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This article is part of the
Scandinavia series
Viking Age
Kalmar Union
Monetary Union
Defense union
History of Sweden
History of Norway
History of Denmark

For other uses, see Scandinavia (disambiguation).

Scandinavia is the cultural and historic region of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The Scandinavian countries are Norway, Sweden and Denmark, which mutually recognize each other as parts of Scandinavia. The collective label "Scandinavia" reflects the cultural similarity between these countries despite their political independence.

The usage and meaning of the term outside Scandinavia is somewhat ambiguous:

These alternative meanings are considered incorrect in the local languages, and occasionally some people may take offense by such usage in English.

The term the Nordic countries is used unambiguously for the Scandinavian kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the republics of Finland and Iceland.

Table of contents
1 Languages
2 History


Main article: North Germanic language

Many dialects of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are mutually intelligible, and Scandinavians can with little trouble understand each other's standard languages as it appears in print, radio and television. The reason they are traditionally viewed as different languages is that they each have their "army and navy", being spoken in separate countries. They are related to, but not intelligible with, the other North Germanic languages, Icelandic and Faroese, that all diverged from Old Norse, but Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are since mediaeval times more influenced by Low Saxon.


The Scandinavian languages are entirely unrelated to Finnish, which as a Finno-Ugric language rather is related to Hungarian and Estonian. Although Swedish speakers constitute a small but influential minority in Finland, and Finnish speakers constitute a minority in Sweden of the similar relative size, however less influential, particularly for Finns influenced by the ethnic nationalist Fennoman movement, the linguistic distance between the language families are seen as indicative of a cultural distance, and a strong reason not to classify the Finns as Scandinavian. (Finnish speakers, who have studied Swedish as a mandatory school subject, also often find it hard to understand the other Scandinavian languages.)


The modern use of the term Scandinavia rises from the Scandinavist political movement, which was active in the middle of the 19th century, chiefly between the First war of Schleswig (1848-1850), in which Sweden-Norway contributed with considerable military force, and the Second war of Schleswig (1864) when Sweden's parliament denounced the King's promises of military support.

The movement proposed the unification of Denmark, Norway and Sweden into a single united kingdom. The background for this was the tumultous events during the Napoleonic wars in the beginning of the century leading to the partition of Sweden (the eastern part becoming the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809) and Denmark (whereby Norway, de jure in union with Denmark since 1387, although de facto merely a province, became independent in 1814 and thereafter was swiftly forced to accept a personal union with Sweden).

Finland being a part of the Russian Empire meant that it would have to be left out of any equation for a political union between the Nordic countries. A new term also had to be invented that excluded Finland from any such inspirations, and that term was Scandinavia. The geographical Scandinavia included Norway and Sweden, but the political Scandinavia was also to include Denmark. Politically Sweden and Norway were united in a personal union under one monarch. Denmark also included the dependent territories of Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland in the Atlantic ocean (which however historically had belonged to Norway, but unintentionally remained by Denmark according to the Treaty of Kiel).

The end of the Scandinavian political movement came when Denmark was denied military support from Sweden-Norway to annex the (Danish) Duchy of Schleswig, which together with the (German) Duchy of Holstein had been in personal union with Denmark. The Second war of Schleswig followed in 1864. That was a brief but disastrous war between Denmark and Prussia (supported by Austria). Schleswig-Holstein was conquered by Prussia, and after Prussia's success in the Franco-Prussian War a Prussian-led German Empire was created, and a new power-balance of the Baltic sea countries was established.

Even if a Scandinavian political union never came about there was a Scandinavian Monetary Union established in 1873, with the Krona/Krone as the common currency, and which lasted until World War I.

The modern Scandinavian cooperation after World War I also came to include the independent Finland and Scandinavian as a political term came to be replaced by the term Nordic countries, and eventually by the Nordic Council institution, in 1952.

Historical and political structure


CenturyScandinavia and the Nordic Countries
15thKalmar Union