Greenland and the private foreign policy of Hermod Lannung


Greenland and the private foreign affairs politics of Hermod Lannung


by Thorkild Kjaergaard, dr. phil-


This is a protected translation of the article “Grønland og Hermod Lannung’s private udenrigspolik “, Weekendavisen February 24 2017. Section “Bøger” page  6-7

Translated by Mikael Hertig

Author: Thorkild Kjaergaard

“If anybody owes somebody an apology it should be Greenland owing Norway and Island an apology for the inuits sabotage of the peaceful peasance  population of Norwegian – Icelandic heritage. This population lived since the 10th century  in South- and Midgreenland.”

Greenland has been a colony but only during 6 years 6 months and three weeks

With a debate has developed  on these pages (Weekendavisen) about Kim Leine’s historic greenland’s novel “The Prophets from the Fjord of Eternity (2012)” as starting point the last three to four years. The topic is Greenlands  constitutional status before 1953.
Was Greenland  a colony during the 18th and 19th centuries as assumed by Kim Leine?
Has Greenland at all when we stick to the point ever been a Danish colony?

Two approaches  has been standing opposite to each other.On one side a scattered flock of etnologists, political scientists, minority scientists, journalists and politicians – which generally spoken without any reason -have claimed that Greenland through centuries has been a Danish colony until Greenland with the implentation of Greenland in Kingdom of Denmark (1) was integrated  not to say over integrated  in Kingdom of Denmark.

On the other side among others the historian Bo Lidegaard and the author of these lines – with  reference to Greenlands state as a part of the medievalNorwegian, later Danish-Norwegian Empire – claimed that Greenland never was a colony and never was anticipated in that way in Copenhagen nor in Greenland – as until some time after World War II into a high degree should have rejected to be called ‘colony’.

Latest the debate was taken up by the leading periodical Temp  with a feature article by Ph. D Iben Bjørnsson (Politiken 30.1.2017). Under the headline ready for action:”Say it as it is: Greenland was a colony” she  opens with to partly new reasons. First she claims that Greenland not until World War II has ever been doubted whether Greenland has been a genuine colony. Secondly she claimed that  Denmark never had troubles with calling Denmark a colony as other colonies in the around the world.

Iben Bjørnsson is partly right uín the latter:  that  the use of the word ‘colony’ .
The word was not made a taboo and conscience-stricken before after the second world war. If a private ladies committee as for instance the one behind the blamed colony exhibition in Tivoli 1905 showing blacks from the Virgin Islands. For the sake of entertainment also Greenland was called ‘colony’, please. But concerning the first claim – that  first after World War II therer has been doubt whether Greenland has been a ‘genuine’ colony Bjørnsson is totally wrong. On the contrary.

Ignoring the cases where it for the sake of understanding has been practical  to use the word ‘colony’ as for instance  at the international colony exhibition in Paris in 1931in occasion of the century of French presence in Algeria. At this occasion Denmark showed the flag with a Greenlandic pavillon, then the official Denmark never mentioned the big arctic island as a coloni but saw it as a coloni for the simple reason that it was seen as a part of the orld norwegian, from 1580 Danish-Norwegian Empire. This empire  was split up after British recommandation after the Kiel  peace. From 1814 Greenland was in Danish charge. (Not in Norwegian what historically and geografically seen would have been more reasonable).

When the word “colony” was used in Greenlandic context it was designation for the row of  new cities established at the Greenlandic westcoast.from Upernavik in north to Nanortalik in south. These small, often diminutive urban communities were  named  colonies and their heads (Danish: kolonibestyrer) Colony manager. Greenland however became not any more colony of this than Jutland became colony after the state driven experiments with cultivation of the moors (“Alheden”).southwest of Viborg were named ‘colonies’.

This was the situation in 1946 as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately after World War II was requested if Greenland came under the newly established UN definition of ‘non selfgoverning territories’ (=colonies) for which a  the yearley report  should be sent to the newly established world organization’s 4th office (“The Colony Commitee”) in New York

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had hired a man for this purpose. He was the respected dr. jur.Georg Cohn. Cohn met september 5 1946. “In the opinion of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there is no reason to call attention to Greenland in relation the report obligation to the United Nations”, as this land was not considered included by the conditions of  non selfgoverning territories.

Nevertheless the then leader of the Danish UN-delegation the politician and member of “Radikale Venstre” (center liberal party) Hermod Lannung insisted that UN articles on Non selfgoverning territories should be applied to Denmark with regard to Greenland. During a meeting, where Hermod Lannung took part he announced november 14 1946 that Denmark intended to deliver a report about Greenland to UN.
This step was contrary to the common contemporary understanding of Greenlands position. Not to mention Ministry of Foreign Affair’s recommandation based on  historical and constitutional and international law. By this, Lannung set his private foreign policy through and changed Greenland that until then has been having status as equal part of Kingdom of Denmark under the King’s Law of  1660 (introducing absolutism MH ) into a colony. (The Danish Grundlove ) 1915 included did not apply to Greenland.
It may be seeming harsh to call the well reputed and highly respected Hermod Lannung a traitor. But that is supposedly  the word? The fact is that Lannung by his unnecessary and by nobody demanded declaration of November 14 1946 threw Greenlands to the wolves.


Anything, among which an internationalization of Greenland might have happened if not outstanding Greenlandic personalities as the author and politician Augo Lynge had arrived at the UN Headquarters to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the perplex and with good reason both nervous and pent-up Danish UN diplomacy.
In any case it is provocative that everywhere conversation mentions Greenland must listen to boosted praises of the great work made by Hermod Lannung to ensure Greenlands transition from colony  into  equal part of the Danish Empire (2) by the passing of Grundloven of 1953. It was the cynical hazardous game of the same Hermod Lannung  with Greenland as pool resulting in the fact that the destiny of the island during 1946 to 1953 was at stake until again saved into the Kingdom (1) now as a county.
To the profligately ambitious Hermod Lannung who had had great trouble with establishing his political career and who first after four fruitless tries to be elected to Folketinget (before 1953 = House of Commons) at last were electted to Landstinget (before 1953 = House of Lords) the question of Greenland a door opener to a great career in United Nations, first advancing to the powerful 4. committé. Later and up through the 1950ies and 1960ies he became member and chairman of naby different committees.
With regard to Greenlands constitutional status – colony or not –  it is now possible to establish that none of the parties in dispute were fully right. As a result  of Hermod Lannung’s private foreign policy Greenland has been a colony. That to say just for six years six months and three days, namely from November 14 1946 when Lannung made his unexpected statement to UN’s 4th Committee and until June 5 1953 when they new Grundlov came into power. During the  18th and 19th century to which period Kim Leines novel is placed Greenland was not a colony but an equal part of the Empire.
During 1946-53 when the word ‘colony’ was used on Greenland also in official context the only fact  when pertinaciously the antiimperalistic  and anticolonialistic environmenthave to lean up to when  vigorousky and with all possible gambols they are trying to include Greenland into the great momentous  myhtohology of European colonialism and imperialism with all that belongs of racism, sexism,torture, degradation and other infringements.
Everything but this is free phantasy  and recursive projection to 1940ies and 1950ies. The often expressed claim that Denmark should give inuit (3)  which is a new people in Greenland (the northerners arrived 200 years before the first Inuits once in 1200th century passed the small Smith Sund at the  present Thule, from where they spread southwards – is ridiculous.
It is discussed among experts  to which extent the agressively advancing inuits  -(we have top notice that they had nothing to do with the former) took part in the destruction of the northerner society in the 14th century. But the hypothesis about a possible connection between the disappearance of the Northerners from Greenland and i advance of  the  Inuits is quite clear and has been proposed by several historians and archaelogists. It is also a part of the Greenlandic self understanding.

If anybody owes somebody an apology it ought to be Greenland who owes Norway and Iceland an apology for the Inuit’s  sabotage of the peaceful peasants societies of Norwegian and Icelandic origin who since the  end of the tenth century had been settled in South- and Midgreenland.

Footnotes by Mikael Hertig

1) ‘Grundloven’ is the name of the Danish Constitutions since 1849. Changes were passed in 1866, and 1915.  First with the 1953 Grundlov the term “Danmarks Rige” was introduced in the sence that Greenland and Denmark should be seen as equal parts. It is normal when translated to refer to “Kingdom of Denmark” since 1953.
2) A more consequent way would have been to translate the unity of Denmark, Greenland and Faroe Islands ‘Danish Empire’ until 1953. I have chosen not to do so in respect of the author’s viewpoint.

Advanced Learner’s Dictionary ISBN 0 19 431 510 X, p 235
Colonial adj. 1;  connected with or belonging to a country  that controls another country: a colonial power  : Tunesia  achieved  independence from French colonial rule in 1956.


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