Sweden’s Las Vegas on the Baltic Sea

Did you know that Sweden was once a great political power? The Swedish Empire exercised control over the Baltic region for over 100 years. The beginning of the Empire is usually taken as the reign of King Gustav Adolf in 1611, and the end as the loss of territories in 1721 following the Great Northern War. Sweden had control of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, Norway and parts of Germany. It is rumoured in Swedish history that King Gustav Adolf had an ambition to make the Baltic Sea a large lake inside Sweden.

This was all a very long time ago, and today things don’t look quite the same for Sweden. Today, the most common boats that travel over the Baltic Sea are ferries and cruise ships. These huge ships traffic, amongst other destinations, Stockholm, Helsinki, Åbo, Åland, Visby, Riga, Gdansk, Rostock and Tallinn. Today, they are not for invading Swedes but mostly for multinational tax-free shopping, city breaks, partying, cruising, transporting goods and touristing.

The specific party boats between Sweden and Finland are a Swedish classic. They are also a special case – they are a kind of ‘booze cruise’ and are an interesting study in how many varying levels of intoxication there are. It’s hard to say who wins the competition in being most drunk and going berserk – the Swedes or the Finns – but both nations give it a good attempt. These boats are notorious locations for partying and, like Las Vegas, what happens on the ferry stays on the ferry. It’s a fascinating sight to witness.

The boats have various well-used bars, nightclubs, cabaret lounges with tacky stage performances, a mix of good to production-line restaurants, basic and luxury cabins, spa, poker tables, slot machines, karaoke, bingo and tax free shopping. Everything is ambitiously designed to give passengers a fun night or two at sea.

You don’t have to party like crazy to travel these boats however. Lots of families, couples and calm groups of friends use the boats as transportation or as cruises and mini breaks. With an upgrade, you can experience nicer restaurants and better cabins. The view out of the window is also very pretty as the boats glide gently through the thousands of islands in the archipelago and out into the open sea.

So, whether you’re looking for beautiful scenery, a sociological study of the Swedes and the Finns, or wanting a wet party night, then jump on a cruise ship from Stockholm and venture out onto the Baltic Sea.

Warring neighbours: Sweden and Finland

 

finland-sweden-map,0

Many neighbouring countries around the world have had their fair share of conflict. Some countries are currently at war or teetering on the brink.

Thankfully, Sweden and the other Nordic countries have lived in peace with each other for centuries. However, Sweden and Finland still battle it out every year in an athletics competition between the two nations – the best type of neighbourly conflict. In Swedish, this is called ‘Finnkamp’ and in Finland it is called ‘Sverigekampen’. This year it is currently taking place in Stockholm.

The first Finnkamp took place in 1925 for men, and 1951 for women and it has taken olace every year, with a few exceptions for organisational disagreements and WWII. It is highly competitive, although friendly, and is a classic track and field event.

In total there have been78 annual competitions for the men and Finland leads 45-31 over Sweden. For the women, there have been 67 competitions and Sweden holds the lead at 41 to Finland’s 25. Let’s see how it ends up this year!

If you want to see the end of it, make your way down to Stadion in Stockholm today to catch the final events.

  

Onneksi Olkoon – Congratulations to all Swedish Finns

Today, 24th February is ‘Sverigefinnarnas’ Day, the day that celebrates the roughly half million Finnish-speaking people who live in Sweden. According to Wikipedia:

”Sweden Finns (ruotsinsuomalaiset in Finnish, sverigefinnar in Swedish) 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. 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, 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 Finnish–Swedish border in the far north, or skogsfinnar (“forest Finns”) along the Norwegian–Swedish border in Central Sweden.”