Friday, February 7, 2020

Åland Islands

At the end of the month I'm headed back to Scandinavia and this time I'll visit the Åland Islands.  I swear that I go to places that most people have never heard of.  

The Åland Islands lie halfway between Finland and Sweden.  It's an archipelago of almost 300 habitable islands.  Though only some 80 islands are inhabited.  There are also about 6200 skerries and rocks.  Just under 30.000 people live here with about 90% of the population all living on Fasta Åland.  The capital and largest city is Mariehamn.

Here's the story... 

From the late Middle Ages until 1809 Sweden and Finland were united.  Following the Treaty of Fredrikshamn of 1809, Finland and the Åland Islands were given to the Russian Empire.  After WWI when Finland gained independence, the islands wanted to become a part of Sweden but Finland wouldn't let them go.

In 1921, the League of Nations ruled that the islands would remain under Finland but as an autonomous territory.  The islands are neutral, people here can not be conscripted in to the Finish armed forces and no military troops or installations are allowed on the islands.  The islands have the right to maintain the Swedish language, their culture and local traditions.  Fun fact...this was the first international agreement that the League of Nations ever achieved.

In Finnish it's called Ahvenanmaan maakunta and in Swedish it's Landskapet Åland but Swedish is the only official language here.  So I'm going to a part of Finland where no one actually speaks Finnish.  They have their own parliament, flag, and police force.  The Åland Islands are even an associate member of the Nordic Council.  Since 1984 they've been issuing their own postage stamps so I'll be sure to send out some postcards while I'm there.

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