Sunday, 14 April 2013

10 Useless Facts about Finland

In the past couple of weeks, my social media inlets [is that the word for the SoMe equivalent of an inbox?] seem to have been filled with an unusually high number of, well, numbered lists. You know the kind that go: "5, 10 or 20 [useless] things you need to know, do, avoid, see, read or have, now or before you die".

I figured it was time for me to contribute a trivial and pointless list of my own – about Finnish things, obviously.

The list below contains largely useless facts that I have come across over the years of being interested in all things Finnish. I have tried to avoid the obvious (Finns like saunas) or the well known (Finns are world champions at weird sports).

So here is my list of 10 useless Finnish facts:

1. There was a 4.7 earthquake in Finland
Finland suffered its worse ever earthquake in the early hours of 4 November 1898, centered around Tornio, in Northern Finland. The quake was a "mighty" 4.7 on the Richter scale. Contemporary reports describe the "devastation" as follows: "[in] Svanstein, [...] windows shook and 'floors moved as if on waves' [...]. In Salmis, one lamp was extinguished by the quake among other things. In Haaparanta, rooms shook and smaller objects moved considerably. In Tornio, doors had opened, windows shaken, etc." Admitedly, 4.7 is not much of a shake.

2. Malaria was quite common in Finland in the 19th century
There were malaria epidemics in Finland throughout the 19th century, with a mortality rate reaching up to 3% of the population with 7-20% infected. The worst epidemic occurred in 1862 and the most Northern outbreak was in Kittilä, in Lapland, way above the Arctic Circle.

3. There is one fjord in Finland
People not familiar with the geography of Finland and who imagine the coastline to be like Norway's might be surprised to find that there is just one fjord in the country. However, anyone who knows what Finland really looks like will probably ask: "a fjord? in Finland? where?". Well, Finland's one and only fjord, Paarlahti, is actually inland, near the town of Tampere.

4. The first Finnish opera was written by a German
German composer Friedrich Pacius wrote the first Finnish opera in 1852, Kung Karls jakt (The Hunt of King Charles). He also wrote both the Finnish and the Estonian national anthems.

5. Finland has no embassy in New Zealand
Finland has no embassy in quite a few countries, though it seems a bit odd that New Zeeland has been left out, given the very special relationship between the two countries.

6. The first Alko opened on a memorable date
Unbelievably, authorities tried to impose a prohibition on the Finns (between 1919 and 1932). When that came to an end, the national alcohol monopoly, Alko, was created. The first shops opened on 5th of April, 1932, at 10:00, making date and time 543210.

7. Matt Damon has Finnish ancestry
On his mother's side, the US actor Matt Damon had a great-grandmother called Impi Nieminen, and a great-great-grandmother called Catherine Carlson who emigrated from Finland to the US in 1889.

8. The guns in the Helsinki fortress of Suomenlinna were useless
The guns on Suomenlinna were only really ever called into action once, and failed miserably. In 1855, during the Crimean War, the Anglo-French fleet bombarded the fortress for 48 hours. The ageing Russian guns were fired in defense, but their range was far shorter than those of the allied ships, which were able to stay out of the reach of the guns, while bombarding the fortress with impunity.

9. The Nokia ringtone was composed in 1902
Finland's most famous corporation, Nokia, is one of those very rare companies that have a globally recognised "aural logo", the famous tudututu-tudututu-tuuuuuu (you know the one). It turns out it wasn't created by some clever ad agency in the 1990s, but is in fact a phrase from a composition for solo guitar, Gran Vals, written in 1902 by the Spanish classical guitarist and composer Francisco Tárrega.

10. Finland has the most northern vineyard in the world
We all know Finland is pretty up-North, so it's no surprise that the country holds a lot of northernmost-type records. For example, Helsinki is the home to the most northern Metro stration (Mellunmäki) and Rovaniemi to the most northern McDonald's. All very fascinating records, but nothing quite compares to the fact that Finland has the most northern vineyard in the world. How, you may ask? Well, the vinyard is actually located... in the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant. Make your own punchline.

Feel free to share other useless facts about Finland.


  1. Christopher Lee volunteered to fight with the foreign forces for Finland during the 'Talvisota' (Winter War) before becoming an actor.

    Even better when you consider he was Saruman, when Tolkien was rather enamoured of Finland and the Finnish language!

  2. Not pointless at all. Enjoyed learning about some of these! ;)