Thursday, March 21, 2013

What is Nordic Anyway?

Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland are all labeled as "Nordic" and are seen as one cultural unit. But why? Each nation, though similar, are as diverse as any neighboring countries. One way to point out the differences between these nations would be to simply take a look at the physical terrain of each country: Iceland is an island that mostly contains plateaus with a volcanic mountain range; Norway has high tundra and rugged mountains, the coast line cut by thousands of fjords; Denmark contains low rolling planes and endless swamps; Sweden is a heavily forested country that contains almost 100,000 lakes; and Finland is mostly made of plains with forests and massive tundra in the north. The area that I associate myself with most is the thistle fields and birch forests of southern Sweden. During the summer these fields and forests burst with color that is truly indescribable. I also have a special connection to this land (Skåne) because this is where my family originates from. Before a few generations back, this land has been home to my ancestors for as long as we have had our family name. My family has always been a part of the Geat tradition and location in the world. Just through the typography of each nation we can see that each nation is truly its own.

Lake in Borgsjö Ånge, Sweden
by Ola Berglund 
But what really divides the nations are the people that live in them and the languages that they speak. The dialects of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden are quite similar, though Finnish and Sami are more related to those spoken in western Russia (and let me tell you, that I have great difficulty speaking Icelandic most of the time). Along with language the people living in each nation are quite similar, but at the same time the diversity in culture, tradition, and customs is truly amazing. Each nation over time has also acquired a very diverse set of ethnicities that have become part of the population. Many of the same stories and customs cross the borders, but each region has altered these traditions to incorporate them into their own, creating a diverse similarity. An easy way to see this would be to look at the sagas of Iceland and other epics from around Scandinavia, because the similar religion that is shared amongst the people has been given different stories by the people living in their respected areas. Along with this, what has also changed the stories and views of people is what they have done within history: an example would be that the Vikings from the area of Sweden raided deep into Russia and even into the area around modern day Istanbul, which gave them the sights of such things as Islam and other aspects of the middle east. So even though each nation shares similar aspects and cultural backgrounds, each one has its own story to tell and in its own, unique way.


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