September 18, 2014
Community: Christiana, Copenhagen, Denmark
Title: Christiania: Freedom from Society
Target audience: Students looking for information on the history and culture of the Christiania Free-town.
Purpose of paper: This paper will inform readers about the turbulent history of the community of Christiania, how they’ve survived and how their persistence will keep them going.
“You are now leaving the European Union” – You would expect to see this phrase somewhere on the border of Poland, Finland, or maybe the French-Swiss border; not in the middle of Copenhagen, Denmark. But this is the sight you are greeted with when you enter Christiania. The community was founded by a group of idealists, led by Jacob Ludvigsen who took over and inhabited an abandoned Danish military base, and built themselves a home. A home they are struggling to keep alive. In this paper I’ll discuss Christiania’s turbulent history; it’s battles with the local Danish government and in more recent history, how they’ve overcome them. Their culture, and their rules, and how they govern themselves. And lastly their striving and will to stay a free-town even in the middle of one of the world’s more liberal nations. But are they really free? They claimed to have created a town free from Denmark; that they didn’t have to abide by the countries rules. But what grounds did they have for this claim? During World War II, Bådsmandsstrǽdes was a prominent naval base for the Danish military. However after the war it wasn’t needed, and quickly fell into disuse. By 1971 the Navy had completely abandoned the base. Residents of the area and homeless from around Copenhagen promptly broke down the fences and became squatters on the base. Some citizens have said they were simply looking for a roof, and a way to escape from Denmark’s exorbitant housing prices. (Sequence) Still others were drawn by Jacob Ludvigsen’s call for “Immigrants” in his newspaper, the “Hovedbladet” (Thornburgh) And so Christiania was born. It was popularly referred to as a “Hippie Commune”, or in the eyes of some (especially in the Danish Government), an unregulated cesspool, full of drugs and other illegal activities (Denmark). However, the Christianites have a different view. They believe that they are a “Self-governing society where every individual is free to express themselves under the authority of the community” (Ludvigsen), they strive to be selfless, open, and loving to all their neighbors as well as guests.
It may seem as though a group of hippies who pride themselves on their freedom may not be very organized, however this is far from true. The governing system in Christiania may at first glance look similar to that of the US Congress. The town is divided into 14 sections, each with a leader, who meet regularly to discuss issues and ideas for the community. If an issue needs more than a quick discussion to resolve there may be a committee formed to take care of it, or oversee an aspect of life in the community (Christiania). However when a major issue arises, the highest power in Christiania is the people. Community meetings are held where everyone gets an equal say, and everyone’s voice is heard.
Now just because the community is based on principles of freedom doesn’t mean that everyone is free to do as they like. Even though there is a large degree of freedom, there are still 9 staple rules, posted on signs all over the town, which everyone must respect. Some are common laws around the world, no weapons, violence, stealing, or hard drugs. But some are a little more unique, such as no bikers’ colors, no sales of fireworks, or no running on Pusher St. (Danza). To some these may seem a bit strange, but they are the rules the Christianites live by, no others. But Denmark has a few more laws then Christiania, and they want to enforce them. While heavier intoxicants are still banned in…