|This article is part of the
|History of Scandinavia|
Scandinavia is a region in northern Europe that includes at a minimum Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Finland is often considered a Scandinavian country in common English usage, and Iceland and the Faroe Islands are sometimes also included.
The term relates to the Scandinavian Peninsula which is a geographic region consisting of Norway, Sweden and part of northern Finland. Scandinavia extends to the north of the Arctic Circle, but has relatively mild weather for its latitude due to the Gulf Stream. Much of the Scandinavian mountains have an alpine tundra climate. There are many lakes and moraines, legacies of an ice age about 10,000 years ago. The northern regions of Scandinavia are home to the indigenous Sami people.
Scandinavia has, despite many wars over the years since the formation of modern nation-states in the 10th century, been politically and culturally close. The constellations and alliances, however, have shifted over the centuries. For all of the 15th century, Scandinavia was united in the Kalmar Union. In the 19th century a new political union was proposed, but it did not take place when Denmark was denied key military support in a conflict with Prussia. Today, the nations cooperate mainly in the European Union or the Nordic Council. The Danish, Faroese, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish languages are linguistically classified as North Germanic languages, while the Finnish and Sami languages are classified as members of the Finno-Lappic group of the Uralic language family.
In English, casual and unofficial usage is to include the countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and often Finland and Iceland in the term "Scandinavia", but the term is usually used to only mean Denmark, Norway, and Sweden , sometimes also excluding Denmark,  within those countries creating some ambiguity in even English reference sources.
The larger region that some English-speaking nations refer to as "Scandinavia" is known by the countries concerned as Norden, or the Nordic countries, a political entity as well as cultural region where the ties between the countries are not merely historical and cultural, but based on official membership in the Nordic Council. Some American-English dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, do not include the names "Nordic countries" or "Nordic Council". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary instead defines Nordic as an adjective dated to 1898 with the meaning "of or relating to the Germanic peoples of northern Europe and especially of Scandinavia."
The use of the name Scandinavia as a convenient general term for the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is also fairly recent; according to some historians, it was adopted and introduced in the 18th century, at a time when the ideas about a common heritage started to appear and develop into early literary and linguistic Scandinavism. Before this time, the term Scandinavia was familiar mainly to classical scholars through Pliny the Elder's writings, and was used vaguely for Scania and the southern region of the peninsula.
As a political term, "Scandinavia" was first used by students agitating for Pan-Scandinavianism in the 1830s. The popular usage of the term in Sweden, Denmark and Norway as a unifying concept became established in the 19th century through poems such Hans Christian Andersen's "I am a Scandinavian" of 1839. After a visit to Sweden, Andersen became a supporter of early political Scandinavism and in a letter describing the poem to a friend, he wrote: "All at once I understood how related the Swedes, the Danes and the Norwegians are, and with this feeling I wrote the poem immediately after my return: 'We are one people, we are called Scandinavians!'". The historic popular usage is also reflected in the name chosen for the shared, multi-national airline, Scandinavian Airlines System, a carrier originally owned jointly by the governments of the three countries, along with private investors.
The clearest example of the use of the term "Scandinavia" as a political and cultural construct is the unique position of Finland, based largely on it having been part of Sweden, thus to much of the world properly associating Finland with all of Scandinavia. But the creation of a Finnish identity is unique in the region in that it was formed in relation to two different imperial models, the Swedish and the Russian, as described by the University of Jyväskylä based editorial board of the Finnish journal Yearbook of Political Thought and Conceptual History;
The construction of a specific Finnish polity is the result of successful decolonization. The politico-cultural location of Finland is a moving one. It has shifted from being a province in the Swedish Empire to an autonomous unit in 'Eastern' Europe, then to an independent state in 'Northern' Europe or 'Scandinavia'. After joining the European Union, Finland has recently been included in 'Western Europe'.
The term is, therefore, often defined according to the conventions of the cultures that lay claim to the term in their own usage.
Various promotional agencies of the Nordic countries in the United States (such as The American-Scandinavian Foundation, established in 1910 by the Danish-American industrialist Niels Poulsen) serve to promote market and tourism interests in the region. Today, the five Nordic Heads of State act as the organization's patrons and according to the official statement by the organization, its mission is "to promote the Nordic region as a whole while increasing the visibility of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden in New York City and the United States." The official tourist boards of Scandinavia sometimes cooperate under one umbrella, such as the Scandinavian Tourist Board. The cooperation was introduced for the Asian market in 1986, when the Swedish national tourist board joined the Danish national tourist board to coordinate international promotions of the two countries. Norway entered one year later. All five Nordic countries participate in the joint promotional efforts in the United States through the Scandinavian Tourist Board of North America.
While the term Scandinavia is commonly used for Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the term the Nordic countries is used unambiguously for Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland, including their associated territories (Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands). Scandinavia can thus be considered a subset of the Nordic countries.
In addition to the mainland countries of
the Nordic countries consist of
Estonia has applied for membership in the Nordic Council, referring to its cultural heritage and close linguistic links to Finland, although normally Estonia is regarded as one of the Baltic countries. All Baltic states have shared historical events with the Nordic countries, including Scandinavia, during the centuries.
Scandinavia and Scania (Skåne) are considered to have the same etymology. Both terms are thought to be derived from the Germanic root *Skaðin-awjō, which appears later in Old English as Scedenig and in Old Norse as Skáney. The earliest identified source for the name Scandinavia is Pliny the Elder's Natural History, dated to the 1st century AD.
Various references to the region can also be found in Pytheas, Pomponius Mela, Tacitus, Ptolemy, Procopius and Jordanes. It is believed that the name used by Pliny may be of West Germanic origin, originally denoting Scania. According to some scholars, the Germanic stem can be reconstructed as *Skaðan- meaning "danger" or "damage" (English scathing, German Schaden). The second segment of the name has been reconstructed as *awjo, meaning "land on the water" or "island". The name Scandinavia would then mean "dangerous island", which is considered to be a reference to the treacherous sandbanks surrounding Scania. Skanör in Scania, with its long Falsterbo reef, has the same stem (skan) combined with -ör, which means "sandbanks".
In the reconstructed Germanic root *Skaðin-awjō (the edh represented in Latin by t or d), the first segment is sometimes considered more uncertain than the second segment. The American Heritage Dictionary derives the second segment from Proto-Indo-European *akwa-, "water", in the sense of "watery land". Gothic saiws, "lake" is one of the Germanic groups which include English sea and German See. However, according to the Indo-European Dictionary (IEED), a research project of the Department of Comparative Indo-European Linguistics at Leiden University, the second segment may not have an Indo-European etymology. The IEED states that Uralic evidence has long been recognized for this segment, namely the Finnic saivo ("'transparent place in the sea'") and the Norwegian-Lappish saivvƒ ("'(holy) lake, idol'"). Some scholars have found a parallel between the Uralic evidence and the area's old mythology and belief systems, where the soul of mankind is believed to dwell in water until birth and return there after death. IEED lists a Germanic reconstruction that indicates a similar connection to metaphysics, namely *saiwa-lō ("soul"), appearing as saiwala in Gothic and sēle in Old Frisian.
Pliny's descriptions of Scatinavia and surrounding areas are not always easy to decipher, even though his writing of geography was what he considered a "clarior fama" ("a clearer story"). Writing in the capacity of a Roman admiral, he introduces the northern region by declaring to his Roman readers that there are 23 islands "Romanis armis cognitae" ("known to Roman arms") in this area. According to Pliny, the "clarissima" ("most famous") of the region's islands is Scatinavia, of unknown size. There live the Hilleviones. The belief that Scandinavia was an island became widespread among classical authors during the first century and dominated descriptions of Scandinavia in classical texts during the centuries that followed.
Pliny begins his description of the route to Scatinavia by referring to the mountain of Saevo (mons Saevo ibi), the Codanus Bay (Codanus sinus) and the Cimbrian promontory. The geographical features have been identified in various ways; by some scholars "Saevo" is thought to be the mountainous Norwegian coast at the entrance to Skagerrak and the Cimbrian peninsula is thought to be Skagen, the north tip of Jutland, Denmark. As described, Saevo and Scatinavia can also be the same place.
Pliny mentions Scandinavia one more time: in Book VIII he says that the animal called achlis (given in the accusative, achlin, which is not Latin), was born on the island of Scandinavia. The animal grazes, has a big upper lip and some mythical attributes.
The name "Scandia", later used as a synonym for Scandinavia, also appears in Pliny's Naturalis Historia, but is used for a group of Northern European islands which he locates north of Britannia. "Scandia" thus does not appear to be denoting the island Scadinavia in Pliny's text. The idea that "Scadinavia" may have been one of the "Scandiae" islands was instead introduced by Ptolemy (c.90 – c.168 AD), a mathematician, geographer and astrologer of Roman Egypt. He used the name "Skandia" for the biggest, most easterly of the three "Scandiai" islands, which according to him were all located east of Jutland.
Neither Pliny's nor Ptolemy's lists of Scandinavian tribes include the Suiones mentioned by Tacitus. Some early Swedish scholars of the Swedish Hyperborean school and of the 19th-century romantic nationalism period proceeded to synthesize the different versions by inserting references to the Suiones, arguing that they must have been referred to in the original texts and obscured over time by spelling mistakes or various alterations.
The Latin names in Pliny's text gave rise to different forms in medieval Germanic texts. In Jordanes' history of the Goths (AD 551) the form Scandza is used for their original home, separated by sea from the land of Europe (chapter 1, 4). Where Jordanes meant to locate this quasi-legendary island is still a hotly debated issue, both in scholarly discussions and in the nationalistic discourse of various European countries. The form Scadinavia as the original home of the Langobards appears in Paulus Diaconus' Historia Langobardorum; in other versions of Historia Langobardorum appear the forms Scadan, Scandanan, Scadanan and Scatenauge. Frankish sources used Sconaowe and Aethelweard, an Anglo-Saxon historian, used Scani. In Beowulf, the forms Scedenige and Scedeland are used, while the Alfredian translation of Orosius and Wulfstan's travel accounts used the Old English Sconeg.
The earliest Sami yoik texts written down refer to the world as Skadesi-suolo (north-Sami) and Skađsuâl (east-Sami), meaning "Skaði's island" (Svennung 1963). Svennung considers the Sami name to have been introduced as a loan word from the North Germanic languages; "Skaði" is the giant stepmother of Freyr and Freyja in Norse mythology. It has been suggested that Skaði to some extent is modeled on a Sami woman. The name for Skade's father Thjazi is known in Sami as Čáhci, "the waterman", and her son with Odin, Saeming, can be interpreted as a descendent of Saam the Sami population (Mundel 2000), (Steinsland 1991). Older joik texts give evidence of the old Sami belief about living on an island and state that the wolf is known as suolu gievra, meaning "the strong one on the island". The Sami place name Sulliidčielbma means "the island's threshold" and Suoločielgi means "the island's back".
Scadin- can be segmented various ways to obtain various Indo-European meanings: scand- or scad-in-, scan- or sca-din, scandin or scadin-. These segmentations have resulted in a number of possible etymologies, such as "climbing island" (*scand-), "island of the Scythian people", "island of the woodland of *sca-".
Another possibility is that all or part of the segments of the name came from the indigenous Mesolithic people inhabiting the region. Today Scandinavia is a peninsula, but between approximately 10,300 BP and 9,500 BP, the southern part of Scandinavia was an island separated from the northern peninsula, with water exiting the Baltic Sea through the area where Stockholm is now located.
Some Basque scholars have presented the idea that the segment sk that appears in *Ska∂inaujàin is connected to the name for the Euzko peoples, akin to Basques, that populated Paleolithic Europe. According to some of these intellectuals, the Scandinavians share some genetic markers with the Basque people.
The name of the Scandinavian mountain range, Skanderna in Swedish, was artificially derived from Skandinavien in the 19th century, in analogy with Alperna for the Alps. The commonly used names are bergen or fjällen; both names meaning "the mountains".
The geography of Scandinavia is extremely varied. Notable are the Norwegian fjords, the Scandinavian Mountains, the flat, low areas in Denmark, and the archipelagos of Sweden and Norway. Sweden, and to an even greater extent Finland, has many lakes and moraines, legacies of the ice age.
The climate varies from north to south and from west to east; a marine west coast climate (Cfb) typical of western Europe dominates in Denmark, southernmost part of Sweden and along the west coast of Norway reaching north to 65°N, with orographic lift giving more ;mm/year precipitation (<5000 mm) in some areas in western Norway. The central part - from Oslo to Stockholm - has a humid continental climate (Dfb), which gradually gives way to subarctic climate (Dfc) further north and cool marine west coast climate (Cfc) along the northwestern coast. A small area along the northern coast east of the North Cape has tundra climate (Et) due to lack of summer warmth. The Scandinavian Mountains block the mild and moist air coming from the southwest, thus northern Sweden and Finnmarksvidda plateau in Norway receive little precipitation and have cold winters. Large areas in the Scandinavian mountains have alpine tundra climate.
The warmest temperature ever recorded in Scandinavia is 38.0 °C in Målilla (Sweden) . The coldest temperature ever recorded is −52.6 °C in Vuoggatjålme (Sweden) . The warmest month on record was July 1901 in Oslo, with a mean (24hr) of 22.7 °C, and the coldest month was February 1985 in Vittangi (Sweden) with a mean of -27.2 °C..
There are two language groups that have coexisted on the Scandinavian peninsula since prehistory—the North Germanic languages (Scandinavian languages) and the Sami languages. The majority languages on the peninsula, Swedish and Norwegian, are today, along with Danish, classified as Continental Scandinavian.
The North Germanic languages of Scandinavia are traditionally divided into an East Scandinavian branch (Danish and Swedish) and a West Scandinavian branch (Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese), but because of changes appearing in the languages since 1600, the East Scandinavian and West Scandinavian branches are now usually reconfigured into Insular Scandinavian (ö-nordisk/øy-nordisk) featuring (Icelandic and Faroese) and Continental Scandinavian (Skandinavisk), comprising Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The modern division is based on the degree of mutual comprehensibility between the languages in the two branches. Note that skandinavisk(a) may also refer to a way of speaking one Scandinavian language in a way intended to be more easily understood by speakers of the other Scandinavian languages.
Apart from Sami and the languages of minority groups speaking a variant of the majority language of a neighboring state, the following minority languages in Scandinavia are protected under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages: Yiddish, Romani Chib, Romanes and Romani.
The dialects of Denmark, Norway and Sweden form a dialect continuum and are mutually intelligible. The populations of the Scandinavian countries, with a Scandinavian mother tongue, can—at least with some training—understand each other's standard languages as they appear in print and are heard on radio and television. The reason why Danish, Swedish and the two official written versions of Norwegian (Nynorsk and Bokmål) are traditionally viewed as different languages, rather than dialects of one common language, is that they each are well established standard languages in their respective countries. They are related to, but not mutually intelligible with, the other North Germanic languages, Icelandic and Faroese, which are descended from Old West Norse. Danish, Swedish and Norwegian have, since medieval times, been influenced to varying degrees by Middle Low German and standard German. A substantial amount of that influence was a by-product of the economic activity generated by the Hanseatic League.
Norwegians are accustomed to variation, and may perceive Danish and Swedish only as slightly more distant dialects. This is because they have two official written standards, in addition to the habit of strongly holding on to local dialects. The people of Stockholm, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark, have the greatest difficulty in understanding other Scandinavian languages. In the Faroe Islands, learning Danish is mandatory. This causes Faroese people to become bilingual in two very distinct North Germanic languages, making it relatively easy for them to understand the other two Mainland Scandinavian languages.
The Scandinavian languages are (as a language family) entirely unrelated to Finnish, Estonian, and Sami languages, which as Finno-Ugric languages are distantly related to Hungarian. Due to the close proximity, there is still a great deal of borrowing from the Swedish and Norwegian languages in the Finnish, Estonian, and Sami languages. The long history of linguistic influence of Swedish on Finnish is also due to the fact that Finnish, the language of the majority in Finland, was treated as a minority language while Finland was part of Sweden. Finnish-speakers had to learn Swedish in order to advance to higher positions. Although Iceland was under the political control of Denmark until a much later date (1918), very little influence and borrowing from Danish has occurred in the Icelandic language. Icelandic remained the preferred language among the ruling classes in Iceland; Danish was not used for official communications, most of the royal officials were of Icelandic descent and the language of the church and law courts remained Icelandic.
The Sami languages are indigenous minority languages in Scandinavia. They belong to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic language family and are unrelated to the North Germanic languages other than by limited grammatical (particularly lexical) characteristics resulting from prolonged contact. Sami is divided into several languages or dialects Consonant gradation is a feature in both Finnish and northern Sami dialects, but it is not present in south Sami, which is considered to have a different language history. According to the Sami Information Centre of the Sami Parliament in Sweden, southern Sami originated in an earlier migration from the south into the Scandinavian peninsula.
Finland is officially bilingual, with Finnish and Swedish having mostly the same status at national level. Native Swedish speakers constitute a small, but rather influential, minority. Children are taught the other official language at school; for Swedish-speakers, this is Finnish (usually from the 3rd grade), and for Finnish-speakers, Swedish (usually from the 7th grade).
Finnish speakers constitute a language minority in Sweden, Norway and Russian Federation. There are also Finnic languages different from standard Finnish, known as Meänkieli in Sweden and Kven in Norway.
During a period of Christianization and state formation in the 10th-13th centuries, three consolidated kingdoms emerged in Scandinavia:
In the 1645 Treaty of Brömsebro, Denmark–Norway ceded the Norwegian provinces of Jämtland, Härjedalen and Idre & Särna, as well as the Baltic Sea islands of Gotland and Ösel (in Estonia) to Sweden. The Treaty of Roskilde, signed in 1658, forced Denmark–Norway to cede the Danish provinces Scania, Blekinge, Halland, Bornholm and the Norwegian provinces of Båhuslen and Trøndelag to Sweden. The 1660 Treaty of Copenhagen forced Sweden to return Bornholm and Trøndelag to Denmark–Norway, and to give up its recent claims to the island Funen.
The three Scandinavian kingdoms were united in 1397 in the Kalmar Union by Queen Margaret I of Denmark. Sweden left the union in 1523 under King Gustav Vasa. In the aftermath of Sweden's secession from the Kalmar Union, civil war broke out in Denmark and Norway. The Protestant Reformation followed. When things had settled down, the Norwegian Privy Council was abolished—it assembled for the last time in 1537. A personal union, entered into by the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway in 1536, lasted until 1814. Three sovereign successor states have subsequently emerged from this unequal union: Denmark, Norway and Iceland.
Denmark–Norway is the historiographical name for the former political union consisting of the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, including the Norwegian dependencies of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The corresponding adjective and demonym is Dano-Norwegian. During Danish rule, Norway kept its separate laws, coinage and army, as well as some institutions such as a royal chancellor. Norway's old royal line had died out with the death of Olav IV, but Norway's remaining a hereditary kingdom was an important factor to the Oldenburg dynasty of Denmark–Norway in its struggles to win elections as kings of Denmark.
The Dano-Norwegian union was formally dissolved at the 1814 Treaty of Kiel. The territory of Norway proper was ceded to the King of Sweden, but Norway's overseas possessions were kept by Denmark. However, widespread Norwegian resistance to the prospect of a union with Sweden induced the governor of Norway, crown prince Christian Frederick (later Christian VIII of Denmark), to call a constituent assembly at Eidsvoll in April 1814. The assembly drew up a liberal constitution and elected him to the throne of Norway. Following a Swedish invasion during the summer, the peace conditions specified that king Christian Frederik had to resign, but Norway was to keep its independence and its constitution within a personal union with Sweden. Christian Frederik formally abdicated on August 10 1814 and returned to Denmark. The parliament Storting elected king Charles XIII of Sweden as king of Norway on November 4.
The union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved in 1905, after which Prince Charles of Denmark was elected king of Norway under the name of Haakon VII.
The modern usage of the term Scandinavia has been influenced by Scandinavism (the Scandinavist political movement), which was active in the middle of the 19th century, mainly between the First war of Schleswig (1848–1850), in which Sweden and Norway contributed with considerable military force, and the Second war of Schleswig (1864). In 1864, the Swedish parliament denounced the promises of military support made to Denmark by Charles XV of Sweden. The members of the Swedish parliament were wary of joining an alliance against the rising German power.
The Swedish king also proposed a unification of Denmark, Norway and Sweden into a single united kingdom. The background for the proposal was the tumultuous events during the Napoleonic wars in the beginning of the century. This war resulted in Finland (formerly the eastern third of Sweden) becoming the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 and Norway (de jure in union with Denmark since 1387, although de facto treated as a province) becoming independent in 1814, but thereafter swiftly forced to accept a personal union with Sweden. The dependent territories Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, historically part of Norway, remained with Denmark in accordance with the Treaty of Kiel. Sweden and Norway were thus united under the Swedish monarch, but Finland's inclusion in the Russian Empire excluded any possibility for a political union between Finland and any of the other Nordic countries.
The end of the Scandinavian political movement came when Denmark was denied the military support promised from Sweden and Norway to annex the (Danish) Duchy of Schleswig, which together with the (German) Duchy of Holstein had been in personal union with Denmark. The Second war of Schleswig followed in 1864, a brief but disastrous war between Denmark and Prussia (supported by Austria). Schleswig-Holstein was conquered by Prussia, and after Prussia's success in the Franco-Prussian War a Prussian-led German Empire was created, and a new power-balance of the Baltic sea countries was established.
|Century||Scandinavia and the Nordic Countries|
|21st||Denmark (EU)||Faroes||Iceland||Norway||Sweden (EU)||Åland (EU)||Finland (EU)|
|19th||Denmark||Sweden/Norway (Union)||Grand Duchy of Finland (Russia)|