Nordic geopolitics  AUG 03 2006

Heading into dinner last night, I believed with certainty that Finland was one of the Scandinavian countries. I rebuffed Mr. Jones' attempts to disabuse me of that notion before dessert arrived, but it wasn't until this morning that I checked into the matter and found that he may be correct.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune investigated the issue back in January, finding that there's some controversy, even among the staff at the Finnish Embassy in Washington D.C.:

I called the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C., where press aide Mari Poyhtari started by saying Finland is part of Scandinavia, but then someone in the background disagreed and she corrected herself. The most accurate term is Fenno-Scandinavia or the Nordic countries, Poyhtari said. But, she admitted, "We always say we're part of Scandinavia."

The Wikipedia page on Scandinavia, the result of a vigorous discussion on the topic, indicates that there are several possible arrangements of Scandinavian countries, depending on the grouping criteria used and who you're talking to.

  • Geographically, the Scandinavian peninsula includes mainland Norway, Sweden, and part of Finland.
  • In the region, the common definition includes Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.
  • Outside of the region, the term often includes not only Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland but also Iceland, a grouping commonly called the Nordic countries.
  • Linguistically speaking (pardon the pun), the Finnish language is unrelated to Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish, which is an argument for the cultural exclusion of Finland from Scandinavia.

So there you go, clear as mud. Probably best to avoid the issue altogether in the future by using the term Nordic instead of Scandinavian. All look same anyway.

Update: Underbelly notes that this "issue is in no way limited to Scandinavians":

It's the kind of muddiness you just have to expect when you consider any culture. Was Cleopatra an Egyptian? Are the Tasmanians British? What did the Byzanatines have in mind when they described themselves as "The Romans" while fighting wars against, well, Rome?

(thx, jack)

Read more posts on kottke.org about:
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