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The new Cultura Foundation (2013) takes over responsibility for cultural and social integration of the large Russian speaking minority in Finland.

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Finland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

Constitutionally protected and historical minorities in Finland consist of the following categories:

Constitutionally protected minorities and indigenous people (see chapter 5.1.1):

  • Swedish-speaking Finns ("second national culture"); 290 000 persons;
  • The Sámi-people as a conglomerate of cultural communities 7 000 persons
  • (of this: speakers of the Sámi languages 1 700 persons).

Historical minorities:

  • Roma 13 000 persons;
  • Russians of "old origin", whose families settled in Finland during the Czarist rule 5 000 persons;
  • Tatars 850 persons; and
  • Jews 1 500 persons.

These figures indicate that Finland has been a relatively homogeneous country; especially as Swedish-speaking Finns are not constitutionally considered a minority but innate Finns having a second national culture, which is parallel and equal to that of the Finnish-speaking population. Constitutional and legislative responses to the claims of the "old" minorities have concentrated, by and large, on two groups: Swedish-speaking Finns and the Sámi. Due to their special historical position, they have a high degree of cultural autonomy with cultural institutions of their own, special linguistic and educational rights and special budget considerations in the state and local government budgets. The Roma people have been the target of special educational, cultural and social welfare measures, while the three other small ethnic minority groups have their own small communities and institutions (associations, churches, kindergartens). Some 23% of Swedish speaking Finns live in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area; the Sámi-people live mainly in Finnish Lapland (although there is also a City-Sámi Association). The "old" Russians, Tatars and Jews are concentrated mainly in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

Formation of immigrant communities

From the international comparative perspective, the recent inflow of foreign citizens, immigrants and refugees into Finland started late, in the first half of the 1990s. The acceleration of inflow was due to two factors: firstly to the increase in the number of refugees allowed to enter Finland, especially so-called "quota refugees" from Somalia; and secondly, to the "repatriation" policies which allowed Ingrians of Finnish origin from the former Soviet Union to enter as "returning nationals". The first "official" refugees from Chile and Vietnam were accepted at the request of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the 1970s and 1980s; the system of "quota refugees" was adopted in 1988, and the first wave of Somali refugees arrived in Finland in 1992. This was followed by an influx of "quota refugees" from Southeast Europe, Iraq and Turkey, and migrants from Asia, e.g. from China and Thailand. The Ingrians were officially recognised as "returning nationals" by President Maunu Koivisto in 1990, and they contributed to about one-third of the close to 62 000 immigrants entering Finland in the 1990s. This wave was paralleled by a steady escalation of individual immigration from the Russian Federation and Estonia.

The following Tables provide information about the immigration flows into Finland.

Table 4:    Foreign citizens in Finland in 2012 and 2013

Country of citizenship





Annual change % (2012-2013)


39 763


44 774




30 183


30 757




8 412


8 382




7 468


7 465




6 622


7 121




6 031


6 484




5 919


6 353




4 272


4 398




4 030


4 372



United Kingdom

3 878


4 048




78 933


83 357




195 511


207 511



Source:    Statistics Finland, Cultural Statictis 2014, 28-30.

Table 5:    Total Finnish population by home language and the number of foreign citizens in 1990-2013





All Sami


Foreign citizens


4 998 478

4 675 223

296 738

1 734

24 783

26 255


5 116 826

4 754 787

294 664

1 726

65 649

28 566


5 181 115

4 778 497

291 657

1 734

99 227

91 074


5 255 580

4 819 819

289 675

1 752

144 334

113 852


5 276 955

4 828 747

289 609

1 772

156 827

121 739


5 300 484

4 836 183

289 596

1 777

172 928

132 708


5 326 314

4 844 047

289 951

1 778

190 538

143 256


5 351 427

4 852 209

290 392

1 789

207 037

155 705


5 375 276

4 857 903

291 153

1 832

224 388

167 954


5 401 267

4 863 351

291 219

1 870

244 827

183 133


5 426 674

4 866 848

290 977

2 195

266 949

195 511


5 451 270

4 869 362

290 910

1 930

289 068

207 511

Source:    Statistics Finland, Cultural Statistics 2014, 28, 31.

Despite the decentralisation efforts in the case of refugees, some 44% of the foreign population has settled in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, e.g. some 82% of Somalis have established their homes in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, while Russians and Estonians are spread more evenly around the country. This makes the Somalis a visible and audible minority in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, in the sense of community spirit, religion, and habits, while the Russians and Estonians have been characterised as "invisible" and "inaudible" minorities. Russians, Estonians and Somalis are the largest immigrant groups in Finland.

In the mid-1990s, the human rights stipulations of the constitution were reformed to expand rights covering all persons living in the country and these reforms were enshrined into the new codified constitution of 1999. Promotion of diversity has been reflected mainly in continuous reforms to improve the position of national minorities (the Sami, the Roma). Enhancing the rights of immigrants and refugees has been on the agenda of the recent governments, but most progress has been made in measures that help to integrate these groups economically and socially into Finnish society. Control of the refugees' entry into the country however has been made more restrictive and cultural rights of immigrants, though included in the new legislation, have been implemented only by a few direct measures. The Ministry of Education and Culture has in its budget a small appropriation for supporting minority and immigrant cultures, fighting racism, for multi-cultural events and projects and for supporting immigrant artists. In 2011 this sum was 650 000 EUR.

As for cultural services, a public multilingual library (books for adults, young people and children in approximately 60 languages) has been maintained since 1995 as an annex of the Helsinki City Library. The multilingual library collection is situated in Helsinki, but all Finnish libraries can request interlibrary collections from the multilingual library.

In 2009 the then Arts Council of Finland (now the Arts Promotion Centre Finland) started to fund foreign born artists and their projects, or projects by Finnish artists promoting multiculturalism and prevent racism with an annual sum of 100 000 EUR (however, in 2014 the sum was 97 000 euros). In addition, there is a State grant called Art as meeting place, for a project or projects that promote interaction between artists in Finland and artists arriving in Finland. In 2016 the sum allocated for the grant is 30 000 EUR. In February 2016 the Arts Promotion Center Finland appointed a regional artist of cultural diversity for a three year term. The regional artists works at the Arts Promotion Centre Regional Office of Ostrobothnia. The regional artist aims to improve the cultural situation of ethnic minorities in Ostrobothnia through the use of art and cooperates with local cultural operators, municipal organisations and agents that address multicultural issues in their work. In addition, the regional artist will contribute for the national programme of the Arts Promotion Centre Finland to develop cultural diversity, exchange and export

Year 2015 brought significant changes in the flow of refugees and asulym seekers in Finland, as in the whole of Europe. According to the Finnish Ministry of the Interior, in the 2000s, there have been between 1500 to 6000 asylum seekers in Finland per year (in 2014 the number was 3651), while in 2015 the number was 32 476. 

As a reaction, The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture allocated grants in autumn 2015 for projects aimed at promoting the integration of young asylum seekers and refugees through culture, sport and leisure activities.  The grant was 1 080 000 euros (funded by the National Lottery) and it was granted to eight nationwide projects. These projects include museum events, different art form (music, circus, theatre, visual arts) workshops and mobile video tuition. The projects also aim at encouraging the positive encounters of the native population and people living in reception centres.

In 2015 The Arts Promotion Centre Finland started a new funding instrument towards promoting multiculturalism and combating racism. For the year 2015 612 000 EUR was allocated.

Although direct arts and cultural policy measures for the protection and promotion of "new" minority cultures are few and limited in scope, the responsibility for the minority and immigrant cultures has been shouldered by the educational authorities, municipalities and cultural and art institutions. The Ministry of Education and Culture in its Strategy 2020 for Culture emphasises the need to prepare its own encompassing Strategy for Newcomers (immigrants).

For the large Russian speaking minority in Finland, the central public actor in cultural and social integration was, until the end of 2012, the Ministry of Education and Culture's international support unit subordinate, the Institute for Russia and Eastern Europe. Its main activities were information services (including a Russian language library), cultural events and training and seminars for authorities and businesses. The institute also implemented projects in the field of cultural industries and participated in the development of the Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture under the direction of the Ministry of Education and Culture. In 2011, the Ministry commissioned a study on the future development of the institute. According to the rapporteur, the institute's main task should be to improve opportunities for the Russian-speaking population in Finland to participate as consumers and creators of culture. Also recommended was that the centre should operate as a private foundation. In 2012 the institute was closed down and its duties were transformed to a newly established Cultura Foundation ( from January 1 2013. The foundation receives discretionary funding from the National Lottery with a budget of 807 000 EUR in 2015. The former Institute's library services were merged with Espoo City Library.

Chapter published: 25-04-2017

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