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Baltic Finns in The Races of Europe by William Z. Ripley in 1899.

The Baltic Finns[1] are a historical linguistic group of peoples of northern Europe whose modern descendants include the Finns proper, Karelians (including Ludes and Olonets), Izhorians, Veps, Votes, Livonians and Estonians[2] who speak Baltic-Finnic languages and have inhabited the Baltic Sea region for 3,000 years according to one theory, or up to ten thousand years according to another theory.


Theories of origin

The theories of the origin of the Baltic Finns include the Migration Theory and the Settlement Continuity Theory.[3]

According to the Migration Theory that was based primarily on comparative linguistics, the proto-Finnic peoples migrated from an ancient homeland somewhere in northwestern Siberia or western Russia to the shores of the Baltic Sea around 1,000 BC, at which time Finns and Estonians separated. The Migration Theory has been called into question since 1980, based on genealogy, craniometry and archaeology. Recently, a modified form of the Migration Theory has gained new support among the younger generation of linguists, who consider that archaeology, genes or craniometric data cannot supply evidence of prehistoric languages.[4]

The Settlement Continuity Theory is based on archaeology and genealogy. Genealogic studies have shown that the Baltic Finns have a much closer genetic relationship to the northern and central Europeans than to the eastern Finnic peoples such as the Volga Finns. The theory suggests that Baltic Finns have lived in the region for up to 10,000 years, rather than the 3,000 years suggested by the Migration Theory. Some linguists have also supported this theory, but the issue is hotly debated, as genetic continuity does not necessarily prove continuity of languages.

Europe in 9th century, Finnic Peoples in northern Europe.
(marked with darker yellow)

During the last 30 years, scientific research in physical anthropology, craniometric analyses, and the mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal DNA frequencies have reduced the likelihood for a major westward migration as recently as 3,000 years ago. The Settlement Continuity Theory asserts that at least the genetic ancestors of the Finno-Ugric peoples were among the earliest indigenous peoples of Europe.[5][6][7]

The origin of the people who lived in the Baltic Sea area during the Mesolithic Era continues to be debated by scientists. From the middle of the Neolithic Era onwards, there is agreement to a certain extent among scholars: it has been suggested that Finno-Ugric tribes arrived in the Baltic region from the east or southeast approximately 4,000–3,000 BC by merging with the original inhabitants, who then adopted the proto-Finno-Ugric language and the Comb Ceramic culture of the newcomers. The members of this new Finno-Ugric-speaking ethnic group are regarded as the ancestors of modern Estonians.[7] The Y-chromosomal data has also revealed a common Finno-Ugric ancestry for the males of the neighboring Baltic peoples, speakers of the Indo-European Baltic languages. According to the studies, Baltic males are most closely related to the Finno-Ugric-speaking Volga Finns such as the Mari, rather than to Baltic Finns.[8] The indicator of Finno-Ugric origin has been found to be more frequent in Latvians (42%) and Lithuanians (43%) than in Estonians (34%). The results suggest that the territories of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been settled by Finno-Ugric-speaking tribes since the early Mesolithic period.[7]

On the other hand, some linguists do not consider it likely that a Finno-Ugric language form could have existed at such an early date. According to these views, the Finno-Ugric languages appeared in Finland and Baltic only during the Early Bronze Age (ca. 1,800 BC), if not later.[4]

Baltic Finnic oral poetry

The Baltic Finns share a common cultural heritage: the art of ancient "rune" (poem) singing in the Kalevala meter, estimated to be 2,500–3,000 years old.[9] The Veps are the only Baltic Finnish people with no significant corpus of Kalevala meter oral poetry. The poetic tradition has included epic poems (known mostly in Karelia and Ingermanland, perhaps as survivals from an earlier, wider distribution), lyric poems and magic chants.

The ancient rune singing has inspired the creation of the national epic of Finland, Kalevala compiled by Elias Lönnrot, and the music of Arvo Pärt, the best known Estonian composer in the classical field.[10]

J. R. R. Tolkien has highlighted the importance of Kalevala as a source for his legendarium, including The Lord of the Rings.[11]

See also


  1. ^ also referred to as Western Finns, Baltic-Finnic or Balto-Finnic people
  2. ^ Walter, Mariko. Shamanism. ISBN 9781576076453.  
  3. ^ Richard, Lewis (2005). Finland, Cultural Lone Wolf. Intercultural Press. ISBN 9781931930185.  
  4. ^ a b Kallio, Petri 2006: Uralilaisen kantakielen absoluuttista kronologiaa. (With English summary: The absolute chronology of the Proto-Uralic language.). Virittäjä 2006
  5. ^ the early indigenous inhabitants of Europe by Richard, Lewis (2005). Finland, Cultural Lone Wolf. Intercultural Press. ISBN 9781931930185.  
  6. ^ Niskanen, Markku (2002). "The Origin of the Baltic-Finns". The Mankind Quarterly. Retrieved 2008-10-06.  
  7. ^ a b c Laitinen, Virpi; Päivi Lahermo (August 24 2001). "Y-Chromosomal Diversity Suggests that Baltic Males Share Common Finno-Ugric-Speaking Forefathers". Department of Genetics, University of Turku, Turku, Finnish Genome Center, University of Helsinki. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  
  8. ^ Siiri Rootsi (19 October 2004). "Human Y-Chromosomal Variation in European Populations". Tartu University Press. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  
  9. ^ Pentikäinen, uha; Ritva Poom (1999). Kalevala Mythology. Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253213525.  
  10. ^ Nidel, Richard (2005). World Music. Routledge. pp. 160. ISBN 9780415968010.  
  11. ^ Chance, Jane (2004). Tolkien and the Invention of Myth. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813123011.  

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