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About Russia

Nations of Russia

The Saams

They call themselves saam? or saam?lja (on the Kola Peninsula), sabme, sabmelas^ (pl. sabmela at). Other nations have called them Fenn (Finn) and since the 12th century, Lapp (e.g. the form Lop' appears in Old Russian Chronicles at about 1000 AD). The use of the name Saam has been propagated in Russia since the 1920s and in Scandinavia within the last decades. The Samis themselves consider the name Lapp pejorative. Samis have six literary languages: Southern Sami (Norway), Lule Sami (Sweden), Northern Sami (Sweden, Finland and Norway), Inari and Skolt Sami (Finland), Kildin Sami (Russia).

There are different data about the Sami population, depending on the criteria of determining one's ethnicity. For example, ever since 1962 the basic criterion in Finland has been language. There those are considered Samis whose grandparent(s) (at least one of them) acquired Sami as the primary language, or who speak Sami as their primary language. In Norway and Sweden the basic criterion is the relation to reindeer-herding. In these countries citizenship is not separated from nationality, and therefore the number of Samis cannot be determined unambiguously. According to the Sami Council there are 30,000-70,000 Samis in Scandinavia.

Of the Samis living in Finland and Russia there are more exact data. In 1984 there were 11,475 inhabitants in the Sami region of Finland (Lapin laani), 3,892 of them were Samis, which makes 32.9% of the total population. In the Sami region of Russia (Murmansk Province) there were 1,115,000 inhabitants in 1989, the 1,890 Samis constituting 0.15% of them. Within 63 years the Kola Samis' command of their mother tongue has decreased drastically (55.8%).

In the whole, the history of the Samis is the history of their centuries-long withdrawal from other peoples towards the Arctic Ocean.

9th c - a massive northward migration of the Samis begins, as the Vikings occupy the area around Lake Ladoga. In Norway and Sweden the taxing and trading rights on the territory of the Samis are granted to the lords; the inhabitants of Hame and Karelia also practise taxation by robbery;
13th c - the Kola Peninsula comes under the Russian influence;
16th c - the Samis of Kola are baptised into Russian Orthodoxy;
17th c - Lutheran mission reaches the Western Samis;
1673 - King Karl XI of Sweden begins to consciously direct Swedish and Finnish colonists to the Sami areas; Samis become a minority in their native territory;
1868 - beginning of the colonisation of the Kola Peninsula with resident settlers, mostly Russians. The promotion of resident Russian life-style has Russified entire Sami villages by the turn of the century;
1930s - formation of collective farms, severe measures of conversion of the nomadic Samis to resident settlers, expropriation of large tracts of land for industrial and military use, stopping of all educational activities and abolition of the literary language in 1937, destruction of all Sami printed texts;
ca. 1940-60 - the policy of 'transforming' Samis into Norwegians, Swedes, Finns; in boarding schools Sami children are alienated from their people and mother tongue


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