Monday, April 3, 2017

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.

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