Monday, April 3, 2017

Finlandssvenskar Paper III

And here is the third paper on the "Finland-Swedes."

The modern identity of the Swedish ethno-linguistic minority in Finland developed through divisive nationalistic tension. It did not, however, become a conflict known for widespread violence, mass atrocities, or loss of life. This can be partially credited to a lack of sufficient historic myths or prejudices to incite or justify violence, as well as long-standing coexistence of the two groups within the geographical whole of the territory that now forms the Finnish state. Nevertheless, strong rhetoric, suspicion, and tensions existed on both sides, contributing to a sustained and lingering clash. In order to successfully ensure that the dispute did not usher in bloodshed or loss of civilian life, measured and careful agreements had to be established, creating an environment of peace and effective representation. The government introduced measures that ultimately have caused the conflict to dissipate in the context of a modern, tolerant Finland. The measures which have had the most lasting and effective impact to healing the conflict are the nearly immediate official bilingualism of the modern Finnish state, the instatement of strongly enforced bilingual schooling and representation in the country’s educational system, and the development of a Finland-Swedish identity as distinct from Sweden.
Some level of quarreling between Finland’s two largest ethno-linguistic communities was ultimately inevitable. The awakening of the Finns’ distinct national identity, coupled with their immense demographic advantage, was bound to cause discomfort among the previously dominant Swedish demographic, and was mirrored by reactionary politicized extremes in the form of the Fennoman and Svecoman movements, even prior to independence. While Finland remained a grand duchy under the control of the still-intact tsarist Russian Empire, “a rescript on the language question in response to the petitions and requests of the ‘Finnish population of the Grand Duchy’” was filed in the summer of 1863. This rescript was in some ways considered a setback by those campaigning for greater linguistic recognition and use of Finnish, as the rescript specifically named Swedish as the sole official language of Finland at an overall federal level, with official use of Finnish being confined to the regions of the country where it was spoken natively by a majority of the population. The time frame of the rescript’s implementation was deemed to be too long, and it was widely believed that the Senate, which held the task of preparing the necessary legislation to implement it, would seek to delay and hinder this progression. Nevertheless, this early introduction of legislation advocating for the recognition of both languages on some sort of official level, to be used in public documents and institutions, was considered an unprecedented step that had lasting, influential consequences. This particular rescript was ultimately was unsuccessful, as the emperor rejected the proclamation of Finnish as an official language on the grounds that an outdated Swedish law of 1743 forbiding the use of “foreign languages” in courts of law. The legal measure which finally granted official administrative recongition of Finnish as a language came at the end of 1883, making it equal with Swedish in courts of law, but leaving higher courts with the possibility of deciding which language to use as was relevant to them and the people involved in their cases.
The early recognition of the two languages being on equal footing in the eyes of the government proved invaluable to the prevention of future conflict. Additional changes in the playing field soon followed, as Swedish soon ceased to be used in regions of the country such as Savo in the east, where Finnish was universal. Finnish was the sole language of plenary sessions after 1905, and by 1907 was the dominant language of the unicameral legislature. The fact that all of these changes and shifts in power between the two opposing linguistic sides were already underway well before independence in 1917 allowed for the state to be set upon a foundation of mutual recognition and relative respect. Even as tensions developed over Finnish desires for self-determination and Swedish fears of assimilation, the fact that independent Finland was built on a policy of bilingualism created a sense of security that made taking up arms unecessary.
A feature of the preestablished bilingual policy that was particularly important was its enforcement in educational environments specifically in addition to government ones. Renowned in the twenty-first century for its educational system, Finland has demonstrated great governmental committment and strongly vested cultural importance towards high-quality education of all its citizens. In the days that greater Finnish recognition, research, and official use was being undertaken prior to independence, one of the greatest changes and issues dealt with was that of introducing Finnish language schooling. Up until the Industrial Age, much of the Finnish population was quite poor and agriculturally based, with education usually being something limited to the upper echelons of the society, which in those days primarily spoke Swedish. As such, Swedish was the primary educational language as well as the administrative one for much of Finland’s history. Beginning in reforms of the elementary educational system in the 1850s, there were attempts made to downgrade or even eliminate the teaching of Finnish altogether, leading to a Fennoman pushback to this deliberate obstacle to their goals. As the bureaucracy and press were largely unmoved by this struggle, the Fennomans appealed to the masses to raise funds for the construction and opening of a Finnish-language secondary school in Helsinki, which opened its doors in 1873. The exemplary creation of this institution led to more and more privately funded schools being established all around the country, with Finnish language schools even being present in areas with overwhelming Swedish-speaking majorities, such as Kokkola (Gamlakarleby in Swedish) in the western region of Ostrobothnia. While a mere quarter of the country’s secondary-school level students attended a Finnish-language institute in the year 1870, this rose to over half by the end of the century, further evidenced by the fact that for the very first time, a majority of incoming students enrolling in universities were alumni of such schools. “A a survey of ten major Finnish towns in 1920 revealed that almost a third of the inhabitants considered themselves bilingual. The langauge conflict may have generated much heat in the columns of journals and newspapers, but it did not divide communities or cause the kind of violent tensions experienced in many other corners of Europe.” Through the increasing implementation of bilingual policies in the blossoming nation’s instructional institutions at levels of both secondary and higher education, a precedent for greater and longer-lasting bilingual cooperation could then be established. Once again, the fact that this greater cooperation was implemented for the younger generation before the major politicized movements sought to divide them against each other helped to prevent violence in the end. However reactionary and schismatic the rhetoric that their fiercely Fennoman or Svecoman elders might uphold, the students being educated at this time came of age with a novel perception of the two languages as being on equal intellectual footing, as they belonged to the first generation for whom they were treated as such in education. This equalized status of the two languages in the mind of the successive generation allowed for the possibility of violence to dissipate further as they became politically active and vocal.
A second factor helped ensure that the language differences did not lead to violence: the development of a Finland Swedish identity as distinct from Sweden itself. In the Middle Ages, when Sweden first took over Finland, it also established colonial control in a number of other areas in the region. Its empire stretched from the eastern shores of Norway to Karelia from east to west and from the Arctic Circle to several cities in northern Germany at its greatest extent, making it the largest and furthest reaching regional power in northern Europe and the Baltics in its heyday. This great territorial expansion meant that considerable communities of Swedes were established across this territory. Many countries, notably Estonia, retain Swedish minorities that have gained distinct cultural identities and political recognition and representation within their host states, though none to the degree of dual cooperative integration as Finland in a modern context. In numerous areas where they were once present in considerable numbers, such as Estonia, Swedes have largely opted to return to their ancestral country, due in particular in this case to pressure from the tsarist Russian Empire which viewed Sweden, and by extension Swedes as a whole, as political enemies. In contrast, Finland’s much larger and more firmly established Swedish community almost universally opted to stay, due largely to the ultimate success of the bilingual cooperation policies carried out by the government.
Consequently, as the minority remained in the country, the advancement of a distinct Finland-Swedish identity gained both a political and cultural ilk. From a political standpoint, definitive desire not to be annexed by Sweden began when the neighboring kingdom declined to annex the Åland Islands during the Åland crisis to quell the overwhelmingly Swedish-speaking Ålanders’ worries concerning assimilation. The Swedish government was disinterested in asserting itself in the conflict in an aggresively political matter, given that with several decades of Russian rule and rapid progression of distinct local identities, it no longer held any significant administrative sway left over from the former colonial age. There was also a prevailing sense that the fairly inconsequential, unindustrialized archipelago was not worth involvement in a nation experiencing a high prevalence of divisive nationalistic rhetoric. Conversely to the Islands, the areas on the Finnish mainland which are home to Swedish-speaking majorities have not been considered for annexation by Sweden, or even for regional autonomy. The Swedish government’s unresponsiveness and seeming disinterest to direct involvement on the behalf of its linguistic kinsmen in Finland has led to a mutual disinterest, as the day-to-day logistical undertakings of Stockholm have at this point become far removed from those of Mariehamn and Vasa. Consequently, the Finland-Swedes have become far more disposed to cooperating with (and potentially seeking varying degrees of autonomy from) Helsinki since the Åland crisis.
Beyond political distancing from the motherland, the Finland-Swedes have come to take great pride in their well-developed, distinct cultural identity. Linguistically, the Swedish spoken by the Finland-Swedes is quite mutually understandable with the standardized language, especially due to the Swedish Department of the Institute for Languages in Finland’s official aim of keeping the language as close to Sweden’s standard as possible (this is due to the sheer incomprehensibility of Finnish loanwords to those unfamiliar with Finno-Ugric languages). However, the dialects are indeed distinct, with some archaic dialects in the historically Swedish stronghold region of Ostrobothnia being nearly unintelligible to Swedish speakers of other dialects. In spite of the Institute for Languages’ best efforts, the vernacular tends to incorporate a great many loanwords from Finnish, especially among young people in mostly Finnish-speaking areas, giving the local dialect a distinct fused nature, blending the two languages and identities. The community has also adopted an unofficial but widely recognized flag for itself, consisting of a golden Nordic cross against a solid red background. The relatively simple design fuses symbolism from both Finland and Sweden, using red and yellow that mirror the Finnish coat of arms, while also being nearly identical to the flag of the Swedish province of Scania. It is often flown together with Finland’s national flag, consisting of a blue Nordic cross on a solid white background.
Finland-Swedish culture is further defined by the community’s unique literature and folklore. They have historically included high degrees of maritime themes, largely due to the fact that the most monolingually Swedish regions of Finland consist of southern islands, namely the Åland archipelago, and the eastern coastal region directly facing Sweden itself. These themes are typical in the folklore of many other linguistically Germanic Nordic nations, giving the Finland-Swedes a much more tangible kindred heritage with these other nations as compared to their ancestrally and linguistically separate Finnish neighbors. The community’s literary output has a rich legacy - from the works of such Finland-Swedish authors as Edith Södergran, Gunner Björling, and Elmer Diktonius, who all wrote in the modernist style, the Finland-Swedish modernists of the early 20th century were greatly influential to the development of Scandinavian modernism as a whole in literature.
A final element of the distinct Finland-Swedish identity comes in the very terminology that they use to refer to themselves. Even in their own demonym, they have come to favor a label that acknowledges the language they speak, while still fashioning themselves as distinct from the inhabitants of Sweden proper. When referring to all Finnish nationals as a whole, the Swedish-speaking Finns use the term finländare, rather than the usual Swedish word finnar, as the latter carries ethnically, and therefore by extension linguistically, Finnish connotations only. Finländare is used as a more inclusive label denoting a sense of belonging to the Finnish nation that transcends ethnic identity. To refer to their own community, the Swedish speakers use the term finlandssvensk, which has no direct English equivalent, meaning “Finland-Swede” in literal translation. The linguistic care which has been afforded to crafting terminology to inclusively encompass and label the Swedish-speaking minority has been another means through which its distinct identity has developed. All in all, their desire to be represented and recognized as Swedes and Swedish speakers living within Finland as a culturally distinct domestic offshoot, rather than Swedes in a foreign land, has allowed greater conflict mediation and resolution to take place.
Nowadays, the conflict between Finnish speakers and Swedish speakers in Finland as it existed in the time of the language strife has largely dissipated into irrelevance. Further legislation has been passed to ensure optimal self-determination and represtentation, notably by the 2003 Language Act. This was a measure to further regulate the official bilingualism of individual Finnish municipalities. It states that if the Finnish or Swedish minority, depending on the demographic nature of the municipality, increases further than 3,000 people or 8% of the overall population, then the municipality becomes officially bilingual by default. Conversely, if the minority falls to fewer than 3,000 people or below the 6% threshold of the population, it automatically becomes monolingual, unless citizens vote to retain the bilingual status. Bilingualism has expanded to uphold both langauges as compulsory educational subjects, called äidinkieli or modersmål (“mother tongue”) and toinen kotimainen kieli or andra inhemska språket (“other domestic language”). These two subjects are required throughout Finland’s compulsory education lasting until the age of 16. Graduates of polytechnic institute sand universities are required to pass exams demonstrating a certain level of proficiency in their “other domestic language” as well as their mother tongue. Consequently, modern Finland has become a country that is firmly and proudly bilingual.
Depending on the demographic nature of individual regions or municipalities, many citizens exhibit functional bilingualism, insofar as Swedish speakers are more likely to be fluent in Finnish than vice versa, given the practical matters of living in a state where Finnish speakers make up 92% of the population. Some residual tensions still remain over the fact that the Swedish-speaking provinces on the Finnish mainland do not have fixed territorial protection as administrative units comparable to that of German speakers in Belgium and northern Italy. However, as the vast majority of Swedish speakers, particularly in regions where they form the demographic majority, report being able to use their native language in nearly every aspect of their everyday life, these tensions result in virtually no tangible conflict. Finland’s bilingual status is deep-seated, and has been constructed to great success for both of the country’s prominent communities.

The tensions that caused the language strife, though divisive and controversial in the society of the newly independent state, never led to any sort of outright violence or war, and this was because of the institutionalized frameworks that were created to cater amply to both communities. The early instatement of both Finnish and Swedish as official languages, their long-standing use in education and government, and development of unique Finland Swedish identity ultimately put all fears of assimilation and continued colonialism to rest.
One of my favorite Swedish songs.

Finlandssvenskar Paper II

Hello all!
Here is paper number 2 of the ones I wrote about Finland's Swedish-speaking minority. Enjoy!

Having declared its independence from the fallen Russian Empire on December 6, 1917, Finland took true control of its own self-determination for the first time in over seven hundred years. The fervor motivating the movements which fueled this independence came primarily from an increased awareness and development of the unique nature of Finnish ethnic identity. The distinct ethno-linguistic origins of the Finns, from those of the Slavic and Nordic nations surrounding them, were cited as reason for this. Pride and interest in Finnish folk history and traditions grew immensely at this time, and many elite, who, as a legacy of the Swedish colonial area, spoke Swedish as a first language, Fennicized their names and switched to Finnish as their language of everyday use. But not all Swedish speakers were so keen to change their ways. Many of them feared the loss of their culture in this new nation in which they found themselves so demographically outnumbered. Though it never turned particularly violent, these concerns were the basis of the contention which lead to Finland’s kieli riita, or språkstriden, meaning “language strife.” Subsequently, the foundation of the Svecoman movement as an answer to the Fennoman one, the height of the language strife, and straining of relations with Sweden as a result of domestic issues faced by the Swedish-speaking community in Finland led to the height of these tensions.
The Fennoman movement was one founded out of a desire for the recognition of Finland’s unique ethno-linguistic identity and distinct history from its ruling powers of Sweden and Russia. Though its aims were numerous, it sought in particular to elevate Finnish from a status of dismissal as a “peasant’s tongue” to being considered fit for administrative and official use. At the time of independence, Finnish and Swedish speakers comprised about 85 and 15 percent of the country’s population respectively. With the government of the independent state now mainly controlled by self-defined Fennomans, many of the Swedish-speaking minority felt that their culture was under threat of assimilation by the strong majority. As such, the Svecoman movement was born, as a political answer to that of the Fennomans, around 1810 with the intent of protecting the use of Swedish and the interests of its speakers, seeing as it had come to be increasingly replaced by Finnish in public administration, courts, and schools. Its founder, philologist and Swedish nationalist Axel Olof Freudenhal, purported that Finland harbored two peoples (even going as far as to call them “races”) - the Finnish and Swedish speakers - with different cultures and languages. He opposed the drastic overhaul of the administrative language from Swedish to Finnish, defending the historical use of Swedish in this position, and expressed interest in granting Swedish-speakers political autonomy from Finland’s nationalistic awakening, due to his racist beliefs of Swedish “superiority.” Though few shared the explicitly pejorative and racist nature of his rhetoric, similar concerns were shared by many in the Swedish-speaking upper echelons of the local society, who feared losing the privileged position they held as a legacy of the colonial past in addition to cultural assimilation by the Finns who had always far outnumbered them.
The movement additionally fostered a previously absent sense of unity between the elite Swedish-speakers - descendents of this administrative bourgeoisie from the Swedish colonial era - and comparatively poor Swedish-speaking country dwellers. Swedish-speakers in Finland have typically formed a strong majority along the southern and western coasts around the cities of Helsinki and Vaasa, though they have always been scattered in sparser quantities around the country. This newfound camaraderie was highly effective in bringing all the Swedish-speakers together as a unified ethnolinguistic whole, and this unified nature of the community is one of this conflict’s continued legacies. Finally, the Svecoman movement also highlighted a number of directly contrasting distinctions between the Finnish and Swedish speakers in the context of their politicized movements. Fennomans were generally more corporatist and liberal, and Svecomans more individualistic and conservative. Tsarist Russia also were more permissive towards the formation of the Fennomans as a political movement, as they felt more equipped to quash Finnish independence movements rather than contend with potential Svecoman demands for reunification with Sweden, their old enemy. This allowed the Fennoman movement to grow significantly stronger and address its nationalistic aspiration and interests under Russian rule far more openly, granting them a headstart that the Svecomans were denied. As Russian control weakened and was finally cast off altogether, the Svecoman movement too was allowed to pursue a political path, leading to the creation of the Swedish People’s Party of Finland, which to this day is the primary group representing the interests of the Swedish-speaking community in the government.
The conflicts of interest between the Fennoman and Svecoman movements following independence gave rise to the nonviolent, but long and tense “language strife.” The strife is defined as taking place from the late 19th century well into the 1920s and 1930s, as the conflicting movements slowly negotiated and settled what would be the status of the two main national tongues. Many radical Fennomans wished to fashion Finnish the sole official language of the country, whereas hardline Svecomans in turn argued for political autonomy in regions where Swedish speakers were the majority. Both positions were ultimately overturned in the 1919 Constitution and 1923 Language Act by the majorities of both parties who wished to make effective and easy concession rather than exacebate conflict. These treaties stipulated that the country would be officially bilingual, that public authorities would cater to the needs of both groups equally, citizens would have the right to use their own language with the authorities, and that municipalities had the right to declare themselves as unilingual on a local administrative level if their inhabitants were in great majority of either group. Nonetheless, tensions continued.
An example of these tensions could be found at the University of Helsinki. Though not the only major institute of higher education at the time, it held a special sort of symbolic value in the national conscience as the center of the country’s intellectual life, and the typical institution of higher education for its elite. A law approved by the eduskunta, the Finnish parliament, in 1923 attempted to set forth a policy of proportionate education in both languages based on the number of students who spoke them. This was a compromise that left none satisfied, as Swedish faculty felt under threat, while staunch Finnish nationalists were angered that students had to continue listening to lectures in Swedish, as they felt this perpetuated the historical superiority of Swedish from the colonial era. This dispute was not fully resolved until 1937, when it was decided that although Finnish would be the administrative language of the university, faculty and students would both have the right to use their respective mother tongues in publications, exams, and coursework. The strife played out in particular in institutions of higher education after the country became nominally bilingual in 1863, as the two rival movements fought to preserve their own interests of gaining greater linguistic power. Though additional concerns followed, this early official bilingualism played a large role in ensuring the conflict did not turn violent, ensuring that even as both groups felt compelled to defend their linguistic self-determination vis-à-vis the other, they both were assured with recognition of this determination at an official level.  
Concerns regarding demographic shifts in the population also played a prominent role, as Svecomans found themselves proportionately far outnumbered, especially given the numbers of Swedish speakers who had adopted Finnish as their primary language in tandem with Fennoman political inclinations, and 400,000 Finnic-speaking Karelian refugees who fled across the border when Karelia was ceded to the Soviet Union in 1940, following the Winter War’s resolution. This influx meant that the country took on an even stronger majority of ethnically and linguistically Finnic groups, worrying hardline Svecomans even further about the perceived threats to the continued existence of their language in Finland.
Beyond the language strife, other struggles aggravating the conflict included the Civil War and the Åland Crisis. The Finnish Civil War took place from January to May 1918, starting mere weeks after independence, in the transitionary phase between Russian-dominated Grand Duchy to sovereign state. It was fought between the so-called “Reds,” led by the Social Democratic Party, and the predominantly conservative, non-socialist senate, or the so-called “Whites.” The conflict resulted in White victory, and around 39,000 casualties. There was harsh contention as to what form of government should be instituted, with Whites arguing for the creation of a Finnish monarchy, and Reds advocating for the creation of a Finnish republic with full democracy and popular representation. This played into the conflict by the White monarchists wishing to base their desired new governmental system for Finland off of Sweden’s, futhering the Fennoman wariness against the colonial past. Divisions furthered with the Åland Crisis. This concerned the political status awarded to the Åland Islands, an archipelago almost universally Swedish-speaking which came under Finnish administration following independence. Sensing what was perceived to be growing pro-Finnishness and anti-Swedishness in Finland, and seeing as over 90% of the islands were ethnic Swedes, in contrast to just 15% of mainlanders, many feared for their safety due fears of forced assimilation into Finnish culture. Initially there were enthusiastic calls from most Ålanders for annexation by Sweden, but as the Swedish government was wary of asserting itself in any aggressive manner in a conflict over a fairly inconsequential archipelago in the midst of strong nationalistic tensions, it was not receptive to these desires. Following the resolution of the Civil War, the issue was even brought before the League of Nations, which ultimately ruled that it made more geographical sense for the archipelago to remain part of Finland, as deep sea separated it from Sweden, making it theoretically more difficult for Sweden to administer politically. As a concession, however, the Finnish government granted the Åland Islands extensive autonomy to ensure the protection of Swedish language and culture. These conflicts perpetuated the division and tension between Fennomans and Svecomans as politicized faces of the Finnish and Swedish-speaking communities, as relations with Sweden itself became strained due to contentions along ethnic lines and concerns for the safety and cultural survival of its linguistic kinsmen.
A theoretical element applicable to the case of the Swedish-speaking Finns would be that of ancient hatreds, or more appropriately a lack thereof. Such issues as “ancient hatreds, manipulative leaders, economic rivalry, and so on” are considered key elements to defining the motivations and undertakings of ethnic conflict as justified. Although aggressive rhetoric was very much present in the language strife in particular, the historical context of a deeply opposed and hateful interethnic prejudice was simply not there. Hardline leaders such as Axel Olof Freudenhal on the Svecoman side, who went as far as to call the Finns an “inferior race,” attempting to assign them an Asiatic identity that was therefore inherently lesser than the Swedish race, in keeping with racist stereotypes and beliefs of the time, wished to incite such extreme disparagement so as to ensure not only Swedish self-determination, but continued control. However, in spite of linguistic concerns and tensions, this ultimately proved unsuccessful. The contentions between the Finns and Finnish-speaking Swedes were simply not ancient and deep-rooted enough to yield any serviceable motivation for sustained violent conflict. This can be attributed in part to the development of the Finnish identity as a popular fascination with their own cultural heritage above all else, with little need to define or carve out which territory they belonged to. An additional factor which can be held accountable for the continued non-violent nature of this conflict would be the laissez-faire attitude traditionally espoused by the Swedish government in its rule of Finland, and the consequential coexistence of the two ethnic groups throughout much of this historical timeframe. Although there was still sensitivity in the years after Finnish independence regarding a desire for Finns to finally have their voices heard and culture legitimized as these had previously not been, the permissiveness that the Swedes had shown the Finns in being allowed to speak their language and practice their culture as a colony meant that there was a sense of established mutual respect. For Sweden’s entire six hundred year rule of the country, Swedes had lived in Finland, administrative bourgeoisie and poor farmers alike. This historical tolerance and coexistence meant that violent and oppressive rhetoric failed, even at times when it was introduced into the conflict.

While transitioning from former Swedish and Russian domination to a stable and successful figure on the European political stage, the Finnish state came to a major crossroads in the face of the issues raised by its ethnic tensions. Without ever leading to outright civil war, movements with secessionist aspirations, or intense violence to any major scale, the issues raised by the Swedish-speaking community contentiously called into question the nature of Finnish nationalism and its implications for the nation’s future. The language strife in particular was the most noteworthy and highly contested element of the tensions at hand. The rise of the Svecoman movement, arguments over educational linguistic use during the peak of the language strife, and diplomatic friction with Sweden due to the Finnish Civil War and Åland Islands crisis were the issues contributing the most to the fears and distancing displayed by more conservative and hardline members of the Swedish linguistic minority. And in spite of all these strains between the country’s two largest population, their long-standing harmonious existence prevented them from ever causing real violence.

One of my favorite Finnish songs.

Finlandssvenskar Paper I

Hey guys!
Today I will be continuing sharing some of my favorite academic works with you all. This will be the first of three posts, as I will share the contents of three papers I had to write in my nationalism and ethnic conflict class in an individual case study next semester. I wrote mine on the Swedish-speaking minority community in Finland.
I greatly enjoyed writing these papers, and I hope that you enjoy reading them too.
Disclaimer: I can't get the footnotes to copy and paste, and do not feel like going back through the whole darn paper to insert them. If for whatever reason anyone wants a reference, I will provide it.

On December 6, 1917, the modern Republic of Finland declared its independence and gained political sovereignty.. This was subsequent to nearly six hundred of rule by Sweden, and another hundred by the Russian Empire. During the more recent age of Russian rule in particular, nationalistic sentiments strengthened and ultimately led to a relatively non-violent movement highlighting the country’s unique culture and seeking political autonomy. Elements that were highly instrumental in the creation and sustenance of said movement were the fervent pride in Finnish ethno-linguistic identity sparked by the Fennoman movement, the creation of a Finnish literary epic called the Kalevala, and the stark contrast between rights of political expression under Swedish and Russian domination.
Though Swedish control in Finland is sometimes said to date back as far as 1150, the earliest irrefutable archeological evidence pinpoints 1216. Following the Treaty of Pähkinäsaari in 1323, the eastern provinces of Karelia were ceded to the Russian Empire, whereas the southern and western provinces remained under Swedish control and therefore continued to develop culturally along with the rest of the west. In the six centuries of Swedish rule, Finns had rights to political representation in the Swedish Diet, as well as being relatively free to speak their own language and maintain a fairly uninhibited everyday life. The Russian Empire entered the picture when it triumphed over Sweden in the War of Finland from 1808-1809, and the Finnish Diet swore allegiance to the Russian tsar, becoming a Grand Duchy under Russian control. The difference in Russian and Swedish leadership was clearly felt as time wore on. Initially, there was little animosity on the part of the Russian authorities towards the growing nationalistic pride taking hold within the general population. But particularly under the more conservative reign of Tsar Nicholas I, Finland began to feel echoes of the harsh repression experienced by other parts of the empire.
The tsarist leadership wished to stifle nationalist movements of individual ethno-linguistic groups for fear that “the sparks of the 1848 revolutions might land” in their new dominion as well.” This shattered the relative freedom that had existed under Sweden. In addition, there was practically no Finnish representation allowed within the local government anymore, dashing any sense of hope for the local populace. Initially, during the earlier years after the establishment of the Grand Duchy, there were concessions made on the part of the Russian authorities to allow for greater use of the Finnish language in official circles. But the instatement of these concessions coincided with a period in which the nationalistic pride and interest in distinctly Finnish language, culture, history, and heritage were beginning to take a markedly politicized turn. This resulted in attacks and imposition of laws contrary to the Finnish constitution, the disbanding of the army, and the deportation of anyone who resisted the unconstitutional laws to Siberian concentration camps. Russian authorities also enacted harsh measures of control over the lives of students, restricting publication of books in Finnish to religious works and practical advice pertaining to agriculture, under the guise that “this was all that was needful for a peasant people.” The mounting oppression fueled desires for freedom and independence, which came about when Finland declared its independence in 1917, taking advantage of the Russian Empire’s weakened state in the wake of World War I and the October Revolution. Adolf Ivar Arwidsson, a lecturer from the University of Turku who was a prolific political journalist and historian, accurately summed up the sentiments that by this time had firmly taken hold: “Svenskar äro vi inte mer, ryssar kunna vi inte bli, derför måste vi vara finnar.” Swedes we are no longer, Russians we can never become. So let us be Finns.
Growing pride in Finland’s cultural and linguistic heritage had begun long prior to repressive Russian control. The element perhaps most instrumental in spearheading the nationalistic politicization, the Fennoman movement, has its origins as early as the end of Swedish rule. It was a movement defined by the particular motivation to develop and elevate the Finnish language, which had long been overlooked for formal purposes, to official status, proving that it could serve just as well as Swedish as a “vehicle for cultural development.” The Finnish Literature Society was founded in 1831 to promote and protect the production of literary works in Finnish to further these goals, and it published studies on the Swedish “fatherland” not as a whole, but focusing solely on the Finnish portion of it, as had never been done before. These often focused on folk culture in more rural towns and villages, and historians, such as Arwidsson, studied traditional folklore and poetry in an attempt to capture the truest essence of the nation’s values and beliefs. As the more restrictive nature of life under the tsar began to reveal itself, the movement grew more political from fear that prolonged union with Russia would result in Russification and loss of the nation’s unique culture and language. This culminated with the formal founding of the Finnish Party in the 1860s, in which a previously apolitical group interested in their country’s past adopted a political agenda to advocate for independence. In one of the gestures most telling of the growing committment to this cause, many Swedish speakers who became devoted to the Fennoman movement chose to Fennicize their own names and overhaul their primary language of everyday and domestic use from Swedish to Finnish.
Within this interest Finns began to take in their cultural heritage, and its politicization, one element stands out in particular: the Kalevala. This was accredited to Fennoman linguist and poetry collector Elias Lönnrot. A founding member of the Finnish Literature Society, Lönnrot traveled across Finland and the traditionally Russian provinces of Karelia, whose inhabitants were culturally akin to the Finns, and transcribed many previously unrecorded Finnish and Karelian fables, epics, and proverbs, compiling them into a single written work called the Kalevala, which in 1835 became one of the first major works published in the Finnish language. Besides serving as a means of immortalizing these testaments to long-standing distinct Finnic cultures, this move was also meant to demonstrate the expressive potential of Finnish as a language of official and distinguished use, on par with Swedish and Russian. Lönnrot additionally published a book called Kantele, named after a traditional Finnish instrument, recording typical folk tunes from different parts of the country, as well as the first Finnish-Swedish dictionary. His linguistic research was also used to coin new words for concepts such as science and grammar that had previously not been expressed in Finnish using native Finno-Ugric roots rather than taking on foreign loanwords. This assemblage of cultural staples into a composition of genuine academic prowess and value went a long way to casting off the former image of Finland’s language and culture being those of a simple and uneducated peasantry, and significantly fueled the legitimacy and victories of the Fennoman groups and independence movement. The work came to be seen as Finland’s very own national epic, a symbol which the nation could treasure and identify with. Names of characters and places it featured even began to be adopted by organizations, farmer’s co-operatives, banks, and insurance companies, and were bestowed upon newly born children. By creating such a powerful literary work in Finnish, the Kalevala marked a turning point in the legitimacy of the Fennoman and general Finnish independence movements in the eyes of their adversaries.
Immediately following Finnish independence during World War I, the new Soviet government across the border in Russia recognized Finland diplomatically right away. Pride in Finnish ethno-linguistic identity sparked by the Fennoman movement, the creation of a Finnish literary epic called the Kalevala, and the stark contrast between rights of political expression under Swedish and Russian domination successfully sparked the changes that led to eventual freedom. Though more obstacles remained to be resolved and more distinct ethno-linguistic communities would develop, the foundations of the stable and successful Finnish state we know today had been solidly set.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Olim L'Berlin / עולים לברלין

Hey guys!
So recently I decided that I want to start sharing some of my academic creations that I'm proud of or enjoyed creating with you all.
I'll start by sharing some research I did on the growing Israeli community of Berlin, Germany, a particularly fascinating one.

Hope you enjoy.

What factors influence Israeli migration to Berlin?

Berlin’s growing Israeli community represents an anomaly for many. Though it has sported a significant Jewish population for a long time, the presence of a large Israeli community is a recent feature in Berlin, and its status as the fastest-growing Jewish community in the world causes it to stand out as something quite unique. Its growth has been influenced by a variety of logistical, security, and identity-related developments within both societies that render the nature of its existence a unique and, indeed, almost contradictory, intersection of national, religious, and ethnic identities.

Migration studied:
Estimations of the number of Israelis residing in Germany vary between 8,000 and 25,000, but most of them indesputably live in and around Berlin. The city’s “cosmopolitan flair, vibrant arts scene, and public transportation” are widely cited as key reasons for their attraction. Furthermore, many of the Israeli citizens committing this yerida (Hebrew for ‘descent,’ the opposite of ‘aliyah,’ ‘ascension,’ or immigration to Israel) are artists, filmmakers, sculptors, and musicians, many of whom feel that Berlin’s art scene and calm nature make for a more conducive and welcoming environment for their artistic development and output compared to their politically tense, war-torn homeland. This creative class constituting the vast majority of Berlin’s Israeli expatriate community is often designated as the sort who “made Tel Aviv cool,” many of them being young and single. Given that permanent yerida, especially concerning beliefs seen as anti-Zionist, is seen at home as an inherently treacherous act, the presence of so many such emigres, in the German capital no less, is often denounced as a mutinous brain drain by religious and right-wing Israeli society.

Theoretical Framework:
The Israeli community constitutes only a fraction of the most recent Jewish arrivals. In the years following their collapse, approximately 200,000 Jews emigrated to Germany from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, particularly Russia. According to a law passed between the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification, Soviet Jews could resettle in East Germany with proof of their local ancestry. The large influx of Russian speakers has left the previously small and close-knit community of native German Jews whose local presence predated the Holocaust feeling unsettled, leading to tense dynamics of demographic power shifts in which the newcomers are viewed with xenophobic skepticism.
From Germany’s overall population of 250,000 it is estimated that 25,000 are Israeli citizens. Specific numbers can be difficult to pinpoint, as Germany does not count anyone holding a European passport (which many Israeli newcomers obtain) as a foreigner, and Israel does not count anyone who returns to visit within a year as an emigrant. Aside from greater security, freedom for content creators, and reasonable cost of living, numerous Israeli newcomers have cited the potential to obtain a European passport as an incentive. The law, any Israeli citizen able to prove that their ancestors suffered persecution by the Nazis is elligible to receive German citizenship. Over 100,000 Israelis hold German citizenship, and the number increases by about 7,000 annually.
Another significant pull towards Berlin has been that many queer Israelis feel the city makes for an environment more tolerant of their identities than their homeland. Israel struck down the legalization of civil unions in 2013, with homophobia and transphobia still being prevalent. Many marginalized queer Israelis, ironically in union with anti-Zionist critics, claim that the State of Israel engages in massive pinkwashing of its queer rights record to bolster its progressive image in western eyes. Many of the individuals forming this new queer Israeli diaspora, particularly in Berlin, feel “non-identification with Israeli society, which they see as aggressive, sexist, and militarist, and non-identification with Israel’s mainstream [leftist but still Zionist] LGBTQ community.” Many of these individuals belonged to radical left-wing organizations at home, and cite frustration at their inability to enact change as a reason for their yerida.

Historical Consequences:
The very existence of Berlin’s Israeli community highlights obvious shifts in the relations between the two countries. The first Israeli passports bore the distinction “valid to every country except Germany,” a distinction which was removed definitively in 1952. These shifts have manifested themselves further through informal interpersonal connections as well, with Berlin transforming from “(neo-)Nazi-central” to trendy vacation spot in Israeli eyes in a space of less than five years.
Given the hardline Zionist rhetoric pegging yerida as a betrayal by nature, this affinity towards Berlin, with such notable proportions going as far as to seek German citizenship to facilitate European residency and travel, is seen even more contentiously. Some scathingly remark that “they would rather live in the country that murdered six million of their ancestors than live in the failed Zionist project.”
The queer contingent of the growing Israeli community holds a unique intersectional position within Germany as being “offspring of two groups persecuted in Holocaust,” revealing an often masked side of their homeland, and fleeing the very stallwartness and chaotic apathy which they see as dooming it.

As a growing center of culture and diversity on the European continent, Berlin has begun to house, foster, and project new and unprecedented intersections of German identity. The various elements of its growing Jewish community represent a particularly unique example, especially in the context of the many Israeli citizens among them. The creative and vivacious union which they have created in the Grey City is one defiant and contradictory in its very existence, a double affront to the governments at play. Mixed marriages and Hebrew-speaking Jewish kindergartens move forward its unlikely existence and dynamic nature, a beguling and fascinating feature taking its place in the heart of Germany.

Thanks for reading!

A picture of the actual poster