The broader definition is similar to what are locally called the Nordic countries
, which also include the remote Norwegian islands of Svalbard
and Jan Mayen
, and Greenland
, a constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark.
The climate varies from north to south and from west to east: a marine west coast climate (Cfb
) typical of western Europe dominates in Denmark, southernmost part of Sweden and along the west coast of Norway reaching north to 65°N, with orographic lift
giving more mm/year precipitation
(<5000 mm) in some areas in western Norway. The central part – from Oslo
– has a humid continental climate
(Dfb), which gradually gives way to subarctic climate
(Dfc) further north and cool marine west coast climate (Cfc) along the northwestern coast.
A small area along the northern coast east of the North Cape
has tundra climate (Et) as a result of a lack of summer warmth. The Scandinavian Mountains block the mild and moist air coming from the southwest, thus northern Sweden and the Finnmarksvidda
plateau in Norway receive little precipitation and have cold winters. Large areas in the Scandinavian mountains have alpine tundra
The warmest temperature ever recorded in Scandinavia is 38.0 °C in Målilla
The coldest temperature ever recorded is −52.6 °C in Vuoggatjålme
The coldest month was February 1985 in Vittangi (Sweden) with a mean of −27.2 °C.
Southwesterly winds further warmed by foehn wind
can give warm temperatures in narrow Norwegian fjords in winter. Tafjord
has recorded 17.9 °C in January and Sunndal
18.9 °C in February.
Scandinavia originally referred vaguely to Scania
, a formerly Danish region that became Swedish in the seventeenth century.
The original areas inhabited (during the Bronze Age) by the peoples now known as Scandinavians included what is now Northern Germany (particularly Schleswig-Holstein
), all of Denmark, southern Sweden and the southern coast of Norway while namesake Scania
found itself in the centre.
Various references to the region can also be found in Pytheas
, Pomponius Mela
, usually in the form of Scandza
. It is believed that the name used by Pliny may be of West Germanic
origin, originally denoting Scania.
According to some scholars, the Germanic stem can be reconstructed as *skaðan-
and meaning "danger" or "damage".
The second segment of the name has been reconstructed as *awjō
, meaning "land on the water" or "island". The name Scandinavia
would then mean "dangerous island", which is considered to refer to the treacherous sandbanks surrounding Scania.Skanör
in Scania, with its long Falsterbo reef, has the same stem (skan
) combined with -ör
, which means "sandbanks".
, along with the Old Norse
goddess name Skaði
, may be related to Proto-Germanic *skaðwa-
(meaning "shadow"). John McKinnell comments that this etymology suggests that the goddess Skaði may have once been a personification of the geographical region of Scandinavia or associated with the underworld.
Another possibility is that all or part of the segments of the name came from the pre-Germanic Mesolithic
people inhabiting the region.
In modernity, Scandinavia is a peninsula, but between approximately 10,300 and 9,500 years ago the southern part of Scandinavia was an island separated from the northern peninsula, with water exiting the Baltic Sea
through the area where Stockholm
is now located.
Correspondingly, some Basque
scholars have presented the idea that the segment sk
that appears in *Skaðinawjō
is connected to the name for the Euzko
peoples, akin to Basques, that populated Paleolithic
Europe. According to one scholar, Scandinavian people share particular genetic markers
with the Basque people
Appearance in medieval Germanic languages
The Latin names in Pliny's text gave rise to different forms in medieval Germanic texts. In Jordanes' history of the Goths
(AD 551), the form Scandza
is the name used for their original home, separated by sea from the land of Europe (chapter 1, 4).
Where Jordanes meant to locate this quasi-legendary island is still a hotly debated issue, both in scholarly discussions and in the nationalistic
discourse of various European countries.
The form Scadinavia
as the original home of the Langobards
appears in Paulus Diaconus
' Historia Langobardorum
but in other versions of Historia Langobardorum
appear the forms Scadan
Frankish sources used Sconaowe
, an Anglo-Saxon historian, used Scani
, the forms Scedenige
are used while the Alfredian
translation of Orosius
's travel accounts used the Old English Sconeg
Possible influence on Sami
The earliest Sami yoik
texts written down refer to the world as Skadesi-suolo
(north Sami) and Skađsuâl
(east Sami), meaning "Skaði
's island". Svennung considers the Sami name to have been introduced as a loan word
from the North Germanic languages
" is the giant
stepmother of Freyr
in Norse mythology
. It has been suggested that Skaði to some extent is modeled on a Sami woman. The name for Skade's father Thjazi
is known in Sami as Čáhci
, "the waterman"; and her son with Odin, Saeming
, can be interpreted as a descendant of Saam
the Sami population.
Older joik texts give evidence of the old Sami belief about living on an island and state that the wolf is known as suolu gievra
, meaning "the strong one on the island". The Sami place name Sulliidčielbma
means "the island's threshold" and Suoločielgi
means "the island's back".
In recent substrate
studies, Sami linguists have examined the initial cluster sk
- in words used in Sami and concluded that sk
- is a phonotactic
structure of alien origin.
Reintroduction of the term Scandinavia in the eighteenth century
—a Norwegian, a Dane and a Swede. This image is considered emblematic of Scandinavism and is widely used in Scandinavian school books
Although the term Scandinavia
used by Pliny the Elder probably originated in the ancient Germanic languages, the modern form Scandinavia
does not descend directly from the ancient Germanic term. Rather the word was brought into use in Europe by scholars borrowing the term from ancient sources like Pliny, and was used vaguely for Scania and the southern region of the peninsula.
The term was popularised by the linguistic and cultural Scandinavist movement
, which asserted the common heritage and cultural unity of the Scandinavian countries and rose to prominence in the 1830s.
The popular usage of the term in Sweden, Denmark and Norway as a unifying concept became established in the nineteenth century through poems such as Hans Christian Andersen
's "I am a Scandinavian" of 1839. After a visit to Sweden, Andersen became a supporter of early political Scandinavism. In a letter describing the poem to a friend, he wrote: "All at once I understood how related the Swedes, the Danes and the Norwegians are, and with this feeling I wrote the poem immediately after my return: 'We are one people, we are called Scandinavians!'".
The Swedish king also proposed a unification of Denmark, Norway and Sweden into a single united kingdom. The background for the proposal was the tumultuous events during the Napoleonic Wars
in the beginning of the century. This war resulted in Finland (formerly the eastern third of Sweden) becoming the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland
in 1809 and Norway
in union with Denmark since 1387, although de facto
treated as a province) becoming independent in 1814, but thereafter swiftly forced to accept a personal union
with Sweden. The dependent territories Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, historically part of Norway, remained with Denmark in accordance with the Treaty of Kiel
. Sweden and Norway were thus united under the Swedish monarch, but Finland's inclusion in the Russian Empire
excluded any possibility for a political union between Finland and any of the other Nordic countries.
Use of Nordic countries vs. Scandinavia
Scandinavia according to the local definition
The extended usage in English, which includes Iceland and the Faroe Islands, the Åland Islands
The term Scandinavia
(sometimes specified in English as Continental Scandinavia
or mainland Scandinavia
) is commonly
used strictly for Denmark, Norway and Sweden as a subset of the Nordic countries (known in Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish as Norden
Debate about which meaning is more appropriate is complicated by the fact that usage in English is different from usage in the Scandinavian languages themselves (which use Scandinavia
in the narrow meaning), and by the fact that the question of whether a country belongs to Scandinavia is politicised: people from the Nordic world beyond Norway, Denmark and Sweden may be offended at being either included in or excluded from the category of "Scandinavia".
is used unambiguously for Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, including their associated territories (Svalbard,
Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Åland Islands).
The clearest example of the use of the term Scandinavia
as a political and societal construct is the unique position of Finland
, based largely on the fact that most of modern-day Finland was part of Sweden
for more than six centuries (see: Finland under Swedish rule
), thus to much of the world associating Finland with all of Scandinavia. But the creation of a Finnish identity is unique in the region in that it was formed in relation to two different imperial models, the Swedish
and the Russian.
There is also the geological
), which in technical use refers to the Fennoscandian Shield
(or Baltic Shield
), that is the Scandinavian peninsula (Norway and Sweden), Finland and Karelia
(excluding Denmark and other parts of the wider Nordic world). The terms Fennoscandia
are sometimes used in a broader, political sense to refer to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland.
Scandinavian as an ethnic term and as a demonym
The term Scandinavian
may be used with two principal meanings, in an ethnic or cultural sense and as a modern and more inclusive demonym
As an ethnic or cultural term
In the ethnic or cultural sense the term "Scandinavian" traditionally refers to speakers of Scandinavian languages
, who are mainly descendants of the peoples historically known as Norsemen
, but also to some extent of immigrants and others who have been assimilated into that culture and language. In this sense the term refers primarily to native Danes
as well as descendants of Scandinavian settlers such as the Icelanders
and the Faroese
. The term is frequently used in this ethnic sense, as synonymous with the modern descendants of the Norse, in studies of linguistics and culture.
As a demonym
Additionally the term Scandinavian is used demonymically to refer to all modern inhabitants or citizens of Scandinavian countries. Within Scandinavia the demonymic term primarily refers to inhabitants or citizens of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In English usage inhabitants or citizens of Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Finland are sometimes included as well. English general dictionaries often define the noun Scandinavian
demonymically as meaning any inhabitant of Scandinavia (which might be narrowly conceived or broadly conceived).
There is a certain ambiguity and political contestation as to which peoples should be referred to as Scandinavian in this broader sense. Sámi people
who live in Norway and Sweden are generally included as Scandinavians in the demonymic sense; the Sámi of Finland may be included in English usage, but usually not in local usage; the Sámi of Russia are not included. However, the use of the term "Scandinavian" with reference to the Sámi is complicated by the historical attempts by Scandinavian majority peoples and governments in Norway and Sweden to assimilate the Sámi people
into the Scandinavian culture and languages, making the inclusion of the Sámi as "Scandinavians" controversial among many Sámi. Modern Sámi politicians and organizations often stress the status of the Sámi as a people separate from and equal to the Scandinavians, with their own language and culture, and are apprehensive about being included as "Scandinavians" in light of earlier Scandinavian assimilation policies.
Languages in Scandinavia
The majority of the population of Scandinavia (including Iceland and the Faroe Islands) today derive their language from several North Germanic tribes who once inhabited the southern part of Scandinavia and spoke a Germanic language
that evolved into Old Norse
and from Old Norse into Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Faroese, and Icelandic. The Danish
and Swedish languages
form a dialect continuum
and are known as the Scandinavian languages—all of which are considered mutually intelligible
with one another. Faroese
, sometimes referred to as insular Scandinavian languages, are intelligible in continental Scandinavian languages only to a limited extent.
A small minority of Scandinavians are Sami people
, concentrated in the extreme north of Scandinavia.
Finland is mainly populated by speakers of Finnish
, with a minority of approximately 5%
of Swedish speakers
. However, Finnish is also spoken as a recognized minority language in Sweden, including in distinctive varieties sometimes known as Meänkieli
. Finnish is distantly related to the Sami languages
, but these are entirely different in origin to the Scandinavian languages.
North Germanic languages
Continental Scandinavian languages:
Insular Scandinavian languages:
The modern division is based on the degree of mutual comprehensibility between the languages in the two branches.
The populations of the Scandinavian countries, with common Scandinavian roots in language, can—at least with some training—understand each other's standard languages
as they appear in print and are heard on radio and television.
The reason Danish, Swedish and the two official written versions of Norwegian (Nynorsk and Bokmål) are traditionally viewed as different languages, rather than dialects of one common language, is that each is a well-established standard language in its respective country.
Danish, Swedish and Norwegian have since medieval times been influenced to varying degrees by Middle Low German
and standard German. That influence came from not just proximity but also that Denmark and later Denmark-Norway ruling over the German speaking region of Holstein, and in Sweden with its close trade with the Hanseatic League
Norwegians are accustomed to variation and may perceive Danish and Swedish only as slightly more distant dialects. This is because they have two official written standards, in addition to the habit of strongly holding on to local dialects. The people of Stockholm
, Sweden and Copenhagen
, Denmark have the greatest difficulty in understanding other Scandinavian languages.
In the Faroe Islands and Iceland, learning Danish
is mandatory. This causes Faroese people as well as Icelandic people to become bilingual in two very distinct North Germanic languages, making it relatively easy for them to understand the other two Mainland Scandinavian languages.
Although Iceland was under the political control of Denmark until a much later date (1918), very little influence and borrowing from Danish has occurred in the Icelandic language.
Icelandic remained the preferred language among the ruling classes in Iceland. Danish was not used for official communications, most of the royal officials were of Icelandic descent and the language of the church and law courts remained Icelandic.
The Scandinavian languages are (as a language family) unrelated to Finnish
and Sami languages
, which as Uralic languages
are distantly related to Hungarian
. Owing to the close proximity, there is still a great deal of borrowing from the Swedish and Norwegian languages in the Finnish and Sami languages.
The long history of linguistic influence of Swedish on Finnish is also due to the fact that Finnish, the language of the majority in Finland, was treated as a minority language while Finland was part of Sweden. Finnish-speakers had to learn Swedish in order to advance to higher positions.
Swedish spoken in today's Finland includes a lot of words that are borrowed from Finnish, whereas the written language remains closer to that of Sweden.
Finland is officially bilingual, with Finnish and Swedish having mostly the same status at national level. Finland's majority population are Finns
, whose mother tongue is either Finnish (approximately 95%), Swedish or both. The Swedish-speakers live mainly on the coastline starting from approximately the city of Porvoo (Sw: Borgå) (in the Gulf of Finland) up to the city of Kokkola (Sw: Karleby) (in the Bay of Bothnia).
The Swedish-speaking population is spread out in pockets in this coastal stretch. The coastal province of Ostrobothnia
has a Swedish-speaking majority, whereas plenty of areas on this coastline are nearly unilingually Finnish, like the region of Satakunta
The Åland Islands, an autonomous province of Finland situated in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden, are entirely Swedish-speaking. Children are taught the other official language at school: for Swedish-speakers this is Finnish (usually from the 3rd grade), while for Finnish-speakers it is Swedish (usually from the 3rd, 5th or 7th grade).
The Sami languages
are indigenous minority languages in Scandinavia.
They belong to their own
branch of the Uralic language family
and are unrelated to the North Germanic languages
other than by limited grammatical (particularly lexical) characteristics resulting from prolonged contact.
Sami is divided into several languages or dialects. Consonant gradation
is a feature in both Finnish and northern Sami dialects, but it is not present in south Sami, which is considered to have a different language history. According to the Sami Information Centre of the Sami Parliament
in Sweden, southern Sami may have originated in an earlier migration from the south into the Scandinavian peninsula.
A key ancient description of Scandinavia was provided by Pliny the Elder
, though his mentions of Scatinavia
and surrounding areas are not always easy to decipher. Writing in the capacity of a Roman admiral, he introduces the northern region by declaring to his Roman readers that there are 23 islands "Romanis armis cognitae" ("known to Roman arms") in this area. According to Pliny, the "clarissima" ("most famous") of the region's islands is Scatinavia
, of unknown size. There live the Hilleviones
. The belief that Scandinavia was an island became widespread among classical authors during the first century and dominated descriptions of Scandinavia in classical texts during the centuries that followed.
Pliny begins his description of the route to Scatinavia
by referring to the mountain of Saevo ("mons Saevo ibi"), the Codanus Bay ("Codanus sinus") and the Cimbrian promontory.
The geographical features have been identified in various ways. By some scholars, Saevo
is thought to be the mountainous Norwegian
coast at the entrance to Skagerrak
and the Cimbrian
peninsula is thought to be Skagen
, the north tip of Jutland
, Denmark. As described, Saevo and Scatinavia can also be the same place.
Pliny mentions Scandinavia one more time: in Book VIII he says that the animal called achlis
(given in the accusative, achlin
, which is not Latin) was born on the island of Scandinavia.
The animal grazes, has a big upper lip and some mythical attributes.
The name Scandia
, later used as a synonym for Scandinavia
, also appears in Pliny's Naturalis Historia
), but is used for a group of Northern European islands which he locates north of Britannia
thus does not appear to be denoting the island Scadinavia in Pliny's text. The idea that Scadinavia
may have been one of the Scandiae
islands was instead introduced by Ptolemy
(c. 90 – c. 168 AD), a mathematician, geographer and astrologer of Roman Egypt. He used the name Skandia
for the biggest, most easterly of the three Scandiai
islands, which according to him were all located east of Jutland
Neither Pliny's nor Ptolemy's lists of Scandinavian tribes include the Suiones
mentioned by Tacitus. Some early Swedish scholars of the Swedish Hyperborean
and of the ninettenth-century romantic nationalism
period proceeded to synthesize the different versions by inserting references to the Suiones, arguing that they must have been referred to in the original texts and obscured over time by spelling mistakes or various alterations.
The Middle Ages
- Denmark, forged from the Lands of Denmark (including Jutland, Zealand and Scania (Skåneland) on the Scandinavian Peninsula)
- Sweden, forged from the Lands of Sweden on the Scandinavian Peninsula (excluding the provinces Bohuslän, Härjedalen, Jämtland and Idre and Särna, Halland, Blekinge and Scania of modern-day Sweden, but including most of modern Finland)
- Norway (including Bohuslän, Härjedalen, Jämtland and Idre and Särna on the Scandinavian Peninsula and its island colonies Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, Isle of Man and the Hebrides)
The three Scandinavian kingdoms joined in 1387 in the Kalmar Union
under Queen Margaret I of Denmark
. Sweden left the union in 1523 under King Gustav Vasa
. In the aftermath of Sweden's secession from the Kalmar Union, civil war broke out in Denmark and Norway—the Protestant Reformation
followed. When things had settled, the Norwegian Privy Council
was abolished—it assembled for the last time in 1537. A personal union
, entered into by the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway in 1536, lasted until 1814. Three sovereign successor states
have subsequently emerged from this unequal union: Denmark, Norway and Iceland.
The borders between the three countries got the shape they have had since in the middle of the seventeenth century: In the 1645 Treaty of Brömsebro
ceded the Norwegian provinces of Jämtland, Härjedalen and Idre and Särna, as well as the Baltic Sea islands of Gotland and Ösel
(in Estonia) to Sweden. The Treaty of Roskilde
, signed in 1658, forced Denmark–Norway to cede the Danish provinces Scania, Blekinge, Halland, Bornholm
and the Norwegian provinces of Båhuslen
to Sweden. The 1660 Treaty of Copenhagen
forced Sweden to return Bornholm and Trøndelag to Denmark–Norway, and to give up its recent claims to the island Funen
In the east, Finland was a fully incorporated part of Sweden from medieval times until the Napoleonic wars, when it was ceded to Russia. Despite many wars over the years since the formation of the three kingdoms, Scandinavia has been politically and culturally close.
as a historiographical name refers to the former political union consisting of the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway, including the Norwegian dependencies of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The corresponding adjective and demonym
. During Danish rule, Norway kept its separate laws, coinage and army as well as some institutions such as a royal chancellor
. Norway's old royal line had died out with the death of Olav IV
in 1387, but Norway's remaining a hereditary kingdom
became an important factor for the Oldenburg dynasty
of Denmark–Norway in its struggles to win elections as kings of Denmark.
The Treaty of Kiel
(14 January 1814) formally dissolved the Dano-Norwegian union and ceded the territory of Norway proper to the King of Sweden, but Denmark retained Norway's overseas possessions. However, widespread Norwegian resistance to the prospect of a union with Sweden induced the governor of Norway, crown prince Christian Frederick (later Christian VIII of Denmark
), to call a constituent assembly at Eidsvoll
in April 1814. The assembly drew up a liberal constitution and elected Christian Frederick to the throne of Norway. Following a Swedish invasion during the summer, the peace conditions of the Convention of Moss
(14 August 1814) specified that king Christian Frederik had to resign, but Norway would keep its independence and its constitution within a personal union with Sweden. Christian Frederik formally abdicated on 10 August 1814 and returned to Denmark. The Norwegian parliament Storting
elected king Charles XIII
of Sweden as king of Norway on 4 November.
The economies of the countries of Scandinavia are amongst the strongest in Europe.
There is a generous welfare system in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.
Various promotional agencies of the Nordic countries in the United States (such as The American-Scandinavian Foundation
, established in 1910 by the Danish American
industrialist Niels Poulsen) serve to promote market and tourism interests in the region. Today, the five Nordic heads of state act as the organization's patrons and according to the official statement by the organization its mission is "to promote the Nordic region as a whole while increasing the visibility of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden in New York City and the United States".
The official tourist boards of Scandinavia sometimes cooperate under one umbrella, such as the Scandinavian Tourist Board
The cooperation was introduced for the Asian market in 1986, when the Swedish national tourist board joined the Danish national tourist board to coordinate intergovernmental promotion of the two countries. Norway's government entered one year later. All five Nordic governments participate in the joint promotional efforts in the United States through the Scandinavian Tourist Board of North America.
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