The Finn settlement

The buildings that make up the Finn Settlement (Finngården) come from the forests of north-western Värmland. Finnish immigration to central Sweden increased greatly from the end of the 16th century. Finnish farmers suffered from the oppression of the nobility and their bailiffs as well as from Russian raids and harvest failures. At the same time the Swedish authorities were making propaganda for clearing and cultivating the land and they offered relief from all taxes for seven years to people willing to undertake this. The Finns were invited to settle in the crown forests of Värmland, Dalarna and Hälsingland. They built their farms there and lived from slash-and-burn cultivation together with what they could catch from hunting and fishing.

Slash-and-burn is an ancient form of cultivation that the Finns specialized in and developed in Sweden. Described briefly, it involved cutting down the trees on a field-sized piece of land in the first year. The next summer the actual burning of the land took place. As soon as the earth was cool rye was sown directly in the ashes. Only in the late summer of the third year could a crop be harvested and this was done with a sickle. During the 17th century the production of iron flourished and the forests were needed for making charcoal. Slash-and-burn was then forbidden and the Finnish immigration ceased. The farmers already living in the Finn districts had to start using the agricultural methods that were common elsewhere in Sweden. Some of the farmers emigrated to America while others worked as charcoal-burners for the iron foundries. Finnish traditions have survived up to the present day in the Finn districts of Sweden and Norway and Finnish was spoken there until the beginning of the 20th century.

The Finn Settlement consists of a wooden building or “ria” used for drying and threshing corn, a simple smoke cabin which served as a dwelling, a cooking shed in which food was prepared, a storehouse on posts and a barn. To give an authentic picture, the settlement should also have a stable and a cowshed. The barn dates from 1671. According to tradition, the ria is from the 17th century while the storehouse is 18th century. The smoke cabin, in its present state, is from the second half of the 19th century.

The smoke cabin The smoke cabin is heated by a stove without a chimney. The smoke comes out into the room and rises to the ceiling where it hangs like a cloud before being led out of the room through a duct in the ceiling. The substantial mass of the stone-built stove makes it a very efficient storage heater which can keep the room at a constant temperature of about 15–20°C during the winter while only needing to be stoked once a day. The Skansen building is somewhat simpler than traditional smoke cabins of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was probably used by a tenant cottager or labourer.

The ria The ria was a very common type of building in the Finnish slash-and-burn culture. Such buildings were also heated by a stove without a chimney. The openings with their sliding shutters were used to regulate the draught in the stove. The sheaves of rye were dried in the middle of the room on a floor of loose poles. The building could also be used for other drying needs, hence the drying shelves in one corner. Tradition maintains that the ria was also used as a dwelling at some period as well as a sauna. Since it is possible to maintain a comfortable temperature in the ria it was the most suitable building for a temporary dwelling.

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Skansen is one of Sweden's leading tourist attractions with more than 1,3 million visitors annually, many of them foreign tourists. People come from far and wide to see the unique collection of historical buildings from all over Sweden as well as the Scandinavian wild and domestic animals and the exotic fauna at the Aquarium. Skansen has its own stage for concerts, a lively town quarter, a hot-glass workshop, other craft workshops, cafés, restaurants and shops; and a fantastic view of Stockholm. On our website skansen.se you can find information in several languages.

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