February 8, 2015
1447 FINLAND (Åland) - The flag of the Åland Islands
The Åland Islands (Finnish: Ahvenanmaa) is an autonomous region of Finland that consists of an archipelago lying at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea, which comprises Fasta Åland (Main Island) and 6,500 skerries and islands. Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Sweden by 38km of open water to the west, and in the east is contiguous with the Finnish Archipelago Sea. Åland's only land border is located on the uninhabited skerry of Märket, which it shares with Sweden.
The archipelago was part of the territory ceded to Russia by Sweden under the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in September 1809. After the Grand Duchy of Finland became the independent Finland in 1917, the islands entered into its composition. Finland declined to cede them, in spite the desire of the inhabitants, almost all Swedish, to unite with Sweden, but a decision made by the League of Nations in 1921, following the Åland crisis, affirmed the autonomous status of the islands.
The Åland Islands occupy a position of strategic importance, as they command one of the entrances to the port of Stockholm, as well as the approaches to the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to being situated near the Gulf of Finland. The surface of the islands is generally rocky and the soil thin, so their economy is heavily dominated by shipping, trade and tourism, but nevertheless is the wealthiest region in Finland. Mariehamn was the base for the last large oceanic commercial sailing ships in the world.
By law, Åland is politically neutral, entirely demilitarised, and exclusively Swedish-speaking. The issue of the ethnicity of the Ålanders, and the correct linguistic classification of their language, remains sensitive and controversial. They may be considered either ethnic Swedes or Swedish-speaking Finns, but their language is closer to the adjacent dialects in Sweden, than to adjacent dialects of Finland Swedish.
Åland has its own flag, has issued its own postage stamps since 1984, runs its own police force, and is a member of the Nordic Council. The flag of Åland refers to the geographical and political position of the Finnish islands of Åland. It is the Swedish flag defaced by a red cross symbolising Finland. Today, blue and white are considered the Finnish colours, but in the early days of Finnish nationalism, red and yellow from the Finnish coat of arms were also an option. The flag of Orkney in Scotland, created in 2007, is the opposite of the flag of Åland; much in the same way as the flag of Iceland is the opposite of the flag of Norway.
About the stamps
The first stamp is one of the two which show the Åland apple cultivar Strömma, about which I wrote here.
The second stamp, designed by:Håkan Sjöström, and issued on February 7, 2014, is part of a series featuring passenger ferries. It depicts M/S Birka Princess, which was built in 1984 by Valmet, Finland for Birka Line, being renamed Sea Diamond in 2006. The ship sank on April 5, 2007, after running aground near the Greek island of Santorini the previous day, leaving two passengers missing and presumed dead.
This is a post for Sunday Stamps II-8, run by Violet Sky from See It On A Postcard. The theme of this week is:Ships, boats. Click here to visit Violet’s blog and all the other participants.
Åland Islands - Wikipedia
Sender: Posten Åland
Sent from Mariehamn (Åland Islands / Finland), on 05.12.2014
Photo: Kjell Söderlund