Forest Finns
Forest Finns are people of Finnish
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 descent in the forest areas of Eastern Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and Central Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

. The Forest Finns emigrated from Savonia
Savonia (historical province)
Savonia is a historical province in the east of Finland. It borders to Uusimaa, Tavastia, Ostrobothnia, and Karelia. Largest cities in Savo by population are Kuopio, Mikkeli, Savonlinna and Varkaus.-Administration:...

 in Eastern Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 during the late 16th and early to mid 17th centuries, and traditionally pursued slash-and-burn agriculture.


The use of the term "Forest Finns" is first reported in sanctions issued by the Dano-Norwegian king in 1648, although they (at least locally in Norway) more commonly were known as Savolaksfinner (Savonian Finns), Rugfinner (Rye Finns) from their major crop, or notably Svedjefinner (Slash-and-burn Finns). The people themselves often use the term Finnskoginger (People from the forest of Finns).


The origin of the Forest Finns lies in the Swedish colonisation policy in Finland, a part of the Swedish Empire
Swedish Empire
The Swedish Empire refers to the Kingdom of Sweden between 1561 and 1721 . During this time, Sweden was one of the great European powers. In Swedish, the period is called Stormaktstiden, literally meaning "the Great Power Era"...

 since the 13th century. The powers to the east of Finland, Novgorod and later Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 constantly challenged the Swedish sovereignty of the often sparsely populated provinces of Eastern Finland. To secure their realm, the Swedish kings, notably Gustav Vasa (r. 1528-60) and Eric XIV
Eric XIV of Sweden
-Family and descendants:Eric XIV had several relationships before his marriage. With Agda Persdotter he had four daughters:#Margareta Eriksdotter , married 1592 to Olov Simonsson, vicar of Horn....

 (r. 1561-8), encouraged farmers to settle these vast wilderness regions, which in turn were used to the traditionally slash-and-burn agriculture.

These settlements faced several problems, from conflicts with the original populations of Sami people
Sami people
The Sami people, also spelled Sámi, or Saami, are the arctic indigenous people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. The Sámi are Europe’s northernmost...

 and Karelian
Karelian refers to something from or related to the region of Karelia, in present-day Russia and FInland*Karelians*Karelian language*Karelian foods* Karelian pasties* Karelian hot pot* Karelian Birch, a cultivar of Betula pendula...

s to harsh conditions living in frontier lands during war times. The fact that slash-and-burn itself requires a relatively low human population density or a continuing supply of new "frontier" lands, also caused overpopulation and by the late 16th century forced migration
Forced migration
Forced migration refers to the coerced movement of a person or persons away from their home or home region...

 by Forest Finns from Savonia and Häme
Häme is the name of a geographical region in Finland. It is an ancient Finnish word, etymologically related to sápmi, the endonym of the Sami people...

 (Swedish: Tavastland). The main part moved north to Ostrobothnia
Ostrobothnia (historical province)
Ostrobothnia, and , is a historical province of Finland to the west and north in Finland. It borders on Karelia, Savonia, Tavastia and Satakunda in the south, and on Västerbotten in Sweden, and Laponia in the north...

 (Österbotten) and Kainuu
Kainuu is a region of Finland. It borders the regions of Northern Ostrobothnia, North Karelia and Northern Savonia. In the east it also borders Russia. Kainuu is known in the ancient Norse sagas as Kvenland....

 (Kajanaland), east towards northern Karelia
Karelia , the land of the Karelian peoples, is an area in Northern Europe of historical significance for Finland, Russia, and Sweden...

 (Karelen), and south towards Ingria
Ingria is a historical region in the eastern Baltic, now part of Russia, comprising the southern bank of the river Neva, between the Gulf of Finland, the Narva River, Lake Peipus in the west, and Lake Ladoga and the western bank of the Volkhov river in the east...

 (Swedish land at that time, now part of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

). However, an estimated 10-15% went across the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 in search of largely unhabitated lands fit for their needs.

The first Forest Finn settlements in Sweden proper were established in Norrland
Norrland is one of the three lands of Sweden , the northern part, consisting of nine provinces. The term Norrland is not used for any administrative purpose, but it is common in everyday language, e.g...

, in the provinces of Gästrikland
' is a historical province or landskap on the eastern coast of Sweden. It borders Uppland, Västmanland, Dalarna, Hälsingland and the Gulf of Bothnia. Gästrikland is the southernmost of the Norrland provinces....

, Ångermanland
' is a historical province or landskap in the north of Sweden. It borders to Medelpad, Jämtland, Lapland, Västerbotten and the Gulf of Bothnia. The name "Ångermanland" comes from the Old Norse "anger", which means "deep fjord" and refers to the deep mouth of the river Ångermanälven...

 and Hälsingland
' is a historical province or landskap in central Sweden. It borders to Gästrikland, Dalarna, Härjedalen, Medelpad and to the Gulf of Bothnia...

 in the 1580s and 90s. Another migration route started from Medelpad
' is a historical province or landskap in the north of Sweden. It borders to Hälsingland, Härjedalen, Jämtland, Ångermanland and the Gulf of Bothnia....

 and continued through the 17th century in the provinces of Dalarna
', English exonym: Dalecarlia, is a historical province or landskap in central Sweden. Another English language form established in literature is the Dales. Places involving the element Dalecarlia exist in the United States....

 and Värmland
' is a historical province or landskap in the west of middle Sweden. It borders Västergötland, Dalsland, Dalarna, Västmanland and Närke. It is also bounded by Norway in the west. Latin name versions are Vermelandia and Wermelandia. Although the province's land originally was Götaland, the...

 among others and eventually to Norway from the 1620s. In Norway, they settled in the Eastern counties of Hedmark
is a county in Norway, bordering Sør-Trøndelag, Oppland and Akershus. The county administration is in Hamar.Hedmark makes up the northeastern part of Østlandet, the southeastern part of the country. It includes a long part of the borderline with Sweden, Dalarna County and Värmland County. The...

, Oppland
is a county in Norway, bordering Sør-Trøndelag, Møre og Romsdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Buskerud, Akershus, Oslo and Hedmark. The county administration is in Lillehammer. Oppland is, together with Hedmark, one of the only two landlocked counties of Norway....

, Akershus
- Geography :The county is conventionally divided into the traditional districts Follo and Romerike, which fill the vast part of the county, as well as the small exclave west of Oslo that consists of Asker and Bærum...

, Oslo
Oslo is a municipality, as well as the capital and most populous city in Norway. As a municipality , it was established on 1 January 1838. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway, the city was largely destroyed by fire in 1624. The city was moved under the reign of Denmark–Norway's King...

 and Buskerud
is a county in Norway, bordering Akershus, Oslo, Oppland, Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland, Telemark, and Vestfold. The county administration is located in Drammen.-Geography:...

. The largest concentrations of settlements were however in the forest rich Eastern part of Hedmark close to the border with Sweden, in what is now denoted as Finnskogen
Finnskogen is an area of Norway situated in the county of Hedmark, named so because of immigration of Finnish people in the 17th century, the so-called Skogfinner/"Forest Finns"....

in Norwegian and Finnskog[arna] in Swedish (literally "Finn Forest[s]"). In this largely uninhabited region they were able to move back and forth between the two countries - the border itself was not properly established until 1751.

Contemporary acceptance

In Sweden, the Forest Finn migration was initially well accepted and even encouraged by the kings, notably Charles IX
Charles IX of Sweden
Charles IX of Sweden also Carl, was King of Sweden from 1604 until his death. He was the youngest son of King Gustav I of Sweden and his second wife, Margaret Leijonhufvud, brother of Eric XIV and John III of Sweden, and uncle of Sigismund III Vasa king of both Sweden and Poland...

 (r. 1604-11) and Gustavus Adolphus
Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
Gustav II Adolf has been widely known in English by his Latinized name Gustavus Adolphus Magnus and variously in historical writings also as Gustavus, or Gustavus the Great, or Gustav Adolph the Great,...

 (r. 1611–32), in order to make the vast border areas of the North and East of the kingdom inhabited. As an attraction to immigration of the Finns, seven years tax exemption was granted in Sweden. The situation would change as an emerging, but primitive, iron industry was growing in the beginning of the 17th century, smelting was powered by charcoal
Charcoal is the dark grey residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen...

. The Forest Finns with their demanding slash-and-burn agriculture were suddenly considered an economic threat by increasing the cost of charcoal by burning off now valuable timber. The burning of the forests was officially forbidden in 1647 and the Finns were obliged to support the iron factories by providing charcoal at an artificially low price
Price ceiling
A price ceiling is a government-imposed limit on the price charged for a product. Governments intend price ceilings to protect consumers from conditions that could make necessary commodities unattainable. However, a price ceiling can cause problems if imposed for a long period without controlled...

. By the end of the 18th century the very existence of the Forest Finns was forgotten and they were considered to have assimilated
Cultural assimilation
Cultural assimilation is a socio-political response to demographic multi-ethnicity that supports or promotes the assimilation of ethnic minorities into the dominant culture. The term assimilation is often used with regard to immigrants and various ethnic groups who have settled in a new land. New...

 into the Swedish population.

In Denmark-Norway (Norway was then part of a union), the situation was somewhat similar. The Dano-Norwegian authorities in Copenhagen were allegedly in favour of the de facto immigration and their slash-and-burn agriculture due to the relatively high yields of rye production, compared to traditional Norwegian staples. However, from the middle of the 17th century the locals communicated their dissatisfaction with the newcomers, and in 1648 king Frederick III
Frederick III of Denmark
Frederick III was king of Denmark and Norway from 1648 until his death. He instituted absolute monarchy in Denmark and Norway in 1660, confirmed by law in 1665 as the first in western historiography. He was born the second-eldest son of Christian IV of Denmark and Anne Catherine of Brandenburg...

 issued "sanctions on the Forest Finns" (Norwegian: Forordning om skogfinner), an ultimatum which provided they either return to Sweden or accept the same taxation as the native Norwegians.

Despite new legislation by 1673, immigration continued, and by 1686 the authorities responded by arranging the Forest Finn Census (Norwegian: Finnemanntallet) - at the time probably the most detailed census in Norway. It not only included men, but also women and children of the Forest Finn population. The 1686 census still exists and provides valuable information about the extent of the immigration to Norway at that time, and a total of 1,225 people (including 160 of mixed Finno-Norwegian descent) were accounted for. Furthermore, most of them were in fact second or third generation descendants of immigrants from Savonia.

During the next centuries, the opportunities for their traditional slash-and-burn method declined. Societal advances including a changing emphasis on pasture based agricultural models, improvements in education and communications altered the foundations on which Forest Finn's lifestyle depended. The grass that grew on the swidden soil was good for pasture, and keeping animals gradually became a more important part of the Forest Finns' existence. As the value of the forest increased, forestry
Forestry is the interdisciplinary profession embracing the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources in a sustainable manner to meet desired goals, needs, and values for human benefit. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands...

 as a practice in itself became useful to both the Forest Finns and the locals in general. Dependence upon the slash-and-burn method slowly declined in the 19th century because of the new economic realities. The building of an education system and the development of communication sped this decline. Long-term pressure to adapt, and the influence of intermixing with the extant Scandinavian populations in concert with economic and societal change led to the eventual loss of their identity as Forest Finns.

Carl Axel Gottlund

Carl Axel Gottlund (1796-1875) was one of the central Finnish national awakeners, who is commonly attributed with saving the folklore of the Forest Finns, and he also tried to act as a national awakener among them.

Gottlund was born into the family of a Finnish clergyman, Mattias Gottlund, one of the most outstanding representatives of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 ideas in Finland and Carl Axel was raised in the spirit of the Enlightenment, and the basic structure of his thinking represented rationalistic Enlightenment ideals. The family had lived in Juva, Savonia, since 1805. The language of the family was Swedish because of his Swedish-speaking mother, but in the Finnish-speaking neighbourhood the young Carl Axel became finnicised.

Gottlund made two trips to the Forest Finns, the first in 1817 to Dalarna and the second longer one in 1820-1 to Värmland. He collected folklore and other ethnographic data as well as genealogical information, the latter partly because he wanted to improve the social circumstances of the Forest Finns and to prevent Sweden from taking ownership of their land. He estimated that in the beginning of the 19th century there were about 40,000 Finns in Central Scandinavia, of which about 14,000 were in Värmland.

His social and political activity for the benefit of the Forest Finns was idealistic. He wanted to create an autonomous area from the Finn Forests on both sides of the Swedish-Norwegian border, with great economic and political independence. The tax border would have been removed and land ownership by Swedes and Norwegians would have been restricted. He would have closed the iron factories. He himself wanted to become the vicar of his planned Finnish parish. All these plans failed and Gottlund himself was exiled from Stockholm to Uppsala.

In spite of this total political failure, Gottlund had positive cultural influence on the Forest Finns, many of them were no longer so ashamed of their descent and language and Gottlund himself became a legendary, heroic character in the Finn Forests.

Situation today

Today the Forest Finns are fully assimilated into the Norwegian and Swedish societies and their language extinct, but their culture lives on in both countries and a number of place names commemorates the Finnish origin. They are defined as a national minority in Norway, and it is estimated that a couple of hundred thousand Norwegians are descendants of the original Forest Finns.

Forest Finns are a distinct group from Kven people, who live in the Northern Norwegian counties of Troms
or Romsa is a county in North Norway, bordering Finnmark to the northeast and Nordland in the southwest. To the south is Norrbotten Län in Sweden and further southeast is a shorter border with Lapland Province in Finland. To the west is the Norwegian Sea...

 and Finnmark
or Finnmárku is a county in the extreme northeast of Norway. By land it borders Troms county to the west, Finland to the south and Russia to the east, and by water, the Norwegian Sea to the northwest, and the Barents Sea to the north and northeast.The county was formerly known as Finmarkens...

, although they both originate from Finland.


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