The University of Helsinki scores highly in international comparisons of research and teaching in the humanities: it is among the leading Nordic and European universities and close to the top 50 in the world. The University’s high-quality multidisciplinary research in the humanities encompasses a wide spectrum of topics, from the past to the present and including languages and cultures. These topics are explored for the benefit of both the scientific community and the public. The research focuses particularly on cultural and linguistic diversity, interaction, language technology and corpora.

An interpreter of languages and cultures

The world is becoming more and more global, and encounters between different people, languages and cultures are part of everyday life. These encounters emphasise verbal and cultural interaction and the need to understand difference.

The Helsinki Area & Language Studies initiative brings together linguistics specializing in various languages from all over the world, and produces in-depth knowledge concerning other cultures for the benefit of Finnish society. In Indigenous Studies, researchers turn their gaze towards the margins, focusing on indigenous peoples' knowledge and notions of cultures, languages, identity, history and the significance of indigenous peoples.

The up-to-date and precise linguistic and cultural knowledge can help in the solving of global problems related to the environment, climate change and well-being, and will benefit trade, tourism and immigrant integration.

The Helsinki University Humanities program is also part of the faculty, with specific subjects are Indigenous Cultures and Languages and Environmental Humanities.

On the trail of shared experiences

How do we ensure mutual understanding? How does social interaction work? Linguists are addressing such questions with social scientists through the Intersubjectivity in Interaction project. This project is the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence 2012–17 and is led by Professor Marja-Leena Sorjonen at the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies.

Historical research looks at shared experiences and interaction from the point of view of the history of ideas, democracy and economy. Academy Professor Markku Peltonen studies the early stages of representative democracy. The Driving Forces of Democracy project takes a closer look at the patterns of democratization in Finland and Sweden. The Capitalism, State and Society research group, led by Professor Markku Kuisma, delves into the interaction between capitalism and society in Modern Europe.

Russia can be understood


There is no economics without politics and no politics without culture: the key to understanding Russia is a deep understanding of its culture. Finland is a superpower in the field of Russian studies, and Faculty of Arts’ Aleksanteri Institute is the field’s leading research community. Research in the humanities contributes to our wide-ranging understanding of Russia in the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Russian Studies 2012–17. The Centre of Excellence looks at Russian modernization from the point of view of choices. Choices are impacted by the rules and resources of the society, as well as both economic and political challenges, defined by cultural preconditions with roots reaching far into the Russian past.

Humanities with a digital touch

The world of digital information would not function without a humanistic approach. The large corpora of the Faculty of Arts are internationally well known and attract top researchers to the Finnish capital. The historical corpus of the English language, maintained by the Varieng Research Unit, has been used for over 20 years and is still in the process of becoming more comprehensive. Knowledge of language technology is needed, for instance, in the development of automobile GPS systems and smartphones capable of recognizing speech. In addition to language studies, the new methods used in digital humanities open new perspectives for researchers in various disciplines from history to literary studies.