Finno-Ugrian languages and cultures

Finno-Ugrian Studies

Finno-Ugrian languages and cultures is a discipline that examines the structure, history and use of the Finno-Ugrian (i.e. Uralic) languages. In addition to linguistic methodology, another foundation for the studies is the physical and spiritual cultures of the people speaking the languages. Finno-Ugrian studies are divided into four study lines, which are the following: General linguistics, Sámi studies, Hungarian language and culture, and Estonian language and culture.

The students of the General linguistics line gain an introduction to the Finno-Ugrian languages, language minorities and the environments in which the languages are spoken. Important methods in linguistics include historical and comparative linguistics, as well as contrastive, typological and areal perspectives. The subject provides an up-to-date perspective on examining multilingualism and multiculturalism in Russia. In recent years, sociolinguistic research questions have become an increasingly important element of Finno-Ugrian studies. Research into the Sámi languages provides a link with research done in other Nordic countries.  Due to the nature of the research literature and environment it is necessary for the students to have skills in German and Russian or in the Scandinavian languages.

Studies in Sámi focus on the Sámi, their languages, culture and history from a multidisciplinary perspective. The Sámi languages are examined in particular within the framework of minority issues and ethnohistory.  A sound practical proficiency is achieved in Northern Sámi in particular. The studies also cover the natural environment in the Arctic and ecological questions in the north, and examine the traditional livelihoods of the Sámi and the changes to them. In addition to the material culture, students are introduced to the spiritual culture, for example the religion, mythology, art and folklore and literature of the Sámi.
There are around 50,000–100,000 Sámi living in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia. Some of them live outside the actual Sámi areas, for example in the capital cities. Sámi studies provide students with a good perspective on multiculturalism in Finland and on various questions concerning minority cultures and languages and ethnic identity. The knowledge gained during the studies can be used in various expert positions. The aim of the studies is to give students the skills to pursue careers throughout the world that require knowledge of minority and indigenous peoples.

Hungarian language and culture is a multidisciplinary study line, which provides intensive training in Hungarian language and literature. Fluency in Hungarian opens up the diverse Hungarian culture to students; however, some of the literature and culture courses are taught in Finnish. Language and culture studies are traditionally supported by visits to Hungary to attend a summer university or under a student exchange scheme. Sound language proficiency and cultural knowledge provide the skills to accept positions requiring expertise in these areas in Finland or internationally. The traditional special relationship between Finland and Hungary is nowadays particularly apparent in cooperation in the culture sector.

The Estonian language and culture study line focuses on acquiring basic skills in the Estonian language, developing language proficiency and acquiring diverse cultural knowledge about Estonia. The central starting point is the wide-ranging interaction across the Gulf of Finland, characterised by various cultural connections and social contacts. Estonian studies offered at the University of Helsinki are the largest and most varied in the field outside Estonia.

Contact information

Street address: Unioninkatu 40
Mailing address: P.O. Box 24, 00014 Helsingin yliopisto
Tel. 02941 40015
E-mail: sugl-kanslia(at)
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>> More information in Finnish.