The junior anthropologists (1927–1942)

This article is chapter 2 of Secrets of Sweden, a 2012/2015 miniature sourcebook for the fictional setting known as the Cthulhu Mythos.

The SSAG became increasingly focused on racial hygiene. Its chairman managed to have cranial measurements taken on 45 000 conscripted men. These measurements, analyzed in a 1902 publication, were thought to indicate that “the Swedish people” were the purest Germanic race in existence. Building on this, the Swedish Society of Racial Hygiene was founded in 1909, to support social Darwinism and eugenics.

In 1902, Sven Hedin had become the last Swede ever to be raised to the nobility. During the Great War, he went on expeditions to the Middle East, but also visited and supported Germany. He was booted from Britain’s Royal Geographical Society for aligning with their enemy. After the Great War, he claimed that Russian communism was an acute threat to Sweden and Finland.

The 1920s saw a spike in unexplained phenomena. Tales of artists and madmen having uncannily similar dreams led Sven Hedin to dust off his friend’s old notes and acknowledge the parallels, which continued to multiply in his own observations abroad. Prompted by a series of unexplained disappearances in Helsinki, Hedin and three protégés armed themselves and sailed to Finland in 1927. Their purpose was to investigate a Russian sailors’ church. The late Herskind’s suspicions about it were confirmed. Hedin’s men burned it to the ground.

From this moment on, there was a Mythos resistance in Sweden. It was unfunded and largely ineffective. It had no legal powers or government connections beyond Hedin’s fame and never became an organization in its own right. Moreover, it never understood what it was fighting. Hedin certainly had a clear sense of threat, of what he termed “the invasion”, but this was a conflation of all his fears: Mass enfranchisement, communism, the Cthulhu Cult, occultism and miscegenation, all of it quintessentially “un-Swedish”. His group’s only name was “the junior anthropologists”, being made up almost entirely of SSAG men between the ages of 18 and 32.

From 1928 to the outbreak of WWII, Hedin’s group undertook at least one investigation each year. Hedin himself attended less than a third. Norway, Denmark, Finland and the East Prussia exclave all received multiple visits. Swedish targets were much less common. The majority of the investigations turned up nothing at all, but one entire ship and four-man crew were lost without trace in Estonia. Several dozen known or suspected “enemies” were threatened, beaten, or turned over to local police. Four were murdered or left for dead, two of them in cold blood.

According to a government report on the legal rights of Romani people, there was, from the early 1920s and into the 1970s, an “unofficial paragraph” in Sweden’s statute of public order. The paragraph stated that Romani could be forcibly evicted from any municipality where they’d spent more than three weeks.

In 1927, Sweden got its first “foreigner law”. It restricted immigration, and was modified in 1937 to prevent German Jews from entering the country. Further obstacles were raised in 1938, and there was a new requirement, shared with Switzerland, that Jewish passports be stamped with a J, for easier denial of entry.

Sven Hedin remained a friend of Germany under the Nazis, as did many others. The feeling was mutual. Hitler admired Hedin, having read of his adventures as a boy. In a 1942 book, Hedin accused President Roosevelt of having started WWII on account of an irrational hatred of the German people. However, Hedin did not condone the Holocaust, and would later claim to have gotten a hundred prisoners released through his connections.


Hedin’s dozen trusted investigators from the SSAG went to ground in WWII. They knew the name Cthulhu and had many descriptions of It, but their knowledge was still superficial and they could not travel freely. They had no books on the subject of the Mythos and hardly any material evidence. On several occasions in 1940, the group still debated whether its collective experiences could be explained without reference to miracles.

The junior anthropologists were scattered throughout the country by the draft. In 1941, two of them died in the space of a month. Hedin initially suspected cult magic or chemistry, remembering the death of Herskind. An Estonian cook at an army camp was killed in retaliation, on Hedin’s authority. In 1942, to his horror, Hedin understood that his younger friends had fabricated their evidence against the cook. He retired from the group, now questioning his own motivations for ordering murder in the 1920s and 1930s. There was no clear successor. Things stayed quiet for years.

  1. The government report is designated SOU 2010:55. According to David Sjögren, Ph.D. in history (Forskning och framsteg, issue 6, 2011, page 63), the existence of this unofficial paragraph has never been proven. It is a conspiracy theory, but a plausible one.