6,5 million (est.)
|Regions with significant populations
5.2 million 
34,050 (2002 census)
|Predominantly Lutheranism; small Orthodox and Pentecostal minorities
|Related ethnic groups
|Estonians, Karelians, Votes, Veps, Livonians
The terms Finns and Finnish people are usually used in English to mean "a native or inhabitant of Finland", but 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.
 Who belongs to this ethnic group?
See also ethnos.
Ethnicities are difficult to define. 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. With regard to this, in addition to most inhabitants of mainland Finland, also Kvens (people of Finnish descent in Norway), Tornedalians (people of Finnish descent in northernmost Sweden), and Evangelical Lutheran Ingrian Finns are usually considered Finnish people. Due to the fact that the area of modern Finland was part of the Swedish kingdom for several hundred years, a small population of Swedish speakers exists in the land. The ethnicity of these Swedish-speaking Finns (or Finland Swedes) is debated with positions emphasizing in one extreme a settler nature and in the other extreme a language-shifting nature of this group. In a 2005 survey by Svenska Finlands Folkting carried out among the Swedish speakers, when asked about the meaning of their identity, 83% of the respondents answered: "Both to belong to an own culture but also to be Finnish amongst the rest." (Sw: "Både att höra till en egen kultur, men också att vara en finländare bland alla andra." Fi: "Kuulumista omaan kulttuuriin, mutta myös suomalaisena olemista muiden joukossa.")
The Finnish term for the Finnish people 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-speaking ancestors. These include recent immigrants from Finland and (at least originally) Finnish-speaking people that have lived in Sweden for centuries. 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.
In some texts in the past, the term 'Finns' may have also been employed generally for other Finnic peoples, including Izhorians in Ingria, Karelians and Veps.
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 relating to Europe's north are scarce and relating to the naming of its peoples are obscure, and so the etymologies of the names of these peoples and geographic regions remain rather sketchy. Such names as Fenni, Phinnoi, Finnum, and Scridefinnum were used in a few written texts for almost two millennia 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 (see: Origin of the name Kven). In the Icelandic Eddas and Norse sagas (dating about from the 11th to 14th centuries), some of the oldest written sources probably originating from the closest proximity, words like finnr and finnas are not used consistently. Most of the time, however, they seem to mean northern dwellers with a mobile life style, i.e. the Sami.
Interestingly, an etymological link between the Sami and the Finns exists also in modern Finno-Ugric languages. 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 Baltic word zeme meaning 'land'. How, why, and when these designations started to mean specifically people in south-western Finland (Finland Proper, Varsinais-Suomi) and later the whole area of modern Finland is largely unknown.
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 .
The Finnish speakers are usually divided into the following dialectal groups that involve not only a dialect but also distinct cultures. It is postulated that these represent the ancient "tribes" of Finns, and therefore the Finnish word heimo meaning "tribe" is often used in Finnish to designate these groups. National unification has however been thorough, and the differences between these groups are minor.
- West Finnish
- East Finnish
- Savonia: eastern Finland, near Kuopio and Mikkeli. The dialect diverges greatly from the standard language, with a different vowel system, e.g. uamu for aamu. Savonians are known for their humour and puns when it comes to language—even the dialect itself is referred to as "viäntö", "twisting". According to an often heard joke, "Whenever a Savonian speaks, the responsibility is shifted to the listener".
- Karelia: far eastern Finland; near Joensuu. The dialect is not as different from the standard language as Savonian but still distinguishably East Finnish. The Karelians suffered heavily in the Winter War and the Continuation War, most of the population being forced to leave their homes and resettle in the rest of the country when Finland was forced to cede most of Karelia to the Soviet Union.
- The Swedish speakers have many local dialects but are often divided geographically into:
With regard to the ancestry of the Finnish people, the modern view emphasises 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.
The possible mediators and the timelines for the development of the Uralic majority language of the Finns are equally uncertain. On the basis of comparative linguistics, it has been postulated that the separation of the Baltic-Finnic and the Sami languages took place during the 2nd millennium BC, the proto-Uralic roots of the entire language group dating perhaps 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 a matter of debate but the current opinion is leaning towards the Stone Age. 
Because the Finnish language itself reached a written form only in the 16th century, not much primary data remains of early Finnish life. For example, the origins of such cultural icons as the sauna, the kantele (a harplike 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 AD , from the subsequent immigration during Swedish sovereignty over Finland , and from Finns and immigrants who adopted the Swedish language .
 Language, identity, and genes
Most Finnish-speakers as well as most Swedish-speakers consider the Finnish people one great nation or great people whose members speak either or both Finnish and Swedish. 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.
A few studies have shown that Swedish-speaking Finns are today genetically indistinguishable from Finns but distinguishable from Swedes, which means in simpler English that they share their genetic make up with Finnish people rather than Swedish people. Even today, there are however some people who erroneously believe that Swedish-speaking Finns are genetically or culturally more similar to Swedes than to Finns, and these views were widespread in the 19th century when scientists confused the concepts of language and genetics (called "race" at the time). Originally, there probably were genetic differences between the Norse settlers who came from Scandinavia for many centuries starting about 1,000 years ago and the Balto-Finnic-speaking population they encountered, but the genes of these original population groups have for long been indistinguishable.
On the other hand, according to modern social science, the Swedish-speaking Finns fulfill some of the four major criteria for a separate ethnic group: self-identification of ethnicity, language, social structure, and ancestry. (The last criterion being put in question by loss of genetic differences betweeen the linguistic groups).
As for the paternal and maternal genetic lineages of Finnish people and other peoples, see e.g. . In essence, the types of mtDNA markers of Finnish people do not differ from those of other European ethnicities. With regard to the Y-chromosome, besides the markers found in other European populations, the haplotype N3 appears in Finland at clearly higher frequencies than in most other European populations. Haplotype N3 is a subgroup of the haplogroup N (Y-DNA) distributed across northern Eurasia and estimated in a recent study to be 10-20,000 years old and suggested to have entered Europe about 12-14,000 years ago from Asia.  and 
See also History of Finland.
During the many centuries of Swedish rule, many Finns exchanged their native language to Swedish. Since 1808, the movement has been in the other direction. In 200 years, the percentage of Swedish speakers has diminished from close to 20% to below 6%. While this change of mother tongue naturally has had some effects in terms of affiliation with literature, it has had very limited effects on other cultural aspects. The language strife and the decline in the number of Finland-Swedish speakers have been considered effects of this change of mother tongue rather than its cause.
 Theories of the origin of Finns and the Finno-Ugric language
In the 19th century, the Finnish researcher Castrén prevailed with the theory that "the original home of Finns" was in west-central Siberia. Later, the theory of 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 appeared more credible. Until the 1970s, most linguists believed Finns to have arrived in Finland as late as the first centuries AD. In the 1980s, these ideas changed drastically. The old theory was replaced by the concurrent version of a large "homeland" between the Volga river and Scandinavia. In the light of new archaeological findings, it was concluded 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.
According to a 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.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Professor Harri Nevanlinna and his colleagues claimed that genetic research has shown that Finns are genetically similar to other European peoples but also have also some uniqueness. It was determined that 25–50% of Finnish nuclear genes are Baltic, approximately 25% Siberian, and 25–50% Germanic. However all the peoples of Europe have some amount of "eastern" genes and Finns are not that different from other Europeans. Even the most genetically western population, the Basques, have more than 10% of "eastern" genes.
According to a study the closest genetic relatives of Finns are Germanic language speakers, but relation of Finns to other speakers of Finno-Ugric languages is distant. Indeed, like the Indo-European speakers, Uralic speakers have a large genetic diversity which illustrates the important point that genetic origins do not necessarily correlate with the language origins.
Recent mitochondrial genetic research, which can discover facts concerning tens of thousands of years ago, "supports the assumption of a Western, Indo-European genotype for the Finns".
Kalevi Wiik, a professor emeritus of phonetics at the University of Turku, postulated a controversial theory in the 1990s. According to Wiik, the ancestors of the Finns lived during the Ice Age in one of three habitable areas of southern Europe, so-called refugia, the two other habitable areas being the homes of the Indo-European and Basque languages. According to this theory, Finno-Ugric speakers spread to the north as the ice melted. They populated central and northern Europe, while Basque speakers populated western Europe. As agriculture spread from the south-west 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. Due to their isolated location, the linguistic ancestors of modern Finns did not switch their language. This theory is not accepted by the majority of linguists because Wiik has failed to present proof of a Finno-Ugric substrate in Indo-European languages.
 Finnish and Swedish speakers in Finland, Finnish speakers in Sweden
After centuries of coexistence, intermarriage, and language shifts back and forth, language is now accepted as the only real difference between Finnish and Swedish speakers in Finland.  Cultural differences between the groups are small. Swedish speakers for example consider certain holidays particularly important, including Runeberg's Day and St. Lucia Day, which give them a sense of identity. Of Finland's 431 municipalities, 389 have a majority of Finnish speakers, of which 21 are bilingual, with Swedish as the minority language. Concentrated along the south-western coast and the coast of Ostrobothnia, the Swedish speakers represent the majority of the population in 42 municipalities, of which 23 are bilingual, with Finnish as the minority language. (Of the 19 monoglot Swedish speaking municipalities, 16 are located in the autonomous region of Åland (Ahvenanmaa)). Of Finland's 114 cities, 94 are monolingual Finnish speaking, 12 are bilingual with Finnish as the majority language, six are bilingual with Swedish as the majority language and two are monolingual Swedish speaking. 
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 in certain parts of Sweden.
- ^ "Traditionally, immigrants were described in English and most other languages by an adjective indicating the new country of residence and a noun indicating their country of origin or their ethnic group. The term "Sweden Finns" corresponds to this naming method. Immigrants to the USA have however always been designated the "other way around" by an adjective indicating the ethnic or national origin and a noun indicating the new country of residence, for example "Finnish Americans" (never "American Finns"). The term "Finnish Swedes" corresponds to this more modern naming method that is increasingly used in most countries and languages because it emphasises the status as full and equal citizens of the new country while providing information about cultural roots. (For more information about these different naming methods see Swedish-speaking Finns.) Other possible modern terms are "Finnish ethnic minority in Sweden" and "Finnish immigrants". These may be preferable because they make a clear distinction between these two very different population groups for which use of a single term is questionable and because "Finnish Swedes" is often used like "Finland Swedes" to mean "Swedish-speaking Finns". It should perhaps also be pointed out that many Finnish and Swedish speakers are unaware that the English word "Finn" elsewhere than in this article usually means "a native or inhabitant of Finland" (, , ) and only sometimes also has the meaning "a member of a people speaking Finnish or a Finnic language" or has this as its primary but not exclusive meaning.
- ^ "The identity of the Swedish[-speaking] minority is however clearly Finnish (Allardt 1997:110). But their identity is twofold: They are both Finland Swedes and Finns (Ivars 1987)." (Die Identität der schwedischen Minderheit ist jedoch eindeutig finnisch (Allardt 1997:110). Ihre Identität ist aber doppelt: sie sind sowohl Finnlandschweden als auch Finnen (Ivars 1987).) Saari, Mirja: Schwedisch als die zweite Nationalsprache Finnlands (retrieved 12 December 2006)
- ^ "Since the [two] population [groups'] genetic, ecological and socioeconomic circumstances are equal, Swedish speakers’ longer active life is difficult to explain by conventional health-related risk factors." Markku T. Hyyppä and Juhani Mäki: Social participation and health in a community rich in stock of social capital
- ^ "During the past period of language disputes, language was often equated with nationality and race, and racist views have also not been rare in the history of Finland's national languages. Contemporary research however rejects most of the race doctrines presented in the name of science in the past. Today, it is recognised that a person's genetic characteristics are something different than his/her native language. The Finnish language is of Eastern origin, and most of the genotype of Finns is Western. Swedish-speaking Finns, so-called Finland Swedes, are also genetically Finns and not Swedes." Official document of a committee of experts appointed by the Finnish Ministry of Justice (Translated from p.5 beginning at "Menneiden kieliriitojen aikana...")
- ^ Finland has generally been regarded as an example of a monocultural and egalitarian society. However, Finland has a Swedish-speaking minority that meets the four major criteria of ethnicity, i.e. self-identification of ethnicity, language, social structure and ancestry (Allardt and Starck, 1981; Bhopal, 1997). Markku T. Hyyppä and Juhani Mäki: Social participation and health in a community rich in stock of social capital
- ^ Uralic genes in Europe by Guglielmino CR, Piazza A, Menozzi P, Cavalli-Sforza LL 
- Folktinget. http://www.folktinget.fi/pdf/finlandssvenskarna2002.pdf
- Åbo Akademi. http://www.abo.fi/instut/fisve-svefi/svenska/hoppe.html
23. Perspectives to Finnish Identity, by Anne Ollila: Scandinavian Journal of History, Volume 23, Numbers 3-4, 1 September 1998, pp. 127-137(11). Retrieved 06 October 2006.
 See also
 External links