People marching at the "Me emme vaikene" ("End the silence") demonstration against racism and fascism in the centre of Helsinki, Finland in September 2023.

A 2011 poll showed that 66% of Finnish respondents considered Finland to be a racist country but only 14% admitted to being racist themselves.[1] Minority groups facing the most negative attitudes were Finnish Kale, Somalis, and ethnic groups mostly consisting of Muslims.[1] Many Finnish people believe that Finns played little or no role in colonialism, a view known as "Finnish exceptionalism". However, Finns did settle while not an independent people the Sámi land and in the north and were involved in European colonial projects in Africa and North America. Finns at the time were subjects of Sweden and later the Russian Empire, which has been used to excuse their participation in colonialism.[2][3]

In December 2012, the Finnish Police reported an increase in cases of racism and related physical abuse.[4] In February 2013, researchers of racism and multiculturalism reported an increase in the number of threats and abuse.[5] In January 2013, Save the Children reported that immigrant children were facing an increasing amount of racist abuse.[6] In June 2011, a researcher reported an increase in the amount of racist violence targeting children and teenagers.[7]

According to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) of the Council of Europe, neither Finland's Non-Discrimination Ombudsman nor its advisory board for Non-Discrimination have the financial and human resources to effectively perform according to their mandates. There is a National Discrimination Tribunal, but it cannot order compensation for victims of racial discrimination.[8] The legal provisions of Finland's Aliens' Act are discriminatory and subject ethnic minorities to racial profiling by the police.[9]

According to ECRI, the majority of people in Finland don't know enough about the Sámi people (an Indigenous ethnic minority in Finland) and are not taught enough about Sámi people and culture in school.[9] ECRI has criticized Finland for not having ratified the ILO-convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.[8]

The Somali community in Finland as well as the Finnish Roma face discrimination and racism. Russians in Finland are discriminated against in employment.[9]

Helsinki Regional Transport Authority case

According to a report from Iltalehti, an alleged incident of racism and police brutality occurred on the evening of 4 July 2020 at the Central Railway Station of Helsinki Metro. The incident centers on two youths, one white male and one black male, who were apprehended together for not having a valid ticket. According to eyewitness accounts and unverified footage of the incident that was circulating on social media, the white youth was calmly spoken to by the police before being allowed to leave, however, the black teenager was allegedly thrown down onto the floor by security staff and placed in handcuffs. One security staff member was allegedly seen pressing his knee down on the teenager's neck, at which point the victim could be seen yelling out "I can't breathe" in English, which has clearly evoked images on social media in the case of George Floyd in the United States.[10][11] According to security staff and HSL department chief Janne Solala, the white youth was cooperative, provided his ID when asked and didn't try to resist so force wasn't needed.[11] Meanwhile, after getting caught, the black teenager refused to provide his ID or any other information about himself and tried to flee from the scene.[11] Finnish ticket inspectors have a right written in law to prevent a suspect from leaving if caught travelling without a valid ticket, and by the same law a person travelling without a ticket is required to provide their ID to the ticket inspector.[11] According to Solala, this situation had nothing to do with racism, race or gender because security staff will use similar force on anyone who is resisting and uncooperative, ethnic Finns included.[11] Also, written statements and security camera footages indicated that excessive force was not used in this situation by the security staff.[11]

Purra's writings case

Main articles: Riikka Purra and Orpo Cabinet

In July 2023, online comments of Riikka Purra, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance of the Orpo Cabinet, written in 2008 prior to her political career to Jussi Halla-aho's Scripta blog emerged in the media. In the comments, using the username riikka, she frequently used derogatory language about immigrants, and wrote about a confrontation on a suburban train with a group of young immigrants: "If they gave me a gun, there'd be bodies on a commuter train, you see."[12][13] Purra originally refused to confirm whether she was behind the nickname and also said that she had no intention of resigning or regretting her past actions.[14] However, after the comments were condemned by some representatives from the ruling parties and President Sauli Niinistö had called for the government to adopt a clear zero-tolerance stance on racism, Purra apologized for the comments.[15] Soon after, Purra's newer writings from 2019 started to circulate in social media, in which she referred to women in burqa as "unrecognizable black sacks" in context of criticizing the clothing practice as dehumanizing. Prime Minister Orpo called an excerpt from the writings unacceptable, but considered that Purra's earlier apology was enough.[16] Orpo later clarified that he considers the writings to advocate for women's rights.[17]

By 13 July 2023, all opposition parties had demanded that Speaker of the Parliament Jussi Halla-aho would recall parliament from summer break to hold a vote of confidence in Purra.[18] On 15 July, Halla-aho responded by stating that the matter wasn't urgent enough to recall parliament.[19] According to a survey conducted in between 14.–19.7.2023, 47% of Finns thought that Purra should resign, while 40% thought that she shouldn't.[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Poll: Majority of Finns see Finland as racist country". Helsingin Sanomat. Archived from the original on 11 February 2013.
  2. ^ "Finnish Colonial Encounters". University of Jyväskylä. Archived from the original on 8 March 2022. Retrieved 15 July 2023.
  3. ^ "Finnish Colonial Encounters : From Anti-Imperialism to Cultural Colonialism and Complicity, edited by Raita Merivirta, Leila Koivunen, Timo Särkkä, (electronic resource)". European University Institute Library. Archived from the original on 15 August 2022. Retrieved 15 July 2023.
  4. ^ "Police report: Increase in racism and abuse". Yle Uutiset. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Unions concerned over abuse of racism researchers". Yle Uutiset. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Immigrant children face racism". Yle Uutiset. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Racism increasingly aimed at children and teens". Yle Uutiset. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  8. ^ a b Council of Europe 2013, p. 7.
  9. ^ a b c Council of Europe 2013, p. 8.
  10. ^ Helsinki Times: HSL faces accusations of racism amid alleged incident on Helsinki Metro
  11. ^ a b c d e f Law enforcement officers pressed a dark-skinned boy to the ground and a storm began, in which celebrities also took part - HSL sees no racism in action: "The young man was completely uncooperative" MTV Uutiset: Järjestyksenvalvojat painoivat tummaihoisen pojan maahan ja alkoi somemyrsky, johon osallistuivat julkkiksetkin – HSL ei näe toiminnassa rasismia: "Nuori oli täysin yhteistyökyvytön" (in Finnish)
  12. ^ "Finnish far-right finance minister accused of racist online comments". The Guardian. 2023-07-11. Retrieved 2023-07-12.
  13. ^ "Far-right Finnish leader Riikka Purra sorry in racist posts uproar". BBC. 2023-07-11. Retrieved 2023-07-12.
  14. ^ "Riikka Purra "not resigning" as controversial blog comments resurface". Yle News. 2023-07-11. Retrieved 2023-07-12.
  15. ^ "Purra apologises for "stupid social media comments made 15 years ago"". Yle News. 2023-07-11. Retrieved 2023-07-12.
  16. ^ "Orpo Ylen A-studiossa: Purran kirjoitukset vuodelta 2019 kuulostavat "täysin hyväksymättömältä"". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). 2023-07-13. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  17. ^ "Orpo: Purra puolusti naisten asemaa blogissaan". Yle News (in Finnish). 2023-07-14. Retrieved 2023-07-17.
  18. ^ "Keskusta vaatii Halla-ahoa kutsumaan eduskunnan koolle Purran takia". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). 2023-07-13. Retrieved 2023-07-14.
  19. ^ "Puhemies Halla-aho ei kutsu eduskuntaa koolle kesätauolta". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). 2023-07-15. Retrieved 2023-07-15.
  20. ^ "MTV:n kysely: Riikka Purran pitäisi erota, sanoo 47 prosenttia vastaajista". MTV (in Finnish). 2023-07-19. Retrieved 2023-07-20.

Works cited