Hundreds of years of Swedish rule were followed by a further century of Russian control before independence in 1917, and the country displays distinctive elements of the Scandinavian and Russian legacy.
Independence failed to stem the demands of Finland's giant Soviet neighbour, and World War II saw fierce fighting along Finland's eastern border.
Finnish troops mounted a vigorous response to Soviet forces and stalled their advance, but the country was eventually forced to cede 10% of its territory and pay extensive war reparations to Moscow.
Throughout the Cold War Finland's neutrality depended on a de-facto Soviet veto on its foreign and defence policy, a status dubbed "Finlandisation".
The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s allowed Finland to step out of the Cold War shadow. It applied for membership of the EU soon after its friendship treaty with the Soviet Union became void in 1991, becoming a full member in 1995.
Helsinki Cathedral, a landmark in the capital
Finland is the only Nordic EU member to use the euro as the national currency.
The country spends heavily on education, training and research - investment which pays dividends by delivering one of the best-qualified workforces in the world.
This has been a key factor in the development of a modern, competitive economy in which an advanced telecommunications sector has been added to the traditional timber and metals industries.
Sauli Niinisto won the presidential election of February 2012 to become the country's first conservative head of state in five decades.
He is the first president from the conservative National Coalition Party since 1956, and the first in 30 years from a party other than the Social Democrats.
The victory of the pro-Europe politician suggested to observers that voters wanted to keep the country in the eurozone despite misgivings over European Union bailouts.
Mr Niinisto is credited with leading Finland's economy towards growth following the collapse of the Soviet Union, during his tenure as finance minister from 1996 to 2001.
Finland's president has a largely ceremonial role with fewer powers now than in previous decades, and is not directly involved in daily politics. However, the head of state is seen as an important shaper of public opinion, takes the lead on non-EU matters of foreign policy and plays a role as a "brand ambassador" of Finland overseas.
Mr Niinisto succeeded President Tarja Halonen, who was elected as the country's first female president in 2000 and re-elected in 2006.
Prime minister: Jyrki Katainen
Katainen previously served as deputy prime minister and finance minister
Mr Katainen's conservative National Coalition Party emerged as the largest single group in parliament in the April 2011 elections.
He formed a grand coalition in June with six other parties from the left and centre, including the Social Democrats.
The new opposition is the populist True Finns party, which refused to join the government in protest at its support for a bailout for Portugal during the debt crisis.
Born in 1971, Mr Katainen worked as a teacher before being elected a councillor in 1993. He entered parliament in 1999 and became party leader in 2004.
He served as deputy prime minister and finance minister in the previous two Centre-Party-led coalition governments between 2007 and 2011.
Finland's broadcasting sector is dynamic. Public YLE, funded by licence fees, operates radio and TV networks. New stations have emerged in a market once dominated by YLE and established private broadcaster MTV. Pay-TV is provided by pan-Nordic operator Canal+.
Finnish law gives every citizen the right to publish printed material, and guarantees the right of reply. Newspapers are privately owned and reflect a range of political views. Finland came joint first in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index.
Nearly five million Finns were online by June 2010, a penetration rate of more than 85% (Internetworldstats). Finland has made broadband access a legal right for every citizen.
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