Vol. 20 (2011) pp.26-51.

Title: “An entirely different culture and an alien race:” Scandinavian Ukrainian encounters on the Canadian Prairies 1910-1940

Author: Per Anders Rudling
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Richard Baer
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John Tucker University of Victoria
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Helga Thorson University of Victoria

Marked up to be included in the Scandinavian-Canadian Journal
Source(s): Rudling, Per Anders. 2011. “An entirely different culture and an alien race:” Scandinavian Ukrainian encounters on the Canadian Prairies 1910-1940. Scandinavian-Canadian Studies Journal / Études scandinaves au Canada 20: 26-51.
Text classification:
  • racism
  • Swedish immigration to Canada
  • anti-Ukrainian prejudice
  • Galicians
  • RAB: started markup 21st October 2011
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  • 29th March 2012 MDH: entered two minor edits at author's request.

“An entirely different culture and an alien race:” Scandinavian Ukrainian encounters on the Canadian Prairies 1910-1940

Per Anders Rudling

ABSTRACT: While contacts between Scandinavia and Kievan Rus’ in recent history have been limited, and Scandinavian, and Scandinavian-Canadian attitudes to Ukrainians were long characterized by an aggressive hostility and racist stereotypes. The image of the “Galician” merged with stereotypes of Russians, which have a long tradition in Scandinavia and Germany. “Galicians” became synonymous with backwardness, social retardation and superstition. As a result of pressure to assimilate and competition for the same jobs, Scandinavian-Ukrainian relations in Canada became strained. These attitudes took a particularly aggressive form in the Scandinavian press in Canada. This article attempts to identify anti-Ukrainian themes in Scandinavian and Scandinavian-Canadian literature and assess their significance for the identity formation of the Scandinavians in Canada in the early 20th century.
RÉSUMÉ: Bien que les contacts entre la Scandinavie et la Russie dans l’histoire récente ont été limités, et l’attitude scandinave, et scandinave-canadienne, envers les ukrainiens a longtemps été caractérisée par une hostilité agressive et des stéréotypes racistes. L’image du « galicien » a fusionné avec les stéréotypes concernant les Russes, ayant une longue tradition en Scandinavie et en Allemagne. « Galiciens » devint synonyme de retard mental, de retard social et de superstition. En raison de la pression de s’assimiler et de la concurrence pour les mêmes emplois, les relations entre scandinaves et ukrainiens au Canada devinrent tendues. Ces attitudes prirent une forme particulièrement agressive au sien de la presse scandinave au Canada. Cet article tente d’identifier les thèmes anti-ukrainiens dans la littérature scandinave et scandinave-canadienne et d’évaluer leur importance dans la formation de l’identité des Scandinaves au Canada au début du vingtième siècle.


The topic of Anti-Ukrainian prejudice in Canada has been relatively well researched. The main focus of the research has been the Anglo-Canadian mainstream. However, anti-Ukrainian stereotypes were not the exclusive preserve of this particular community—prejudices also influenced the relations among various groups of recently arrived immigrants. This article studies the anti-Ukrainian sentiments in one such group, the Scandinavians, who were among the larger immigrant communities on the Canadian prairies. As a case study of Scandinavian immigrant narratives of Ukrainians, it aims at shedding light on the dynamics of the relations between immigrant communities in Western Canada. To a present-day observer, the prevalence of anti-Ukrainian stereotypes in the Scandinavian-language publications in Canada during the first half of the twentieth century is striking. It is also somewhat puzzling, as few Scandinavians had any experience of Ukrainians before their arrival in North America.

Nationalism and stereotyping

In the modern era, identification with a nation is but one of the possible forms of collective identification, yet one that tends to subsume other kinds of belonging (Pickering 79). “Cultural experience generates our identity to the extent that it creates an appearance of similarity among those who more or less share it, who seem to belong to it and feel at home within it. Culture is in this way the experience of belonging” Michael Pickering argues (80). Jan Germen Janmaat emphasizes how the depiction of ethnic Others is an important aspect of history education in states with nationalizing programs. The Other is often portrayed negatively in history textbooks, playing an important role for identity construction. It sets boundaries which distinguish the in- from the out-group. The harmful effects of contacts with ethnic others are highlighted, whereas positive results are downplayed or omitted altogether. By assigning certain vices to the out-group and certain virtues to the in-group, nation-builders can reinforce the uniqueness and depth of the in-group’s identity and give its members the assured feeling of moral superiority. Also, stressing the hostility of the out-group helps to sweep conflicts within the in-group under the carpet and contributes to the latter’s cohesion (Janmaat 145). Since measuring the accuracy of stereotypes is difficult, they are better understood in terms of “common-sense” rhetorical figures, writes Michael Pickering.
It is pointless trying to gauge whether or not they are accurate. What counts is how they circulate, and with what consequences, as base coins in the economy of discourse and representation; how they attain their symbolic currency among those involved in their exchange. (25–26)

Scandinavia and the Slavs

Many European nationalist movements have presented their neighbours to the east and south of themselves as barbarians. In Sweden, the role of the Other was long filled by the Russian, and/or the Slav (Nilsson 6). Since the time of the Great Nordic War (1700-1721), Swedish political propaganda emphasized the lower cultural level and the barbarian nature of Russians, who were perceived as Asiatic, unrefined, violent and unreliable, fundamentally irrational and culturally inferior (Blomqvist 2002). In Swedish historiography, similar notions of inferiority, regression, and backwardness were extended to Poles and Baltic peoples. They were defined as passive and submissive subjects, products of serfdom and a slave mentality. The pejorative expression polsk Riksdag/polnischer Reichstag is found in both Swedish and German. Es geht zu wie auf dem polnische Reichstage means chaos and disorganization (Orłowski 36, 62). Similarly, polnische Wirtschaft is synonymous with inefficiency and primitive modes of production (Orłowski 18).
The Napoleonic Wars were a disaster for Sweden, which lost the eastern half of its territory. Finland had not been a colony or a distant province, but an integral part of the country since the early Middle Ages. The 1809 Peace Treaty of Fredrikshamn extended the Russian Empire to the Åland Islands, turning Finland into a rallying point for the Swedish political right. The year 1809 became linked to bruised national pride and nostalgic longing for the era of Swedish Great Power. The loss of Finland triggered responses, which vacillated between bombastic jingoism and deliberate indifference (Berggren). The trauma consolidated anti-Russian sentiments as an integral part of Swedish nationalism throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The first history book on Swedes in Estonia and Livonia, written in 1846, depicts Baltic peoples, such as the Baltic Letts and the Finno-Ugric Livs as child-like objects.
Det är oförnekligt, att Liverne och Letterne, fastän, till antalet öfverlägsna, genom sin fulhet utgöra den mest störande beståndsdelen. Lifvets tunga börda, råhetens slöhet, i förening med trälens skygga slughet och en dermed kontrasterande, viss ädel, sorgenhet hafva givit deras ansigten ett visst hemskt gripande uttryck. De blicka rädda upp till presten, liksom fruktade de, att han skulle banna dem, såsom man bannar barn, när de varit olydiga, och förrätta alla de yttre religionsbruken med ett visst uttryck af blygselfull själlöshet.
[It is undeniable that the Livs and the Letts, although numerically superior, through their ugliness constitute the most disturbing of the (Baltic) peoples. Their laziness is the result of their heavy burdens of life. Their lives are harsh and brutal. At the same time, they possess the clever cunningness of a thrall. Their faces reflect a noble sadness, something that gives their faces terribly moving expressions. They fearfully look up to the minister, as if they are afraid that he would punish them, the way you punish a misbehaving child. They participate in all the religious rites with an expression of shy soullessness.]
In contrast to this description of Baltic peoples, Lutheran Minister Joachim Ekmanhas this to say about Germans and Swedes:
Dertill äro [letternas] dåliga kläder mestadels smutsiga, alltid grå, och hänga vårdslöst på deras svaga kroppar. Tyskarna äro dem till urseendet icke mycket olika; deras ansigtsdrag äro blott öppnare, och en något högre intelligens talar ur deras ögon. Mot desse begge nationer bilda Runöboerne en skön motsats. I allmänhet äro männen storvuxna, hafva kraftig benbyggnad och äro ljuslagda: ur de öppna och friska, af vind och väder brynta, ansigten framblicka, stora, mörkblå, trofasta ögon, håret bära de till half längd och mestadels faller det i lockar; skägget är alldeles bortrakadt Runöboernas qvinnor äro inga smäktande skönheter, utan kraftiga, nordiska, hvilkas ovala ansigten mad välbildade och skarpt markerade drag uttrycka en lugn kraft, som likväl icke går ända till oqvinnlighet, emedan ögat derjemte uppenbarar en behaglig mildhet och oskuld. (152–53)
[The worn-out clothes of the Latvians are mostly dirty, always grey, and hang carelessly on their tired bodies. The Germans do not look that different, but their facial features are more open, and a somewhat higher intelligence is discernible in their eyes. Against these two nations the Swedes (of the Livonian island of Runö) constitute a beautiful contrast. In general the men are stately, blond, with solid bone structures; from the honest and open faces, hardened by wind and weather gaze large, deep blue and faithful eyes. They wear shoulder-long hair, which often curls; they have all shaved their beards The Runö women are no striking beauties, but robust and Nordic. Their oval faces have well-developed and sharply marked features which express a calm determination, which sometimes borders on a lack of femininity. At the same time, they possess a pleasant mildness and innocence.]
Swedish school textbooks presented a reductive picture of the Russian people. “The Russians are a hardened, hard-working and dexterous people. They are happy, sociable and fond of dance, song and music. Their national errors are drunkenness and dishonesty,” the most widely used geography textbook explained. The prominent Swedish Slavist Alfred Jensen maintained that the Russians had inherited their “submissiveness,” “oriental fatalism,” and “thrall sprit” from the Tatars (Jensen 123). The fear of a Russian occupation was kept alive in many circles. During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, women’s clubs and charities in Sweden organized to collect bandages and textiles to send to assist the Japanese side in the war (Burgman). In 1912 the famous traveller and writer Sven Hedin published a book called Ett varningsord [A Word of Caution] that was printed in an enormous edition of a 420,000 copies. Hedin provided a graphic description of what a Russian invasion of Sweden would result in.
Låt oss göra ett flyktigt besök i denna landsända, som icke längre är vår. Där är det slut på valmötena I skolorna införes ett främmande språk som barnen tvingas att lära Det är förbjudet att i det fordom svenska kyrkorna förkunna och bekänna den protestantiska tron. Gyllene helgonbilder radas upp kring våra gamla altaren, och väggmålingar från Sturarnas och Gustaf Vasas tid målas öfver för att glömmas. Vid rätten sker icke förhöret och förkunnas icke domen på ett för svenskar begripligt språk Den personliga friheten är död. I städerna är varje portvakt en polis. Yttrandefriheten har upphört. Tryckfrihetsförordningen existerar icke mer, någon justitieombudsman står icke som en räddande angel, färdig att gripa in. Tidningarna är skrinlagda, och om några av dem tillåts komma ut, är de fullständigt färglösa. Vissa blad, som redan under den svenska tiden hade dåligt rykte, kryper för tyrannerna för att själva vinna fördelar. Finlands öde har då kommit over det land vi förlorat, för att förkväva dess kultur. (27–29)
[ Let us make a quick visit to this part of the country, which is no longer ours. There are no more election campaigns The schools introduce a foreign language in which the children are forced to be taught In the formerly Swedish churches it is forbidden to preach and confess the protestant faith in the Swedish language. Golden images of saints are lined up around our old altars, and frescoes from the times of the rule of the Sture family and Gustaf Vasa are painted over in order to be forgotten. At the courts the interrogations are carried out and the verdicts announced in a language incomprehensible to Swedish ears Personal freedom is dead. In cities every bellman is a policeman. Freedom of speech has ceased to exist. Freedom of the press remains but a memory; there is no longer any ombudsman to act as a guardian angel, ready to step in for our protection. Newspapers are banned, and if any of them are allowed to publish, they are totally colourless. Some papers, which already during the Swedish time had a poor reputation, are sucking up to the tyrants to gain favours. The destiny of Finland has finally reached us then, suffocating our culture].

Racial biology and “Scientific” Racism

Under the influence of Gobineau and Galton, the notion of scientific racism gained ground in the Western World in the late nineteenth century, but particularly after World War I. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the “otherness” of the Slavic peoples was increasingly defined in racial terms. A pioneer in the field of eugenics, the Swedish government established Statens institut för rasbiologi [State Institute for Racial Biology] at the University of Uppsala in 1921 in order to preserve “racial purity” and to document, categorize and preserve the “racial characteristics of the Swedish nation.” The racial biologists were particularly concerned about the consequences of miscegenation, or racial “bastardization,” which its director, Professor Herman Lundborg saw as a key factor in the decline of civilizations (Lundborg 1921 and 1924). The purity of the “Germanic” or “Nordic race” was often juxtaposed to its absence among the people of the east.
Studera vi åter förhållandena på närmare håll i Europa, kunna vi ej undgå att märka, att i de delar, varest befolkningen är uppkommen genom blandningar i stor utsträckning mellan européer och asiatiska folk: hunner, tatarer, turkar o.a., såsom t. ex. på Balkanhalvön och i stora delar av Ryssland, där européer av mer ren stam knappast förekomma i något store antal, samfundsfärhållanden, lagar och styrelsesätt äro allra sämst och befolkningen i hög grad rå och omänsklig. Det synes för dit inkallade organisatörer från andra länder i Europa nästan tröstlöst omöjligt att bland dessa “halvasiater” få ordning och skick införda. Det dåliga folkmaterialet lägger härvidag stora hinder i vägen En blandning åter mellan svensk befolkning och exempelvis lappar, som äro alltför olikartade, är avrådlig. Av samma orsak må vi söka förhindra slaviska folk av undermålig beskaffenhet, vidare ryska judar o.d. att här få fast fot, ty sådanda blandningar komma med all säkerhet att sänka det svenska folkets kvalitet. Vi må alltmer få klart för oss, att svenskarna av jämförelsevis ren nordisk stam äro ett rasfolk i biologisk mening. Härför må vi vara tacksamma, ty det är endast ett mindre antal folk i världen, som i detta hänseende äro lika gynnsamt ställda som vi Svenskarna, liksom övriga germaner, äro högt skattade på grund av sina många goda egenskaper. Vi kunna därför, med skäl vara stolta over vår härstamning, utan att behöva hemfalla åt oberättigat högmod. (1922 145-146)
[ If we return to the conditions in our European neighbourhood we cannot fail to notice that in the parts in which the population to a large extent is the result of miscegenation between Europeans and Asiatic peoples (Huns, Tatars, Turks, and others, as for instance on the Balkans and in large parts of Russia, where Europeans of pure stock hardly exist in any higher number), the social conditions, laws, and system of governance are the worst and the population brutal and inhumane. It seems, for invited organizers from other countries in Europe, sadly nearly impossible to introduce order and decency among these “semi-Asiatics” Miscegenation between the Swedish population and Finns and Lapps, who are of Mongolian origin, is undesirable. For the same reason we ought to prevent Slavic peoples of inferior qualities, Russian Jews and others, from establishing themselves here, since such miscegenation would with all certainty lower the quality of the Swedish people. We need to keep in mind that the Swedes, who are an entirely pure Germanic people, are a people of noble racial stock, and well-born from a biological point of view. For this, we ought to be thankful, since only a lesser number of peoples in the world are as lucky as ourselves The Swedes, like other Germanic peoples, are highly valued for their many good qualitites. We therefore have good reason to take pride in our lineage, without having to resort to unwarranted arrogance. ]
In the 1920s, eugenicists began an ambitious project to “scientifically” classify the ethnic groups around the Baltic Sea. They operated within a framework in which peoples from the east were associated with racial and cultural inferiority (Hagerman 352, 372). In his 1922 Rasbiologi och rashygien, Lundborg explicitly warned about the dangers of Slavic immigration to Sweden:
Åt invandringen måste vi också ägna stor uppmärksamhet, så att ej undermåliga individer av främmande folkslag obehindrat få inflytta och bosätta sig i landet. Blandning mellan rasbiologiskt högt stående folk (som de skandinaviska) och sämre kvalificerade folkelement, t. ex. zigenare, galizier, vissa ryska folkslag o.d. är avgjort förkastlig. (1922 40)
[ We have to pay much attention to immigration, so that racially inferior individual of alien stock will not settle in the country. Miscegenation between a racially valuable people (such as the Scandinavians) and less qualified racial element, for instance Gypsies, Galicians, certain Russian tribes and others, is, clearly undesirable.]
These attitudes were well represented in the Swedish government. The somewhat confused and muddled briefings from the Swedish embassy in Warsaw to the government in Stockholm explain the difference between the Polish majority population and the east Slavic minorities in the eastern borderlands as racially determined:
Polska nationens känslor gentemot den ryska ställa sig helt olika allt efter som det gäller det mer nordliga Ryssland eller de sydligare delarna av landet. Polackerna erkänna icke invånarna i norra Ryssland såsom stamfränder. De äro olika polackerna till ras (ansiktsbildning och hudfärg), till språk, religion, seder och allmän livsuppfattning. Bysantinism, mysticism och fatalism beteckna denna sistnämnda vad moskowiterna angår på ett sätt, som icke har ringaste motsvarighet hos polackerna, vilket tydligen framgår bl.a. vid en jämförelse mellan den ryska och den polska literaturens mest betydande verk Under det polackerna äro slaver av så ren ras, att vissa av nationens fel, (t.ex. dess brist på kraft och uthållighet) kunna anses bero just härpå, äro nordryssarna av ytterst blandad ras (tatarer, mongoler, finnar, judar, m.m.), i vilken det slaviska elementet endast ingår med några få procent Helt annorlunda är förhållandet med invånarne i södra Ryssland, dit då framför allt bör räknas Ruthenien eller Lill-Ryssland, som för övrigt alldeles oegentligt blivit kallat Ukraina. Dessa äro otvivelaktigt slaver och trots vad som skiljer gör sig rasgemenskapen vis à vis polackerna gällande. Härigenom förklaras hela det starka inflytande, som polackerna haft på Wolhyniens och Ukrainas civiliserande. Före världskriget voro nästan alla de stora godsägarna där polacker, likaså större delen av ingenjörer, läkare, lärare och överhuvudtaget utövarne av de borgerliga yrkena. Förhållandet mellan dessa polacker och de lill-ryska invånarne var synnerligen gott. Nu äro dessa polacker bortdrivna ur landet och dess civlisation lider oerhört härunder. Men polackernas hopp är, att en gång, kanske snart nog, det ryska väldet skall uppdelas i flera stater, och att då tiden åter skall komma för en union mellan Polen och Ukraina med dess 35 miljoners befolkning och för en ny fruktbringande polsk kolonisation av det sistnämnda så rika landet.
Om det s.k. Ost Galizien, som f.n. hör till Polen, skulle bli autonomt, skulle detta ur polsk synpunkt ha föga att betyda. Den separatistiska tendens i Ost Galizien, som väckt så mycket buller, är åstadkommen med artificiella medel, penningutdelning och bolsjevikisk propaganda.
[The Polish nation, in its relation to the Russians, makes a distinction between the northern and southern parts of the country. The Poles do not recognize the inhabitants of Northern Russia as a kindred people. Their race is different from that of the Poles (shape of face and skin pigmentation), much like their language, religion, customs and general attitudes toward life. As far as the Muscovites are concerned, they are best described in terms of Byzantinism, mysticism and fatalism. These have no equivalents whatsoever among the Poles, something that becomes abundantly clear in a comparison of the most significant works of Polish literature Since the Poles are Slavs of a pure origin, some of the faults of the nation can be seen to be found herein (for example its powerlessness and lack of tenacity). In contrast, the Northern Russians are of extremely mixed race (Tartars, Mongols, Finns and Jews, and others) in which the Slavic element only constitutes a small percent The situation among the inhabitants of Southern Russia is entirely different. In particular within this group we should include the peoples of Ruthenia or Little Russia, which is often erroneously referred to as the Ukraine. Despite their differences these people are undoubtedly Slavs, and their racial similarities with the Poles are obvious. This can be explained by the strong influence the Poles have had on the civilizing of Volhynia and Ukraine. Before the World War almost all large land owners were Poles, and so were the lion’s share of engineers, doctors, teachers and the bourgeois professions in general. The relations between these Poles and the Little Russian inhabitants were particularly good. Now these Poles have been expelled from the country and the (Ukrainian) civilization is suffering immensely as a result. The Polish hope is that the Russian empire will break up into several states. Perhaps this will happen soon enough, leading to the establishment of a union between Poland and Ukraine, opening for a fruitful Polish colonization of Ukraine and its population of 35 million people.
      If the so-called Eastern Galicia, which currently belongs to Poland, would become autonomous, this would be of little consequence from the Polish point of view. The separatist tendencies in Eastern Galicia, which have caused so much tension, are artificial, brought about by Bolshevik propaganda and funding.]

Ukrainian seasonal workers in Sweden

Attitudes sharply critical of Slavs were prevalent also within the Swedish labour movement. Socialism reached Sweden from the German-speaking world. Anti-Slavic attitudes were prominent in the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who dismissed Slavs as “non-historical peoples—reactionary, pig-headed, barbarian peoples, counterrevolutionary by nature and doomed to extinction.” It is hard to assess the impact of these attitudes on the Swedish worker at the grass roots level. The import of cheap manual labour from Galicia during the first decade of the twentieth century, when farmers and land owners systematically recruited underpaid seasonal workers from Austrian Galicia to work at the sugar beet plantations in the province of Skåne (or Scania) in southern Sweden seems to have had more of an impact on the shaping of popular attitudes. The farm labourers’ union widely perceived this as deliberate sabotage. This, in turn, led to a serious conflict with the employers, but also generated animosity towards the Galician guest workers (Blomqvist 191).
Politically conservative commentators, concerned about immigration, described the Galician seasonal workers as a “most vile” people, a textbook example of backwardness and retardation. However, most of the criticism came from the political left. Social Democratic papers described this “Galician danger” as a “modern assault of the Huns.” The description of the Galician scabs was aggressively hostile. The socialist paper Arbetet described the arrival of the Galicians in the following way:
Småväxta, med intetsägande ansikten, böjda under bördan av stora klädbylten, stego främlingarna i land, framdrivna av ett par grovhuggna, knölpåksklädda karlfigurer.—Polacker, galizier till betjätten! Eländigt klädda, slöa och rådvilligt livliga, som en hop boskap, representerande det lägsta stadiet av varan—arbetskraft.
[ Short, with nondescript faces, bowed under the burden of large packs of clothes, the strangers disembarked the ship, led by a couple of coarse-looking men with clubs.—Poles and Galicians at your service! Miserably clad and lazy but in possession of a confused energy, (these people resemble) a herd of cattle.]
The Socialist Press contrasted “the celebrated, honest and solid Swedish worker” with the Ukrainian:
en samling utländska trasproletärer, okunniga, förfallna och förslöade stackare, angripna av smittkoppor och andra vidriga sjukdomar, färdiga att sälja kropp och själ för ett brännvinsrus. Sverige åt svenskarne—så lyder frasen. Sverige åt galizierna, svält och smittkoppor åt svenskarne—så lyder verligheten.
[lumpenproletarians, ignorant, decayed and lazy scoundrels, carriers of smallpox and other disgusting diseases, eager to sell their bodies and soul for a bottle of vodka. Sweden for the Swedes goes the slogan. Sweden for the Galicians, famine and smallpox for the Swedes, is the reality.]
The prominent socialist Fabian Månsson wrote that
Det säger sig själf att befolkningen i orten icke med de blidaste ögon ser denna invasion af ociviliserade slaver Genom hvarje svenskt sinned mans ådror går en skälfning af raseri och man får en obetvinglig lust att tvätta sina hander i utländska skojares blod. (Olsson 274)
[It goes without saying that the local population does not regard this invasion of uncivilized Slavs kindly Through the veins of every Swedish-minded man goes a tremble of rage. You get an irrepressible urge to wash your hands in the blood of these foreign scoundrels.]
The socialist press approvingly cited the well-known Swedish writer and poet K. G. Ossiannilsson’s comments on the Galician question, lamenting that “Swedes [live under conditions of harsh] labour, starvation, and oppression,” having to compete with labourers of inferior cultures, “descendants of barbarian peoples, those our ancestors met as enemies.” Protest meetings across Sweden, organized by the socialist labour movement, condemned employers for forcing Swedes to emigrate and replacing them with Galician “slaves” of a “considerably lower moral stage” than the Swedes, referring to Galicia as “a small piece of land in Poland, where the people still live under semi-barbarian conditions.” Leaders of the Swedish Social Democrats urged their members to “unite to throw the Galicians out of the country and demand: Sweden for the Swedes!”
Without making any distinction between Ukrainians and other East Slavs, the leader of the Swedish Social Democrats, the future Prime Minister Hjalmar Branting, denounced the Galician seasonal workers as a Russian “horde of thralls.” Prominent socialist activist Kata Dalström contrasted Sweden, as a “cultured country” “[kulturstat],” with Russia, which she characterized as a “barbarian state, far inferior to us.”

Scandinavian and Ukrainian immigration to Canada

The presence of the temporary Galician farm labourers was an exception from the rule. Before World War II immigration into Sweden was considered undesirable and kept at a low level. Rather, at the turn of the last century, and until the 1920s, Sweden was a net emigrant country. Along with other Scandinavians, very significant numbers of Swedes emigrated, primarily to North America. In this process, Norway lost one third of its population, Sweden nearly one quarter. The net emigration from Denmark, while much smaller, still meant a considerable depletion of the population (Hatton). As a destination, Canada was less popular than the United States. Within Canada the vast majority of the Scandinavian immigrants settled in the prairie provinces. In 1911, Germans and Scandinavians formed the largest non-British minorities in the region, making up respectively eleven and eight per cent of the total Alberta population of 374,000 people. The massive influx of Ukrainians was soon to alter the population balance, as 170,000 Ukrainian peasants arrived in Canada between 1896 and 1914 alone (Palmer 26-27). The public attitudes to the arrival of the Ukrainians were generally negative. Conservative Albertan papers denounced the Ukrainian immigrants, citing concerns over their culture and “race,” not to mention the fear that the Eastern European immigrants overwhelmingly voted for the Liberal Party. Reports of smallpox among the Ukrainian immigrants elicited personal concerns among the locals. The Calgary Herald described the Ukrainians as “dirty hordes of half-civilized Galicians who came lacking everything but dirt.” In his 1929 The Central European Immigrant in Canada Robert England approvingly cites a Anglo-Canadian teacher in the Ukrainian block settlement to the effect that
Undoubtedly, if one can believe half of the stories one hears, there has been much exploitation of the non-English vote. Also, there is direct everyday evidence to show that the large number of illiterate voters, who are non-progressive and even retrogressive, can, and do, impede the betterment of the nation. One is continually filled with pity for the vast amount of ignorance one encounters among the non-English, and one can excuse many of their short-comings on the score of ignorance, but none the less, we cannot get away from the fact that this “vast amount” constitutes a serious menace to our own civilization. (England 85)
The bulk of Slavic immigrants entered the proletariat, something that was reflected in North American fiction and folklore. The picture of the Slavic working man in North American fiction is hardly flattering. Their communities were portrayed as nests of moral vices of “alcoholism, drug addiction, thievery, pimping, prostitution, gambling dereliction, bigotry, and stupidity” (Wtulich 135). In early twentieth-century Alberta, politicians, clergy, social reformers and scholars alike agreed that Ukrainians were a “primitive people with extraordinary proclivities for crime and vice” (Robinson 139). Some observers objected to the Slavic newcomers’ reluctance to conform to the mainstream Canadian norms of behaviour, for example, their avoidance of amenities such as banks, preferring to hide their money in their mattresses (Robinson 153). Others complained that the Ukrainian even fought in a different way, leading to accusations that he did not know “how to fight like a white man.” The Slav would “always pick something up in a fight—rock, knife, or a piece of two-by-four,” making him a brute in the eyes of the Anglo-Canadian. The Ukrainians were seen even to lack the good taste to know when and where violent brawls were appropriate. Mainstream Canadians fought at bars, but Ukrainians fought at weddings and other Christian events, something deemed deeply inappropriate (Robinson 173; England 84). Mainstream Anglo-Saxon Canadian opinion regarded wife-beating and “Galician weddings”—drunken orgies that degenerated into bloody brawls—as the epitome of Ukrainian backwardness (Swyripa 36). Even Ukrainian proverbs seemed to condone domestic violence: “An unbeaten wife is like an unsharpened scythe” (Robinson 157). Emily Murphy’s view that Slavs could not be expected to behave in other than a barbarian fashion was rather representative for her generation of Anglo-Saxon Canadians (Robinson 172). The Anglo-Canadian teacher, interviewed by Robert England in 1929 about her experiences of the Ukrainian bloc settlement, echoes these sentiments.
I would say that the women and children of the district are distinctly under-privileged and that this is a characteristic of Ruthenian homes. I would also say that if they were given a chance, in many cases, the home would improve. Certainly the women do more work than the men, and do it without complaint. The women and children do all the “chores” and in May when the roads were so bad, I have often seen the women-folk in bare feet trudging through the deep mud laden with full sacks. There are exceptions, but this is the general rule. I have been shocked many times at what they expect in the way of work from growing young children It is all very well to say that these people know no better, but the fact is that they have been with us for twenty-five years. (84)
It should be said that these attitudes were not limited to the Anglo-Scandinavian mainstream society. The elite of the Ukrainian community, in Ukraine as well as among the emigrants shared similar concerns about ignorance and backwardness within their own community (Swyripa 41-42). The conceptualization of the gulf between the modern world and the traditional culture as a dichotomy, juxtaposing the conscious svidomyi Ukrainian with the darkened temnyi or apathetic baiduzhnyi muzhyk was a central theme in Ukrainian nationalist discourse. Leonid Heretz has illustrated this dichotomy in a set of contrasts:
Svidomyi Temnyi
Schooled Illiterate
Rational/Scientific Superstitious
Progressive Backward
Active/assertive Passive
Hygienic/fit Squalid/malnourished
Strong Weak
(Heretz 6)
Thus, “conscious” Ukrainians were often dismayed at the behaviour of recent Ukrainian immigrants. Reverend Nestor Dmytriw, visiting Ukrainian settlements in Western Canada in 1897 complained about the women’s slovenliness and the foul habits of their unsupervised children, urinating and defecating in public, something Dmytriw felt made Ukrainians look “worse than Indians” in Anglo-Canadian eyes (Swyripa 57-58).

Scandinavian attitudes to Ukrainians in Canada

Whereas the perceived backwardness of the Ukrainian immigrants was a point of concern for the “conscious” elite in the Ukrainian community, it was also noted by other immigrant communities to Canada.
Identifying Galician Ukrainians as the principal Other on the prairies, the Scandinavian press in Canada presented the “Galician” in an unflattering light. Different reasons for the backwardness were given. The Norwegian language paper Vikingen in Edmonton referred to the Galicians—“the Russians”—as semi-barbarians, or halvvilde, and explained this barbarism as a consequence of their the Greek Catholic religion (Lee [Lie] 1913). The perception of Greek Catholicism as an authoritarian, immoral, and uncaring church that failed to provide proper spiritual leadership was not unique to Scandinavian Lutherans; Protestants of other denominations in Canada shared similar views (Swyripa 44-45, 47). The perceived Ukrainian “inferiority” was also explained in racial and cultural terms. The largest Scandinavian paper in Canada, Svenska Canada-Tidningen, described Ukrainians as belonging to an “entirely different culture and an alien race, the Slavic race” (Lager), contrasting the cleanliness of the British and Scandinavian immigrants with the residences of the Southern, Central Europeans, and the Galicians. The Galicians “are not used to any excessive cleanliness,” the Winnipeg paper complained. The immigration authorities would do well to scrub and disinfect the halls in which the Galicians have stayed, since “many of their guests do not arrive alone, but bring their friends, whose names we probably need not mention.” Svenska Canada-Tidningen questioned the Galiciansʼ ability to restrain their sexual urges, with which they were thought to struggle, and approvingly cited the immigration authoritiesʼ policy of keeping the sexes strictly separated.
There were also economic reasons for the rivalry. The steady stream of Ukrainian immigrants kept the wages low and set Scandinavian and Ukrainian unskilled labourers against one another. In the early 1910s the Scandinavian community in Alberta lobbied the Liberal Party—traditionally the recent immigrants’ party of choice—to sharply curtail Slavic immigration. Vikingen was concerned that salaries were depressed as a result of the influx of “Russians, coming here to work for $1.50 a day” (Lee [Lie] 1914).
Swedish immigrants to North America generally perceived Ukrainians as such an “unusual” nationality that they even lacked a Swedish term to describe them, borrowing the English term “Galician” instead, a word they used very imprecisely. Whereas this name applies properly only to immigrants from the Hapsburg province of Galicia, Scandinavians employed it as a derogatory term for “all Slavic people, and it is indiscriminately used for others, including Greeks. Swarthy, bearded people who do not speak English are Galicians.” as Danish-Norwegian writer Aksel Sandemose observed in 1927 during a tour sponsored by the Canadian Pacific Railroad (Hale 2005 1). While Ukrainian-Scandinavian relations in Western Canada were tense, he found them particularly tense in Alberta. “The Scandinavian calls [the Ukrainian] ingratiating, a payer of lip service, dishonest, lying, vindictive and intemperate,” Sandemose writes in his correspondence.
I’d had it with this perpetual racial talk! Even the least prejudiced farmers had objected to the fact that the Galicians built their houses differently. Why did the Galicians do that? And why couldn’t they learn proper English?
The farmers didn’t know that the Galicians asked the very same questions. Why can’t these Swedes build their houses like ordinary people? Why can’t they learn proper English? Neither group could speak English. Each individual thought he spoke “fluent English,” but to Canadians it was some strange language. The Scandinavians spoke a tongue with a Nordic wash of waves—the Galicians one with a Slavic undertone
“What do these people mean, calling us Swedes?” asked the Danes indignantly. And the Hungarians and Ukrainians wrinkled their eyebrows when they heard the word “Galician.” “Why do the Swedes call us that?” Immigrants in America discover very quickly that they are not regarded as people of the highest degree. But they are powerless when faced with the natives’ enormous majority and established security. Therefore they create their own pecking order. There is no limit to how a Swede, Dane or Norwegian after three months’ stay in Canada or the U.S. can feel himself raised above the Poles. It’s a self-importance of such monstrous dimensions that there’s nothing to do except look for the explanation in the man’s own mind.
(Hale 2005 143)
Fortunately for Canadians of Scandinavian and German descent they were indeed considered the best of Canada’s new citizens, for they were regarded as industrious and culturally close kindred to the Anglo-Saxons. Robert England gives the following description of Scandinavians in his 1929 discussion:
The Scandinavians do not constitute a problem. They readily inter-marry with Germans or Anglo-Saxons, and by reason of their close kinship to people of Anglo-Saxon origin in traditions, history, and ideals, they are easily Canadianized. Accustomed to the rigours of a northern climate, clear-blooded, thrifty, ambitious and hardworking, they will be certain of success in a pioneer country where the strong, not the weak, were wanted. (49–50)
The Winnipeg Free Press described the Scandinavians as model immigrants: “In the evening, when the lights are lit and every home becomes a happy combination of library and workshop, you will most likely find the humble Yon Yonson leaned over ‘Paradise Lost’ or a work by H. C. Andersen.” Sir Charles Tupper, the High Commissioner for Canada in London, noted that “The Scandinavian becomes at once an ideal immigrant who is not surpassed by any other nation, not even by the pick of emigrants from the United Kingdom” (Jalava 3). The Canadian Magazine contrasted the excellent quality of Icelanders and Scandinavians to that of Galicians, depicting the latter as
the unfortunate products of a civilization which is one thousand years behind the Canadian They do not share the Canadians’ respect for life and freedom, nor their perception of cleanliness. Therefore they need to be put under surveillance Their dirty and overcrowded dwellings are without doubt a breeding ground for crime and vice. (Chapman)
Perceived as model immigrants, Scandinavians were under strong pressure to assimilate into the Canadian mainstream. This process of assimilation was difficult for many Scandinavian pioneers, particularly the women, who found it painful to witness their children losing the language of the old country, a phenomenon observed by Sandemose:
Later there is the tragedy with the children. English is soon their language of preference. They hear only a limited number of people speaking Danish and consequently their language of birth becomes impoverished and colourless. Their stock of Danish words and expressions diminishes. Standard Danish or other dialects are often unintelligible to them. They can read Danish only with difficulty and would prefer not to do so at all. When the children are seven years old they are taken to the school, where they learn English, Canadian history, etc. They are indoctrinated with a patriotic feeling for Canada, pride in being part of the British Empire. They are sure to be Danish-Canadians, but mostly Canadians. This is a deadly blow to a Danish and Danish-speaking mother. She feels she is standing in her children’s way. Whatever they are happy about she doesn’t understand. They quarrel with her, that strange creature who can’t speak the only proper language. Soon they move about in what for her is a distant haze. She is a helpless, strange bird to her children. She cannot assist them and doesn’t know whether what’s happening to them is good or evil.
It grows worse as the years pass. The children sit in the room with her and speak English if they don’t want her to understand something. She thinks they are talking about her The new land has robbed her of everything. The first year she complains and suffers openly. Then she becomes silent. But anyone who denies the tragedy of the first generation woman is quite simply blind.
(Sandemose 1928b in Hale 2005 56-57)
While a high percentage of all Nordic immigrants to Canada intermarried with other ethnic groups, this trend was particularly strong among the Danes. Métis and other Native populations on the prairies often assisted the Danish colonists, and the relations between the two communities were generally good. After having visited a Danish settlement in Alberta, Sandemose rehearsed his conversation with a local farmer in his diary “What would you say if your son came one day and introduced a half-blood as his sweetheart?” “She would, at any rate, if she were decent in other respects, be more welcome than a Galician girl,” answered the Danish farmer (Sandemose 1927).
The animosity occasionally took violent forms. Staying with a Danish farmer in Holden, Alberta in 1927, Sandemose experienced this first hand.
It happened that fate caught up with me. I was walking up to the farm from the town with that pleasant feeling of human worth being equipped with new boots gives one. They were good boots with thick soles, and also I had got them for a good price after the necessary bargaining. And there came Jim [the Danish farmer’s dog] flying across the field to greet me. He rushed up straight as an arrow It wasn’t easy for me to realize that Jim had come to take my life The snow lay trampled where Jim and I concluded our friendship. I still have white scars on my hands and arms after the battle Finally the farmer came and got a rope around the dog’s hind legs In the kitchen I had my wounds cleaned with iodine and bandaged There in the kitchen came the explanation. For after I was bandaged and was sitting over a cup of coffee following my fright, I showed off the new boots I had bought in town. Jim had unfortunately sunk his teeth into them too, and faint traces of them could be seen on my feet. Then the farmer understood everything, “You bought those boots at the Galician’s!” Yes, indeed I had. But the Scandinavians in the colony didn’t usually shop there, and they often let the man feel their contempt. “What a smart dog Jim was! A hell of a dog! He caught the scent of a Galician when you came in with those boots! Good dog!” I was a bit confused on account of the turn the matter had taken. People were bragging about Jim to high heaven. There you can definitely see proof that there is something wrong with these Galicians! Even dumb animals understand that At the time I was for my part aware that Jim understood nothing. It has been for him a source of eternal wonderment why he got a whipping and was not supposed to kill me. Poor common SA man that he was. With brilliant logic the people placed the damned critter on a level with themselves and far over the Galicians, because they had succeeded in bringing him up with their prejudices, and on account of the nature of the case he could never come higher up the ladder than to the dirty job of executioner. But now they talked about instinct, about the whisper of the blood and about the nobility of the soul so that I as a noble human being stood quite humiliated.
Perhaps the most aggressive anti-Ukrainian attitudes are found in the writings of the Swedish immigrant author Karl Gunnarson. Gunnarson refers to Poles as “locusts” (1942 173) and Ukrainians, or “Bohunks, as this swarthy riff-raff is called in Canada” (1949 35) as a horde of barbarians:
Polacker och galizier, dessa svartmuskiga mullvadsmänniskor, smutsiga, stinkande, fulla av ohyra, utgöra huvudparten av emigranter till Kanada. När vi komma 3,000 svenskar, komma dessa lika många hundratusen. I ett arbetslag på 1,000 man därute bestå 900 av dessa svartingar som man knappast erkänner som vitt folk. I ett settlement, där galizier och polacker slå sig ned, fly alla andra nationer för att komma undan detta tjuvaktiga, smutsiga pack, som sedan århundraden vants att arbeta under slavpiskan och framleva sitt liv under de uslaste förhållanden. Deras levnadsstandard är så låg att de kunna livnära sig på en lök och litet bröd för dagen och kunna därför arbeta för några cent i dagsavlöning. Om förmännen misshandla dem i arbetet, om en flock av dem gasas och krossas i gruvornas schakt och blir borta frågar ingen efter. Det kommer tusen för en istället, krypa sig till arbete, krypa under de förra i avlöning.
(1942 24-25)
[Poles and Galicians, these swarthy mole people, dirty, stinking, full of vermin, constitute the majority of emigrants to Canada. If 3,000 of us Swedes arrive, one hundred times as many people of this kind arrive. In a work team of 1,000 men out there 900 of them are these swarthy people who can hardly to be regarded as white people. If these Galicians and Poles move into a settlement, all other nations flee in order to get away from this thieving, dirty rabble. For centuries, they have been used to working under the whip of a slave driver and living their lives under the most miserable of conditions. Their standard of living is so utterly low that they can live a whole day on an onion and a little bread. They can therefore work for only a few pennies a day. Nobody cares if their foremen physically abuse them at work, or if a flock of them were to be gassed or crushed in the mineshafts and disappear. For every one that is killed, thousands more arrive, crawling to work, cringing for a salary lower than the previous ones had.]
Gunnarson describes his first encounter with these people upon his arrival in Halifax.
[De galiciska immigranterna] kom ned i väntsalen med sina trasbylten. De spredo en fruktansvärd stank omkring sig, luften i hallarna blev som i en förpestad kloak. Instinktivt skockade vi skandinavier ihop oss och drogo oss bort i salens friskaste hörn. Föga anade skandinavgruppen, där vi den dagen stodo i våra rena, snygga kläder, att dessa stinkande människor skulle bli våra arbetskamrater, att vi genom vidriga förhållanden på arbetsmarknaden skulle stickas in i deras led hos de stora bolagen, att vi skulle arbeta sida vid sida med dem, äta vid samma matbord, dela bäddar med dem, få våra kläder myllrande av deras loss och våra kroppar ätna såriga av deras ohyra Det långa emigranttåget, som skulle gå som extratåg ända till Winnipeg, körde fram. Och jag måste säga till emigrationsmyndigheternas heder, vi skandinaver fingo verkligen verkligen ta plats först på tåget. Först de skandinaviska flickorna, tyskorna voro också med, så vi män, och man sörjde väl för att vi fingo god plats. Galizierna höllos tillbaka av polis. Sedan skandinavkontingenten fått tillräckligt med vagnar och utrymme sig tilldelat öppnades poliskedjan, som hållit svartfolket tillbaka. Massan vällde ut genom dörrarna, män, kvinnor, ungar och knyten om vartannat och stormade tåget. Men det fanns plats för dem alla även om en familj på 8 personer fingo nöja sig med samma utrymme som 4 av oss skandinaver. (1942 24-25)
[(Galician immigrants) came down into the waiting hall with their bundles. They stank terribly, and the air in the hall became like a rotten sewer. We Scandinavians huddled instinctively and withdrew to the freshest corner of the hall. Few of us in the Scandinavian group could have guessed, when we that day stood there in our clean, proper clothes, that these stinking people would become our working colleagues and that we would work side by side with them, eat at the same tables, share beds with them, get our clothes infested by their lice, and our bodies covered by scabs and puss after having them eaten by their vermin The long, special emigrant train which would bring us all the way to Winnipeg was brought up. I have to say that to the credit of the emigration [sic] authorities, we Scandinavians were allowed to board the train first. First the Scandinavian girls, and the German girls with them, then us men, and they took particular care to make sure that we were given plenty of space. The Galicians were held back by police. Only after the Scandinavian contingent had been given enough coaches and space did the police cordons, which had kept the swarthy riff-raff back, open. The mass flooded through the doors, men, women, children and baggage in a mess stormed the train. But there was space for all of them, even if a family of eight people would have to make do with the same space as four of us Scandinavians.]
Nu ville olyckan att man under natten kopplat in restaurationsvagnen mitt i tågsättet, vi hade flera galiziervagnar att passera för att ta oss dit. Det var någonting rysligt när man kom in i dessa vagnar. Luften stod tjock så man kunde skära sig fram i den förfärligaste stank. Jag höll på att tappa andan och ville vända Fram klättrade vi också vagn efter vagn bland svartmuskiga människor i olika åldrar. Där var ruskiga karlar som spelade kort med svarta, solkiga lekar. Där var mödrar som sutto halv-nakna med dibarn vid brösten. Unga, granna, mörkögda flickor, endast iförda solkiga linnen. Folk som lågo i buntar på bänkarna, barfota kvinnor och män i kalsongerna. Högar av ungar, ungar som rullade nakna på golvet, ungar som slogos och skreko och ungar som sutto på spottkopparna och gjorde sitt tarv!
[ We had the misfortune that during the night the restaurant car had been placed in the middle of the train; we had to pass several Galician cars to get there. Entering these cars was something horrible. The air was so thick that one could cut oneself through this most horrendous stench. I was about to lose my breath and wanted to turn around We climbed through car after car among swarthy people in different ages. There were terrifying men playing cards with dirty, soiled decks of cards. Half-naked mothers were breast-feeding infants. Young, pretty, dark-eyed girls, wearing only dirty undergarments. People were lying in droves on the benches, barefoot women and men in their underwear. Piles of kids, kids who rolled around naked on the floor, kids who fought and screamed and kids who sat on the spittoons and attended to their natural needs!]
Gunnarson’s popular account of his immigrant experiences in Canada appeared in four editions.
A more multi-faceted and sympathetic view of the Ukrainian-Canadians can be found in the writings of one of most popular modern Swedish writers, Sven Delblanc (1931-1993). Born in Swan River, Manitoba, Delblanc described his childhood and his parents’ immigrant experiences in “Kaanans Land” [The Land of Canaan] (1984) and “Agnar” [Chaffs] (1992). Here, Delblanc’s Ukrainian neighbours are portrayed with sympathy. The hostile Anglo-Scandinavian neighbours frowned upon the fact that the Ukrainians had built houses in the style of the old country, with the house connected to the barn and having pigs and chickens running in their kitchen.
“Finast var de infödda kanadensarna, helst om de härstammade från brittiska öarna. Något mindre fina var skandinaverna, britternas enkla kusiner från landet, i rang jämställda med holländare och tyskar. Nordborna hade ett rykte om sig för enfald, kanske för att de lätt kunde luras i affärer. Irländarna var ganska sällsynta. De flydde helst en neslig lydnad under engelska kronan för att uppsöka sina otaliga fränder i USA. Lägre än tyskar och skandinaver kom sydeuropéer, “dagos” och “wops” och vad de nu kallades, ännu längre kom östeuropéernas brokiga skara av “russkies,” “bohunks,” “polaks,” ett myller av folkslag som ofta buntades ihop under samlingsnamnet “galicier.” Negrerna var fåtaliga och förekom mest som tågmästare och sovvagnskonduktörer, och man kunde därför skryta med att inte ha några “negerproblem” eller fördomar Judeproblemet horde storstaden till, den “gula faran” spökade mest på västkusten. (74–75)
[ The most superior were the native Canadians, especially those who derived from the British Isles. Somewhat less superior were the Scandinavians, their simple cousins from the countryside, in rank equal to the Dutch and the Germans. The Scandinavians had a reputation of being naive, perhaps because they could be easily fooled in business transactions Below the Germans and the Scandinavians were southern Europeans, the “dagos” and “wops” and whatever they were called. Lower still was the motley group of eastern Europeans, the “ruskies,” “bohunks,” “polaks,” a multitude of people who were often labeled as one group—“Galicians.” The negroes were few and figured mostly as train inspectors and sleeping car conductors of night trains, and one could therefore brag about not having any “negro problem” or prejudices The Jewish problem belonged to the big cities, the “yellow peril” was mostly a spectre of the west coast.]
Delblanc describes another part of the Ukrainian-Canadian experience—how his Ukrainian neighbours were integrated into Canadian society over the years. While the depression forced many Scandinavian and German immigrant farmers to pack up and leave as single-crop commercial farming became unprofitable, the Galicians, with their old-world, diversified, and self-sufficient farming, rode out the storm. As the depression forced Delblanc’s family to abandon their homestead and return to Sweden, Delblanc presents the Ukrainians as the most dedicated Canadians. They proved their tenacity and loyalty to the new land by their grit, staying on the land during the difficult years of the depression, while the preferred, Northern European immigrants left. In a final, ironic twist, the Galicians acquired the farms the Swedes had abandoned, which constituted a turning point in the Ukrainian immigrant experience in Canada. Following the depression, anti-Ukrainian attitudes recede as the Ukrainians established their Canadian credentials. As the Ukrainians entered the Canadian mainstream, the anti-Ukrainian comments fade. Already by the 1950s, this discourse has all but disappeared.


The emergence and decline of anti-Ukrainian stereotypes within the Scandinavian immigrant community of the Canadian prairies illustrates some of the dynamics of the socio-economic rivalry between two immigrant communities. It confirms Pickering’s observation that the stereotypical fixity of the Other is never absolutely achieved, nor is it permanent and unchanging (170). During the first third of the twentieth century, “Galician” came to represent the Slavic, Catholic, brutal, foreign, illiterate and regressive Other, the antipode to the Scandinavian and Scandinavian-Canadian self-image as the ideal, progressive, enlightened, integrated, and loyal immigrant. For many Scandinavian immigrants to Canada the image of the Galician Ukrainian quickly merged with the established stereotype of the crude and barbarian “Russian,” the backwardness of whom was interchangeably articulated in cultural, religious, and “racial” terms. By emphasizing the otherness of the Ukrainians the Scandinavians made themselves appear less exotic, keeping nativist calls for assimilation at bay. The preoccupation with the perceived Galician backwardness was shared by “conscious” Ukrainians, but with a different aim. To many Scandinavian immigrants, struggling to find their place in the new country, the image of the backward Galician pointed at a community of interest between the Scandinavian immigrants and Anglo-Saxon majority society, facilitating their integration of into mainstream Canadian society.


  1. See, for instance, England and Lysenko. On Ukrainian-Canadian identity, see, in particular, Swyripa.
  2. Quoted in Hedman and Åhlander 151. The Swedish minister Fredric Joachim Ekman (1798-1872) from Nystad in what today is Finland wrote the first history of the Swedes of Estonia and Livonia in 1846, after many years as minister on the ethnically Swedish island of Runö in Livonia.
  3. Almquist cited in Nilsson 222. The translation below, as elsewhere in this essay, is my own unless otherwise noted.
  4. I.e. the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.
  5. See Broberg and Tydén, 31 and Lundmark 14.
  6. Confidential report sent from Swedish embassy in Warsaw, addressed to K. I. Westman, head of the Eastern European Division of the Swedish Foreign Ministry. The report is signed C. A., most likely Per G. A. C. Anckarswärd, the Swedish envoy to Poland 1920-1930. RA F1d:70, HP-dossierer 1923-1937, HP 21, Report No. 181½, Warsaw, May 5, 1926. Riksarkivet, Täby, Sweden. For Swedish envoys at the embassy in Warsaw 1919-1939, see (Sehn 49).
  7. See Blomqvist 196 and Himka 1.
  8. Berggren and Trägårdh 180. The anti-immigrant sentiment of the labour movement was not aimed exclusively at Galician farm labourers. Between 1899 and 1908, the socialist press attacked Polish farm labourers, Finnish loggers and sawmill workers, as well as English strike-breakers for breaking the workers’ solidarity and causing a reduction in their salaries. Despite the agitated rhetoric, there were only 1,678 foreign workers in Sweden. Blomqvist, 217; Broberg and Tydén, 16.
  9. Blomqvist, Nation, ras och civilisation, 214 citing Arbetet, April 11, 1904.
  10. Blomqvist, Nation, ras och civilisation, 218, citing “‘Sverige åt galizierna!ʼ Apropå torparvräkningarna i Skåne,” Stormklockan no. 16, April 1909.
  11. Blomqvist, Nation, ras och civilisation, 192 citing Arbetarbladet, April 23, 1912.
  12. Blomqvist, Nation, ras och civilisation, 214, citing “Malmö,” Fram no. 6, June 1904, 7.
  13. . Blomqvist, Nation, ras och civilisation, 207, citing “Nationernas individualitet,” Fram No. 8, Dec. 1903, 1f.
  14. See Hale 1999 and Rudling.
  15. Palmer, Patterns of Prejudice, 28, 29, citing the Calgary Herald, 19 January, 1899.
  16. Swyripa 42, 44; Heretz 5-6. Similar perceptions and rhetoric can also be observed within the early Belarusian national movement. See Anon. 1907a and Anon. 1907b.
  17. Ljungmark, citing Svenska Canada-Tidningen March 4 and 11, 1913.
  18. Thus, a typical expression could look like this: “De va en ukrainian eller tjeckoslovak eller en sån där lymling.” [It was a Ukrainian or Czechoslovak or a rascal of that kind.] (Klintborg 130).
  19. Sandemose as cited in Hale 1995 46.
  20. Sandemose as cited in Hale 1995 46.
  21. Ljungmark 156, citing “Cosmopolitan Winnipeg,” The Winnipeg Free Press, November 23, 1912
  22. Hale (ed.), Aksel Sandemose and Canada, 144-145. The SA, the Schutzabteilung, Hitler’s brown shirts, or stormtroopers, were paramilitary forces and thugs of the Nazi party.
  23. Karl Gunnarson is a pseudonym for Karl Gunnar Schulze (1885-1954), who wrote four romantic accounts of his expereinces in Canada. His Som emigrant i Kanada and På Kanadas prärier were both printed in over 50,000 copies in at least three editions on a publishing house linked to the Social Democratic labour movement.
  24. See Hale 1995.
  25. The author wishes to acknowledge the support of Chris Hale and the constructive critiques of two anonymous referees.


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