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MESTO DEJINY a 54 - Narvik, a Swedish Norwegian Border Town

This article gives an insight into the industrialization and colonization processes of northern Scandinavia. Urbanization due to industrialization is a vital part of the perspective, and brings us into an industrial mega system in Swedish Lapland in
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  MESTO  DEJINY a 54 Of his journey to Narvik in 1899, the Norwegian historian Yngvar Nielsen wrote, “Many things have already changed in and around Narvik. But still bigger changes will appear”. 1  In two years, the small place had experienced its own Klondike. A town had formed and urban structures had been built over marshland and pastures. The town had streets, pavements, and even beautiful modern houses and quarters, and modern shops and offi ces. 2  The rapid urbanization of the settlement previously called Victoriahavn (Victoria’s Harbour) led to a formal resolution by the Norwegian parliament to establish a town in the Ofoten fjord in the Salten region of Nordland County in 1901. 3  The town was established during the common Swedish-Norwegian union (1814–1905), during the reign of the Swedish king Oscar II (1829–1907). However, there was considerable tension between the Norwegian and Swedish authorities with regard to the construction of Narvik. The Norwegian Home Offi ce and several other departments had substantial interests in the outcome of the founding of the new town; these interests were linked to national security, communications and property development. Thus, the Norwegian central authorities were greatly involved in its urban development, both in the initial phase and later. In Norway, until recently one could not establish a new town without a parliamentary proposition, debate and resolution. As a result of this, the establishment of the new town became part of a national debate that was linked to tensions between the two future neighbouring states. 4 1 NIELSEN, Fra Ofoten, 8.2 NIELSEN, Fra Ofoten, 1. 3 INDST.O.NR.66. 1900–1901. BESL. O. NR. 72. 1900–1901.4 AAS, Narviks historie, 57–69. Narvik, a Swedish Norwegian Border Town Steinar Aas  This article gives an insight into the industrialization and colonization processes of northern Scandinavia. Urbanization due to industrialization is a vital part of the perspective, and brings us into an industrial mega system in Swedish Lapland in the late nineteenth century based on iron ore export. It was to be connected to the industrial centre of Europe, especially the Ruhrgebiet of Germany, and paved the way for a new kind of urban development in peripheral Europe – the industrial network town. The history and foundation of the Norwegian harbour town Narvik is vital for gaining insight into this mega system. By studying Narvik we can envisage particularities of, and similarities and differences between Norway and Sweden when it comes to their urban economic foundations, urban development/planning regimes, and the relations between the municipalities, the modern nation states and the dominating companies. Even the development of a uniquely Scandinavian identity connected with the labour movement and the development of a post-war social democrat order visibly results from the new industries. Thus the common Swedish-Norwegian figure of the rallar – something like navvy or construction worker – has a significant place in this study, and the use of the figure in addition to later processes of memory creation, both within the Norwegian and Swedish labour movements, is addressed. Keywords: Urban History. Modernization. Industrialization. Norwegian History. Swedish History. Technology. Urban Planning. Memory Studies. Rallar. Labour History. vol. 8, 2019, 1, pp. 54-79DOI: https://doi.org/10.33542/MAD2019-1-03  MESTO  DEJINY a 55 Narvik soon became a modern town, growing rapidly as part of the Swedish industrialization and colonization of its northern borderland. This article examines the background of the urbanization process and discusses the creation of a significant labour culture. In addition, it deals with the common Swedish-Norwegian memory process regarding the new urban settlements on the northern peripheries. The article demonstrates how urbanization and industrialization paved the way for the creation of a common Swedish-Norwegian figure – the rallar  5  – who, for both countries, was to be made the symbol of the founding of the modern industrialized nation. In this manner, he became a symbol for post-war social-democratic Nordic hegemony, and thus became the symbol of the working-class pioneers in instigating the later Nordic welfare-state model. The article demonstrates how Narvik became part of this narrative and argues that the processes of urbanization and industrialization were vital by virtue of their connecting the rallar and the later welfare state. A Swedish harbour town in the Norwegian borderlands Narvik’s srcins date to the end of nineteenth century in the northern part of Sweden. The reason for the existence of the town is found in its geographical position west of the mountain range between Sweden and Norway – Kjølen. However, the driving forces behind its urbanization are found on the eastern side. At that time, this northern part of Sweden had many novel nicknames, such as “the land of the future” and “the America of Sweden”. 6  In the rhetoric and propaganda of those times, the most optimistic visionaries considered the northern borderland to be “our latest Sweden”. In public debate, there were widespread visions of a virgin region ready for exploitation. 7  Supporters of a more active process of colonization in the Swedish north claimed that the Swedes were destined to colonize and expand into such relatively less populated areas full of timber and minerals, and of waterfalls that could potentially be used in the development of hydropower plants. In this view, the initiative should result in Swedes populating, colonizing and expanding in the region. The language deployed by the colonizers made the area seem like Sweden’s America for another reason too. In these marginal areas of tundra, woodland and marshland, the dominant people were the indigenous Sami population. Social-Darwinist views on the cultural struggle in the north were significant. Writing in 1900 while visiting the emerging town in the hidden fjords of Nordland, Nielsen, an example of someone who held such an ideology, stated that he expected what he then called the Sami race to be driven away by expanding civilization. 8  Adapting to the environment, they raised reindeer, fished and hunted – and no progress had hitherto threatened their culture. Sami people had long been using the Norwegian coastal areas as summer pastures and spending the winter season in the hinterland of Norway or the Swedish Lapland. The Sami world was in many respects “borderless”, and, in the then twin-kingdom of Sweden-Norway, the Sami moved freely across borders after the establishment of the union in 1814. After 1905, a new, stricter management of the national borders was implemented, and this negatively affected the reindeer herders. Other problems they faced were 5 THEANDER, I rallarens spor, 61. The normal definition of the Swedish world is “Navvy” or “casual labourer”, “construction worker”. 6 SÖRLIN, Framtidslandet, 49f.7 PERSSON, Från ødemark til stad, 26. SÖRLIN, Framtidslandet, 13. 8 NIELSEN, Fra Ofoten, 1.  MESTO  DEJINY a 56 advancing railroad construction, the establishment of new mining towns, and other modern installations. All these modern developments threatened the Sami way of life by hindering their reindeer husbandry. 9 Figure 1: The Ofoten–Luleå Railway connected the harbours of Luleå (Sweden) in the south with the harbour of Narvik (Norwegian district of Ofoten) in the north west. The mines were in Malmberget/Gällivare and Kiruna, while the fortress defending the railway was in Boden. (Photo: Brunnström, Umeå 1981) The combination of the growth of the nation states and their associated nationalisms meant that the future of the Sami culture and language was put under pressure. There was a strong standardization process occurring in Norway, especially towards immigrants of Finnish or Kven srcin, as well as a strong “Norwegianization” policy in relation to the Sami population. This was particularly marked by a strong assimilation policy directed at Sami and Kven people in the northernmost parts of Norway, partly as a component of the security policy that was applied to the border areas with Russia and Finland. The Norwegian historian Einar Niemi concluded that the aim of this policy was the inclusion of minority groups according to the terms of the greater society, so that they were gradually completely transformed into part of the majority group of Norwegians. 10 The first discovery of iron in the mountains of Kiruna – 130 km east of the Swedish- Norwegian border posed an additional threat to the Sami population. The mountains, which the Sami called Gironvàrri   (Grouse Mountain) and Luossavaara   (Salmon Mountain) contained enormous amounts of iron, but it was unusable until the development of the Thomas-Gilchrist process in 1875. This process also made it possible to use the residual phosphorous as fertilizer. 11 9 EVJEN – MYRVOLL, Från kust til kyst, 18–19. 10  NIEMI, Hvem er kvenene?, 7–9. 11  HELLAND, Ofotbanen og jernmalmfelterne i svensk Lapmarken, 34.  MESTO  DEJINY a 57 However, the logistics of accessing this resource posed challenges. The wilderness of Swedish Lapland had no infrastructure, and its vast marshlands were isolated and distant. Nonetheless, thanks to the earlier invention of the steam locomotive and the fast development of railroads during the last half of the nineteenth century, technological solutions could be applied to these problems. However, railroads were expensive both to build and to operate, and the distance between Kiruna and the Swedish coastline was great. Instead of building the railroad to a Swedish harbour, the industrialists built it westward to a harbour on the Norwegian coast. The director of the regional Road- and Waterway Building Board (Väg- og Vattenbyggnadsstyrelsen) in Sweden, Robert Schough, had his way. The railroad was built through Kiruna from Swedish Luleå in the Gulf of Bothnia, as shown in Figure 1, to the small and remote bay of Narvik in Nordland County, Norway. This solved three problems: transportation costs, construction costs and problems with climate. The Swedish winter is harsh, and the Gulf of Bothnia normally freezes from November to May because of the low salt content of the seawater. The Norwegian side of Kjølen, on the other hand, offered a year-round ice-free coastline for the transport of iron ore. 12 Construction of the railroad started in 1898 and was completed in 1902. During this period, hundreds of mostly young, male workers from all over Scandinavia participated in the construction effort. The railroad was built in a harsh climate, a treeless subarctic terrain, using manual power, pickaxes, sledgehammers, shovels and dynamite. Approximately 5,800 employees worked on the railway on the Norwegian side of the border. From 1898 to 1900, during the course of the construction of the railroad, the population of the place called Narvik grew from 300 to 3,342. 13 A northern Scandinavian industrial mega system The harbours of Luleå and Narvik were adapted to accommodate ore from the Kiruna and Gällivare mines in Swedish Lapland. Railroad systems with shunting yards were established, and the capacity of the mines was coordinated with the ship traffi c in both harbours. The Swedish historian Staffan Hansson introduced the concept of a “technological mega system” to describe this mining industry: the iron-ore railway, the power station of Porjus and the Narvik and Luleå harbours, as well as the military installations at Boden fortress near Luleå. 14  Every component of the institutions and plants of the system connected to one another in a single unit, as visualized in Figure 2. The establishment of the system resulted in the growth of railway stations, steel works, sawmills, wool-spinning mills, dairies, bakeries, mechanical industry and workshops and the timber industry. To secure this complex system from the threat of Russia, which controlled neighbouring Finland until 1917, fortifications were constructed, and garrisons established in a new garrison town – Boden. Now four Swedish urban settlements had sprung forth as a result of the industrial mega system: Kiruna, Gällivare, Boden and Luleå. 15 12  AAS, Narviks historie, 22–23, 85–91. 13  AAS, Narviks historie, 49–50. 14  HANSSON, Malm, Räls och electrisitet, 45–76. 15  LAGERSTAM, Program förr Norrbottens industriarv.  MESTO  DEJINY a 58 Figure 2: The development of the North Swedish mining industry resulted in a vast range of other activities – or a megasystem, as Swedish historians have characterized it. The harbour in Luleå and Narvik, the hydroelectric plant in Porjus, the fortress in Boden, mines and railways along the route are all part of the mega system. (Photo: Länsstyrelsen Norrbottens län) The expansion had lasting consequences. The fortifications and garrisons required to protect the harbours, power plants, railway and mines resulted in the establishment an offi cer candidate’s school in the neighbouring Norwegian town of Harstad and infantry regiments in Setermoen and Elvegårdsmoen, as well as in the Swedish towns across the border. After 1897, military service became compulsory in the three northernmost counties of Norway. One motive for this decision was the planned railway and the need for military defence. The establishment of the industrial complex created the western and eastern harbour cities, Narvik and Luleå, with the railway as the lifeline connecting their common fate. Compared to other towns in northern Norway and Sweden, the system also created its own economic foundation. Kiruna, Gällivare, Boden and Narvik became urbanized. Some of the new urban areas, like Narvik and Kiruna, hardly had any hinterland. They became “company towns” like Kiruna or towns with few central functions for the hinterland, like Narvik. In this respect their functions differed from other towns, which typically played a role as market places for the surrounding area, had administrative functions within the public sector or finance, or acted as business hubs. The Norwegian town of Narvik was founded more or less due to the strategies of the Swedish king Oscar II and his government. Together with the other towns in the
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