egentliga Finland) Karelia (Karjala, Karelen) Laponia (Lappi, Lappland) Ostrobothnia (Pohjanmaa, Österbotten) Satakunta (Satakunta, Satakunda) Savonia (Savo, Savolax) Tavastia (Häme, Tavastland) Uusimaa (Uusimaa, Nyland) Åland (Ahvenanmaa, Åland)

Häme Province

The Province of Häme (Finnish: Hämeen lääni, Swedish: Tavastehus län) was a province of Finland from 1831 to 1997.

In 1997 the southern parts with Kanta-Häme, Päijät-Häme was merged with the province of Uusimaa and Kymi into the new Province of Southern Finland. The northern part with Pirkanmaa was merged with the provinces of Vaasa, Central Finland, Turku and Pori into the new Province of Western Finland.

The province corresponds roughly to the current regions of Kanta-Häme, Päijät-Häme and Pirkanmaa.

Kexholm County

Kexholm County (Swedish: Kexholms län, Finnish: Käkisalmen lääni) was a county of the Swedish Empire from 1634 to 1721, when the southern part was ceded to the Russian Empire in the Treaty of Nystad. The capital of the county was Kexholm (Finnish: Käkisalmi), which today is Priozersk.

Kuopio Province

The Kuopio Province (Finnish: Kuopion lääni, Swedish: Kuopio län, Russian: Куопиоская губерния) was a province of Finland from 1831 to 1997. The province was named after its capital, city of Kuopio.

Lapland (Finland)

Sápmi (Finnish: Lappi; Northern Sami: Sápmi; Swedish: Lappland, Latin: Lapponia, Russian: Лапландия, Laplandiya), also referred to as Lappi Province, is the largest and northernmost region of Finland. The municipalities in the region cooperate in a Regional Council. Sápmi borders the region of North Ostrobothnia in the south. It also borders the Gulf of Bothnia, Norrbotten County in Sweden, Finnmark County and Troms County in Norway, and Murmansk Oblast and the Republic of Karelia in Russia. Sápmi's cold and wintry climate, coupled with the relative abundance of conifer trees such as pines and spruces means that it has become associated with Christmas in some countries, most notably the United Kingdom, and holidays to Sápmi are common towards the end of the year. Rovaniemi Airport is the third busiest airport in Finland.

The region has been associated with Father Christmas (who is not actually the same as Santa Claus while sharing many characteristics) since 1927, when proposed by Finnish radio host Markus Rautio.

Lapland (former province of Finland)

The Province of Lapland (Finnish: Lapin lääni, Swedish: Lapplands län) was a province of Finland from 1938 to 2009.

It was established in 1938, when it was separated from the Province of Oulu. After the Second World War, the Petsamo municipality (former province) and part of the Salla municipality were ceded to the Soviet Union.

It had the same territory as today's region Lapland (Finland).

Mikkeli Province

The Mikkeli Province (Finnish: Mikkelin lääni, Swedish: S:t Michels län) was a province of Finland from 1831 to 1997. The province was named after the city of Mikkeli.

Parts of the province were transferred to the Central Finland Province in 1960. In 1997 it was merged with Kuopio Province and Northern Karelia Province into the new Eastern Finland Province.

Oulu Province

The Province of Oulu (Finnish: Oulun lääni, Swedish: Uleåborgs län) was a province of Finland from 1775 to 2009. It bordered the provinces of Lapland, Western Finland and Eastern Finland and also the Gulf of Bothnia and Russia.

Satakunta (historical province)

Satakunta (Swedish: Satakunda, Latin: Finnia Septentrionalis or Satagundia) is a historical province of Finland. It borders the historical provinces of Finland Proper, Tavastia and Ostrobothnia, also the Gulf of Bothnia.

Historical Satakunta is situated on the areas of modern provinces of Satakunta and the most of Pirkanmaa, also little areas of Central Finland and Southern Ostrobothnia.

Savonia (historical province)

Savonia (Finnish: Savo, Swedish: Savolax) is a historical province in the east of Finland. It borders Tavastia, Ostrobothnia, and Karelia. In current day, Savonia is divided in two provinces Northern Savonia and Southern Savonia. The largest cities in Savonia by population are Kuopio, Mikkeli, Savonlinna, Varkaus and Iisalmi.

Southern Finland Province

Southern Finland (Finnish: Etelä-Suomen lääni, Swedish: Södra Finlands län) was a province of Finland from 1997 to 2009. It bordered the provinces of Western Finland and Eastern Finland. It also bordered the Gulf of Finland and Russia.

Tavastia (historical province)

Tavastia (Old Norse: Tafæistaland; Swedish: Tavastland; Finnish: Häme; Russian: Yam or Yemi) is a historical province in the south of Finland. It borders Finland Proper, Satakunta, Ostrobothnia, Savonia and Uusimaa.

Turku and Pori Province

Turku and Pori Province (Finnish: Turun ja Porin lääni, Swedish: Åbo och Björneborgs län) was a province of independent Finland from 1917 to 1997. The province was however founded as a county in 1634 when today's Finland was an integrated part of Sweden. It is named after the cities of Turku (Swedish: Åbo) and Pori (Swedish: Björneborg).

The Åland Islands were split into a separate province in 1918. In 1997 Turku and Pori Province was merged with the northern part of the Häme Province, the provinces of Vaasa and Central Finland into the new Western Finland Province.

Uusimaa Province

The Province of Uusimaa (Finnish: Uudenmaan lääni, Swedish: Nylands län) was a province of Finland from 1831 to 1997.

It was established in 1831, when the County of Nyland and Tavastehus was divided into the Häme Province and Uusimaa Province.

In 1997 it was merged with the Kymi Province and the southern parts of the Häme Province into the new Southern Finland Province.

Vaasa Province

The Province of Vaasa (Finnish: Vaasan lääni, pronounced [ˈʋɑːsɑn ˈlæːni]; Swedish: Vasa län, pronounced [²vɑːsa ˈlɛːn]) was a province of Finland, established in 1775 when Finland was an integrated part of Sweden from the southern part of Ostrobothnia County and disbanded in 1996. The province was named after the city of Vaasa.

On the death of Tsar Nicholas I in 1855, a small group of citizens in the city of Vaasa tendered a petition to change the name of the city after him. The name of the city came from the Royal House of Vasa and despite that only 15 citizens were backing the proposal the name of the city was changed to Nikolaistad (Russian: Николайстада, Finnish: Nikolainkaupunki). This also meant that the Vaasa Province (Russian: Вазаская губерния, Swedish: Vasa län, Finnish: Vaasan lääni) was called the Nikolaistad Province, after 1855. In 1862 a large group of citizens in the city unsuccessfully petitioned to have the old name restored. The new name remained official until 1917, but colloquially the old name continued in use.

In 1960 the eastern part was separated as the Province of Central Finland. In 1997 it was reunited with Central Finland, together they merged with the northern part of the Province of Häme and the Province of Turku and Pori to establish the new Province of Western Finland.

The former province corresponds to the current regions of Ostrobothnia, Central Ostrobothnia and Southern Ostrobothnia.

Western Finland Province

Western Finland (Finnish: Länsi-Suomen lääni, Swedish: Västra Finlands län) was a province of Finland from 1997 to 2009. It bordered the provinces of Oulu, Eastern Finland and Southern Finland. It also bordered the Gulf of Bothnia towards Åland.

Åland (former province of Finland)

The Province of Åland (Finnish: Ahvenanmaan lääni, Swedish: Ålands län) was a province of Finland from 1918 to 2009.

The State Provincial Office on the Åland Islands (Länsstyrelsen på Åland) represented the Finnish central government on the Åland Islands between 1918 and 2009. Due to its autonomy, it had somewhat different functions than similar offices in other Provinces of Finland. Generally a State Provincial Office was a joint regional authority of seven different ministries of the Government of Finland. In Åland the State Provincial Office also represented a set of other authorities of the central government, which in mainland-Finland has separate bureaucracies. On the other hand duties, which on mainland-Finland were handled by the provincial offices, were transferred to the autonomous government of Åland.

Along with the abolition of all provinces of Finland, the Åland State Provincial Office was replaced by the State Department of Åland in 2009.

Åland Islands

The Åland Islands or Åland (, also US: , Swedish: [ˈoːland]; Finnish: Ahvenanmaa [ˈɑxʋenɑnˈmɑː]) is an archipelago province at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea belonging to Finland. It is autonomous, demilitarised and is the only monolingually Swedish-speaking region in Finland. It is the smallest region of Finland, constituting 0.49% of its land area and 0.50% of its population.

Åland comprises Fasta Åland on which 90% of the population resides and a further 6,500 skerries and islands to its east. Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Sweden by 38 kilometres (24 mi) of open water to the west. In the east, the Åland archipelago is contiguous with the Finnish Archipelago Sea. Åland's only land border is located on the uninhabited skerry of Märket, which it shares with Sweden.Åland's autonomous status means that those provincial powers normally exercised by representatives of the central Finnish government are largely exercised by its own government.

Designations for types of administrative territorial entities
Former provinces of Finland
1634–1775
1775–1831
1831–1918
1918–1997
1997–2009
History
Geography
Politics
Economy
Society

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