Recently there was “discussion” between me and several coursemates as to whether Finland was part of Scandinavia. I used to think it was, but I was told differently and convinced. This was not by a fellow American, but by a Swede while I was at Boston University. I looked it up online and ignoring what Wikipedia says (we all know how trustworthy they are) I found several sites that give a mixed view.
Business Region Göteborg states that:
The collective label “Scandinavia” primarily reflects the linguistic similarity, but also the strong historical and social ties between these countries despite their current political independence.
The usage and meaning of the term ‘Scandinavia’ is somewhat ambiguous: Finland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland are still sometimes counted as parts of Scandinavia, as they share strong social and historical ties to Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
In a British mindset, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are usually included, often with the addition of Iceland, Finland, and sometimes even Greenland. The term the Nordic Countries is used unambiguously for the Scandinavian kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the republics of Finland and Iceland.
From a british site, one sees another opinion
Geographically speaking, the Scandinavian peninsula is a territory shared by Norway, Sweden and northern Finland. The Scandinavian countries would therefore only be Norway and Sweden.Linguistically, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish have a common word called “Skandinavien” which refers to the ancient territories of the Norsemen, and for most people in these three countries “Scandinavia” consists only of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. This one is considered to be the most commonly accepted definition of “Scandinavia”. However, Iceland was also a Norse territory and Icelandic belongs to the same linguistic family as Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. And so does the Faroe islands. Therefore, you will find some people for which Scandinavia is Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. And finally, Swedish language is also spoken in Finland and reciprocally, Finnish and Sami languages are spoken in Sweden and Norway. Again, we have a new definition of Scandinavia, which would include Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland.
Culturaly and historically, the north of Europe has been the political playground of the kingdoms of Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Finland was a part of the kingdom of Sweden and Iceland belonged to Norway and Denmark. Besides a common history, politically and economically these five countries have followed a similar model known as the Nordic welfare state since the 20th century. One more time, these five countries are perceived as an unity by some and therefore called by the same name: “Scandinavia”.
What are the “Nordic countries”? In such a state of linguistic and geographical confusion, the French came to help us all and invented the term “Pays Nordiques” or “Nordic Countries”, which has become the most standard term to bring together Scandinavia, Iceland and Finland under the same umbrella.
Indopedia comments that:
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 terms Fennoscandia and Fenno-Scandinavia are sometimes used for an extended region.
The usage and meaning of the term outside Scandinavia is somewhat ambiguous:
- Finland and Iceland are many times counted as parts of Scandinavia.
- In a German mindset, Norway, Sweden and Finland are usually included, but Denmark is not.
- In a British mindset, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are usually included, often with the addition of Iceland and Finland.
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.
Therefore dear Brits, between the Scandic speaking countries Finland does not belong under the title of Scandinavia. And in your own dear country I would like to say that Finland is not agreed upon to be part of Scandinavia, but it is not frowned upon either. Brits also seem to thing that Iceland could be a part of Scandinavia. Geographically Iceland is not, and linguistically Finland is not.
I rest my case. Neither of us wins. To quote a professor from last term, “It depends.”