Russian-speaking population in Finland
Speakers of Russian are the largest group of immigrants speaking a foreign language in Finland. At the end of 2016, there were 75 444 people speaking Russian as their native language living in Finland. One fifth of them are under 20 years of age. Of the official population of Finland (5 503 297 at the end of 2016), 1.37 % speak Russian as a native language. The statistics are based on people's personal reporting of their native language, which means that the actual number of native speakers of Russian is likely higher. Russian-speakers represent a number of different nationalities.
The Russian population in Finland has doubled in ten years and is expected to double again during the next decade. They are expected to exceed 100,000 in the early 2020s.
Native speakers of Russian as part of Finnish society
Russian-speaking immigrants are willing to integrate with Finnish society culturally, linguistically, and socially (Jasinskaja-Lahti 2007:56). According to a recent study, 83.3% of immigrants with Russian ancestry are satisfied with their lives in Finland (Kobak, 2013:51-52).
Compared to other immigrants, Russians seem to be regularly in touch with people in their country of origin. Even though this is no doubt partly due to the geographical vicinity of Russia and Finland, it may also reflect the difficulty of making Finnish friends and the great value Russians place on friendship and family (Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2007:56.)
Native speakers of Russian in Finnish labour market
The benefit of the Russian-speaking population compared to other minorities is their high education which is suited for advancing both the learning of Finnish and finding employment (Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2007: 54).
In 2010, the employment rate of native Russian speakers living in Finland was about 70%. However, despite their good level of education, their unemployment rate was about 17% higher than the average unemployment rate of foreigners living in Finland. (Venäjänkielisten työllistyminen ja työsyrjintä (Employment and job discrimination of native speakers of Russian), 2010.)
On the other hand, the attitude towards Russians in the labour market has improved. Finland needs a Russian-speaking workforce, and Russia has offered many industries opportunities to grow their business in the recent years (Krutova, 2011:11.)
How is the language and culture of native speakers of Russian supported in Finland?
According to the views of the Finnish Association of Russian-speaking Organisations (FARO), the preservation of the Russian language and culture is supported quite well in Finland. In 2013, Yleisradio started broadcasting television news in Russian, and a Russian library was established in the Sello library in Espoo. There are also several Russian journal publications in Finland, such as Spektr, Venäjän kauppatie, Mosaiikki and Novosti Helsinki which address current issues and news, as well as literature publications Taivas, Itämeren aallot, Russkij Svet and LiteraruS.
As a negative aspect, FARO mentions the deficiencies in teaching Russian as a first language. The subject is not graded, and many teachers find it difficult to have pupils of different ages in the same group. Teaching positions are also very scattered.
Russian‑speaking organisations in Finland
According to FARO, there were 120–130 Russian-speaking organisations in Finland in the early 2015. There are organisations all over the country, but most of them operate in Helsinki.
Language, culture, children, and hobbies unite the Russian-speaking population in Finland. Many organisations promote Russian culture and art, whereupon the operations are often focused around theatre, poetry, literature, multimedia art and visual arts, dance, and music, for example. There is also a number of language clubs. For Russian-speaking and multicultural children, the organisations offer hobbies related to art and culture. The growing number of Russian-speaking organisations also includes some support organisations for the elderly, an organisation for the disabled, hobby and exercise clubs, and religious organisations.
The social integration programme of Finland 2012–2015 emphasises the significance of the third sector in integration work. Statements from larger Russian-speaking organisations are requested, when necessary, for different bureaus, ministries, and other parties. This enables them to comment on and influence, for instance, the preparations of legislation and governmental agendas.
According to FARO's experiences, positive dialogue should be increased between immigrants and the original population in order to decrease prejudice.
Studies and statistics
Jasinskaja-Lahti, Inga. 2007. Venäläiset maahanmuuttajat Suomessa. In Venäläiset perheet ja seksuaalisuus murroksessa. 2007. Ed. Korhonen, Elena. Väestöliitto (Family Federation of Finland). Helsinki. 46–59.
Kobak, Dana. 2013. Russian-speaking professionals in the Helsinki metropolitan area: prospects and challenges.Tutkimuskatsauksia 2013:5. Helsingin kaupungin tietokeskus (City of Helsinki Urban Facts).
Krutova, Oxana. 2011. Initial Labour Integration of Russian-speaking Students in Finland. Siirtolaisuus – Migration. 2011:4. 3–12.