5 Must-See Sites in Scandinavia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

5 Must-See Sites in Scandinavia

Would you like an enthralling adventure with serenity and peace? Scandinavia is a once-in-a-lifetime must-see trip. Several must-see places in Scandinavia grab the undivided attention of visitors due to their distinctiveness.

Koli National Park – Finland

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This is one of the most stunning places in Scandinavia. It offers the best hiking and views in Finland. This park provides a fresh outlook on life with its natural wonders. Hike among the rivers, green mountains, and unspoiled summit of the mountains, where you’ll get the most beautiful vantage point. From here, you can see the Finnish countryside and relish in the stunning sunsets and sunrises.

If hiking is not your thing, the daring can enjoy river rafting, canoeing, skiing, and cycling at Koli National Park. The moss-covered woodlands with shimmering waterfalls are nature at its finest. This magical, positive space is the closest to heaven on Earth.

Øresund Bridge – Denmark & Sweden

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The Øresund Bridge connects Sweden and Denmark. First planned in 1936, bridge construction began in 1995 with the opening in 2000. Unexpected delays included finding undetonated World War II bombs in the construction path. Yet, the project was completed three months ahead of schedule. It is the longest rail and road bridge in Europe.

Found 30 feet beneath the water exiting at the Danish island of Amager, one experiences the sloping drive in this bridge. Stretching 5 miles across with a 2.5-mile underwater portion, it unites Denmark and Sweden across the Øresund Strait. This amazing design of human architecture and construction is a must-see.

Stockholm Archipelago – Sweden

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Stockholm Archipelago has more than 20,000 islands distributed within the Baltic Sea. Return to a time when the Vikings sailed the seas and eagles and seals still roam. Numerous nature hiking and biking trails wind a zigzag pattern over the landscape. Navigating among the islands is a kayaker’s, paddler’s, and boaters’ paradise.

This is a must-see-and-eat place for the foodies at heart. Savor the edible delights of different foods from farm shops while basking in an astounding place defined by natural beauty. The climate is favorable to the wandering visitor with cool breezes and sunny days.

Royal Danish Horticultural Society Garden – Denmark

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Created in 1830, this Copenhagen standout the oldest horticultural society in Scandinavia. The running theme is of an English-style garden that brings a sense of serenity and soothing calm to the visitor. Melodic waters bubble from the numerous fountains that pepper the gardens. One cannot help but feel relaxed, silent, and invigorated sipping from the spring water wells.

Formerly Frederiksberg Palace of a Danish royal family, the garden is a place for inspiration and self-reflection, as bikes and jogging are not allowed. Walk among perennial grounds, ancient statues, old growth trees, and water gardens to discover both exquisite design and yourself.

Lofoten Islands – Norway

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This is one of the magnificent must-see places on Earth where you can view the Northern Lights. Located north of the Arctic Circle, near the North Pole, the aurora light show is generated by the disturbance of the solar winds through the magnetosphere. This natural light occurrence adds a mystical quality to your journey. The colors are sprinkled throughout the night sky and Arctic light while your backdrop is the icy mountains and glacial fjords. Other activities include kayaking, canoeing, and hiking with your personal guide.

If you love the outdoors and thirst for exploration with photo opportunities, Scandinavia has fascinating choices. Plan your travels, shut off the stress of the outside world for a time, and relax on these perfect Scandinavian undertakings.

10 Most Educated Countries

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

10 Most Educated Countries

For most countries, the average education level of the population can be an indicator of its financial stability and literacy rates. It can even contribute to how healthy the country is overall. With all of this in mind, do you know which countries rank as the most educated in the world? While you might be able to guess a few, there may be some countries on the list that surprise you. Here are the top 10 most educated countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

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Luxembourg comes in as the smallest country to make the list. The country has only around 615,70 residents. Luxembourg is a landlocked country, surrounded by Germany, France, and Belgium. According to the OECD, 87% of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed at least a secondary education (compared to the OECD average of 84%). Also, 54% of residents in this age group have completed at least some level of higher education. Maybe this has something to do with why Luxembourg comes in as the wealthiest country in the world.

Norway

Norway

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It probably comes as no surprise that Norway ranks among the most educated countries. The European nation consistently ranks high for various quality of life factors, including healthcare, environmental awareness, and overall happiness. Colleges in Norway are tuition-free, which gives citizens greater access to higher education. The rate of adults with higher education has been increasing in Norway, and the country saw a 5% jump from 2007 to 2017. In 2017, 48% of adults aged 25 to 34 had some level of tertiary education.

Finland

Finland

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Another country with free education, this Scandinavian nation ranks among the most educated in the world. It’s not just Finnish residents that can take advantage of the free education. Non-native residents can get free schooling, as well. The Finnish education system is a stark contrast to that in the United States. Some key differences are that Finnish children receive 75 minutes of recess every day (as opposed to 27 minutes in the U.S.), there is no mandated testing until the age of 16, and most teachers stick with the same group of students for at least five years. It’s no wonder Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for two years running.

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Australia

Australia

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The land down under just barely misses the top five when it comes to the percentage of adults who have a higher education. An impressive 52% of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed higher education courses. The country also ranks among the highest level of citizens who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is despite how Australia has some of the highest tuition rates in the world.

United States of America

United States of America

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Public opinion on the state of the education system in the United States varies, depending on who you ask. The country is known to have an unbelievable amount of student debt, and tuition continues to be on the rise. On the other hand, the United States has some of the best universities in the world and is one of the world’s strongest powers. So it’s probably not surprising that the U.S. comes in smack dab in the middle of the top 10 most educated countries. The U.S. Census estimates that 59% of adults have completed some college.

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

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One thing that sets the United Kingdom apart from other countries is its focus on early education. The country sees high enrollment levels for young children. Education is a top priority for citizens as reports have shown a direct correlation between education level and pay. In fact, one study found that residents with upper education earned on average 48% more than their peers without upper education. The United Kingdom is home to two of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.

South Korea

South Korea

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South Korea places high demands on its students. Consequently, the country has a high number of adults with upper education. When it comes to students graduating from secondary school, Korea ranks number one. 98% of citizens graduate from secondary education. South Korea also ranks number one for attaining tertiary education, with nearly 70% of its residents completing some higher education.

Israel

Israel

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The education system in Israel is different from those in most of the world, but it still ranks as one of the best. In Israel, most schools are divided by the student’s faith. It is also not uncommon for schools to include weapon training. Because of its strong focus on education, the country has more university degrees per capita than any other country in the world. According to the OECD, nearly 25% of all residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Japan

Japan

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It may be hard to believe, but Japan does not come in at the top spot when it comes to education. Though the country is world-renowned for its education levels, it falls just short of number one. The amount of tertiary schooling comes in at a staggering 60% for adults between the age of 25 and 34. While the country has one of the highest percentages of adults expected to complete a bachelor’s degree, it has one of the lowest levels for doctorate degrees. Just 1% of its citizens are expected to attain a doctorate.

Canada

Canada

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Canada just barely edges out Japan when it comes to adults who will complete some amount of college. A whopping 60.9% of Canadians between the age of 25 and 34 have completed some level of college, whereas that number is 60.4% in Japan. There seems to be some level of correlation between education level and happiness because Norway, Finland, and Canada all ranked among the happiest countries in the world.

Israel among world’s top 10 most innovative countries — global index

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel among world’s top 10 most innovative countries — global index

Switzerland tops list, followed by Sweden and US; Jewish state has climbed steadily in rankings since 2015

Participants at the DLD Tel Aviv Digital Conference, Israel's largest international Hi-tech gathering, featuring hundreds of start ups, VC’s, angel investors and leading multinationals, held at the Old Train Station complex in Tel Aviv on September 8, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Participants at the DLD Tel Aviv Digital Conference, Israel’s largest international Hi-tech gathering, featuring hundreds of start ups, VC’s, angel investors and leading multinationals, held at the Old Train Station complex in Tel Aviv on September 8, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Switzerland is the world’s most innovative country for a second consecutive year while Israel made the top 10, a global indicator showed Wednesday.

The annual Global Innovation Index — compiled by World Intellectual Property Organization, Cornell University and INSEAD — ranks 129 world economies on 80 parameters including research, technology and creativity.

Switzerland was followed by Sweden, the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, Singapore and Germany, with Israel rounding out the top 10.

The Jewish state was placed 11th in 2018, 17th in 2017, 21st in 2016, and 22nd in 2015.

India, where the announcement was made, was ranked 52nd but has leaped up the rankings in recent years, WIPO assistant director-general Naresh Prasad said.

The report came as the International Monetary Fund downgraded global growth and warned of a “precarious” 2020 amid trade tensions, continued uncertainty and rising prospects for a no-deal Brexit.

The report’s authors said spending on innovation was still growing and appeared resilient despite the slowdown.

But they also warned of signs of waning public support for research and development in high-income economies usually responsible for pushing the innovation envelope, and increased protectionism.

“In particular, protectionism that impacts technology-intensive sectors and knowledge flows poses risks to global innovation networks and innovation diffusion,” the report said.

“If left uncontained, these new obstacles to international trade, investment, and workforce mobility will lead to a slowdown of growth in innovation productivity and diffusion across the globe.”

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4 Most Powerful Passports in the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

Most Powerful Passports in the World

Wouldn’t it be great to travel around the world and never have to worry about going through a lengthy process of applying for a visa. For some, their nation’s passports grant them hassle-free entry to hundreds of far-off countries. For others, diplomatic relations hamper the ability to move around at will.

Here we have the four most powerful passports in the world according to statistics compiled by London-based citizenship and residence advisory Henley & Partners, though, since there are a few ties, the list really stands at nine. Using information gathered from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the firm classifies passports by the ease of which they can obtain visa-free and/or visa-on-arrival admission.

Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden

Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden

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Four European nations, three of which are Nordic countries, share fourth place with the ability to enjoy visa-free travel to 187 countries. Throughout much of Europe, people from these countries not only enjoy ease of entry but are also classified under the Freedom of Movement act. This human rights act grants individuals the possibility to choose where they live and work. Curiously, Finland, Denmark and Sweden (in that order) made the top 10 of the UN’s 2019 World Happiness Report. Is there be a direct correlation between happiness and freedom to travel? Italians meanwhile can set off on adventures to mysterious places such as Benin, Comoros and Guyana with just their passport in hand.

Germany and France

Germany and France

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The Germans and French go one better in third place by having visa-free travel to 188 countries. Since the statistics were first published in 2006, Germany has maintained a top five position and increased their visa-free access by 59. France has done better still in fostering preferable visa relations with 60 new nations. As with their European counterparts in fourth place, the Germans and French can also make use of the Freedom of Movement act. Adventurous citizens of both can pack their bags and set off for lesser-known nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu.

South Korea

South Korea

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With visa-free travel possible to 189 nations, South Korea takes second place and starts the Asian domination at the top end of the list. South Korea ranked 11th in 2006 but thanks to the addition of an incredible 74 new visa-free arrangements since, it now has one of the most desirable passports. The entire European continent opens its doors to South Koreans. The citizens can also delight in free and stressless visa arrangements with Caribbean islands and much of Latin America.

Japan and Singapore

Japan and Singapore

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The prize for the most powerful passport in the world goes to Japan and Singapore. Their citizens can visit 189 countries either visa-free or by a visa-on-arrival agreement. They beat South Korea to the top spot based on the fact that they also have visa-free entry to the world’s four largest economies of China, India, the European Union and United States. Only four nations have this power, the others being Brunei and San Marino. Japan has established new visa-free relations with 61 new nations since 2006 while Singapore has increased their total by 67. With either of these passports in hand you could travel by land from Portugal to Malaysia and only need to prearrange an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) visa for Pakistan.

5 Northernmost Capitals in the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

5 Northernmost Capitals in the World

Looking to go somewhere a little different for your next vacation? Consider a visit to one of the world’s northernmost capital cities and see a bit of a different world. We’ve placed together five world cities with the most northern latitudes in order to help travelers plan a new kind of trip.

Reykjavik, Iceland (Latitude 64.13)

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While technically Longyearbyen, Svalbard is the northernmost administrative settlement, governing over the Norwegian Arctic unincorporated area of Svalbard. Reykjavik takes the official title, as it is part of a sovereign state and Longyearbyen is not. Reykjavik is located on Iceland’s coast and is also its largest city. There is plenty to do there, from swimming in one of the city’s famous thermal pools to visiting its many museums and galleries. You can also check out some of its most impressive natural sites, like those found in the Golden Circle. And, as one might expect, the climate is almost always on the cool side, with highs of 58 degrees Fahrenheit in July and lows of 28 degrees in February.

Helsinki, Finland (Latitude 60.17)

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Coming in at second, Reykjavik’s Nordic neighbor Helsinki has a population of just over 643,000 people and sits on one of the country’s peninsulas, jutting out into the Gulf of Finland. The city has a vibrant nightlife, beautiful lakeland labyrinthsand plenty of culture in the form of museums, medieval castles and a historical nature center. Helsinki is also known for its Christmas market, which is why it has the nickname “The Christmas City.” The temperatures get as low as 19 degrees in February and as high as 71 degrees in July.

Oslo, Norway (Latitude 59.95)

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Oslo is often cold and rainy, but there is no shortage of things to do in this city. It has been modernized quite a bit over the last few years, and some of its notable attractions include its ski museum, the Edvard Munch museum, the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet and the TusenFryd Amusement Park. In addition, Oslo presents the Nobel Peace Prize to its recipient each and every year. The climate of Oslo fluctuates quite a bit, from temperatures as low as 23 degrees in January and February to as high as 73 in July.

Tallinn, Estonia (Latitude 59.43)

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Tallinn, Estonia, is known for its Old Town area as well as its tower Kiek in de Kok. Tourists are encouraged to get off the beaten path and enjoy the other areas of Tallinn, such as Kadriorg and Kalamaja. The street art is especially impressive in Tallinn, and every year, the city holds the Estonian Song and Dance Celebration, which is an enormous cultural festival. Tallinn is also where most visitors who go to Estonia start off their journeys, so it is a great way to begin ones’ experience of the excitement and flavor of the country. Visitors in Tallinn should expect to see snow between the months of November and April, with lows in January and February in the high teens. However, temperatures rise to a high of 75 degrees in July, allowing for a good display of the seasons.

Stockholm, Sweden (Latitude 59.32)

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Stockholm is made up of an archipelago of 14 islands that are connected by over 50 bridges. The city itself is both futuristic and deeply historical, offering fine dining and culture mixed with chill island lifestyles. Tourists are encouraged to visit the Nationalmuseum, the ArkDes Skeppsholem or the Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design within the Modern Museum of Art in Stockholm, and its woodland cemetery, Skogskyrkogården, the architecture of which is unparalleled. Stockholm also hosts the Nobel Prize ceremony every year. The average climate of Stockholm sees lows of 25 degrees in February with highs of 73 degrees in July, a perfect experience of the seasons all in one vibrant, island town.

What was named the happiest country in 2019? Hint: It Definitely Not The U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

What was named the happiest country in 2019?

Finland

48%

Sweden

33%

United States

2%

New Zealand

16%

Source: CNN | Date Updated: June 11, 2019

Learn More: While it’s obviously not an easy thing to nail down, the world’s happiest country is Finland, according to the World Happiness Report. The Finns must be doing something right, as this is the second year in a row that they’ve claimed the title. In fact, happiness seems to be common in the Nordic countries, as Denmark and Norway placed second and third, respectively. The rankings take into consideration factors such as income, trust, healthy life expectancy, generosity, social support, and freedom.

The 10 Happiest Countries In The World (Hint: The U.S. Is Not One Of Them)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

10 Happiest Countries in the World

10

Happiest Countries in the World

The United Nations recently released its World Happiness Report for 2019. The report took into account a number of factors, including social support, freedom, corruption and life expectancy. The results seem to prove that having a healthy work-life balance and a strong sense of community often lead to happiness. And since happy countries are great places to visit, you may want to put some of these countries on your bucket list. Here are the 10 happiest countries in the world.

Austria

Austria

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In 2019, Austria jumped two spots to finally make the top 10 list of happiest countries in the world. This may be due to the fact that Austrians are simply satisfied with their lives, according to the OECD Better Life Index. Getting outdoors, including hiking and skiing, is relatively easy since 62% of the country is covered by the Alps. And since Austria is firmly situated between many countries, Austrians have access to the rest of Europe on their dependable high-speed railways.

Canada

Canada

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Canadians are known to be some of the nicest people in the world, and it appears that nice people are also happy people. Although it fell from the seven spot, Canada remains in the top 10 with a population of friendly, hockey-loving residents. And with its growing population of immigrants, Canada is becoming a more culturally diverse country. When you add beautiful national parks, universal health care and an abundance of outdoor activities, Canada becomes more appealing by the second.

New Zealand

New Zealand

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Consistently ranked as one of the friendliest places in the world, New Zealand is also one of the happiest. Residents of New Zealand are notoriously laid-back, which helps them achieve a healthy work-life balance. It probably helps that New Zealand is an island paradise that contains an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities, like mountain-biking, skiing and hiking.

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Sweden

Sweden

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The long winters and cold climate doesn’t seem to be a happiness deterrent for the Swedes. Home to a mixed economy, the Swedish government plays a large role in controlling the country’s industries. While this does make taxes rather high, Swedes do benefit in a number of ways. From the average five weeks of paid vacation to 480 days of parental leave, the people of Sweden take advantage of some nice perks.

Switzerland

Switzerland

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The Swiss may have a reputation for staying neutral, but that doesn’t stop them from being happy. Or maybe they’re happy because of their neutrality? Switzerland hasn’t taken part in a war for 172 years, which means the country’s coffers haven’t been emptied for military expenses. And as a country renowned for its top-notch skiing and breathtaking vistas, it certainly must be a nice place to live. Best of all, with an average 35.2-hour work week, the Swiss have more time to get outside and enjoy life.

Netherlands

Netherlands

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The Netherlands’ high ranking in the happiness index may be attributed to a healthy work-life balance. Ranked number one in this category by the OECD Better Life Index, the Dutch people are the best at juggling commitments between work, family and personal life. Since almost everyone uses a bicycle to commute, the Dutch have endorphin-producing exercise ingrained into their everyday habits. Add in a low crime rate and a relaxed café culture, and it’s clear that living in the Netherlands has its perks.

Iceland

Iceland

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Iceland’s happiness doesn’t solely depend upon monetary success. In fact, the financial meltdown of 2008 didn’t hurt the overall happiness of Icelanders, even though many of them came upon hard times. Whether it’s because they’re descendants of Vikings, or because they get enough omega-3 from all the fish they eat, the people of Iceland are resilient. This trait, when paired with the country’s optimism, has created a tight-knit national community.

Norway

Norway

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As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Norway is quite well-off. Even though the country is known to be dark and cold, Norwegians have a surprisingly upbeat attitude about life. A common saying in Norway goes “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” which shows how a little positivity can go a long way.

Denmark

Denmark

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The Danish concept of hygge has recently taken the world by storm and is a notion that speaks volumes about the country’s culture. Roughly translated to “cozy,” hygge is a lifestyle trend abided by the people of Denmark. Indulging in a cup of hot cocoa after playing outside in the snow or curling up with a good book while rain pitter-patters on the roof — these moments of “intentional intimacy” define hygge, according to LiveScience. Have you ever heard that it’s the little things in life that make you happy? For the people of Denmark, this seems to be true.

Finland

Finland

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Ranked the happiest country in the world for two straight years, the people of Finland are quite content. And this happiness isn’t limited to the born-and-bred Finnish people. Finland’s immigrants also rank the happiest in the world. As the co-editor of the World Happiness Report, John Helliwell, said, “It’s not about Finnish DNA. It’s about the way life is lived.” Another Scandinavian country that places community and work-life balance at the forefront of its priorities, Finland’s equal society and supportive networks are chief in finding happiness.

Finland: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Ancient North European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Finland

Introduction Finland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. It won its complete independence in 1917. During World War II, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and resist invasions by the Soviet Union – albeit with some loss of territory. In the subsequent half century, the Finns made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is now on par with Western Europe. A member of the European Union since 1995, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999.
History Prehistory

Prehistoric red ochre painted rock art of moose, human figures and boats in Astuvansalmi in Ristiina, the Southern Savonia region from ca. 3800–2200 BCE

According to archaeological evidence, the area now composing Finland was first settled around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice shield of the last ice age receded. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, living primarily off what the tundra and sea could offer. Pottery is known from around 5300 BCE (see Comb Ceramic Culture).The arrival of the Battle Axe culture (or Cord-Ceramic Culture) in southern coastal Finland around 3200 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture. However, the earliest certain records of agriculture are from the late third millennium BCE. Even with the introduction of agriculture, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy, especially in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

The Bronze Age (1500–500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE–1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with other cultures in the Fennoscandian and Baltic regions. There is no consensus on when Finno-Ugric languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland.

Swedish era (until 1809)

The sea fortress of Suomenlinna was founded by a discusion of the Swedish Diet in 1747 as a defence works and naval base, to be built on the islands off Helsinki.

Sweden established its official rule of Finland in the 13th century by the crown. Swedish became a dominant language of the nobility, administration and education; Finnish was chiefly a language for the peasantry, clergy and local courts in predominantly Finnish-speaking countries. The Bishop of Turku was usually the most important person in Finland during the Catholic era.

The Middle Ages ended with the Reformation when the Finns gradually converted to Lutheranism. In the 16th century, Mikael Agricola published the first written works in Finnish. The first university in Finland, The Royal Academy of Turku, was established in 1640. In the 18th century, wars between Sweden and Russia led to occupation of Finland twice by Russian forces, known to the Finns as the Greater Wrath (1714–1721) and the Lesser Wrath (1742–1743). By this time “Finland” was the predominant term for the whole area from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Russian border.

Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire (1809–1917)

Main article: Grand Duchy of Finland

On March 29, 1809, after being conquered by the armies of Alexander I of Russia in the Finnish War, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. During the Russian era, the Finnish language started to gain recognition, first probably to sever the cultural and emotional ties with Sweden and thereafter, from the 1860s onwards, as a result of a strong nationalism, known as the Fennoman movement. Milestones included the publication of what would become Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala, in 1835; and the Finnish language achieving equal legal status with Swedish in 1892.

Despite the Finnish famine of 1866-1868 – the last major famine in Europe – in which about 15 percent of the population died, political and economic development was rapid from the 1860s onwards. The disaster of famine led Russian Empire to ease regulation and investment rose in following decades.[7] The GDP per capita was still a half of United States and a third of Great Britain.

In 1906, universal suffrage was adopted in the Grand Duchy of Finland, the second country in the world where this happened. However, the relationship between the Grand Duchy and the Russian Empire soured when the Russian government made moves to restrict Finnish autonomy. For example, the universal suffrage was, in practice, virtually meaningless, since the emperor did not approve any of the laws adopted by the Finnish parliament. Desire for independence gained ground, first among radical nationalists and socialists.

Civil War (1917–1918) and early independence

On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence, which was approved by Bolshevist Russia.

Contrary to Lenin’s and Finnish socialists’ expectations, the majority of Finns voted non-socialists parties in 1917 general elections. Soon in 1918, the violent wing of social democratic party started a coup, which led a brief but bitter Civil War that affected domestic politics for many decades afterwards. The Civil War was fought between “the Whites”, who were supported by Imperial Germany, and “the Reds”, supported by Bolshevist Russia. Eventually, the Whites overcame the Reds. The deep social and political enmity between the Reds and Whites remained. The civil war and activist expeditions (see Heimosodat) to the Soviet Union strained eastern relations.

After a brief flirtation with monarchy, Finland became a presidential republic, with Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg elected as its first president in 1919. The Finnish–Russian border was determined by the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, largely following the historic border but granting Pechenga (Finnish: Petsamo) and its Barents Sea harbour to Finland. Finnish democracy didn’t see any more Soviet coup attempts and survived the anti-Communist Lapua Movement. The relationship between Finland and the Soviet Union was tense. Finnish ethnicity was targeted by genocide in the Soviet Union, though little of that was known in Finland. Finland disliked all forms of socialism, leading Germany’s national socialism to deteriorate relations with Germany. Military was trained in France instead and relations to Western Europe and Sweden were strengthened.

In 1917 the population was 3 million. Land reform was enacted after the civil war, increasing the percantage of capital-owning population.[7] About 70% of workers were occupied in agriculture and 10% in industry.[8] The largest export markets were United Kingdom and Germany. Great Depression in the early ’30s was relatively light in Finland.

Finland during World War II

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939–40 after the Soviet Union had attacked Finland and in the Continuation War of 1941–44, following Operation Barbarossa in which Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Following German losses on the Eastern Front and the subsequent Soviet advance, Finland was forced to make peace with the Soviet Union. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944–45, when Finland forced the Germans out of northern Finland.

The treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included Finnish obligations, restraints, and reparations as well as further Finnish territorial concessions (cf. the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940). Finland ceded most of Finnish Karelia, Salla, and Pechenga, which amounted to ten percent of its land area and twenty percent of its industrial capacity. Some 400,000 evacuees, mainly women and children, fled these areas. Establishing trade with the Western powers, such as the United Kingdom, and the reparations to the Soviet Union caused Finland to transform itself from a primarily agrarian economy to an industrialised one. Even after the reparations had been paid off, Finland continued to trade with the Soviet Union in the framework of bilateral trade.

Cold war

In 1950 a half of the workers was occupied in agriculture and a third lived in urban towns.[9] The new jobs in manufacturing, services and trade quickly attracted people towns. The average number of births per woman declined from baby boom peak 3.5 in 1947 to 1.5 in 1973.[9] When baby boomers entered the workforce, the economy didn’t generate jobs fast enough and hundreds of thousands emigrated to the more industrialized Sweden, migration peaking in 1969 and 1970.[9] This mass migration is largely the reason why 4.7 percent of Sweden’s population speak Finnish today.

Officially claiming to be neutral, Finland lay in the grey zone between the Western countries and the Soviet Union. The “YYA Treaty” (Finno-Soviet Pact of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance) gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics. This was extensively exploited by President Urho Kekkonen against his opponents. He maintained an effective monopoly on Soviet relations, which gave him a status of “only choice for president”. There was also a tendency of self-censorship regarding Finno-Soviet relations. This phenomenon was given the name “Finlandisation” by the German press (fi. suomettuminen). When Finlandisation was not enough, direct censorship was used, including in 1700 books and many movies, and asylym-seeking defectors were returned to be killed by the Soviet Union. Soviets created and financed anti-Western and pro-Soviet youth movements peaking in 70s, when communist-led Teen Union harassed teachers suspected of bourgeois ideas, and their former members have still a lot power. Soviet intelligence services sometimes used their contacts to install personnel in the administration, mass media, academia, political parties and trade unions. Politicization was widespread and public sector workers were often dependent on having the correct political party membership.

However, Finland maintained a democratic government and a market economy unlike most other countries bordering the Soviet Union. Property rights were strong. While nationalization committees were set up in France and UK, Finland avoided nationalizations. After failed experiments with protectionism, Finland eased restrictions and made a free trade agreement with the European Community in 1973, making its markets more competitive. Local education market expanded and an increasing number of Finns also went to have education in the United States or Western Europe, bringing back advanced skills. There was quite common, but pragmatic-minded, credit and investment cooperation by state and corporations, though it was considered with suspicion. Support for capitalism was widespread.[7] Savings rate hovered among the world’s highest, at around 8% until 80s. In the beginning of the 1970s, Finland’s GDP per capita reached the level of Japan and the UK. Finland’s development shared many aspects with Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan.[7]

Having been targeted by Soviet intelligence and youth propaganda, liberals lost support and socialist-majority generations seized power in 70s and 80s. Corporatism and taxes were increased. The power of social democrats and the almost overnight-grown trade union SAK became hegemonic in politics.[10] In 1991 Finland fell into a Great Depression-magnitude depression caused by combination economic overheating, depressed Western, Soviet and local markets, and disappearance of Soviet barter system. Stock market and housing prices declined by 50%.[11] The growth in the 1980s was based on debt, and when the defaults began rolling in, GDP declined by 15% and unemployment increased from a virtual full employment to one fifth of the workforce. The crisis was amplified by trade unions’ initial opposition to any reforms. Politicians struggled to cut spending and the public debt doubled to around 60% of GDP.[11] After devaluations the depression bottomed out in 1993.

Liberalization and integration with the West

Like other Nordic countries, Finland has liberalized the economy since late 80s. Financial and product market regulation was removed. The market is now one of the most free in Europe. State enterprises were privatized and taxes were cut. However, unlike in Denmark, trade unions blocked job market reforms, causing persistent unemployment and a two-tier job market. Trade unions also blocked social security reform proposals towards basic income or negative income tax. Finland joined the European Union in 1995. The central bank was given an inflation-targeting mandate until Finland joined eurozone.[11] The growth rate has since been one of the highest of OECD countries and Finland has topped many indicators of national performance.

In addition to fast integration with the European Union, safety against Russian leverage has been increased by building fully NATO-compatible military. 1000 troops (a high per-capita amount) are simultaneously committed in NATO operations. Finland has also opposed energy projects that increase dependency on Moscow.[12] At the same time, Finland remains one of the last non-members in Europe and there seems to be not enough support for full membership unless Sweden joins first.[13]

The population is aging with the birth rate at 10.42 births/1,000 population or fertility rate at 1.8.[9] With median age at 41.6 years Finland is one of the oldest countries [14] and a half of voters is estimated to be over 50 years old. Like most European countries, without further reforms or much higher immigration Finland is expected to struggle with demographics, even though macroeconomic projections are healthier than in most other developed countries.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland, between Sweden and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 64 00 N, 26 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 338,145 sq km
land: 304,473 sq km
water: 33,672 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Montana
Land boundaries: total: 2,681 km
border countries: Norway 727 km, Sweden 614 km, Russia 1,340 km
Coastline: 1,250 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm (in the Gulf of Finland – 3 nm)
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 12 nm; extends to continental shelf boundary with Sweden
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: cold temperate; potentially subarctic but comparatively mild because of moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current, Baltic Sea, and more than 60,000 lakes
Terrain: mostly low, flat to rolling plains interspersed with lakes and low hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Haltiatunturi 1,328 m
Natural resources: timber, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, chromite, nickel, gold, silver, limestone
Land use: arable land: 6.54%
permanent crops: 0.02%
other: 93.44% (2005)
Irrigated land: 640 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 110 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.33 cu km/yr (14%/84%/3%)
per capita: 444 cu m/yr (1999)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: air pollution from manufacturing and power plants contributing to acid rain; water pollution from industrial wastes, agricultural chemicals; habitat loss threatens wildlife populations
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: long boundary with Russia; Helsinki is northernmost national capital on European continent; population concentrated on small southwestern coastal plain
Politics Politics of Finland takes place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic and of a multi-party system. The President of Finland is the head of state, leads the foreign policy, and is the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Forces. The Prime Minister of Finland is the head of government; executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the Parliament of Finland, and the government has limited rights to amend or extend legislation. The president has the power of veto over parliamentary decisions although it can be overrun by the parliament.

Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Judiciary consists of two systems, regular courts and administrative courts, headed by the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, respectively. Administrative courts process cases where official decisions are contested. There is no “Constitutional Court”, i.e. the constitutionality of a law cannot be contested.

Though Finland has a primarily parliamentary system, the president has some notable powers. The foreign policy is led by the president, “in co-operation” with the cabinet, and the same applies to matters concerning national security. The main executive power lies in the cabinet headed by the prime minister. Before the constitutional rewrite, which was completed in 2000, the president enjoyed more power.

Finns enjoy individual and political freedoms, and suffrage is universal at 18; Finland was the first country to give full eligibility to women. The country’s population is ethnically homogeneous with no sizable immigrant population. Few tensions exist between the Finnish-speaking majority and the Swedish-speaking minority, although in certain circles there is an unending debate about the status of the Swedish language. According to Transparency International, Finland has had the lowest level of corruption in all the countries studied in their survey for the last several years.

The labor agreements also pose significant political questions. Bargaining is highly centralized and often the government participates to coordinate fiscal policy. Finland has universal validity of collective labour agreements and often, but not always, the trade unions, employers and the government reach a Comprehensive Income Policy Agreement. Significant trade unions are SAK, STTK, AKAVA and EK.

People Population: 5,238,460 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 16.9% (male 449,548/female 433,253)
15-64 years: 66.7% (male 1,768,996/female 1,727,143)
65 years and over: 16.4% (male 344,798/female 514,722) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 41.6 years
male: 40 years
female: 43.1 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.127% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 10.42 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 9.93 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.78 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.038 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.024 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.958 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.52 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.84 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.66 years
male: 75.15 years
female: 82.31 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.73 children born/woman

Israel is 11th happiest nation in the world; US slides to 18th

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel is 11th happiest nation in the world; US slides to 18th

Jewish state maintains its high ranking on list of 156 countries for fifth successive year, but gets less praise for attitude to migrants; Finland tops list, PA is at 104

People watch the annual Air Force flyover on Israel's 69th Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

People watch the annual Air Force flyover on Israel’s 69th Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel has retained its spot as the 11th happiest country in the world for the fifth year running, according to the United Nations’ annual “World Happiness Report,” published Wednesday.

The “Palestinian Territories” came in 104th place, Lebanon in 88th, Jordan in 90th and Syria in 150th in the listing of 156 countries.

The report, which also for the first time evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants, notes that Jews who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union have much better lives than before they immigrated, even though they still have problems. It ranks Israel 12th on its list for “happiness for the foreign born.”

However, it also places Israel, which turns 70 in May, among the countries that are less tolerant of migrants, and that do not accept migrants openly.

Israel’s overall No. 11 position was helped by its health system; the report placed the Jewish state in sixth position for improvement in life expectancy, after Japan, Iceland, Italy, Switzerland and Canada.

World Happiness Index 2018 (World Happiness Report)

In the US, by contrast, life expectancy was 4.3 lower than the average of these top five countries, and that gap “likely widened further in 2016 in view of the absolute decline in US life expectancy.”

On tolerance towards newcomers, the document found that while the least accepting countries were those in Europe that have been directly affected by the recent migrant crisis, four were in the Middle East and North Africa — among them Israel, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. The others were in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand and Mongolia.

Surveying 156 countries on the basis of factors such as citizens’ freedom, gross domestic product, expenditure on health and lack of corruption, the annual survey placed Scandinavian countries at the top. Fans of skiing, saunas and Santa Claus would not be surprised to hear Finland is the happiest place to live.

A child looks at a large snowman in Santa Claus Village, around 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of Rovaniemi in Finland on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/James Brooks)

Europe’s Nordic nations, none particularly diverse, have dominated the index since it first was produced in 2012. In reaching No. 1, Finland nudged neighboring Norway into second place.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. The United States fell to 18th place from 14th last year, and the UK was at 19.

Relatively homogenous, Finland has about 300,000 foreigners and residents with foreign roots, out of its 5.5 million people. Its largest immigrant groups come from other European nations, but there also are communities from Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Somalia.

John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, noted all the top-10 nations scored highest in overall happiness and the happiness of immigrants. He said a society’s happiness seems contagious.

“The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born,” Helliwell said. “Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose.”

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute, said the five Nordic countries that reliably rank high in the index “are doing something right in terms of creating good conditions for good lives,” something newcomers have noticed.

He said the happiness revealed in the survey derives from healthy amounts of both personal freedom and social security that outweigh residents having to pay “some of the highest taxes in the world.”

“Briefly put, (Nordic countries) are good at converting wealth into well-being,” Wiking said. The finding on the happiness of immigrants “shows the conditions that we live under matter greatly to our quality of life, that happiness is not only a matter of choice.”

The United States was 11th in the first index and has never been in the Top 10. To explain its fall to 18th, the report’s authors cited several factors.

“The US is in the midst of a complex and worsening public health crisis, involving epidemics of obesity, opioid addiction, and major depressive disorder that are all remarkable by global standards,” the report said.

It added that the “sociopolitical system” in the United States produces more income inequality — a major contributing factor to unhappiness — than other countries with comparatively high incomes.

The United States also has seen declining “trust, generosity and social support, and those are some of the factors that explain why some countries are happier than others,” Wiking said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to Israel’s consistently high scores on the global Happiness Index as evidence that Israelis, particularly young Israelis, were aware of his contributions to the country.

Speaking to Fox News talk-radio host Mark Levin during an official trip to the US, Netanyahu — embroiled in a series of corruption investigations — said, “And people say, well, ‘How can that be? Must be a fluke,’ but [Israel’s ranking] keeps going up and they say, ‘How can it be? It’s a country in this horrible neighborhood, you’ve got terrorism, you’ve got radical Islam, you’ve got challenges,’ but it comes up ahead of most countries in the world,” said Netanyahu.

“They say, ‘Yeah, but that’s the old timers, they are already fixed, their lives are okay, but that’s the old people, what about the young people? You know where they [the youth] come up [on the index]? Number five! Which means they have a real confidence in the future, and that’s because I think they appreciate and… I know that’s what drives me and animates me: How to ensure that the Jewish state has a permanent future of security and prosperity… and peace if we can get it. The people of Israel I think do identify that.

“So the answer is I think they do understand. All of them? No. Most of them, yes.”

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Guatemala Played A Key Role In The Jewish State’s Creation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Why a small Central American nation became a trailblazer on Jerusalem

Guatemala played a key role in the Jewish state’s creation and has enjoyed Israeli security assistance ever since. It doesn’t hurt that its leader is deeply religious

Raphael Ahren

Guatemala's new ambassador to Israel, Dr. Juan Garcia Granados leaving the President's Residence in Jerusalem after presenting his credentials, July 1955 (Moshe Pridan/GPO)

Guatemala’s new ambassador to Israel, Dr. Juan Garcia Granados leaving the President’s Residence in Jerusalem after presenting his credentials, July 1955 (Moshe Pridan/GPO)

On Sunday, Guatemala became the first country after the US to announce its intention to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move seen as tantamount to recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, though President Jimmy Morales’s statement included no explicit recognition.

Predictably, the Central American nation’s decision was castigated by the Palestinians and other Arab states and hailed in Israel as an act of deep friendship that marked the beginning of a new trend. Neighbor Honduras is said to be next in line. Like Guatemala, it also voted last week against the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning the US’s December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there.

Other countries — Togo, Paraguay, Romania, Slovakia — are also said to be considering following in Guatemala’s footsteps in bucking decades-old diplomatic dogma to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

But what prompted a relatively small nation far removed from the Middle East and its problems to be the first to take the plunge after the US?

There are several reasons for Guatemala’s dramatic step. The country’s well-established historic friendship with Israel and ongoing deep security and trade ties are one key part of the story. The personal character of the country’s current leader is the other.

Seventy years ago, Guatemala’s ambassador to the UN, Dr. Jorge Garcia Granados, a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, played a crucial role in convincing Latin American countries to vote in favor of General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state.

File photo of the vote on the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947 (photo credit: Israeli Government Press Office)

The vote on the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947. (Israeli Government Press Office/File)

“It could be that without Guatemala, the resolution on that fateful day would not have passed, and history would be very different,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein told Morales during his November 2016 visit to Israel.

At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled that he had grown up in Jerusalem near a street named after Morales’s country. “In just about every town in Israel there is a Guatemala Street because we remember Guatemala’s friendship and the friendship and leadership of your UN ambassador at the time of the decision on the Partition Resolution, and so Guatemala was etched into our hearts then,” he said.

Guatemala was one of the first countries to recognize the nascent State of Israel in 1948, and the friendship has remained strong ever since.

Telegrams of recognition of the State of Israel sent by Guatemala, Finland and Romania (courtesy GPO)

In the 1970s, Israel was said to have assisted the military juntas ruling Guatemala a great deal in the area of counterinsurgency, providing them with advice and equipment.

“Israeli-Guatemalan military cooperation began in 1971, during the presidency of Col. Carlos Arana Osario,” political scientist Cheryl Rubenberg wrote in a 1986 article on bilateral relations.

“Then the Guatemalan chief of staff, Kjell Laugerud Garcia, visited Israel and met with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and other Israeli military officials. Laugerud Garcia expressed Guatemala’s interest in procuring armaments and military communications equipment. Later that year, the two countries signed their first cooperation agreement, though specifics were not made public,” she wrote.

Guatemala saw the Jewish state “as the world’s foremost practitioner of counterinsurgency” and looked to Jerusalem for expertise and arms, according to Rubenberg. “Israeli assistance began in 1971, but it took on increased importance after 1977, when the Guatemalan generals rejected US military aid in response to Carter administration pressures to remedy their gross human rights violations.”

Later that year, Israeli president Ephraim Katzir spent a week in Guatemala City, where he signed an agreement on military assistance.

Three years later, the Knesset passed a law declaring that united Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, leading the Security Council to call on all countries to withdraw their embassies from the city. Guatemala heeded the call and moved its embassy to Herzliya.

Relations with Israel remained strong, however. At least 300 Israeli security “advisers” were said to have operated in Guatemala in the early 1980s. “Israel is known to have intelligence teams, security and communications specialists, and military training personnel in Guatemala,” The New York Times reported at the time, though Israeli diplomats denied such claims.

Ties were also strong in the fields of civilian technology and tourism, among others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President of Guatemala Otto Pérez Molina at Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem. December 9, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In December 2013, Otto Fernando Perez Molina became the first president of Guatemala to visit Israel. “Guatemala did participate in the foundation of Israel, so that has led the foundations for a tradition and the unity between our two peoples,” he told Netanyahu at the time.

Fast forward to 2015, when Morales — a former comedian who’d never held political office — won the country’s presidential elections with 67 percent of the votes. Morales, a devout Evangelical, has been called “the Donald Trump of Guatemala.” In 2016, Guatemala received nearly $300 million in aid from the US.

Morales, who called his country’s relationship with Israel “excellent,” has been supportive of many of the current US administration’s policies, including Trump’s plan to build a border wall with Mexico, and, of course, his plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (R) and wife Gilda Marroquin visit the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on November 28, 2016. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)

On his visit to Israel last year — during which he received an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem — he announced his hope to strengthen bilateral cooperation in many fields.

“Guatemala has a special relationship with Israel, and we know we can continue to work together: in partnership and hand in hand,” he told President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. “During our visit we hope we will be able to enjoy Israel’s rich culture and history, and learn from you how to improve in the areas of agriculture, husbandry, and technology — areas in which Israel excels.”

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