Compared with many countries, Finland was quite homogeneous. There were few foreigners, and the ones who were present were usually white-collar employees required for commercial reasons. Very few persons of other races were seen on the nation's streets, and only a handful of refugees were granted asylum. Finns were open about their desire to avoid admitting workers from distant southern countries and hence to avoid the kinds of situations that had led to minor racial incidents in neighboring Sweden and Denmark, let alone those that had caused the serious social problems experienced by Britain.
Finland did have one significant minority, the Swedishspeaking Finns, who had been in the country for more than 1,000 years and who, for centuries, had been the source of its ruling elite. Nineteenth-century nationalism, some fierce struggles in the twentieth century, and changing demographic patterns had deprived this group of its traditional dominance, but law and compromise had allowed the Swedish-speaking Finns a secure and peaceful place within Finnish society. Two smaller minorities had not been successfully assimilated. One, the Lapps, was descended from the original inhabitants of the land; the other, the Gypsies, was a much later addition. The former lived mostly in the high north; the latter were found throughout the country. Neither group was a threat to Finnish society, but both occasionally posed problems for social workers, and their treatment at the hands of their fellow Finns was sometimes cause for regret. Also present in Finland were tiny Jewish and Muslim communities, both of which had roots going back into the nineteenth century.
|Country Studies main page | Finland Country Studies main page|