When we discuss the role of music as a symbol of identity, the Assyrian immigrant group in Sweden is particularly interesting in several respects. Above all, the Assyrian group differs from most other ethnic groups in Sweden in three essential areas:
Basically, the Assyrian/Syrian group is far from homogeneous. People differ from each other in language, ethnicity and religion, depending on which part of the region they come from.
In this complex situation in permanent exile and with no great hopes of ever being able to return, a strong nationalistic movement has burgeoned, based on the idea of a common Assyrian identity. What means are used in the attempt to create an Assyrian "we" – a sense of community built on an ethnic and cultural foundation?
All the interviewees have pointed out the important role that the so-called "national music" plays for the Assyrian identity. But what do they mean by national music? For the Syrian Orthodox believers, no specifically Assyrian music existed outside the church until after the First World War.
Today Assyrians are scattered over virtually the whole world. The Assyrian electronic newsletter Zenda quotes the following population figures for 1996 in descending order:
The majority of Assyrians live in their ancestral homeland, which is now part of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Here is a geographical breakdown.
Total: 3,432,000 (Zelda nr 10 1996)