Do Finnish Swedes speak Finnish

Right-wing populism in FinlandSwedish minority under pressure

Anyone arriving at the Helsinki train station will be greeted by the loudspeakers in Finnish - and in Swedish, the second official language in Finland. Ticket machines are bilingual, traffic signs, websites of authorities and companies. Swedish is the mother tongue for around five percent of the population.

"I come from a family of Swedish-speaking fishing nomads who have sailed along the west coast. At home we only spoke Swedish, I went to a Swedish-language school and later to university."

Growing hatred

Johanna Holmström is a successful author from Helsinki, 34 years old. And aware that she belongs to a minority - but which is getting more and more distressed, she says. Many Swedes have even avoided speaking their language in public.

"The hatred of us always comes at intervals when people are insecure, unhappy, when they are afraid for their jobs. That was in the 90s during the great recession, and now again.

The aversion has clearly grown: A friend was approached in the locker room of a swimming pool - because she spoke Swedish with her child. Or one hears: We are in Finland, speak Finnish or go home! But what does that mean? My ancestors came to Finland hundreds of years ago! "

The Finns party should also contribute to the fact that more and more Finns reject the Swedish part of their society. The party was also the driving force behind a citizens' initiative. They wanted to abolish "compulsory Swedish" in Finnish elementary schools.

No voice in government

The party was unsuccessful with this. For this she got almost 18 percent of the vote in the 2015 parliamentary elections - and drove the liberal "Swedish People's Party" out of government after 36 years.

"That was one of the greatest triumphs of the Finnish party. And because they were unable to push through certain issues such as the exit from the euro, they turned their xenophobia into a huge issue. This is a threat to us and gives a boost to racism.

I get emails saying that it is your fault that so many migrants come, that you should be hanged and raped. I have the feeling that performance and technology are so important in our society that interpersonal relationships are forgotten. "

Every difference is bad

Eva Biaudet was already Minister for Health and Social Affairs for the Swedish People's Party, most recently ombudswoman for minorities in Finland. But she has already received hate mail beforehand.

"It seems to me that a lot is mixed up: Anything different is bad, regardless of whether it concerns belief, nationality or sexuality. And hatred of women World is getting closer. Some people think they can strengthen Finland if they isolate themselves. "

The first Swedes came to the country as early as the 13th and 14th centuries. But Sweden was also an occupying power for a long time - to this day the prejudices about an economically and socially privileged minority persist, says Holmström.

"But when Finland was part of Sweden, there was nothing here, you had to build cities and a whole society first. For this the Swedes sent their educated upper class. Sure, these families got rich and also exploited workers. But there were few! "

Cohesion among the minorities

Their descendants not only stick together with one another, but also with other minorities. Eva Biaudet also observes about foreigners, who so far only make up four percent of the population.

"We find immigration enriching, the Swedish-language media are also much more open with migrants. The Swedish-dominated communities have taken in many more refugees - there are communities in which over 90 percent of Swedish-speakers live."

Even if these are clearly in the minority in Helsinki, there are enough daycare centers and schools to which Finland-Swedes like Johanna Holmström can send their daughters.

The girls have long been speaking Swedish. Finnish. And Arabic: your father is from Algeria. This makes them a double minority in the country.