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Finns in a Genetic Class of their Own

Finns belong to a unique genetic group of their own. According to a new wide-ranging genetic mapping study, Finns differ from Central Europeans as well as from their neighbours in the east.

Fluorenssimikroskoopilla otettu kuva ihmisen kromosomeista.
Fluorenssimikroskooppikuva ihmisen kromosomeista. Image: YLE

The study also found that the Finnish genetic pool does not resemble that of the closest linguistic group, the Hungarians, but shares more commonalities with the Dutch.

The results of the study show that Finns may be more closely related to the Dutch and to Russians from eastern Moscow, than to Hungarians, whose language can be most closely linked to Finnish. The researchers have therefore concluded that Finnish genetic ancestry follows geographical rather than linguistic patterns.

Senior researcher Samuli Ripatti of Finland’s Institute for Molecular Medicine FIMM described the link between Finns and to western Europe via Sweden, and to the east by way of Estonia.

“The links are strong. Then we discovered that the relationship between geographic variations and location and genetic heritage is quite strong and can be clearly seen.”

Ripatti added that the genetic research did not support the links thought to exist because of linguistic similarities.

Great Differences Among Finns

Genetic variations among Finns can be traced back to location for eastern, western and northern communities. The genetic differences become larger the bigger the distance between communities.

When researchers compared local communities in Finland, they found genetic differences based on location, with the greatest differences revealed between communities in southwest Finland and Kuusamo in northeast Finland.

Similarly, coastal dwelling Swedish-speaking Finns show more genetic similarities to Swedes than they do to other Finns.

FIMM has compiled a genetic atlas for Finland by collecting genetic data from 40,000 Finns to determine their genetic origin. The genetic atlas project was conducted under the stewardship of the late academic Leena Peltonen-Palotie.

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