Åland Islands, (Finnish: Ahvenanmaa,), a group of about 6,500 rocky islands and islets making up a province of Finland. They lie at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia, between Sweden on the west and the Turku Archipelago of Finland on the east. Their area is about 570 square miles (1,476 km2), about half of which is accounted for by the island of Åland. Mariehamn, on Åland, is the capital and chief port of the province. Shipping, banking, farming, lumbering, tourism, and fishing are leading industries. Only about 65 of the islands are inhabited, almost entirely by Swedish-speaking people.
The Ålands were first settled by the Swedes in the 12th century. They continued to be Sweden's until 1809, when, along with Finland, they were ceded to Russia. With Russia's collapse and Finland's independence near the end of World War I, the Ålands were claimed by both Sweden and Finland. In 1921 the League of Nations awarded the islands to Finland, but it retained a high degree of autonomy. Since 1993 it has been largely self-governing.