|Aino and Alvar Aalto • Sami Hyypiä • Paavo Nurmi • Martti Ahtisaari
Kiira Korpi • Kimi Räikkönen • Urho Kaleva Kekkonen • Janne Ahonen
Mika Häkkinen • Ville Peltonen • Tarja Turunen
|Regions with significant populations|
| Finland: approx. 4,900,000
The terms Finns and Finnish people (Finnish: suomalaiset, Swedish: finnar (ethnic Finns), finländare (citizens of Finland)) are used in English to mean "a native or inhabitant of Finland". They are also used to refer to the ethnic group historically associated with Finland or Fennoscandia, and they are only used in that sense here.
As with most ethnic groups, the definition of Finns may vary. In every definition, the term includes the Finnish-speaking population of Finland. The group can also be seen to include the Finnish-speaking population of Sweden and the traditionally Swedish-speaking population of Finland, although the inclusion of the latter into the Finnish ethnicity is a subject of discussion. Smaller populations that may or may not be seen to fall under the term Finns include the Kvens in Norway, the Tornedalians of Sweden and the Ingrian Finns of Russia. Finns can be divided according to dialect into subgroups sometimes traditionally called heimo (lit. tribe), but such divisions have become less important with internal migration.
Linguistically, Finnish, spoken by most Finns, is most closely related to the other Baltic-Finnic languages Estonian and Karelian, while Swedish, spoken by Finland-Swedes, is unrelated to the Finnish language and a member of the Indo-European language family. Finnish has loanwords from Swedish, other Germanic and broader Indo-European languages in different chronological layers while Swedish has few loan words from the Baltic-Finnic languages. Genetically, Finns seem to be a fairly homogeneous group with a genetic heritage mostly in common with the other European ethnicities.
The Finnish Population Registry Center maintains information on the place of birth, citizenship and mother tongue of the people living in Finland, but does not specifically categorize any as Finns by ethnicity. Like all ethnicities, Finns are subject to the phenomenon of ethnogenesis. Language—both active and lost—has traditionally been seen as a key element when defining a people or its descendants.
Majority of people living in the Republic of Finland consider Finnish as their first language. According to Statistics Finland, of the country's total population of 5,300,484 at the end of 2007, 91.2% (or 4,836,183) considered Finnish as their native language. It is not known how many of the ethnic Finns living outside Finland speak Finnish as their first language.
In addition to the Finnish-speaking inhabitants of Finland, also Kvens (people of Finnish descent in Norway), Tornedalians (people of Finnish descent in northernmost Sweden), and Karelians in the historic Finnish province of Karelia and Evangelical Lutheran Ingrian Finns (both in the northwestern Russian Federation), as well as Finnish expatriates in various countries are usually considered as Finnish people.
Finns have been traditionally divided in sub-groups (heimot in Finnish) on regional, dialectical and ethnographical grounds. These include the people of Finland Proper (varsinaissuomalaiset), Satakunta (satakuntalaiset), Tavastia (hämäläiset), Savo (savolaiset), Karelia (karjalaiset) and Ostrobothnia (pohjalaiset). These sub-groups express regional self-identity with varying frequency and significance.
There is a number of distinct dialects (murre s. murteet pl. in Finnish) of the Finnish language spoken in Finland, although the use of only the standard Finnish (yleiskieli) both in its formal written (kirjakieli) and more casual spoken (puhekieli) form at the Finnish school system and within media and popular culture, as well as internal migration and urbanization, have all contributed to the subduing of the regional varieties considerably, especially in the latter half of the 20th century. The first three historical dialects were the South-Western (Lounaismurteet), Tavastian (Hämeen murre), and Karelian (Karjalan murre), which were later mixed up with each other and/or neighboring languages as the population expanded geographically to form the Southern Ostrobothnian (Etelä-Pohjanmaan murre), Central Ostrobothnian (Keski-Pohjanmaan murre), Northern Ostrobothnian (Pohjois-Pohjanmaan murre), Far-Northern (Peräpohjolan murre), Savonian (Savon murre), and South-Eastern (Kaakkois-Suomen murteet) aka South Karelian (Karjalan murre) dialects.
The area of modern Finland was part of the Swedish kingdom for several hundred years, and about 290 000 present-day Finnish individuals speak Swedish as their first language. In Finland, language is typically considered the basic and even the only criterion that distinguishes the Finnish-speakers and the Swedish-speakers from each other. In general, Swedish-speaking Finns consider themselves to be just as much Finnish as the Finnish-speaking majority, but they have their own special identity distinct from that of the majority, and they wish to be recognized as such. In a 2005 survey by Svenska Finlands Folkting carried out among the Swedish speakers, when asked about the meaning of their identity, 82% of the respondents answered: "Both to belong to an own culture but also to be Finnish amongst the rest."
On the other hand, the Finland-Swedish minority have been seen to fulfill the major criteria for a separate ethnic group: self-identification, language, social structure, and ancestry. It is also sometimes suggested that the Swedish-speaking Finns have a special relationship with Sweden, constituted of shared language and culture.
These include recent immigrants from Finland and (at least originally) Finnish-speaking people that have lived in Sweden for centuries. An estimated 450,000 first- or second-generation Finns live in Sweden, of which approximately half speak Finnish. The majority moved from Finland to Sweden following the Second World War, with a peak in 1970 and declining thereafter. There are also historical Finnish-speaking minorities in Sweden, for example the Tornedalingar (Torne Valley Finns) and the Finns of Dalecarlia. As a result, the Finnish language has an official status as one of five minority languages in Sweden.
The Finnish term for Finns is suomalaiset (sing. suomalainen).
The Finnish and Swedish terms for the Swedish-speaking population of Finland are the expressions suomenruotsalaiset and finlandssvenskar respectively, which translate literally with regard to each other. In Finland Swedish usage and mindset the following distinctions are usually made: The nation (people) consists of Finnish speakers (Finland Swedish: finnar) and Swedish speakers (Finland Swedish: finlandssvenskar) who together with smaller minorities constitute the people of Finland (Finland Swedish: finländare). In Swedish spoken outside of Finland, in particular in Sweden, the term finländare is less known, and these distinctions are not always made.
Translating this terminology accurately into foreign languages, including Sweden's Swedish, is a tricky matter because the terminology closely reflects the nation's entire language issue, which played an intricate part in the process of the crystallisation of the nation's self-perception and in the interpretation of its history, and because it still affects these. Indeed, one of the very first domestic matters addressed during the process of national awakening in the 19th century was the language question.
It is therefore debatable which English terms best match the Finnish and (Finland-)Swedish terms suomalaiset (finländare, finnar) and finlandssvenskar (suomenruotsalaiset). Nevertheless, Swedish-speaking Finns seems to be the English term most commonly used today for and by the Swedish-speaking population of Finland, although the term Finland Swedes is in wide use too, at least in English written by non-native speakers in Scandinavia.
Similarly debatable is how to best designate the people living in Sweden who are current Finnish speakers or have Finnish or Finnish-speaking ancestors. The terms used include the traditional Sweden Finns and the more modern Finnish Swedes, instead of which it may be preferable to differentiate between (recent) Finnish immigrants and the indigenous Finnish ethnic minority in Sweden.
As the meanings of these terms have changed in time, these terms may well be used with other meanings than those given above, particularly in foreign and older works.
Historical references to Northern Europe are scarce, and the names given to its peoples and geographic regions are obscure. Therefore, the etymologies of the names remain equally sketchy. Such names as Fenni, Phinnoi, Finnum, and Skrithfinni / Scridefinnum appear in a few written texts starting from about two millennia ago in association with a people located in a northern 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. It has been suggested that this non-Uralic ethnonym is of Germanic language origin and related to such words as finthan (Old High German) 'find', 'notice'; fanthian (Old High German) 'check', 'try'; and fendo (Old High German) and vende (Old Middle German) 'pedestrian', 'wanderer'. Another etymological interpretation associates this ethnonym with fen in a more toponymical approach. Yet another theory postulates that the words finn and kven are cognates. The Icelandic Eddas and Norse sagas (11th to 14th centuries), some of the oldest written sources probably originating from the closest proximity, use words like finnr and finnas inconsistently. However, most of the time they seem to mean northern dwellers with a mobile life style.
An etymological link between the Sami and the Finns exists in modern Finno-Ugric languages as well. It has been proposed that e.g. the toponyms Sapmi (Sami for Lapland), Suomi (Finnish for Finland), and Häme (Finnish for Tavastia) are of the same origin, the source of which might be related to the proto-Baltic word *žeme meaning 'land'. It has been proposed that these designations started to mean specifically people in Southwestern Finland (Finland Proper, Varsinais-Suomi) and later the whole area of modern Finland. But it is not known how, why, and when this occurred.
Petri Kallio has suggested that the name 'Suomi' may bear even earlier Indo-European echoes with the original meaning of either ’land’ or ’human’. Thus many scholars prefer the earlier Indo-European origin for Suomi, while Häme and Saami are still explained to descend from the same Baltic loanword.
Among the first written documents possibly designating western Finland as the land of Finns are two rune stones. One of these is in Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont (U 582 †), and the other is in Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, with the inscription finlandi (G 319 M) dating from the 11th century.
With regard to the ancestry of the Finnish people, the modern view emphasizes the overall continuity in Finland's archeological finds 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 clear-cut migrations.
Just as uncertain are the possible mediators and the timelines for the development of the Uralic majority language of the Finns. On the basis of comparative linguistics, it has been suggested that the separation of the Baltic-Finnic and the Sami languages took place during the 2nd millennium BC, and that the proto-Uralic roots of the entire language group date from about the 6th to the 8th millennium BC. When the Uralic or Finno-Ugric languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland is debated but current opinion leans towards the Stone Age.
Because the Finnish language itself reached a written form only in the 16th century, little primary data remains of early Finnish life. For example, the origins of such cultural icons as the sauna, the kantele (a harp-like musical instrument), and the Kalevala (national epic) have remained rather obscure.
Finland's Swedish speakers descend from peasants and fishermen who settled coastal Finland ca. 1000–1250, from the subsequent immigration during Swedish sovereignty over Finland, and from Finns and immigrants who adopted the Swedish language.
Finns are traditionally assumed to originate from two different populations speaking different dialects of Proto-Finnish (kantasuomi). Thus, a division into West Finnish and East Finnish is made. Further, there are subgroups, traditionally called heimo, according to dialects and local culture. Although ostensibly based on late Iron Age settlement patterns, the heimos have been constructed according to dialect during the rise of nationalism in the 19th century. A comparable concept is the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
The historical provinces of Finland and Sweden can be seen to approximate some of these divisions. The regions of Finland, another remnant of a past governing system, can be seen to reflect a further manifestation of a local identity.
Today's (urbanized) Finns are not usually aware of the concept of 'heimo' nor do they typically identify with one, although the use of dialects has experienced a recent revival. Urbanized Finns do not necessarily know a particular dialect and tend to use standard Finnish or city slang but they may switch to a dialect when visiting their native area.
Recently, the use of mitochondrial (female lineage) and Y-chromosomal (male lineage) DNA-markers in tracing back the history of human populations has been started . For the paternal and maternal genetic lineages of Finnish people and other peoples, see, e.g., the National Geographic Genographic Project and the Suomi DNA-projekti. In essence, the types of mtDNA markers of Finnish people do not differ from those of other European ethnicities. For example, Haplogroup U5 is estimated to be the oldest mtDNA haplogroup in Europe and is found in the whole of Europe at a low frequency, but seems to be found in significantly higher levels among Finns, Estonians and the Sami. Of modern nationalities, Finns are closest to Cro-Magnons in terms of anthropological measurements.
With regard to the Y-chromosome, the most common haplogroups of the Finns are N3 (58%), I (29%), R1a (7.5%) and R1b (3.5%). Haplogroupe N3, which is found only in a few countries in Europe (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden and Russia), is a subgroup of the haplogroup N (Y-DNA) distributed across northern Eurasia and estimated in a recent study to be 10,000–20,000 years old and suggested to have entered Europe about 12,000–14,000 years ago from Asia.
According to an earlier study conducted by four scientists, including Cavalli-Sforza LL:
Principal coordinate analysis shows that Lapps/Sami are almost exactly intermediate between people located geographically near the Ural mountains and speaking Uralic languages, and central and northern Europeans. Hungarians and Finns are definitely closer to Europeans. An analysis of genetic admixture between Uralic and European ancestors shows that Lapps/Sami are slightly more than 50% European, Hungarians are 87% European, and Finns are 90% European. There is basic agreement between these conclusions and historical data on Hungary. Less is known about Finns and very little about Lapps/Sami.
According to recent autosomal (genomewide, 10,000 markers instead of few looked at Y-DNA and MtDNA-studies) give distinct picture of Finnish genes. Finns are a genetic isolate. It could be said that all other Europeans have Finnish genes but Finns don't have all the genes found in other Europeans. Finns show very little if any Mediterranean and African genes but on the other hand almost 10% of Finnish genes seem to be shared with some Siberian populations. Nevertheless more than 80% of Finnish genes are from a single ancient North-European population, while most Europeans are a mixture of 3 or more principal components.
In a recent study (2008) a joint analysis was performed for the first time on Swedish and Finnish autosomal genotypes. Swedish-speakers from Ostrobothnia (reference population of the study representing 50% of all Swedish-speakers in Finland) did not differ significantly from the Finnish-speaking population of western Finland, but when Swedish samples were used as reference the Finlandswedish samples clustered with the Swedes. Moreover, according to a recent y-dna study (2008) Swedish-speaking reference group from Larsmo, Ostrobotnia, differed significantly from the Finnish-speaking sub-populations in the country in terms of Y-STR variation.
In the 19th century, the Finnish researcher Matthias Castrén prevailed with the theory that "the original home of Finns" was in west-central Siberia. But later, it was considered more credible that an ancient homeland of all Finno-Ugric speaking peoples situated in a region between the Volga and Kama rivers in the European part of Russia.
Until the 1970s, most linguists believed that Finns arrived in Finland as late as the first centuries AD. But accumulating archaeological data suggested that the area of contemporary Finland had been inhabited continuously since the ice-age, contrary to the earlier idea that the area had experienced long uninhabited intervals. One conclusion was that the ancestors of the Finns arrived in their present territory thousands of years ago, perhaps in many successive waves of immigration. During this immigration, the possible linguistic and cultural ancestors of the hunting-gathering Sami were pushed into the more remote northern regions.
A recent and controversial theory is that the ancestors of the Finns lived during the Ice Age in one of three habitable areas of southern Europe, so-called refugia, while the other two habitable areas were occupied by the speakers of Indo-European and Basque languages. This was proposed in the 1990s by Kalevi Wiik, a professor emeritus of phonetics at the University of Turku. According to this theory, Finno-Ugric speakers spread north as the ice melted. They populated central and northern Europe, while Basque speakers populated western Europe. As agriculture spread from the south-east into Europe, the Indo-European languages spread among the hunter-gatherers. In this process, both the hunter-gatherers speaking Finno-Ugric and those speaking Basque learned how to cultivate land and became Indo-Europeanized. According to Wiik, this is how the Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, and Baltic languages were formed. The linguistic ancestors of modern Finns did not switch their language due to their isolated location. The main supporters of Wiik's theory are Ago Künnap, Kyösti Julku and Angela Marcanio. But some other scholars have strongly criticized the theory. Especially Raimo Anttila, Petri Kallio and brothers Ante and Aslak Aikio have renounced Wiik's theory with strong words, even hinting on right-wing tendencies among Wiik's supporters. The most heated debate took place in the Finnish journal Kaltio during autumn 2002. Since then, the debate has calmed, each side retaining their positions.