In Tórshavn, the picturesque Faroese capital is the Speaker’s chair in the Løgting, the Faroese ancient parliament, the origins of which can be traced back more than 1,000 years, when a shipload of Vikings stumbled upon the umbrella-shaped Faroese archipelago on their way to Iceland.
According to some sources, they were simply too seasick to continue their journey and chose to settle on the islands, driving out the wandering Irish monks who had lived there since the seventh century AD.
The Løgting, where, in line with the Home Rule Act of 1948, only Faroese internal matters are supposed to be debated by 32 local MPs (foreign policy and executive power are in the hands of the Danish crown), sits in a black log cabin with a turf roof in the center of Tórshavn.
All procedures are conducted in the Faroese language – a derivative of Old Norse and West Norwegian, now recognized as the main language of the islands.
Until 1938, the Danes treated the Faroese language as a small regional dialect and it was forbidden to teach it in schools. For centuries, it remained a popularly spoken tongue only; there was no recognized Faroese literature until 1890.
This is no longer the case. One of the most amazing sides of modern Faroese culture is the number of books (about 150 titles a year) written and published in the native language.
Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and even Homer’s hexameters have been translated into Faroese by local enthusiasts. The mini-state also publishes several daily newspapers in Faroese.
The biggest problem the Faroese faced when trying to recreate their old tongue and turn it into a written language was the absence of words for such modern notions as ‘television’, ‘video’, ‘computer’, ‘compact disc’ and so on.
Instead of using foreign borrowings, they decided to come up with some genuine Faroese neologisms. Thus a computer became telda – from tal (number); a computer screen became skiggi – the word for a sheep’s stomach stretched across the smoke-holes of houses in the time before glass windows; and a compact disc became flöga – from the round wooden blocks put under haystacks.
That passion for the preservation of local languages and culture is perhaps the most distinguishing trait of all existing SIMs. Unperturbed by the ‘global village’ and ‘unified Europe’ rhetoric, most of them stay clear of pacts, leagues, and alliances, simply because they are quite happy to be on their own in our conflict-ridden and chaotic world that strives for integration, and yet is increasingly divided.