Gripenstad, Georg

Born in Småland in 1919 and raised in rural Västergötland, the young Georg Gripenstad was given the opportunity to attend the renowned Fjellstedska boarding school in Uppsala. He then studied theology at the University of Uppsala – studies that were soon interrupted by the Second World War. The years of military service, however, unexpectedly set the course for the student's future life. Stationed in Tornedalen, the northern Swedish border region to Finland, in 1940/41, Gripenstad experienced how only Finnish or Saami were spoken among the local population and how these very unique language cultures were hardly appreciated by the Swedish state and church authorities. Fascinated by the multilingualism of the far north, Gripenstad decided to study Finnish and Saami in Uppsala with the distinguished linguist Björn Collinder, so that he could start his parish service in the diocese of Luleå (covering the vast northern parts of Sweden) after passing his theological exams in 1944. From Jukkasjärvi near Kiruna his path led him through various pastorates to Karesuando, Sweden's largest, northernmost parish, where he officiated for 20 years, preaching regularly in three languages and during parts of the summer accompanying the reindeer-herding Saami in his role as pastor (often with the whole family) to their pastures in northern Norway.
At the same time, Gripenstad conducted extensive linguistic research and became an expert on the North Saami language variant, into which he translated numerous ecclesiastical and cultural texts, including a large number of the songs in the North Saami hymnal of the Church of Sweden. He also made a name for himself as an editor of works on Tornedalian history and culture, while through lively contact inspiring younger researchers to further work in the field. The translation from Russian of Nikolay Kharuzin's monumental work on the eastern Saami of the Kola Peninsula was a fruit of his first years in retirement. Among numerous other awards for his multifaceted work, Georg Gripenstad received an honorary doctorate from Umeå University in 1986. He died in Haparanda in 2015.

Further reading:
Gripenstad, Georg: Något om östsamerna ur historiska, etnografiska och språkliga aspekter (= Fakta och Debatt 1/1988), Den Haag / Luleå 1988.
Johansson, Margit: Georg Gripenstad, prästman och språkforskare på Nordkalotten, in: Dimbobygden 1987, pp. 15-33.
Korhonen, Olavi: Samiskan under fyra sekel i Svenska kyrkans arbete, in: De historiska relationerna mellan Svenska kyrkan och samerna: en vetenskaplig antologi, vol. 2, ed. by Daniel Lindmark and Olle Sundström, Skellefteå 2016, pp. 735-795 (here pp. 779-783).