The Forest Finns represented a very old migrant group, immigrating to the county of Hedmark, Norway in the 17th century.
The core area of Finnskogen lies in the eastern part of a small region known as Solør on the border with Sweden, and the settlers introduced their language, culture and habits in the regions they established themselves in.
Finnish settlement spread rapidly throughout the forest regions of East Norway to Trysil in the north and in the west across the river Glomma, a forested belt of land, about 32 km (20 mile) wide, named Finnskogene (Finnish woods). There are also similar forested areas in other parts of eastern Norway.
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The Finnish population assimilated at an early stage into the mainstream population, so there is not much historic material available. However, The Museum of Forest Finn Culture in Grue presents the Forest Finn culture and traditions. The Finns are said to have tested the soil by smelling it and sometimes by tasting it before finding a good location.
The local Swedish peasants did not appreciate the immigrants, who lived by slash-burn agriculture (svedjebruk), and tensions led to persecution, and most moved across the Norwegian border to Solør, forming a colony at Grue. The Museum of Forest Finn Culture researches the history and culture of forest Finns and seeks to convey the information through various exhibitions and arrangements.
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The concept of the Svedjefinnar (Swidden Finns) is known from scholarly texts as well as literature. Various authors have actively quoted each other.
In 1709 the Danish-Norwegian general Hausmann ordered the Forest Finns to be evacuated from Solør. However, the bailiff was declined evicted on the basis that they were subsistence farmers and so poor that they would have starved if moved from the land they customarily used. The museum provides a meeting point for Forest Finns as well as organizations and researchers interested in the Forest Finn culture history.
Denser or sparser settlements were formed in these hitherto uninhabited locations and came to be known with terms such as Finnskog, Finnbygd and Finnmark up north. By the 20th Century the blood had so intermingled that it was probably impossible to find inhabitants of pure Finnish descent in the Finnskogen. But in Grue, over a quarter of the place names are still in Finnish.
Museum of Forest Finn Culture was established in 2005 is located in southeastern Norway, in Grue municipality in the heart of Finnskogen. The historical buildings and premises are located all over Finnskogen and Solør in Norway and the entire collections of Museum of Forest Finn Culture in Norway consist of approximately 350 000 items ranging from houses and artefacts to archives and books.
The museum can be visited mainly during summertime (June-August) when most of the historic farmsteads and other premises are open for visitor service and guided tours are also available in English.
Feature image (on top): Winter evening at Finnskogen. Painting by Juhpla Finngaard
The Forest Finn Culture in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg