Finnic (Fennic, sometimes Baltic Finnic) may refer to Finnish-similar languages spoken close to the Gulf of Finland, i.e. the Balto-Finnic subgroup of the Finno-Ugric languages. Confusingly, the term may also refer to a larger subgroup that includes also the Sami languages.
Today, in a Finnish and Estonian context, Finnic may also refer to what's perceived as culturally and ethnically-related nations, i.e. the settled peoples speaking Baltic Finnic languages, traditionally living in Karelia, Ingria, Estonia, Finland, Northernmost Norway and Northern Sweden, and their farmer-hunter culture. Finnic used in this way establish the contrast to the Slavonics, the Balts, and the Germanic Scandinavians, but also to the more distantly akin, and historically nomadic, Samis.
According to the Estonian Fenno-Ugria Foundation, the Finnic peoples include (from South to North):
It is debated whether or not the Chudes (mentioned by Jordanes 550 A.D.) were an unidentified Finnic tribe or whether a Finnic group might be considered to be the original Chudes. It has also been considered whether or not Russian chud (чудь) is borrowed from Sami or vice versa.
There exist different theories on the pre-history of the farming Finnic peoples. The direction of migration over the Karelian Isthmus during the 1st millennium is disputed.
However, according to earlier established theories, agricultural Finnics are believed to have inhabited parts of Balticum before the first millennium. Maybe due to the Germanic and Slavonic Völkerwanderung, maybe due to other reasons, they seem to have migrated into the inland of present-day Finland and Karelia in the first millennium. In the first centuries of the second millennium, they reached the Gulf of Bothnia where their descendents today speak Meänkieli. After the Great Plague, a larger immigrant wave swept northern Scandinavia in the 16th–18th centuries, spanning to Lake Vänern in the south and to the Arctic Sea in the north. While their descendants in the rest of Scandinavia have assimilated, they remain as a distinct minority in northern Norway, where they recognize themselves as Kvens or Kvener.