Swedish Finns


Today, approximately 5.6% of the current Finnish population (about 290,000 people) are considered to be Swedish-speaking Finns. This history of Swedish-speaking Finns dates back several centuries to when Finland was under Swedish rule and trade/business was prominent along the Baltic coast.

Emigration from Finland began in the 1600s when individuals and families moved to Delaware (New Sweden)(1638-1660), into the Virgin Islands and to Russia. In the 1830s, many Finns and Swede Finns moved to and through Russia to Alaska and beyond. In 1848, there was another period of emigration when gold was discovered in California and a migration of sailors occured. The ‘Great Emigration’ occurred in the 1860-1940 period (390,000 people of which 70,000 were Swedish Finn), mostly to North America, but also to Sweden, other parts of Europe and a small number to other parts of the world. There was another migration in the 1950-1970 period when 705,000 people left, primarily to Sweden.

People left Finland due to difficult times, overpopulation compared to available land, threats of conscription into the Russian army, lack of economic opportunity, smaller farms and the perception that opportunities were better elsewhere. They left families, traditions, culture and a unique life style.

An event called chain migration occured; an individual who found work or land wrote home and even helped buy tickets for others in the family and parish to join him/her.

Historical Contributions

The Swedish-speaking people of Finland brought to their new homelands a rich cultural heritage. The immigrants were known for their skills and strong work ethic. Across the world, they applied traditional techniques to new environments, contributing to the developments in their new countries. One of their earlies documented contributions to North America was the technology of the log cabin building in the New Sweden Colony along the Delaware River in 1638.

Noted Swedish-speaking Finns

  • Field Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim – leader of Finland against Russia in WWII
  • Linus Torvalds – inventor of Linux, exceptionally reliable and powerful free software, used world wide
  • Arvid Adolf Etholén and Johan Hampus Furuhjelm – Governors of Alaska (1840-1845) and (1859-1864)
  • Johan Ludvig Runeberg – scholar and national poet of Finland
  • Jean Sibelius – composer, including Finlandia

References

  1.  Brage Dräktbyrån. Published with permission from Brages Ab January 2010. © Brages Ab
  2.  Vesa Koivukangas; http://www.hyl.edu.hel.fi/sivut/Comenius/fi/works/ats00/Emigration/emigration.htm]
  3.  Wikipedia C.G.E. Mannerheim
  4.  Wikipedia Linus Torvalds
  5.  Wikipedia Adolf Etolin
  6.  Wikipedia Johan Hampus Furuhjelm
  7.  Wikipedia Russian Alaska
  8.  Wikipedia Johan Ludvig Runeberg
  9.  Wikipedia Jean Sibelius
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