A nation of five million people, Finland is situated between West and East, between Sweden and Russia, sharing for thousands of years religious, historical, political, social, and cultural influences and experiences with its neighbours and the different worlds they represent.
Finnish, a Finno-Ugric language related to Estonian and Hungarian, is spoken by 94% of Finland’s population, by 300,000 in Sweden, and by large numbers in Canada, the United States, and other countries. The other constitutionally recognized group, the Finland-Swedes, comprises over six percent of the population. The Finns have a strong commitment to their languages and to their culture. Their national epic, the Kalevala, compiled in the 19th century from old Finnish epic narrative poems and incantations, soon became a national symbol and continues to this day to inspire the growth and development of the country’s creative force. Today the entire world responds to Finnish achievements in music, literature, the arts and architecture, and celebrates the work of such outstanding figures as Jean Sibelius, Aki Kaurismäki, Alvar Aalto, and Eliel and Eero Saarinen.
Finnish studies at the University of Toronto are presently engaged in teaching the Finnish language - a three-year sequence - and in offering other courses on the literature and culture of Finland.