The Swedish Minority in Finland and Its Political Impact

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  • Topic: Finland, Swedish-speaking Finns, Swedish People's Party
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  • Published : April 16, 2013
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The Swedish minority in Finland and its political impact

In Finland, the Swedish is the second most spoken language, and is also the second official one. Historically (Finland belonged to Sweden until 1809), since the sixteenth century, this minority has been present on located regions of Finland and has by the time become part of the common culture and identity. The political space for such a minority has to be defined in order to keep the overall cohesion of the country. This minority is often described as the one who receive the best treatment from its country, regarding to its social and cultural degree of integration. It is thus relevant to analyze first the extent and the social conditions of this minority, and then to figure out its impact on the political field, especially trough the Swedish people’s party. By representing roughly 6% of the population, often concentrated in given circumscriptions, their voting power is not to be underestimated. Moreover, in a country where immigration is not very developed, their ability to cope with the common standards has to be described. Even constitutionally speaking, their place is well established, give them the same rights and take some special dispositions, as for example for the Åland Islands. This essay will thus try to tackle this question: which are the social and political elements which make the Swedish integration in Finland a well-achieved one? Through several data, it seems possible to draw a global picture of the place of this minority nowadays, in the very particular Finnish context. Backgrounds facts are crucial, as well as political issues which may endanger the stability of the « Finnish model of integration », for a minority who has been there for several centuries and deeply influenced the cultural development of the country. There are some figures that help to figure out the real place of the Swedish minority in Finland. First, on the geographical plan. Indeed, according to the statistical definitions, the « Swedish Finnish » citizens are those whose mother tongue is Swedish. That also include residents of the autonomous region of Åland (Ålänningar), which, in fact, can be considered legally and sociologically as an independent ethnic group . However, since an important part of the Finnish population is bilingual, it does not mean that only the Swedish Finnish speak Swedish. It is likely that

nearly

600000

Finnish

citizens

use

Swedish

in

their

daily

lives.

The Swedish-speaking population of Finland has first lived along the coast in four different regions: in Ostrobothnia (Österbotten / Pohjanmaa in the province Vaasa / Vasa), in the archipelago

west of Turku / Åbo and in the city of Turku / Åbo , on the southern coast of Finland and of course on Åland. Until the beginning of the century, the territory occupied by the Swedish Finnish was undivided, but the increase in population and the Finnish language has split it in two. It must be said that the situation of the Swedish-speaking population of the mainland of Finland is now quite different from that of the autonomous territory of Åland.

Furthermore, it is to be noticed that most of the Swedish speaking minority speaks a particular dialect which is quite different from the one spoken in Sweden and which is called Finlandssvenska. Plus, several institutions are dedicated to maintain this identity over the country, as the Swedish-speaking part of the population is decreasing, threatening the cultural heritage of this part of the population. Some national laws are obviously dedicated to this goal: for instance, the article 14 of the Finnish Constitution states that Finnish and Swedish are both official languages of the Republic and that the state guarantees the right of all citizens to communicate in their native language (Finnish or Swedish) in any official relation with the state or public administration. The state is also responsible for the equality of rights...
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