"Karelian [in Karelian and Finnish karjala] Northern and Eastern Europe: north-western and west-central Russia. Spoken in several separate areas in the Russian Federation: northern and central regions of the Republic of Karelia, mainly in Loukhi, Kem’, Kalevala and Muyezerskiy counties, the western parts of Belomorsk, Segezha and Medvezh’yegorsk counties, the southwestern part of Kondopoga County and the Porosozero region of Suoyarvi (Suoja¨rvi) County; small pockets in the vicinity of Tikhvin and Novgorod; in Tver’ Province, mainly around Tolmachi, Maksatikha and Ves’yegonsk. In Finland, Karelian is spoken by people evacuated, in 1940 and 1944, from former Finnish territories north of Lake Ladoga including Suoja¨rvi, Suistamo and Korpiselka¨ counties, currently the central parts of Suoyarvi (Suoja¨rvi) County in the Republic of Karelia, and in two border villages in Suomussalmi County in Oulu Province. In the Russian Federation, there are possibly approximately 35,000 speakers; the combined figure for Karelian, Olonetsian, and Lude in 1989 was 63,000 which may actually be too low, because many speakers outside the Republic may not have been registered as such. There are in any case more Karelian speakers in Tver’ Province than in the Republic of Karelia. A number of children learn the language, but most if not all of them become more fluent in Russian and largely stop using Karelian later in life. Following the initiative of the local cultural society (in Finnish, Uhtua-Seura) and the participation of a Finnish linguist (Annika Pasanen), two language nests have recently, in 1999 and 2002, started to operate in the northwestern county centre of Kalevala (Uhtua). A language shift in the county centre has proceeded rapidly, so that people under thirty years of age possess little knowledge of Karelian, those between 30 and 70 generally have a passive command but prefer Russian in most contexts, and only those seventy years and older use the native language in all its traditional functions. The situation is, however, much better in smaller villages of the county such as Vuokkiniemi and Jyskyja¨rvi, where speakers of all ages can be found. The trend is everywhere such that most Karelian speakers change to Russian when addressing young people, but there are also dedicated individuals who use Karelian as much as possible. Since the language nests have not yet produced any clear changes to the better, the choice of home language remains the decisive factor in the survival of Karelian. Speaking Karelian still bears a major stigma, so it is not surprising that shifting to Russian is seen as the easy and perhaps inevitable solution. Since the value of the native language is also felt strongly, a dilemma arises, and people escape to sweeping the problem of language maintenance under the carpet, and end up in a state of collective self-betrayal where the language is claimed to be in active use in families while everybody knows that this is not the case. In Finland, there are a few thousand speakers, all elderly; even those who are fluent in Karelian use mostly Finnish. A literary language existed in Tver’ Province in the 1930s, and it has been revived recently. Another literary variant, based on the northern dialects, is now used in the Republic of Karelia. Definitely endangered in the Russian Federation; critically endangered in Finland."
Encyclopedia of the World's Endangered Languages