3

The Finnish member of parliament Teemu Keskisarja recently made headlines by claiming in a parliament speech:

Suomen rasismihistorian lyhyt tiedonanto:

...Esivanhempamme eli Pohjolan neekerit olivat 1800-luvun rotuopeissa vastakohta germaanitaustaisille viikingeille ja vaaleiden arjalaisten sinisilmille...

En kanna kaunaa Ruotsille, Venäjälle ja yläluokalle...

English translation:

Brief information on the history of racism in Finland:

...Our ancestors, the Negroes of the north, were, according to 19th century racial theory, the opposite of the Germanic Vikings and the blue eyes of pale Aryans...

I don't hold a grudge against Sweden, Russia and the upper class...

Most of the discussion I have seen has been on whether or not dropping the N-word was acceptable. However, I haven't yet seen a fact check on the original claim.

So, were the Finns ever characterized by the above epithet?

(I have translated the Finnish word "neekerit" as "Negroes" but it also can also be translated as the extremely offensive "n****rs".)

14
  • I am concerned that you are using a word that is now considered a racial epithet, even though it didn't appear in the original Finnish, and the Finnish word that you quoted is considered a worse racial epithet. This seems unnecessarily provocative.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:55
  • Reading the Google translation, the claim seems more metaphorical than a claim that the Finnish n-word was actually widely used to describe the Finnish people.
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:58
  • 2
    @Oddthinking "Negro" is not an offensive word. For example see the NAACP's statement "our intent is to let people know that Negro is not an offensive word like some people were saying". fox13now.com/2017/10/12/…
    – DavePhD
    Sep 19, 2023 at 16:36
  • 2
    I have reverted the edit in question because I don't think the term was referring to the mythical location.
    – HAEM
    Sep 19, 2023 at 19:47
  • 2
    @Oddthinking it's more archaic than offensive. The Wikipedia article is wrong when it says "by the mid-1960s, it was considered disparaging". An April 1970 survey found that 51% of Blacks most preferred to be called "Negro", 11% preferred "Colored" and 8% preferred "Black", as reported by NASA here ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/19710019856 at page 346
    – DavePhD
    Sep 20, 2023 at 2:12

2 Answers 2

5

Some such comparisons were made, but shouldn't be exaggerated.

In the July 1861 Brownson's Quarterly Review writings of Vincenzo Gioberti state:

the Finns and Negroes, the two most degenerate lineages, divide between them the two extremes, the Arctic and the Equator

In the 1853 The Educational Institutions of the United States, Their Character and Organization, written in Swedish and translated into English, it is said:

In America the prejudice against people of colour is not so strong in the country, where they are found in small numbers only, as in the cities, where they are assembled in great numbers, and where the difference of race is rendered still more prominent by their being crowded together in separate localities the so-called "negro quarters." […] I am persuaded that if the Laplanders, for instance, were suddenly to be removed to Stockholm, and to establish their abodes in that city, they would soon occupy the same position in relation to the rest of the population, as the free negroes do to the white population in America […]. What I have learnt in Lapland regarding the position in which the Finnish race stands to the rest of the population, confirms me in this opinion. [emphasis added]

Also, the article Count de Gobineau's Ethological Theory published in the July 1911 Nineteenth Century and Beyond says:

Finns and negroes were equally drowned in savagery

and

Finns and negroes, however inferior to the white man...

1

Some digging has led me to one purported source, Arthur de Gobineau's "Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races". A cursory skim of the document reveals it to be about what you'd expect from an essay that introduced "Aryan" as a term for Germanic people. While the term "Negroes of the north" does not directly appear, there are a few hints of this. First, his definition of the "three races" is

I find these races naturally divided into three, and three only - the white, the black, and the yellow. [...] by yellow [I mean] the Altaic, Mongol, Finnish, and Tatar branches.

Of which he later says

As for the black and yellow types, they are mere savages in the tertiary stage, and have no history at all.

Touching on the Finns, he presents his opponents' theory and his rebuttal for it as such:

The unitarian theory is backed by such arguments as the following: "The Magyars are of Finnish origin, and allied to the Laplanders, Samoyedes, and Eskimos. These are all people of low stature, with wide faces and prominent cheek-bones, yellowish or dirty brown in colour. The Magyars, however, are tall and well set up; their limbs are long, supple and vigorous, their features are of marked beauty, and resemble those of the white nations. The Finns have always been weak, unintelligent, and oppressed. The Magyars take a high place among the conquerors of the world. They have enslaved others, but have never been slaves themselves. Thus, since the Magyars are Finns, and are so different, physically and morally, from all the other branches of their primitive stock, they must have changed enormously."

[...]

[...] Happily for common sense, there is no need for surprise, as the argument, though otherwise perfect, makes one vital mistake—the Hungarians are certainly not Finns.

Some time later, de Gobineau discusses mixed races, and concludes

[...]Again, in the Malayan variety, a human family was produced from the yellow and black races that had more intelligence than either of its ancestors. Finally, from the union of white and yellow, certain intermediary peoples have sprung, who are superior to the purely Finnish tribes as well as to the negroes.

So, I would say that it is credible that the characterization "Negroes of the North" has been applied to Finns.

4
  • Please bear in mind that 'negro' in the text refers to people of African decedent, not current version. Translated version is available here: filosoficas.unam.mx/docs/611/files/Sesion%207/….
    – pinegulf
    Sep 11, 2023 at 16:09
  • 8
    It seems to me that a racist like de Gobineau would strongly reject your interpretation. He'd claim that each of the three "races" have their own distinct characteristics that separate each from the other two, and he'd probably reject any claim that considered "the Finns" and a "Negro" people as comparable So I read this work in support of the original claim only in the sense that apparently Finns were indeed considered inferior to "the white" in 19th century racist writings, but that's the same for any other "yellow" people including "the Laplanders, Samoyedes, and Eskimos".
    – Schmuddi
    Sep 11, 2023 at 16:24
  • 2
    I don't think your sources affirm the statement in the question, rather the opposite. While it's difficult to prove the negative here, it seems likely that these are the sources behind the claim, and since they do not make the comparison then your last sentence is misleading.
    – pipe
    Sep 11, 2023 at 19:00
  • I guess Trianon would have changed Gobineau's opinion in re the Magyars, LOL. Sep 28, 2023 at 19:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .