Between Nordism and Nationalism: The Methods of the Norden Associations’ Educational Efforts, 1919–1965


  • Henrik Åström Elmersjö Umeå University



nationalism, Norden Association, interwar era, post-war era, international education


The Norden Associations (föreningarna Norden) were established in 1919 with the intention of promoting understanding and cooperation between the Nordic countries. The definition of “Norden” was negotiated from the very beginning, and Icelandic and Finnish associations were not established until the 1920s. Promoting understanding and cooperation was very much considered an educational effort, and Norden was imagined within educational efforts sponsored by the associations. In this regard, the associations had predecessors in the Nordic schoolteacher meetings that dated back to the age of Scandinavism in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Norden Associations created special school boards in the 1920s in order to both promote a more Nordic approach in some subjects—mainly language, geography, and history—and to promote cooperation between the countries, with the youth as the catalyst for a more Nordistic future. This article looks into how the Norden Associations imagined a Nordic school, in which a Nordic sentiment was established, and how this imagination related to the reality of the nationalistic school and to ideas of broader international cooperation, between which the “Nordic idea” has always been sandwiched. The article shows how the methods used effectively hindered the imagination of Norden and the “Nordic idea” beyond the scope of cooperation between nations.

Author Biography

Henrik Åström Elmersjö, Umeå University

Associate Professor of History and Education