If Russia never had conquered Finland...

What do you think would have happened to Sweden and Finland if they had remained a single country?

On Swedish TV there was recently a programme guessing about what Sweden would have been like if Russia hadn't conquered its eastern half.

You can watch the programme here:

To me, the part where they talk about finnicised cities in the Mälar valley seems particularly exotic. It's a pity it's impossible to visit this alternative universe. ;)

June 7, 2016


I wonder, would Finnish still exist and be widely spoken, or would Swedish have supplanted it, being the national language of the single country?

I tried to watch the video, but my knowledge of Swedish is superficial, and even reading the titles, I could only understand about half or two-thirds of what was said, so I don't know if the question of language was covered in the video.

June 8, 2016

The language question was covered. It says that when Finland was a part of Sweden, language was not a big issue because modern language-based nationalism is mostly a product of the 19th century and before that people had a more practical view of the issue.

So what would have happened if Finland had remained Swedish? Two scenarios are presented. One, in which the two languages would have been given the equal status and another in which the Finns would have assimilated, like the population of Ireland. It's the first scenario I find the most interesting since Sweden's linguistic make up then would have resembled Canada, with 25% minority speakers. Unfortunately, it's the second scenario that is the most likely because that is what happened to most minorities in Europe, including the Finnish minority that happened to live on the western side of the new border.

June 8, 2016

Very interesting, thanks for the info, Lars.

My first gut feeling was indeed that Finnish would have receded, becoming a language in danger of extinction, not unlike Irish, as you point out.

It's very difficult for language to prosper and remain relevant if it doesn't have a corresponding country.

Consider the case of Catalan and their desire for an independent country.

June 8, 2016

There would always have been the possibility of a civil war. I bet a similar national awakening would have taken place as did in the real world. When national Romanticism was at its apex, many people changed their names from Swedish to Finnish names. The novelist and playwright Alexis Stenvall became Aleksis Kivi, and many other prominent Finns followed suite. This would suggest that the Finnish language and culture would have maintained their foothold in Finland.

If the Swedes would not have accepted this, a civil war would have taken place. And since Finns formed the majority of the Swedish army, the Finnish cause would have been successful.

June 8, 2016

On the other hand, the Finnish national awakening was started by members of the Finland Swedish upperclass who were dissatisfied with the Russian rule. It's quite possible that those people would have remained loyal to Sweden and a Finnish nationalism would in that case have awakened later and with much more resistance from its Swedish speaking elite.

June 8, 2016

It is possible, yes. But remember that Finns were initially also very loyal to the Russian Emperor, because the Grand Duchy had many liberties. If the Swedes would have used oppressive methods against the Finnish population, it would have affected the Swedish-speaking elite as well. It is difficult to say how they would have reacted.

June 8, 2016

It's possible - Sweden certainly didn't like the idea of having a Danish speaking minority in the south after conquering it from Denmark and took some rather harsh measures against it. The treatment of Sami, Meänkieli and Finnish minorities in northern Sweden has also been less than exemplary during the last couple of centuries.

On the other hand, the Danes were ancient enemies whereas Finns were an old part of the kingdom. Sami, Finnish and Meänkieli have survived and it's hard to imagine that Finnish could have been diminished to that point considering the sheer amount of people who speak it.

June 8, 2016

Catalan does have a country: Andorra.

June 9, 2016
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