Genetics and the Origin of the Finns


The population of Finland initiated from neighbouring southeastern areas 10 000 years ago when the glacial ice melted, and it developed further from several European sources, among them the Ukrainian and Iberian refuges. According to nuclear gene studies, the Finns belong to the European family, with some eastern components. In mitochondrial deoxyribonucleic acid studies, the Finns are indistinguishable from other Europeans. High values of Y‐chromosomal C>T transition point to male population movements on the east–west axis. The genetic difference between western and eastern Finns is shown also by genome‐wide data of nuclear single nucleotide polymorphisms. The Finnish Disease Heritage means overrepresentation of approximately 40 rare recessive disorders. It is due to the national isolation between Sweden and Russia and the regional isolation from 500‐year‐old internal migrations. This rare disease flora enjoys favourable conditions for clinical and molecular genetic research.

Key Concepts:

  • As a rule, human populations are formed from some kind of ancient primary population and immigrants of later times.

  • Genes and interrelationships of historical populations can be studied from the genes of the people of today.

  • In the northern countries, the glacial period approximately 10 000 years back is the time limit for the population of some geographical areas.

  • The genes of rare diseases need not to be brought from somewhere but may have originated from new gene mutations not very far back in time.

  • The genetic composition of the population of Finland is mainly ‘European’, but its remote position on the northern edge of the continent has created some exceptions to the main rules.

Keywords: Finland; mtDNA; Y‐chromosome; SNPs; Finland for Finnish Disease Heritage; East‐west difference among the Finns

Figure 1.

Finland and its neighbouring areas in Northern Europe.

Figure 2.

Population density of Finland by counties in 1960 (inhabitants per square kilometre land area).

Figure 3.

Main lines of settlement into the area of Finland.

Figure 4.

A line dividing Finland into western and eastern parts, compiled from lines of anthropological, dialectal and some folkloristic boundaries, the first political boundary between Sweden–Finland and Russia in 1323, the eastern extension of the battle‐axe culture approximately 4000 years back and the boundary between lower and higher mortality from coronary heart disease during the last few years.

Figure 5.

The areas of early and late settlement in Finland. The late settlement area was populated permanently by immigrants from the Southern Savo region in the 1500s and onwards.



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Norio, Reijo(Jun 2013) Genetics and the Origin of the Finns. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020806.pub2]