A new and long-awaited news service in the Karelian language began its broadcasts on Friday, February 27. The new service, Yle uudizet karjalakse, also offers online news stories.
The Karelian news is translated and broadcast by researcher Natalia Giloeva from the University of Eastern Finland. She says that even Finns for whom Karelian is not familiar ought to listen to the broadcasts.
"Finns can well follow the news in Karelian, as it is the closest language relative of Finnish and can be understood by Finnish speakers without much difficulty," Giloeva says.
Giloeva also makes the point that the Karelian language is still under threat of dying out, and that the marginalised language needs supporters to remain a world language in the future.
"Finland's Karelian speakers are a national minority and Karelian itself is classified as a minority language," she says. "Even though resuscitation measures are working well, the language is still endangered."
Having the news broadcast in Karelian is a huge boon for those who speak the language, especially for native speakers, Giloeva says, as it tangibly brings the language into the public social sphere.
"Having a news service in Karelian may raise awareness and interest in the language among Karelians," she says.
In 2011, some 350,000 Karelians were thought to live in Finland, of whom 30,000 were considered part of the Karelian language minority. In addition to the official language, Karelian culture includes the Orthodox faith and both contemporary and traditional Karelian characteristics.
An estimated 5,000 people use Karelian in Finland every day, and the language has about 25,000 speakers. The figures include some 2,000 immigrant Karelians. The various dialects of the language are spoken mainly in south-western Finland, the Republic of Karelia and in parts of Russia.
News as renewal
Language advocate Timoi Munne from the town of Liperi made Karelian his native language. Munne says he is happy about the news service, as the beleagured language is now presented with new opportunities to develop and change.
"It's of vital importance just for the fact that Karelian has been in trouble for a long time," Munne says. "The more contemporary uses the language has, the better it will do among its speakers. Karelian isn't some outdated relic, but a modern language that has the right to develop just as any other world language."
The news content is produced by Yle North Karelia in collaboration with the Karelian Language Society. Chief of Yle North Karelia, Jyrki Utriainen, says that having the Karelian news service's headquarter in Joensuu is only natural.
"We've been waiting for the chance to rise to a development like this, and now we can," Utriainen says. "It's natural to have the service in Northern Karelia. The Karelian way of life can be seen in this region in many ways, such as the widespread practice of Orthodox Christianity. Many people in this region have roots in non-Finnish Karelia."
The new language addition to Yle's news services takes the tally of different languages represented to eight, the others being Finnish, Swedish, English, Sámi, Russian, Simple Finnish and Finnish Sign Language.
Listen to Yle uudizet karjalakse each Friday at 1.45 pm on the North Karelia radio service of Radio Suomi.