Historical Linguistics Applied: Finno-Ugric Narratives in Finland and Estonia
Finno-Ugricity is one of the linguistic concepts whose meaning and usage have been extended beyond the boundaries of linguistics and applied in identity-building projects. The geographically and historically related cases of Finland and Estonia provide a good illustration of the uses of linguistic scholarship in the service of nationalism. More elusive than ties of “Slavic kinship” and not as easily translatable into a pan-ethnic ideology, the concept of Finno-Ugric kinship has nevertheless had a steady presence in the development of Finnish and Estonian identities throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, entangling the two countries’ linguistic traditions in a web of national engagements. In both cases, the original idea of linguistic kinship was subject to non-linguistic interpretations so as to highlight and contextualize various aspects of the Finnish and Estonian self-images, notions of collective past, and cultural heritage. In both cases, the concept proved highly flexible.