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Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language that is quite different to the other Scandinavian Germanic languages. Finnish is closely related to Estonian, Karelian, Votic and Vepsian, and more remotedly to the Sámi languages.

During the medieval times, Finnish oral poetry flourished, but it was rarely written down. Well-known Finnish poems of late medieval origin are Piispa Henrikin surmavirsi ("Lay of the Killing of Bishop Henry"), Elinan surma ("Death of Maiden Elina") and Neito ja lohikäärme ("The Maiden and the Dragon"). A more archaic layer of epic poetry telling of warriors Ahti Saarelainen and Kaukamoinen and shamans Lemminkäinen and Väinämöinen is believed to have originated during the Viking times.

The New Testament was translated into Finnish during the 16th century, but until 1863 it was Swedish, not Finnish, that was the official language in Finland.

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