Finland has steadily been filling up with Russian immigrants and if the trend continues, they will outnumber Swedish speakers as the largest language minority in the country.
Some 60,000 Russian speakers were recorded in Finland during a recent study, double the number a decade ago. At the present rate they will over take Swedish speaking Finns by 2050.
An estimated 240,000 people in Finland use Swedish as their home language, the two countries sharing a long border and history. But in the two decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain, increasing numbers of Russians have been arriving.
“If the proportionate rise of Russian speakers among all immigrants remains the same, in 2050 they will number 200,000 to 240,000,” calculates Director Ismo Söderling of the Institute of Migration.
Finland continues to accept migrants, but this is expected to reach a saturation by mid century when more than a million people will not be of Finnish origin. Russian might well become an officially recognised minority language.
Ironically, Finland was once a dutchy of the Tsarist empire, based in nearby Saint Petersburg, and only gained its independence in 1917. At that point Finnish became the official language.
Only half of the Russian speakers presently in Finland have Finnish citizenship.