Ethnic Groups And Nationalities In Finland

Dancers hold Finnish flags at the Royal Days International Folk Dance Festival. Editorial credit: Andocs /
Dancers hold Finnish flags at the Royal Days International Folk Dance Festival. Editorial credit: Andocs /

Population of Finland

Finland is a North European country bordered by the Gulf of Finland, the Gulf of Bothnia, Sweden, Russia, and Norway. The population of approximately 5.4 million mainly inhabit the southern region of the country where the majority of urban centers are concentrated. Northern regions have a population density of roughly 2 people per square kilometer. The country has a long history of varying ruling kingdoms and empires that is reflected in its current demographic makeup. This article takes a look at the ethnic groups and nationalities within present-day Finland.


During the Stone Age, the area of present-day Finland became populated by hunter-gatherers who shared characteristics with other inhabitants found throughout what is now nearby Estonia, Russia, and Norway. As other cultures began arriving in these ancient times, they brought with them the art of ceramic making and agricultural production. These individuals spoke the Finnic language, a sub-group of Uralic languages, however, due to a lack of written records, it is difficult to know exactly when this language became prominent. Today, 4,868,751 people in Finland list Finnish as their first language and are considered descendants of the first inhabitants of the area.


The very first ruling kingdom holding the entire region came to power during the "Swedish Era" of the 12th and 13th Centuries as a result of the Northern Crusades. At the urging of their king, Swedish individuals colonized the Southern coastal areas of Finland, and fell into one of two socioeconomic groups. These were the upper, ruling classes and the working class constituted by farmers and fishermen. Swedish was the dominant language of public administration, education, and nobility. Finland remained under Swedish rule until 1809. Today, the Swedish speaking population numbers 290,747.


In 1809, Russia took control of Finland. This came after two previous wars with Swedish colonizers. Under their rule, Finland was not forced to pay taxes as other Russian territories and the Russian emperor respected their previous laws, religion, and freedoms. In 1863, Russian authorities established Finnish as an official language which began a local movement toward Finnish nationalism. These changing attitudes led to a desire for independence from the Russian crown. Finland became an independent state in 1917. Today, a small Russian population of 69,614 can still be found in the country.


Estonians are related to the Finnish people, and both cultures share similar languages. Finland was one of the first countries to recognize Estonia’s independence in 1920 and supports them with military aid. The two nations have always enjoyed relatively peaceful relations and in the 1980’s when Finland had established a more stable economy, many Estonians began immigrating there. Today, 46,195 people identify as Estonian in Finland.

Other Ethnic Groups

Given that English is another widely spoken language throughout Finland, it’s no surprise that one of the minority groups within the country are the British. Approximately 16,732 people identify as British and many came as a result of a surge in immigration during the 1980s in Finland. Following the British, Somali immigrants make up the next largest ethnic group. Their population is nearly the size of the British with 16,721 individuals having sought refuge in Finland. Statistics show that between 85% and 90% of foreign-born Somalis were unable to read or write upon their arrival. Smaller ethnic groups and nationalities, and their respective populations in Finland, include Arabs (14,825), Kurds (10,731), Chinese (10,110), and the indigenous Sami (9,350).

Ethnic Groups And Nationalities In Finland

RankEthnic Group or NationalityCurrent Population in Finland
10Sami (a.k.a. Saami or Lapp)9,350

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