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Where is Scandinavia?

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Scan-duh-nay-vee-ah!

Look at this Arctic wonderland -- fjords, saunas, fjords, lutefisk, blondes, vikings, blond vikings?, fjords, Ikea, babies in government issued boxes, Santa, death metal, and fjords. But like, where exactly are the borders of Scandinavia -- because not off of this stuff is in it. Scandinavia is just three countries exactly: Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Three kingdoms to be more precise, all of which are on the Scandinavian peninsula -- well, except Denmark, and errrr plus Finland. Wait, this doesn't help at all. Forget that.

The three countries on this peninsula can be collectively called Fennoscandia -- but if you do everyone will look at you weird because no one except the nerdiest of geography nerds uses that word.

Fennoscandia.

So, Scandinavia is a term that's one part geography, one part history, and one part linguistics -- which is why people will argue about who exactly is included. Finland is normally excluded because she used to be considered one of the Baltic sisters with historical ties to mother Russia. And Denmark, though on the other side of the sea is included because of her relationship 'it's complicated' with Sweden. They've had something like 15 to 21 wars between them depending on how you want to count it. And it's complicated-er because they mostly fought over Norway. And who wouldn't? She beautiful -- and rich.

Anyway, when outsiders say Scandinavia they probably mean The Nordic Countries. That's these three plus Finland and Iceland.

Though you can hardly blame people for confusion when organizations like the American Scandinavia Foundation lists everyone as members. And all the Nordic Countries sometimes advertise abroad under the banner of Scandinavia anyway. This is the 'Holland' approach to international relations: if there is a fun name that everyone likes and keeps using wrongly, just go with it.

The Nordic countries get along well enough that they've made an official union: The Nordic Council, a Viking cool kids club, that other Northern European places occasionally unrealistically dream of joining. Though the Baltic sisters do get to sit with them, but not actually vote on anything.

The Nordic Council is largely a collection of committees that tries to get its members to cooperate on common problems like the Arctic environment and social welfare, and business in the region. And also finds time to make a surprisingly long and hilariously specific list rules for how their logo can be used. Including a 'respect distance' the sovereignty of which must not be violated. But the biggest deal of the Nordic Council is that citizens of these five countries get to live and work in any of the others.

(Which, if you've seen the EU video -- adds yet another semi-overlapping bubble of complexity to an already complex region)

The immigration rule, however, doesn't apply to Icelandic horses which are

  1. Super adorables

And 2. Banished from returning to Iceland should they ever leave. But that's a story for another time.

Now, it wouldn't be a political union in Europe without some special territorial weirdness to mention, mainly:

  • Aland: an autonomous region of Finland, that speaks Swedish.

  • And The Faeroe Islands and Greenland, both countries in the Kingdom of Denmark.

Greenland is really the odd girl out in the Nordic club, given that she's in the wrong hemisphere and that Greenlanders aren't historically or linguistically related to Nords. Also, her flag ruins the otherwise consistent design motif. But she's part of Denmark because Vikings.

Lastly there's Svalbard, an unincorporated territory of Norway, that must be mentioned because it has prepared for the apocalypse with a seed bank of every plant to rebuild all of agriculture should it be necessary. And it's also guarded by armored bears.

So that's that -- next time you say Scandinavia, and you're not 100% sure who that includes, just say the The Nordic Countries instead.