Scandinavia


Written By: Ehsan Jahandarpour

Scandinavia is a historical and cultural-linguistic region in Northern Europe characterized by a common ethno-cultural Germanic heritage and related languages. It comprises the three kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula, whereas modern Denmark is situated on the Danish islands and Jutland. The term “Scandinavia” is historically used for Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and is still used that way in Scandinavia and in most uses in English, though the term is also used more ambiguously in English (see terminology and use below). The name “Scandinavia” is derived from the formerly Danish, now Swedish, region Scania. The terms “Scandinavia” and “Scandinavian” entered usage in the late 18th century as terms for the three Scandinavian countries, their Germanic majority peoples and associated language and culture, being introduced by the early linguistic and cultural Scandinavist movement. The term “Scandinavia” can also include Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Finland, on account of their historical associations with the Scandinavian countries. The southern and by far most populous regions of Scandinavia have a temperate climate. Scandinavia extends north of the Arctic Circle, but has relatively mild weather for its latitude due to the Gulf Stream. Much of the Scandinavian mountains have an alpine tundra climate. There are many lakes and moraines, legacies of the last glacial period, which ended about ten millennia ago. The Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish languages form a dialect continuum and are known as the Scandinavian languages—all of which are considered mutually intelligible with one another, although Danish is considered much closer to Norwegian. Faroese and Icelandic, sometimes referred to as insular Scandinavian languages, are intelligible with continental Scandinavian languages to a very limited extent. Finnish and Sami languages are related to each other, Estonian and several minority languages spoken in Western Russia, but are entirely unrelated to the Scandinavian languages. They do, however, include several words that have been adopted during the history from the neighboring languages, just as Swedish, spoken in Sweden today, has borrowed from Finnish. The vast majority of the human population of Scandinavia are Scandinavians, descended from several (North) Germanic tribes who originally inhabited the southern part of Scandinavia and what is now northern Germany, who spoke a Germanic language that evolved into Old Norse and who were known as Norsemen in the Early Middle Ages. The Vikings are popularly associated with Norse culture. The Icelanders and the Faroese are to a significant extent, but not exclusively, descended from peoples retrospectively known as Scandinavians. The origin of Finns is somewhat debated, the closest genetic relatives for Finns are Estonians and Swedes. The extreme north of Norway, Sweden and Finland, as well as the most North-Western part of Russia, is home to a minority of Sami.