|Pehr Evind Svinhufvud • Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim • Jean Sibelius
Linus Torvalds • Linda Brava • Tove Jansson
|over 340 000|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
Swedish-speaking Finns (often called Finland-Swedes, Finnish Swedes, Swedish Finns, see below) (Swedish: (finlands)svenskar; Finnish: suomenruotsalaiset) constitute a linguistic minority in Finland. They maintain a strong identity and are alternatively seen either as a distinct subgroup of the Finnish people  or as a separate ethnic group or even as a distinct nationality. They speak distinct dialects and a standard language that are both called Finland Swedish and are mutually intelligible with the dialects spoken in Sweden, as well as with other Scandinavian languages.
Swedish is the mother tongue of about 275,000 people in mainland Finland and of about 25,000 people in Åland, together representing about 5.5% of the total population (according to official statistics for 2005 1) or about 5.1% 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. However, according to a statistical analysis made by Fjalar Finnäs, the situation of the minority group is today stable.
The Swedish term finlandssvensk, which is used by the group itself, does not have an established English translation. 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. 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 Finns, but Swedish-speaking NGOs often use the term Finland-Swedes. The expressions Swedish-speaking Finns, Swedes of Finland, Finland Swedes, Finnish Swedes, and Swedish Finns are all used in academic literature.
It has been argued that the Swedish expression finlandssvenskar, used by the group itself, often has an ethno-cultural connotation that exceeds the literal meaning of the expression ("Swedish-speaking") used in the title of the article. From this perspective, criticism has been raised that expressions such as "Swedish-speaking" or "Swedish-speaking Finn" restrict the peculiar cultural identity of the Swedish-speaking minority to that of a linguistic phenomenon.
The age of the Swedish-speaking population in Finland has been subjected to fierce debate. 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 age and continuity of 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" (McRae, 1993). However, during the recent decades several Swedish-speaking philologists, archaeologists and historians from Finland have criticized the theories of Germanic/Scandinavian continuity in Finland.
According to the archaeological evidence, the Åland Islands shared the Viking Age Scandinavian culture. However, according to some researchers, the islands were deserted during the 11th century, and then resettled by Swedes after a brief phase of limited Finnish colonisation deduced from place-name evidence.
In Southern Ostrobothnia, the language of the Iron Age culture prevailing from 300 to 800 CE is unknown, although the character of the culture is similar to the one prevailing in South Finland. In both cases, arguments of continuity in settlement reaching to the historical Swedish-speaking population have been presented, but the issue is still under debate.
The first Swedish arrivals in Finland have often been linked to the putative First Swedish Crusade (ca. 1150) which, if it actually happened, served to expand Christianity and annex Finnish territories to the newly born 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. The Second Swedish Crusade against the Tavastians in 13th century extended the Swedish settlements to Uusimaa. During the 14th century the population expansion from Sweden increasingly took the form of organised mass arrivals: 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 to Finland was encouraged and organized by the Swedish authorities. The coast of Ostrobothnia received large scale Swedish settlements between the 13th and 15th centuries, in parallel with events which resulted in Swedish expansion to Norrland.
The proportion of Swedish speakers in Finland has dropped 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 Finland were counted as part of northern Sweden). 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. To a certain extent, this movement was also anxious over the idea of forcing the Swedish-speaking minority to assimilate. Many influential Swedish-speaking families learned Finnish, fennicized their names and changed their everyday language to Finnish, sometimes not a very easy task. As the educated class was almost entirely Swedish-speaking, the first generation of the Finnish nationalists and Fennomans came predominantly from a Swedish-speaking background, although in many cases from families which originally had been Finnish-speaking, a very common phenomenon especially among the Lutheran clergy.
|Swedish Finns as a percentage of Finland's population 2
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.
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, named after medieval settlers from the Swedish province of Hälsingland, and still close to 100% Swedish-speaking in the 19th century, attracted Finnish-speaking workers, civil servants and university students from inland parts of Finland, as did other Swedish-speaking areas. As a result, the originally unilingual Swedish-speaking coastal regions in the province of 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 12.89% of the total population of Finland of 2.6 million in 1900. By 1950 the share had fallen to 8.64% of a total of 4 million people. By 1990 the share was 5.94% of 5 million people. This sharp decline has since levelled off to a decline of 0.02% or 0.03% per year.
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 that 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 have been somewhat faster than that of the Swedish-speakers.
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. 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. Whether the Finnish settlements prior 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.
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 eventual 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.
In a recent study (2008) 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 50% of all Swedish-speakers in Finland) differed from the Finnish-speaking populations of the country and formed a genetic cluster with the Swedes Moreover, according to a recent Y-DNA study (2008), 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.
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. 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 Finns in general have their own identity distinct from that of the majority, and they wish to be recognized as such. In speaking Swedish, Swedish-speaking Finns predominantly use the Swedish word finländare 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.
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- of Finnish-speaking, not both as in Canada, for example. It is significantly more common nowadays than it used to be 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 for 700 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.
Among the nobility, most of the families arrived directly from Sweden. 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 fluent more 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 Finnish cities as Turku and Viipuri) during the late Middle Ages tended to be of German origin. It is thought they spoke usually German and Finnish. 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 the province of 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, many from 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 stereotype, perceived as a source of embarrassment and irritation by Swedish-speakers, of Swedish as a language of the historical upper class culture in Finland, 'better folks'. This stereotype 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. Actually the majority of the Swedish-speaking Finns have traditionally been farmers and fishermen at the coastal municipalities and archipelago, no better off than their Finnish-speaking neighbours.
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 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 practise. 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. 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. 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.
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 (modersmål in Swedish, äidinkieli in Finnish). The secondary language, as a school subject, is called the other domestic language (sv:andra inhemska språket in Swedish, fi:toinen kotimainen kieli in Finnish). 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. 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)
Of the Swedish-speaking population of Finland,
Traditionally, immigrants were described in English and most other languages by an adjective indicating the new country of residence and a noun indicating their country of origin or their ethnic group. This gave rise to expressions such as "Finland Swedes" and "Finnish Swedes", which correspond to the expressions still commonly used for immigrants in the United Kingdom and the expressions commonly used in Swedish and Finnish. Immigrants to the USA have however always been designated the "other way around" by an adjective indicating the ethnic or national origin and a noun indicating the new country of residence, for example "Swedish Americans" (never "American Swedes").
For example, British citizens who migrated (not immigrated) from India (or whose ancestors did) are usually called PDF (16.7 KB) (in both UK and US English), whereas Indian immigrants in the USA are called "Indian Americans" (in both UK and US English). Due to the great quantitative difference in Swedish immigration to the UK and USA, the expression "British Swedes" is much less well known than "Swedish Americans", but they correspond to these different naming patterns. Interestingly, British government documentsPDF (16.7 KB) today often simultaneously use both "British Asian" and "Asian British" and similar expressions as synonyms. This does not usually cause confusion because British immigration is mostly still in one direction, but it does cause an increasing amount of confusion in today's rapidly globalising world. More specifically, it has always been problematic in situations with close cultural ties and extensive reciprocal migration between two countries such as between Finland and Sweden (cf. also the confusion around the ambiguous terms "German Russian" and "Russian German").
The modern trend in most countries and languages is towards the naming method used to describe US immigrants because it emphasises the status as full and equal citizens of the new country while providing information about cultural roots. This system is also more appropriate to the situation of immigrants who have been living in the new country for a long time, especially when they stop using the original language. In any case, the self-designation of all population groups is nowadays however considered more important than any other criteria. Swedish-speaking inhabitants of Finland whose ancestors have lived there for centuries almost exclusively consider themselves Finns in the English sense of the word, so it is best to call them "Swedish-speaking Finns" in English. "Swedish-speaking Finns" is also the term preferred by the most representative organisation of Swedish Finns, the Swedish Assembly of Finland, and the Society of Swedish Authors in Finland. Many Finns and Swedes are unaware that the English word "Finn" usually means "a native or inhabitant of Finland" (, ) and only sometimes also has the meaning "a member of a people speaking Finnish or a Finnic language" or has this as its primary but not exclusive meaning. More specifically, due to the extremely small number of immigrants in Finland, Finns still have a hard time understanding that the normal English expression for a naturalised Finnish citizen who immigrated from Vietnam, for example, is a Vietnamese Finn. These same linguistic problems were encountered in France, Germany, and many other countries before the native population became used to foreigners many decades ago.
According to normal English usage (e.g. "French-speaking Canadians"), "Swedish-speaking Finns" means "Finnish citizens that speak Swedish as their mother tongue" and does not include people who have learned it as a foreign language. According to normal English usage, this can be abbreviated to Swedish Finns and Swedish speakers, and these less cumbersome expressions are preferable even when addressing people in Nordic countries in English, as for example in this article, as long as the meaning has been explained. The reason an explanation of the normal meaning of the English expression Swedish Finns is necessary in Scandinavia is because this is often confusingly used in English translations in Sweden and Finland to refer to Finns that have moved to Sweden and to the Finnish ethnic minority that has lived there for a long time. These people should instead be called "Finnish immigrants" and "Finnish Swedes" (or "Finnish ethnic minority in Sweden") respectively according to modern, unambiguous English usage. The reason they are often still called "Swedish Finns" or "Sweden Finns" is the old usage that emphasised the ethnic origin of immigrants instead of their status as citizens of the new country, but this usage is confusing and diminishing, as explained above.
Old Swedish-speaking Gentry ( - 1650) (Origins in Finland prior the establishment of church records)
Old Swedish-speaking Gentry of non-Finnish origin ( - 1650)
Swedish-speaking Families historically involved with Industry and Commerce