Provinces of Finland
Between 1634 and 2009, Finland was administered as several provinces (Finnish: Suomen läänit, Swedish: Finlands län). Finland had always been a unitary state: the provincial authorities were part of the central government's executive branch and apart from the Åland Islands, the provinces had little autonomy. There were never any elected provincial parliaments in continental Finland. The system was initially created in 1634. Its makeup was changed drastically in 1997, when the number of the provinces was reduced from twelve to six. This effectively made them purely administrative units, as linguistic and cultural boundaries no longer followed the borders of the provinces. The provinces were eventually abolished at the end of 2009. Consequently, different ministries may subdivide their areal organization differently. Besides the former provinces, the municipalities of Finland form the fundamental subdivisions of the country. In current use are the regions of Finland, a smaller subdivision where some pre-1997 läänis are split into multiple regions. Åland Islands retain their special autonomous status and their own regional parliament.