The English-speaking world is very prone to include Finland when referring to Scandinavia, but that doesn’t seem to be the local preference. So as a Swede with a Finnish mother, I’d like to clear some things up right from the get-go:
Is Finland considered part of Scandinavia?
Finland is not formally considered part of the Scandinavian region (Sweden, Denmark, and Norway), but the four are all part of the Nordic region. Finland also has strong historic links with the region, and the broader Scandinavian definition used in the US and UK usually includes Finland.
To visualize this, here is how the locals define Scandinavia (and the Nordic region):
It should also be noted that a sizable part of northwestern Finland is technically part of the Scandinavian peninsula, stretching west and bordering both Norway and Sweden.
Finland has also been part of both Sweden and through it the Scandinavian union (a.k.a. the Kalmar Union), so the Scandinavian ties are inevitably strong in Finland.
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Although sometimes this comes with a bad connotation for the Finns, who may not necessarily want to be associated with the Scandinavians because of this.
If Finns Aren’t Scandinavian, Then What Are They?
Finland and the Finns might not be Scandinavian, but they are definitely Nordic; bound politically, culturally, and financially to Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. The Finnish people are further of the Baltic Finnic ethnic group, which actually makes Estonians the Finns’ closest relatives.
There is however a sub-group of some 450 000 Sweden Finns whose heritage and ethnicity would be considered Scandinavian, and if we want to get technical there are some parts of northern Finland that are located inside of what is considered the Scandinavian peninsula.
Is Finland Similar to Scandinavia?
The Finns might not share their Scandinavian origins, but Finland and the Scandinavian countries are today very similar politically and culturally.
The country has very strong political, financial, and cultural ties to the larger Nordic region, and to Sweden (Scandinavia’s largest country) especially.
Some parts of the Finnish coast have also been found to have shared the same culture group as the Scandinavian countries during the bronze age. This Nordic Bronze Age Culture were the forefathers of the Norse (Vikings), so there are some Scandinavian links in Finland historically speaking.
Formally speaking, Finland has signed a unique defense cooperation treaty with the rest of the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland) called NORDEFCO, meant to improve cooperation between the Nordic countries against, for example, a looming Russian threat.
There is also a special trilateral defence agreement signed between Finland, Sweden and Norway in September 2020, meant to improve the military response capabilities even more between the most Northern Nordic countries.
Finnish culture might have been influenced by the Scandinavians over the years and be very closely knit today, but the Finnish language is not even close to the Scandinavian languages. It is part of the Uralic language group (more examples include Estonian and Hungarian), as opposed to the Indo-European language group the Scandinavians are part of.
Despite strong Nordic ties, Finland also has very close ties to the Baltics in general and Estonia in particular, both historically and linguistically speaking.
The two countries share a lot of common history, and Finnish and Estonian are part of the same language group (the Finnic or Balto-Finnic languages), which is very distant from the rest of the Nordic languages (as they are Indo-European languages in the Germanic language family they are not even remotely related to the Finnic languages in the Uralic language family).
Does Finland Have a Scandinavian Cross Flag?
The Finnish flag is called Siniristilippu, “the Blue Cross Flag”, and features a blue so-called Nordic cross on top of a white background.
The white background is supposed to symbolize the white winter snow, and the blue is linked to the nickname “Land of the Thousand Lakes” (symbolizing the blue lakes).
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- Norse vs. Norwegian vs. Nordic: Differences Explained
- Nordic vs. Scandinavian: Meaning & Usage Explained
- Finnish Heritage: Nordic, Viking, and Baltic Ties Explained
- Is Scandinavia a Country? The Scandinavian Connection Explained