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Title: Svecomans  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Finland's language strife, Ethnogenesis
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The Svecoman (Swedish Svekoman) movement was a Swedish nationalist movement that arose in the Grand Duchy of Finland at the end of the 19th century chiefly as a reaction to the demands for increased use of Finnish vigorously presented by the Fennoman movement. The Fennoman nationalist movement had demanded that Swedish be replaced by Finnish in public administration, courts, and schools. At the time, Finnish and Swedish were spoken by about 85 and 15 percent respectively of the duchy's population.[1]

The ideas of the "Svecomans" were an important part of the public debate of the 1870s and 1880s that was evoked by the reinstatement of the Diet of Finland, which now convened every third year.


Finland had been a part of Sweden from the early Middle Ages until the Finnish War of 1808-9, when it was ceded to Russia and made a Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. Although Finnish was the language of the majority of the new Grand Duchy, a significant minority was Swedish-speaking. Swedish had always been the language of administration and science when Finland was part of the Swedish realm and this status continued virtually unchallenged well into the second half of the 19th Century.

The Svecomans promoted the idea that Finland harbours two peoples, or nations, speaking different languages, with different cultures, and originating from separate parts of the country. In accordance with contemporary science, these two peoples were consequently denoted as members of different "races". This idea was radically new. Until then, the Swedish-speaking rural population had been mostly ignored, but now this minority was considered important and directly associated with the elite of Finland.

It was a popular belief among Svecomans that their "Germanic race" is more successful in ruling and that the Fennoman program would therefore make Finland weaker and more vulnerable to the Russian threat. Svecomans were inspired by contemporary popular ideas and scientific racism thesis represented by Herder, Gobineau, Blumenbach, phrenologists, and social Darwinists. Svecomans believed that "race creates culture" rather than the reverse, but they were also inspired by the power relations on the European continent. (Germanic) Prussians had recently defeated the French and established a German Empire, and the ("originally Germanic") British Empire ruled over the seas and had defeated Imperial Russia in the Crimean War. The situation in Austria-Hungary also seemed to prove the thesis since Germanic Austrians ruled over the Magyars, a Finno-Ugric people like the ethnic Finns. Even in nearby Estonia, also part of Russia, the Finnic Estonians were ruled by the Baltic German aristocracy.

The strife between Fennomans and Svecomans in these decades also mirrored more general political divisions:

  • The Fennomans were favoured by the Russian authorities, and the Svecomans canalized the remaining fear of the Russians and the feeling of belonging culturally to their old enemy Sweden.
  • The Fennomans were ideologically more liberal, the Svecomans more conservative.
  • The Fennomans were more corporativist, the Svecomans individualist.
  • After the Crimean War, when the Swedish-speaking towns on Finland's south coast and the merchant fleet had been severely damaged, neutralist views received strong support among educated Eastern-Swedish.
  • The Fennomans were chiefly dominated by the clergy, the Svecomans by industrialists and academics from other faculties besides the theological one. The spiritual leader of the Svecomans was the linguist Axel Olof Freudenthal.

The feeling of unity between the Swedish-speaking rural population and the (remains of the) Swedish-speaking elite is the lasting legacy of the Svecoman movement, and this became the core idea of the Swedish People's Party, which was founded after the introduction of equal and common suffrage in 1906.

See also


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