Forest Finns

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Forest Finns (Norwegian: Skogfinner, Swedish: Skogsfinnar, Finnish: Metsäsuomalaiset) are people of Finnish descent in the forest areas of Eastern Norway and Central Sweden. The Forest Finns emigrated from Savonia in Eastern Finland during the late 16th and early to mid 17th centuries, and traditionally pursued slash-and-burn agriculture.


The use of the term "Forest Finns" is first reported in sanctions issued by the Dano-Norwegian king in 1648, although they (at least locally in Norway) more commonly were known as Savolaksfinner (Savonian Finns), Rugfinner (Rye Finns) from their major crop, or notably Svedjefinner (Slash-and-burn Finns). The people itself often use the term Finnskoginger (People from the forest of Finns).


The origin of the Forest Finns lies in the Swedish colonisation policy in Finland, a part of the Swedish Empire since the 13th century. The powers to the east of Finland, Novgorod and later Russia constantly challenged the Swedish sovereignty of the often sparsely populated provinces of Eastern Finland. To secure their realm, the Swedish kings, notably Gustav Vasa (r. 1528-60) and Eric XIV (r. 1561-8), encouraged farmers to settle these vast wilderness regions, which in turn were used to the traditionally slash-and-burn agriculture.

These settlements faced several problems, from conflicts with the original populations of Sami people and Karelians to harsh conditions living in frontier lands during war times. The fact...
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