The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Finns

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FINNS, a race of men inhabiting portions of N. and E. Europe and N. W. Asia. The most important divisions of this race, besides the inhabitants of Finland or Finns proper, are the Lapps, Esths, Sirians, Permiaks, Votiaks, Tcheremisses, Mordvins, Bashkirs, Tchuvashes, Voguls, Ostiaks, and Magyars. They thus comprise the extensive group of languages and tribes which ethnologists and philologists designate as the Uralo-Finnic branch of the Mongolian, Turanian, or Uralo-Altaic family. (See Ethnology.) The Finns are related to the Huns, Avars, and Khazars; but it is not positively known when they took possession of their present habitats, and from what direction they moved into them. They are in every respect of the Mongoloid type, having not only its general physical character, but also its mental and temperamental characteristics. They are distinguished by the same gravity of demeanor and concealment of emotions; by deliberation of speech and the absence of violent gesticulation; by the rarity of laughter, and by plaintive and melancholy songs. It was until recently the universal opinion of ethnologists that they were a younger branch of the Asiatic Mongolians, and consequently that they emigrated from east to west. There are, however, reasons for supposing that the Finnic languages represent the oldest forms of speech among the Uralo-Altaic group. They possess, for example, the strongest marked features of the whole family, and bear the closest analogy to the Indo-European tongues. From these facts the conclusion has been drawn that the primitive Finns and Indo-Europeans were neighbors, and that the two families of languages were formed at the same time. The authorities who hold that the earliest home of the Indo-Europeans must be placed where the main body of them is still found, maintain accordingly that the Finns still inhabit their primitive soil, and that they are the ancestors and the stem of the Asiatic Turanians. One of the least expected results of the decipherment of the Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions is that the most ancient language found in this style of writing is strongly allied to the idioms of the Uralo-Finnic race, and that many of its words and the greater part of its grammatical forms particularly resemble the Finlandish. It is therefore conjectured that the Finnic race was in possession of the Tigris and Euphrates basin more than 4,000 years ago; and in retracing the ideographs of the cuneiforms to the objects they originally represented, it is found that the region where this system of writing was invented was a northern clime; at least one totally different from that of Babylonia and Assyria, destitute, among other things, of large feline carnivora and of palm trees. The French ethnologist Quatrefages maintains in his recent work on La race prussienne that the Prussians proper are of Finnic descent, but apparently without sufficient evidence. Beloguet, on the other hand, argues, in his Ethnologie gauloise, that the pre-Aryan race which inhabited France must have been Finns; but this hypothesis also has no sufficient basis. Finnic elements are also discovered in the Basque language and in the remnants of the Etruscan. As Tacitus, however, speaks of Fenni among the German tribes, and as the Finnic languages are strongly intermixed with Celtic forms, it is probable that the Finns occupied at a remote time the low lands of Germany to the confines of Gaul. Certain it is that they inhabited for a long period the whole region between the Volga and the Ural rivers, and that the Magyar tribe dwelt in the district of the Kuma. The Finns also overran the southern portion of Sweden, and perhaps Jutland; but they were driven out of the country W. of the gulf of Bothnia as early as the 9th century.—The Finns of N. W. Russia belong either to the Greek or to the Lutheran church. Before the 12th century they adored numberless fetiches, besides a god of heaven and earth whom they called Yumala, Yumula, or Yumara, according to the dialect of the tribe, and also Num on the E. shore of the White sea. The other Finnic deities were tribal gods adopted in the course of migration and development. In Finland there are about 1,500,000 Finns proper, many of whom have adopted the civilization of the Swedes, their former conquerors, but are reluctant to become Russianized. The peasants of the interior still live in a very rude and simple manner. The dialect of this branch of the Finnic race is considered one of the most harmonious and softest languages spoken. (See Finland, Language and Literature.)

Finns - peasants of Finland.jpg

Peasants of Finland.

The Finns proper are subdivided into Tavasts and Karelians. The Tavasts, who inhabit the S. W. districts of Finland, are great agriculturists, besides paying much attention to breeding cattle. They are nevertheless one of the poorest and humblest branches of the whole race. They designate themselves as Flamalaiseth, and are estimated to number about 600,000. More vivacious and less rude than the Tavasts are the Karelians, whom the other Finnish tribes call Karialaiseth. They inhabit the eastern portions of Finland and the adjoining governments of Russia, and number above 1,000,000. The Lapps are distributed over portions of Sweden, Norway, and Russia, and are only about 15,000 in number. In the government of St. Petersburg dwell nearly 18,000 Ingrians and about 5,000 Vots or Vatialaiseth. The Esths, in Esthonia, Livonia, and the neighboring governments, number upward of 500,000; the Tchuds proper, in Olonetz and Novgorod, about 15,000; the Livs and Krevings, in Courland and Livonia, are becoming extinct, numbering little more than 2,000 persons. All these together form the Tchudic branch of the race. The Permian branch occupies regions between the Ural mountains and the Volga and Dwina. There are about 50,000 Permiaks in the government of Perm, who without their Finnic language could scarcely be distinguished from the Russians. They raise cattle, are very poor, and their customs are similar to those of the Votiaks, who number about 180,000, and live in villages of 20 to 40 houses between the Kama and the Viatka. With the latter are mingled the Bissermians, about 5,000 in number, greatly resembling the Permiaks. The Sirians, between lat. 58° and 66° N., chiefly on the Vytchegda, number about 70,000, speak exclusively their own dialect, and belong to the Greek church. On the central Volga, and between that river and the Oka, dwells the Volgaic or Bulgaric branch, numbering more than 1,000,000, among whom the Mordvins, upward of 400,000, seem to be the dominant class. The writers of the middle ages speak of the Mordvins as being very cruel, and accuse them of cannibalism. They are now considered intelligent, industrious, and honest; they cultivate the soil, and raise cattle and bees; they live in huts with the door opening to the east; and though they profess to be Christians, they are still given to many superstitious practices. Their dialect is similar to that of the Tcheremisses, whose language is strongly intermixed with Tartar and Russian. The Tcheremisses are scattered over the governments of Viatka, Kazan, Nizhni-Novgorod, and Kostroma, and are estimated at 150,000. Those living on the right shore of the Volga are called highland Tcheremisses, and others Tcheremisses of the plain. The Tchuvashes number about 450,000, and live in Kazan, Simbirsk, Saratov, and Orenburg. Their religion is neither Christian, Mohammedan, nor pagan, but a mixture of the three, with paganism in the ascendant. The principal tribes among them are the Vereyal and the Kereyal, and their chief occupations are agriculture, bee culture, and cattle raising. The abodes of the Ugric branch are widely distributed. The Ugrian tribe proper and the Ostiaks live in the neighborhood of the Samoyeds, in the Siberian government of Tobolsk. They are half savages, and, though nominally Christians, adhere to Shamanism. Their language is a primitive Finnic dialect mingled with Tartar, and resembles closely that of their neighbors the Voguls, who inhabit the eastern slope of the Ural, number about 2,000, and are similar to the Calmucks. They live in villages of four or five yurts (tents of felt), dress in caftans, and are peaceable, jovial, lazy, and poor. Their principal occupations are hunting and fishing. The Bashkirs are also now considered to belong to the Finnic race. (See Bashkirs.) The Finnic tribe of Meshtcheriaks has adopted a Turkish dialect and the Mohammedan faith. For the most important division of the Ugric branch, and of the whole race, the Magyars, see Hungary.—The following are valuable recent works of reference on the subject: Schnitzler, L'Empire des tsars au point actuel de la science (Paris, 1862); Cuno, Forschungen im Gebiete der alten Völkerkunde (Berlin, 1871 et seq.); Koskinen, Finnische Geschichte von den frühesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenwart (Leipsic, 1873); also the periodical Archiv für wissenschaftliche Kunde von Russland, published in Berlin.