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Swedish minorities (the s.c.nordic FAQ)
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Swedish minorities

 

7.3.8 History of the Sweden-Finns

[ By: Jari Partanen ]

A movement of people across the sea from Finland to Sweden (as well as from Sweden to Finland) has been a most natural phenomenon for the last one thousand years. There was a close connection between "Sweden" and "Finland" already in the pre-Christian era.

Right from the beginning an essential part of the population of Stockholm has been Finns - both Finnish speaking and Swedish speaking. (I.e. Finns in the meaning as originating from Finland of today. Crossing the language border was very natural for the Finns in the old days, as a means or result of climbing upwards in the society. This did not make these people non-Finns, as little as English language makes an Irishman non-Irish.) Due to the higher mortality rates a constant flow of migrants was a must for a medieval town, and the migrants from Finland constituted in the Middle Ages 10-20% of the population - in the later centuries in the order of 5%.

The Finns also formed a significant part of the countryside population. The main direction of the Finnish movement was in the 14th century to Uppland - and later to Södermanland, Närke, Västmanland and Bergslagen. In these provinces also several towns got a Finnish minority.

The 16th and the 17th centuries witnessed a large-scale movement of Savolaxians to Dalarna, Värmland, Gästrikland, Hälsingland, Medelpad and Ångermanland. At this time Savolax was experiencing a rapid growth of population because of the efficient forest farming technique, which gave nourishment for big families, and enabled an expansion of agriculture to new and new areas. The expansion in the Scandinavian woods did not stop with the border between Norway and Sweden, why Finnskogar ("Finn woods") exist also in Norway.

Most Finns who moved to Sweden belonged to the working class - or were farmers. However, also merchants and priests were represented. Especially during the times of Russian occupations also many upper class people moved from Finland to Sweden. The impact of the Sweden-Finns was probably at its strongest in the 15th and 16th centuries. At that time the Swedish language used by common people was full of Finnish loan words, which shows how the Finns brought with them their customs and techniques, thus making their contribution to the development of Sweden. (Many Finnish words were in common use in old Swedish: känga, pajta, pjäxa, kont, ria, pörtom, pärta, kappe, katsa, kalja, and so on...)

The expansion of the realm in the 17th century led to a weakened position for the Finnish language. And in connection with the swedifying (or de-danefying) of the 1645 and 1658 gained Scandinavian provinces also the forests-Finns in central Scandinavia were required (from 1646) to learn the Swedish language. After that Finnish was used more or less secretly. However, still in the beginning of the 19th century the estimated number of forest-Finns was 50.000; half of them understood Finnish. The last speaker of Finnish language was Niittahon Jussi, who died in 1965.

The Sweden-Finns did not disappear anywhere, even though the countries were separated in 1809. An estimate from 1836 states that the number of Finns in the reach of the Finnish parish of Stockholm was 16.000 to 20.000. However, from now on new arrivals from Finland were naturally regarded as immigrants.

Nowadays the number of Sweden-Finns is 200.000 to 500.000, depending on criteria. Most of them are rather recent immigrants, or their descendents, who moved to Sweden in the 60'ies and the 70'ies when many Swedish industries were actively searching for labour force from Finland.

The Finnish language has a special position in Sweden. Some people believe that the availability of services in Finnish is inadequate. There are however for example 10 private schools giving education in Finnish and also many Finnish classes in other schools.

The Sweden-Finns have not been very active in forming institutions of their own. The biggest reason for this is that the assimilation to the main stream culture has been so easy - the differences in the way of life are small. The Finnish parish in Stockholm has been continuously functioning from the year 1533. (It was the first place in the world were Christian church ceremonies were held in Finnish.) The Finns have generally been accepted well in the Swedish society; also the Crown encouraged migration. Generally, the Sweden-Finns do not isolate themselves: they mingle with the Swedes and marry a Swede. The major exception was the Finnish speaking forest farmers.

The Sweden-Finns have taken part in all stages of the history of Sweden. Also today's Sweden-Finns are giving their contribution to the Swedish way of life; scratching the surface of surprisingly many Swedish cultural celebrities would reveal a Finnish origin. The existence of people with roots in Finland, as well as Finnish language and culture, have always been a characteristic features of Sweden.

 

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7.3.9 Native minorities in Sweden

[ By: Johan Olofsson ]

Four groups in Sweden have, or have had, any kind of official recognition as minorities with certain (however rather limited) minority rights. Additionally the population in the last incorporated provinces (Jämtland, Härjedalen, Bohuslän, Gotland, Halland, Skåne and Blekinge) and the people of Dalarna are to varying degree perceiving themselves as less Swedish than other citizens.

[ Sámi | Tornedalians | Gypsies | Jews ]

Sámi
[ see also section 2.3! ]

During the last thousands of years the Germanic people have inhabited more and more of the Scandinavian peninsula. The people living here before the Germanians has retreated without a struggle. For at least from the late medieval era taxation and exploiting trade have been the major kinds of contact.

The Scandinavian kings declared themselves to be kings also over the "Fenni" or the "Lapps" - but these subjects were without most citizens' rights. It is questionable if the taxation gave any value in return to the Sámis other than the relief from extermination.

There has been much scientific debate regarding these people's early history in disciplines such as linguistics, archaeology, genetics and physical antropology. The impression of these discussions is the major uncertainty and dependency on contemporary societal debate. We can conclude that we don't know when the people of Sámi became "one" people, but in the year 98 A.D. the "Fenni" are reported by the historian Tacitus as being distinct from the Germanians.

We don't know who lived in Scandinavia in the earliest times; and claim of links in archaeological findings with either Germanians or "Fenni" seem to be pure speculations. It is not until the Viking era we can make plausible guesses. However, there are serious scholars that think that continous cultural presence can be shown in coastal areas of North Scandinavia from late mesolithic periods onwards. And that these people are the forefathers of the Sámi. Allthough this theory is not finally proved it is well founded and deserves to be taken seriously. We also don't know if a non-Sámi population have lived in Southern Scandinavia before the Norse-men, and maybe been assimilated in the Norse culture, but archaeological findings make this plausible.

Linguistic evidences indicate contacts between the Finns and the Sámi people for at least 2'000 years, and contacts with the Norse language at least since the start of Viking time 1'300 years ago.

Trade (coercive trade) is likely to have evolved not later than in early medieval time. As the Swedish king opted for the province of Ostrobothnia /Österbotten, his position was strengthened as he offered the magnates to get royal privileges for trading with the "wild Lapps."

With the Reformation and the constitution of national states the position of the indigenous Sámi culture worsened. From time to time the governmental policy moved between seeing the "Lapps" as eternally inferior without normal human rights and on the other hand poor souls who should be made happier by becoming Swedes and abandoning the Sámi customs, languages and beliefs.

The Church's relations with the Sámi people were maybe not worse than elsewhere in the world where Christianity met shamans and animistic religions, but in our part of the world it is the last and worst example of atrocities along the line of witch-burnings, terror against orthodox Christian Karelians and forced conversions in connection with "crusades" to Finland. Christian missionaries were impressed by the supernatural power of shamans they met, and made what they could in the "war against Satan" - not only the shamans' drums were burned.

Over 50% of Sweden's area is by law (or in the Torne river valley through tenant contracts) designated for reindeer herding. Natural limitations such as lakes and sterile mountains make however only 135'000 km² (that is 30% of Sweden's area) to be usable pastures.

Silver, iron, timber, agriculture, roads and electrical power stations at the rivers have been reasons for the Swedes to colonize part after part of the Sámi land. In this process the Sámis have in practice had few, if any, rights. In this respect the position of the Sámis has not improved much.

In the 20th century the policy has become more humane. As the Norwegian government argued the ancient Sámi right to be invalid in the independent Norway, the Swedish government forced dozens of Sámi families to relocate to the South. This caused, of course, a lot tension between the newcomers and the Sámis already living in those southern areas. They also didn't understand each others languages. But at least no-one starved to death.

After 1945 the Swedish government has tried to rise the Sámis' health status and standard of living by demanding the herding and stock raising to be rationalized. Fewer and fewer have been allowed to live as reindeer herds, as the in Stockholm centrally decided number of reindeers per herd has increased.

Today 900 Sámis are allowed to work as reindeer herdsmen in Sweden. They are organized in 50 communities (Samebyar orSiida) with collective responsibility for a geographic area.

With the increased immigration to Sweden the attitude started to change in the 1960s, and with reforms aimed at immigrants also the linguistic position of the Sámis has improved. From 1968 the minority of the Sámi pupils who have a Sámi language as their mother-tongue has been granted the right to education in reading and writing their mother-tongue.

Since the 1980s the Sámi languages have been given a somewhat stronger position in the schools, changing the former policy which has led to 80% of the Sámis being unable to write in any Sámi language. (The same estimation says 20% of the 15'000 self-identifying Sámis of Sweden don't understand spoken Sámi.) The Sámi languages and heritage have for long time been connected with feelings of shame and inferiority.

The next century will show if Sweden has the moral strength to stop the exploition of the Sámi people and their land. The question is of course also if a change will come into effect before it's too late and the culture is doomed to extinction.


[ Sámi | Tornedalians | Gypsies | Jews ]

Tornedalians
Around year 1'000 the rich soil along the last 50 kilometers of the Torne river was colonized by Finns from Tavastia. They were followed by colonialists from Karelia (13th century) and Savolax (16th century). The Sámis who had used to hunt in the river valley retreated.

Swedes who at the same time colonized coastal plains along the Gulf of Bothnia came later to make contact with the Finnish settlements, and clear cut language borders evolved at the coast: some 20 kilometers west of the Torne estuary and at the eastern side some 200 kilometers to the south. In the inland the Finnish settlements spread to the south of Gällivare and in the north to "Finnmark" in Norway. There the Sámis dominated over Finns and scattered Swedes.

The people along the rivers and the Gulf shore lived from fishing, farming and hunting. At the Torne estuary a trade station sprang up, where merchants from southern Scandinavia, Narvik, the Kola peninsula, Finland and Russia made business.

As the Swedish realm was extended the peasants north of the Bothnic Gulf were no different than from other Finnish subjects of the Crown. The parishes in the North belonged to the see in Luleå, which was natural and much closer than the see in Turku. The priests had to speak Swedish with the bishop but Finnish with the parishioners, but knowledge in Swedish was expected from the clergy in all of the realm anyway.

In the 17th century Germans, Walloons and Swedes immigrated to establish mines and iron works. Many families have names indicating continental heritage, but they have spoken Finnish for centuries.

After the peace treaty of Hamina /Fredrikshamn 1809 when Sweden had to cede the eastern counties (i.e. Åland and Finland of the 18th century) and most of the northernmost county Norrbotten to Russia. The new border was defined by the Torne, Muonio and Könkämä rivers ignoring the fact that a river sooner unites than divides the people on its shores.

By and large the 1809 peace resulted in linguistically homogeneous countries, with a 15% Swedish minority in the Grand Duchy and a small 2½% Finnish minority in "rest-Sweden" [the remains of the realm] compared to 25%-75% in the realm before 1808, and 33%-66% before 1645. In both halves of the realm the minorities lived in areas where their language dominated the local societies. In post-1809 Sweden this was mainly in Norrbotten and in the woods of Värmland & Dalarna (north of lake Vänern), although the latter, the Finns in central Sweden, got rapidly assimilated during the 19th century.

The people along the Swedish-Finnish border rivers continued their contacts over the new border almost as if it didn't exist. But a new town had to be founded on the Swedish side: Haparanda. Except for the town, where some pure-Swedes came to reside, Finnish here remained the dominant language during all of the 19th century, and the area colonized by Finnish speakers came to grow - on both sides of the new border. The strong Læstadian revivalist movement contributed also to the survival of the Finnish speaking culture, as preaching mostly was in Finnish.

In recent years the distinction between standard-Finnish and Tornedalen-Finnish, and also cultural differences, have led the people of the Torne river area to emphasize their distinct identity as a group different from Finns, Sámis and Swedes with an own history and an own language. Hence Tornedalians (Fi: Tornionlaaksolainen; Sw: Tornedalingar) is used for this people.

The Finns of Scandinavia's more southern woods were swedified as mandatory education was introduced around 1850. The Finns around Gällivare were more or less assimilated as mining led to massive migration to the area. But the Tornedalians of the Torne river area preserved their Finnish culture and language.

Nordkalotten map At the end of the 19th century (and the growing tension between Norway and Sweden) Russia was again perceived as a serious threat to Sweden. And the Finnish nationalism had led the Swedish government to fear the Tornedalians to be more sympathetic to Russia than to Sweden.

Contemporary race-biological arguments, security interests and a wish to support the very poor municipalities led to a policy of extra state subsidies from 1888 for school buildings and teachers in the Finnish areas of Norrbotten if, but only if, the educational language was Swedish. Year 1920 no schools taught in Finnish any more. But the area where Finnish was the dominating language was considerably bigger than 100 years before. (On the other hand: The Finnish areas in the south, on the border between Dalarna, Värmland and Norway, had practically disappeared.)

The situation in Sweden was hence very different from Finland, where the minority was much bigger and where the state administration initially used only the minority language. Ragnar Lassinantti (1915-85 and born at Pello on the border to Finland) was the first person of the Finnish native minority to become prominent in the Swedish society. As a county governor of Norrbotten 1966-81 he was an eager advocate of improvements for the Finnish language in Sweden, and for Nordic cooperation - particularly at the Nordkalotten.

In sports, however, the small population from the Tornedalen area has again and again produced Swedish champions and World champions, such as the wrestler Thomas Johansson and the ice hockey playing brothers Stig and Börje Salming.

Today a cultural area can be defined as all land along and north of the Torne river. The mining town Kiruna lies at the very border. People born and raised in this area north and east of Kiruna usually identify themselves as "Tornionlaaksolainen" (or in Swedish: Tornedaling) regardless of if they speak Finnish or not. Most do however, and only exceptionally pupils chose not to study Finnish now when it has been allowed. The national parliament decided that Finnish from 1962 should be a study option from grade 7, like French and German, but the local authorities were not too keen. In 1958 the national Swedish school board had declared that the locally decided ban on Finnish conversations on the school yard was annulled. Ten years later the board reminded the local authorities...

How many are the Tornionlaaksolainen?
Year 1930 the number of people preferring Finnish over for Sámi or Swedish was inquired in a regular census, and reported at 30'000 in the county of Norrbotten. Most of them lived at or north of the Torne river. Since then there has been much migration. Both immigration from Finland and "emigration" from the Torne river area to southern Sweden. People who have moved to the south have assimilated. The size of the population which today know Finnish ought to be approximately in the same size as the figure for 1930. However people's knowledge of Swedish today is greater, and many in the area speak as good Swedish as Finnish.


[ Sámi | Tornedalians | Gypsies | Jews ]

Gypsies
From the 16th century Gypsies are known as immigrants to Sweden.

Year 1637 all Gypsies were declared outlaws in a law unique in the Swedish history. In 1642 it was modified to an instruction to deport all Gypsies from county to county in the direction of the borders of the realm. Male Gypsies could be sentenced to beheading for any crime.

As a result many of the Gypsies concentrated in the eastern part of the realm, in what today is Russian Karelia and Finland. They belong to the Sinte-Manuch group of Gypsies and are called Kalé-Gypsies.

At the end of the 19th century a group of Romany-Gypsies immigrated. Today over 1'500 descendants live in Sweden.

When the Nordic citizens became free to move and work in all of the Nordic countries a considerable part of the Kalé-Gypsies came from Finland to Sweden. This group is today larger than the former group. Their mother-tongues are different, but many of the Kalé-Gypsies have Finnish as their first language.

A third group of approximately the same size are refugees who arrived from central Europe in the last 50 years.

The Swedish policy has aimed at assimilation. The assimilation policy has had some success when it comes to the Gypsies with long tradition in Sweden, but fared very poorly with the newer arrivals. It has turned out that few Gypsies get employed, and relatively more Gypsies has become dependent on cash support from the municipalities than is the case for any other ethnic group in Sweden.

Gypsies cultivating their particular traits in clothes and morals are perceived as provoking by many (or most?) Swedes. The minority group doesn't appear to be loyal towards the Swedish society, and has continued to be the most stigmatized ethnic minority.


[ Sámi | Tornedalians | Gypsies | Jews ]

Jews
35'000 Jews live in the Nordic countries. (Well, the figure varies depending on whom you ask.) Two thirds in Sweden and one fourth in Denmark.

In Sweden the status of the Jewish religion became equal to the state church in some respects 1838, but Jewish immigration became anew prohibited. 1850-1870 Jews got right to live in all of the realm, to possess land and houses everywhere, to marry Christians, to become naturalized and to be elected to the parliament and to municipal bodies.

1880-1930 the number of Jews was doubled by refugees from Russia and Poland, leading to religious conflicts with the assimilated and influential (more or less secularized) Jews who often where prominent scholars (Eli F Heckscher), artists (Oscar Lewertin, Ernst Josephson, Isaac Grünewald) and industrialists (Bonnier, Philipson).

Before the second World War students, workers unions and scientists agitated against Jewish immigration with race-biological arguments. From 1938 Swedish custom officers were instructed to hinder all Jews to enter. The Jewish leadership in Sweden was keen on keeping good relations with the government and consented.

At least from 1942 the Swedish government had detailed informations about the German extermination of Jews and others in the concentration camps. With few exceptions Swedish officials agreed with the allied powers to keep this knowledge secret. During the war 7'000 refugees came from Denmark and Norway, and after the war 10'000 victims from Das Dritte Reich were hospitalized in Sweden, of which the majority soon moved on to other countries. (Other sources say it was as many as 9'000 Jews only from Denmark who escaped during the war.)

Around 1970 aproximately 3'000 refugees came from Poland and Czechoslovakia.

The Jews arriving in waves came to settle in different towns at different times, but after 1950 all Jewish communities have been characterized by rapid assimilation and secularization. The most orthodox Jews left Sweden. The founding of a Jewish school in Stockholm in the beginning of the 1950s is sometimes argued to have contributed to the successful assimilation, which however wasn't the intention.

Despite the fact that the most of the Swedish Jews of today are 1'st or 2'nd generation immigrants the Jewish organizations have neither been acknowledged as immigrant organization, nor have the Jews been acknowledged as a native minority.


Source: Svanberg, Ingvar & Runblom, Harald (editors): Det mångkulturella Sverige - En handbok om etniska grupper och minoriteter, Centrum för multietnisk forskning vid Uppsala universitet, Gidlunds Bokförlag, 2nd edition, Stockholm 1990, printed in Värnamo 1990, ISBN: 91-7843-037-2



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