A member of the BEDLAN research team, Timo Rantanen (Department of Geography and Geology, University of Turku), began to collect the geographical distribution of the Uralic languages in a digital format. The work was done in collaboration with Jussi Ylikoski (University of Oulu). The aim was to produce a comprehensive database of the Uralic speaker areas, consisting of digital language distributions at the beginning of the 20th century and as they are today. Spatial information was mainly compiled from historical sources such as printed maps. The data was processed to vector polygons (areas) using geographic information systems (GIS). In addition, new information of the past and present distributions was collected in collaboration with the authors of the handbook The Oxford Guide to the Uralic Languages. Based on the compiled datasets, new maps of the Uralic languages were finally created. Map visualisations based on the same data have also been published in the handbook.
In sum, the geographical database includes the state-of-art knowledge of past and present day distribution of the Uralic languages and their dialects. New language maps are divided into three categories: 1) individual language maps, 2) maps for the main branches of Uralic, and 3) overall maps of the whole language family. You can also find the datasets and maps via interactive spatial data platform Uralic Historical Atlas (URHIA).
The geographical database project has received financial support from Kone Foundation, The Arctic University of Norway and the Finno-Ugrian Society.
At the same time, the UraHoli team collected historical spatial information of the other fields and created maps of, for example, past physical environment and archaeological cultures. UraHoli is a multidisciplinary team working on a review of linguistic, cultural and genetic history in Northwestern Eurasia. These datasets will also be published in URHIA.
See also our page on the Uralic language family for more information and a list of sources.