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Thread: Estonian Swedes

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    Senior Member Oskorei's Avatar
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    Estonian Swedes

    Estonian Swedes

    Estonian Swedes are one of the earliest known minorities in Estonia. They have also been called Coastal Swedes, or according to their settlement area Ruhnu Swedes, Hiiu Swedes etc. They themselves used the poetic expression ‘aibofolke’ — ‘Island People’.

    Settlement

    The ancient areas of Swedish settlement in Estonia are Ruhnu Island, Hiiumaa Island, the west coast and smaller islands (Vormsi, Noarootsi, Sutlepa, Riguldi, Osmussaar), the north-west coast of the Harju District (Nõva, Vihterpalu, Kurkse, the Pakri Peninsula and the Pakri Islands) and Naissaar Island near Tallinn. The towns with a significant percentage of Swedish population have been Haapsalu and Tallinn.

    In earlier times Swedes have also lived on the coasts of Saaremaa, the southern part of Läänemaa, the eastern part of Harjumaa and the western part of Virumaa.



    A Historical Survey

    The oldest records of Swedish settlers in Estonia go back to the turn of the 13–14th century, earlier data are vague and controversial. The first written mention of Swedes is in the town bylaws of Haapsalu from 1294. A letter of the Bishop of Kuramaa dated 1341 prescribed the settlement of the Swedes on Ruhnu according to the ‘Swedish Law’. In 1345 Padise Monastery sold the Laoküla Estate and Suur-Pakri Island to the Swedes.

    The settlement of Swedes in Estonia can most probably be connected to a similar Swedish migration to the coastal areas of Finland in the 13–15th centuries. Research in traditional culture, toponyms and dialects indicate that large numbers of Swedes arrived in Estonia via Finland. The settlement of Swedes in the coastal areas of Estonia has also been considered to be deliberate colonisation. It should also be mentioned that most of the earliest colonised areas belonged to the Church (the Bishop of Saaremaa and Läänemaa, Padise Monastery).

    The ‘Swedish Law’, which formed the basis for Swedish settlement in Estonia in principle amounted to limited financial responsibility and individual freedom. These privileges were confirmed by later authorities in various documents. Individual freedom in particular distinguished the Swedes from the Estonian peasants who were first attached to the soil and later forced into serfdom.

    During the Swedish time following the disintegration of the Teutonic Order, the situation of the Estonian Swedes worsened. The secularised lands of the Church and monasteries were given as fiefs to the nobility, land used by peasants was included in the land of manors, and taxes and financial responsibility increased. Feudal lords did not recognise the special legal status of the Swedes and treated them in the same manner as the Estonian serfs. This was the cause of many long-drawn-out controversies and even fights between Swedish peasants and feudal lords. Nor did the situation change during the Russian period following the Great Northern War. In many places the Swedes even lost the rights they had before. The struggle for their rights sometimes led to the disappearance of their settlement, for example, the case of the forced exodus of the Hiiumaa Swedes to Russia in the 18th century. In the places where the Swedes lost their special status, they merged rapidly with the Estonians. The Agrarian Reform Laws of 1816 liberated Estonian peasants from serfdom, but this law did not apply to the Swedes, neither had they the right to any form of self-government nor education. The situation improved somewhat with the agrarian reform laws of the 1850s and 1860s, but economic and educational backwardness lingered until the end of the tsarist period.

    The creation of the independent Republic of Estonia in 1918 brought about a considerable change in the situation. The agrarian reform liquidated manors and the land was given to peasants. Until then an almost natural economy type of farming had been prevalent in the Estonian Swedish areas, a small percentage of the farming products had been sold in nearby markets. Now the cultivation of village community strips of land was completely replaced by farming, which also caused an increase in agricultural production. Ships with several masts were built, sea trading and the export of agricultural products was developed, in some places tourism grew in importance.

    The first constitution of the Republic of Estonia provided the ethnic minorities in Estonia with effective guarantees: education in their native tongue, the choice of nationality, the right to form institutions for the protection of their national and social rights, the right to use their native language in official procedures where a given nation formed the majority of the population. Like other ethnic minorities — the Germans, the Russians, the Jews — the Swedes also had at first their own national minister in the government, later their national secretary in the Ministry of Education. The Swedes also founded their own political organisation (Svenska Folkförbundet) and started to publish a newspaper in Swedish Kunstbon. The law on cultural autonomy which came into force in 1925, was unique in Europe and offered even more rights to the ethnic minorities, unfortunately at the expense of these same minorities. All the opportunities provided by the cultural autonomy were used by the Jews and the Germans, who were said to have received financial support from abroad. For predominantly financial reasons the Russians and the Swedes confined themselves to what the institution of the national secretary could guarantee.

    In 1939 the Soviet Union forced Estonia to sign the so-called treaty of military bases. According to this pact, the ancient Estonian Swedish islands — Osmussaar, Suur-and Väike-Pakri and Naissaar — became territories for military bases and their inhabitants had to leave their homes. In 1940 the Estonian system of government was changed with the support of Soviet army, and Estonia was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. Even before formal unification, widespread arrests started. Most of the leading figures of Estonia — state officials, clergymen, officers, businessmen, teachers — were deported to Siberia and assassinated. As a result of this repression the Estonian Swedes lost an influential part of their ethnic group.

    When the war between Germany and the Soviet Union started in 1941, many Estonian Swedes were also enlisted in the Soviet army. Soon the Soviet occupation was replaced by the German one, the men who had avoided the first enlisting were taken now into the German army, and many of them decided to take refuge in Sweden. In the course of the war it gradually became clear that the Germans would be forced to retreat and the new arrival of the Soviet army was imminent. Therefore people tried to find ways to escape to Sweden. An agreement with the occupying power was reached and from 1943 to 1944 several thousands of Estonian Swedes managed to reach Sweden by ship. The total number of Estonian Swedes who left during the war was some 7000; about a thousand remained in Estonia. Those who stayed had almost no chance to preserve their characteristic way of life and culture under the Soviet occupation. All the Swedish schools were closed. The main occupations of the Swedes — seafaring and coastal fishing were forbidden and the coastal areas were fenced off with barbed wire. The farms were ruined in the process of forced collectivisation. Contact with relatives living in Sweden ceased for many years.



    Population

    There are no reliable data on the size of the Swedish population in Estonia in earlier centuries. The reasons are obvious — the censuses were haphazard, only men were counted, the nationality of residents was not recorded etc. Therefore only some estimations can be presented.

    By the end of the Teutonic era, in the 1560s, the total number of Swedish households in Estonia was about 1000. Adding to this the number of Swedes living in towns (in Tallinn about 1500) we can say that the total number of Swedes was at least 5–7 thousand, according to some sources 10 000. The total population of Estonia at the time was 200 000–300 000, so the Swedes formed about 2–3% of it.

    The data of plague victims from 1711 to 1712: Vormsi Island 161 dead and 463 survivors, Noarootsi parish 1259 dead and 683 survivors, Swedish villages on Hiiumaa 328 dead and 448 survivors, Harju area, Risti and Harju-Madise parishes 72.2 per cent dead, including Suur-Pakri 123 dead, 70 survivors, Väike-Pakri 147 dead and 47 survivors, Ruhnu 213 dead and 80 survivors. By 1726 the number of residents on Vormsi Island had reached 906, in Noarootsi 1448. The population increased equally rapidly in other areas.


    According to the census of 1922 the population of Estonia was 1 107 000, the number of Swedes was 7850 (0,7%).


    The data from post-war censuses were published only selectively, some having been declared confidential. The number of Swedes in Estonia was not presented separately, it was included in the category ‘other nations’. It should also be borne in mind that the accuracy of the data was influenced by a fear going back to the earlier repressions — people were afraid to call themselves Swedes.

    In 1989 the Swedes occupied 26th place among all the Estonian minorities.

    At present when there are no restrictions on one's national identity, and many people of Estonian Swedish origin have had an opportunity to study Swedish, the number of people who consider themselves Swedish is certainly larger.


    Language

    The Estonian Swedish dialects belong to the eastern dialects of the Swedish language. As these dialects were comparatively isolated from the mother country, they have preserved many characteristics of the more archaic Swedish language and are only partly understandable to the speaker of modern Swedish. Several different dialect areas can be distinguished in Estonian Swedish dialects: Ruhnu, Vormsi-Noarootsi-Riguldi, Pakri-Vihterpalu. The language spoken on Hiiumaa Island has been preserved as the dialect of Gammalsvenskby. On Naissaare Island distinct dialectic characteristics became extinct as early as the 19th century.

    There are still a couple of dozens to one hundred people who know an Estonian Swedish dialect in Estonia, a couple of hundred to a thousand in Sweden. It is probably possible to keep these dialects alive by consciously using them in literature, for instance. They will probably not be restored as an everyday language. The situation of modern Swedish is quite different however. It is studied both by the descendants of the Estonian Swedes and by Estonians who want to establish contact with their neighbouring country. The number of Estonians who speak Swedish to some extent is probably comparable to the former number of Estonian Swedes.



    Runö (Ruhnu)

    Ruhnu is famous for its seal hunting and its really archaic traditions. The tradition of rural community order was in force on the island until the departure of the Swedes in 1944. The folk costume of Ruhnu, decorated with bobbin lace, was also very colourful, and folk costume was worn by men as well. The church of St. Magdalen, which dates from 1644, is the oldest wooden church in Estonia — another partly preserved ancient building is Korsi farmhouse. Both the church and the farmhouse are undergoing restoration at present.

    Dagö (Hiiumaa)

    The centres of Swedish settlement in Hiiumaa were Röicks (Reigi) and Kertell (Kärdla). Due to a quarrel with the landlord, more than a thousand Swedes from Reigi were forced to move to southern Russia in 1781. The colony set up there is called Gammalsvenskby. In 1929 about 800 residents of Gammalsvenskby emigrated to Sweden. Most of them have settled in Gotland and they have their own centre and museum attached to the Roma Church. However, there are still Swedish speakers in Gammalsvenskbyn, which now belongs to Ukraine. The Swedes of Kärdla were made to leave their home at the beginning of the 19th century, when their land was taken over by a landlord and a cloth factory was built in Kärdla. There are only a few descendants of the Swedes still living in Hiiumaa now.

    Ormsö (Vormsi)

    Vormsi was one of the most central settlement areas of the Swedes. Long traditions found expression in colourful folk costumes and in one of the most unique musical instruments in northern Europe — talharpa (hiiu kannel, Swedish kannel, stråkharpa) which every man had to learn to play and which was also known in Noarootsi. This musical tradition and a considerable part of the traditional heritage was ruined by a religious awakening movement initiated by a Swedish missionary, L. J. Österblom, who lived on the island from 1873 to 1887. After World War II there were less than a hundred Swedes living in the island. The number of Swedes has started to grow again due to the return of former inhabitants from Sweden. Between 1988 and 1990, the 13th–14th century St. Olaf’s church, which had been almost completely destroyed in the post-war period, was restored and its consecration turned into a powerful manifestation of the Estonian Swedish movement.

    Hapsal (Haapsalu)

    Since the first mention of the Swedes in the by-laws of the town in 1294, Haapsalu has been the ‘capital’ of the Estonian Swedes. From 1931 to 1943 a Swedish private gymnasium was open here. At present the Centre of Estonian Swedish Culture is situated in Haapsalu, there are also adult education courses and in the future The Estonian Swedish Museum will be founded here.

    Nuckö - Sutlep - Rickul - Odensholm. (Noarootsi - Sutlepa - Riguldi - Osmussaar)

    The area of the former Noarootsi parish includes the once central settlements of the Estonian Swedes — the Noarootsi Peninsula with its administrative centre in Paslepa (an island until the 19th century), Sutlepa, Riguldi and Osmussaar. Now the centre of the district is Birkas (Pürksi), from 1920 to 1943 the local manor house was used for adult education courses. In addition to the basic school, a Swedish-biased gymnasium has been established in the restored manor house. An 18th century parsonage, now being restored, stands next to the St. Catherine’s church which was built in the 13th–14th century. In Rooslepa the ruins of a chapel have been conserved. Adult education courses will be started in the former manor house of Paslepa. Osmussaar was at the disposal of the Soviet Army and the only old building preserved there is the lighthouse. There are plans to create a geological preserve and a research base here, there is a remarkable bank of limestone on the northern coast of the island. There are about 50 Swedes living in the whole district now, and their number is increasing due to the return of many people from Sweden.

    Vippal-Kors - Korkis - Padis - St. Matthias. (Vihterpalu-Risti - Kurkse - Padise - Harju-Madise)

    The western part of the Harju area had a mixed Swedish-Estonian population, there were more Swedes in Vihterpalu and Kurkse. The educational society Svenska Odlingens Vänner founded a Swedish school in Kurkse in 1909. In 1935 the joint efforts of the local people resulted in the building of a school in the Alliklepa Village in Vihterpalu. In Vihterpalu there is now a small, but active, Estonian Swedish community. Again, the former residents of the area have started to return from Sweden.

    Stora och Lilla Rågö (Suur- ja Väike-Pakri)

    This ancient Estonian Swedish area was exceptionally rich in traditional culture. The medieval bag-pipes were used here even in the 20th century, the folk costumes with their abundance of bobbin lace were very picturesque. In 1935 the first local heritage museum in Estonia was opened in an old chimneyless farmhouse in Väike-Pakri. During the Soviet occupation the islands were used for bombing training and all the old buildings are in ruins. Now the chapel in Suur-Pakri is being restored and people are moving back to the islands.



    Nargö (Naissaar)

    The first Swedish settlers probably came to Naissaar in the 14th–15th century. During subsequent wars the island was emptied of its residents several times, but the predominantly Swedish population returned after the wars. Due to this situation there are no distinct dialects or traditional culture characteristics in Naissaar. The main occupations of the inhabitants of the island were the fishing and pilotage of ships in Tallinn harbour. During the Soviet occupation sea mines were deposited here, but they have since been deactivated. The island is meant to be turned into a nature tourism area. Hopefully the former residents of the island will be able to return to their homes.



    Reval (Tallinn)

    At the beginning of the 16th century there were 1300–1500 Swedes living in Tallinn, forming about a quarter of the total population of the town. The Swedes had their own congregation at the Mihkli monastery-church in Tallinn. After the Great Nordic War this was turned into a Russian garrison church, and the Swedes had to convert an old workhouse in Rüütli Street into a church. The number of the Swedes decreased steadily until the 19th century, when the Swedes from the other parts of Estonia started to move to Tallinn. At the end of the tsarist period a Swedish elementary school was opened in Tallinn. In addition to the church and the school, the Swedish educational society, Svenska Odlingens Vänner, was active in Tallinn. When Soviet planes bombed Tallinn on 9 March 1944, the schoolhouse was destroyed and the church was damaged. After the war the church was turned into a sports building. In 1990 the Swedish Mihkli congregation was reinstated and since 1993 the church building also belonged to it. At present the congregation is trying to find funds for the restoration of the church. The congregation links the activities of the Estonian Swedes in Tallinn and in the neighbourhood.



    Estonian Swedes in Sweden

    The Estonian Swedes in Sweden have assembled around the Svenska Odlingens Vänner, which acted as an educational society in Estonia, but in a new situation it concentrated on the recording and researching of the material and intellectual culture of the Estonian Swedes and on organising social activities. The central society had its branches: Runöbornas Förening, Ormsö Hembygdsförening, Rickul-Nuckö Hembygdsförening, Odensholms Byalag, Rågöföreningen, Nargöbornas Förening. There are also village societies. In 1985 a sub-society for the younger generation Svenska Odlingens Nya Generation was founded. Vast archives, a library and a small museum have been founded and a great deal of scientific research material, surveys, memoirs and fiction have been published. The issuing of the publication of the society Kunstbon continues.

    The Cultural Society of Estonian Swedes

    The society was founded on 27 February 1988. It was the first ethnically based society in Estonia. The society welcomes everybody who takes an interest in the cultural heritage of the Estonian Swedes. The society collects, preserves, researches and presents the Estonian Swedish cultural heritage, supports the cultural and economical development of the Estonian Swedish areas and the teaching of Swedish all over Estonia. There is close contact with Estonian Swedish organisations in Sweden, with Finnish Swedes and many other organisations and institutions in Nordic countries.

    Full article, with detailed demographic statistics: http://www.einst.ee/factsheets/facts...ian_swedes.htm

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    Mighty interesting, mighty! you can almost sense the old time when encountering such enduring remnants of it,

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    Estonian Swedes

    Estonian Swedes are one of the earliest known minorities in Estonia. They have also been called Coastal Swedes, or according to their settlement area Ruhnu Swedes, Hiiu Swedes etc. They themselves used the poetic expression ‘aibofolke’ — ‘Island People’.

    Settlement

    The ancient areas of Swedish settlement in Estonia are Ruhnu Island, Hiiumaa Island, the west coast and smaller islands (Vormsi, Noarootsi, Sutlepa, Riguldi, Osmussaar), the north-west coast of the Harju District (Nõva, Vihterpalu, Kurkse, the Pakri Peninsula and the Pakri Islands) and Naissaar Island near Tallinn. The towns with a significant percentage of Swedish population have been Haapsalu and Tallinn.

    In earlier times Swedes have also lived on the coasts of Saaremaa, the southern part of Läänemaa, the eastern part of Harjumaa and the western part of Virumaa.

    A Historical Survey

    The oldest records of Swedish settlers in Estonia go back to the turn of the 13–14th century, earlier data are vague and controversial. The first written mention of Swedes is in the town bylaws of Haapsalu from 1294. A letter of the Bishop of Kuramaa dated 1341 prescribed the settlement of the Swedes on Ruhnu according to the ‘Swedish Law’. In 1345 Padise Monastery sold the Laoküla Estate and Suur-Pakri Island to the Swedes.

    The settlement of Swedes in Estonia can most probably be connected to a similar Swedish migration to the coastal areas of Finland in the 13–15th centuries. Research in traditional culture, toponyms and dialects indicate that large numbers of Swedes arrived in Estonia via Finland. The settlement of Swedes in the coastal areas of Estonia has also been considered to be deliberate colonisation. It should also be mentioned that most of the earliest colonised areas belonged to the Church (the Bishop of Saaremaa and Läänemaa, Padise Monastery).

    The ‘Swedish Law’, which formed the basis for Swedish settlement in Estonia in principle amounted to limited financial responsibility and individual freedom. These privileges were confirmed by later authorities in various documents. Individual freedom in particular distinguished the Swedes from the Estonian peasants who were first attached to the soil and later forced into serfdom.

    During the Swedish time following the disintegration of the Teutonic Order, the situation of the Estonian Swedes worsened. The secularised lands of the Church and monasteries were given as fiefs to the nobility, land used by peasants was included in the land of manors, and taxes and financial responsibility increased. Feudal lords did not recognise the special legal status of the Swedes and treated them in the same manner as the Estonian serfs. This was the cause of many long-drawn-out controversies and even fights between Swedish peasants and feudal lords. Nor did the situation change during the Russian period following the Great Northern War. In many places the Swedes even lost the rights they had before. The struggle for their rights sometimes led to the disappearance of their settlement, for example, the case of the forced exodus of the Hiiumaa Swedes to Russia in the 18th century. In the places where the Swedes lost their special status, they merged rapidly with the Estonians. The Agrarian Reform Laws of 1816 liberated Estonian peasants from serfdom, but this law did not apply to the Swedes, neither had they the right to any form of self-government nor education. The situation improved somewhat with the agrarian reform laws of the 1850s and 1860s, but economic and educational backwardness lingered until the end of the tsarist period.

    The creation of the independent Republic of Estonia in 1918 brought about a considerable change in the situation. The agrarian reform liquidated manors and the land was given to peasants. Until then an almost natural economy type of farming had been prevalent in the Estonian Swedish areas, a small percentage of the farming products had been sold in nearby markets. Now the cultivation of village community strips of land was completely replaced by farming, which also caused an increase in agricultural production. Ships with several masts were built, sea trading and the export of agricultural products was developed, in some places tourism grew in importance.

    The first constitution of the Republic of Estonia provided the ethnic minorities in Estonia with effective guarantees: education in their native tongue, the choice of nationality, the right to form institutions for the protection of their national and social rights, the right to use their native language in official procedures where a given nation formed the majority of the population. Like other ethnic minorities — the Germans, the Russians, the Jews — the Swedes also had at first their own national minister in the government, later their national secretary in the Ministry of Education. The Swedes also founded their own political organisation (Svenska Folkförbundet) and started to publish a newspaper in Swedish Kunstbon. The law on cultural autonomy which came into force in 1925, was unique in Europe and offered even more rights to the ethnic minorities, unfortunately at the expense of these same minorities. All the opportunities provided by the cultural autonomy were used by the Jews and the Germans, who were said to have received financial support from abroad. For predominantly financial reasons the Russians and the Swedes confined themselves to what the institution of the national secretary could guarantee.

    In 1939 the Soviet Union forced Estonia to sign the so-called treaty of military bases. According to this pact, the ancient Estonian Swedish islands — Osmussaar, Suur-and Väike-Pakri and Naissaar — became territories for military bases and their inhabitants had to leave their homes. In 1940 the Estonian system of government was changed with the support of Soviet army, and Estonia was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. Even before formal unification, widespread arrests started. Most of the leading figures of Estonia — state officials, clergymen, officers, businessmen, teachers — were deported to Siberia and assassinated. As a result of this repression the Estonian Swedes lost an influential part of their ethnic group.

    When the war between Germany and the Soviet Union started in 1941, many Estonian Swedes were also enlisted in the Soviet army. Soon the Soviet occupation was replaced by the German one, the men who had avoided the first enlisting were taken now into the German army, and many of them decided to take refuge in Sweden. In the course of the war it gradually became clear that the Germans would be forced to retreat and the new arrival of the Soviet army was imminent. Therefore people tried to find ways to escape to Sweden. An agreement with the occupying power was reached and from 1943 to 1944 several thousands of Estonian Swedes managed to reach Sweden by ship. The total number of Estonian Swedes who left during the war was some 7000; about a thousand remained in Estonia. Those who stayed had almost no chance to preserve their characteristic way of life and culture under the Soviet occupation. All the Swedish schools were closed. The main occupations of the Swedes — seafaring and coastal fishing were forbidden and the coastal areas were fenced off with barbed wire. The farms were ruined in the process of forced collectivisation. Contact with relatives living in Sweden ceased for many years.

    Population

    There are no reliable data on the size of the Swedish population in Estonia in earlier centuries. The reasons are obvious — the censuses were haphazard, only men were counted, the nationality of residents was not recorded etc. Therefore only some estimations can be presented.

    By the end of the Teutonic era, in the 1560s, the total number of Swedish households in Estonia was about 1000. Adding to this the number of Swedes living in towns (in Tallinn about 1500) we can say that the total number of Swedes was at least 5–7 thousand, according to some sources 10 000. The total population of Estonia at the time was 200 000–300 000, so the Swedes formed about 2–3% of it.

    The data of plague victims from 1711 to 1712: Vormsi Island 161 dead and 463 survivors, Noarootsi parish 1259 dead and 683 survivors, Swedish villages on Hiiumaa 328 dead and 448 survivors, Harju area, Risti and Harju-Madise parishes 72.2 per cent dead, including Suur-Pakri 123 dead, 70 survivors, Väike-Pakri 147 dead and 47 survivors, Ruhnu 213 dead and 80 survivors. By 1726 the number of residents on Vormsi Island had reached 906, in Noarootsi 1448. The population increased equally rapidly in other areas.

    According to the census of 1922 the population of Estonia was 1 107 000, the number of Swedes was 7850 (0,7%).

    Language

    The Estonian Swedish dialects belong to the eastern dialects of the Swedish language. As these dialects were comparatively isolated from the mother country, they have preserved many characteristics of the more archaic Swedish language and are only partly understandable to the speaker of modern Swedish. Several different dialect areas can be distinguished in Estonian Swedish dialects: Ruhnu, Vormsi-Noarootsi-Riguldi, Pakri-Vihterpalu. The language spoken on Hiiumaa Island has been preserved as the dialect of Gammalsvenskby. On Naissaare Island distinct dialectic characteristics became extinct as early as the 19th century.

    There are still a couple of dozens to one hundred people who know an Estonian Swedish dialect in Estonia, a couple of hundred to a thousand in Sweden. It is probably possible to keep these dialects alive by consciously using them in literature, for instance. They will probably not be restored as an everyday language. The situation of modern Swedish is quite different however. It is studied both by the descendants of the Estonian Swedes and by Estonians who want to establish contact with their neighbouring country. The number of Estonians who speak Swedish to some extent is probably comparable to the former number of Estonian Swedes.
    Some pictures

    Old map of Estonia with swedish place names



    Woman from east Estonia in Swedish costume


    More information at the sources:
    http://www.einst.ee/factsheets/facts...ian_swedes.htm
    http://networkeurope.radio.cz/featur...utonomy-rights
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estonian_Swedes

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    I'm one of those descended from these men.

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    I'm feeling some awe as well. I can and have visualized what the old movements East was like. I dreamed about landing on the shores and traveling through the forests, in the islands and the gulf, going to trace the way to Novgorod.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baorn View Post
    I'm feeling some awe as well. I can and have visualized what the old movements East was like. I dreamed about landing on the shores and traveling through the forests, in the islands and the gulf, going to trace the way to Novgorod.

    I have been Estonia couple of times, but never hear any Estonian speaking Swedish. Except one woman who lived in Stockholm....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baorn View Post
    I'm feeling some awe as well. I can and have visualized what the old movements East was like. I dreamed about landing on the shores and traveling through the forests, in the islands and the gulf, going to trace the way to Novgorod.
    An old Hanse-Saying had been ' No-one fights against God , and Novgorod' ;
    Niemand kämft gegen God und Novgorod.

    It is astonishing in a way, that there were 7'000 Estonian-Swedes
    flying to Sweden and 8'000 Jews from Denmark.
    Mk 10:18 What do you call me a good master, no-one is good .

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    Who are they?

    The Estonian Swedes are a historical Estonian minority. Their main areas of settlement were the coastal areas in North-Western Estonia and the islands. They call themselves Aibofolke - “island folk”. They were mostly a rural population, making a living from fishing, seafaring and agriculture.

    According to the 1934 census there were 7641 Swedes in Estonia – 0.7% of the total population. Swedes were the majority in Vormsi (Ormsö), on the Pakri islands (Rågöarna), Osmussaare (Odensholm), Ruhnu (Runö) and in the Riguldi district on the Estonian mainland (Rickul). The Noarootsi peninsula (Nuckö) and Sutlepa (Sutlep) had a mixed population. Swedes were a substantial majority in Harju county’s Vihterpalu (Vippal), Kurkse (Korkis) and Naissaare (Nargö).

    The Estonian Swedes were characterized by a long time separation from mainland Sweden and Finnish Swedish areas, and there was also isolation from each other. This resulted in the Swedes retaining their dialects for a considerable time, and, on the islands, their village community lifestyle. Each settlement had its own dialect which the mainland Swedes did not comprehend, and the other Estonian Swedes also had trouble understanding. A sense of unity - as Estonian Swedes – started to be formed only in the 20th century.

    Arriving in Estonia

    The Swedes who arrived in Estonia in the Middle Ages came mainly from Finland. They were mentioned for the first time in the 1294 Haapsalu Town Law. The Swedish settlement during the Middle Ages was extensive – along the coastline from southern Lääne county to Viru county, and included most of the Western Estonian islands. This prevalence was later reduced for a variety of reasons. In Tallinn, almost 25% of the town’s population was Swedish, and in Haapsalu the proportion was even greater.

    In comparison to Estonian peasants, the Swedes had personal liberty – they were never made serfs. This liberty was protected by so-called letters of privilege issued by the landed gentry, which were generally extended when there was a change in state power. The special rights of the Swedes also protected them from becoming Estonianized.

    Struggle for freedom

    During the period of Swedish power at the beginning of the 17th century, the first manor houses were constructed in Estonian Swedish areas. The new masters no longer took into account the rights of the Swedes, who were also obligated to carry out forced unpaid labor, and so began the long struggle by the peasants for their freedom. The court processes extended as far as Stockholm. The mainland Swedish authorities repeatedly confirmed the Estonian Swedes privileges, but this had no effect in practice.

    In 1710-171I the plague broke out in Western Estonia, and a large number of Swedish villages died out. Estonians moved into the empty farms and thus began the Estonianization of the Swedish areas on the Estonian mainland. But on the islands, the Swedish identity was restored due to the arrival of new settlers from Finland and Sweden.

    After the Northern War disputes with the landed class continued and intensified. There are historical records of the tenancy of farms being rescinded in Vormsi and Noarootsi. In 1781 the Swedish community on Hiiumaa was expelled and they settled in Ukraine - they established their own village Gammalsvenskby on the base of the Crimean peninsula. This marked the end of the Swedish community in Hiiumaa, since the remaining Swedes in Reigi and Kärdla quickly Estonianized. The old special rights for Swedes survived only on the Pakri islands, Ruhnu and Osmussaar.

    The Estonian Swedes were never officially made the mother serfs, but they were also not actually free. When serfdom was abolished in the Estonia province in 1816, this did not apply to the Swedes. It was only in I856 that the Swedes were made equal to the Estonians.

    Age of awakening

    In the mid-19th century changes began to occur – creation of local government districts, establishment of schools and buying farmland. The purchase by peasants of the farms they were working proceeded slowly, in some places the determination of and borders lasted until the end of the 1920s. Contacts by Estonian Swedes with country became more frequent, especially church contacts. In 1873, missionaries from the Swedish Evangelical Mission Society arrived in Estonia – of these the best known were Lars Johan Österblom and Thor Emmanuel Thorén. A religious awakening began, which spread from the Swedes to the Estonians. Österblom became famous for his missionary activities in Vormsi, and he also was the founder of the first schools there. Thorén established a district school teachers’ seminary in the Paslepa manor in Noarootsi. The seminary operated for 14 years and produced the first generation of educated Estonian Swedes.

    The religious awakening produced a national awakening with Noarootsi as the center. Temperance societies, choirs and libraries were established. On the initiative of parish clerk Johan Nyman and school teacher Hans Pöhl, the first Swedish language calendar began publication in I 903, and this continued to 1940. In 1909 the Swedish Education Society in Estonia (SOV – Svenska Odlingens Vänner) was founded. The Society’s task was the preservation of the national sentiment of the Swedes, promoting education and culture. The Estonian Swedish elite congregated around the SOV, which in 1917 established its own political party – the Swedish People’s Union. In 1918, the newspaper Kustbon began publication, and became an important information channel between the various Estonian Swedish areas.

    Republic of Estonia

    The time of the Republic of Estonia was a time of rapid cultural and economic development. The Estonian Swedes had the position of Minority Secretary with the Government, and their own representation in the Riigikogu. Within the framework of cultural autonomy, the first mother tongue higher educational institutions were established – Pürksi Agricultural and Folk University (1920) and the Haapsalu Swedish Private High School (1931). Contacts between the various settlements and with Finland and Sweden increased markedly and by the 1930s isolation was at an end. In summer 1933 the first Estonian Swedish choral festival was held in Haapsalu. This optimistic period, however, was blemished at the end of the 1930s by the Estonianization policies towards minorities by the Republic of Estonia.

    Departure

    World War II brought about a sudden end. In 1939, Soviet military bases were set up in western Estonia. By June 1940, all Swedes had been evacuated from Osmussaare, the Pakri islands and Naissaare. After the annexation of Estonia by the Soviet Union, persecution began and the community lost their prominent public figures. The community’s traditional occupations -seafaring and fishing – became questionable, and people started to consider resettlement.

    In the autumn of 1940, the first 110 Pakri inhabitants arrived by boat in Stockholm. More extensive resettlement began in 1943. Some of the resettlers were young men, fleeing the German mobilization, and some left officially -women, children and the elderly leaving on the so-called hospital ships. In 1943-1944, approximately 6800 Swedes left Estonia (almost 90%), and 1281 stayed on, for various reasons. The German authorities used the empty farms to settle war refugees from mainly Russia and North-Eastern Estonia.

    After the war in Sweden...

    The resettlers were initially located in the Stockholm archipelago, which enabled them to continue with their previous occupations. Despite this, in the 1950s, they urbanized rapidly, and now most of the former Estonian Swedes live in Stockholm or its environs. SOV activity continued and the journal Kustbon was again published. The aim of the Society was to unite their people now living abroad, as well as the preservation of the cultural heritage. With this aim in mind, there is continuous documentation and research activity, publication of books and other materials, and annual local folklore festivals. In 1985, the Estonian Swedes youth society SONG (Svenska Odlingens Nya Generation) was established by the Swedish-born descendants of Estonian Swedes. In 1999, this society merged with SOV.

    ... and in Estonia

    After the return of the Soviet forces, the Estonian Swedish areas were closed off by the border zone. Contacts by the remaining native population with relatives in Sweden were cut off. The Swedish language schools were closed and the Swedish language continued only as a language spoken at home. In the process of deportations and collectivization many villages were destroyed and the number of inhabitants was reduced. People were not permitted to return to Osmussaare or Naissaare. Civilian settlement on the Pakri islands ceased in the 1960s.

    In 1988, Estonian Swedes again became a topic for discussion. The Estonian Swedish Cultural Society was founded, with the aim of uniting the Swedes living in Estonia and those interested in Estonian Swedish culture. The Society organized the first local folklore festival in Noarootsi, and published the journal RONOR. Swedish was again being taught to the younger generation. In I 990 a high school was established in Noarootsi with Swedish language specialization. This was followed by the establishment of an Estonian Swedish research library and archives and the Coastal Swedish Museum.

    Today

    There is no longer an active Estonian Swedish community in Estonia. The only reminders of the past are Swedish language place names and gravestones in the cemeteries. It is estimated that there are 200-500 Swedes or their descendants in Estonia. In Sweden, there are also reducing numbers of the pre-war generation.

    The settlement areas for Estonian Swedes have much in common today -due to the previous border zone, nature is unspoiled; there is sparse inhabitation, unusual history and a large number of Swedish-speakers. They have close contacts with the former native inhabitants now in Sweden, and many of these have had their land returned. There is cooperation through the local folklore societies established in Sweden, which unite Estonian Swedes from various settlements. Many local government districts see their future in tourism and in offering vacation opportunities.
    http://www.stmikael.ee/index.php/en/...stonian-swedes

    Minority report: the plight of Estonia’s ethnic Swedes

    Estonia’s Swedes survived revolution, invasion and exile. Their struggles tell the story of 20th-century Europe.

    In 1993 I found myself living on a former collective farm in a remote border protection zone in western Estonia. The place was like small collective farms everywhere in the Soviet Union: there was a cultural hall, a school, a dining room (then closed), some rusty workshops and concrete blocks of flats, built on the field behind the former manor house, which had been left to decay. There was a manned barrier on the only road in to the Noarootsi Peninsula through salty marshland – until 1991, everyone had to show their papers there, no matter how well known they were to the Soviet soldiers on duty. Abandoned watchtowers dotted the coastline, and in some areas you could still see the intermittent line in the sand 50 metres from the sea, beyond which local people were not allowed to go.

    When the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991 I was working on a PhD in the anthropology department at University College London, on Melanesian systems of law. I changed my thesis to a Soviet theme: looking at how national minorities in Soviet countries reconnected with their history to form new national identities. I decided to focus on Estonian Swedes, and chose the collective farm in western Estonia as a field site. The village I lived in – Birkas in Swedish, Pürksi in Estonian – had become a centre for Swedishness in the independence era between the wars, and the Swedish minority culture was now being revived there.

    It was desolate, yet also compelling, a region affected by all the major European political events of the 20th century: the first revolution in 1905, the First World War, the Russian Revolution, brief independence, Soviet and Nazi occupations and, finally, in 1991, independence. I was interested in the small community of Swedes, a minority within another minority, stacked like Russian dolls inside the Russian empire and the Soviet Union. And I wanted to know how Soviet censorship had affected local people’s perception and knowledge of history.

    ****

    Swedish-speaking groups had settled in Estonia in the early Middle Ages, probably migrating down from Finland. They lived on the islands and west coast of Estonia, fishing, farming and trading across the Baltic Sea. After independence in 1918 and the First World War, Swedish tourists started coming to Estonia. The Estonian Swedes, in their traditional folk costumes, stared solemnly into a hundred cameras, fetched water for the tourists from their wells, and talked about their feelings for the Motherland, which few of them had ever seen. The tourists cycled from farm to farm, slept in hay barns and delighted in the kinship.

    It was patronising, perhaps, and often sentimental, but it was also helpful: from the 1880s onwards, evangelical missionaries travelled from Sweden to support and spiritually enlighten the Estonian Swedes, who lived in great poverty. After independence, nurses, teachers and agronomists followed. Estonian Swedish cultural activists started newspapers, journals and schools. Swedish people were moved by the hardship of the Swedish minority, and by their struggle for cultural survival. The Russifying policies of the tsarist empire had been harsh. In addition, the large estates and the repressive bureaucracy and censorship had entrenched the poverty of the rural population. To counteract this, independent Estonia instituted land reform, minority protection and democracy, in an attempt to encourage a thriving civil society to emerge.

    The discussion about the preservation of the Swedish culture in Estonia was part of debates about minorities in the new nation states of Europe following the First World War. Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia came into being, in the spirit fostered by President Woodrow Wilson, whose Fourteen Points of 1918 outlined a postwar Europe of free trade and democracy. The former Russian territories, however, were not given independence by the newly created Soviet Union: the emerging countries had to fight for it. In the case of Finland and the Baltic states the battle was, eventually, successful. In Ukraine, where three empires met, the First World War turned into a civil war. In 1922 about half of Ukraine formed one of the original Soviet Socialist Republics; the rest of the region was parcelled up between Poland, Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Romania and Czechoslovakia. Georgia, like the Baltic states, declared independence in 1918. It didn’t last long.

    For the countries that escaped Soviet control, the 1920s were an era of new parliamentary democracies, each with minority populations struggling for recognition and protection. The talk was of disarmament and diplomacy, of the League of Nations and the balance of power. It didn’t last long. All the efforts of benign philanthropists and missionaries of that era, of nurses, doctors, agronomists and teachers, came to nothing in the end.

    From the summer of 1940 to the summer of 1941 the Baltic states were occupied by the Soviet Union. It was a brutal process, culminating in mass deportations, mainly of professional families. In June 1941 Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, began. The Wehrmacht, followed by SS forces and the specialised Einsatzgruppen, tasked with finding and killing Jews, unleashed the Holocaust in what the American historian Timothy Snyder has called the “Bloodlands”: the killing fields across Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus. Estonia, albeit with a small Jewish population, was part of it, too. Only a handful of Estonian Jews in hiding survived the Holocaust, and many thousands of people from other countries were transported to the little-known Estonian concentration camps.

    And the Estonian Swedes? From 1943, the Wehrmacht began the forced recruitment of Swedish men (Estonian men were already subject to conscription). Many families fled to Sweden in small boats. In 1944, several high-ranking Nazis – including Bruno Peter Kleist, an SS officer from the inner circle of Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister – were involved in secret negotiations with the Allies. According to the historian Reinhard Doerries, Kleist travelled to Stockholm to discuss the settlement of ethnic Germans in occupied territories, and the resettlement of the ethnic Swedes from Estonia to Sweden.

    Heinrich Himmler, the SS leader, had also entered into negotiations with various people in Sweden through his massage therapist, Felix Kersten, a Baltic German who was hired by Himmler to treat his painful stomach condition. Kersten had become famous in the 1920s and 1930s, treating royalty and celebrities. On 20 April 1945, Norbert Masur, a Jewish refugee in Sweden who was a representative of the World Jewish Congress, travelled to Germany with Kersten. They met Walter Schellenberg, head of German foreign intelligence, and Himmler. That conversation was the beginning of the initiative to save some of the inmates of the concentration camps – some Jewish, some with Scandinavian connections – by evacuating them to Sweden on Swedish Red Cross buses (the “white buses”).

    The previous year, the Swedish govern*ment had made a deal with the SS about the Estonian Swedes. For a payment of 50 Swedish crowns per person, the SS evacuated some 7,000 Swedes, out of a population of 8,000, to safety in Sweden. The Wehrmacht then settled ethnic Estonians evacuated from Russia in the abandoned farmhouses. In autumn 1944, Soviet forces reoccupied Estonia. After the wave of deportations from the countryside in March 1949, followed by forced collectivisation, the distinction between the locals and the refugees ceased to matter.

    By now there were few Swedish families left. The ones that had remained came under suspicion because they had relatives abroad, and were banned from joining fishing collectives. Their children were barred from the Young Pioneers, the Soviet youth movement. Soon most of them took Soviet Estonian identities: it was safer that way. In turn, when the Estonian Swedes came to Sweden they were told to assimilate as best they could, and not talk about the Nazi evacuation. And assimilate they did.

    After 1989, there was a new Swedish revival in Estonia – exiled people, former owners, came back to visit. Seeing them next to their cousins left behind made me realise the marks repressive regimes leave on their people. Living in a benign welfare state makes for good height and good teeth; living in a repressive state makes for the opposite. The few Swedes who had remained in Estonia looked so much older than their relatives who had left as children.

    It is easy to assume that the only people who are affected by repression are dissidents or minorities, and to think that the only rights abused in the Soviet Union were civil and political rights. In fact, people’s social and economic rights were equally violated. On the collective farm, a woman told me about losing her baby in hospital and seeing a political delegation troop through the ward. Not one of them took their shoes off, or washed their hands, as all the patients’ relatives had to do. To her, that moment symbolised Soviet oppression.

    After I’d lived on the former collective farm for nearly a year, I gave a speech to a group of diplomats visiting the peninsula. I outlined my research project, and described some of the current problems in the community as I saw it. The headmistress of the school, who was married to the former director of the collective farm, was not happy with what I had said. What should I have said? I asked Alar and Hele, my neighbours and friends. “That everything is all right,” Alar said ironically. “That everything is wonderful.” The Soviet tendency to conceal reality was still alive and well.

    I had gone to the collective farm to investigate people’s sense of the past in the context of the Soviet censorship of history. What did people remember about the war, the deportations and collectivisation? The intellectual elite had been decimated in the Baltic states and the other newly incorporated Soviet republics. Two hundred thousand library books were destroyed; independent publishing was over; censorship lists were drawn up; schools and universities became political institutions. By the end of the war most intellectuals had either disappeared or become conformists.

    When I finished my speech about the Swedish community, one of the French diplomats in the audience seemed surprised. “But your English is very good,” he said. “Do you come from this area?” I didn’t, of course. But I might have done – strangely, I have never lived anywhere where I melted in better. Many of the villagers had names like mine: German-sounding without being German. We dressed alike, and looked alike. The old Swedes searched for Swedish words, their mother tongue hidden, like mine, behind another language.

    The culture I was studying in that remote border protection zone was in fact the surviving fragments of a once-thriving rural economy and culture. Every village on the peninsula had decreased dramatically in size since the census of 1934: the population had never recovered from the war, the deportations and the exodus of the local Swedes. And the people in those bedraggled villages no longer knew what they had lost. The world that was lost had disappeared from history.

    This is no longer the case. In the past 20 years, Estonia has been good at history, good at memorialising the Soviet era and good at establishing a liberal democracy and civil society. This is in stark contrast to Russia, with its oligarchical capitalism and nostalgia for authoritarian communism, its violence, its dying villages and dismal life expectancy. There is an echo of the Soviet Union’s destruction of history in the crisis in Ukraine: in the minds of Russian nationalists, Russia’s enemies are always fascists, no matter what history tells you. The echo is faint, but it’s dangerous nevertheless, because the anti-fascist struggle is an ideal for which Russians are willing to sacrifice much.

    “Everything Is Wonderful: Memories of a Collective Farm in Estonia” is published by Grove Press (£14.99)
    https://www.newstatesman.com/culture...-ethnic-swedes


    Die Sonne scheint noch.

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