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Åland Islands

Åland Islands (äˈlənd, ôˈ–) [key] or Ahvenanmaa Islands äˈvĕnänmäˌ, Swed. Ålandsöerna ōˈläntsûˈürnä, archipelago (1996 pop. 25,257), 581 sq mi (1,505 sq km), in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland, at the entrance of the Gulf of Bothnia. Politically, it constitutes the Åland province of Finland. The archipelago consists of about 7,000 islands, but fewer than 100 are inhabited. The climate is mild. The chief town and provincial capital is Mariehamn, a port on Åland, the largest of the islands. Shipping, fishing, forestry, farming, and tourism are the chief occupations. Swedish is the main language. The islands, colonized by Swedes, are of strategic importance. With Finland, they were ceded by Sweden to Russia in 1809. In the Crimean War the Russian fortifications were destroyed (1854), and remilitarization was forbidden by the Treaty of Paris (1856). At the end of World War I, the islanders sought to join Sweden. The League of Nations in 1921, however, recognized Finland's sovereignty, but guaranteed the autonomous status of the islands and confirmed their demilitarization. After the Finnish-Russian War (1939–40) Finland and the Soviet Union signed a demilitarization agreement that was renewed after World War II. Under pressure from the Soviet Union, Finland's parliament renounced the League guarantee of autonomy in 1951 but at the same time accorded the islanders additional rights of self-government.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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