History and background

History and background

People have been migrating between Finland and Sweden, in both directions, for centuries. Finland was part of the Swedish realm from the 13th Century until 1809, during which time there was a flow of migrants in both directions.

As a result of Swedish migration to Finland, the country is now officially bilingual, with Finnish and Swedish being the national languages.
Following the Second World War, a particularly great influx of both Swedish- and Finnish-speaking immigrants entered Sweden, continuing this centuries-old tradition, albeit on a larger scale than earlier.

As Sweden does not register residents according to language there is a lack of census data and hence it is impossible to state the number of either Finnish-speaking or Swedish-speaking people originating in Finland. But roughly 20 and 25% of the migrants from Finland to Sweden after the Second World War spoke Swedish as their first language (L1) or mother tongue. Since the percentage of Swedish-speakers (Finland Swedes) in Finland makes up only c. 5% of the total population, this suggests that the flood of Swedish-speaking emigrants from Finland is proportionately much larger than that of those who spoke primarily Finnish

In total, at least 70 000 Swedish-speakers have moved from Finland to Sweden since the Second World War. Those from this group (Finland Swedes), and their descendants, form the basis for the organisation FRIS. Our variety of spoken Swedish differs from that in Sweden in much the same way as American or Australian English differ from British English. Swedish is a so called pluricentric language, and the differences also present themselves in our culture and traditions.

FRIS was founded in 1969 and is now made up of 17 local sub-organisations dispersed across Sweden, from Scania (Skåne) in the South to the city of Umeå in the North. But the first of these local groups stems from further back, in the 1940s. Today FRIS has 1 700 members and its central office is located in Stockholm.