|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Swedes, Estonian Swedes|
The Swedish-speaking population of Finland (whose members are often called Swedish-speaking Finns, Finland-Swedes, Finland Swedes, Finnish Swedes, Swede Finns, Swedish Finns, or Swedes of Finland--see below; Swedish: finlandssvenskar; Finnish: suomenruotsalaiset; the term Swedo-Finnish--Swedish: finlandssvensk; Finnish: suomenruotsalainen--can be used as an attribute) is a linguistic minority in Finland. They maintain a strong identity and are seen either as a separate ethnic group, while still being Finns,[Note 1][Note 2][Note 3] or as a distinct nationality.[Note 4] They speak Finland Swedish, which encompasses both a standard language and distinct dialects that are mutually intelligible with the dialects spoken in Sweden and, to a lesser extent, other Scandinavian languages. On 6 November, Finnish Swedish Heritage Day, a general flag flying day, is celebrated in Finland; that day celebrates the Swedish-speaking population of Finland, their culture, and the bilinguality of Finland.
According to Statistics Finland, Swedish is the mother tongue of about 260,000 people in mainland Finland and of about 26,000 people in Åland, a self-governing archipelago off the west coast of Finland, where Swedish speakers constitute a majority. Swedish-speakers comprise 5.2% of the total Finnish population or about 4.9% without Åland. The proportion has been steadily diminishing since the early 19th century, when Swedish was the mother tongue of approximately 15% of the population and considered a prestige language. According to a statistical analysis made by Fjalar Finnäs, the population of the minority group is today stable, and may even be increasing slightly in total numbers since more parents from bilingual families tend to register their children as Swedish speakers. It is estimated that 70% of bilingual families--that is, ones with one parent Finnish-speaking and the other Swedish-speaking--register their children as Swedish-speaking.
The Swedish term finlandssvensk (literally Finland-Swede), which is used by the group itself, does not have an established English translation. The Society of Swedish Authors in Finland and the main political institutions for the Swedish-speaking minority, such as the Swedish People's Party and Swedish Assembly of Finland, use the expression Swedish-speaking population of Finland, but Swedish-speaking NGOs often use the term Finland-Swedes.
The Research Institute for the Languages of Finland proposes Swedish-speaking Finns, Swedish Finns, or Finland-Swedes, the first of which is the sole form used on the institute's website. Some debators insist for the use of the more traditional English-language form, Finland-Swedes, as they view the labelling of them as Swedish-speaking Finns as a way of depriving them their ethnic affiliation, reducing it to merely a matter of language and de-emphasising the "Swedish part" of Finland-Swedish identity, i.e. their relations to Sweden.[Note 5][Note 6]
Among Finnish Americans the term Swede-Finn became dominant before the independence of Finland in 1917, and the term has remained common to the present, despite later immigrants tending to use different terms such as Finland-Swede. The expressions Swedish-speaking Finns, Swedes of Finland, Finland Swedes, Finnish Swedes, and Swedish Finns are all used in academic literature.
The first Swedish arrivals in Finland have often been linked to the putative First Swedish Crusade (ca. 1150) which, if it took place, served to expand Christianity and annex Finnish territories to the kingdom of Sweden. Simultaneously the growth of population in Sweden, together with lack of land, resulted in Swedish settlements in Southern and Western coastal areas of Finland.[Note 7] The Second Swedish Crusade against the Tavastians in the 13th century extended the Swedish settlements to Uusimaa.[Note 8] During the 14th century, the population expansion from Sweden proper increasingly took the form of organised mass migration: the new settlers came in large numbers in large ships from various parts of Sweden's Eastern coast, from Småland to Hälsingland. Their departure from Sweden proper to Finland was encouraged and organized by the Swedish authorities.[Note 9] The coast of Ostrobothnia received large-scale Swedish settlements during the 13th and 15th centuries, in parallel with events that resulted in Swedish expansion to Norrland[Note 10] and Estonia's coastal area.
The origin of the Swedish-speaking population in the territory that today constitutes Finland was a subject of fierce debate in the early 20th century as a part of the Finland's language strife. Some Finland-Swede scholars, such as Ralf Saxén, Knut Hugo Pipping and Tor Karsten, used place names in trying to prove that the Swedish settlement in Finland dates back to prehistoric times. Their views were opposed mainly by Heikki Ojansuu in the 1920s.
In 1966, the historian Hämäläinen (as referenced by McRae 1993) addressed the strong correlation between the scholar's mother-tongue and the views on the Scandinavian settlement history of Finland.
"Whereas Finnish-speaking scholars tended to deny or minimize the presence of Swedish-speakers before the historically documented Swedish expeditions starting from the 12th century, Swedish-speaking scholars have found archeological and philological evidence for a continuous and Swedish or Germanic presence in Finland from pre-historic times."[Note 11]
Since the late 20th century, several Swedish-speaking philologists, archaeologists and historians from Finland have criticized the theories of Germanic/Scandinavian continuity in Finland. Current research has established that the Swedish-speaking population and Swedish place names in Finland date to the Swedish colonisation of Uusimaa and Ostrobothnia coastal regions of Finland in the 12th and 13th centuries.
The proportion of Swedish speakers in Finland has declined since the 18th century, when almost 20% spoke Swedish (these 18th-century statistics excluded Karelia and Kexholm County, which were ceded to Russia in 1743, and the northern parts of present-day Finland were counted as part of Norrland). When the Grand Duchy of Finland was formed and Karelia was reunited with Finland, the share of Swedish speakers was 15% of the population.
During the 19th century a national awakening occurred in Finland. It was supported by the Russian central administration for practical reasons, as a security measure to weaken Swedish influence in Finland. This trend was reinforced by the general wave of nationalism in Europe in the mid-19th century. As a result, under the influence of the German idea of one national language, a strong movement arose that promoted the use of the Finnish language in education, research and administration.[Note 12] Many influential Swedish-speaking families learned Finnish, fennicized their names and changed their everyday language to Finnish, sometimes not a very easy task. This linguistic change had many similarities with the linguistic and cultural revival of 19th century Lithuania where many former Polish speakers expressed their affiliation with the Lithuanian nation by adopting Lithuanian as their spoken language. As the educated class in Finland was almost entirely Swedish-speaking, the first generation of the Finnish nationalists and Fennomans came predominantly from a Swedish-speaking background.
|Swedish-speakers as a percentage of Finland's population2|
The language issue was not primarily an issue of ethnicity, but an ideological and philosophical issue as to what language policy would best preserve Finland as a nation. This also explains why so many academically educated Swedish speakers changed to Finnish: it was motivated by ideology. Both parties had the same patriotic objectives, but their methods were completely the opposite. The language strife would continue up until World War II.
The majority of the population - both Swedish and Finnish speakers - were farmers, fishermen and other workers. The farmers lived mainly in unilingual areas, while the other workers lived in bilingual areas such as Helsinki. This co-existence gave birth to Helsinki slang - a Finnish slang with novel slang words of Finnish, local and common Swedish and Russian origin. Helsinki was primarily Swedish-speaking until the late 19th century, see further: Fennicization of Helsinki.
The Finnish-speaking parties, under the lead of Senator E.N Setälä who played a major role in the drafting the language act (1922) and the language paragraphs (1919) in the Finnish constitution, interpreted the language provisions so that they are not supposed to suggest the existence of two nationalities. According to this view Finland has two national languages but only one nationality. This view was never shared in the Swedish-speaking political circles and paved the way for a linguistic conflict. Contrary to the Finnish-speaking view the leaders of the Swedish nationality movement (Axel Lille and others) maintained that the Swedish population of Finland constituted a nationality of its own and the provisions of the constitution act were seen to support the view. The Finnish-speaking political circles denoted the cultural rights of Finland-Swedes as minority rights. The Finland-Swedish political view emphasized the equality of the Swedish nationality next to the Finnish-speaking nationality and the fact the national languages of Finland were the languages of the respective nationalities of the country, not the languages of the state itself. The concept of minority, although de facto the case for Swedish speakers, was perceived as being against the spirit of the constitution. However, gradually after the Second World War, the concept of minority has been increasingly applied to Swedish speakers, even within the Finland-Swedish political discourse.
The Swedish nationality movement was effectively mobilized during the aftermath of Finnish independence and the civil war that shortly followed. The Swedish assembly of Finland was founded to protect the linguistic integrity of Swedish-speakers and seek fixed territorial guarantees for the Swedish language for those parts of the country where Swedish speakers made up the local majority. The Finnish-speaking parties and leadership studiously avoided self-government for Swedish speakers in the Finnish mainland. Of the broader wishes of the Swedish-speaking political movement only cultural concessions--most notably administrative autonomy for Swedish schools and a Swedish diocese--were realized, which nevertheless were sufficient to prevent more thorough conflict between the ethno-linguistic groups.[Note 13]
The urbanization and industrialization that began in the late 19th century increased the interaction between people speaking different languages with each other, especially in the bigger towns. Helsinki (Helsingfors in Swedish and dominantly used until the late 19th century), named after medieval settlers from the Swedish province of Hälsingland, still mainly Swedish speaking in the beginning of the 19th century, attracted Finnish-speaking workers, civil servants and university students from other parts of Finland, as did other Swedish-speaking areas.[Note 14] As a result, the originally unilingual Swedish-speaking coastal regions in the province of Nyland Uusimaa were cut into two parts. There was a smaller migration in the opposite direction, and a few Swedish-speaking "islands" emerged in towns like Tampere, Oulu and Kotka.
According to official statistics, Swedish speakers made up 12.9% of the total population of Finland of 2.6 million in 1900. By 1950 their proportion had fallen to 8.6% of a total of 4 million people, and by 1990 they formed 5.9% of the country's 5 million people. This sharp decline has since levelled off to more modest annual declines.
An important contribution to the decline of Swedish speakers in Finland during the second half of the 20th century was that many Swedish speakers emigrated to Sweden. An estimated 30-50% of all Finnish citizens who moved to Sweden were Swedish-speaking Finns. Reliable statistics are not available, as the Swedish authorities, as opposed to their Finnish counterpart, do not register languages. Another reason is that the natural increase of the Finnish-speakers has been somewhat faster than that of the Swedish-speakers until recent times, when the trend has reversed.
During most of the 20th century, marriages across language borders tended to result in children becoming Finnish speakers, and knowledge of Swedish declined. During the last decades the trend has been reversed: many bilingual families chose to register their children as Swedish speakers and put their children in Swedish schools. One motive is the language skills needed during their professional lives. Population statistics do not recognize bilingualism.
The Finnish substrate toponyms (place names) within today's Swedish-speaking areas have been interpreted as indicative of earlier Finnish settlements in the area.[Note 15][Note 16] A toponymical analysis from e.g. the Turunmaa archipelago--today largely Swedish-speaking--suggests the existence of a large population of native Finnish speakers up until the early modern age.[Note 17] Whether the Finnish settlements prior to the arrival of the Swedes have been permanent or seasonal is debated. According to another toponymic study, some Finnish villages and farms on the south-western coast and the archipelago became Swedish-speaking by assimilation.[Note 18]
According to an interpretation based on the results of recent (2008) genome-wide SNP scans and on church records from the early modern period, Swedish-speaking peasantry has been overwhelmingly endogamous. Historian Tarkiainen (2008) presents that from the late Middle Ages onwards until relatively recent times, Swedish-speaking peasants tended to select their marriage partners from the same parish, often from the same village as themselves. This tends to be the rule among traditional peasant communities everywhere. As tightly-knit peasant communities tend to assimilate potential newcomers very quickly, this has meant that most marriages within the Swedish-speaking peasantry during this period were contracted with members of the same language group. During the time of early immigration by Swedes to the coastal regions (approximatively between 1150 and 1350), the situation was different and according to a study from the 1970s (as referenced by Tarkiainen, 2008) the intermarriage rate between local Finns and Swedish newcomers was considerable. According to Tarkiainen, in the areas of initial Swedish immigration, the local Finns were assimilated into the Swedish-speaking population.[Note 20]
The Finland-Swedish folklore at the coast has been traditionally maritime influenced. The themes for the folklore are typical in the Nordic context. Stories and tales involving the evil water-spirit are in central. The origins of the tales have been German and French from where they have adapted to the Nordic-milieu. The (Finland)-Swedish folklore has had a significant impact also to the folklore of Finnish-speakers.[Note 21]
Finland-Swedish literature has a rich legacy. Under the lead of Edith Södergran, who also captivated audiences in English-speaking world, Gunnar Björling and Elmer Diktonius, the Finland-Swedish modernists of the early 20th century had a significant impact for the whole Scandinavian modernism.
In a 2008 study a joint analysis was performed for the first time on Swedish and Finnish autosomal genotypes. Swedish-speakers from Ostrobothnia (reference population of the study representing 40% of all Swedish-speakers in Finland) did not differ significantly from the neighbouring, adjacent Finnish-speaking populations but formed a genetic cluster with the Swedes[Note 22] and also the amount of genetic admixture between the groups which have taken place historically. According to a 2008 Y-DNA study, a Swedish-speaking reference group from Larsmo, Ostrobothnia, differed significantly from the Finnish-speaking sub-populations in the country in terms of Y-STR variation. This study however was comparing one small Swedish-speaking municipality of 4652 inhabitants to Finnish-speaking provinces and only tells about the origin of two different Y-DNA haplotypes.[Note 23]
According to a sociological study published in 1981, the Swedish-speaking Finns meet the four major criteria for a separate ethnic group: self-identification of ethnicity, language, social structure, and ancestry.[Note 24] However, not all Swedish-speaking Finns are willing to self-identify as representatives of a distinct ethnicity. The major political organisation representing the Swedish-speakers in Finland, the Swedish People's Party, has defined the Swedish-speaking Finns as a people who express Finnish identity in the Swedish language. The issue is debated: an opposite view is still that the Swedish-speaking Finns are a sub-group of the ethnic Swedes, östsvenskar or "East Swedes".
Despite these varying viewpoints, the Swedish-speaking population in Finland in general have their own identity distinct from that of the majority, and they wish to be recognized as such.[Note 25] In speaking Swedish, Swedish-speaking Finns predominantly use the Swedish word finländare (approximately translatable as Finlanders) when referring to all Finnish nationals. The purpose is to use a term that includes both themselves and Finnish-speaking Finns because the Swedish word finnar, in Finland-Swedish usage, implies a Finnish-speaking Finn. In Sweden, this distinction between finländare and finnar is not widely understood and often not made.
In literature regarding to international law and minority rights, a view that the Swedish-speakers in Finland not only constitute an ethnic minority but a distinct nationality has also been presented.[Note 26]
Marriages between Swedish- and Finnish-speakers are nowadays very common. According to a study commissioned by the Swedish Assembly of Finland in 2005, 48.5% of all families with children where at least one of the parents was Swedish-speaking were bilingual in the sense of one parent being Swedish- and the other Finnish-speaking (only families living in those municipalities where Swedish was at least a co-official language were included in this study). 67.7% of the children from these bilingual families were registered as Swedish-speaking. The proportion of those who attended schools where Swedish was the language of instruction was even higher. The Finnish authorities classify a person as a Swedish- or Finnish-speaker based only upon that person's (or parent's) own choice, which can be changed at any time. It is only possible to be registered either as Swedish- or Finnish-speaking, not both as in Canada, for example. It is significantly more common nowadays than it used to be[when?] for children from bilingual families to be registered as Swedish-speaking.
Areas of modern-day Finland were integrated into the Swedish realm in the 13th century, at a time when that realm was still in the process of being formed. At the time of Late Middle Ages, Latin was still the language of instruction from the secondary school upwards and in use among the educated class and priests. As Finland was part of Sweden proper for 550 years, Swedish was the language of the nobility, administration and education. Hence the two highest estates of the realm, i.e. nobles and priests, had Swedish as their language. In the two minor estates, burghers and peasants, Swedish also held sway, but in a more varying degree depending on regional differences.
Most noble families of the medieval period arrived directly from Sweden.[Note 27][Note 28] A significant minority of the nobility had foreign origins (predominantly German), but their descendants normally adopted Swedish as their first language.
The clergy in the earlier part the formation of the Lutheran Church (in its High Church form) was constituted most often of the wealthier strata of the peasantry with the closely linked medieval Finnish nobility and the rising burgher class in the expanding cities. The Church required fluency in Finnish from clergymen serving in predominantly or totally Finnish-speaking parishes (most of the country); consequently clerical families tended to maintain a high degree of functional bilingualism. Clerical families in the whole seem to have been more fluent in Finnish than the burghers as whole. In the Middle Ages, commerce in the Swedish realm, including Finland, was dominated by German merchants who immigrated in large numbers to the cities and towns of Sweden and Finland. As a result, the wealthier burghers in Sweden (and in cities as Turku (Åbo) and Vyborg (Viborg)) during the late Middle Ages tended to be of German origin. In the 19th century, a new wave of immigration came from German-speaking countries predominantly connected to commercial activities, which has formed a notable part of the grand bourgeoisie in Finland to this day .
After the Finnish war, Sweden lost Finland to Russia. During the period of Russian sovereignty (1809-1917) the Finnish language was promoted by the Russian authorities as a way to sever the cultural and emotional ties with Sweden and to counter the threat of a reunion with Sweden. Consequently, the Finnish language began to replace Swedish in the administrative and cultural sphere during the later part of the 19th century.
The rise of the Finnish language to an increasingly prevalent position in society was, at the outset, mainly a construct of eager promoters of the Finnish language from the higher strata of society, mainly with Swedish-speaking family backgrounds. A later development, especially at the beginning of the 20th century, was the adoption or translation or modification of Swedish surnames into Finnish (fennicization). This was generally done throughout the entire society. In upper-class families it was predominantly in cadet branches of families that the name translations took place.
Opposition to the Swedish language was partly based around historical prejudices and conflicts that had sprung up during the 19th century. The intensified language strife and the aspiration to raise the Finnish language and Finnic culture from peasant status to the position of a national language and a national culture gave rise to negative portrayals of Swedish speakers as foreign oppressors of the peaceful Finnish-speaking peasant.
Even though the proportional distribution of Swedish-speakers among different social strata closely reflects that of the general population, there is still a lingering conception of Swedish as a language of the historical upper class culture of Finland. This is reinforced by the fact that Swedish-speakers are statistically overrepresented among "old money" families as well as within the Finnish nobility consisting of about 6000 persons, of which about two thirds are Swedish-speakers. Still the majority of the Swedish-speaking Finns have traditionally been farmers and fishermen from the Finnish coastal municipalities and archipelago.
On the municipal level, this right is legally restricted to municipalities with a certain minimum of speakers of the minority language. All Finnish communities and towns are classified as either monolingual or bilingual. When the proportion of the minority language increases to 8% (or 3000), then the municipality is defined as bilingual, and when it falls below 6%, the municipality becomes monolingual. In bilingual municipalities, all civil servants must have satisfactory language skill in either Finnish or Swedish (in addition to native-level skill in the other language). Both languages can be used in all communications with the civil servants in such a town. Public signs (such as street and traffic signs, as illustrated) are in both languages in bilingual towns and municipalities the name in majority language being on the top.
The Swedish-speaking areas in Finnish Mainland do not have fixed territorial protection, unlike the languages of several national minorities in Central Europe such as German in Belgium and North Italy. This has caused a heated debate among Swedish-speaking Finns. The current language act of Finland has been criticized as inadequate instrument to protect the linguistic rights of Swedish-speaking Finns in practice.[Note 29][Note 30] The criticism was partly legitimized by the report (2008) conducted by Finnish government which showed severe problems in the practical implementation of the language act.[Note 31] The recent administrative reforms in Finland have caused harsh criticism in the Swedish-speaking media and created fear over the survival of Swedish as an administrative language in Finland.[Note 32] A special status in the form partial self-determination and fixed protection for Swedish language in Swedish-speaking municipalities have been proposed in Finland's Swedish-speaking media.[Note 33]
Following an educational reform in the 1970s, both Swedish and Finnish became compulsory school subjects. The school subjects are not called Finnish or Swedish; the primary language in which lessons are taught depends upon the pupil's mother tongue. This language of instruction is officially and in general practice called the mother tongue (äidinkieli in Finnish, modersmål in Swedish). The secondary language, as a school subject, is called the other domestic language (toinen kotimainen kieli in Finnish, andra inhemska språket in Swedish). Lessons in the "other domestic language" usually start in the third, fifth or seventh form of comprehensive school and are a part of the curriculum in all secondary education. In polytechnics and universities, all students are required to pass an examination in the "other domestic language" on a level that enables them to be employed as civil servants in bilingual offices and communities. The actual linguistic abilities of those who have passed the various examinations however vary considerably.
Being a small minority usually leads to functional bilingualism. Swedish-speaking Finns are more fluent in Finnish than Finnish-speakers are in Swedish due to the practical matter of living in a predominantly Finnish-speaking country. In big cities with a significant Swedish-speaking population such as Helsinki and Turku, most of them are fluent in both Swedish and Finnish. Although in some municipalities Swedish is the only official language, Finnish is the dominant language in most towns and at most employers in Finland. In areas with a Finnish-speaking majority, Finnish is most often used when interacting with strangers and known Finnish speakers. However, 50% of all Swedish speakers live in areas in which Swedish is the majority language and in which they can use Swedish in all or most contexts (see demographics below).
There is a small community of Swedish-speaking immigrants in Finland. Many of them come from Sweden, or have resided there (about 8,500 Swedish citizens live in Finland and around 30,000 residents in Finland were born in Sweden), while others have opted for Swedish because it is the main language in the city in which they live, or because their partners are Swedish-speaking. About one quarter of immigrants in the Helsinki area would choose to integrate in Swedish if they had the option. According to a report by Finland's Swedish think tank, Magma, there is a widespread perception among immigrants that they are more easily integrated in the Swedish-speaking community than in the majority society. However, some immigrants also question whether they ever will be fully accepted as Finland Swedes. Swedish-speaking immigrants also have their own association, Ifisk, and in the capital region there is a publicly financed project named Delaktig aimed at facilitating integration of immigrants who know or wish to learn Swedish. Most if not all immigrants also wish to be fluent in Finnish due to the fact that it is the dominant language in Finnish society.
Swedish speakers have migrated to many parts of the world. For a number of reasons, such as geographic and linguistic among others, Sweden has traditionally been the number one destination for Swedish-speaking emigrants and about 65 000 Finland-Swedes live in Sweden, according to Finlandssvenskarnas Riksförbund i Sverige.