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Finland-Swedish is a variety of Swedish. Until the mid-19th century it was the sole language of jurisdiction, administration and higher education in Finland. In 1892 Finnish became an official language and gained a status comparable to that of Swedish, and at Finland's independence in 1917 Finnish clearly dominated in government and society.

Finland has since then been a bilingual country with a Swedish-speaking minority, speaking Finland-Swedish, living mostly in the coastal areas of southern and south-western Finland [1]. The autonomous island-province of Åland (Finnish: Ahvenanmaa) is an exception, being monolingually Swedish-speaking according to international treaties. It is a matter of definition whether the Swedish spoken on Åland is to be considered Finland-Swedish or not.

Finland-Swedish differs slightly from Swedish spoken in Sweden ("rikssvenska"), most notably for the lack of melodic accent - a trait shared with most Indo-European languages and Finnish. The difference is not more significant than differences between high-prestigeous varieties spoken within Sweden. Spelling is identical. In spoken language, especially among young people in Finnish-dominated areas, Finnish words are frequently incorporated.


The Swedish-speaking minority of Finland descends chiefly from the settlers who arrived with the Christian missionaries, crusaders and administrators in the early middle ages.

Additionally, the Swedish mother tongue was a great social advantage. Therefore socially ambitious families often raised their children on Swedish, ultimately leading to a situation where the administrative elite had a limited knowledge of Finnish.

Swedish is the mother tongue for about 265,000 persons in Mainland Finland and 25,000 on Åland, or 5.6% of the total population according to official statistics for 2002 [1]. The proportion has been steadily diminishing since the 18th century when approximately 15% of the population had Swedish as the mother tongue (estimation for 1815 [1]).


The minority speaking Finland-Swedish can, according to standard definitions, be considered an ethnic minority. It's however important to note that they are not to be considered ethnic Swedes.

They call themselves finlandssvenskar, literally "Finland-Swedes", but other translations to English are often favored, as for instance Swedish-speaking Finns in order to circumvent the confusion regarding nationality, citizenship and ethnicity.

The 19th century rise of Fennomani (ethnic Nationalism in its Finnish version) led to the establishment of Finnish as a language of culture, science and administration in Finland. One important aspect is that many families of the Swedish-speaking elite learned Finnish and, championing a total switch of language, made Finnish the mother tongue of their children. Tensions between the Finnish speaking majority and the Swedish speaking minority were inevitable. The minority identified themselves as the vector of Western culture, the link to the western world. In the light of repeated losses of importance and influence of Finland-Swedish in Finland, it was natural for the minority to identify Sweden as the mother country capable of intervening against anti-Swedish policies by the government of Finland. As the tensions diminished from the mid-1930s and forth, and as the Winter War had a unifying effect on Finland, it can no longer be said that the Finland-Swedish minority feel closer affiliated to Sweden than to Finland.


Finland being a bilingual country, according to its constitution, means that citizens of the Finland-Swedish minority have the right to communicate with authorities on their mother tongue. Since an education reform in the 1970s Swedish has been a compulsory subject in Finnish schools, in Finnish derogatorily referred to as Pakkoruotsi. In an international context, and compared to neighbouring countries as Sweden, Norway and Estonia, it must however be noted as an unusually strong means to support the governmental bilingualism.

Being a small minority leads necessarily to a functional bilingualism. Although it might be possible to live your life entirely on Swedish in some towns and municipalities, Finnish is the dominant language in most towns, at most employers and in the main part of Finland. Many find it more convenient to use Finnish when interacting with strangers and known Finnish-speakers.


In addition, about 60,000 Swedophone Finns are estimated to have emigrated to Sweden during the second half of the 20th century.

Famous Finland-Swedes include

See also: List of Sweden-related topics, List of Swedish language poets, Swedes