April 1998                                                    

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Who are the Finns?

by Kalevi Wiik

A common answer to the question of the Finns' origin used to be that they came from the area around the River Volga about 5,000 years ago. It was therefore usual to find relatives of the
Finns in the "hinterland of Moscow".

New research in the 1990s has opened up new perspectives. Yes, there was a migration from the Volga, but the spread of the eastern Finno-Ugric people to Finland is no longer considered decisive from the point of view of the origins of the Finns.

The current views are multidisciplinary and based mainly on archaeological, linguistic and genetic considerations. The findings are (a) that the closest genetic relatives of the Finns (in addition to Finnic peoples such as Estonians) are the populations speaking Germanic languages in Europe, and (b) that their closest linguistic relatives are the Lapps in north Scandinavia. The concept of a "relative" is, however, ambiguous: the Germanic populations are not linguistic
relatives of the Finns, and the Lapps are not their genetic relatives.

Professor Kalevi Wiik examined developments that have led to the complicated genetic-linguistic situation of the Finns. Not one to adhere to the migrationist solutions of the past, Professor Wiik prefers to talk about genetic and linguistic mixtures instead.

Kalevi Wiik is Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at the University of Turku.

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