About twelve thousand years ago, Finland (the area inhabited by Finns, Karelians and Lapps, between Norway and Lake Onega) was almost totally buried under a continental ice sheet, just as Greenland is today. Gradually, the ice sheet melted, (early global warming) and its southern margin retreated farther and farther north. As the ice load grew thinner and vanished, the earth's crust began to rise--a process that has continued to this day, most markedly along the Gulf of Bothnia. Finland is actually rising at 8.5 mm/year, an amazing speed, that can easily stay ahead of any rise in ocean levels.
Finland Rises From the Sea
During that process, the Finnish peninsula slowly rose out of the sea, first forming solitary islands, then chains of islands, and, finally, a clearly defined extension of the continent.
The retreating glacier striated the bedrock, leaving behind it vivid evidence of the ancient geologic process; and, during the melting stage, clay accumulated in annual layers, and pollen grains were preserved in peat, thus bearing further witness to the vicissitudes of Nature.
Through the study of such phenomena, geologists have been able to deduce the origins of Finland.
During extremely cold periods between 9 000 and 8 000 B.C., the continental ice sheet halted in its retreat three times and remained stationary for centuries. This led to the formation of two chains of eskers out of gravel and sand that were transported by streams of melting ice. These two separate ridges, known as the Salpausselkä ranges, run east and west across the entire breadth of Finland.
Since the ice ages the Uralic ancestors of the Finns roamed the North
During the final stages of the Ice Age, the body of water that eventually evolved into the Baltic Sea was a lake. From this vast stretch of water, a huge labyrinthine lake separated inside the land mass that was to become the Finnish peninsula and formed the tens of thousands of lakes of present-day Finland, as the earth's crust rose. However, the ground did not rise at an even rate everywhere, and, at times, the level of the sea rose, also forcing rivers into new discharge channels and submerging extensive areas of land again. It was during these upheavals of Nature that a number of the most ancient inhabited localities in the country vanished. However, as work continues, new finds shed a different light on prehistory of Finland.
The world's oldest fishing net is carbon dated at 10 000 years old. It was found in 1914 in Korpilahti swamp at Antrea, Karelia. (not far from the writer's ancestral home) At the bottom of the picture are bark floats; at the top, rock weights. The net was made of nettle fibers. Nettle has been used for thousands of years, and for many applications including medicine.
The Baltic shoreline moved south over millennia beginning when the Baltic was a giant freshwater lake fed by ice-melt. Both terrestrial and aquatic game were abundant. At this time, several ringed seal subspecies became land-locked in the inland waters
The oldest relics ever found in southern Finland are of slightly later origin, dating perhaps from 7200 B.C. In those ancient times, there lived on the Finnish coast a simple people who made weapons of stone and bone, and who practiced hunting and fishing. The established view is that these earliest known inhabitants of Finland had arrived by land from eastern Europe, but no doubt they filtered in from central Europe as well as Europeans became sailors. They could have easily followed the coastline to Finland, and this is exactly what they may have done. Many of these immigrants were actually Finno-Ugrians who spoke a related language, but whose language was eventually buried under several layers of Germanic languages. There is no doubt that "Finland" the area between Lake Onega and Norway has been inhabited for thousands of years, yet history books often make the mistake of stating that the Finns came to Finland sometime in the first millennium. Certainly there were Finns who arrived in "first centuries AD" but they did not fill a vacuum when they got there.
"Ancestors of present-day Finns were hunters, trappers, agriculturists who came to Finland by way of the Baltic regions during the first centuries AD, spreading slowly from south and west to east and north. Swedish control over Finnish territory was established gradually beginning in the 12th century in a number of religious crusades." (Encyclopedia of the Nations, 2006).
This sounds like the Finns arrived much like the Slavs did, to claim the north for themselves, which is not accurate. Finland is full of archeological evidence that Baltic Finns/Karelians have lived there for thousands of years, fishing and hunting as usual. Waves of other Finnish immigrants arrived in the first Millennium, but they did not fill a vacuum. The indigenous population of Finland consists of the resident Finno-Ugric people and the Saami. Only the Saami are considered indigenous because they are a minority but Finns themselves are indigenous as neither Saami nor Finns consist 100% of the original people.
Around the year 3 000 B.C., a new Stone Age culture, known as the Comb-Ceramic culture, spread throughout Finland. It took its name from an art that was introduced into Finland fully developed: the art of pottery-making. The name of that culture also derived from the fact that they are decorated with a comb-like stamp. The people who created that pottery were still totally dependent on hunting and fishing for a living. The only domestic animal was the dog. The dwelling places, which were changed frequently, were situated near waters that abounded in fish--generally on open, sandy beaches. Trade relations appear to have been maintained mostly with peoples in the east and the southeast; flint was brought over from present day Russia, amber from East Prussia. The Comb-Ceramic culture belongs to the great northeastern European group of hunting and fishing cultures that extended from the Vistula River to the Arctic Ocean and all the way to Siberia.
Archaeologists consider a culture new when its relics are found to have undergone a decisive change in character, but they cannot definitely determine whether the reason for the change was an entirely new population, an alien conquest, or simply a peaceful cultural interchange. The greatest challenge for an archaeologist is not excavating and cleaning a site with the precision of a professional NY cleaning service like http://www.commercialofficecleaning.com/ but to determine what the changes in artifacts and stratigraphy mean to the site as a whole. The Comb-Ceramic people inherited their stone implements from an older, pre-Ceramic culture, which, at least, signifies that an unbroken contact with the earlier inhabitants of the country had existed. Some researchers assume that, during the middle phase of the Comb-Ceramic culture, new racial types from the plains of eastern Europe and from the Baltic regions merged with the indigenous population. On the basis of findings made east of Finland, anthropologists have ascertained that the Comb-Ceramic population was short, longskulled with an admixture of short-skulled "Mongoloid" types.
The Varangians: Who were they?
Historians often mention Varangians in connection with certain events on the Eastern shores of the Baltic and northern Russia. Let's look at some explanations from different perspectives. The term is generally thought to come from Swedish, but some Finnish researchers, such as Kuussaari, claim it has a Finnish origin.
According to one Finnish source, they are identified as "Scandinavians," but the original Varangians were probably actually Fenno-Scandians. (Kuussaari, 1935) The Finns are conspicuous for their absence in both Swedish and Russian accounts. Varangians may have originally been Baltic Finns, distinguishable from Swedes by their Uralic language. They lived on the shores of western Finland and Estonia/Livonia and the Baltic islands, and were later joined in their guard duties by Swedes, who were called Vikings. (Kuussaari, 1935) This is called the "Riga, Aland, Gulf of Finland triangle." Vikings are often equated with Varangians, who came to consist of both Finns and Swedes as the latter turned Eastward and joined the Finns in the beginning of the second millennium, corresponding with the Swedish crusades to Finland. Varangians never invaded the British Isles - they are called Vikings.
Russian accounts suggest that eventually there were more than one kind of Varangian. They knew of several types of Varangians, and they generalized the term to include Swedes as the Finns became a part of the Swedish realm. A symbiotic relationship formed between the Finns and Swedes, who helped to fend off the Slavs. (But the relationship slowly turned parasitic in the beginning of the 1600's since Sweden benefited from the Finnish soldiers, but Finland suffered.) When the Vikings went East it was with and under the sanction of inhabitants of the Baltic shores - eg. Tavastians, Karelians and Ingerians. Originally they were, according to Kuussaari, Finnish soldier merchants, who had an excellent reputation as good guardsmen because they had to protect their western and eastern flanks. Unfortunately, the Varangian theory which is taught in schools was the Swedish version which took away from the Finns their ancient heroic Kalevalan heritage. No matter, the Finns were to go their own way and become a great country in their own right. While the Swedish version is taught in schools today, there are some who do not accept it and continue to dig deeper into early literature and their tell-tale revelations of the truth.
During the "great migrations" these people developed into various warrior types such as Kaleva, Kolbias, "kalpamiehiä" Karelian "kylfings" and others, who had come to some type of mutual understanding regarding what territories each controlled, and above all the organization of armies. They were merchant warriors that formed an alliance to protect against Viking raids from the west so that some warning system would be in place even during their trips. They had developed elaborate early warning systems based on relay shoreline fires so that the minute a Viking or any unfriendly ship appeared, the curl of smoke could be seen in fires off into the distant Baltic. It was previously thought that these seafaring people had adopted the Viking ship as their means of transportation and built excellent large ships with at least a hundred oarsmen. But the early Finns had Viking style ships and were seafaring people already from earlier times, probably long before the Viking raids began to the eastern shores of the Baltic, as we can clearly see from ancient rock art found in Karelia. This rock art resembles similar early art found in Sweden.
Kuussaari claims that the word Varangian comes from the Finnish word "vara/vartio" which in Finnish means "guard" and "Vaara" means "danger" or "hill." Fires were lit on hills which were part of their early warning system. It worked very effectively and they became known as Varangians. The Finnish epic poem Kalevala mentions these people, their activities and vaaras where they lit fires. Place names with "vara" stems were located in the Varangians' domain. The prefix was extensively used in the coastal and island areas controlled by Finnish tribes who had adopted seafaring ways. For example: Varangin vuono, Varjag vuoda in Lapp; Varangin niemi; Vargava, Varanka, Varanpää (Lokalahti); Vargata, Varjakka, Varkal, and many others. They were soldier traders who travelled all the way to the Volga to trade with the Bolgarians, and beyond. (Kuussaari, 1935)
The var word, according to Thomsen comes from the old Swedish word var=faithful, but Kuussaari does not agree that this meaning is connected with the word. The Vikings too were faithful, but they never were referred to by that term. The var word is therefore connected with guarding . In the absence of hard facts to prove these assertions, one has to consider all possibilities, keeping in mind that the Finnish position in the North is always downplayed, while Russian and Swedish roles are magnified by royal historians. The Finnish language is almost always considered to have received words from the Germanics and Slavs, but hardly ever to be the donor.
The Viking Othere's Voyage to the White Sea
varangian \Va*ran"gi*an\, n. One of the Northmen who founded a dynasty in Russia in the 9th century; also, one of the Northmen composing, at a later date, the imperial bodyguard at Constantinople.
Not everyone agrees therefore that Varangians were Baltic Finns, and the search for the source of the word "Varangian" and "Viking" is continued by some scholars. Usually a Swedish derivation of most words is the accepted one. The term in some English dictionaries is said to be from the old Norse word "Väring." The word "Viking" could be simply from the Norse word "Viken."
The mere fact that this confusion exists amongst scholars, tells us that the Varangian term broadened so that no clear denotation could be made. The Vikings probably could not travel East without first having come to terms with the guardians of the Eastern Baltic shores. When the Vikings came to Russia, they came accompanied by the Finns who knew every river, forest and lake, and were excellent warriors, and guards. Later the Finns formed the backbone of the Swedish army and were used to increase the wealth of Sweden and for the power of the Swedish Baltic Empire. Finns also knew where all their ancient trading centers were located. When they met the Russians for the first time, it was natural that the Russians would refer to them as Varangians, and they soon came to realize that there were different kinds of Varangians. The new ones were Swedes.
The meaning of "Varangian" which is most logical, is that of guardianship. It was the Finns who had the reputation for being good guardsmen, while the Vikings had the reputation for being sea wanderers, traders and raiders. Vanrangian guards, not Varangian sea-wolves. Varangian guards, not wanderers. That is the legacy of the excellent reputation for guarding that the Baltic Finns acquired in the ancient world, which merged with the term "Viking." Confusing? Much of ancient history is, because everyone wanted credit for themselves at the expense of other ethnic groups; it is the duty of historians to dig down to the truth.
Much of ancient history unfortunately is merely ancient propaganda. Mongolians are said to be bad invaders. But were they worse than Russians who burned down the villages of Finnish tribes and recorded them as destroyed by the plague? Were the Russian invaders gentle, while the Mongolians were fierce? Mongolians got their bad reputation from Russian historians. The Russians even blame the Mongolians for their often sadistic and violent nature which has been documented in modern times. So were Mongolians any worse than the Russians, or the Romans? Did they spare less people? Probably not, for everyone was cruel to their enemies in those times. Who then were humane conquerers? Russians murdered the Mongolian diplomats sent to negotiate peace, but we never hear about that. So we should find out what Mongolian history says about their raids. Still today the Russians lament the Mongolian raids, and the Finns lament the Russian raids.
Could the Varangian's world have been part of the ancient Kingdom of Finland mentioned in the Nordic sagas? The Finns' heritage, the knowledge of their vast ancient kingdom - was it taken away by the new Swedish rulers and the Slavs from the south? The Nordic, and especially Icelandic Sagas and other independent sources of the time seem to indicate just that. We know that there were several types of sagas, which were written much after the fact. Some sagas were little more than novels, while others wrote to memory true stories of old events. Therefore not all sagas can be used as historical source material. The challenge for scholars has been to sort out the fact from fiction based on what is known about the purpose of the sagas.
Finnish History has slowly been changed by the powers recording events to the SouthEast and West of Finland/Karelia. When the Catholics too brought their religion to Finland via Sweden, did they also change Finnish history which was based on nature worship/shamanism and Kalevala? And the Slavic (as nice people as many of them might be) historians cannot, unfortunately, be trusted with even their own history let alone that of another ethnic group, due to their documented omission and falsification of history to glorify themselves at the expense of other ethnic groups, whose existence they want to see only in museums. Even today, a strange silence about the original people prevades the official descriptions of Russia, and persecution of the people is tolerated within Russian society. Often the only mention is in local museums. Very little is mentioned about even the people shown in official travel pictures, which obviously aren't Slavs, while they go to great lengths in describing the glories of Slavic (equated with Russian) culture. Ethnic minorities are shown singing Russian songs and playing Russian instruments. Now, there is nothing wrong with Slavic culture, it is very great. But it is not the only culture, nor the best. The Kalevala tradition, for example is greater than anything the Slavs have, and they are happy that it is a true Russian culture - meaning they are trying to claim it as an ancient Russian tradition. Of course the Slavs were nowhere in sight when the Finns were relating and singing their oral tradition for thousands of years. Slavs have the tendency of claiming everything as their own, especially towns and cities taken in war e.g. Viipuri and other Karelian cities "liberated" in 1944 from the "fascists" as the Russians call the Finns of WWII. They forgot that they started WWII with the fascist called Adolf Hitler. Very few people are aware of the fact that the Slavs murdered most of ethnic Finno-Ugric cultural heroes, both in the last century and centuries gone by.
Considering that the whole north, from the Ural Mountains to Norway, was populated by Finnish tribes, it seems odd that no great importance has been attributed to them in the Swedish or Russian literature, and when it was, it was often in the negative. The Russians openly state that the Finnish people were never in any high positions. Clearly, a lot of work remains to be done to reveal the true nature of ancient Finnish civilization in the North, of which the Kalevala and the Nordic Sagas suggest. In fact the Swedes today say the Sagas tell the truth about Viking Kings, but what they say about Finnish Kings is folklore.
When the Vikings eventually joined the Varangians (now they are Vikings, Varangians and Rus too) in their guard duties, about the time the slavs were setting up shop in the north, the Russians referred to them too as Varangians, as well as possibly others such as Angles who may have joined them. Vikings were never referred to as Varangians on their own raids to western Europe, which is natural since they were Vikings, not Varangians. In Sweden, they were Vikings, but when they entered the Finnish realm, they too became Varangians.
The Finnish term "Varakko-ruotsit" (Varangian-Rus) referrs to these seafaring Finnish people according to Kuussaari. The word (ros=row in old scandinavian) "ruotsi" in Finnish used to mean "rower," but later the word meant "Sweden." Some Swedish sources say that "Rus" comes from the word "Roslagen" which is a town in Sweden, and some say it came from Swede called Ruser.
They established trading posts on the Volga and assisted the eastern Finns, and even the Slavs in the business of trade. Rurik and his accompanying Varangians camped in the Finnish areas around the north of Novogrod amongst the native Finnish-speaking population. We can be fairly sure that many of his men were Finns. The Varangian routes spread out through Russia to the Mediterranean, and they eventually became trusted guards of the Emperor in the Byzantine Empire.
Many Varangian trading posts were situated along the rivers such as the Neva and Volga, and Lake Ladoga, that have been the possession of the local Finns for millennia. The story is told that when Rurik defeated the strongest Slavic settlement, Novgorod, in A.D. 862, the Varangians became the rulers of northern Russia, with Finns assuming many of the leadership roles (according to Finnish history) especially north of Novgorod. Russian history denies that Finns were ever in any leadership roles whatsoever in Russia, but the truth is that the local Finns demanded Finnish speaking representatives. We must be careful in judging history from just one perspective. This area on some 14th century maps was still labelled Rurima. (Rurikland or Rurinmaa in Finnish)
For political reasons, the Swedes and Slavs tended (and continue to do so) to downplay the role of the Finnish related people in the north, as conquerors always do. Finns occupied all of Scandinavia before the Swedes and probably the British Isles before the Celts. It is not fanatical nationalism, as some suggest, to correct history. Nor is it unfounded revisionism. It is simply the search for the truth. As in geneology, one must be prepared to find a horse thief or murderer, or stop digging. However, historians of Soviet Russia, the Kings of Sweden and the Czars were obliged to glorify the crown and erase the heroic deeds of the adversaries, and downplay their own genocide. As you well know, history is written by the winning side. History thus handed down leaves the reader with the idea that Finland was inhabited by savages before the Swedes. True, the Finns did not have a written history to remind them how they lived in the past until the Swedes arrived. However, as the epic poetry of the Kalevala reveals, the Finns had a high level of civilization for a long time before either the Swedes or the Russians came to their lands. Since their history was a rich oral tradition, it could not be destroyed in a fire, or robbed, and it is through this evidence that early Finns are able to contradict Swedish and Russian written accounts about the role and extent of Finnish civilization in the north prior to Swedish rule. The oral tradition survived only because the Finns/Karelians are a forest people, and it is difficult to find and destroy every single hut by every lake. This takes time. This is why any serious student of Finno-Ugric history must have a working knowledge of the Kalevala.
One thing is for certain: the Finnish traders traveled east long before they were joined by Swedes. Everyone in the north knew these people and had a name for them. Would it make sense that the Russians came into contact with Finnish "Varangians" or traders first, then both Swedish and Finnish when the Finns came under the Swedish kings in the second millennium? This may be the reason Vikings were not called Varangians in Britain. Like the Roslagen people that the Finns came into contact with, the Russians came into contact with first Finnish speakers, then Swedish speakers. Did the Russians change the name when the Swedes joined, or keep the original term? >
"Othere told his lord, King Alfred, that he lived farthest to the north of all the Norwegians. He said that he lived by the western sea in the north part of the land. However, he said that the land extends very much further north; but it is all waste, except that Lapps camp in a few places here and there, hunting in winter and fishing in the sea in summer.
He said that on one occasion he wished to find out how far that land extended due north, or whether anyone lived north of the waste. Then he travelled close to the land, due north; he left the waste land on the starboard and the open sea on the port all the way for three days. Then he was as far north as the whale-hunters ever travel.
Then he travelled still due north as far as he could sail for the next three days. Then the land turned due east - or the sea in on the land - he did not know which; he knew only that there he waited for a wind from the west and a little from the north, and then sailed east, close to the land, for as far as he could sail in four days. Then he had to wait there for a wind directly from the north, for at that point the land turned due south - or the sea in on the land - he did not know which. Then from there he sailed due south, close to the land, for as far as he could sail in five days. There a great river extended up into the land. Then they turned up into that river because they dare not sail beyond the river for fear of hostility, because on the other side of the river the land was all inhabited.
Previously he had not met with any inhabited land since he left his own home. But to the starboard there was waste land all the way, except for fishers and fowlers and hunters - and they were all Lapps; and there was always open sea on his port. The Permians had cultivated their land very well; but they dare not put in there. But the land of the Terfinns was all waste, except where hunters or fishers or fowlers lived. The Permians told him many stories both of their own land and of the lands which were round about them; but he did not know what the truth of it was, since he did not see it for himself. The Lapps and the Permians, (See map in historical map section. "Perm" is derived from the Finnish word for hinterland) it seemed to him, spoke almost the same language. (Finnish and Lapp are both Finno-Ugric languages and to an outsider, may sound similar)
He travelled there chiefly - in addition to observing the land - for the walruses, because they have very fine bone in their teeth (they brought some of those teeth to the king), and their hides are very good for ship's ropes. This whale is much smaller than other whales: it is no longer than seven ells long. But the best whale-hunting is in his own land: those are forty-eight ells long, and the largest fifty ells long. He said that, as one of six, he slew sixty of those in two days. He was a very wealthy man in that property in which their wealth consists, that is, in wild animals. When he visited the king he still had six hundred tame animals unbought. They call those 'reindeer'; of those, six were decoy reindeer; they are very valuable among the Lapps because with them they capture the wild reindeer. He was among the first men in the land. Nevertheless he had no more than twenty cattle, and twenty sheep and twenty swine, and the little that he ploughed, he ploughed with horses.
But their income is chiefly in the tribute that the Lapps pay them. That tribute consists in animal skins and in bird feathers and whale-bone and in the ship's ropes which are made from the hide of whales and seals. Each one pays according to his rank. The noblest must pay fifteen marten skins, and five reindeer, and one bear skin, and ten ambers of feathers, and a bear- or otter-skin coat, and two ship's ropes, both to be sixty ells long, one to be made of whale's hide, the other of seal's.
He said that the land of the Norwegians was very long and very narrow. All that they can either graze or plough lies by the sea; and even that is very rocky in some places; and to the east, and alongside the cultivated land, lie wild mountains. In those mountains live Lapps. And the cultivated land is broadest to the south, and increasingly narrower the further north. To the south it may be sixty miles broad, or a little broader; and in the middle thirty or broader; and to the north, he said, where it was narrowest, it might be three miles broad to the mountains; and then the mountains in some places are as broad as one might cross in two weeks, and in some places as broad as one might cross in six days. Then alongside that land to the south, on the other side of the mountains, is the land of the Swedes, extending northwards; and alongside that land to the north, the land of the Finns. Sometimes the Finns make war on the Norwegians across the mountains; sometimes the Norwegians on them. And there are very large freshwater lakes throughout the mountains; and the Finns carry their boats overland to the lakes, and make war on the Norwegians from there; they have very small and very light boats. Othere said that the district in which he lived was called Halogaland. He said that no one lived to the north of him. In the south of the land there is a trading-town which they call Sciringesheal. He said that a man could sail there in a month, if he camped at night and had a favourable wind every day; and all the time he must sail close to the land. On the starboard is first Ireland, and then the islands which are between Ireland and this country. Then this country continues until he comes to Sciringesheal, and Norway all the way on the port side. To the south of Sciringesheal a very great sea extends up into the land; it is broader than any man can see across. And Jutland is opposite on one side, and then Zealand. The sea extends many hundred miles up into the land.
And from Sciringesheal, he said that he sailed in five days to the trading-town which they call Hedeby; this stands between the Wends and the Saxons and the Angles, and belongs to the Danes. When he sailed there from Sciringesheal, then Denmark was to the port and open sea to the starboard for three days; and then for two days before he came to Hedeby there lay to his starboard, Jutland, and Zealand and many islands. The Angles dwelt in those lands before they came here to this country. And for those two days there lay to his port those islands which belong to Denmark."
Parallel history: Hungarians, Norwegians and Northern Finno-Ugric tribes.
Hungarians have left their ancient home near the Ural mountains and are twenty years from entering their new homeland in the Carpathian basin.
In England, Alfred battled the Viking Guthorm on Salisbury Plain, near Ethandun (now called Edington). Guthorm retreated back to Chippenham after the battle. Alfred pursued him there and surrounded the Viking camp. He killed the loose cattle and the men he found outside the walls, keeping any food and water from coming into the Viking Guthorm's camp, Within two weeks, in late May, 878, Guthorm and his army surrendered and accepted total defeat of the plan to conquer Wessex.
Who are the Kven People? Where is Kvenland?
The Northern Finnish "Kainuu" people were called Kven by the Swedes, Norwegians and Icelanders. The Kingdom of Kvenland ruled the North for hundreds of years. Kvenland people lived on the North half of the Gulf of Bothnia, on the Western, Northern and Eastern shores.
These mysterious people ruled the North for millennia. They were a "Kalevala" people like the Karelians. The Finnish National Epic "Kalevala," which was composed of Karelian songs and stories, describes these heroic people of the North. Although they are related people, they often clashed in their struggle for control over certain areas.
The Kainuu people were after the riches of the fur and related trade. They settled at the main rivers such as Kainuunjoki and Tornionjoki in the north, and established trading centers at the mouths of these rivers. These rivers were at the Eastern end of the Atlantic trading area. Kemijoki area was also in their control, which pointed toward the Arctic Ocean. The tributaries of these rivers offered good access to the land and its riches. In the distant past, these were the exclusive domain of the Saami (Lapps) but due to their nomadic habits, they were easily displaced and placed under the taxation of the Kainuu (Kven) people and their Kings. Some Kven settled in Norway and still live there but the Norwegian government has done all it can to destroy their language and culture. The Saami, whose language and culture are now protected, were gradually displaced from their traditional areas including Lake Laatokka (Ladoga), until today they live mainly in Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia.
Sable skins were highly prized by civilizations all over the continent, in fact all the way to Arabia and beyond. Four hundred years ago the animal was still found in Kola, but now only in Siberia. The Arabian Ibn Ruste wrote in 912 that the "Rus" lived by hunting and trapping Sable and Squirrel. He meant the Northern people who were known in the Eastern world as "Rus."
Some say that the Swedes were "Rus" - but according to Ibn, they were Western Finns, as they were the main providers of furs. The Kainuu, (Kwen) Karelians/Bjarm people controlled the fur trade in the North, so it is likely that these were the people Ibn was dealing with. The Kainuu people were situated in the Northwest, while the Karelians and Bjarm are in the White Sea, Dvina and connecting rivers. They became quite wealthy through this trade and by taxing the Lapps. The Saami moved away from their traditional areas that the Kainuu people now controlled. Their old Gulf of Bothnia dwelling places were taken over and they moved North and East: Utajärvi - Pudasjärvi - Oijärvi - Tervola - Ylitornio.
Ottar, or Othere, who was in King Alfred's service in the 800's mentions these people and their lightweight boats with which they traveled from river system to system with ease in their movement West and Northwest into the Norwegian domain. Until finally they came into contact with Halogaland farm boys and the fight began over the control of Saami areas and taxation of the people.
And so these brave, adventurous, heroic, Kalevala Finnish trader/soldiers spread their power throughout the North in the 800's from Sweden's Norrland to Norway's Halogaland, according to Ottar. These areas are in fact the traditional areas of the Finno-Ugric people (which includes the Finns and Lapps) who have traveled these wilderness areas for millennia.
You see, the Halogaland farmboys had also begun to tax the Lapps. As the Vikings' power increased in the North, they took over the taxation of the Lapps and Finns alike along the Atlantic coast and in time their taxation influence would stretch all the way to the Kola Peninsula. Norwegian "taxation colonists" began settling in the northern coastal islands, but did not dare to set foot on the mainland. The power struggle between the Kainuu and Halogaland men seemed to end before 875 in some territorial and taxation land division. The Halogalanders were given the taxation of the Laplanders in 860. The dividing line was struck so that the Halogalanders only taxed their immediate lands around their side of the Mountains, so that the whole area beyond remained in Kainuu control. Ruija Kwen settlements today in Norway struggle against government attempts to destroy their language and culture. So based on old taxation rights this area could be called Finland by today's geographers.
But soon the Karelians too began to make taxation trips to Lapland, already in the 800's. Now the Norwegian Halogalanders, with whom the Kainuu (Kven or Kwen) people had made peace, had to come help fight off the Karelians in about the year 875. The Kainuu King Faravid went to war against the Karelians with Norwegian aid. Faravid's 300 men and Thorolf's 100, drove away the Karelians. Although the people just South of the Kainuu people were their cousins, (Satakunta) there is no evidence that they joined the Kainuu people against the Karelians.
Meanwhile in the south, the Slavic Prince Kii had formed the Kievan territory. In 880, Rurik's successor, Oleg, conquered the Slavic-ruled Kiev and made the city his capital two years later. With the two areas united, the State of Rus (and the origin of the word Rus is still being debated) became one of the largest kingdoms in the world.
Slavs and Slavic Conquest of the North
According to some historians, in the 7th century B.C. nomadic Scythians migrated north into fertile Russian territories. Herodotus the Greek, who visited southern Russia in the 5th century B.C., observed that "Some tribes cultivated the land; the builders of the Parthenon would have gone hungry without Russian wheat; but the ruling element remained nomads, living in tents, yet not altogether eschewing the arts of civilization." These people also began trading furs and honey with Constantinople; eventually, the merchants acted as middlemen between other settlements in the far north (inhabited by Finnish tribes) and the Roman Empire. As these early Slavic people began to cultivate the land, villages and towns sprang up, protected by wooden citadels, or kremlins, cut from the abundant forest timber. The inhabitants gradually occupied Finnish lands and spoke a language quite similar to modern Russian. These farmers continued to grow in numbers and spread throughout the northern regions displacing and absorbing many Finno-Ugric tribes.
Why did the Slavs prevail instead of the Finno-Ugric people in their own land? Finns or their close relatives occupied the north long before Slavs set foot on their sacred ground. Russian historians try to downplay this, and claim that Finns moved in from the east about the same time they arrived there, and there was a battle for ownership. This is false, but many ignorant people still write this stuff. Yes, there were waves of migration of Finnish tribes from the east, but this merely added to the ones already there. They lived close to the Saamis and slowly pushed them northward as more Finno-Ugric people flowed in from the east. Finns occupied the land long before the last Ice Age.
The Finns were more independent and dispersed in the northern forests. But perhaps even more important is the fact that the Slavs had a higher level of agriculture which they developed in the Dnieper region for over a thousand years. Their population grew because of the lower infant mortality rate compared with the primarily hunting and fishing Finno-Ugric people. Even though the Finno-Ugrians adopted agriculture, the Northern climate often failed them and periodically there was widespread famine that even reached into the 20th Century. The availability of firearms was limited by the Czars and the Swedish kings, making it difficult for these dispersed forest people to defend themselves against superior weapons available to enemies. Therefore the Finno-Ugrians were simply overrun by numbers, especially from Novgorod and Moscow and the territories under their control. The rapid spread of the Slavs was accelerated by their using the Finno-Ugrics against themselves and moving into villages where the inhabitants have been captured, killed or driven away. The moves often followed warfare and this continued right up to the Soviet era and the evacuation of Karelia when the Slavs received free housing, whole villages, towns and cities, at the expense of the Finnish Karelian people who did their best to keep them out. But eventually the slavs became permanently settled amongst the Karelians, who lost control over the riches of their own land. The newcomers continually encouraged the Karelians, now in the orthodox faith, to join in their raids against their Finnish brothers to the west. Russification of Karelians was well under way.
The new arrivals were very resistant to being absorbed by the Finno-Ugrians and still today Russians seldom willingly learn the language of host countries such as Estonian or Mari. The Finns and Baltic people are still trying to find ways of preventing the Slavs from taking their lands and destroying their language and culture. They are still Varangians at heart, and are aware of the need to guard their territory from the ever-present Slavic threat. Some believe that the Finns adopted a hatred for Russians from negative propaganda. But I believe that the Finns have had to fight the Russians from the moment the latter entered the north, and this is the cultural memory that is responsible for all the mistrust, if not hatred by some Finns today. Recently Russians acquired a reputation for cruelty in the WWII, raping and killing with impunity when they entered Eastern Europe and Germany. How can Russians now say they were better than the Germans?
The Russians Arrive
The story is told by some historians, that the Slavs recognized their need for some kind of order. They were, according to one theory, a volatile lot, who fought amongst themselves. The story goes that they "asked" (hmm) the Scandinavians to come and help organize them. (By this time the term Varangian had become, at least to the Slavs, an inclusive term for Finns and Swedes, ie. Scandinavians, or Vikings.) An old Chronicle tries to explain how it was that Rurik came to rule Russia: not by conquest, since they were "driven back" but by invitation. Sounds familiar. Can you imagine these war-like tribes saying to themselves, "let's get organized, we're fighting amongst ourselves?" If they ever got to such a meeting, they probably would have made some agreements themselves, without any outside help. The broadening of the meaning is illustrated by early Russian text.
The tributaries of the Varangians drove them back beyond the sea and, refusing them further tribute, set out to govern themselves. There was no law among them, but tribe rose against tribe. Discord thus ensued among them, and they began to war one against another. They said to themselves, "Let us seek a prince who may rule over us, and judge us according to the law." They accordingly went overseas to the Varangian Rus: these particular Varangians were known as Rus, just as some are called Swedes, and others Normans, Angles, and Goths, for they were thus named. The Chuds, the Slavs, and the Krivichians then said to the people of Rus, "Our whole land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us." They thus selected three brothers, with their kinfolk, who took with them all the Rus, and migrated. The oldest, Rurik, located himself in Novgorod; the second, Sineus, in Beloozero; and the third, Truvor, in Izborsk. On account of these Varangians, the district of Novgorod became known as Russian (Rus) land. The present inhabitants of Novgorod are descended from the Varangian race, but aforetime they were Slavs. Ostov to another, and to another Beloozero. In these cities there are thus Varangian colonists, but the first settlers were, in Novgorod, Slavs; in Polotzk, Krivichians; at Beloozero, Ves; in Rostov, Merians; and in Murom, Muromians. Rurik had dominion over all these districts at Novgorod.
The Slavs had made limited contacts with almost all the Finno-Ugric people ("Finns") by about 1000 AD; all Finno-Ugric cultures were from that time on seriously threatened with extinction. Many of the people mentioned above in the Russian Chronicle, except for the Slavs, are recognizable as Finnic. (Karelians, Veps, Merja, Muroms...) The Slavs became colonial masters of foreign lands, taking away language, land and culture while raping the land clean of resources. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has taken the Soviet era falsifications and printed them, which the Finnish foreign ministry is correcting. The encyclopaedia for example, states that Viipuri (Vyborg) is a Russian city which was occupied by the Finns from 1920 - 1939. Since the writer's parents and relatives going back hundreds of years, were born there and in the surrounding lands, they cannot be Russian by any stretch of the imagination. The early Cyrillic texts found are in the Finnish language, but Cyrillic is not the only early text found in the North; even old Persian texts were used in Perm. It is generally recognized that the North was populated mainly by Uralic people prior to 1000 ce, and after that increasingly by Germanic and Slavic. Mongolian (Huns) / Turkish / Persian elements from the south and east have been arriving in waves in the first and second millenniums, corresponding to the defeat of the Huns by the Chinese and their movement west.
Finnish Map of Eastern Slavic Migration North.
The above map (400 - 900 AD) shows how Eastern Slavs invaded Finnish lands, wiping out the Merjas and Muroms and slowly absorbing, Russifying the rest. This is the time when all the problems began for the Finns who were in their way, and continues to this century. The Slavic settlers claim that they have just as much right to the land and its riches, as the original inhabitants and that they protected the Karelians against the Swedes, who were trying to occupy their lands. This protection would come with a high price: the slow but sure destruction of the Finnish language and culture. Imagine if all countries looked over towards their neighbors and claimed they had just as much right to their land. A Mongolian friend once said that, if we imagine that minorities will unite and take back their rightful lands, then Russians (Slavic majority) would have nowhere to go.
As the Slavs gradually invaded from the south and the "golden hordes" invaded from the east, over hundreds of years, the Finno-Ugrians were dispersed in all directions. The Finns headed mostly west, and the Hungarians, who had already been traveling south for hundreds of years on horseback, decided to move south en masse already by 835 AD, and west, reaching the Hungarian Carpathian Basin in 893 AD. That's sixty years of wandering in the wilderness north of the Black Sea.
Had the Hungarians not moved south, there would not be 15 million Hungarian speakers today, since any culture that came into the slavic sphere of influence would not thrive. There might just be 1 million if that. It looks like they made the right decision. Most Hungarians say their people knew about this southern area for hundreds of years before they actually migrated to settle there, but they waited for the right time to make their move, due to the necessity of fighting off the continuing invasions from the east. Finally they made their move under the leadership of Arpad and settled the land and built a country. During the sixty years, the Hungarians had developed excellent fighting skills, and were therefore able to repulse any threats to their new territory. That's a whole new area of study which time does not permit us to cover at the moment. (How ironic that the Russians finally caught up to them in 1944 after 1050 years)
The Slavs drove a wedge northward using every method at their disposal, including superior weapons from central Europe, isolating groups from each other and complicating what the vast distances already were doing: dividing the tribes. Slavs invaded Merja (Merya) land, a strategic area in the middle Volga, severing the cultural, trade and linguistic links of Volga-Finns to the Baltic coast. Eastern goods, which had been traded along the Volga and other river routes between North and South, East and West, via the Maris, Merjas, Veps and so forth to the trade centers in Finland and the Baltic coast for thousands of years, were now intercepted by Russian merchants and their armed mercenaries. This prosperous trade ended as the Russians took over.
Stroganoffs , and finally, on April 4, 1558, a charter was granted to Anika's son Grigory Anikovitch, and accorded the Stroganoff family 3,415,000 dessiatin of Finno-Ugrians' land. (equal today to about 8.5 millon acres) Encyclopaedia Britannica used a lot of falsified Russian land claims. Some of the problems arrise from the fact that at one time Russia occupied Finland as a colonial power when the army was away fighting Sweden's silly wars. At that time, in early 1700's, the greatest catastropy to befall the Finns occured in the Baltic.
Under Swedish rule, the Finns were obliged to serve in the Swedish army. Their strength was greatly reduced by the Swedish kings' ambitions far away from Finland, especially in Poland and the disastrous march on Moscow that followed. During this time, while the door to the henhouse was open, Russia helped itself to Finland, Ingria, and Estonia. The Slavs had arrived on the shores of the Baltic while the Swedish army was destroyed on the same road Napoleon took years later. They were free to establish permanent cities closer and closer to Finnish northern and Baltic strongholds, especially St. Petersburg - on Ingerian Finnish land.
In 1701 Swedes invaded Poland, enthroned their loyal king Stanislaw Leszczinnsky, and made the country their new ally. Then Karl XII decided to finish Russia once and for all.
Timeline to Disaster
In 1708 Karl XII detached a well-trained army of 60,000 to Moscow.
-September of 1708 the Russians smashed Leeuwenhaupt's corps in the battle of Lesnaya. The anti-Moscow campaign failed. No supplies from Poland.
-Hoping to capture provisions, Swedes invaded Ukraine.
-However, the Swedish Army failed again.
-Russians left Swedes behind and gained the Hetman's quarters of Baturin City with the main food storehouses.
-In spring of 1709, forces of Karl XII besieged Poltava, and the decisive battle broke out. Russians enjoyed a significant numerical superiority of 45,000 soldiers against 22,000 of Swedes. And again, the Swedish assault on the Russian line failed. The battle of Poltava was the turning point of the war that came to end with Russian triumph in 1721.
-Russia consolidated its grip on the Baltic shore.
Influence of Religion on Cultural Identity
While the Finns made the transition from Catholicism to Protestantism under Swedish rule, their cousins, the Finno-Ugric people in Russia were slowly being Russified with the help of the Russian Orthodox Church. Forced conversions of Karelians, for example, were made for the purpose of allying them to Novgorod against their brothers to the west. It worked.
Religious beliefs play a key role in the development of cultures, and the Orthodox Church played a central role in the development of Russian and many Finno-Ugric cultures. This Russian Religion was used by the Czars as a tool to conquer the Finno-Ugric peoples, while destroying their old nature-warship religions - which, along with their language, carried their identities as a distinct people. This included those eastern Karelians who converted to Orthodoxy - their drift away from their Finnish ancestry towards union with the Slavs, and the Russian language, had begun. The Churches stood as symbols of Slavic domination and consolidation of power wherever they were built. Many Russians today see foreign religions as a threat to the dominance of Russian culture, and support their own religion as the only legitimate religion for "real" Russians.
But the Finns often fought back against encroachment and attempts to destroy their culture by means of religion or otherwise. The 1500's saw many Finnish raids on Russian occupied territory, especially under General Herman Fleming in 1572. And in 1590 Juha Vesainen, with a 700 man army attacked and burnt the Russian monastery in Petsamo (Pechenga) killing all the monks and monastery workers. Similar wars were waged in the other Finno-Ugric areas, especially in the Mari (Cheremises) areas.
The Finno-Ugric peoples' fate in Russia.
Each Finno-Ugric ethnic group in Russia has had a different fate but every group has had to struggle for its survival. In the 10th century, Finno-Ugric peoples lived all over Russia. In many areas today, however, all that remains of the former Finno-Ugric inhabitants are place names. Meryas and Muroms no longer exist - Votians and Izhorians are almost assimilated. Assimilation is a problem all Finno-Ugric people face in Russia. They have become minorities in their ancestral land, and more than 30% of them have lost their native language. The deterioration in their situation occurred in stages associated with changes in Russian Statehood.
Stage I: 10th - 11th century.
Slavic colonisation, both peaceful and following warfare. Fortified citadels are built on the Finno-Ugric peoples' ancient settlements Izborsk, Pskov, Murom among others.
Stage II: 12th - 13th century.
The principalities of Moscow and Novgorod conquer Karelians and Votians. Vepsians and Mordvinians are forced to pay tributes and participate in military campaigns. Fortified towns are built (Arzamas, Nizhni-Novgorod, Ryazan). The subdued Finno-Ugric peoples are converted to the orthodox faith. Part of the Mordvinians leave their ancestral land. The Muroms and the Meryas are assimilated.
Stage III: 14th - 15th century.
The principality of Novgorod expands. The Komis (Zyrians) are subjugated and converted to the orthodox faith. The Republic of Vjatka is formed, the Northern Udmurts (Votiaks) are subdued and Vjatka Town is founded.
Stage IV: 16th century.
Kazan is conquered, the Maris (Cheremises) and the Southern Udmurts (Votiaks) are subjugated. New towns are founded on their territory. The Finno-Ugric population living near the new towns is forced to leave. The Khantis (Ostiaks) and the Mansis (Voguls) are conquered.
Stage V: 17th century.
The conquered areas are colonized, Siberia is occupied and the Maris (Cheremises) and the Udmurts (Votiaks) are forced to participate. Stenka Razin Revolt (1667-71) attempted to throw off the Moscow yoke. Most of the Finno-Ugric people joined along with everyone else, but the Moscow army ended the revolt and Stenka Razin was killed.
Stage VI: 18th - 19th century.
The Maris and the Udmurts are converted to the orthodox faith. 70 000 Maris flee to what is now the territory of Bashkortostan. Mordvinians emigrate en masse from the pressure of Russian colonization. The Southern Urals are industrialized and St. Petersburg is founded. The local Finno-Ugric population is used extensively as construction workers in these areas. The russification of the Finno-Ugric peoples becomes part of the Russian Empire's domestic policy. These minorities have no access to native language education or literature. They cannot be nominated to the local administrative positions. The Russian attitude towards the Finno-Ugric minorities becomes more and more contemptuous. Negative reports about them are continuously published in the Russian press.
Stage VII: 20th century.
Some Finno-Ugric peoples obtain autonomous districts or republics in the Soviet Union. Borders, however, are not drawn in accordance with ethnic distribution, but are based solely on economic and political expediency. This leads to ethnic conflicts. Most of the so called Finno-Ugric republics contain areas with a purely Russian population, and some areas with an almost 100 % indigenous population might not be included in their autonomous republic at all. This period is characterised by large scale industrialisation and exploitation of oil and gas deposits. Colonisation becomes even more intensive.
Finno-Ugric intellectuals are repressed. Native language schools which had operated for a short period in the twenties and thirties are closed down. Some of the Finno-Ugric peoples are forced to give up the use of the Latin alphabet and use the Cyrillic. The native populations become rapidly urbanised. The number of the Finno-Ugrians settled outside their homeland increases, as they are sent to the areas of construction all over the Soviet Union (in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and so on).
The percentage of Finno-Ugrians who live outside their homeland has been increasing steadily: in 1959, 45% of the Maris lived elsewhere, compared to 52% in 1989; for the Udmurts the figures are 24% and 31%, respectively.
All traces of Finno-Ugric civilization is erased and replaced by Russian. This makes it look like the north was really inhabited by Russians - not Finno-Ugrians. The Russification of names furthermore, makes it hard to say that anyone else but Slavs had anything to do with building Russia. The Russians are famous for denying others' involvement in any and all activities concerning that country unless they are in the negative. The history written by their hand must always be cross-checked with independent sources.
Even in the autonomous republics such trends inevitably lead to Russification of the Finno-Ugric Nation. In addition, the areas inhabited by Finno-Ugrians, especially those rich in natural resources (the homelands of Khantis, Mansis and Lapps, in particular), have been irrepairably polluted due to the Soviet Union's destructive mining practices. Thus both their culture and land were extensively damaged by Soviet policies. Place-names were systematically changed to Russian equivalents, and even people's names were not always recorded in their own language but were changed to Russian equivalents so that tracing people from death certificates or old graves is difficult or impossible (especially during the so-called purges, "mass murders" in reality). The indigenous population was helpless as in local parliaments they have few seats and communist officials stacked the votes.
Swedish Rule in Finland
As the Eastern Finns fell under Russian domination, the
Western Finns came under
Finland was in the Swedish realm for 700 years during which time Sweden had access to Finnish territory for trade, and Finnish soldiers for its own military campaigns. Sweden's misuse of Finnish troops was responsible for many Russian gains into traditional Finnish lands such as St. Petersburg area. The situation became intolerable in the 17th and 18th Century because Sweden continually took the army away from Finnish soil, leaving the people vulnerable to Slavic attacks and encroachment. As a result, tens of thousands of people were killed or marched east to uncertain fates as slaves. The Baltic Finns also suffered huge losses especially in 1702-4, and St. Petersburg was founded in the middle of the Ingerian-Finn's land in 1703. Slowly, the spirit of independence from Sweden began to rise in Finland which became a movement in early 19th Century.
While Finns made a clean break from Sweden, there has continued a mistrust between the two people. Many Finns find work in Sweden and raise families there. Segregation is common in Sweden whereby children with Finnish names are sent to portable classrooms (for special learning) while the Swedes enjoy the main school fascilities. This often creates friction or even fighting amongst the pupils and illustrates pervasive racist attitudes of the former colonial masters, the Swedes, towards Finns.
Finland continued to shrink, 1944 being the last shift in the border when Finland lost most of its eastern Karelia province. Today, there is a peaceful movement to restore, if not all the ancient Finnish lands between Finland and Onega, then at least the borders of 1939.