The Skolt Sámi or Skolts are a Sami ethnic group. They currently live in and around the villages of Sevettijärvi, Keväjärvi, Nellim in the municipality of Inari, at several places in the Murmansk Oblast and in the village of Neiden in the municipality of Sør-Varanger. The Skolts are considered to be the indigenous people of the borderland area between present-day Finland, Russia and Norway, i.e. on the Kola Peninsula and the adjacent Fenno-Scandinavian mainland. They belong to the eastern group of Sámi on account of their language and traditions, and are traditionally Orthodox rather than Lutheran Christians like most Sami and Finns.

Russian Skolt Sami after Photo 1871.jpg
Drawing of Russian Skolt Sami from 1871
Regions with significant populations
Skolt Sami, Finnish, Russian and Norwegian
Eastern Orthodox majority
Lutheran minority
Related ethnic groups
Other Saami peoples


As a result of the Treaty of Tartu (1920), the Skolt homeland was split in two: the western part, Petsamo, became part of Finland and the eastern part became part of the Soviet Union. The border became a threat to the identity of the Skolts as it grew difficult for them to live as they traditionally had with reindeer husbandry, hunting and fishing as the source of their livelihood. Many Finnish immigrants moved back to their traditional Skolt homeland. In 1926, one-quarter of Petsamo's population were Skolts, and in 1930 the proportion dropped to one-sixth.[4]

After the Winter War (1939), Finland lost its portion of the Rybachiy Peninsula to the Soviet Union and after the Continuation War (1941–1944), it lost Petsamo, too. As a result, the Skolts living in Suonikylä and Paatsjoki were evacuated to Finland, with the Suonikylä Skolts settling in Sevettijärvi, the Paatsjoki Skolts in Keväjärvi and along the Rautujoki River of Sevettijärvi, and the Petsamo Skolts in the villages of Mustola, and Sarmijärvi in Nellim.


Current estimates put the number of ethnic Skolt Sámi at around 1250, of whom approximately 400 can speak Skolt Sámi. Most of them live in Finland today.

In Finland, Russia and Norway they number about 700, 400 and possibly more than 150.[5]


The wooden Skolt Sámi Orthodox Church in Nellim

Saint Tryphon of Pechenga converted the Skolts to Christianity in the 16th century and even today, the majority of Skolts are members of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Skolt Sámi Orthodox Chapel in Neiden


  1. ^ a b Ethnologue report for language code: sms
  2. ^ "Skolt Sámi on Siida's website". Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  3. ^ a b Østsamisk museum, Neiden
  4. ^ Tuija Saarinen Seppo Suhonen: Koltat, karjalaiset ja setukaiset, Snellman-Instituutti 1995
  5. ^ Walton, Stephen J. (2012-07-14). "Skoltesamar". Klassekampen. p. 3. Dei fleste bur i Finland, der gruppa tel om lag sjuhundre personar. I Noreg bur det vel 150 skoltesamar, og i Russland kanskje litt fleire.

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