ÅLAND ISLANDS AHVENANMAA; Aaland Islands (in English, pronounced “Awland”).
Group of approximately 6500 islands, 80 of them inhabited lying between the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea and belonging to Finland.
They belonged to Sweden until 1809, when they were ceded, with Finland, to Russia. In 1921 the League of Nations allocated the islands to Finland, despite a plebiscite in which the (mainly Swedish) population had voted to return to Sweden. The Islands have formed a demilitarised zone since 1921.
Unlike the other läänit (provinces) of Finland, which are organs of the central government and do not have elected councils, Ålands län (Ahvenanmaa lääni) is an autonomous province, with its own elected assembly (the Lagting) and executive board, though the governor is appointed by the Government of Finland and, like the other governors, has oversight over the local work of seven of the national ministries. The government of Åland is also responsible for regional economic development. There are 17 kommuner (municipalities) – elected local authorities.