They have also been called Coastal Swedes, but they themselves prefer the poetic expression ‘aibofolke’ - ‘Island Folk’.

Estonian Swedes live in the coastal areas and on islands in West and North Estonia, such as Ruhnu (Runö), Vormsi (Ormsö), Riguldi (Rickull) and Noarootsi (Nuckö).

Estonian Swedes arrived during the 13th century and lived here until in 1939, when the Soviet Union's army bases moved into Estonia. Then most of Estonia's Swedish-speaking minority fled to Sweden and only a small number still live in Estonia today.

There has never been a unified Estonian-Swedish dialect. Estonian-Swedish is similar to East Sweden’s dialect.

Ruhnu Island, Vormsi-Noarootsi-Riguldi, Pakri-Vihterpalu and Hiiumaa each have their own dialect. It is estimated that less than one hundred people speak Estonian-Swedish (in Estonia) and maybe up to one thousand in Sweden.

Nowadays, small groups of Estonian Swedes are regrouping and re-establishing their heritage, by studying Swedish language and culture. The Cultural Society of Estonian Swedes was founded on 27 February 1988. It was the first ethnically based society in Estonia which welcomes everybody who takes an interest in the cultural heritage of the Estonian Swedes. It collects, preserves, researches and presents the Estonian Swedish cultural heritage, supports the cultural and economical development of the Estonian Swedish areas and the teaching of Swedish all over Estonia.

If you are interested in Sweden’s links with Estonia then read Swedish History and Culture.