Börje and Olof Åström feeding a hedgehog on the beach, 1920. Image: Bernhard Åström. SLS/Veterinär Bernhard Åströms glasplåtsamling

What is the Society of Swedish Literature in Finland?

We preserve, explore and disseminate knowledge about Swedish culture in Finland.
We are active in archives, research, publishing, folk music and asset management. We employ around 80 people in Helsinki and Vaasa.

Our activities are possible thanks to the donations made by private individuals since our foundation in 1885. We are one of the largest managers of donated funds for public benefit and a major private funder of research on Swedish culture and language in Finland.  We own and manage the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland. 

SLS is a scientific organisation with around 1000 members, mainly in Finland but also in Sweden and other Nordic countries. Read more about how to become a member here.

Our activities include:

  • Funding research in the humanities and social sciences.
  • Documenting Swedish culture, language and traditions in Finland.
  • Publishing scientific literature in the humanities and social sciences.
  • Publishing folk music.
  • Making cultural heritage digitally available according to the principle of open access.
  • Maintaining a scientific library.
  • Awarding annual literary prizes to outstanding fiction and science writers.

Our history

The Swedish Literature Society in Finland came into being as part of a linguistically national and liberal movement. The organisation was founded in 1885 in Helsinki in memory of Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg. The background to the creation of the SLS was a perception that the Swedish language and culture in Finland were under threat. In the 1880s, Finland was affected by a strong policy of Russification by the Russian government, and at the same time the Fennomans, i.e. those who were keen for Finnish language to have a greater role in society, were also on the rise.

It was therefore important to establish an organisation whose task was to collect material and publish books on Swedish culture in Finland. This was important not only to preserve the material and information for future generations, but also to strengthen and consolidate the identity and self-understanding of Swedish-speaking Finns. Initially the focus was on collecting and researching what was perceived to be the oldest part of Swedish culture in Finland.

The basic idea of SLS was from the beginning, and still is, to collect, archive and publish information about the Swedish language and Swedish culture, literature and history in Finland. The term “literature” in the name of SLS should be interpreted in the broadest sense of the word and can mean everything from scientific research and fiction to letters, oral stories, riddles, jokes, spoken language and dialects. SLS was in many ways modelled on the Finnish Literature Society (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura), but with a focus on Swedish.

Ever since SLS was founded, it has been important to publish books on various topics related to Swedish in Finland. Today, SLS is the largest publisher of scientific and non-fiction literature in Swedish in Finland.

In the 2000s, research funding has grown at SLS, mainly in the form of time-limited research projects in the humanities and social sciences. SLS has received generous private donations from the very beginning. Over the years, its assets have grown thanks to long-term investment activities, and today SLS is one of the major Finnish managers of scholarship funds. Some of the funds’ returns are turned into literary prizes. You can read more about our funds and donors here.