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Finns in the United States

A History of Settlement, Dissent, and Integration

Auvo Kostiainen

Publication Year: 2014

Late-arriving immigrants during the Great Migration, Finns were, comparatively speaking, a relatively small immigrant group, with about 350,000 immigrants arriving prior to World War II. Nevertheless, because of their geographic concentration in the Upper Midwest in particular, their impact was pronounced. They differed from many other new immigrant groups in a number of ways, including the fact that theirs is not an Indo-European language, and many old-country cultural and social features reflect their geographic location in Europe, at the juncture of East and West. A fresh and up-to-date analysis of Finnish Americans, this insightful volume lays the groundwork for exploring this unique culture through a historical context, followed by an overview of the overall composition and settlement patterns of these newcomers. The authors investigate the vivid ethnic organizations Finns created, as well as the cultural life they sought to preserve and enhance while fitting into their new homeland. Also explored are the complex dimensions of Finnish-American political and religious life, as well as the exodus of many radical leftists to Soviet Karelia in the 1930s. Through the lens of multiculturalism, transnationalism, and whiteness studies, the authors of this volume present a rich portrait of this distinctive group.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

The history of the Finns in North America has been a target of interest for more than 100 years. In the 1920s, the number of first- and second-generation Finns in the United States reached circa 350,000. Today there are more than 600,000 persons in the United States who recognize their Finnish ancestry, while in Canada their number is more than 100,000. ...

Part 1. Introduction

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Updating and Rethinking the Finnish American Story

Jon Saari

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pp. 3-12

As written history is a collaboration of the living and the dead, it behooves us to examine the essential elements—the actors, the sources, the narrative themes, and the context for the stories—with a sharp eye on the living historians, who after all shape the tale and give it significance. ...

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Interest in the History of Finnish Americans

Auvo Kostiainen

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pp. 13-26

Historical interest in Finnish immigration to the United States may be divided into a few phases. First, in the early twentieth century the Finnish American past was examined through the genre of travel descriptions. Then, from the 1910s to the 1940s followed a period of historical interest that was characterized by strong national romantic overtones and an emphasis on the role of Finns in America. ...

Part 2. Colonial Settlement of the Swedes and Finns

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The Delaware Colonists and Their Heritage

Auvo Kostiainen

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pp. 29-38

In the mid-1600s, there existed the New Sweden colony, at the time when Finland was a part of the Swedish kingdom. Finns comprised a majority of the few hundred colonists who arrived to the Delaware River valley. The composition of the colony, however, has been a disputed topic and the target of nationalist writing in Sweden and in Finland; ...

Part 3. Seamen, Masses, and Individual Migrants of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

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Migration from Finland to North America

Reino Kero

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pp. 41-54

The mass emigration of Finns to the United States extended from the 1870s to the early 1920s, with a gross figure of about 389,000 Finns emigrating to North America, while every fifth person returned home. The 1920 federal census counted 150,000 persons born in Finland. ...

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Finnish Settlements in the United States: “Nesting Places” and Finntowns

Arnold R. Alanen

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pp. 55-74

The broad pattern of enclaves that Finns established throughout the United States included typical Finnish buildings such as saunas, churches, halls, and cooperative stores. There were several periods of migration—the American colonial era, the Gold Rush era, but most important was the 1880–1924 mass migration movement. ...

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Ambiguous Identity: Finnish Americans and the Race Question

Peter Kivisto, Johanna Leinonen

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pp. 75-88

The debate on the racial identity of the Finns in the twentieth century reflected the “scientific discussion” in American society at large. In the following, both popular and literary definitions and the definitions that gained currency within the natural and social sciences in Europe and the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are examined. ...

Part 4. Finnish Communities Organized

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Fighting for Temperance Ideas

Paul George Hummasti

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pp. 91-106

Each immigrant group in America established its own organizations for a number of reasons. This can be partly explained as a means to maintain ethnic ties and family connections. Ethnic ties persisted for long periods and were even revitalized in immigrant communities. ...

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Religious Activities of the Finns: An Examination of Finnish Religious Life in Industrialized North America

Gary Kaunonen

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pp. 107-130

After the long and arduous trip across the Atlantic, Finnish immigrants were now living in America, a secular country. This was quite the transition from living in Finland, where ecclesiastical doctrine and legislation dominated cultural, economic, and social life. ...

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Politics of the Left and the Right

Auvo Kostiainen

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pp. 131-156

The abundant Finnish American political activities were a response to the labor conditions, resulting in strikes and demonstrations. The activities were mostly concentrated in rival ideological groups: the first orientations were those of European-type socialists or social democrats, which suffered several ideological splits and lost supporters to syndicalism or industrial unionism as well as to Communism. ...

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“Sooner or Later You’re a Cooperator”: The Finnish American Cooperative Movement

Hannu Heinilä

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pp. 157-170

The formation of the cooperative stores is a landmark of the Finnish immigrant history, with national importance. They were strongest and most active in the Midwest, although Finnish communities both on the East and West Coasts were also known for their cooperatives. ...

Part 5. The Multitude of Cultural Life

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Finnish Identity in Immigrant Culture

Keijo Virtanen

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pp. 173-204

The many-sided and rich cultural pursuits and interests such as arts, theater, music, schooling, and sports played a central role in the process of Finnish immigrant adaptation to the new society in the United States and Canada. A close look at the development of such pursuits, and at variations in the levels of activity, ...

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Papers and Publications

Auvo Kostiainen

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pp. 205-218

Many types of publishing activities flourished in the Finnish American community, thus providing the immigrants with information and possibilities of network of contacts across the extensive continent and many geographical regions. This chapter discusses the formation of publishing companies, most of which were short-lived, although a number were active even for decades. ...

Part 6. Finland’s Minority Emigrants

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Finland-Swedes in North America

Mika Roinila

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pp. 221-240

The Finland-Swedish population has provided a relatively large proportion of immigrants, since every fifth Finn going to the United States was from the Swedish-speaking regions of Finland. The economic, social, political, organizational, and cultural differences between the Finnish Finns and Finland-Swedes have been a multifaceted issue, ...

Part 7. Connected to Finland

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Distant Dreams, Different Realities: North American Immigrants Revisit Finland

Erik Hieta

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pp. 243-252

Many Finns who migrated to North America later either returned to Finland for good or often took part in various types of tourist trips, telling stories about the countries to which they had been and having different ideas and expectations about what exactly they were hoping to find in Finland on their return. ...

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Help among Nations: The Humanitarian Impulse in American–Finnish Relations

Erik Hieta

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pp. 253-262

Relief activities on behalf of Finland took place during the First World War and the Second World War, most particularly during the Winter War of 1939–40 and its aftermath, and the activities significantly impacted American–Finnish relations and Finnish American communities. ...

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The Return Migration of Finns from North America

Keijo Virtanen

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pp. 263-272

Roughly 90 percent of the Finnish emigrants to America between 1860 and 1930 planned to make only a preliminary working trip: their purpose was to earn money and then return to Finland. Of the 380,000 emigrants, only 20 percent came back permanently. ...

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Deported Finns

Auvo Kostiainen

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pp. 273-282

Although the United States was a land of dreams for immigrants, in real life it could be something else: their reception and final deportation was, to many immigrants, a nightmare. This contradictory face of the New World is seen in the formulation of the deportation policies, which were an important part of the policies of the immigrant-receiving countries, as they are in the contemporary world. ...

Part 8. Acculturation and Generations

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One Culture, Two Cultures? Families of Finns in the United States in the Twentieth Century

Johanna Leinonen

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pp. 285-296

This article examines changes that have taken place in the family life of Finns in the United States over the course of the twentieth century. The following two passages reflect aptly how Finnish families in the United States have changed over the course of the twentieth century. ...

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The Transnational Practices of Finnish Immigrants

Peter Kivisto

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pp. 297-308

Finns offer an instructive case of political transnationalism, particularly during the period known as Karelia fever of the 1930s, during which time several thousand Finns from the United States and Canada departed for Soviet Karelia to help the Communist regime build the “Labor Republic.” ...

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Who Is a “Real” Finn? Negotiating Finnish and Finnish American Identity in the Contemporary United States

Johanna Leinonen

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pp. 309-316

This chapter focuses on the processes of defining and redefining Finnish identity and traditions that are taking place among recent immigrants from Finland and American-born descendants of earlier Finnish immigrants in the present-day United States, utilizing oral history interviews that I conducted with thirty-five Finnish-born women living in Minnesota. ...

Part 9. Turning to Americans

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Adjustment and the Future

Mika Roinila

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pp. 319-326

The immigrant Finns have always represented a relatively small population, roots of which come from a largely agricultural environment in northern Europe, with specific linguistic and cultural features. Work was usually found in the expanding industrial America, although many longed for farmland. ...

For Further Reference

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pp. 327-332


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pp. 333-334


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pp. 335-342

E-ISBN-13: 9781609173982
E-ISBN-10: 1609173988
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611861068
Print-ISBN-10: 1611861063

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 45
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1st