September 1998                                  

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New theories emerge on the origin of Finns

The long-debated question of the origin of the Finns is being constantly reviewed in the light of new research. According to recent suggestions, early emigrants to what is now Finland seem to have spoken both Finno-Ugric and Indo-European languages. They also arrived in small groups from different directions and only slowly started to create a culture that can be described as Finnish.

Recent research based on philology, archaeology and genetics has been able to bring new aspects to the question of the origin of the Finns. By comparing the results of all of these fields of research, some scholars have suggested new answers to old questions such as which languages were spoken during different eras.

Genetic research also supports these new findings. It is now known that the genes of the Finns differ radically from the genes of the Sami people, for example, the minority group in northern Finland. This finding supports the idea that all Finns did not arrive simultaneously. According to the latest research the genes of both the Finns and the Sami people also differ from the genes of other Europeans. This can be explained by the fact that Finland was isolated from the rest of Europe for a long time.

The languages of the migrant groups to present-day Finland are believed to have belonged both to the Finno-Ugric and the Indo-European families of languages. Speakers of Finno-Ugric languages arrived in Finland from the East through the Baltic countries around 4000-3600 B.C. The next big migration took place around 3200-2350 B.C. from the South and consisted of people speaking an Indo-European language which seems to have been the basis of most European languages. It is claimed the Indo-European languages have strongly affected the Finnish language by bringing in plenty of loanwords, and simultaneously, some cultural customs. Going even further back in time, the very first Finns entered the country right after the ice age, over more than 10 000 years ago.

New research seems to be overruling old theories according to which the Finns migrated either from the East or from the West. One old theory also used to make a connection between the Finns and the Mongols. A final answer to the question where the Finns really came from may never be known for certain.

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