(Finnish: Ahvenanmaa, "land of the bass"(*))

A group of some 6,000 islands in the Baltic Sea, at the southern extremity of the Gulf of Bothnia, occupying an area of 1,481km2 (572 square miles). Only 80 are inhabited; the largest island has a small town, Mariehamn -- a port with two habours in the south of the main island group. The main sectors of the island economy are tourism, agriculture, and shipping.

The islands were Swedish until 1809, when they came (with Finland), under Russian control. The Swedes tried, unsuccessfully, to recover the islands at the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 1921, the League of Nations ruled that the islands were to remain under Finnish sovereignty, to be demilitarised, and granted autonomous status. Although the islands' assembly voted for union with Sweden in 1945, the 1921 declaration remains valid. The islands became a member of the Nordic Council in 1970.

The islands have their own flag and distinct culture. The fierce local pride is channelled through careful protection of nature and historical and cultural heritage, and legislation by the lagtinget. Several dialects of Swedish are spoken here, and few Ålanders speak Finnish. Åland took its own flag in 1954, and has issued stamps since 1984.

Population: (1990) 24,600

(*) Initially I wrote "land of waters", because that was what I had been told. However, reliable sources state that it is actually bass, as in the fish. Now vuo tells me:

which are these reliable sources that say that it's "bass", not "aqua"? my reliable source is reliabler than yours: http://www.algonet.se%2F%7Efnsin%2Fvattendragsnamn_art.htm.

The confusion is that some Finns heard the originally Gothic "ahwa" or "ava" as "ahven" or "ahvena" (Finnish), which means " bass ", but these words have no connection whatsoever. the "ahwa" then migrated to "ava", "aa", "å", and in Finnish we got "ahvenanmaa".

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