Greifswald looks back on a long history as a location for Nordic studies, which is closely related to the traditional ties the town has to the north of Europe due to its position right next to the Baltic Sea. The language classes for Nordic languages are a result of Prussia’s cultural and educational efforts. Encouraged by the Orientalist and later Minister of Culture, Carl Heinrich Becker (1876-1933), so-called departments of foreign languages and culture started to be created in the German Empire in 1918. Due to the joint German-Swedish history, the decision was made to found the Nordic Institute at the University of Greifswald. This was opened on 4 October 1918. The concept of teaching foreign languages and culture was realised by providing regular language courses for the first time. This laid the foundation for the language classes of today. The first Swedish language classes were provided in 1919.
Several well-known scholars in Sweden worked as Swedish language assistants in Greifswald, for example the runologist S. B. F. Jansson and the historian of religions Åke Ohlmark, who translated J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as part of his work. The Swedish language assistants today not only translate and teach Swedish in the various degree courses provided by the Department, they also organise cultural events, e.g. as part of the Nordischer Klang Festival, and provide support for students on periods of stay abroad. They work together closely with the partner town of Lund, the Svenska institutet in Stockholm and the Swedish Embassy in Berlin.
As a symbol of this collaboration, Lunds Studenters folkdanslag performed in traditional Swedish costumes and on traditional instruments at the celebrations and invited the audience to join in the group dance. Prof. Dr. Christer Lindqvist summarised the Department’s history during his celebratory speech. He not only highlighted the importance of Swedish in Greifswald due to the history of the town, but also identified the local language assistants as ambassadors: “Germany is Sweden’s most important trade partner and the language is an important prerequisite for commercial ties between the countries”, stressed the Chair of Scandinavian Linguistics during his speech.
Contact at the University of Greifswald
Prof. Dr. Christer Lindqvist
Chair of Scandinavian Linguistics
Department of Finnish and Scandinavian Studies
Ernst-Lohmeyer-Platz 3, 17489 Greifswald
Tel.: +49 3834 420 3608