Sweden Finns

Sweden Finns
Total population
estimated c. 426,000 (c. 4.5 per cent of the population of Sweden)
Regions with significant populations
Stockholm 46,927[1]
Gothenburg 20,372
Eskilstuna 12,072
Västerås 11,592
Södertälje 10,722
Borås 9,821
Uppsala 8,838
Botkyrka 8,408
Huddinge 7,729
Haninge 7,015
Swedish, Finnish, Meänkieli
Mainly Lutheranism
Related ethnic groups
Finns, Swedes, Sami

Sweden Finns (Finnish: ruotsinsuomalaiset, Swedish: sverigefinnar) are post-World War II immigrants of Finnish origin, and their descendants, living in Sweden, some of whom still speak Finnish in addition to Swedish. Sweden-Finns should not be confused with the Swedish-speaking Finland-Swedes in Finland (and Sweden), who for at least 800 years have formed an ethnic and linguistic minority in Finland. In 2012 there were about 426,000 people in Sweden; 4.46 percent of the total population, who were either born in Finland or had at least one parent who was born in Finland.[2] But since only the country of birth is registered in Sweden, not ethnicity or language, a considerable number of those registered as being of Finnish origin are actually of Finland-Swedish descent. According to "Finlandssvenskarnas Riksförbund i Sverige", the national organisation for Finland-Swedes living in Sweden, around 20% of all people of Finnish origin who live in Sweden are Finland-Swedes, and were thus Swedish-speakers even before emigrating to Sweden.[3]

In the 1940s, 70,000 young Finnish children were evacuated from Finland to Sweden during the Winter War and the Continuation War. 15,000 are believed to have stayed and an unknown number to have returned as adults.

In the 1950s and 1960s the migration from Finland to Sweden was considerable, chiefly due to economic differences between the countries, as a result of Sweden not being involved in World War II and helped by the Nordic Passport Union. The emigration caused some alarm in Finland with most of the emigrants in their most productive age although many of them returned to Finland in the following decades. Many of the Finns who have moved to Sweden have been Finland-Swedes (i.e. from the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland): In the 1950s they made up around 50% of the Finns moving to Sweden, and from the 1960s and onward around 20-30%. (Thus, the fact that a person in Sweden has a Finnish background does not automatically mean he or she has a Finnish-speaking background.)

The city of Eskilstuna, Södermanland, is one of the most heavily populated Sweden Finnish cities of Sweden, due to migration from Finland, during the 1950s until the 1970s, due to Eskilstuna's large number of industries. In Eskilstuna, the Finnish-speaking minority have both a private school (the only one in the city of Eskilstuna, there is no public school or teachers in Finnish at the public schools. Only the lower level is in Finnish, upper level is in Swedish) and only one magazine in Finnish. Some of the municipal administration is also available in Finnish.

The unofficial flag
Areas with Finnish-speaking population in per cent, in southern Sweden, 2005

In the Finnish mindset, the term "Sweden Finns" (ruotsinsuomalaiset) is first and foremost directed at these immigrants and their offspring, who at the end of the 20th century numbered almost 200,000 first-generation immigrants, and about 250,000 second-generation immigrants. Of these some 250,000 are estimated to use Finnish in their daily lives, and 100,000 remain citizens of Finland. This usage isn't quite embraced in Sweden. According to the latest research by Radio of Sweden (Sveriges Radio), there are almost 470,000 people who speak or understand Finnish or Meänkieli,[4] which is about 5.2% of the population of Sweden.

In the Swedish mindset, the term "Sweden Finns" historically denominated primarily the (previously) un-assimilated indigenous minority of ethnic Finns who ended up on the "right" side of the border when Sweden was partitioned in 1809, after the Finnish War, and the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland was created. These Finnish-speaking Swedes are chiefly categorized as either Tornedalians originating at the FinnishSwedish border in the far north, or skogsfinnar ("forest Finns") along the NorwegianSwedish border in Central Sweden.


Communities of Finns in Sweden can be traced back to the Reformation when the Finnish Church in Stockholm was founded in 1533, although earlier migration, and migration to other cities in present-day Sweden, remain undisputed. (Strictly speaking this was not a case of emigration/immigration but of "internal migration" within pre-1809 Sweden.)

In the 16th and the 17th century large groups of Savonians moved from Finland to Dalecarlia, Bergslagen and other provinces where their slash and burn cultivation was suitable. This was part of an effort of the Swedish king Gustav Vasa, and his successors, to expand agriculture to these uninhabited parts of the country which were later on known as "Finn woods" (Finnskogar).

In the 1600s, there were plans to set up a new region Järle län that would have contained most of the skogsfinnar. It should be noted that in Sweden at this time, all legislation and official journals were also published in Finnish. Bank-notes were issued in Swedish and Finnish etc. After 1809, and the loss of the eastern part of Sweden (Finland) to Russia, the Swedish church planned a Finnish-speaking bishopric with Filipstad as seat. However, after the mid-1800s cultural imperialism and nationalism lead to new policies of assimilation and Swedification of the Finnish-speaking population. These efforts peaked from the end of the 1800s and until the 1950s. Finnish speakers remain only along the border with Finland in the far North, and as domestic migrants due to unemployment in the North. Depending on definition they are reported to number to 30,00090,000 that is up to 1% of Sweden's population, but the proportion of active Finnish-speakers among them has declined drastically in the last generations, and Finnish is hardly spoken among the youngsters today. Since the 1970s largely unsuccessful efforts have been made to reverse some of the effects of Swedification, notably education and public broadcasts in Finnish, to raise the status of Finnish. As a result, a written standard of the local dialect Meänkieli has been established and taught, which has given reason to critical remarks from Finland, along the line that standard Finnish would be of more use for the students.

The Finnish immigrants who moved to Sweden in the 1950s and 1960s were sometimes despised as being a very "low-class" people, as portrayed in the Swedish book and movie Svinalängorna. In 2009, Maria Wetterstrand, Swedish politician and then leader of the Green Party, wrote a Swedish article in Dagens Nyheter about this, and demanded that Sweden ought to give Finland an official apology. Matti Vanhanen, then Prime Minister of Finland, responded in 2011 that an apology was not needed.[5]


In 2011, a detailed genetic study was made in order to, among other reasons, see how similar the Sweden Finns were to the native Swedes.[6] Each samples in the study were looked at individually, to make sure that the Swedes had full grandparental ancestry from their represented Swedish regions respectively, and the Sweden-born Finns having all of their ancestry from Finland. The Swedes who showed the closest FST distance (meaning greatest genetic similarity) to the Sweden Finns were those from East Middle Sweden and North Middle Sweden, having distances of 4.66 and 4.67. The most similar Swedes after those were the ones from Stockholm (4.81). Upper Norrland was the second most distanced (and thus one of the most dissimilar), at 5.61.

The greatest FST distance between the Swedes and the Sweden Finns was 5.63, and that accounted for the Swedes who came from the southernmost regions. The greatest FST distance within the Swedish group as a whole, for comparison, was between Southern Sweden and Upper Norrland (3.19), despite Upper Norrland being one of the most distanced Swedish groups from the Sweden Finns as well.


Today, Finns are the largest immigrant group in Sweden, and Finnish is an official minority language of Sweden. The benefits of being a "minority language" are however limited to Finnish-speakers being able to use Finnish for some communication with local and regional authorities in a small number of communities (Botkyrka, Eskilstuna, Gällivare, Hallstahammar, Haninge, Haparanda, Huddinge, Håbo, Kiruna, Köping, Pajala, Sigtuna, Solna, Stockholm, Södertälje, Tierp, Upplands Väsby, Upplands-Bro, Uppsala, Älvkarleby, Österåker, Östhammar and Övertorneå) where Finnish immigrants make up a considerable share of the population, but not in the rest of Sweden.[7]

See also


  1. Ruotsinsuomalaiset
  2. "Fler med finsk bakgrund i Sverige". Sverige Radio. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  3. Finlandssvenskarnas Riksförbund i Sverige. "Om finlandssvenskarna i Sverige". Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  4. Kuuntelijat - Lyssnarna (Finnish)/(Swedish) Sveriges Radio
  5. Swedish PM says Finland and Sweden do not need to apologise to each other over common history
  6. The Genetic Structure of the Swedish Population
  7. Lag (2009:724) om nationella minoriteter och minoritetsspråk. Swedish law on national minorities and minority languages (in Swedish). Retrieved 14 March 2013.

Articles of the – Finnish people – its subgroups and its diaspora
Traditional groups (or "heimot")

Tavastians | Karelians | Ostrobothnians | Savonians | Finns (proper) | Swedish-speakers


Finnish Americans | Finnish Canadians | Ingrian Finns | Sweden Finns (Tornedalians, Forest Finns) | Kvens

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