Growing populations, land shortages, and rigid political and social systems prompted many northern Europeans to immigrate to Minnesota during the nineteenth century. The state was made especially attractive to European immigrants by the availability of cheap land under the federal Homestead Act of 1862. The late twentieth century, however, saw the arrival of immigrants from other parts of the world.
Minnesota is well known for its many residents of Scandinavian ancestry. Scandinavian immigration began during the nineteenth century, when
Norwegians moved to Minnesota for the same economic and demographic reasons as the Swedes. Another factor contributing to Norwegian emigration was the country’s rigid class system, which limited voting to members of the upper classes.
Minnesota also attracted many German immigrants who shared the Scandinavians’ quest for cheap farmland. German immigration was also fueled by the failed revolutions of 1830 and 1848. Other midwestern states absorbed most of the German immigrants, but many of the immigrants settled in southern Minnesota. Smaller numbers settled in northern parts of the state.
By 1990 the largest immigrant groups in Minnesota were Latin Americans and
Minnesota monthly newspaper serving two of the state’s immigrant communities with articles in English, Spanish, and Somali.
The Hmong are a non-Vietnamese people from Laos and Vietnam who sided with the United States during the Vietnam War and afterward became political refugees. The approximately 60,000 Hmong living in Minnesota in 2004 made Minnesota home to the largest number of Hmong in the United States. The state also had about 25,000 ethnic Vietnamese residents, along with smaller numbers of immigrants from Laos, Burma, and Cambodia.
World events also brought other nationalities to Minnesota. For example, during the 1990’s, the collapse of the Soviet Union brought many Russians to Minnesota, and the civil wars following the breakup of Yugoslavia brought
The influence of Scandinavian immigrants has remained evident in the varieties of English spoken in Minnesota. The 1996 motion picture Fargo satirizes Scandinavian accents in the state. In one scene, a young Minnesota man of apparent Asian ancestry enters a restaurant in Minneapolis. When he speaks, he uses a strong Scandinavian accent exactly like that of the modern descendants of Minnesota’s early Swedish and Norwegian immigrants.
Blegen, Theodore C. Minnesota: A History of the State. St. Paul: University of Minnesota Press, 1963. Lass, William E. Minnesota: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1998. Nelson, Helge. The Swedes and Swedish Settlements in North America. 1943. Reprint. New York: Arno Press, 1979. Nordstrom, Byron, ed. The Swedes in Minnesota. Minneapolis: T. S. Denison, 1976.
Homestead Act of 1862