aaland - Aaland (aland islands); aaland - Group of some 300 isles and rocks at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia, forming the Finnish department of Ahvenanmaa. Only about 80 are inhabited; the largest, Aaland, is 18 m. long, and the area of the group is 565 sq. m. Mariehamn is the chief town. The people, mainly of Swedish origin, are skilful sailors and fishermen. Hardy cereals and cattle are raised, and meat, fish, hides, cheese, and butter are exported. In 1809 Sweden, to whom the islands had long belonged, ceded them to Russia, and since then the question of fortifying them, their position being of great strategic importance, has been the subject of frequent dispute. In 1854, at the time of the Crimean War, an Anglo-French force destroyed the Russian fortifications of Bomarsund. In 1856 the Aaland Convention, between Britain, France, and Russia, stipulated that the islands should neither be fortified nor contain any naval or military establishment. Although a plebiscite of the islanders in 1918 showed a preference for union with Sweden, in 1921 the League of Nations decided the islands should belong to Finland, subject to guarantees for the preservation of the language and ownership rights of the islanders. The continued neutralization and demilitarization of the islands was reaffirmed in the same year. In Dec., 1939, the Finnish Government announced its decision to fortify the islands, but at the end of the Russo-Finnish war of 1939-40, they were demilitarized; and the terms of the Russo-Finnish armistice of 1944 again insisted on their demilitarization. Pop. 27,375.