Sweden and Finland - language and class identity

Nordstjernan and Nordic Reach have published materials on the English language and Nordic cooperation, and recently media has focused on Swedish-Finnish cooperation and the Swedish language. Then late last year the Social Services in Uppsala prohibited two Finnish speaking employees from communicating in Finnish with each other. Uppsala's local authority and the trade union had agreed that only Swedish should be used on the premises of the local government.
Maarit Feldt-Ranta, member of the Finnish Parliament and the Finnish delegation to the Nordic Council wanted to know what the Swedish Government planned to do. The decision in Uppsala is remarkable since Finnish is one of the official minority languages in Sweden and rights for language minorities is an important component of the Nordic pluralistic society, writes Maarit Feldt-Ranta to the Swedish Government.
An opinion poll in Finland in January showed that the Finnish people believe that their Nordic identity is important, not the Swedish language. According to the public opinion institute Taloustutkimus, 93% of the population in Finland believes that a Nordic identity is important. Swedish as an official language in Finland is controversial, and since 2005 proficiency in Swedish is no longer compulsory to graduate from High School.
The general opinion within the official Nordic cooperation, The Nordic Council, The Nordic Council of Ministers and The Nordic Associations has been to support the usage of the Nordic languages between people in Scandinavia.
The Swedish Government has declared 2009 a Memorable Year. It is 200 years since Finland was separated from Sweden. The two countries had been one realm for approximately 600 years, but the union ended in 1809. In an article in the daily Dagens Nyheter in January, Maria Wetterstrand, a spokesperson of the Green Party in the Swedish Parliament, urged Sweden to offer Finland an official apology for historical wrongdoings. “The lack of Swedish respect for the Finnish language and culture jeopardizes our relations with Finland. In particular there is a negative class perspective to the Finnish speaking minority in Sweden,” writes Wetterstrand.
There is still “a special relation” between the two countries, argues Wetterstrand, but it will be lost unless cared for.


Stig Olsson