Finnish people

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This article is about the Finns as an ethnic group. For the citizens or residents of Finland (also called Finns), see Demographics of Finland.
Total population 7 million (est.)
Regions with significant populations Finland:
   5.2 million [1]

   700,000 [2]
   469,000 [3]
   120,000 *
   34,050 (2002 census)[4]
United Kingdom:
   30,000 [5]
   6,000 [6]
   40,000 (est.)

Language Finnish (most Finns),
Swedish (small minority) [7]
Religion Lutheranism (most Finns),
Orthodoxy (small minority) [8] <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th>
<td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">Estonians, Karelians, Votes, Veps, Livonians</td>


The terms Finns and Finnish people are used both to refer to an ethnic group historically associated with Finland or Fennoscandia and to citizens of Finland. Both terms may or may not be intended to include either Finland-Swedes (Finnish Swedophones), or Sweden-Finns (Finnish natives and immigrants in Sweden), or both, depending on context. Kvens (ethnic Finns in Norway), Tornedalians (ethnic Finns indigenous to northernmost Sweden) and Evangelical Lutheran Ingrian Finns are considered to belong to the Finnish people.


[edit] Terminology

In Finnish linguistic usage and mindset, the Finnish people (Finnish: suomalaiset) are a nation with two languages, Finnish (in Finland circa 92% of the population) and Swedish (in Finland circa 5.5% of the population). The term for the Finnish Swedophones is suomenruotsalaiset in Finnish.

The self-designation of Finland's Swedish-speakers in Swedish is finlandssvenskar ("Finland-Swedes"). In Finland-Swedish linguistic usage and mindset it is possible to make the following specification: The nation consists of Finnish speakers (Finland-Swedish: finnar) and Swedish speakers (Finland-Swedish: finlandssvenskar) who together with lesser minorities constitute the people of Finland (Finland-Swedish: finländare). These distinctions are not always made by Swedish speakers outside of Finland, where the term finländare is less known, and also not by all of the Finland-Swedes, some of whom prefer to designate themselves as finnar.

In English, the terms Swedish-speaking Finns [9] or Finland-Swedes [10] are used.

Which of the national terms suomalaiset, finländare or finnar best matches the English term and usage of the word Finns, is debatable.

In some texts in the past the term 'Finns' may have also been employed for other Finnic peoples than Finns – Izhorians in Ingria (also Ingrian Finns inhabit Ingria), Karelians, Veps etc. and sometimes Finno-Volgaic and Finno-Permic language speakers.[citation needed]

As the inherent meaning of these terms have changed in the recent century, they may well be used with other meanings than those given above, particularly in foreign and older works.

[edit] Subdivisions

Finnish children playing pesäpallo, a fast-moving ball sport, in Tapiola, Espoo.

The main division in the population of Finland is the three distinct linguistic groups: the Finnish-speakers (93%), the Swedish-speakers (5%), and the speakers of Sami languages (0.11%).

The Finnish-speakers are divided in dialectal groups, which involve not only a dialect, but also a distinct culture. It is postulated that these represent the ancient "tribes" of Finns, and therefore, the term heimo is often used. National unification, however, has been thorough, and differences are minor.

  • West Finnish
  • East Finnish
    • Savo: eastern Finland, near Kuopio and Mikkeli. The dialect diverges greatly from the standard language, with a different vowel system, e.g. uamu for aamu. Savonians are known for their humour and puns when it comes to language—even the dialect itself is referred to as "viäntö", "twisting". According to a joke, "Whenever a Savonian speaks, the responsibility is shifted to the listener".
    • Karelia: far eastern Finland; near Joensuu. The dialect is not as different from the standard language as Savonian, but still distinguishably Eastern Finnish. The Karelians suffered the most in Winter War and in Continuation War[citation needed].

[edit] Language distribution

Generally speaking, Finnish language usage is still expanding in relative and absolute terms, both by the slow but steady language exchange, natural population growth, and immigration. The immigrant population grows relatively faster than the general population, both naturally and by immigration, and immigrant minorities will become more significant in the future. Currently, the relative number is one of the smallest in Europe.

Concerning native languages, the Finnophone population has a comparatively high (in EU terms) natural growth rate,[citation needed] while the death rate of the Swedophone population outpaces the birthrate1. It is predicted that in 2012, this trend evens out, and the absolute Swedophone population will remain constant2, while the relative number diminishes as the general population grows. Politically, the result is that local Swedish majorities and dominance are diminishing1. In 1880, most Swedish speakers lived in monolingually Swedish areas (less than 6% other), but today, (2002), only 14% do1.[citation needed]. However, 50% of the Swedish speakers in Finland still live in communities in which Swedish speakers form the majority.

[edit] Etymology

Historical references relating to Europe's north are scarce and the naming of people obscure and so the etymologies remain rather sketchy. Such names as Fenni, Phinnoi, Finnum and Scridefinnum have been used in a few written texts for almost two millennia in association with a people located in a northenly part of Europe but the real meaning of these terms is debatable. The earliest mentions of this kind are usually interpreted to have meant Fennoscandian hunter-gatherers whose closest successors in modern terms would be the Sami people. [11] It has been suggested that such a non-Uralic ethnonym be of a Germanic language origin and related to such words as finthan (Old High German) 'find', 'notice'; fanthian (Old High German) 'check', 'try'; fendo (Old High German) and vende (Old Middle German): 'pedestrian', 'wanderer' ([12]. Another etymological interpretation associates such a word with fen in a more toponymical approach. Yet another theory postulates that the words finn and kven be cognates (for this, see: Origin of the name Kven). In the Icelandic Eddas and Norse sagas (dating from ca. 11th to 14th centuries), some of the oldest written sources probably originating from the closest proximity, words like finnr and finnas are not used consistently. Most of the time, however, they seem to mean northern dwellers with a mobile life style, i.e. the Sami.

Interestingly, an etymological link between the Sami and the Finns exists also in modern Finno-Ugric languages: it has been proposed that e.g. the toponyms Sapmi (Sami for Lapland), Suomi (Finnish for Finland) and Häme (Finnish for Tavastia) be of the same origin [13], the source of which might be related to the Baltic word zeme meaning 'land'[14]. How, why and when these designations started to mean specifically people in south-western Finland (Finland Proper, Varsinais-Suomi) and later the whole area of modern Finland, is by large unknown.

Among the first written documents where possibly western Finland is designated as the land of Finns are two rune stones. There is one in Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont and one in Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, with the inscription finlandi dating from the 11th century [15].

[edit] Developments

The 19th and 20th century (see history of Finland) saw the crystallising of the Finnish national sentiments with Finland's declaration of independence in 1917 from Russia, whose autonomous Grand Duchy it had been since 1809. The severe divisions between social classes, ethnic and linguistic groups, which characterised Finland in the late 19th to early 20th century and were manifested in Finland's language strife (1860s1930s) between the Fennomans and Svecomans, and later the Finnish Civil War between the "Reds" and "Whites," were by and large resolved through the external threat from the Soviet Union in the Winter War (19391940).

During Finland's early history, many Finns exchanged their native language to Swedish, and after 1808 the movement has been in the other direction. In 200 years, the proportion of Swedish speakers has diminished from close to 20% to below 6%. While this change of mother tongue naturally has had some effects in terms of affiliation with literature, it has had very limited effects on other cultural aspects. The language strife and the decline of the Finland-Swedish minority have been considered effects of this, rather than its cause.

[edit] Past

With regard to the ancestry of the Finnish people, the modern view emphasises the overall continuity in Finland's archeological finds [16] and (earlier more obvious) linguistic surroundings. Archeological data suggest the spreading of at least cultural influences from many sources ranging from the south-east to the south-west following gradual developments rather than just clear cut migrations.

The possible mediators and the timelines for the development of the Uralic majority language of the Finns, are equally uncertain. Through comparative linguistics, it has been postulated that the separation of the Baltic-Finnic and the Sami languages took place during the 2nd millennium BC, the proto-Uralic roots of the entire language group dating perhaps from ca. 6-8th millennium BC. According to the present views, the Uralian or Finno-Ugrian language arrived in Finland already during the Stone Age, but the closer date is a subject of many different theories.

As the Finnish language itself reached a written form only in the 16th century, not much primary data remains of early Finnish life and so the origins of such cultural icons as e.g. the sauna, the kantele (a musical instrument) and the Kalevala (national epic) have remained rather obscure.

Swedish speakers descend from peasants and fishermen who settled coastal Finland ca. 1000-1250AD [17], from the subsequent immigration during Swedish sovereignty over Finland [18], and from Finns and immigrants who adopted Swedish language [19].

For the paternal and maternal genetic lineages of Finnish people and other peoples, see also: [20] and [21]

[edit] Theories on the origin of Finns or Finno-Ugric language

In the 19th century the Finnish researcher Castrén prevailed with the theory that "the Finns' original home" was in west-central Siberia. Later, a theory of an ancient homeland of all Finno-Ugric speaking peoples situated in the Volga and Kama rivers region in the European part of Russia appeared more credibile. Until the 1970s most linguists believed Finns to have arrived in Finland as late as the first centuries AD. In the 1980s these ideas drastically changed. The old theory got a concurrent version of a wide-ranged "homeland" between the Volga river and Scandinavia. In the light of new archaeological findings, it was concluded that the ancestors of the Finns arrived at their present territory thousands of years ago, perhaps in many successive waves of immigration. During this the possible linguistic and cultural ancestors of the hunting-gathering Sami were pushed into the more remote northern regions.

Kalevi Wiik, a professor emeritus of phonetics of the university of Turku, has postulated in his controversial theory from the 1990´s that during the Ice Age the ancestors of the Finns lived at one of the three habitable areas of southern Europe, so called refugia the two other habitable areas being home for the Indo-European and Basque languages. According to his theory Finno-Ugric speakers spread to the north as ice melted. They populated central and northern Europe, while Basques populated western Europe. As agriculture spread from south-west into Europe, so were the Indo-European languages spread among the hunter-gatherers. In this process the Finno-Ugric and Basque speaking hunter-gatherers both learned how to cultivate land and became Indo-Europeanized. This is how, according to Wiik the Celtic, Germanic, Slavic and Baltic languages were born. Finns did not switch language because of their isolated location. This theory is not accepted by the majority of linguists as Wiik has failed to present proof of Finno-Ugric substrate in Indo-European languages.

[edit] Finns, Finland-Swedes, Sweden-Finns and Swedes

In Finland, after centuries of coexistence, intermarriages and language shifts back and forth, language is now accepted as the only real difference between Finnish and Swedish speakers, [22] cultural differences between the groups are small, Swedish speakers hold certain holidays particularly important, for example Runeberg's Day and St. Lucia Day, which give them a sense of identity.[23] Of Finland's 431 municipalities, Finnish speakers form the majority in 389, 21 of which are bilingual, with Swedish as the minority language. Concentrated along the south-western coast and the coast of Ostrobothnia, the Swedish-speakers are a majority of the population in 42 municipalities of which 23 are bilingual, with Finnish as the minority language (16 of the 19 monoglot Swedish speaking municipalities are located in the autonomous Åland (Ahvenanmaa) region). Of Finland's 114 cities, 94 are unilingually Finnish speaking, 12 are bilingual with Finnish as the majority language, six are bilingual with Swedish as the majority language and two are unilingually Swedish speaking. [24]

About half a million Finns emigrated from Finland to Sweden between the late 1960s and 1990s within the framework of the Nordic Economic Treaties. Most of these Sweden-Finns have returned to Finland. [citation needed] The remaining people and their children in Sweden are primarily thought as ethnic Finns, regardless of their citizenship. There are also historical Finnish speaking minorities in Sweden, for example the Tornedalingar (Torne Valley Finns) and the Finns of Dalecarlia. Sweden does not differentiate between Finnish and Swedish speaking immigrants from Finland.

[edit] References

  1. Folktinget.
  2. Åbo Akademi.

23. Perspectives to Finnish Identity, by Anne Ollila: Scandinavian Journal of History, Volume 23, Numbers 3-4, 1 September 1998, pp. 127-137(11). Retrieved 06 October 2006.

[edit] See also

de:Finnen ka:ფინელები ja:フィン人 pl:Finowie pt:Finlandês (etnia) ru:Финны sl:Finci sr:Финци sh:Finci fi:Suomalaiset sv:Finnar

Finnish people

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