Jewish and Muslim Communities

Finland Table of Contents

In the 1980s, there were about 1,300 Jews in Finland, 800 of whom lived in Helsinki and most of the remainder of whom lived in Turku. During the period of Swedish rule, Jews had been forbidden to live in Finland. Once the country became part of the Russian Empire, however, Jewish veterans of the tsarist army had the right to settle anywhere they wished within the empire. Although constrained by law to follow certain occupations, mainly those connected with the sale of clothes, the Jewish community in Finland was able to prosper, and 1890 it numbered about 1,000. Finnish independence brought complete civil rights, and during the interwar period there were some 2,000 Jews in Finland, most of them living in urban areas in the south. During World War II, Finnish authorities refused to deliver Jews to the Nazis, and the country's Jewish community survived the war virtually intact. By the 1980s, assimilation and emigration had significantly reduced the size of the community, and it was only with some difficulty that it maintained synagogues, schools, libraries, and other pertinent institutions.

The Muslim community in Finland was even smaller than the Jewish community; it numbered only about 900, most of whom were found in Helsinki. The Muslims first came to Finland from Turkey in the mid-nineteenth century and have remained there ever since, active in commerce. Like their Jewish counterparts, Finnish Muslims have had difficulty maintaining all the institutions needed by a social group because of their small number.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress