I enjoyed the "Finland Diary" series by Robert Kaiser. One point that he made in his June 11 article, "A Blond Nation, in a Bind on Immigrants," merits elaboration, though.

The article referred to a "Swedish minority" in Finland of "about 6 percent of the population." This minority is actually a Swedish-speaking minority -- i.e., Finns whose first language happens to be Swedish but who are Finns by any other measurement, such as ancestry, ethnicity, etc. They are not immigrants.

These Finns trace their use of Swedish to the 400 or so years that Finland was part of Sweden. During that time, the educated classes, clergy and merchants, particularly those living in the southern and western parts of Finland, found it advantageous to speak Swedish. Many also adopted Swedish family names.

Then, between 1809 and 1917, after Finland was separated from Sweden to become a grand duchy of Russia (a land swap engineered by Napoleon), many of those Swedish-speaking Finns adopted Finnish family names and began speaking Finnish again to resist Russian attempts to impose their culture on the populace.

The 6 percent of Finns who still speak Swedish are descendants of families that for various reasons did not switch to Finnish, although most are also fluent in Finnish. In any case, they are viewed as Finns by everyone in Finland.


Chevy Chase