Vikings: did they really exist?

   “The Vikings is a created identity that everybody uses for its own purposes”, says an intruiging exhibition in the Stockholm National Historical Museum / Historiska Museet (http://www.historiska.se ). They have a complete collection of every possible antique Viking asset, but they also contest the very existence of a Viking identity and I have to say, they do that quite convincingly. It really made me smile.
They explain that in 1864 Germany attacked Denmark and Denmark lost Southern Jutland. So the Nordic countries felt threatened. Their reaction was to create the Viking myth so that others would feel frightened to attack them. Ain’t that a marvellous story!
Apparently the creation of the myth was successful so it became a habit. When universal male voting rights were introduced in 1910, the Vikings served as example: ‘all free men had a vote in the Viking time’.  During the second World War, the Germans used Viking dresses and symbols to convince Norvegian men to join them, as if the Vikings were some kind of prehistoric SS-men. Then after the war, everybody was longing for peace so the peaceful side of Vikings as peasants was emphasized. 
When Sweden was discussing EU-membership in the years ’80 and ’90, the Viking identity was presented in favour of EU-membership expressing how actively they were trading in many places in Europe. And isn’t the EU about trade most of all!
And now the most funny part comes. Actually gender and diversity have become an important theme in life. So what happens to the Viking identity? In the presentation of Viking history, the prominent place of women in Viking society is shown. And the Vikings have now become people who were very open for other cultures and ideas.
So the Viking identity can serve many goals. Applause for a Historical Museum that is splendid in its normal exhibition of historical artefacts and in the meantime so creative in  the reflections about the interpretation of what they exhibit. Very worth a visit!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *