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Swedish speaking population in Finland

Last modified: 2012-03-30 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: finland | sweden | cross | scandinavian cross |
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[Flag for the Swedish speaking population in Finland]
image by Phil Nelson, 11 August 2007


See also:


Description of the flag

The flag has a red field and yellow cross.
Jan Oskar Engene, 10 March 1996


Use of the flag

The flag mentioned by Andersson, red field and yellow cross, is based on the colours of the arms of Finland. It has been in use since before Finland's independence in 1917, and was considered for a national flag before the white and blue flag was adopted. It is supposedly still in use. However, my Swedish-Finnish colleague at work was unable to confirm this. He did say, however, that the colours are frequently used on pennants.
Jan Oskar Engene, 10 March 1996


The above flag (red, yellow Scandinavian cross), which you describe as being that of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland, is unknown to my Finnish friends.

On the other hand it is very much the flag of Scania, "Skåneland" in Swedish, composed of the three most southern provinces of Sweden (Blekinge, Skåne and Halland), and the Danish island of Bornholm (with its own flag that is red with a green cross), being mostly - and widely - used in the southernmost Swedish province, Skåne.

It is the combination of the Danish red flag with the Swedish yellow cross, a reminder of the fact that these provinces were part of Denmark until 1658.

For more information see the Flag of Scania site.

An identical flag was also used by the Quisling government in Norway during the German occupation.

The red-and-yellow flag is believed to be the oldest of the Scandinavian cross flags, in that it was the flag of the archbishop of Lund (then in Denmark, now in Sweden), who as of 1104 was the spiritual leader of all the Nordic countries. It was then reintroduced in the 1870s by the Weibull brothers, who chose it because of the colour combination, which united Denmark and Sweden, and also reflected the colours of the City of Malmó and the CoA of Skåne.

See (in Danish) Foreningan Skånsk Fremtid.
J. Christer Elfverson, 17 August 2002


Some may still believe the Scanian flag to be medieval and to have been the flag of the archbishop of Lund, but this bit of speculation has never been substantiated. See the updated version of the presentation of the Scanian flag on the FOTW site. And disregard the link above, to an outdated presentation of this flag by the Danish organisation Skaansk Fremtid (Scanian Future). Their latest and more sober version is to be found at http://www.skaanskfremtid.dk/.
Lars Roede, 19 August 2002


The flag (red, yellow Scandinavian cross) is unknown to my Finnish friends.

On the other hand it is very much the flag of Scania, "Såneland" in Swedish, composed of the three most southern provinces of Sweden (Blekinge, Skåne and Halland), and the Danish island of Bornholm (with its own flag that is red with a green cross), being mostly - and widely - used in the southernmost Swedish province, Skåne.

It is the combination of the Danish red flag with the Swedish yellow cross, a reminder of the fact that these provinces were part of Denmark until 1658.

An identical flag was also used by the Quisling government in Norway during the German occupation.
J Christer Elfverson, 17 August 2002


It might indeed be the case that many Swedish-speaking Finns have no knowledge of this flag. A telling example of this appeared in a couple of articles in the newspaper Vasabladet in June 1999. The newspaper reported a proposal, made by one of the delegates at the 1999 annual convention of the Swedish People's Party, that a flag in yellow with a red cross be adopted as the flag of the Swedish speaking Finns. This triggered the reaction from various people who reminded the public that a flag was already in existence: Red with a yellow cross. I suppose this episode demonstrates that even a politically active Swedish speaking Finns did not know of the flag, which might be an indication that the flag is now in rather limited use.

For the news stories (in Swedish), see: http://195.236.208.10/nyheter/990601/nyhet6.html or http://195.236.208.10/nyheter/990602/nyhet3.html
Jan Oskar Engene, 20 August 2002


In view of the mixed discussion above) there may be a need for clarification. A red flag with a yellow cross is indeed known to many Swedish speakers in Finland as their traditional minority flag, but the awareness, which rely essentially on a sparse and deficient oral tradition, falls short of being common knowledge. As the design has almost no visibility in the public space it is poorly known outside of the minority itself.

The function of regional and minority flags is in Finland on flag poles overtaken by the common use of husband pennants. Reminiscent of the traditional flag, a pennant striped with the same two colours is commonly used by the Swedish speakers. In Ostrobothnia and Varsinais-Suomi this practice is codified by the manufacturers of pennants based on provincial heraldry ( http://www.finnmarin.com/tuotteet/isannanviirit.htm and click "maakuntaviirit" below for larger picture), but in Uusimaa (Nyland) the practice is inconsistent and challenged by a provincial practice. The two colours are also used to mark minority affiliation in some logos and standards, and in some cases a cross pattern may be discerned in the design. No precise proportions are known but a rather wide cross would have to be visualised, for example 4-2-7 horizontally and 3-2-3 vertically.

For historical reasons the tradition can hardly be older, nor can it be younger, than the 1930s (or 20s). In that historical context the usage may have been limited to activist "swecoman" circles, perhaps as some sort of epilogue to the dispute decades earlier over the choice of colours for the national Finnish flag. Given such connotations it would be understandable that the flag never prevailed in popular tradition as a common object of identification.
SJ, 9 November 2004


Only now I realize that one of my sentences "For historical reasons the tradition can hardly be older, nor can it be younger, than the 1930s (or 20s)" unquote obviously contradicts the statement by Engene already on the home page: Quote [The flag] has been in use since before Finland's independence in 1917, and was considered for a national flag before the white and blue flag was adopted. Unquote.

Maybe I should explicitly explain what historical reasons I invoke here:

While it is true that the same "swecoman" circles that supposedly introduced this cross flag after independence had propagated red and yellow colours for the national flag before independence, it is equally true that the swecoman proposals for a national flag from the previous generation had not included a red flag with a yellow cross but rather horizontal striped designs and some cross design including a blue element. While I have no historical evidence to present I believe that logically the minority flag could have been introduced only once the dispute over the national flag was completely resolved and made history.
SJ, 11 November 2004


The red flag with a yellow cross, is indeed the flag that officially represents the Swedish speaking population in Finland. Especially during the summer you can find this flag in a miniature format hanging from the walls of people's houses and summer cottages. But still the pennant version is much more often used and during summer it is easy to see where Finnish speakers and Swedish speakers live, depending on the colors of their pennants.
Leila Holm, 5 January 2005


Situation

Finland has a Swedish speaking community making up about 6% of the total population. Swedish is recognized as an official language on par with Finnish.
Jan Oskar Engene, 10 March 1996