What makes Åland unique?

Åland ferry

Written by Lina Abrahamsson

Åland truly has a unique position like no other place in the world, but what exactly are the reasons behind it, other than the fact that these islands have the most sun hours in the entire Baltic Sea?  

Self autonomy
The first and probably most obvious reason for the uniqueness is the fact that Åland is a self autonomous part of Finland. In 1921 Finland was granted to have Åland with the premises that the Swedish language, culture and traditions should be preserved. Today Åland has its own parliament which is responsible for, among other matters, the budget, internal affairs, education, culture, health care, police and transportation within the region. The parliament consists of 30 members and is voted every four years. To be able to vote, one has to have the right of domicile in the Åland Islands. 

The Åland region is demilitarized and neutralized, which means no military presence is allowed and that the land must stay neutral in the event of a conflict. This is why the Åland Islands often are called ”The Islands of Peace”. 

The right of domicile
Every new born Ålander with either one or both parents being domestic will get the right of domicile in the Åland Islands. As an immigrant, you may obtain the right of domicile after living five years on Åland and speaking Swedish at a sufficient level. Likewise, if an Ålander moves away, he or she will lose the right of domicile after five years abroad. The right of domicile is needed to vote in the elections for the Åland Parliament, own land and/or real estate on the islands, and to start or own a business. 

The large archipelago
The Åland islands consists of over 6700 named islands and over 20 000 smaller islets. The transportation and communications between these islands is generous and some people commute daily to and from Mariehamn out to other islands. Finland’s (and Åland’s) smallest municipality is the island of Sottunga which has only 96 inhabitants.  

16 municipalities
Something quite special about these islands is the high number of municipalities that exist in the region, a whole 16 of them. The reason behind this is because when the division first took place, it was based on which church the inhabitants belonged to. This system has been was abolished in all the other Nordic countries but it has persisted on Åland. The municipal election is, just like the parliament, held every four years.

Champagne in the sea
In 2010 a couple of scuba divers found a ship wreck containing 145 champagne bottles dated between 1842 and 1843. This extraordinary discovery was soon noticed among wine connoisseurs around the world and an auction was later held in Mariehamn. Two of the bottles were then sold for 24.000 € respectively the world record-breaking 30.000 €. An experiment has now been executed were champagne bottles are being stored at the bottom of the sea in the Åland waters, a cooperation between Veuve Clicquot and the Åland-based company SIlverskär.


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