The History of Swedish Influence in Estonia

  • 2021-03-04
  • Emma Long

Sweden is a part of Estonia’s rich and vibrant history, and both cultures continue to flourish together. This relationship has created a range of mutual benefits, from language and music to a unique sense of identity.

The experience is that much more interesting for Estonian Swedes. Here are a few facts you should know about their distinct culture. While exploring these roots, it is easy to see where current trends came from, whether they involve entertainment or everyday life.

Swedish Culture First Settled in Estonia in the 13th Century

The two nations have interacted since the Middle Ages, but exact dates and events are ambiguous when it comes to Sweden’s first settlement in Estonia. Some hints do exist, however, to help experts put the pieces together.

Visit Estonia, for instance, reports that the earliest historical accounts of Swedish citizens putting down roots on Estonian soil involve its coast. Records date back to the early 1200s and suggest that immigration, possibly, began from the island of Öland.

It was in 1561 when the Dominion of Swedish Estonia was officially established. By then, existing Swedes in the area were already known as great fishermen, farmers, sailors, and shipbuilders; successfully trading with other territories and even countries.

Centuries of growth and turmoil followed, especially during World War II, when thousands fled the country. This saw the Swedish-Estonian population shift, but also solidify into a strong and liberal society.

Sweden and Estonia Share More Than Language and Culture

The Estonian-Swedish way of life borrowed elements from both cultures, along with other influences, all shaping its language, fashion, religion, and general customs.

A unique collection of dialects was an important product of this mix of Nordic and Baltic people. Even though the language is not Estonian, the country considers it an intrinsic part of its national identity. It reflects the historic and complex relationship between the countries.

Citizens of the Dominion also enjoyed more constructive reforms and rights than the rest of Estonia. Enhancements in law, education, and independence are some key values that defined the era. Some in the country still refer to the “good old Swedish times” as a period of positive change.

All-in-all, Estonian Swedes had the freedom and diversity to grow into a very rich culture. Despite the conflict and unrest that dotted its journey to modern times, the community thrived over the ages and still contributes to Estonia’s free spirit.

In fact, the country and its people acknowledge Sweden as a whole for its influence and support throughout history. The two nations often go hand in hand, putting their past as both friends and enemies aside. Their common ground in the form of peoples, traditions, and so on makes it easier and easier to strengthen this bond.

Cultural Diversity Benefits Estonian Swedes More Than Ever

A friendly, liberal, and hardy mindset distinguishes modern Estonian Swedes. Looking back at their ancestors and what they endured, this is hardly a surprise. The country may have changed several sovereign hands, but its bittersweet bond with Sweden is one constant that does not change.

Multiple Languages

Apart from an intriguing national identity, Estonian Swedes are proud of speaking a unique language. This comes at a time when the world increasingly embraces Swedish across real-life and digital industries, such as technology and entertainment.

Even a more niche company such as an online casino, which involves both sectors above, values the popularity of Swedish culture. 888 Casino has gone as far as to create a dedicated domain for players who speak the language. Whether in Estonia or anywhere around the globe, they have access to slots and live card games adapted just for their convenience.

Being able to speak fluent Estonian too doubles the prestige of Swedes in the country. And considering how distinctive local dialects are, some can actually boast of mastering three or more languages at the same time.

While this boosts communication with different people, it also makes it easier to learn more languages. There are linguistic scholarships and whole career paths that Estonian Swedes could easily get into if they put their cognitive skills to work.

This is a single but crucial example of how multilingualism can benefit anyone, not excluding the exercise the brain gets. Just growing up and living in these innocuous coastal towns of Estonia can develop invaluable social and mental abilities.

Arts and Culture

A country’s history always feeds into its artwork. Whether it is paintings or architecture, modern Estonians get to see evidence of their multicultural heritage. Many even use national staples to create new trendsetting works.

The Academy of Arts, for example, had students transform limestone into handy objects. The course wanted to highlight the history of the limestone industry and innovate through it. The students more than delivered, making stools, tables, and floor lamps out of a major Estonian resource.

Music is another big part of Estonia’s legacy, especially considering events like the Singing Revolution that led to the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. So musical events are common across the country, including the coastal Swedish regions.

While the Estonian Song Festival is the most famous, gathering top choir and classical orchestras every five years, it is not the only one worth discovering. Haapsalu, the main Estonian-Swedish town, celebrates with its own annual event called the Early Music Festival.

It typically takes place in Haapsalu’s 13th-century Dome Church and features classical and traditional music. It reaches back through the centuries and revives Estonia’s local and broader heritage through song and dance. The festival has garnered global recognition as residents and visitors alike can enjoy and think about the country’s intricate history.

Estonia has a dozen different influences, but its connection with Sweden stands out. The existence of a whole area where Swedes and Estonians co-existed definitely helped the matter. The community’s success, however, also came down to its willingness to embrace new ways.

Two cultures merged into one that never stopped evolving or giving its people valuable gifts, from a proud and open-minded attitude to practical and creative skills. Estonian Swedes are special in so many ways.