Ahvenanmaa - But Please Call it Åland
In the southwest corner of Finland is one of Europe's oddest places: the Ahvenanmaa archipelago (Åland in Swedish). It has about 6,500 islands (about 80 are inhabited). Ahvenanmaa is roughly between the Swedish mainland and the Finnish mainland, but it officially belongs to Finland. But you wouldn't know it when you visit.
That's because if you want to speak Finnish on this Finnish island, then you should take a boat back to the Finnish mainland. We only speak Swedish in this part of Finland.
How did this turn out? In 1921, the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations) said that these islands belong to Finland. However, the island’s inhabitants lobbied the Finnish Parliament to pass the Autonomy Act in 1951 (and amended it in 1993), which granted this archipelago unusual independence:
Unlike any other province in Finland, this island province has its own internal parliament, which shares the power with the governor.
The Finnish government can’t amend the Autonomy Act without the approval of the island’s parliament.
Ahvenanmaa is a demilitarized and neutral territory. Even the Finnish Navy can’t park their boats on these Finnish islands!
They collect their own taxes, spend it all on their 25,766 inhabitants, and have practically no financial entanglements with the rest of Finland.
To own property, vote, and conduct business on Ahvenanmaa you have to obtain the Right of Domicile. To get that, you have to live on this Finnish island for five years and speak excellent Swedish.
If you live off the island for more than five years, you lose your Right of Domicile.
Any international treaty entered into by Finland requires the consent of the Parliament of Ahvenanmaa to become valid also in Ahvenanmaa.
Ahvenanmaa has its own postage stamps.
Ahvenanmaa websites refuse to use the Finnish suffix of .fi. Instead, their websites end with the .ax suffix.
The official second language in Finland is Swedish. However, on Ahvenanmaa the official second language, which is obligatory, is not Finnish, it’s English! Learning Finnish is optional on this Finnish archipelago!Continued on the next page