Aland is an island coutry located in the Baltic Sea, at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia, between Finland's and Sweden's coasts. They are a part of the Republic of Finland, where they enjoy broad autonomy.
Until the early 19th century, Aland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden. After Sweden's defeat in the Finnish War, the islands were ceded to Russia, alongside Finland, in 1809 (Treaty of Fredrikshamn).
The archipelago remained under Russian control until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Then, a large majority of representatives of municipalities and adult Aland's population signed a petition that called for reintegration to Sweden.
The newborn Republic of Finland, which had just achieved independence from Russia, did not agree to, and the dispute was finally solved by the League of Nations, which in 1921 ruled that Aland should remain as Finnish territory but enjoying broad autonomy, with Swedish as its only official language, and demilitarized status.
Ever since, the archipelago has largely ruled itself separately from both Finland and Sweden in most areas. Its level of self-government has been expanded several times.
Swedish is the only official language of the Aland and is spoken by 95% of the population. A Finnish-speaking minority (4%) exists.
Swedish is the language of the Aland administration, the media, and the language of instruction in schools. The Finnish central authorities use Swedish and Finnish, the two official languages of Finland.
In 1917, the Aland representatives called for the integration of the archipelago into Sweden, based on a shared Swedish identity. The political solution devised by the League of Nations led Aland to turning into a political demos of its own, different from both Finland and Sweden.
In 1999, the Statistical Institute of the Aland (ASUB) published a study on the identity of the Alanders, Ålänningarna och deras identitet. The work compared the Alandic, Swedish, Finnish, Finnic (this label excluding the Swedish-Finnish), Swedish-Finnish, Nordic, and European identities. 82% of respondents stated “largely” or “very largely” their identity as “Alandic”; 45% gave the same answer for “Finnish”; those who stated being “Swedish” were 13%, and “Finnic”, 10%.
Politics and government
Self-governance in Aland is delivered by the Parliament of Aland (Lagtinget) and the Government of Aland (Landskapsregering). A joint Alandic-Finnish committee, the Aland Delegation, has a mainly advisory role, but also can take decisions on certain administrative matters. Their functioning is regulated by the 1991 Autonomy Act.
The Autronomy Act reserves to the Parliament of Aland the right to pass legislation on matters such as education, culture, health, environment, industry, internal transport, local government, postal communications, radio, and television. Matters reserved for Finland include foreign affairs, civil and criminal law, justice, customs, and state taxes.
The 30-member Parliament is elected every four years by universal suffrage of those holding the right of domicile in Aland. The Parliament in turn appoints the government.
The right of domicile is a kind of regional citizenship held by people born in the Aland if possessed by either parent. It can also be acquired by people who have lived in the archipelago for five years, provided they are Finnish citizens who can prove an adequate knowledge of Swedish. The right of domicile is not only necessary to vote, but also to own real estate in Aland.
Aland has its own party system, independent of the Finnish party system. Only one openly pro-independence party exists (Future of Aland, Ålands Framtid), which usually receives 5% to 10% of the votes. The two main parties in Aland (usually receiving 20% to 30% of the votes each) are Aland Centre (Åländska Centern, in the tradition of Scandinavian agrarian parties) and Liberals for Aland (Liberalerna på Åland, liberalism). Aland Centre advocates a gradual increase in Alandic self-government. The Liberals for Aland place themselves closer to defending the current constitutional status quo.
Prime Minister: Veronica Thörnroos, Aland Centre (since 2019)
Political system: autonomous government within Finland
Distribution of seats (30 members). October 2019 election:
Aland Centre (agrarian centre) - 9
Liberals for Aland (liberal centre) - 6
Moderate Coalition for Aland (liberal-conservative centre-right) - 4
Non-Aligned Coalition (conservative right) - 4
Aland Social Democrats (social democratic centre-left) - 3
Sustainable Initiative (green centre-left) - 2
Future of Aland (social liberal pro-independence) - 1
Alandic Democracy (conservative right) - 1
Government: coalition of Aland Centre, Moderate Coalition for Aland, Non-Aligned Coalition, and Sustainable Initiative.
(Last updated November 2020)