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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities - Department of Northern European Studies

Department for Northern European Studies

The Department for Northern European Studies (Nordeuropa-Institut) is an independent scientific institution within the Philosophical Faculty II of Humboldt University Berlin. It was founded in 1994, later the same year the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the Free University and its library consisting of more than 30 000 books were merged into the new department. Thus the Humboldt University now also contains the biggest department for Scandinavian studies in Germany. By combining the study and teaching of all the Scandinavian languages, Scandinavian medieval studies and modern Scandinavian literature, it also fulfils the longtime aim of gathering all the areas of Scandinavian studies in Berlin under the same roof. Furthermore, it is the first institution in Germany providing research and teaching in Scandinavian cultural studies.

Northern Europe

The founding of the institute symbolised a new beginning, both in institutional and in academic sense. This was necessitated by the parallel restructuring of Europe in 1989 - Northern Europe no longer meant the core countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway; but rather a broad belt of countries reaching from Greenland to the northern parts of Russia. Both political and structural similairities unite also the Baltic countries and the southern Baltic Sea area with the region.

Our Staff

The chairs of modern Scandinavian literature, Scandinavian cultural studies, Scandinavian linguistics, and Scandinavian medieval studies are situated at the department. Additional staff is responsible for the teaching and research of Scandinavian history and area studies, and native lecturers offer courses in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish. The department employs altogether 17 members of staff, including a librarian and the staff at the Information Service. A number of students are employed to assist at the department.

Studying at the Department

The Department for Northern European Studies provides teaching for both undergraduate and postgraduate students, and Scandinavian studies can be undertaken either as a major or a minor subject. Within the basic studies, the students concentrate on acquiring extensive skills in one of the scandinavian languages and are also introduced to the various fields of study within the department. After that, the students specialize in their chosen field of study. A study period of one or two semesters abroad after the basic studies is highly recommended. The studies last on average 4,5 years (excluding stays abroad).


The traditional research areas of Scandinavian studies - literature, languages, and culture - are among the department's research intrests; of particular importance are projects in the fields of the old prose literature of Western Scandinavia, historical phonology and the study of runic writings. Research at the Department for Northern European Studies has an emphasis on:

  • Cultural and identity history of the Nordic countries and the Baltic Sea region
  • The importance of gender and media to the production of new cultural meanings in and about the Scandinavia
  • The history of Scandinavian studies Areal linguistics, particularly linguistics of the Scandinavian languages Pragmatic-linguistic aspects; the interrelated nature of language, culture and cognition (e.g. intercultural communication)

However, the political restructuring of the Northern Europe, national identity building, northern enlargement of the EU, and the language and communications structure within the region have emerged as equally important objects of study. In addition to cooperation with other academic institutes, an emphasis is laid on increasing the public awareness of the department's research findings. The department organises regularly - often in cooperation with the Northern European countries - exhibitions and symposiums, and publishes various types of material.

Publications and Public Relations

In order to ensure that research findings have significance, universities need to maintain close contacts with the world around them. These contacts are highly valued by the students and researchers of the department. The department publishes two series of books, Berliner Beiträge zur Skandinavistik (Articles on Scandinavian Studies) and Nordeuropäischen Studien (Northern European Studies). Furthermore, it is responsible for NORDEUROPAforum, a quarterly on politics, economy, and cultures in the Nortern Europe, and the Kleinen Schriften des Nordeuropa-Instituts (Leaflets of the Department for Northern European Studies), which include the annals of the institute and course syllabuses. The student's magazine, norrøna, is also based at the institute.

In addition to these conventional forms of public relations, the staff and the students of the department seek to engage the public in their work in various other ways, such as literature readings, exhibitions of seminar work at the department, conceptional and material cooperation in the form of conferences and seminars, and presentations on Nordic themes of general interest. Previous partners of the department include the German Historical Museum and the National Museum in Stockholm. All in all, the department prides itself for its contribution to the academic debate on the sciences, culture, art, and politics of Scandinavia.


The institute maintains Internet pages, where it makes available its course catalogues, study guidelines, curriculum vitae and bibliographies of its staff, as well as links to relevant institutions in Scandinavia and to library catalogues, both its own and those of other institutions in Germany and Scandinavia. It also maintains a German language mailing list for researchers and students of Scandinavian studies.

The department has a library consisting of over 40.000 books and 130 magazines, making this Berlin-based collection one of the biggest in its field in Germany. Old Scandinavian studies, Scandinavian literature, language and cultural studies, Scandinavian fiction in the original languages and Finnish studies form the core of the collection. The main collection is open to the public. In addition, the department has an archive of Scandinavian newspaper articles. Further information is also available on-line; please see our Northern European Studies Portal.

International Cooperation

Cooperation with Scandinavian universities, and the University of Gent in Belgium, takes places within the framework of the Erasmus/Sokrates Programme. Additonal cooperation with other institutions, partially based on university contacts, is equally intensive. Long-time contacts in the fields of research and teaching, particularly with universities in Denmark and Sweden, have been fruitful; both students and staff have participated in the extensive exchange programme between the department and the Universities of Stockholm and Copenhagen. Innovative research projects undertaken in cooperation with partner universities from all the Northern European countries have already produced doctoral dissertations and other publications.

The department has acquired new, interesting partners from the Eastern Europan countries, foremostly form Hungary, Poland, and the Baltic countries. It organises conferences and regular exchange of staff with the universities of Poznan, Gdansk, Budapest, Vilnius, and St. Petersburg, among others.

Future Perspectives

Less than a decade after its founding in 1994, the department can already pride itself for having achieved a high academic profile. In times of decreasing budgets, maintaining the research profile, strengthening contacts to partners and the general public and providing students with professionally attractive degrees are the main aims of the department. Above all, new study concepts are being created: objective criteria for language certificates, evaluation of achievements, a new master's programme in Baltic Sea Area Studies. A more general aim for the department is to convince the northern European countries for the importance of Berlin as a centre of study and research.