Vikings vs Neo-Nazis: Battling the Far Right in Sweden

Throughout Sweden, young Viking lovers have actually been outraged by the actions of some reactionary organisations who have actually embraced Viking iconography to represent white supremacist propaganda. One, in specific, is the Nordic Resistance Motion, referred to as the NRM.

Viking lover Robin Lundin is the co-founder of an association called Vikingar Mot Rasism (Vikings Versus Bigotry, or VAR). The group was formed on Facebook to combat the conflation of Viking interest with neo-nazism, and it has more than 1,500 members.

The NRM hold a rally in Robin’s home town of Kungalv. He utilizes the rally as a chance to challenge among the NRM’s leaders in person about their misappropriation of Viking signs. NRM’s rallies often end up being violent, however Robin stays undeterred in his quote to expose the NRM’s lack of knowledge and recover his Viking identity, without being branded a neo-Nazi.



By Nicholas Ahlmark

Although I am a British national, my surname is Swedish. That is due to the fact that my excellent grandparents were financial migrants from Sweden to the United States in the early 1900 s. I never ever met or understood much about them and, apart from my surname, I have actually never ever had a connection or anything more than a passing interest in the Scandinavian nation. Prior to this movie began shooting, I had actually never ever even gone to. Recently, nevertheless, my interest in Sweden has actually grown, maybe due to the fact that as I age I believe more about my heritage, however likewise due to the fact that of the considerable shifts currently taking place in the nation’s demographics and politics.

My interest started to peak throughout the 2015 refugee crisis, when the eyes of the world concentrated on Sweden, as a record- breaking 163,000 individuals looked for asylum in a nation that, at the time, had a population of just 9.6 million. This increase indicated that in 2015, Sweden had a greater refugee consumption per capita than any other nation in Europe.

In subsequent years I had actually observed more and more stories appearing on my news feeds, relating to racial stress and combination concerns in Swedish towns and cities and, worryingly, a boost in homegrown reactionary, xenophobic and racist groups.

The majority of my work tends to be concentrated on the Asia-Pacific area, however with Brexit taking place in my own nation, and the rise of populist politics throughout Western Europe, it appeared an apt time to re-engage with the continent, therefore I chose to sharpen in on stories to inform inSweden I discovered a Facebook group called Vikings Versus Bigotry, and a world that I understood absolutely nothing about was opened approximately me.

Live- action roleplay 

This is the world of hardcore historic lovers who take part in a Viking-themed Live Action Role-Playing game much better understood by the acronym LARP. While not all LARPs are solely concentrated on Vikings, current years in Sweden have actually seen an increased interest in Viking history and culture, with LARPing occasions ending up being prevalent throughout the nation. A LARP is something unique from a simple re-enactment, which tends to occur at one-day occasions with members of the public dressed in contemporary clothing seeing from the sidelines. On the other hand, many LARPs occur off-grid in remote places, consisting of the LARP we recorded, which occurred in a reproduction Viking town called Bergham Vanner, deep inside a forest, around a three-hour drive southeast of Gothenburg.

These LARPers have actually taken it upon themselves to form the Vikings Versus Bigotry motion. This group is substantiated of the Viking neighborhood’s disappointment and outrage that reactionary hate groups – such as the Scandinavia-wide Nordic Resistance Motion (NRM) – are utilizing Viking signs and folklore as propaganda to enhance their white supremacist program. The most popular sign is the Viking Rune which the NRM utilizes as a centrepiece for its flag and branding.

Formed in Sweden in 1997, the NRM is popular for bothering political leaders and reporters physically and online and were just recently connected to the battle of a refugee centre in Gothenburg. As a result of the NRM’s association with Viking signs, the typical member of the Swedish public, who understands absolutely nothing about fact-based Viking lovers, now categorise this neighborhood in the very same box as neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Hence, if you have a noticeable Viking tattoo, you might get double takes strolling down the street from members of the public who believe that need to imply you are likewise a fan of Hitler. Numerous Viking fans informed me they had actually even been challenged by complete strangers on the street and been implicated of being racist, merely due to the fact that they were using some sort of Viking sign.

Having actually embedded with the Viking neighborhood at a LARP for the function of making this movie, I can state with self-confidence that connecting these 2 groups is misdirected at best. Viking LARPers are extremely an inclusive group of social liberals who think in equality throughout all spectrums of race, class and gender. They desire Viking culture to be available to everybody. My encounters with Swedish neo-Nazis, on the other hand, revealed me that they tend to be mostly young white men with a stiff world view based around the concept of the supremacy of the whiterace They see Viking culture as something that is the protect of white Northern Europeans just – a far-off age whose individuals symbolise white power.

Neo-Nazis will frequently show up at Viking fairs, looking for Viking stuff. Throughout my research study stage, I even spoke with one Viking lover who stated the story of a group of neo-Nazis leafleting at a Viking fair. They were chased after out by LARPers who secured themselves with guards. Online also, fascists are likewise excited to penetrate Viking groups and platforms. The Vikings Versus Bigotry Facebook group has a rigid vetting procedure to ensure NRM members and other racists can not sign up with.

Viking worths

“But wait,” I hear you state, “Vikings were a bunch of totalitarian, nationalistic thugs who invaded, raped and pillaged their way through Northern Europe and beyond. Of course neo-Nazi values align with Viking values!”

Well, not rather.

First Of All, Vikings did not see themselves as a meaningful culture connected to any”nation” Sweden was not even formed as a nation up until1397 That is 331 years after 1066 – the year that the Vikings disappeared, according to most reliable historians. Far from being connected to one specific nation, the Vikings were a loosely linked group of people and family dynasties who did not adhere to the principle of nationalism.

In her post Vikings were never ever the pure-bred master race white supremacists like to represent, Clare Downing from the University of Liverpool argues that instead of the marauding smash-and-grab punks represented in pop culture, Vikings continual long-lasting serene interactions with foreign individuals, based upontrade A big part of Viking success was “their ability to embrace and adapt from a wide range of cultures, whether that be the Christian Irish in the west or the Muslims of the Abbasid Caliphate in the east”.

This is supported by current historic discovers that consist of artefacts from main Europe, Turkey and the Middle East. “Viking crews would frequently lose members and pick up new recruits as they travelled, combining dissident elements from different backgrounds and cultures,” composes Downing. “An analysis of skeletons at sites linked to Vikings using the latest scientific techniques points to a mix of Scandinavian and non-Scandinavian peoples without clear ethnic distinctions in rank or gender.”

On the concern of Viking cruelty, the hero of our movie Robin acknowledges that”of course the Vikings were capable of violence as well” When entering into fight they frequently utilized little groups of Viking mercenaries likewise referred to as”berserkers” These elite warriors were a type of Unique Air Service or SAS for the Middle Ages – albeit far less organised – who would strike worry into their enemies with their ferociousness and neglect for their own lives.

Nevertheless one should see Viking hostility within the context of the European Middle Ages, among the bloodiest durations in humanhistory Were Vikings any more violent than anybody else throughout this time? Most likely not. Straight after the Viking death, unfavorable representations of Vikings have actually come mainly from the perspective of Christian monks who identified them as one-dimensional savage heathens that required to be transformed to Christianity. Norwegian historian Kim Hjardar, author of the book Vikings At War points out that Viking hostility was “matched or exceeded by other groups during this period” pointing out the genocidal actions of the Christian Emperor Charlemagne as an example:

“In the ‘Massacre of Verden’ in AD 782 his army murdered more than 4,500 Saxons who had been given to him by an ally. This was violence at its most stark. And yet, because Charlemagne had a Christian biographer writing a favorable account of his life, was killing pagans and was seen as ‘father of the church’, his place in history was secure.”

Pirating Viking heritage

As dedicated and eager trainees of middle ages history, Robin and his fellow Viking LARPers understand all these things. How and why do reactionary groups like the NRM continue to utilize Viking signs in the face of extensively accepted assertions about Vikings made by highly regarded historians, and hard truths determined from historical websites utilizing the most current technology, that all point to a much more serene and multicultural group of individuals than the traditional understanding of Vikings would have us think?

The 1800 s were a time of widespread manifest destiny by European powers. Sweden looked throughout the waters to smaller sized countries with comparable populations such as Holland and Belgium, and discussed if the Swedes need to likewise attempt to colonise far-away parts of the world, or threat being left. Nationalism was a growing pattern throughout the continent as European countries utilized it to validate their intrusions of areas in Africa and the Middle East, therefore at the very same time, Swedish nationalism likewise started to rise. One typical method for nationalists to unify the Swedes was to use a romanticised version of their Viking forefathers, who themselves had actually effectively gotten into and colonised lots of parts of Europe. This picture of Vikings was likewise when among the most popular mistaken beliefs, that they had horns on their helmets, ended up being a prevalent idea. This concept was mostly due to outfit designer Carl Emil Doepler who chose to put horns on the helmets of characters in the 1876 efficiency of Wagner’s traditional Norse opera Der Ring des Nibelungen.

In her paper: The Development of the Viking Horned Helmet, scholastic Roberta Frank from Yale University, links Nordic nationalism to this modified picture of who and what the Vikings were:

” Up Until the viking age was created, there was no horned-helmeted viking, and vice versa: the 2 fit like Easter and bonnet. A ‘viking age’ is first discussed in 1873, in 2 independent Danish and Swedish articles; the duration gets its first significant article in Johannes Steenstrup’s four-volume Norman-nerne ( Normannerne And Danelag) released in between 1876 and1882 Maybe just an expansionist, empire-building age might have believed up an age that started with marine attacks on foreign coasts and ended when these attacks stopped. The horned viking helmet was simply among many vibrant products in the armoury of a fin-de-siecle Europe interested by war and its tools.”

Moving onto the 1930 s and ’40 s, German Nazis continued to perpetuate these styles, utilizing Viking iconography and images as part of their propaganda to produce the historical idea of an all-conquering, ethnically pure group of effective Germanic warriors. This representation dovetailed completely with Hitler’s war-mongering and genocidal program.

Flash forward to modern-day Sweden, 140 odd years after Scandinavian nationalists reimagined the Vikings, and it is the NRM, who likewise see themselves in a continuous state of war versus Jews, Muslim immigrants, asylum candidates and refugees, that are still using that now unmasked principle of the Viking age, by declaring the “Tyr Rune” sign as their own.

My hope is that this movie, and the story of Robin’s mission to fearlessly challenge an NRM leader, will assist to eliminate these mistaken beliefs about Vikings and thus eliminate an effective propaganda tool from white supremacists, by making that tool redundant and impotent. If individuals can comprehend how absolutely outrageous it is for racists to utilize a Viking sign as their main logo design, then maybe possible brand-new employees will start to question and choose apart other elements of the NRM’s world view and ideology. Neo-Nazis ought to not be enabled to misrepresent Nordic history and pirate Viking heritage.

Source:   Al Jazeera