Pan-Scandinavianism J. Roald Smeets

Sweden

Sweden (Photo credit: gazelystare)

Political Scandinavism paralleled the 19th-century unification movements of Germany and Italy. As opposed to the German and Italian counterparts, the Scandinavian state-building project was not successful and is no longer pursued. It was at its height in the mid-19th century and supported the idea of Scandinavia as a unified region or a single nation, based on the common linguistic, political and cultural heritage of the Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway and Sweden. (These three countries are referred to as “three brothers” in the sixth stanza of the national anthem of Norway.)

The movement was initiated by Danish and Swedish university students in the 1840s, with a base in Scania. In the beginning, the political establishments in the two countries, including the absolute monarch Christian VIII and Charles XIV with his “one man government”, were suspicious of the movement. The police in Denmark therefore kept the proponents of Scandinavism under close guard. However, when Oscar I became king of Sweden and Norway in 1844, the relationship with Denmark improved and the movement started to gain support in liberal newspapers like Fædrelandet and Aftonbladet, which saw it as a way to counter the conservative powers that were. During the war between Denmark and Prussia in 1848, Sweden (then in union with Norway) offered support in form of a Norwegian-Swedish expeditionary force, though the force never actually saw combat. The movement received a blow from which it never fully recovered after the second Danish-German war over Schleswig, when the Swedish government refused to join an alliance against the rising German power on the continent.

In 1872 the town of Dannevirke in New Zealand was founded by Danish, Norwegian and Swedish settlers. They had named their new town for the Dannevirke, the extensive Viking-age fortification line which had a strong emotive symbolic role for 19th-century Danes and which had fallen into German hands in 1864 – and for whose defence a pan-Scandinavian alliance had failed to be formed.

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