Våler, Hedmark - History - Finnish Immigration

Finnish Immigration

An important part of Våler's and Solør's history, is the immigration and settlement of people from Finland. From the late 16th century they were encouraged by Swedish king Gustav Vasa to settle in the unpopulated areas of Värmland and Solør, along the border between Norway and Sweden. At that time the forests far from the settled areas were of little value, and therefore immigrants could settle in large numbers without coming into conflict with the locals. The Finnish immigration was a result of hunger and turbulent times in Finland. King Gustav Vasa welcomed the immigrants, because he wanted to increase the taxable income from the scarcely populated areas of western Sweden.

The Finns brought with them their unique culture and their way of life. Amongst other things, they imported the agricultural technique, common in Finland and Eastern Sweden, known as svedjebruk or slash-burn agriculture. This involved setting fire to the forest and growing crops on the fertile ash-covered soil. The clearing was initially planted to rye, and then in the second and third year with turnips or cabbages. It then might be grazed for several years before being allowed to return to woodland. In this manner, they periodically moved around and burned down new areas and left their former areas to regrow with forest.

The Finnish language, still has an influence in the area. Many place names and words and expressions in the local dialects derive from the Finnish. The area itself is called Finnskogen, which translates as "The Finnish forest".

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