Although a majority were against NATO membership, a majority also responded that they did not see Finland’s NATO membership as a threat to Russia.
Russian speakers living permanently in Finland have a much more negative view of Finland’s NATO membership than the rest of the population. However, many believe that establishing positive relations with Russia is still possible despite NATO membership.
Polling firm Taloustutkimus surveyed 501 Russian speakers permanently residing in Finland on behalf of Yle.
According to the survey, conducted in April and May, 55% of Russian speakers living in Finland opposed NATO membership while only 20% supported it. One in four respondents was unable to give their opinion on the question.
Respondents included dual Russian and Finnish citizens, Russian citizens, Finnish citizens and citizens of countries whose business language is Russian.
Russian citizens living in Finland had the most negative attitude towards membership with 59% opposed to Finland joining the defense alliance. 55% of citizens with dual nationality opposed the alliance, as did 52% of Russian-speaking Finnish citizens.
These attitudes are significantly more negative than the rest of the population in Finland. General public support for the military alliance has grown rapidly this year and reached 76% in early May.
Always confident in the future relationship
Russian speakers living permanently in Finland are still convinced that it will be possible to establish and maintain good relations with Russia even after Finland joins NATO. 44% of respondents thought it was still possible to build a good relationship with Russia, while only 30% said they didn’t think it would be possible. 26% of respondents could not say if this would be possible or not.
Respondents were also asked if they thought Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership would endanger Russia’s security. At least a quarter of respondents saw it as a threat, but around half disagreed and less than a quarter could not articulate their position.
At the end of 2020, 84,000 native Russian speakers lived in Finland. According to Statistics Finland, over 432,800 people spoke a foreign language as their first language, with Russian being the most common.
Interviews for the survey were conducted by telephone between April 25 and May 23, when Finland’s NATO membership was formalized. The survey’s margin of error was about four percentage points.