Approximate location of the Finno-Ugric peoples within scope of the ideology

Pan-Finnicism (Finnish: Panfennismi), also known as Pan-Fennicism or sometimes even referred to as Finno-Ugrism or even Heimoaate[1] (transl. "Kinship Ideology/Thought") is a pan-nationalist idea which advocates for the political or economic unification of the Finno-Ugric peoples.[2] The idea is broad in its meaning and oftentimes it simply refers to the Finno-Ugric peoples, however on rare occasion it can be limited to only the Baltic Finnic peoples or even the wider scale Finnic peoples.



Pan-Finnicism was not an idea taken seriously until the formation of the Grand Duchy of Finland, and even with this sense of autonomy within the wider Russian Empire. Due to hundreds of years of Finland having been under Swedish Rule, a sense of Finnish identity was not prevalent, even with the release of the Kalevala. Zacharias Topelius published an essay called “Den Finska Literaturen och dess Framtid" (transl. The Finnish Literature and Its Future) in 1844 where he states the following:[3]

Two hundred years ago few would have believed that the Slavic tribe would attain the prominent (and constantly growing) position it enjoys nowadays in the history of culture. What if one day the Finnish tribe, which occupies a territory almost as vast, were to play a greater role on the world scene than one could expect nowadays? […] Today people speak of Pan-Slavism; one day they may talk of Pan-Fennicism, or Pan-Suomism. Within such a Pan-Finnic community, the Finnish nation should hold the leading position because of its cultural seniority […].

Arthur Castrén pictured between 1931 and 1936

Within Pan-Fennicism, the idea that the Finns would hold superiority within such a union was not contested in Finland, as the idea that the Finns qualified as civilizers and awakeners within the Finno-Ugric community was not new, due to its aforementioned seniority.[3] However, the Pan-Finnic Idea was often overlooked by the idea of Pan-Turanism, which was gaining ever more traction in the field of nationalist studies in academies in Finland. The field of studies on the Finno-Ugric peoples and their linguistic and cultural studies during these times often had a severe lack of Finnish scholars,[4] due to a quite common consensus and hopes of many Finnish nationalists for the Finns and the Finno-Ugric peoples to not just be tribal people from nowhere, instead to showcase that the Finno-Ugric peoples and the larger Finno-Ugric family is a part of 'more respected cultures' and a civilizational affiliation. This led to Turanism becoming the mainstream in the Fennoman movement, and Castrén, who was a prominent fennomanist, believed that based on his research, the Finno-Ugric, Turkic, Mongolian and Tungusic languages were all of the same origins and family. He concluded that the Finns and their other ethnic relatives were from Central Asia, and were far from being a small, isolated people from the middle of nowhere:[3]

I am determined to show the Finnish nation that we are not a solitary people from the bog, living in isolation from the world and from universal history, but are in fact related to at least one-sixth of mankind. Writing grammars is not my main goal, but without the grammars that goal cannot be attained.

Percentage of people speaking Uralic languages in the Russian Empire (1897)

August Ahlqvist, a close coworker of Castrén was of the opinion that the Finns were the perceived superior peoples within the Finno-Ugric family, due to the apparently more present fact of the Finns being more civilized than other Finno-Ugric peoples, however Ahlqvist's attitude had changed following research expeditions to the Volga, East Karelia and Siberia, he had become a svecophile, or at least an admirer of the Scandinavians for their bringing of Christianity and apparent civilization to the Finnish people.[5] He changed his views to that of gratefulness towards the Swedes, and viewed the Finns as being privileged rather than explicitly superior. Ahlqvist's new opinions were proven controversial, and following a speech where he thanked the Swedes for saving the Finnish nation from the same fate as of that of the Finnic relative ethnic groups in Russia and said that the Finns owed a "debt of gratitude", this speech was antagonized much of the Fennoman millieu.[3] Ahlqvist published the Suomen valta [fi] poem in 1860, in which Ahlqvist promoted the Greater Finland idea, advocating for the Finnish borders to expand, writing as follows; "Äänisjärvi, Pohjanlahti / Auranrantat, Vienansuu, / there is, Finnish, power / which is no one else's".[3]

The developments of Pan-Finnicism were popular in Finland to an extent, however in other more literate regions such as Hungary, where ideas about being related to the ancient Scythians and other more Turcophile ideas about the Hungarian ethnic make-up were being formed due to their cultural isolation and the perceived threat of Pan-Slavism which was promoted by the Russian Empire,[3][6] the response was more chilly to the idea of Pan-Finnicism, Castrén says about the Hungarian chilly reaction to Pan-Finnic ideas:[7]

This is hardly surprising, for the idea of being related to the Lapps and the Samoyeds stirs us up, too. That same feeling—the commendable desire to have distinguished and splendid ancestors—has driven some of our scholars to seek our cradle in Greece or in the Holy Land. We must, however, give up all possible kinship with the Hellenes, with the tribes of Israel, with great and privileged nations in general, and console ourselves with the notion that “everyone is heir to his own deeds” and that real nobility has to be achieved with one's own skill. Whether the Finnish nation will manage to make itself a name in history is uncertain; what is certain is that the generations to come will judge us by our own achievements and not by those of our ancestors.

Estonia and many other regions with people considered to be Finno-Ugric peoples did not have much support or research into the idea of Pan-Fennicism, with Estonia adopting Pan-Finnicism much later on in the 20th century when many Finns had already embraced it in the 1800s. However Estonian colleagues largely adopted the Fennocentric perspective, that of the idea held by many Finns who viewed themselves and the Finnish nation as instrumental for the ideology to even exist and function at a basic level, therefore the Estonians acknowledging their own position within the Finno-Ugric world as secondary to Finland.[8]

In Russian Karelia, Pan-Finnicism began to gain traction at the beginning of the 19th century, especially through various Lutheran missions into the region, and through organizations such as the Viena Karelian Association [fi] in 1906, which sought for Finland to annex East Karelia. The Russian Empire, specifically the Arkhangelsk Governorate began to react poorly to what they deemed harmful foreign influence, in Summer 1908, the Governor of Arkhangelsk, Ivan Vasilyevich Sosnovsky deemed that the effect of Pan-Finnicism was minimal, however still urged for the Russification of White Karelia, by building Russian-language educational facilities.[2]

During the First World War, the German Empire had trained Jaegers, which were a part of the Jäger Movement, these Jaegers sought to annex Eastern Karelia into Finland. The Jäger Movement was highly influential within the society of White Finland, and was a key proponent of waging war against Bolshevik Russia, during the Russian Civil War.[9]

Pan-Finnicism during the Interwar period and during World War II in Finland, Karelia, Estonia & Hungary

See also: Greater Finland

The Academic Karelia Society at Mannerheimintie

In post-independence and post-civil war Finland, there was a wave of nationalistic fervor, with the rise of the idea of Karelianism, Pan-Finnicism gained increasing popularity, as Finnish Volunteers went to fight across the "Finno-Ugric World" in hopes uniting the countries into one or liberating many of them. Which was promoted by a meeting between organizations and political parties that supported Pan-Finnicism in the New Student House, Helsinki, organized by the Karjalan Kansalaisliitto [fi] (transl. Citizens' Association of Karelia) in October 1919.[10] This growth of Pan-Finnicism in Finnish society gave rise to such organizations as the Academic Karelia Society and the Patriotic People's Movement, who were also bolstered by the idea of Aitosuomalaisuus [fi] (transl. Authentic Finnishness) in post-independence society.

During the Winter War and Continuation War, Pan-Finnicism was at an all-time high and an off-set or form of Pan-Fennicism called the Greater Finland idea gained immense traction, with many Finno-Ugric people from across Europe joining the fight, on the side of Finland, including Estonian and Ingrian Finnish volunteers amongst others. Pan-Finnicism was also a major policy within the Eastern Karelian Military Administration until 1943, where Finno-Ugric peoples where set to a higher standard than the East Slavs, who were sent to camps, leading to a alleged genocide (according to Russia).[11]

In East Karelia, Pan-Finnicism had been reaching immense popularity, which eventually led to the East Karelian uprising due to rising food shortages and lack of respect for cultural autonomy by Bolshevik Russia, this cultivated into Pan-Finnic militias and paramilitary units being established there, such as the Metsäsissit.[12] With the defeat of the uprising in East Karelia, Pan-Fennicism did not die out in Soviet Karelia, as there was always hopes, at least within the Red Finns who immigrated to Soviet Karelia, many of whom were put into positions of power, such as with people like Edvard Gylling, who were accused of Pan-Fennicist ideas and chauvinism by the Soviet officials, to unite Soviet Karelia with Finland and to restore the FSWR.[13] Pan-Fennicism, and its sub-ideology, the Greater Finland idea were now supported by many Karelian people following the Finnish Invasion of East Karelia due to their liberation from the Soviet Union and their new ability to use their language more.[4]

Map of a hypothetical Finno-Estonian union

In Estonia, following the Estonian War of Independence, society was highly individualistic and unstable, which led to rise of the Vaps Movement, a nationalist and pan-nationalistic veteran's organization and political movement, who were on the path of winning public support, until a coup by moderate Konstantin Päts in 1934, which led to the banning of the Vaps Movement.[14] However Päts, like many influential statesmen knew that Estonia could not stand alone against Russia and therefore was not opposed to Pan-Finnic ideas,[15] with him advocating for the unification between Finland and Estonia for a Pan-Finnic Estonian–Finnish federation in 1940 to Risto Ryti.[16][17] Estonian pan-nationalist sentiment was therefore limited to volunteers such as the Infantry Regiment 200, to Finland following the annexation of Estonia by the Soviet Union, where Finland was seen as the only country left to defend the Finno-Ugric peoples and therefore to unify them, which gave more way to the Greater Finland idea to become more mainstream than an equal union between nations, as all other "nations" had been occupied by the Soviets.

Hungary as a nation held strong relations with both Finland and Estonia during the Interwar period and during the Second World War, with the Horthy Government recognizing the Independence of Finland in 1920, strong bilateral relations were often developed by both sides due to linguistic kinship between the two nations, seeing each other as 'brotherly nations'. The Hungarians provided a volunteer battalion to the Finns during the Winter War and with the two nations fighting on the same side during Operation Barbarossa, relations only improved.[18]

After the Second World War

Following the Finnish defeat in the Second World War, the idea faded towards obscurity within most of Finno-Ugric world, due to the strength of the Soviet Union and their hostility to the idea. There is suspicion that the Karelo-Finnish SSR was planned to encompass all of Finland and Karelia, given its Fennocentric naming.

Pan-Finnicism today

In Finland

Proposed Finno-Ugric flag, created by Szymon Pawlas in 2012

Pan-Finnicism in Modern Finland is not very popular, believed in or advocated for by many. Instead, organizations such as the Finland–Russia Society, advocate for rights for Finno-Ugric peoples and offer language studies.[19] Pan-Finnicism in Finland is not a decisive political issue, most Finns instead do not wish for any territorial expansion or are only focused on the Karelia Question, for which a unification, the return of Finnish Karelia to Finland, seems more likely, than unification between Finland and Estonia.[20] There were increasing demands from the Finns Party Youth, to re-annex Finnish Karelia and sometimes all of Karelia, until its dissolvement as the official Youth of the Finns Party.[21] Politically there are no major parties which outright advocate for the unification of the Finno-Ugric peoples.

In Estonia

Organizations such as the Tuglas Society are friendship societies that advocate for the deepening of Estonia-Finland relations. With the limitation of Pan-Finnicism being to political friendship between Finland and Estonia, with such projects as the Tallinn-Helsinki Tunnel. Estonia is also home to the World Congress of Finno-Ugric Peoples, the official mission of the Congress is to "develop and protect national identity, cultures and languages of Finno-Ugric peoples, to promote cooperation between Finno-Ugric peoples, to discuss topical issues and to identify solutions, and to realize the right of Finno-Ugric peoples to self-determination in accordance with international norms and principles".[22] Politically there are no major parties which outright advocate for the unification of the Finno-Ugric peoples.

In Karelia

Karelian National Movement sticker in the Republic of Karelia

In the Republic of Karelia located within Russia, there are increasing Pan-Finnicist movements popping up across the region with organizations such as the Suur Suomensotilaat of the Karelian National Movement (Oleynik faction), which has advocated for Pan-Fennicist ideas such as the socio-economic cooperation in the form of a supranational union between the Finno-Ugric peoples within their own respective nation-states.[23] The Karelian National Movement also holds strong ties to other nationalist organizations within Finland, Estonia and other Finno-Ugric nationalist movements within Russia,[24] such as the Conservative People's Party of Estonia in Estonia[25] and various with Finnish fight clubs, most notably Active Club.[26]

In Hungary

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See also


  1. ^ Kirkinen, Heikki; Nevalainen, Pekka; Sihvo, Hannes (1994). Karjalan kansan historia (in Finnish). WSO. ISBN 978-951-0-19204-7.
  2. ^ a b "Sivistys | Karjalan Sivistysseura" (in Finnish). Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Sommer, Łukasz. "Hungarian Study on the History of Pan-Fennicism and Pan-Turanism" (PDF). Lukasz.pdf. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 November 2020. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  4. ^ a b Elmgren, Ainur. "Nordic Experiences in Pan-nationalisms: A Reappraisal and Comparison, 1840-1940" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 August 2023.
  5. ^ Kulttuurin Unkari (in Finnish). Atena Kustannus. 1991. ISBN 978-951-9362-40-3.
  6. ^ "Why are so many Hungarians concerned with finding relatives in the East? – Interview with historian Balázs Ablonczy". Hungary Today. 31 May 2022. Retrieved 22 January 2024.
  7. ^ Castrén, Matthias Alexander (1850). Ueber die ursitze des finnischen volkes: Ein vortrag dr. Alexander Castrén's in der literärischen soirée zu Helsingfors am 9. november 1849 (in German). Kaiserliche akademie der wissenschaften.
  8. ^ Saarinen, Sirkka (March 2001). "The Myth of a Finno-Ugrian Community in Practice". Nationalities Papers. 29 (1): 41–52. doi:10.1080/00905990120036376. ISSN 0090-5992. S2CID 154581514.
  9. ^ "DSpace". Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  10. ^ Roselius, Aapo; Silvennoinen, Oula (2019). Villi itä: Suomen heimosodat ja Itä-Euroopan murros 1918-1921 (in Finnish). Tammi. ISBN 978-951-31-7549-8. Archived from the original on 3 November 2023. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  11. ^ "Op-ed | Genocide investigation launched in Russia causes confusion: Finland investigated the shortcomings of the camps in East Karelia immediately after the Continuation War". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). 29 April 2020. Archived from the original on 25 August 2023. Retrieved 25 August 2023.
  12. ^ "Karjalan Vapaussota". Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  13. ^ "Etusivu". Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  14. ^ Bennich-Björkman, L. (9 December 2007). Political Culture under Institutional Pressure: How Institutional Change Transforms Early Socialization. Springer. ISBN 978-0-230-60996-9. Archived from the original on 9 May 2023. Retrieved 15 September 2023.
  15. ^ Zetterberg, Seppo (1977). Suomi ja Viro 1917-1919: poliittiset suhteet syksystä 1917 reunavaltiopolitiikan alkuun (in Finnish). Suomen Historiallinen Seura. ISBN 978-951-9254-11-1.
  16. ^ Zetterberg, Seppo (2007). Viron historia (in Finnish). Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura. ISBN 978-951-746-520-5.
  17. ^ "Kuidas Konstantin Päts Eesti-Soome liitriiki soovis". (in Estonian). Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  18. ^ "Unkarin suurlähetystö Helsinki". Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  19. ^ "Suomi–Venäjä-seura | Kulttuuria, tietoa ja elämyksiä". Suomi-Venäjä-Seura (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 13 May 2020. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  20. ^ "Tiedusteluyhtiö Stratforin hurja ennuste: Karjala haluaa liittyä Suomeen". (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 22 June 2023. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  21. ^ Paananen, Arja (20 November 2018). "Karjala-vaatimus leviää Venäjällä – PS-nuorten tempauksesta uutisoi ensin Kremliä lähellä oleva sivusto". Ilta-Sanomat (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 6 August 2023. Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  22. ^ "Koostöö soome-ugri rahvastega aastast 1927". Fenno-Ugria (in Estonian). Retrieved 22 January 2024.
  23. ^ (7 April 2023). "Projektista Suur-Suomen Sotilaat - Suur Suomensotilaat" (in Russian). Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  24. ^ (28 December 2023). "Чуваши вступают в Финно-угорский союз - Suur Suomensotilaat" (in Russian). Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  25. ^ "Karjala iseseisvuslased: Me ei soovi asendada Moskva diktaati Brüsseliga. I osa - Koiduaeg" (in Estonian). 6 January 2024. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  26. ^ Lundelin, Katriina (2 December 2023). "Osa Active Club -kamppailukerhojen jäsenistä valmistautuu itsenäisyyspäivänä väkivaltaisuuksiin". (in Finnish). Retrieved 20 January 2024.