23.02.2018

Continuity and discontinuity – Different interpretations on Finland’s prehistory. An analysis of the newspaper debate regarding the depopulation of Ostrobothnia

Andreas Granberg

At the middle of the 20th century, archeologist C.F. Meinander presented a theory that a depopulation of the Finnish region Ostrobothnia had taken place at the 9th century AD, only to be colonized again during the early middle ages. During this time of depopulation the region of Ostrobothnia lacked a permanent settlement, a theory which has been strengthened by the lack of archeological remnants along the coastal line from this period of time.

However, the depopulation is not something to have happened exclusively for Ostrobothnia, but in this region, local forces questioned the claims made by professional archeologists, starting a still ongoing debate in the regional newspapers between scientists and nonprofessionals’. It is namely not all who accepts this theory as fact, and attempts have been made to show that there has been a longer historical continuity in population in this region, than that being claimed by historians and archeologists.

I am not attempting to give a concluding answer to whether Ostrobothnia was depopulated or not, but the debate itself is of huge importance, as it puts a local view of history against national historiography. This opens up for questions regarding who really has the right to give and come up with a particular interpretation of the past, and is a means to delve into the field of history of knowledge. The question I propose to ask is what role a certain piece of knowledge serves in the given society, and how and for what purposes the involved actors uses the past.