The Ã land Islands pronounced "Oh-lahnd" are a group of small islands officially belonging to Finland but awarded a wide degree of autonomy by a League of Nations decision in 1921 that settled a long-running dispute between Sweden and Finland. Still at the time when Ã land was under Russian sovereignty, a treaty was concluded between Russia, France and the United Kingdom at the issue of the Crimean War, by virtue of which the islands were demilitarized. Finland assumed the same obligation upon achieving independence. Among other things, Ã landers have their own parliament, publish their own stamps, are exempt from military service and maintain a special tax status in the European Union.
The archipelago consists of around 80 inhabited islands plus around 6000 uninhabited islands, islets and rocks. The total population is only 26,530 2004, 90% of which lives on the main island Ã land also known as Fasta (Mainland Ã land), which includes the capital Mariehamn.