The aim of this research is to contribute to current debates surrounding Åland’s autonomy regime by seeking a fuller understanding of the origins and the evolving role of rules restricting outsiders from acquiring landed property in the autonomous Åland Islands region of Finland. The autonomy and minority protection regime that prevails in Åland is of particularly long standing, and the conditions that have shaped the evolution of Åland’s land rules have changed considerably during the nearly 100 years of their application. The article also briefly considers the relationship between the evolving Åland land rules and more recent efforts to articulate and justify exclusive rights to traditional homelands in other settings, and particularly those involving minorities and indigenous peoples. The article describes the way understandings of the role played by the land rules have evolved over time, proceeding from the fundamental significance of the rules in protecting Åland’s cultural identity and examining their perceived economic significance, as well as the role they have played in Åland’s ongoing political engagement with mainland Finland. The paper concludes that while the land rules have served to protect the Åland cultural identity, there will be continuing pressure for them to be implemented with greater predictability and clarity as the autonomy regime on Åland matures.
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