Kvens (2016)


Kvens are an ethnic minority living (mostly) in Northern Norway. The Kvens are descended from Finns, who migrated to Norway during 18th and 19th century.

Who’s a Kven, who’s not?

If Kvens are Finnish emigrants, can we call a modern day Finnish migrant a Kven? Who’s to decide? How to clarify who is a Kven, and who is not.

One clarification (we’ve heard) is as follows: ”a Kven is a person, who’s migrated to Norway before WW2”. However, declaration of one’s Kvenity pretty much depends on the person itself. A modern-day Kven can have distant roots (maybe a relative emigrated in 18th century) and still consider himself/herself as 100% Kven.

Kven as a term, politically correct or not?

In 1870s Norway started its own Norwegianization process to unify the nation as one. Norwegianization carried from the olden days to the Second World War, and beyond, hence stigmatizing foreigners. The Kvens had to learn Norwegian to be able to own land, and take a Norwegian surname in order to have a citizenship.

Nowadays the term ”Kven” might have a negative sound to it among some people. Having said that, there are official Kven organizations, which proudly name themselves as ”Kvens”, so we’re bravely using that term, too.



According to Wikipedia there are approx. 30 000 Kvens in Norway, but the vast majority don’t know the Kven language (somewhat 2000 people know the language in a way or another. This level of knowing the language varies from understanding the basics to being totally awesomely kick-ass fluent.)

The Kven language

The Kven language is very close to Finnish. Extremely close. However, due to being somewhat isolated from Finnish and being so close to Norwegian and Sami languages (not to mention loaning words here and there), the Kven language has a very unique and distinct tone to it. We’re going to consider Kven as an independent language – simply because language and the identity of the culture go very much hand in hand.

Here’s an example of the difference between Kven and Finnish languages.

KvenKvääninkieli oon se kieli mitä kväänitoon puhuhneet ja vielä tääpänäki puhhuuvat,ja mikä oon säilyny ruottalaistumisenja norjalaistumisen läpi minuriteettikielenä.Minun mielestä Torniolakson «meiän kieliki»oon vanhaa kvääninkieli tahi vanhaalameiđän kielelä kaihnuunkieli.

FinnishKveenin kieli on se kieli, jota kveenitovat puhuneet ja vielä tänä päivänäkin puhuvat,ja joka on säilynyt ruotsalaistumisenja norjalaistumisen läpi vähemmistökielenä.Minun mielestäni Torniolaakson ”meidän kielikin”on vanhaa kveenin kieltä tai vanhallameidän kielellämme kainun kieltä.

The Kven language gained an official minority language status in Norway in 2005. However, the language is still very much endangered, and being a minority language doesn’t mean the language is protected.


The status of Kvens in Norway is somewhat weak. There is, however, a wind of change. There are many small organisations established to protect the language and to preserve the culture. In the University of Troms one can study the Kven language, and the Norwegian national broadcasting company NRK has a website devoted for Kvens. There’s even a Kven newspaper. So on, so forth. But are there young generations left to carry on with the language? That’s the million Krone question.

The Kven identity itself is reforming. What challenges does the identity have? How the culture is preserved nowadays? What measures are to be taken to keep the language alive and kicking? This is what we’re going to question ourselves and from the Kvens as we travel deep into the Norwegian fjords to find out.

Whoop! Even though we try to be thorough with our facts, the information provided might contain errors. Our primary sources are this and this. If you find a mistake, please holler us at lonnroots(at)lonnroots.com.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons