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New year sees end of 16 Finnish municipalities

The northern Finnish town of Oulu became Finland's fifth largest on January 1. (Photo: oulutourism.fi)

The number of Finnish municipalities dropped from 336 to 320 on January 1, when ten municipal mergers came into effect.

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A process of local government restructuring is underway in Finland. Responsibilities are being passed horizontally from small municipalities to major municipalities as Finland works to reduce the number of local authorities in the country. The process began in 2005 with the introduction of the Project to Restructure Local Government and Services (PARAS).

In the last seven years the number of municipalities in Finland has fallen by one quarter.

The largest merger by the turn of the year happened in the northern town of Oulu, where four neighboring municipalities became part of Oulu, making the city’s population swell from 144,000 to more than 185,000.

On New Year’s Eve Some 10,000 spectators gathered in the Raksila stadium to celebrate Oulu’s re-birth as Finland’s fifth largest city, YLE reports.

Oulu is also the fifth largest city in the Barents region, surpassed by the Russian towns of Arkhangelsk (356,000), Murmansk (307,000), Petrozavodsk (263,000) and Syktyvkar (235,000).

Oulu is known as a major high-tech center with one of Finland’s largest universities. 

Oulu is also known as the home town of the Air Guitar World Championship and the men’ choir Mieskuoro Huutajat (Screaming Men).