onsdag 29. desember 2010

The sami people

The Sami people lives in the northern parts of four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia (the Kola Peninsula). In earlier times Sápmi (the land of the Sami) covered a much bigger part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, probably also more of northern Russia.

Lapps, Finns or Sami?
In earlier times the Sami were called Lapps (as in Lapland and Lappmarken) and Finns (as in Finnmark and Finland). During the centuries when they were suppressed by their majority neighbours the names 'Lapp' and 'Finn' acquired a disparaging value (in English the word 'Finn' means an inhabitant of Finland).

In the last decades Sami (or same in Norwegian and Swedish), derived from their own word sámit, has replaced the older names.

How many Sami?
Assimilation makes it difficult to give exact numbers for the Sami population today. They are at least 30 thousand, but they may be twice as many. The majority lives in Norway, where population numbers are at their most uncertain. Not only has assimilation gone very far in many areas, in addition a lot of Sami have moved to other parts of the country.

Russia has the smallest part. There are two thousand Sami on the Kola peninsula, fighting to survive as an ethnic group. A life-threatening environment in only one of their enemies!

The language
The Sami language is related to - but very different from - Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian. Is it divided into many dialects. Over the centuries each of these dialects developed until most of them became mutually unintelligible. However, the North Sami dialect is spoken by a majority of the population, and is the most used dialect in literature and education.

Almost all Sami speak the official language of the state where they live, but far from all speak Sami. However, the Sami language is now expanding among the groups who lost it due to assimilation and cultural suppression.