The Baltic-Finnic Branch

The North Baltic-Finnic Branch

The Finns (Suomi)

Population: Approx. 5,000,000

Concentration: Mainly Finland, some living in Sweden, Russia, Estonia and North America.

Religion: Mainly Lutheran, some Roman Catholic.

Ethnic Inheritance: Dominantly Northern European with very minor Mongoloid influence.

Language: Finnish

Present day Finland has been inhabited since 7,500 BC. The first inhabitants belong to the Mesolithic Askola culture who apparently settled the coast of Finland. The Lapps undoubtedly arrived before the Baltic-Finnic clans. The Baltic-Finnic people arrived from east and northeast Estonia beginning during the 1st century AD, although some scholars have suggested Baltic-Finnic inhabitation in Finland as early as the 8th Millennium BC. Apparently the Finns pushed the Lapps further north. There were three main clan groups in Finland during the early Middle Ages; the Suomi, who settled in southwestern Finland; the Häme, inhabiting the central part of the country; and the Korela had settled along the northern shores of Lake Ladoga and the Karelian Isthmus. The clans are known to have been very hostile towards each other. A Finnish epic the Kalevala (An ancient collection of poems passed down through story telling, written down during the 19th century AD) tells of fighting between the presumed Lapp and Baltic-Finnic tribes.

The first mention of Baltic-Finnic tribes within Finland in historical sources was in 98 AD by the Roman historian Tacitus, in his study Germania he calls them the Fenni (It is possible that he was referring to the Lapps). Roman trading links extended all the way into the north. Traders came to the area mainly for the supply of furs, which they exchanged for iron swords, wine goblets etc. At the end of the Great Migration (400-800) trading with the peoples south of the Baltic declined. Around the year 900 AD the Vikings established a trading route running through Finland to as far as the Middle East, as a result of this many Arab coins have been discovered in the Åland islands. The campaigns of the Vikings did not affect Finland directly although it strengthened the economy of Finland and around the Baltic. Also during 900 AD the trading settlement of Koroinen was established where the present day city of Turku is now located, the settlement traded with several different European peoples, known because of the Byzantine, Anglo-Saxon and Germanic coins found at site.

Finnish is not one of the original Baltic-Finnic languages, rather it is a combination of the languages that the Baltic-Finnic tribes spoke in the area of Finland. The language has only been unified during recent centuries.

The Swedes began there crusade into Finland around the 1200’s who were supported in part by the Teutonic Knights. The Swedes suffered many defeats until they were able to take Finland. In 1293 the Swedes built a castle in Viipuri. They negotiated a border with the Russians (who were also interested in the area of Finland) at the Peace of Pähkinäsaari in 1323.

Finland remained in the hands of the Swedes until the Russians annexed it during there war with Sweden which lasted from 1808 to 1809. Finland was declared an autonomous state, because of the new possibilities of Russian rule much of the educated class did not have a problem with it. Eventually tensions began to rise between the Finns and the Russians, and the Russian governor of Finland was assassinated by a Finn. Finland finally declared it’s independence during the Russian revolution. Civil war followed, one of the sides wanting to make Finland communist (The Reds) and the other against (The Whites, who were victories). During World War II the Soviet Union asked Finland to cede much of Eastern Finland to them, as protection from Germany. Finland was unwilling and In 1939 the Soviets attacked Finland. As a result Finland was forced to cede much of Karelia to the Soviet Union. In June 1941 Finland attacked the Soviet Union with Germany at its side and took back Karelia into there possession. The Soviet forces were weak at that time and Finland decided to continue further into Russia. Eventually the Soviet forces began to defeat the Finnish and they were forced to cede the territory back to Russia and expel the German troops. As a result fighting broke out between the Finns and Germans, much of the cities in Lapland were burned by the Germans as they retreated out of Finland.

The Finnish language has many similarities to the Germanic languages, especially the Swedish language, which was brought to Finland by mainly Swedish and German emigrants, who began to emigrate after the 12th century.


The Karelians (Karjala)

Population: Approx. 130,000

Concentration: Eastern Russia, Mainly East of Finland.

Religion: Russian Orthodox.

Ethnic inheritance: Strongly European blended with some Mongoloid traits.

Language: Karelian

The Karelian Language is very similar to Finnish, in fact it is sometimes considered a dialect of Finnish. They should not be confused with the Finnish Karelians. Karelian is divided into four dialects, Karelian proper which is made up of Northern and Southern dialects and Olonetsian. The fourth dialect is Ludic which is similar to Vepsian, sometimes considered a separate language. There are numerous loan words borrowed from Russian. Only half of the Karelian population considers Karelian there native language. Outside of the home Russian is usually preferred.

The Karelians have an Autonomous republic, but they are a minority within there own land, making up only ten percent of the population there.

The Karelians have a rich and original cultural heritage. Many of the songs for the Kalevala, a famous Finnish book of songs, originate in Karelia. The earliest known text in Karelian is a three line Birch bark letter from the 13th century, it is the earliest known text in any Baltic-Finnic language. The first Karelian books were published in the 1800’s using the Cyrillic alphabet. Karelian is also taught in some schools. As recently as the second half of the 19th century, Karelians lived in 25-30 member familys.

The Karelians are one of the original Baltic-Finnic peoples. They inhabited the area between Lakes Ladoga and Onega around the year 100 AD. Some began migrating up to the White Sea, and northwest into Finnish Karelia. From the 9th to 12th century the southern part of Karelia was ruled by the Kievan Rus Principality. After the 12th century they were ruled by Russia at that time called the Novgorod Feudal Republic, during this time they were converted to Russian orthodox. The border negotiated in 1323 between the Russians and Swedes at the Peace of Pähkinäsaari has always divided the Karelians. Even after this the Swedes and Russians continued to fight each other, and much of Karelian lands were plundered and devastated. During the 16th and 17th century many emigrated away from Karelia to escape the warfare. When the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917 the Karelians wanted independence or to join Finland. This was put under discussion at the League of Nations in 1923, instead they were declared an Autonomous Republic. At the end of the Winter War in 1940 they gained status as a full union republic, this was reverted in 1956. During the War of Continuation (1941-44) a large part of Karelian territory was captured by Finland. World War II also led to many of the Karelian villages being destroyed.

Karelia/Eastern Karelia, the mythical land of the Kalevala (Map)

 The Vepsians (Vepsä, Lüüd)

Population: Approx. 12,500

Concentration: Slightly east from St. Petersburg around the border of the Karelian Autonomous Republic.

Religion: Russian Orthodox.

Ethnic inheritance: Mainly North European with very slight Mongoloid influence.

Language: Veps

The Vepsians were first mentioned in the chronicle of Jordanes in the 4th century. The Vepsian lands were annexed to the Grand Principality of Muscovy in 1485. During Soviet rule a written language was created and Vepsian language schools were created. Then in 1937 the Soviets decided to assimilate the Vepsians, cultural activities were banned, schools were closed and teachers were imprisoned. During World War II some Vepsians fought on the side of the Finnish. After the war the Vepsians began migrating to towns in large numbers. In 1989 the Vepsian Cultural society was formed. The Vepsians are divided into northern, central and southern dialect groups.

Izhorians or Ingrians (Inkeroiset)

Population: 820 were reported in 1989

Concentration: The western St. Petersburg province, between the Narva and Neva rivers.

Religion: Russian Orthodox

Ethnic inheritance: Dominantly Northern European with very minor Mongoloid influence.

Language: Ingrian

The Izhorians along with the Votes originally inhabited the region of Ingria. The Izhorians have never been a large people, since they were oppressed first by Novgorod then the Russian Empire and finally the Soviet Regime. The path of extinction for the Izhorians and other minorities in the region reached it's mid point when St. Petersburg was founded in the middle of Baltic-Finnic territory around the turn of the 18th century. In 1926 there were 26,137 Izhorians reported. Much of the Izhorians were assimilated by the Soviets during the 1930's and after World War II. Izhorians who evacuated to Finland and then returned were scattered throughout central Russia and there villages were settled by Russians. By 1956 they were allowed to return, many took up a Russian way of life and tried to hide there nationality. Today there language is survived primarily by the older generation.

The South Baltic-Finnic Branch

The Estonians (Eesti)

Population: Approx. 1,050,000

Concentration: Mainly in Estonia but also in Russia, Sweden, North America.

Religion: Mainly Russian Orthodox.

Ethnic Inheritance: Dominantly Northern European with very minor Mongoloid influence.

Language: Estonian

Estonian is divided into two main dialects, a northern dialect which is spoken in most of the country and a southern dialect which extends from the city of Tartu further south. The northern dialect has similar features to southwestern Finnish dialects. Modern Estonian is believed to descended from one or possibly two of the Ancient Baltic-Finnic languages.

The first book (Wanradt-Koell Catechism) written in Estonian was published in 1535 in Wittenberg. Eleven years earlier the first known Estonian texts were written which were religious translations. During the 16th century two literary languages developed in the major centers of culture, Tallinn and Tartu.

5000 years ago the ancestors of the present Estonians lived in loosely organized male dominated clans. A central government was not formed until the Middle Ages. The Danes were some of the first to invade the Estonians, who conquered Toompea a fortress in present day Tallinn. In 1227 German crusaders defeated the last remaining Estonian stronghold. Then in 1346 the Danes sold there territory in Estonia to the Livonian Order. Russians invaded Estonia in 1481 and 1558 but were unable to gain very much territory. In 1625 Estonia came under the rule of Sweden. The Swedes were beginning to lose there war with Russia and in 1721 they were forced to give Estonia to the Russians. After the collapse of Russia in the early 20th century, Estonia became independent for 22 years. Estonia was occupied by Germany during World War I for a brief time. In 1940 Estonia was incorporated into the Soviet Union, following this over 10,000 Estonians were deported to Siberia. When the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany during World War II the Estonians welcomed the Germans, but German occupation was worse for Estonia than being under Soviet Rule, many Estonians were also sent to concentration camps. Estonia finally became independent again in 1990 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.


The Votes (Vadja or Maavätchi)

Population: 62 were recorded in 1989.

Concentration: Mainly in five villages in the St. Petersburg region, some live in towns for the winter and spend only summers in the villages.

Religion: Russian Orthodox

Ethnic Inheritance: Dominantly Northern European with very minor Mongoloid influence.

Language: Votic other names include Votian and Vote.

The Votes language consists of Western, Eastern, Kukkusi and Kreevin dialects the latter two being extinct. There closest relative is Estonian. According to D. Tsvetkov in 1850 50 % of the Votes spoke Russian and 10% understood Church Slavonic. Over the years and especially in the middle of the 19th century many Votes have been assimilated into mainly Russians and some into Estonians. The Votes have always been a small people but have survived assimilation for a long time, but after the mid 1800’s there population began to seriously drop, a survey conducted in 1848 showed 5,148 Votes and then in 1917 only 1,000 remaing.

The Votes were the first inhabitants of Ancient Watland which was mainly western and northern Ingermanland in the area of present day St. Petersburg. They split of from the Ancient Estonian tribes during the first century. There land was near major commercial trading routes from east to west. The Vote tribes never formed one nation or Administrative center.

Around 500 AD East-Slavonic (ancestors of the Russians) tribes reached the lands of the Votes. Latter when Novgorod was founded they taxed the Votes and gained control of there lands. This led to the Votes along with Polotsk Prince and Vseslav attacking Novgorod, eventually they were defeated. In 1141 the Votes took part in a campaign from Novgorod against the Häme people inhabiting present day Finland. The probably participated in other campaigns from Novgorod. They appeared in records of Novgorod forces. The Germans attacked Ingermanland between 1444-1447, but they were unable to capture any of the territory. In 1478 Novgorod was taken over by the Grand Principality of Muscovy. After this many Votes were deported to central Russia and replaced with Russian colonists. Even though when the Votes were under Novgorod control they were forced into the Greek-Orthodox faith, there were still pagans as late as the 16th century. The majority of the pagans were converted in the mid 1500’s. In 1617 at the terms of the Stolbovo Peace Treaty, Ingermanland came under Swedish rule. A few Votes escaped to the Russian side. Then during the early 18th century, as a result of the Great Northern War Ingermanland again came under Russian rule. The city of St. Petersburg (the capital at that time) was founded in the Middle of the Baltic-Finnic region. Part of the Votes land was distributed as estates.

During the 19th century many Votes began to prefer a more Russian lifestyle. By the 1930’s many young people could not speak Votic. During World War I many Votes and other Baltic-Finnics were taken as refugees to Finland. The Soviets demanded that they return many managed to escape to neighboring countries, those who returned were dispersed throughout the Soviet Provinces. By 1956 they were allowed to return, many found there homes and villages inhabited by Russians.

The Livonians (Liiv)

Population: Approx. 30

Concentration: Between Latvia and Estonia

Religion: Probably mainly Russian Orthodox.

Ethnic inheritance: Dominantly European with very minor Mongoloid influence.

Language: Livonian

The Ancient Livonians lived in Livonia a wide area on the eastern coast of the Livonian Bay. With the Väini River (an important trade route in the Middle Ages) running through there land. They were once farmers, livestock breeders and fisherman, with a well developed material culture. Today there are only 30 remaining and only 15 fluent speakers.

The Livonians are assumed to be the first to break off from the other Baltic-Finnic tribes. In 1206 the Livonians were defeated by crusaders when the city of Riga was built on there territory. During the 19th century there were still a few thousand Livonians remaining, they were assimilated mainly by the Latvians. Then during Soviet rule what little was left of Livonian culture was destroyed. The Livonian Society was banned and there community center given to others. Today there are intellectuals of Livonian decent who have tried to preserve the Livonian language and culture.