July 8 – Dipping into Swedish History

Posted on July 8, 2017

The Scandinavian countries include, from Left to Right:
Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland

On this date in 1709, Russians under Czar Peter I beat Swedish forces and ended Sweden's time as a major European power.

And on this date in 1859, King Charles XV / XIV became ruler of Sweden / Norway.

These two historical anniversaries got me to wondering about Sweden and all of Scandinavia. I got to thinking about how closely related Scandinavian languages and customs are, and I got to wondering why they were separate nations.

As mentioned above, the Scandinavian countries include
Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.

I could understand why Iceland, Finland, and Denmark are not part of the same nation as Norway and Sweden, because they are separated by chunks of ocean.

But why were Norway and Sweden separate nations?

(1) They weren't always separate - as you already know from the 1859 event above.

(2) There is a chain of mountains that separated Norse and Swedes. My guess is that is easier for Norse and Swedes to trade with one another via the sea rather than over the mountains - and so they were almost as separate from one another as from the other Scandinavian countries.

Quickie overview

You see, more than a thousand years ago, some North Germanic tribes spread through Scandinavia. By the 9th Century, the groups that lived all over what is now Norway and Sweden began to diverge away from one another, separating into Norse and Swedish peoples, because of the separation of those mountains.

Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian languages are so similar that it is common for people from those three countries to be able to read the other two languages - although pronunciation tends to diverge (become different) more quickly, and it is harder for Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes to be able to understand the other spoken languages.

Icelandic is more different, although still related. I found it somewhat surprising that Finnish is altogether different; it's in the Finno-Ugric language family.

Here is "Good morning" in the various Scandinavian languages:

Swedish - God morgon
Norwegian - God morgen
Danish - God morgen
Icelandic - Góðan daginn
Finnish - Hyvää huomenta

That really shows how similar most of the languages are and how different Finnish is, doesn't it?

Apparently, Swedes crossed a bit of sea and conquered Finland back in 1250. Later, Sweden conquered part of what is now Estonia, other Balkan territories, and even part of the German Holy Roman Empire. Through much of that time, Norway and Denmark were combined through royal marriages.

Sweden got so powerful, perhaps, that the other Northern European nations combined together to attack Sweden in the Great Northern War. Sweden ended up losing some of the lands it had conquered, and it ended up losing Finland after the Finnish War with Russia.

After the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark ended up ceding Norway to Sweden, but Norwegians did not much want to be under the rule of Sweden. They wanted their independence. Thank goodness, this union was ended peacefully - no war needed! - in 1905.

So, basically, Sweden and Finland were joined for hundreds and hundreds of years - Finland being an integral part of Sweden rather than an oppressed and occupied territory. And Sweden and Norway were joined for a bit less than 100 years, in what was considered a "personal union" that was ruled from Stockholm, Sweden.

By the way, even though the Sweden - Finland connection was longer ago, it was also a lot longer. Finland still lists Swedish as one of its official languages, and school kids are required to learn it.

Here are a few great scenes from Sweden:

Also on this date:

Math 2.0 Day

Taos Pueblo Pow Wow

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