How the Dutch gouvernment
destroys the Frisian nation
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|In the early
Middle Ages the Frisians were the main traders of the
North Sea with strong ties to England, the East Sea area
and the interior of the continent1. Presumably
built on this wealth, they could maintain a democratic
system, as appearing from the Old Frisian law manuscripts
since the 13th century. In 1498 the West Frisian
democracy yielded to the interference of foreign lords.
Dutch speaking officials were stationed in our capital
Ljouwert/Leeuwarden and within thirty years Frisian had
disappeared as a written language2.
the Church Reformation started
which lead to an eighty year war (1568-1548) against the
catholic Spanish heirs of the new lords, resulting in the
protestant federal Republic of the Netherlands. In the
culture of that republic, however, there was only quite a
small place for Frisian and the official language of the
semi-independent province of Friesland remained Dutch,
not in the least because of the influence of the stadtholder,
who was a prince of Nassau and a nephew to the
famous stadtholder William I of Holland. As a result the
cities adapted a Frisian coloured Dutch dialect, whereas
the country-side remained Frisian.
After the death in 1702 of prince Williams last descent William III (king of Great Brittain and Ireland too) he was suceeded by the Frisian line not before 1747. So the Frisian stadtholder went to The Hague, taking with him the majority of the Frisian nobility. That was the beginning of the downward movement of the economy of Friesland, which was till then the second province of the Netherlands. It was also the cause of the absenteism of the land owners, which sucked out the province till the Agricultural Holding Act of 1937.
A great change began with the French victory in 1795, which turned the nearly independent province 1810 into a department of France. The new masters, however, brougth no change in the language policy and Dutch remained the language of power, as symbolised by the first prefect Verstolk from Holland. They also closed the Frisian university in Frjentsjer/Franeker, which was the second oldest of the Netherlands (established 1585) - a failure which is never undone up to now, presumably for fear of creating a breeding-place of Frisian patriottism.
The removal of the French in 1813 and the installation of the prince of Orange as the new Dutch king William I brougth no improvement; Friesland did not get back its freedom and its language remained Cinderella. The one positive thing was, that this situation lead to the Frisian movement, starting with the installation of a bust of Gysbert Japicx in 1823 and resulting in the plead for Frisian self-gouvernment by E.B. Folkertsma in 1930. The Dutch influence, however, is clearly shown by the fact that since 1813 all provincial gouvernours (called commissary of the Queen) except two were Dutch and none of them spoke Frisian (after 1945 even all of them were Dutch). Also the mayors are appointed by The Hague and are mostly Dutch, which forces entire municipal administrations by their own humbleness to speak Dutch. Even into the 1980's there were reports of officials shouting to people speaking Frisian, for instance when asking for a rail-ticket.
A strong draw-back to the Frisian movement was caused by the German occupation (1940-1945). The fact that some disappointed and blind-eyed Frisians thought Hitler would give the long-expected freedom, was enough to lay suspicion on the total Frisian movement and even on the Frisians as a whole. At that time all apart from Nederland en Oranje was called "fascist". What a hypocrisy, now that we learn that the number of Dutch helping the Germans was twice as large as those that were in the resistance, now that we learn that the Dutch state after 1945 sold Jew property and that Dutch banks kept the accounts of murdered Jews! No wonder that fighters like Folkertsma seemed to be tamed after 1945!
Only new generations could bring new life and new activities; even a Frisian national party was established and Frisian became more recognised. A great majority of Dutch speaking inhabitants learned to understand and to read Frisian. Many even learned to speak and to write it. Aversion to Frisian is no longer openly expressed, but underground it is still there. This appears from the fact that most leading positions in the Frisian administrations and in gouvernment payed bodies, like hospitals, schools and so on, are Dutch, preferably even from outside the province. It seems as if the old establishment tries to propagate itself this way. The effect is, that some hospital in Friesland proclaimes Dutch as the official language in order to discourage the personal to speak Frisian. It also causes Frisian in education to be neglected in many schools. Also the practice of using Dutch as instruction vehicle causes Dutch to become the general communication language of the youth as soon as some Dutch colleagues appear. Because Frisians are still humble people! And of course the French centralism still rules this woeful state!
Apart from this, it should be said that the central Dutch gouvernment has taken many measures, that did not reckon at all with the existence of regional languages. In the field of education they concentrated all types of school to larger units, thus terminating early local Frisian school traditions and causing a stronger mixing with Dutch-speaking youth. Also the concentration of each specialized branch of study to a different region brought many foreign pupils to Friesland and many Frisian pupils abroad. And not at least the policy to flood schools with prescriptions and compulsary subjects makes it difficult to pay sufficient attention to Frisian, which is only allowed due to the 1980 law. As a result the share of people able to speak Frisian at least rather well declined from 85% in 1967 to 74% in 1980 and 19943.
But there is still hope. From the total failure of the
Friesland 500 festival -
launched by the former provincial gouvernour, Mr. Hermans
- it appears that the majority of the Frisians now
understands that this meant 500 years suppression. So we
hope, that together with the Dutchmen of good will we may
build a better future for the Frisians!
P. Kramer, 1st June 2000.