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The Tornedalians are descendants of Scandinavian and Fennoscandian Finnic Kvens as well as Finns who at some point in history settled to the area of today's Northern Sweden and the Meänmaa region near the present-day Swedish-Finnish border and west from there.


According to Jouko Vahtola, many of the ancestors of today's Tornedalians migrated from Southern Finland, mainly from Häme and Karelia. The settlement began around the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia and along the river valleys of the River Kalix (Kainuunväylä in Finnish), Torne River, and Kemijoki River. The migration started at the latest in the beginning of the 14th century CE on areas loosely controlled by Kvens and Karelians.

Meänmaa flag—Flag of Tornedalians on both sides of the Torne river.

The taxation of the Sami people, fur trade and large hunting grounds were among the most important factors contributing to the migration of the Tornedealians up north. Tornedalians also helped the Swedish expansion to the areas that today are part of northern Sweden.

Despite the Finnish and Russian demands of including much of today's Swedish Meänmaa territory into the autonomous Russian Grand Duchy of Finland, the area remained part of the Kingdom of Sweden as a result of the peace treaty signed between Russia and Sweden in 1809. The Swedish-Finnish border was drawn at the River Tornio, and that border is official up to the present day.

Cultural imperialism, in combination with a fear of Russia, led to Swedish attempts to assimilate and Swedify the Finnish-speaking population between 1850 and 1950. Since the 1970s, efforts have been made to reverse some of the effects of the Swedification, notably in education. The minority status of the Tornedalians was officially recognized by the Swedish government in 1999 by the recognition of the local Finnish dialect Meänkieli as one of the acknowledged minority languages in Sweden. A written standard of Meänkieli has been established and taught, which has given rise to critical remarks from Finland, suggesting that standard Finnish would be of more use to the pupils.


Sweden does not distinguish minority groups in population censuses, but the number of people who identify themselves as Tornedalians is usually estimated to be between 30,000 and 150,000. Estimates are complicated by the fact that the remote and sparsely-populated Tornedalen area has been particularly struck by the twentieth century urbanization and unemployment. In 2006, a large radio survey about Finnish/Meänkieli speakers was conducted in Sweden. The result was that 469,000 individuals in Sweden claim to understand/speak Finnish or/and Meänkieli. Those who can speak/understand Meänkieli is estimated to be 150,000-175,000.


Bengt Pohjanen is a Tornedalian author who has written the first novel in Meänkieli, the language of the Meänmaa. He has written dramas, screenplays, songs and opera. He is trilingual in his writing.

The novel Populärmusik från Vittula (Popular Music from Vittula) (2000) by Tornedalian author Mikael Niemi became very popular both in Sweden and in Finland. The novel is composed of colourful stories of everyday life in the Tornedalian town of Pajala. The novel has been adapted for several stage productions, and as a film in 2004.

See also[edit]

Articles of the – Finnish people – its subgroups and its diaspora
Traditional groups (or "heimot")

Tavastians | Karelians | Ostrobothnians | Savonians | Finns (proper) | Swedish-speakers


Finnish Americans | Finnish Canadians | Ingrian Finns | Sweden Finns (Tornedalians, Forest Finns) | Kvens