Could There Have Actually Been Finns Among The Vikings?
Very much unlike the cases of early medieval Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands, documentation regarding the Viking Age in Finland is very scarce. Possibly with the exception of the Åland Islands (an autonomous Swedish-speaking archipelago situated in the Gulf of Bothnia, Baltic Sea), there is little information on how the Viking period unfolded throughout the Finnish mainland. Furthermore, during this period of time, many questions can arise with respect to the political, social, and economic links between the Finns and the early medieval Scandinavian kingdoms.
One of these questions, for example, is: ‘were the Finns among the Vikings’? Although the question is formulated in a rather easy way, it certainly requires a far more complex answer. First of all, the Finns are a people of Finnic origin and their language, Finnish, is consequently part of this linguistic family (alongside most notably Estonian and Hungarian).
The Finno-Ugric language family is a linguistic branch that is strikingly different from the rest of the Indo-European languages spoken in Europe, and so, logically, Finnish is different from neighbouring North Germanic languages (i.e. Norwegian or Swedish), albeit being influenced by Swedish from historical reasons. Additionally, Finland as a country is also situated in Fennoscandia, rather than in Scandinavia proper (which tends to be quite a popular geographical misconception).
All the aforementioned aspects conclude to a very remote connection with the Norse-speaking world. Nonetheless, there might ultimately be evidence which support the theory according to which there was actually Norse settlement in the Finnish mainland. Aside from this, the Swedish Vikings are known for having recurrently raided the Baltic coastline along the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries.
A prominent archaeological example of Norse presence along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea is represented by the Salme ships burial unearthed in the Salme parish, Saaremaa island, present-day Estonia.
This ship burial contains artefacts dating to either the early or mid 8th century (c. 700-750 AD; approximately a century and a half ahead of the usually agreed start of the Viking Era). It is also known that various Finnish-speaking mercenaries took part in various Viking war bands that voyaged across Europe during the Early Middle Ages.
Genetics also play a pivotal part on the matter, as Y-DNA haplogroup I (one of the most widespread genetic lineages in Scandinavia) seems to prevail in the south/south-western Sweden, peaking in some areas at 25% of the total population.
However, it must be mentioned that beyond sparse contact with the Old Norse-speaking world, the Finnish people did not represent a tremendous part of the Norse society during the Viking period, nor did their language, most of their customs, traditions, folklore, and civilization.
Nowadays, thanks to extensive archaeological research, artefacts dating to the Viking period were discovered in the islands of Rosala and Hitis in southern Finland (which were formerly linked as part of a regional trade route). Furthermore, on the island of Rosala there is also a Viking-themed historical centre.
Documentation sources and external links:
- Finland: the Viking Ages on www.allempires.com
- Were there Finns among the Viking, especially during the raids? on www.quora.com
- Rosala Viking Centre, Finland on www.rosala-viking-centre.com
- Haplogroup 1 (Y-DNA) on www.eupedia.com
- The Viking Age in Finland III: Identity and Identification and the Viking Age in Finland (with a special emphasis on Åland Islands) on www.academia.edu
- History of Finland | Middle Ages on www.wikipedia.org (in English)
- Evidence of Viking settlement on the the Åland Islands on www.heritagedaily.com
- Finland in the margins of the Viking world on www.elore.fi (in English)
- Nations, Language and Citizenship, page 200 by Norman Berdichevsky (on Google Books)
- Denmark, Finland, And Sweden, page 94 by Britannica Educational Publishing (on Google Books)
- Possible Viking settlement in the Ålands found on www.viking-archaeology-blog.blospot.com
- Possible Viking settlement in the Ålands found on www.archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com
- Finns Enter history for the Second Time on www.rautakyy.wordpress.com
- Salme Ship Burials on www.viking.archeurope.info