Sweden Finns – two cultures, two languages

Photos/Collage: Santtu Perkiö on Unsplash, Artem Militonian, Joakim Honkasalo/Unsplash, Norden.org, Norden.org
Photos/Collage: Santtu Perkiö on Unsplash, Artem Militonian, Joakim Honkasalo/Unsplash, Norden.org, Norden.org

There are over 700,000 people living in Sweden with Finnish roots. Sweden Finns’ Day (Finnish: Ruotsinsuomalaisten päivä, Swedish: Sverigefinnarnas dag) is celebrated in Sweden on 24 February. 

The population mix has historical reasons. In the 13th century Finland gradually came under Swedish rule. The country was only separated from Sweden in 1809, with Sweden becoming a constitutional monarchy. The waves of Finnish immigration to Sweden did not stop with the separation of the two countries, because shortly thereafter Finland was occupied by Russia.

The so-called Homann map of the Nordic countries.
The so-called Homann map of the Nordic countries. Wikimedia Commons

Then, World War II led to the displacement of about 70,000 Finns to Sweden. The 1950s and 1960s also saw large numbers of Finns moving to Sweden, often for work. Most Sweden Finns today were themselves born in Finland or have a grandparent or a parent who was born in Finland. What unites Sweden Finns is above all language and culture.

The Sweden Finns day was approved by the Swedish Academy in 2010 and celebrated first time in 2011. 24 February was chosen as the date of the anniversary as this was also the birthday of Carl Axel Gottlund, a collector of folk poetry and a defender of the status of the Finnish language. The purpose of the day is to celebrate the Sweden Finns and to recognize their history, language and culture as a part of Sweden’s cultural heritage.

…and the sauna

Sauna. Photo: Anne Nygaard/Unsplash

Today Finnish is an official minority language of Sweden. Swedish Finns are the largest of Sweden’s five national minorities (the others being Sámi, Tornedalers, Roma and Jews). The are not to be confused with Swedish-speaking Finns who live in Finland and speak Swedish.

Sverigefinska Riksförbundet is a minority interest organization for the Swedish Finns. It was founded in 1957 to promote the common social and cultural aspirations of Sweden Finns. Their mission is to keep the Finnish language and Swedish-Finnish culture alive in Sweden by among other things arranging activities for families. What the members of Sverigefinska Riksförbundet have in common is the language and the culture.

Cooking salmon.
Cooking salmon. Norden.org

A national minority

“Perhaps you came to Sweden during the great labor immigration wave about 50 years ago, or you were born in Sweden but have a Finnish grandmother and want to learn more about your roots, or you moved here a few years ago and want Finnish-language activities in their everyday life. Sweden Finns are living with two languages ​​and two cultures hand in hand in their everyday lives. And they like sauna!”, Sverigefinska Riksförbundet states.

Sweden Finns
Swedish flags. Photo: NFT Car Girl.

“Sweden Finns are a national minority in Sweden. Even though the law existed before 2010, it is not always followed properly and you have to fight for your rights as a national minority in Sweden”, says Sverigefinska Riksförbundet to UNRIC.