The Finnic nations identified by language (west to east):
Pinks: Sami
Blues: Baltic Finns
Yellows and red: Volga Finns
Browns: Perm Finns

The Finnic or Fennic peoples, sometimes simply called Finns, are the nations who speak languages traditionally classified in the Finnic[1] (now commonly Finno-Permic) language family, and which are thought to have originated in the region of the Volga River. The largest Finnic peoples by population are the Finns (6 million), the Estonians (1 million), the Mordvins (800,000), the Mari (570,000), the Udmurts (550,000), the Komis (330,000) and the Sami (100,000).[2]

The scope of the terms "Finn" and "Finnic" varies by context. They can refer to the Baltic Finns of Finland, Scandinavia, Estonia and Northwest Russia. The broadest sense in the contemporary usage includes four groups:[3][4] the Baltic Finns, the Sami of northern Fennoscandia, and the Volga Finns and Perm Finns of Russia.[5] The last two include the Finnic peoples of the Komi-Permyak Okrug and the four Russian republics of Komi, Mari El, Mordovia and Udmurtia.[6] Until the early 20th century, the Ugrians were also considered to be a branch of Finns (as "Ugrian Finns"),[7][8][9] but such terminology is not in use anymore.

Linguistically, the situation is more complex: in particular, the unity of the Volga Finnic languages is disputed, and because of this the Permians are sometimes counted as Volga Finns and sometimes not. The distinction is a linguistic one, however, and varies between linguistic reconstructions.[citation needed] The Finnic peoples are sometimes called Finno-Ugric, uniting them with the Hungarians, or Uralic, uniting them also with the Samoyeds. These linguistic connections were discovered between the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.[10]

Finnic peoples migrated westward from very approximately the Volga area into northwestern Russia and (first the Sami and then the Baltic Finns) into Scandinavia, though scholars dispute the timing. The ancestors of the Perm Finns moved north and east to the Kama and Vychegda rivers. Those Finnic peoples who remained in the Volga basin began to divide into their current diversity by the sixth century, and had coalesced into their current nations by the sixteenth.[citation needed]


The name "Finn(ic)" is an ancient exonym with scarce historical references and therefore rather questionable etymology. Its probable cognates, like Fenni, Phinnoi, Finnum, and Skrithfinni / Scridefinnum appear in a few written texts starting from about two millennia ago in association with peoples of northern Europe. The first known use of this name to refer to the people of what is now Finland is in the 10th-century Old English poem "Widsith". Among the first written sources possibly designating western Finland as the "land of Finns" are also two rune stones in Sweden: one in Norrtälje Municipality, with the inscription finlont (U 582), and the other in Gotland, with the inscription finlandi (G 319 M), dating from the 11th century.[11]

It has been suggested that the non-Uralic ethnonym "Finn" 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 (Middle High German) 'pedestrian', 'wanderer'.[12] It may thus have originated from an Old Norse word for hunter-gatherer, finn (plural finnar), which is believed to have been applied during the first millennium CE to the (pre–reindeer herding) Sami, and perhaps to other hunter-gatherers of Scandinavia.[13] It was still used with this meaning in Norway in the early 20th century, but is now considered derogatory.[14] Thus there is Finnmark in Norway, which can be understood as "Sami country", but also Finnveden in Sweden, in an area that is not known to have been Finnic-speaking. The name was also applied to what is now Finland, which at the time was inhabited by "Sami" hunter-gatherers.[15]

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.[16]

Other etymological interpretations associate the ethnonym "Finns" with fen in a more toponymical approach. Yet another theory postulates that the words finn and kven are cognates.

See also


  1. ^ "Finno-Ugric languages". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2013.
  2. ^ "Национальный состав населения по субъектам Российской Федерации". Archived from the original on 8 December 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  3. ^ Golden, Peter B. (1994) [1990]. "The peoples of the Russian forest belt". In Sinor, Denis (ed.). The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 230. ISBN 9780521243049.
  4. ^ "The languages of Europe". Encyclopedia of European peoples, Volume 1. Infobase Publishing. 2006. p. 888. ISBN 9781438129181. Archived from the original on 19 April 2023. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  5. ^ Goldina, Ekaterina; Goldina, Rimma (2018). "On North-Western Contacts of Perm Finns in VII–VIII Centuries". Estonian Journal of Archaeology. 22 (2): 163–180. doi:10.3176/arch.2018.2.04. S2CID 166188106.
  6. ^ Lallukka, Seppo (1990). The East Finnic minorities in the Soviet Union. Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia. ISBN 951-41-0616-4.
  7. ^ Keltie, John Scott (1879). "Finland" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. IX (9th ed.). pp. 216–220. see page 219, para Ethnology and Language.—The term Finns has a wider application than Finland, being, with its adjective Finnic or Finno-Ugric or Ugro-Finnic......&.... (5) The Ugrian Finns include the Voguls.....
  8. ^ Art Leete, Ways of Describing Nenets and Khanty "Character" in 19th Century Russian Ethnographic Literature, Folklore vol. 12., December 1999
  9. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Russia" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  10. ^ "Uralic peoples". Archived from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura". Archived from the original on 8 July 2004. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  13. ^ Rygh, Oluf (1924). Norske gaardnavne: Finmarkens amt (in Norwegian) (18 ed.). Kristiania, Norge: W. C. Fabritius & sønners bogtrikkeri. pp. 1–7.
  14. ^ Berg-Nordlie, Mikkel (26 January 2023), "finner (samer)", Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian), retrieved 24 January 2024
  15. ^ Lamnidis, Thiseas C.; Majander, Kerttu; Jeong, Choongwon; Salmela, Elina; Wessman, Anna; Moiseyev, Vyacheslav; Khartanovich, Valery; Balanovsky, Oleg; Ongyerth, Matthias; Weihmann, Antje; Sajantila, Antti; Kelso, Janet; Pääbo, Svante; Onkamo, Päivi; Haak, Wolfgang (27 November 2018). "Ancient Fennoscandian genomes reveal origin and spread of Siberian ancestry in Europe". Nature Communications. 9 (1): 5018. Bibcode:2018NatCo...9.5018L. doi:10.1038/s41467-018-07483-5. ISSN 2041-1723. PMC 6258758. PMID 30479341.
  16. ^ Kallio, Petri (4 January 1998). "Suomi(ttavia etymologioita)". Virittäjä (in Finnish). 102 (4): 613. ISSN 2242-8828.