In my drawing above you see four Viking chieftains at a moot. The chieftain to the right in red-brown beard is me. In this text I intend to describe different forms of identifications, mainly from a mixed Swedish perspective, historically and present with aims for the future. Who am I? How can I describe myself? I am a white, heterosexual man. I’m Swedish, born here in Skåne/ Scania, and have lived most of my life here. I’m well educated, middle class, social liberal, anti-racist. If we go back 200-400 years my paternal and maternal background is a mix of Scanian, Swedish, Christian, Atheist, Belgian-Walloon, German-Jewish influences. Further back, 100 000 years ago, my forefathers were, (as for all of us non-African humans on Earth), darkskinned people walking the East African soil. Some of their descendants would tens of thousands years later migrate into Europe and gradually turn pale in order to attract sun-light. How has the country I live in developed? Where are we today? Where are we heading and why? How will the world situation develop?
The first discovered proofs of settlement in what’s now Sweden are ca 14 000 years old. There are remnants of human settlement from just outside Malmoe where I live and a bit further north in Scania from the shores of Finja Lake. Most of Sweden was then covered by ice and the few people here had come from Europe to hunt rein deer. After the last Ice Age, ca 10 000-9 000 years ago the first migrants from the east, Siberia, turned up. They were nomads of Ural Altaic origin speaking some kind of archaic Finnish-Ugrian tongue most likely. Some settled in Finland, others in what’s now Northern Sweden and Norway, hunting bear, wolf, keeping rein-deer and fishing along the coasts. Some of those nomads spread a bit further south too. Most likely these were the forefathers of the Sámit population in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia, (an area today referred to as Sápmi). New groups of what would become the Sámit/Sápmeccat immigrated from the East 10 000 – 2 700 years ago. This is what the mitocondrial DNA traces show. However, recent discoveries has also shown that the so called Kostenki-man from Russia and who lived and died 37 000 years ago belonged to a large meta population of individuals with the same genetic DNA-traits stretching from Europe to Central Asia. The man from Kostenki was genetically much closer to today’s Danes, Swedes, Finns and Russians than to Spaniards, Frenchmen, Italians and Germans, according to Eske Willerslev, Director of the Centre of Geo-Genetics at Copenhagen University in Denmark. According the mitocondrial DNA-traces Asians and Europeans began to seperate genetically 45 000 – 37 000 years ago.
Apart from the northern Sámit people other migrants came from Europe ca 6000 years ago. These were farmers from, who according to mitocondrial DNA, are linked to farming people who lived in Anatolia, now Turkey. Most likely they were the forefathers of the Indo-European Kurdish people today. These early Indo-Eurpean Kurdish ancestors were also descendants of the same much earlier population whom the Russian man from Kostenki had belonged to. The Turks invaded Anatolia (Turkey) from Central Asia much, much later, 1000 – 1300 A.D. The farming people who arrived in Sweden were according to DNA-trace the ancestors of the Swéons and Gutaniz. In central and northern Sweden the Nomadic Finns and Sámit lived side by side with the farmers for ca 1000 years, but was then pushed further north by the farmers. The Sámit are since 1977 named aboriginal people of Sweden according to the UN ILO convention, No 169. You can read more about them and others in my text from March, “Sweden’s official national minorities”. During the Bronze Age 1700 – 500 BCE all of present Sweden was inhabited by different tribes and populations. Rock carvings/hällristningar were made of religious cermonies, people hunting, males with huge phalloses, and sun worship. Large stone heaps were used as graves, man-made mounds. The king’s grave in Kivik in eastern Scania/Skåne is from that time.
About 2000 years ago the Swéons, (called “Sueiones” in Latin by Tacitus in 98. A.D.) inhabited what’s now Stockholm county, Södermanland, Örebro, Västmanland, Uppsala, Gävleborg, and parts of Dalarna. They were according to the few sources skilled warriors and horsemen, and taking good care of their weapons. The Goths lived in what’s now Västergötland/Western Gothia, Östergötland/Eastern Gothia, Jönköping county, Kalmar and on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. The sagas describing the life in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. tell us e.g. of king Algötar of Västergötland and king Högne in Östergötland fighting each other. Goths from Sweden also migrated down to the European continent and settled in Germany, Italy, Spain and North Africa. According to the Ynglinga Saga by Snorri Sturlasson retold in his “Heimskringla” the first Swéon was king Oden who is supposed according to the legend to have lived ca 2000 years ago. After him came Niord and much later ca 650 A.D. Ottar Vendelkråka. He was followed by Ivar Vidfamne and ca 700-730 by Ragnar Lodbrok. After some time more Emund the Old.
Of course the southern parts of what’s now Sweden were also inhabited. As I’ve told you before in my May text “What’s in a name?” the name Skåne/Scania comes from the very local name Skathinawio/Dangerous Peninsula referring to the small peninsula Falsterbo-Skanör in the south west corner. The waters outside were very treacherous. You can read more of that too on my web log. Originally the name Skathinawio was mainly used for the south-western areas in these parts, while the northern and eastern parts had other names. Around 800 this province was called Sconaowe, ca 890 Scóneg and then Skåne or Scania in Latin. The names Skanör and Scandinavia are also derived from this first name Scadhin awo. During the Middle Ages Scania was counted as part of East Denmark, and “Terra Scaniae” contained the provinces of Skåne, Halland, Blekinge and the island of Bornholm. So it remained until the Swedish conquests 1645-1658. For a short period ca 1332-1361 Scania also had been part of Sweden. (Read more of that in my text about Helsingborg). Sweden conquered the Scanian areas in war against Denmark in February 1658 and they have remained Swedish ever since then. Finland was part of Sweden ca 1250 – 1809.
Sweden as an assembled nation started around 1250 and was then fought over by local kings in Västergötland and Östergötland, as well as Svealand. They used terror, assasinations and wars, as well as intermarrying as political tools. Before that Sweons =Swedes and Goths had co-operated in a power alliance about smaller kingdoms, but had no real state. The state emerged gradually in the period 1200 – 1560. Sweden as an inherited kingdom began with Gustav Eriksson Vasa in 1523. (Read more of him in my June text “Sweden’s National Commemoration Day last week”). As a country we have always been influenced from different ways, which is by no way unique. Here I describe things from a Swedish perspective, but we should keep in mind that we see similar patterns in most countries and cultures around the world. The human behaviour is more similar than we think, more than what separate us from others. Naturally there are specific cultural, local and regional areas which make us special, but the common traits are still there. Through history Sweden has been influenced by German, French and English monks who were preaching Christianity for the Vikings. When most Europe turned into Christian feudal countries so did the Scandinavian ones. All through the Middle Ages Sweden was a Roman Catholic country, which with the Christian Reformation in the 1500’s turned Lutheran and has been so ever since. We have had influences from Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium. The lingua Franca in the 17th and 18th centuries was French, just as English is today. In the early 1900’s until World War II German was important in Swedish schools. With the Swedish wars and merchant journeys in the 1600’s and 1700’s influences came from Turkey, China, India etc. During the 20th century mainly from the USA, but also from other countries. The “classical” rural Swedish stereotype was shaped during the 19th century, mixing local rural traditions from the 1500’s and 1600’s with influences from Germany and Poland.
During the 20th century we have seen a very biased nationality. It’s a mix of two very different sides, co-existing side by side all through the 1900’s up till today. The dark side contains racism, participation in colonial oppression of Africans and Asians, racial biology notions 100 years ago and many decades on. The establishment of the Race Biological Institute in Uppsala in 1921, visits from Nazi Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Establishment of the “race pure” and pure-gene Folk Home notion. In the top blond, blue-eyed, strong, conservative nationalism. At the same time racist measuring of human skulls among the Sámit people and Finns in the north, exclusion and persecution of Romanies, anti-semitism, castration of handicapped, travelling people, homo-sexuals, and “wild women” who had been raped or were poor, but forced to prostitution. Laws against using Finnish or Sápmelaccat in northern Sweden, continued steralizations of “unwanted”, “degraded” people. A not always good approach to the Swedish immigrants from Gammelsvenskby, Zmievka in southern Ukraine when they wanted to come back to Sweden after having been persecuted by both Nazi German troops and Soviet Russia during World War II. Some of them went back to the village, while others stayed here. From the 1980’s and onwards a lingering Neo Nazi movement, VAM, White Aryan Resistance and Ny Demokrati in the early 1990’s. Now we have Sverigedemokraterna/The Sweden Democrats in the Parliament since 2010, as well as tiny Neo Nazi fractions outside the Parliament = Riksdagen. On the far left we have had a worrying and naïve attitude among far too many intellectuals about Communist dictatorships like the Soviet Union, Cuba etc. The extremism both to the far right and far left have been problematic, since they build on totalitarian ideologies. Today we also worry about theocratic states or a theocratic development of our own democracy.
The postive things then? In 1919 the new coalition-government with the People’s Party the Liberals and the Social Democratic Party passed a law for the right to vote for all adult Swedish men and women. Until then about 10 % of the population had had that right. For the Swedish women and men they could go to the election halls for the first time in 1921. That same year the death penalty was forbidden. The Swedish democracy system began to evolve more and more. The inventor Gustav Dalén from Aktiebolaget Gasackumlator invented the modern lights for light houses. The Swedish newspaper editor Torgny Segerstedt in Gothenburg dared to criticize Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany from 1933 until his death in 1945. Scanian people participated in saving 7000 Danish Jews from the Nazi death camps in October 1943. Warm and kind Swedish people helped Finns, Norwegians and Jews in their homes during World War II. Raoul Wallenberg saved tens of thousands Jews in Budapest, Hungary in 1944. Sweden developed, became safer, more secure, and increased its standards, companies grew. During the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s Sweden and Norway supported the ANC, African National Congress with diplomatic efforts and information when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for fighting against the racist Apartheid system in South Africa. Björn Borg became a world leading tennis player, Ingemar Stenmark a world famous skier, Rolf Edling a world champion in fencing. The pop group ABBA made Sweden famous in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Sweden has become famous internationally for diplomacy, our athletes, our opera singers, rock and pop stars, sing-song writers, for some of our inventors, technical development, cars like Volvo and SAAB, for IKEA furniture, and for our kindness. My country has also been leading in gender equality work since the 1970’s and onwards. In 1980 Victoria became our crown princess, and in 1999 the Sex Buying Act was passed, which makes the purchase of sexual favours illegal. These are a few examples. Our country continues to develop in different ways.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s immigrants were welcomed to Sweden to work, and lots of people mainly from former Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy and Turkey arrived. Also lots of refugees from Chile after the coûp d’état by Pinochet in 1973. During the 1980’s and onwards new waves have come, mainly from countries traumatized by war, persecution or famine, but of course also by others. The sentiments have changed and become more xenophobic again, even if not everywhere. Swedes have at the same time become more aware of racism, PTSD etc. Environment issues, healthy living, green thinking, awareness, nutritious food and gender issues are trendy now and competing with shallowness, expensive lifestyles and conservatism. In the photos below you see the Major Square/Stortorget in Malmoe during festivities in 1910, Malmoe Central station around 1913, and Möllevångstorget, The Mill Field Square in the early 1930’s which then mainly was inhabited by white working class.
What we see today is a mix of different kinds of local, regional, national identities. Since the Sweden Democrats made their introduction in the Swedish Parliament in 2010 I have noticed how the fierce biased debate has exploded. On the one hand a law has been passed which states that Sweden now is a multicultural society, but the tendencies are older. Many Swedes have become more aware of their national heritage and it has in recent years been more common to celebrate national and regional commemoration days, to show the blue flag with the yellow cross, to openly show pride for the nation or province, to go back to the roots and preserve traditions or imagined traditions. New immigrants who recieve their Swedish citizenship are often welcomed officially at cermonies on June 6th, the national commemoration day. However, the nationalism sometimes exclude immigrants who are not “white”, or even Swedes who are born here and have grown up here, but has one or both parents from some other country. Expressions like “second generation immigrant” are horrible. When will they be percieved as Swedish? Hate crimes are common: refugee camps are attacked and burned, mosques and synagogues vandalized, Muslim men attacked for being Muslims, Muslim women wearing veil; hijab, niqab or burka are attacked, beaten and harrassed. Immigrant kids are taken by Swedish police patrolls to the forest to be left there and walk home, beaten up without cause or harrassed. I have met several people who have experienced that. Homophobic and lesbian-phobic hate crimes are common, but also antiziganism, anti-Christian crimes, and in the last year Afrophobic hate crimes have increased greatly. Today that has been fiercely debated here in Malmoe by Afro-Swedes, politicians and the Malmoe Police. Every kind of hate crime is unacceptable. A hate crime is a hate crime is a hate crime. Jews are harrassed by Nazis as well as by left-wing sympathizers, but mostly by Muslims who hate them for being Jews, who verbally abuse the Jews, come with death threats and map them out. Peter Mangs were shooting dark skinned people here in Malmoe a few years ago, and it’s not always secure. Many Muslim and Christian girls and women as well as some men from the Middle East are harrassed by their families so that they don’t become too “Swedish”, since those families loath Sweden and want to preserve their conservative traditions and religion in Sweden separated from the other Swedes. Some of those who are very guarded but want their personal freedom become threatened and surveyed by fellow countrymen. Sometimes they even get killed if they want to become Swedish, marry a Swede, if they change religion or criticize their own religion – or simply make their own life choices. If they aren’t killed they at least might be called “Swede whore”, “wannabe Swede” , hated, harrassed, are intimidated and excluded from their own community etc. That too is utterly unacceptable. I personally know people who have experienced that. I also have friends who have been victims of death threats from among their own group for trying to save such girls or for trying to live according to their own choices. At the same time many people of Muslim origin are modern, humble and among the finest people imaginable and never would hurt their family member in any way or do any foul deed. Siavosh Derakhti is a splendid example of how to use ones own faith in building inter-religious bridges. The marvellous heroes and heroines at Hassela Youth Movement are other good examples. It really comes down to how we use our faith or conviction, how we percieve ourselves and others. When it comes to religion and other belief systems I see certain groups in today’s society:
- Most Swedes are secular, non-believing in religion, and you see this also in people of different background
- People who are deists, believing in a modern way, often combining it with secularity and/or gender equality.
- People of different religions who are deep believers of their faith, but dressed modern and using high tech. Sometimes they also defend people with other beliefs. They might critisize macho attitudes, lack of gender equality also in their own faith, and are aware of the human diversity. Often very humble and nice.
- Reactionary, very conservative in the values: protecting a conservative view of their religion or other belief system, law-abiding, but not very tolerant towards other groups, dislike gender equality. Often nice, hardworking and polite though.
- Extremists. Those who don’t hesitate to use terrorism, political violence to defend their religion or secular belief system, attack others whom they detest and hate. We find both religious and secular extremists both to the right and left, and they don’t seem to understand or appreciate the other versions of viewing things. It might be an extremely conservative Christian congregation who hate immigrants, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals or some Al-Qaeda cell for instance. It might also be someone of another creed who hate and detest others. Extremists of different colours and confessions are very similar to each other and equally dangerous. In the Middle East today the Christians are harshly persecuted, intimidated, killed or asked to convert. Also genocides among people of the same faith exist like between Christian Catholics and Protestants on Ireland or the Shi’a genocide by Sunni Muslims in Pakistan.
The “anti-racists” are divided in various fractions:
1) There are the left-wings who often are pro-Palestine and anti-Israel, (even if not always). Mostly very nice people, humble, easy-going, easy to talk to. Very much into socialist gender equality, socialist equality, anti-capitalism. Some are open-minded and used to accepting and fighting for people from groups they’ve been taught to hate.
2) Liberals. There are two main fractions here: I) The neo-liberals who focus on technology, merchantile development, individual entrepreneurship, anti-racim but not very fervent. Love successful immigrants who work hard and accept the Swedish law system. II. ) Social liberals: believing in individual development, the right to make ones own choices, to make ones fortune within limitations, have a social conscience and awareness. Modern, anti-racists, aware of gender equality issues.
3) Conservatives. Accept immigrants if they are rich and successful… Sometimes, unless they see them as threats and hate them instead. Immigrants can be useful as lower workers, cleaning ladies, taxi drivers, cooks and servants. This also goes for other people of their own skin colour who are not rich enough. Here we also find some from totalitarian “honour cultures” who hate the totalitarian notions in their original culture. Many Conservatives are also down-to-earth, freedom loving, polite and nice people, while others are cynical, cold-hearted and horrible.
The important thing is to be aware of who we are, and see the common human traits in us. In days of social turmoil and monetary crisis people tend to turn on each other and become more extreme. That is a very dangerous development which through history has ended in bloody revolutions, persecutions, wars, famins and genocides. The ongoing civil wars and revolutions in the Middle East is one of many examples, but also in many other places on Earth. In our modern times with weapons of mass destruction we have to be extra careful. When I meet someone new I try to be curious to see if we have something in common. Maybe we have, maybe we haven’t. Important though is to try. I’m proud of who I am, of my family and relatives, of my background and what I do. Of course I have my character flaws, but I try to do good. I love my nation, Skåne/Scania, the city Malmoe and the good spirit that does exist here despite the problems. If we learn to see beneath the surface, and try to understand why people react in a negative way sometimes, we might instead find ways forward which build interhuman bridges in empathy and fellowship. Despite the problems in society, the hardships, the atrocities in both directions, the darker aspects in history and present day, I prefer to focus on what we might build upon. I’m proud of being me, of my Swedish, Scanian, Christian, Atheist, Belgian-Walloon, German-Jewish background, and of our common human African family roots. How do we build our future? How do we save our humanity? What are your thoughts on the matter? If you want to comment this text you can do that here, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also check out my profile on LinkedIn here: http://se.linkedin.com/pub/anders-%C3%A5-moberg/7b/569/32/
Anders Moberg, October 12th 2013