Flemish people: Wikis


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Flag of Flanders.svg
Total population
6,550,000 (2006 estimate)
Regions with significant populations
 Belgium 6,230,000 [1]
 Canada 12,430 - 168,910 [2]
 United States 58,545 - 389,171 [3]
 France 187,750 [2]
 South Africa 55,200 [2]
 Australia 15,130 [2]
 Brazil 6,000 [2]

(Generally as 2nd or 3rd language, 59% of the Flemings can speak French, 53% English)[4]


Roman Catholic, other.

Related ethnic groups

(In alphabetical order)
Afrikaners, Dutch.[5]

The Flemish people (in Dutch, het Vlaamse volk, in French,"les flamands"), the Flemings or the Flemish (de Vlamingen) are the over six million people of Flanders, the northern region of the country Belgium — and the majority of all Belgians.

Modern day[6] Flanders however, does not correspond closely to the former County of Flanders, which included parts of present-day France and the Netherlands and did not include the central and eastern parts of present-day Flanders, which were part of other Holy Roman fiefs, chiefly the Duchy of Brabant and the County of Loon. Within proper context, the term 'Fleming' may still refer specifically to a native of West Flanders or East Flanders, the two provinces in Belgium that were part of the former county, or rarely to a native of other parts of that county who speaks a Dutch dialect from the Flemish county or the standard Dutch language.


Culture and identity

The native Flemings descend from Germanic tribes, predominantly Franks, and mixed Celtic-Germanic "Belgae" tribes who had lived in the same region even before Roman times.[7] In the first instance, Flemish culture is defined by its West Germanic language, Flemish or Dutch, shared with most people in the Netherlands, as opposed to the Francophone compatriots within Belgium. Contrary to popular belief, a Flemish literature does exist, though Flemish literary schools are also present within the Dutch literature as a whole.[citation needed]

For students, the intellectual norm in Flanders means learning two or even three foreign languages to a higher standard than required in most countries. Generally, French and English are obligatory in most secondary school programs; in addition, German and/or another language from a supplemental list may be required or strongly encouraged.[citation needed] Cosmopolitanism has long been a historical constant in Flanders' very open economy, while the mainly Anglo-Saxon orientation is a rather recent phenomenon; that is, until the 1960s—as long enforced by the Belgian state—Flanders was heavily dominated by French culture, which now only is an honorable second.[citation needed] Proficiency in English has greatly increased during the last half century, while proficiency in French and German has decreased somewhat.[citation needed] Proficiency in other languages has widened and improved, while some companies complain about a seemingly eternal lack of sufficient German-speakers.[citation needed] Nonetheless, there are more Flemish people who speak French than English as a foreign language. The Flemish are one of the few (non-native Francophone) ethnic groups in Europe to have this characteristic, according to Eurobarometer surveys.


Related ethno-linguistic groups

The Flemish once[citation needed] formed a single ethnic group with what are currently the Dutch. When the split occurred is a matter of debate; in fact, there are people who dispute whether the Flemish form a distinct ethnic group at all.[8] For a fuller treatment, see the Flemish section of the article about the Dutch.

From the 13th to the 15th centuries, Prussia invited several waves of Flemings along with Netherlands Dutch and Frisians to settle throughout the country (mainly along the Baltic Sea coast). In the 12th century, Fläming, a region in Germany southwest of Berlin in the historic state of Brandenburg was subsequently named for them as they cultivated new farming lands. Flemings also represented a small proportion of German-speaking Transylvanian Saxon settlement in Transylvania then under Hungarian rule from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Official language

The official language of Flanders is Dutch (at the Belgian - federal - level at par with French, and to a lesser extent German; the language legislation is complex and politically extremely sensitive).

Dialects tended to be very strong, almost particular to every locality.[citation needed] Since World War II, the influence of radio, television, and with more people moving out of their region of birth, the use of the original dialects tends to decrease.[citation needed] Differences between the regional dialects erode and new types of intermediate dialects appear, including a non-standardized mix of standard Dutch with 'cleaned-up' dialect. This is often called 'tussentaal' ('language-in-between') or, derogatorily, 'verkavelingsvlaams' (speech as where Flemish people from diverse locations and dialects become neighbours in a newly built-up out of town quarter). In Brussels, the local dialect is heavily influenced by French, both in pronunciation, as in vocabulary. Only a small number (c. 150,000) of the inhabitants of French Flanders can speak or understand Dutch or the local dialect.[9]


Approximately 75% of the Flemish people are by baptism assumed Roman Catholic, though a still diminishing minority of less than 8% attends mass on a regular basis and nearly half of the inhabitants of Flanders are agnostic or atheist.[citation needed] A 2006 inquiry in Flanders, showed 55% chose to call themselves religious, 36% believe that God created the world.[10] (See also Religion in Belgium.)

Flemish movement

The confrontational nature of Flemish politics is related to the communal tension between Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia. These ultimately resulted in the federalization of Belgium, and the Flemish movement includes secessionist tendencies and groups.[11] Functions continue to devolve away from the Belgian state to the institutional regions and communities.

Until the 1960s the Belgian state was Francophone. Not only the Walloons were Francophone, but also the nobility, since Burgundian times, and the Flemish bourgeoisie since the early nineteenth century. Use of French was mandatory in all aspects of public life: government, the courts, academia, and industry. Until the 1930s, for example, the Flemish majority was educated only in French and courts were conducted in French causing the unjust situation whereby Flemish defendants were tried and judged in a language they did not comprehend.[citation needed] During the First World War there were also tensions between Flemish soldiers and their French speaking officers. Surprisingly, considering Flemish's status as an official language, it wasn't until 1967 that the Belgian constitution was translated into Dutch.

Since the falling-off of its traditional coal mining and steel industries at the beginning of the 1960s, Wallonia, the French-speaking southern half of Belgium, which was the leading economic force in Belgium and the strongest contributor to its wealth, has become more and more subsidized by the more economically robust Flemish north, an issue that remains unresolved.

Within the Flemish Movement, the demand for outright independence grew stronger in the last decades.[citation needed] There are three political parties strongly advocating secession from Belgium: the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (New Flemish Alliance), the Vlaams Belang (or 'VB') and the new Lijst Dedecker. VB is considered by all other Flemish political parties to be far right.[citation needed] Its identification of the Flemings as a separate 'people' (Dutch: volk) is controversial. It associates that claim with rejection of a Belgian national identity, and describes itself as a Flemish nationalist party, seeking a separate and sovereign state for the Flemish people, which is claimed to be a nation, and to have its own national identity.[12] It seeks the dissolution of Belgium.[13]

The viewpoints of the Vlaams Belang, which is the continuation of the Vlaams Blok after a court conviction for racism dissolved Vlaams Blok, are not shared by Flemish mainstream parties.[citation needed] With the elected smaller and the French Community parties they continued the cordon sanitaire around the Vlaams Belang, which is an agreement not to form a coalition or to cooperate at any level with that party. The large Flemish mainstream Christian-Democrat party CD&V formed an alliance with the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie for about two years.

Both Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie and Lijst Dedecker have a slightly different priority. They are not against Belgium out of principle, but more out of dissatisfaction.[citation needed] They think that the Belgian state will never recognize the rights of Flanders and the Flemings, and that therefore, it is better, and more democratic for the Flemish people to aim for independence.[citation needed]

The Flemish Community is one of the three institutional Communities of Belgium, not identical to the Flemish Region, though both have a single body of parliament, government and administration.


Flag of Flanders.svg

The official flag and coat of arms of the Flemish Community represents a black lion with red claws and tongue on a yellow field (or a lion rampant sable armed and langued gules).[14] A flag with a completely black lion had been in wide use before 1991 when the current version was officially adopted by the Flemish Community. That older flag was at times recognized by government sources (alongside the version with red claws and tongue).[15][16] Today, only the flag bearing a lion with red claws and tongue is recognized by Belgian law, while the flag with the all black lion is mostly used by Flemish separatist movements. The Flemish authorities also use two logos of a highly stylized black lion which show the claws and tongue in either red or black.[17]

Origin of the Flemish lion

Coat of arms of the counts of Flanders

The first documented use[18] of the Flemish lion was on the seal of Philip d'Alsace, count of Flanders of 1162. As of that date the use of the Flemish coat of arms (or a lion rampant sable) remained in use throughout the reigns of the d'Alsace, Flanders (2nd) and Dampierre dynasties of counts. After the acquisition of Flanders by the Burgundian dukes the lion was only used in escutcheons. It was only after the creation of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands that the coat of arms (surmounted by a chief bearing the Royal Arms of the Netherlands) once again became the official symbol of the new province East Flanders.

One of the beliefs is that the Flemish Lion was acquired by a Flemish noble in one of the crusades in the middle east. This noble defeated another 'Unbelieving' noble. The Flemish noble then took the shield of his fallen foe and took the coat of arms as his. The shield of arms was the black lion upon the yellow background—The Flemish Lion—De Vlaamse Leeuw—

Flanders the Lion

The motto "Vlaenderen die Leu" (Flanders the lion) was according to Eug. Sanders present on the arms of Pieter de Coninck at the Battle of the Golden Spurs on July 11, 1302.[19][20][21] Some three hundred nobles supposedly also used the motto "Vlaenderen den Leeuw" as their battlecry when they fought in the Flemish ranks to avoid being confused for the enemy. In Spiegel Historiael, Louis van Velthem also refers to the lion in a song describing the battle of Blangys-Guinegatte (which took place in August 1472). Later, Hendrik Conscience used the motto in his Lion of Flanders.

The Flemish diaspora

The Flemish diaspora consists of Flemish emigrants and their descendants in countries such as the present Netherlands, France, Britain (see Little England beyond Wales, India (Sri Lanka), Indonesia, Australia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa and The Americas.[citation needed]

During the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, when the territory of present-day Flanders formed the setting for an impressive economic and cultural boom as well as certain internal problems, many artists and craftsmen sought refuge elsewhere. Flemish settlers introduced the first printing presses into Spain and Portugal.[citation needed] The Flemish contribution to the exploitation as well as the population of the Azores was so conspicuous, that for a long time the archipelago was referred to as the Flemish islands.[citation needed]

Following in the wake of the explorers, Flemish missionaries such as Pieter van Gent in Mexico, Joost de Rijcke in Ecuador, Ferdinand Verbiest in China, Constant Lievens in India, Pierre-Jean DeSmet in the United States and Jozef de Veuster in Molokai built up a reputation in various overseas countries that continues even to this day.[citation needed]

A combination of a demographic explosion and inadequate economic growth resulted in an emigration from Flanders that continued up to World War I.[citation needed] It was something that every family faced sooner or later.[citation needed] Not only did it involve the so-called lower classes of the population, but also members of the better classes who found a future overseas in teacher-training colleges and colleges of engineering and agriculture. Louis Cruls, for example, was a Flemish engineer who led expeditions to lay down the boundaries of Brazil and the city limits of the capital Brasilia.

In France, the Nord and Pas-de-Calais departments were parts of historic Flanders before France annexed the region in 1656 (and other additions until the last permanent boundary change in the 1790s after the French Revolution). About 400,000 Flemings settled in France proper especially around Lille.[citation needed] They often had to start afresh in poor villages, from where they breathed new life into agriculture.[citation needed] Flemings especially settled at the end of the 19th century in the region of Lille. At the end of the 19th century, more than 50% of Roubaix's inhabitants were Flemings and became a large part of the working-class (for example, Pierre Degeyter, the composer of The Internationale). Today, many people with Flemish origin in northern France are craftsmen or shopkeepers. There are an estimated 1,250,000 people with a Flemish surname in France.[citation needed]

Similar to the Netherlands, many Flemish families also emigrated to South Africa due to the relative closeness of culture and language.[citation needed]

In the United States and Canada today, there are Americans with Flemish roots but who are mostly regarded as Dutch Americans.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Structuur van de bevolking — België / Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest / Vlaams Gewest / Waals Gewest / De 25 bevolkingsrijkste gemeenten (2000–2006)" (in Dutch) (asp). Belgian Federal Government Service (ministry) of Economy — Directorate-general Statistics Belgium. © 1998/2007. http://statbel.fgov.be/figures/d21_nl.asp#2. Retrieved 2007-05-23.  — Note: 59% of the Belgians can be considered Flemish, i.e., Dutch-speaking: Native speakers of Dutch living in Wallonia and of French in Flanders are relatively small minorities which furthermore largely balance one another, hence counting all inhabitants of each unilingual area to the area's language can cause only insignificant inaccuracies (99% can speak the language). Dutch: Flanders' 6.079 million inhabitants and about 15% of Brussels' 1.019 million are 6.23 million or 59.3% of the 10.511 million inhabitants of Belgium (2006); German: 70,400 in the German-speaking Community (which has language facilities for its less than 5% French-speakers), and an estimated 20,000–25,000 speakers of German in the Walloon Region outside the geographical boundaries of their official Community, or 0.9%; French: in the latter area as well as mainly in the rest of Wallonia (3.414 - 0.093 = 3.321 million) and 85% of the Brussels inhabitants (0.866 million) thus 4.187 million or 39.8%; together indeed 100%
  2. ^ a b c d e "Vlamingen in de Wereld". Vlamingen in de Wereld, a foundation offering services for Flemish expatriates, with cooperation of the Flemish government.. http://www.viw.be/intro.html. Retrieved 2007-03-01. , Canada: 2006 Canadian Census gives 12,430 respondents stating their ethnic origin as Flemish. Another 168,910 reported 'Belgian'. See List of Canadians by ethnicity (2001).
  3. ^ The 2006 US American Community Survey listed 389,171 people claiming "Belgian" ancestry.
  4. ^ Ginsburgh, Victor, Université Catholique de Louvain; Weber, Shlomo, Professor Economy and Director of the Center for Economic Studies of the Southern Methodist University, Dallas, USA, and having a seat in the expert panel of the IMF http://www.itinerainstitute.org/cms.taf?Act=LoadPage&Param=ItineraInstituteBeXXX558+(June 2006). "La dynamique des langues en Belgique" (in French) (pdf 0.7 MB). Regards économiques, Publication préparée par les économistes de l'Université Catholique de Louvain (Numéro 42). http://regards.ires.ucl.ac.be/Archives/RE042.pdf. Retrieved 2007-05-07. "Ce numéro de Regards économiques est consacré à la question des connaissances linguistiques en Belgique et dans ses trois régions (Bruxelles, Flandre, Wallonie). Les enquêtes montrent que la Flandre est bien plus multilingue, ce qui est sans doute un fait bien connu, mais la différence est considérable : alors que 59 % et 53 % des Flamands connaissent le français ou l'anglais respectivement, seulement 19 % et 17 % des Wallons connaissent le néerlandais ou l'anglais. Les mesures préconisées par le Plan Marshall vont dans la bonne direction, mais sont sans doute très insuffisantes pour combler le retard. ... 95 pour cent des Bruxellois déclarent parler le français, alors que ce pourcentage tombe à 59 pour cent pour le néerlandais. Quant à l’anglais, il est connu par une proportion importante de la population à Bruxelles (41 pour cent). ... Le syndrome d’H (...) frappe la Wallonie, où à peine 19 et 17 pour cent de la population parlent respectivement le néerlandais et l’anglais.". 
  5. ^ Afrikaners: mainly the descendants of Dutch colonists in South Africa, speak Afrikaans a mutually intelligible Dutch semi-creol; Dutch: share origin, language and much of their history with the Flemish and live adjacent to the them. Note: One can assume a far relation of the Flemish with Germans of northwestern regions on linguistic and near the common border on historical grounds; with Frisians only based on an indirect relation via the Dutch and a slightly related Germanic language.
  6. ^ Footnote: Though the usage of 'Flanders' for the area roughly corresponding to the present-day Flemish Community became more and more common as the twentieth century proceeded, a similar broader usage occasionally occurred already much earlier, for instance, an English-language map dating from c. 1718 of the Low Countries distinguishes the larger printed "Flanders" encompassing at least (the county of) "Flanders proper", Brabant, Limburg (including their parts of present-day France, the Netherlands, and the Walloon Region) and parts of the Prins-Bishopric of Liège: "A new map of the Netherlands or Low Countries". "New Sett of Maps". map: Wells, Edward (1667–1727); engraving: Nicholls, Sutton; IT technology: LizardTech, Inc. http://cartweb.geography.ua.edu:9001/StyleServer/calcrgn?cat=Europe&item=France%20and%20Low%20Countries/Europe1718c.sid&wid=600&hei=500&props=item(Name,Description),cat(Name,Description)&style=simple/view.xsl&plugin=false. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  7. ^ Footnote: The Celtic and/or Germanic influences on and origin(s) of the pre-Roman Belgae remains disputed; Julius Caesar had called them 'Gauls' but had also distinguished them from these. Further reading e.g. Witt, Constanze Maria (May 1997). "Ethnic and Cultural Identity". Barbarians on the Greek Periphery? — Origins of Celtic Art. Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia. http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/Barbarians/Essays/ethnic_main.html. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  8. ^ It is a subject of debate to what extent the Dutch and the Dutch-speaking Belgians/Flemings together form a single linguistic and cultural community. Nederlandse en Vlaamse identiteit, Civis Mundi 2006 by S.W. Couwenberg, p. 62. has: "Er valt heel wat te lachen om de wederwaardigheden van Vlamingen in Nederland en Nederlanders in Vlaanderen. Ze relativeren de verschillen en beklemtonen ze tegelijkertijd. Die verschillen zijn er onmiskenbaar: in taal, klank, kleur, stijl, gedrag, in politiek, maatschappelijke organisatie, maar het zijn stuk voor stuk varianten binnen één taal-en cultuurgemeenschap." The opposite opinion is stated by L. Beheydt (2002): "Al bij al lijkt een grondiger analyse van de taalsituatie en de taalattitude in Nederland en Vlaanderen weinig aanwijzingen te bieden voor een gezamenlijke culturele identiteit. Dat er ook op andere gebieden weinig aanleiding is voor een gezamenlijke culturele identiteit is al door Geert Hofstede geconstateerd in zijn vermaarde boek Allemaal andersdenkenden (1991)." L. Beheydt, "Delen Vlaanderen en Nederland een culturele identiteit?", in P. Gillaerts, H. van Belle, L. Ravier (eds.), Vlaamse identiteit: mythe én werkelijkheid (Leuven 2002), 22-40, esp. 38.
  9. ^ Dutch/Flemish in the North of France (Hugo Ryckeboer) University of Ghent, Department of Dutch Linguistics
  10. ^ Inquiry by 'Vepec', 'Vereniging voor Promotie en Communicatie' (Organisation for Promotion and Communication), published in Knack magazine 22 November 2006 p.14 [The Dutch language term 'gelovig' is in the text translated as 'religious'; more precisely it is a very common word for believing in particular in any kind of God in a monotheistic sense, and/or in some afterlife].
  11. ^ For example Vlaams Belang, states that the "Flemish people' have a right to self-determination: De Vlaamse onafhankelijkheid is een principekwestie voor het Vlaams Belang. Het Vlaamse volk kan en moet zijn recht op zelfbeschikking uitoefenen. Party Programme, [1].
  12. ^ Party Programme [2]: Het Vlaams Belang is een Vlaams-nationalistische partij. Voor ons is het zelfbeschikkingsrecht der volkeren fundamenteel. De soevereiniteit van een natie moet van het volk zelf uitgaan. Elk volk heeft het recht zijn toekomst in te richten zoals het dat wil, bij voorkeur in een eigen staat. Wij vinden dat de identiteit van ons volk, van élk volk, zo waardevol is dat een nationale identiteit speciale bescherming moet genieten.
  13. ^ Party Programme [3]: Vlaanderen moet Europa voorbereiden op een vreedzame opdeling van België. Vlaanderen moet Europa warm maken voor een uitdagend en dynamisch project, voor de komst van een nieuwe, moderne staat in het hart van Europa.
  14. ^ (Dutch) Flemish Authorities - coat of arms De officiële voorstelling van het wapen van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, in zwart - wit en in kleur, werd vastgesteld bij de ministeriële besluiten van 2 januari 1991 (BS 2 maart 1991), en zoals afgebeeld op de bijlagen bij deze besluiten. - flag
  15. ^ Samples of the black lion without red tongue and claws for the province of East and West Flanders before the regionalization of Belgian provinces: Verschuerens Modern Woordenboek, 6th revised ed.. N.V. Brepols, Turnhout. 1954 or later. volume M–Z, plate "Wapenschilden" left of p. 1997.  This dictionary/encyclopaedia was put on the list of school books allowed to be used in the official secondary institutions of education on March 8, 1933 by the Belgian government
  16. ^ Armorial des provinces et des communes de Belgique, Max Servais: pages 217-219, explaining the 1816 origin of the Flags of the provinces of East and West Flanders and their post 1830 modifications
  17. ^ Flemish authorities show a logo of a highly stylized black lion either with red claws and tongue (sample: 'error' page by ministry of the Flemish Community) or a completely black version.
  18. ^ Armorial des provinces et des communes de Belgique, Max Servais
  19. ^ "Flanders (Belgium)". Flags of the World web site. 2006-12-02. http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/be-vlg.html. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  20. ^ Velde, François R. (2000-04-01). "War-Cries". http://www.heraldica.org/topics/warcry.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  21. ^ Olivier, M. (1995-06-13). "Voorstel van decreet houdende instelling van de Orde van de Vlaamse Leeuw (Vlaamse Raad, stuk 36, buitengewone zitting 1995 – Nr. 1)" (in Dutch) (pdf). Flemish Parliament. http://jsp.vlaamsparlement.be/docs/stukken/bz1995/g36-1.pdf. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 

See also


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