kolmapäev, november 07, 2007

On the margins ...

I am working on several projects now related to the Estonian Swedish community. It may come as some surprise to you that they a) exist and b) achieved a cultural autonomy in accordance with the Law on the Cultural Autonomy of National Minorities this spring.

That law, adopted in 1925 and again in 1993, enabled citizens belonging to an ethnic group numbering more than 3,000, or members of the national minorities -- Russians, Swedes, Jews, and Germans -- to elect a cultural council to oversee institutions that preserve their culture.

People have said that discussion over the Swedish minority is a distraction from the more pressing issue of talking the Russian minority issue to death. But I am actually finding it quite interesting. In one area, I am confronted with the following questions: how are Estonian Swedes distinct from Estonians and are there some problems in interrelations between ethnic groups.

After turning over these questions, I came to the conclusion that Estonian Swedes do have a certain unspoken minority status in Estonia: they are marginal. No one writes about them. No one thinks about them. They exist, are deemed somewhat exotic, but then forgotten. They are simply unimportant. They are considered similar enough to Estonians to not be constructed as a social problem, and left at that.

I am interested in your opinions though about Estonian Swedes and Swedes. I am badly in need of some 'voices off the Internet' that can discuss how they are viewed in Estonia nowadays. The man of the street would question their existence. But now that they have cultural autonomy, they are definitely contemporary.

25 kommentaari:

Priidik ütles ...

Hmm.. not being an expert on the matter but I have always thought that Estonian Swedes ceased to exist as a individual ethnic minority during II WW. Most of them left to Sweden, part of them that stayed experienced heavy losses, mainly due to the agreement between Sweden and Soviets not to use them in front line duties. Ah, those naive (or as we in Estonia say, blue-eyed :) swedes! You had more chance to survive in fighting units than in stalinist "tööpataljonid" were ultimate fate was to slowly starve to death. And of course, deportations strifed Estonian swedes population even further. Those few that remained slowly died out, during the 80's there were only few old persons who could still speak their swedish dialect. This is sort of arhaic form of swedish that was spoken in Sweden during 17-18th century. I really don't think that there are any "undiluted" native dialect-speaking Estonian Swedes around. Of course, some people have returned form mainland Sweden after re-establishment of independece and there is some who are 50% Estonian sweden, but sadly viable ethnic minority have long since ceased to exist.

Priidik ütles ...

Island Ruhnu is most drastic example, it was completely unpopulated at the end of II WW after last swedes left. Everybody who is living there now are immigrants of the last 60 years.

Priidik ütles ...

Sorry, concerning my last post: two families stayed behind.

Giustino ütles ...

I really don't think that there are any "undiluted" native dialect-speaking Estonian Swedes around.

But minorities aren't only determined by speaking dialects. They are also determined by common institutions, histories.

For example, there's this church:

http://www.stmikael.ee/

The people involved are a mixture of "Old" Estonian Swedes, ones that returned after 1991, and "New" Estonian Swedes. The pastor is actually from Sweden. They offer Swedish language courses -- part of their autonomy.

They are not Estonians. Not Russians. And not genuine Swedes either. So what are they?

jänksu ütles ...

My only knowledge of Swedish Estonian was knowing that there is a place called Noarootsi and that they teach Swedish there (I'm 20)

However, I have recently read bits of Sigrid Rausing's book "History, Memory, adn Identity in post-Soviet Estonia", which deals with that particular area. You might find it interesting.

Giustino ütles ...

Ah, those naive (or as we in Estonia say, blue-eyed :) swedes!

Do Estonians stereotype Swedes as being naive? What other stereotypes exist?

Also, since there are about 11,000 Ingrian Finns in Estonia, and they also have a cultural autonomy, what is the Estonian perspective on them?

Heli ütles ...

I have also some really old swedish roots (I think it was from 18th century if I remeber right) due to my father´s parents who are from Saaremaa and Hiiumaa - born at the end of 19th century there.
Sadly I don´t know practically anything about that as we barely communicated with that part of family after my parents divorce in the 80s when I was only a kid so now I have only plan to dig up my family tree in the future to find out how far it goes.
I don´t think estonians have at all sterotypes of swedes actually, at least nothing comes to my mind.
About Ingerian Finns I have heard that many estonians consider them as catty people from whom can anything bad be expected. I don´t know why but usually where´s smoke, there´s also a fire but I don´t have personnal opinion on that either.

Cat Power ütles ...

I didn't even know we have any Estonian Swedes (or Ingrian Finns, for that matter) - probably all the energy affordable to be spent on minorities has gone to Russians instead...

Priidik ütles ...

My point was that the old dialect-speaking community of "Noarootslased" with its unique traditions and lifestyle has disappeared.

They are not Estonians. Not Russians. And not genuine Swedes either. So what are they?

I don't know, that is a matter of debate but they are definitevly not "noarootslased".

Andres Sehr ütles ...

I've spent a lot of time with Estonian-Swedes, most of them moved to Sweden in the 40's and were either very young when they left or born in Sweden. The younger generation are often only "half" Estonian as one parent is Swedish. A lot of these people have moved back to Eesti, if not they visit often and usually have a summer home on an island somewhere. It's interesting to see how easily they move from one culture to the other but also interesting listening to their critiques of Estonia. There's a group of prominent Swedish-Estonians that get together every week or two in Tallinn for saun, could be a good focus group if you can get an invite.

Giustino ütles ...

I didn't even know we have any Estonian Swedes (or Ingrian Finns, for that matter) - probably all the energy affordable to be spent on minorities has gone to Russians instead...

I got sucked into a Inkeri parade in Võru in the spring. Many of them live in Ida-Virumaa and have either 'estonianized' or 'russified'. The speeches during the ceremony were in Estonian and Finnish. They also sang both national anthems.

Giustino ütles ...

I don't know, that is a matter of debate but they are definitevly not "noarootslased".

I agree with you, Priidik. It's odd in that they have historical cultural institutions here -- churches, schools etc. -- and they also have connections to the 'mother country' and there's a 'new Swedish' community here because of business interests.

So they are becoming a more generic group of 'Estonian Swedes', connected by history, institutions, and the language (the churches and schools use standard Swedish).

I have got to decide by tomorrow whether to do my school project on Estonian Swedes or Ingrian Finns. I am leaning towards the Rootslased, but there seems to be more info on the Ingrians.

Blogaddict ütles ...

Funny how any talk about rootslased who live in estonia sounds like a myth to me.

Maybe 'kilplased' exist as well?

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

'Samma drag har varit utmärkande också för estlandssvenskarna. De har under dessa år tagit vara på de möjligheter som har funnits. Förändringar har skett, entusiasmen och arbetsviljan har varit stark, parallellt med samma tunga vardagsliv som för alla övriga i landet.

Många som har växt upp utan svenska i Estland, talar idag svenska. Under dessa 15 år har delar av en levande estlandssvenskhet växt upp, men helheten saknas. Ett flertal estlandssvenska ”öar” har växt fram, och man ser möjligheter att skapa/återskapa sådana. '

This is taken from
http://web.abo.fi/skargarden/2007-1/kark-remes.htm
It seems that they are addressing the Swedish in Estonia who studying and speaking Swedish again. But I need help here. Stockholm Slender or others?

Giustino ütles ...

Funny how any talk about rootslased who live in estonia sounds like a myth to me.

That's sort of the point. They do exist -- they have cultural autonomy. But nobody believes they exist. Weird.

margus ütles ...

The ethnic minorities in Estonia (those that are actually minor) should have some kind of a parade in the Tallinn Old City to get some appreciation. I think Martin Helme would actually cheer for them unlike to the gays.

Giustino ütles ...

I think Martin Helme would actually cheer for them unlike to the gays.

I think Martin needs to smile a bit more. In the words of Bobby McFerrin, don't worry ...

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

A lot of things exist in legal space which are barely existent in reality. For example a British county in war with Russia for 150 years.

Or the Supreme Soviet of Estonian Socialist Soviet Republic - historic thing of the past, but at the same time there are number of important legal acts adopted by this body, which exist and are in force and in which the Supreme Soviet lives on. For example the legal basis for the Estonian kroon: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/ert/act.jsp?id=24291
Adopted by: "Eesti Vabariigi Ülemnõukogu esimees A. Rüütel Tallinn, 20.mail 1992."

So you can write about Estonian Swedes, or the Supreme Soviet of Estonia. You are right in the sense that you first need a fact or two to grab on, then it is your writing skills and imagination which count.

Giustino ütles ...

You are right in the sense that you first need a fact or two to grab on, then it is your writing skills and imagination which count.

Well, they do have a cultural autonomy

and a council

and school(s).

Why doesn't anyone believe me?

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

You can also offer them a logo. They have the space reserved for an emblem. I have to say that the Supreme Soviet of Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic beats them at that http://geraldika.ru/symbols/2305

plasma-jack ütles ...

Is Rev. Patrick Göranson of Estonian or Swedish origin? He speaks good Estonian, the guy gave philosophy classes at my highschool for a half a year (and then quit due our disagreeable behaviour).

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

City Paper once tried to find out how big the number is actually:

'So how many of them are there?

The Coastal Swedes and their successors have elected a Culture Council to preserve the culture and language of Estonian Swedes. It’s estimated that there are up to a thousand Coastal Swedes presently living in Estonia. Before the World War Two there were more than 7,500, living mostly in Estonia’s west coast and northwestern islands. Some islands carry Swedish names thanks to their presence.

Swedish cultural society chairwoman Uile Kärk-Remes said that one of the tasks of the Culture Council is to get a better idea of how big the community of Estonian Swedes is. It’s a good question, certainly. Last year, when a City Paper reporter visited the island of Ruhnu, one formerly belonging to the Coastal Swedes, he was told there was only one single resident of the island connected to the Coastal Swedes.
'

One thousand, in percentage of total population it is the size of the Sorbian and Danish, the official minorities in Germany.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Jens-Olaf, med min ganska usel mumin-svenska (som en rikssvensk vän kallade det en gång...) förstod jag att: that the quotation in question describes a kind of a rebirth of the Estonian Swedish community in the last 15 years, people are again learning and using Swedish where they earlier would have spoken Estonian. It says that there are now "little islands" of Estonian Swedish arising, but not yet a "whole" organic community as such though that might be once possible to attain. A very interesting article actually and a good summary of the history and the present situation of the Estonian Swedes (that's how our Finnish Swedish community is termed: they are regarded as Finns whose native language happens to be Swedish which is the other - not second - "home language" of Finland).

Erik ütles ...

I just heard this week from a person who works at the Swedish Trade coucil, that there are about 800 of us Swedish Swedes that are living permanantly in Estonia now.
I cant really say i have encountered or heard much about any stereotypes of us "Svenssons" from the Estonians. But on the other hand, maybe they are just polite and dont talk about it when im around :P

Actually i find when i write this and call Estonians for "they" it feels little strange. Obviously i am Swedish in the sence of my nationality and where im born. But after living here permanently for more than a year now and doing my best to assimilate, i notice that Estonia is starting to feel more and more like "my" country. I want to say "we" about the people that are living in Estonia. Its "us" not "them" Its strange and i guess it all comes back to the question of what nationality really is. For me i think it all comes down to: Home is where i hang my hat.

Giustino ütles ...

The greatest stereotype of Svensson is that he is naive -- "sinisilmne".

I heard a Finnish joke about Swedes after Anna Lindh was murdered. It went something like this:

"News bulletin. Swedish authorities have just discovered that the weapon used to kill Anna Lindh is not the same as the weapon used to kill Olaf Palme ..."

As morbid as the joke is, it is based on the image of Swedes as naive to a fault.