Learn more about Karelians
The Karelians is a name used to denote two related, yet different ethnic groups of Finnic-language speakers. The so called "Russian Karelians" inhabit the Russian Republic of Karelia. The "Finnish Karelians" live in eastern Finland. During the Second World War many Finnish Karelians were forced to leave the Karelian provinces that Finland had to cede to the Soviet Union. They and their descendants are now integrated in the population of present-day Finland.
The Russian Karelians and Finnish Karelians had common ancestors during the Viking Age. However, since the 13th century, they have had different histories, cultures, religions, identities and even languages. They should not to be thought as members of the same ethnic group, although the Karelian dialect of the Finnish language and the Karelian language spoken by the Russian Karelians are closely related.
The Karelians were one of many Finnic-speaking tribes whose linguistical ancestors are believed to have been living in Finland and Karelia since the Stone Age. Gradually these groups were identified for instance as Veps, Ingrians, Karelians, and Tavastians. During the Viking Age, the Karelians living around the Ladoga Lake came into contact with Western Finns and Vikings.
Since the 13th century the Karelians have lived in the tension between East and West, between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism, later Lutheranism. Some of the Karelians were Christened and subdued by Sweden, some by Novgorod. Thus the Karelians were split into two different and often hostile groups. The expansive Kingdom of Sweden annexed one of the Orthodox Karelian provinces during the 17th century, but most of the Orthodox Karelians remained under the Russian rule in East Karelia. The tension between the Lutheran Swedish government and Orthodox Karelians triggered a population movement from the Swedish Karelia towards the region of Tver in Russia, forming the Tver-Karelian minority.
During the 19th century the Finnish nationalists came to see the Russian Karelians as their "brethren". However, the Russian Karelians came to cultivate their own language and national identity.
The Karelians of Finland considered themselves as Finns by nationality and Karelians by heritage or as a subnational designation. The main cultural division among the Finns, that between the East Finnish and West Finnish dialects and culture, define Savonians and (Finnish) Karelians as East Finnish.
When Finland gained its independence in 1917, only a small fraction of the Orthodox Karelians lived in the provinces of Finnish Karelia. These were mainly populated with Finnish Karelians of Lutheran background. Finland lost most of these provinces to the Soviet Union in World War II, when over 400,000 people were evacuated over Finland's new border from the Karelian Isthmus, Ladoga Karelia and, to a lesser degree, from the main part of East Karelia that had been occupied by Finland 1941–1944.
The Russian Karelians, living in the Republic of Karelia, are nowadays rapidly being absorbed into the Russian population. This process was begun several decades in the past. For example, it has been estimated that even between the 1959 and 1970 Soviet censuses, nearly 30 percent of those who were enumerated as Karelian by self-identification in 1959 changed their self-identification to Russian 11 years later.<ref>Barbara A. Anderson and Brian D. Silver, "Estimating Russification of Ethnic Identity among Non-Russians in the USSR," Demography 20 (November, 1983): 461-489.</ref>
Many of the evacuees have emigrated, mainly to Sweden, to Australia and to North America. A large share of the over 70,000 Finnish war children that were evacuated from Finland, chiefly to Sweden and Denmark, came from Karelian families that had lost their homes due to the Winter War. A fifth of these children remained abroad and many more re-emigrated later.
The Karelian language is very closely related to the Finnish language, and particularly by Finnish linguists seen as a dialect of Finnish, although the variety spoken in East Karelia is usually seen as a proper language.  The dialect spoken in the South Karelian Region of Finland is considered to be part of the South Eastern dialects of the Finnish language. The dialect spoken in the Karelian Isthmus before World War II and the Ingrian language are also seen as part of this dialect group although sometimes in Finland wrongly called Karelian dialect. The dialect that is spoken in North Karelia is considered to be one of the Savonian dialects.
Significant enclaves of Karelians exist in the Tver oblast of Russia, resettled after Russia's defeat in 1617 against Sweden — in order to escape the peril of forced conversion to Lutheranism in Swedish Karelia and because Russians promised tax deductions.
Karelian culture and language was a major inspiration for the Fennoman movement, and the unification of East Karelia (under Russian sovereignty) with independent Finland was a major political issue in 20th century Finland.
 See also
 External links
- Russian Karelians (The Peoples of the Red Book)
- Many Karelias (Official Virtual Finland page)de:Karelier