Faculty of Arts University of Helsinki
In honour of the 375th anniversary of the University of Helsinki, over the course of 2015 the Faculty of Arts presented 375 humanities scholars and former students. Each day we introduced a new ‘humanist’ of the day, on occasion several at a time. In addition to professors and academics, they included authors, translators, journalists, musicians, managing directors and figures from the museum and publishing sectors. The presentations can be browsed in alphabetical order or according to the date of publication by navigating to the Humanists page of the website.
Arto Mustajoki is a Professor of Russian who is also active in university administration and research policy. Besides scientific works, he writes textbooks, dictionaries, scripts for TV programmes, books for the general public and blogs. He likes to give presentations in front of various audiences on Russian language and mentality and debate on scientific indicators, the societal impact of research and research ethics.
As Managing Director of the Council of Finnish Foundations, Liisa Suvikumpu enjoys a panoramic view of society. She knows what can be achieved in the fields of science, art, culture and other areas of common good with the money distributed by foundations. She is proud of the University of Helsinki and hopes that people will remain the University’s most important resource in the future.
Ebba Witt-Brattström’s scholarly passion is literary history. For her it is encapsulated by the library, which contains all kinds of human experiences in millions of different forms. According to Professor Witt-Brattström, the problem is that women have often been deprecated in the literary world. In her research she strives to redress the balance, to present literary gender dialogues throughout the ages. There is never a dull moment.
Mika Lavento, professor of archaeology, is engaged in archaeological research all around the world. His primary focus has been research in the taiga, but he has also conducted extensive field work in Greece and the Middle East. Archaeology fascinates Professor Lavento because it combines many disciplines. Archaeological methods are also developing rapidly. New research material is increasing all the while and has the potential to change, even radically, our conceptions of the past.
Mikko Myllykoski got the job of Experience Director at the Heureka Science Centre almost without knowing it. During his student days, studies in history, Latin, and Roman literature as well as Classical archaeology led him to write histories and design exhibitions for the University’s 350th anniversary celebration. In his doctoral dissertation, which he is in the course of completing, he examines the medium of exhibitions as radical social innovators.
Academy Professor Markku Peltonen is an internationally renowned scholar of early modern intellectual history. In his Academy of Finland research project, he is studying conceptions of democracy in the 17th century. The political system of our own age also appears in a new light through these forgotten notions. Periods spent at the University of Cambridge and Princeton University have been pivotal in Professor Peltonen’s career as a researcher.
An honorary doctorate is the greatest distinction that the University can confer upon a private individual. In contrast to normal doctorates, the conferment of an honorary doctorate does not depend on academic merit. I person can be awarded an honorary doctorate if he or she has worked for the benefit of science, the university or an important societal issue. Through honorary doctorates, the university can highlight themes that it considers important or topical. Honorary doctorates are generally awarded by individual faculties at a conferment ceremony arranged every four years to celebrate masters and doctors who have completed their studies. Nominations for an honorary doctorate are submitted to a separate committee, which makes the official decision. The next Faculty of Philosophy Conferment Ceremony will be arranged in 2017. We have chosen eight recipients of honorary doctorates from our faculty.
Despite setbacks, financial problems and a short life, Karl Collan was an important figure in many fields. He was active in student nation politics during his student days, after which he worked for many years as a teacher at the Helsinki School for Girls and the University of Helsinki. He created a system for the newly founded Student Library and introduced several modern practical reforms to the University Library. Nevertheless, Collan is best known in connection with music, particularly as the composer of the Christmas carol “Sylvian joululaulu.”
Marja-Leena Sorjonen, professor of Finnish, investigates language a means of interaction: a way of managing things and sharing thoughts with others – a means of expressing who we are to other people at any given time. Language is found wherever there are human beings; the language of any person whatsoever is interesting to a linguist. Professor Sorjonen is interested in the construction of interaction in both everyday situations and various social institutions.
In her work, Anna Laurinsilta sees how even the smallest amount of help is important. As Head of Fundraising Operations at the Finnish Red Cross, she has learnt that the time donated by volunteers is as significant as financial donations. Studying ethnology has given her a perspective behind the figures: fundamentally it is always a question of people who want to help or people who are acutely in need of aid.
University lecturer Ulla Tuomarla, head of the Department of Modern Languages, has enjoyed working for the University of Helsinki for 20 years. Dr Tuomarla admits to being something of an exception at the Faculty of Arts, as she likes administration. In her present work as head of department, she can never be sure what the working week will bring, but that is all to the good. Her own research has been slightly overshadowed by the demands of her work, but Dr Tuomarla hopes that through her research on internet hate-speech she can influence society and offer some practical solutions.
Initially educated as an art researcher, Anu Koivunen is a political nerd who grew into a scholar of gender, power and media. She has studied the history of Finnish film and television, and gendered narratives of nationality. At present she is researching the requisites of the political public sphere and the role of television as a creator of the national public sphere in the 1960s and 1970s, new presentations of Finland-Swedish identity and the 1960s films of Jörn Donner.
Paolo Ribaldini is an Italian scholar and musician, who moved to Helsinki in 2012. Although he studied classical violin for fourteen years, his academic focus is nowadays on popular music, and in particular on the classic age of heavy metal. Ribaldini is also an active rock singer, who took part in the tv-show The Voice of Finland in 2015.
Matti Sintonen’s choice of career was obvious to him. In 1984 he chose theoretical philosophy. The defence of his doctoral thesis also remained a vivid memory for the following generation: “While driving past the Main Building years later, my daughter Kaarina, who was only 4 when I finished my PhD, remembered that was where daddy defended his thesis. She already raised the topic in the year of my defence in her day care group at St. John's Church. The teacher had asked everyone to introduce themselves and say something about what their mother and father did. That was easy in the case of her father. Kaarina announced in a high-pitched voice that ‘daddy is a doctor of silly-osophy.’ When the teacher asked what her mother did, she scratched her head for a moment. Then it dawned on her: ‘well work of course!’”
Touko Siltala has enjoyed over 30 years in the publishing industry and is living his dream. Siltala Publishing is a work community with authors, writing and books at its core. According to Siltala, a captivating writing style, the skill of storytelling and the transmission of emotions will also guarantee books a readership in the future.
Lotte Tarkka, professor of folkloristics, is specialised in Finnish folk poetry and mythology. She believes in the power of words and never tires of the aesthetics of Finnish mythical poetry. Graduate studies at the University of Cambridge led the scholar of Karelian tradition into microhistory and the anthropology of symbols. Professor Tarkka studies poetic language in its social and historical context, in its everyday use. In addition to Kalevala-metre oral poetry, she has researched environmental mythology, proverbs, the transformation of tradition, the ideological uses of folklore – and of course the Kalevala.
Karl-Erik Michelsen, a professor at Lappeenranta University of Technology, has forged a long and international career in science. His research areas include science, technology and the modern world in which we live. Professor Michelsen sees the humanities as a philosophical approach to life, but they are simultaneously the target of continuous criticism. As a self-confessed academic decathlete, in his research Professor Michelsen strives to cross academic boundaries and influence society at large.
Kirsti Salmi-Niklander, docent in Folkloristics and Academy of Finland research fellow, searches through dusty old documents to find people, communities, stories and memories. She has learned to adopt a tolerant attitude to dust and messy piles of paper – although she admits that being organised is a virtue and digitisation is a wonderful thing. She feels the joy of success when she gets her wood-burner to light, and every now and then she strays into graveyards and yarn shops.
Riitta Nikula, professor emeritus of art history, is specialised in researching 20th century Finnish architecture. The built cityscape, the significance of city blocks and buildings in the fabric of the city and its residents’ lives have fascinated her as a scholar for almost 50 years. When teaching at the University, Professor Nikula took a dialogical approach and encouraged students to be experiential – to go on excursions and cycle and walk around. In Professor Nikula’s view, more can be learnt on excursions than when sitting alone cramming for exams with a set text.
Kirsi Saarikangas, professor of art history, is passionate about multidisciplinary research and teaching. She has conducted research at the intersection of art history, urban studies and gender studies. She is currently studying lived spaces in suburban areas, nature in cities and residents’ relationship with the built and natural environment. Professor Saarikangas loves hiking and wandering in mountains, cities and their outskirts, as well as swimming in the cold sea.
Matias Hellman’s interest in Serbo-Croatian was sparked while Interrailing in 1990. His language skills, bolstered by a Master’ s degree, led him to the Balkans in the service of the war crimes tribunal and to the post of adviser to the president of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Sirpa Kähkönen is a seeker of lost cities, an avid friend of music and architecture and the author of historical novels. Her passion is to find and reconstruct past groups of friends whose fates were bound to momentous places and who embody the great sea changes of history. In her research, she terms these groups of friends “androtopes.”
Jean Sibelius & Veijo Murtomäki
Jean Sibelius, the most prominent and acclaimed of Finnish composers, is known for his National Romantic works. Sibelius composed pieces for various university events, and he was granted an honorary PhD in 1914. Veijo Murtomäki, professor at the Sibelius Academy, has conducted wide-ranging research into the music of Jean Sibelius and his cultural significance, as well as his political activities. Veijo Murtomäki was initially interested in playing the organ; later came the attraction of music theory and analysis.
Helka Kekäläinen is engaged in development work in the European higher education area (EHEA) as a head of unit at the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre. The International Summer School in Theatre Studies taught her key skills in making international contacts, and the positive experiences she received there gave her the courage to accept challenges in foreign cultures.
Henrik Meinander’s study path has been exceptionally short, at least in a geographical sense. He matriculated at the Swedish Normal Lyceum (Unioninkatu 2), studied, researched and completed his PhD at the University of Helsinki (Unioninkatu 34 and 36), and from 2001 he has worked as professor of history (Swedish language programme) at the same university (Unioninkatu 38). Away from Unioninkatu, Professor Meinander has energetically worked for the benefit of students and actively participated in academic societies both at home and abroad.
Antti Summala is a philologist who designs games. His writing skills, honed at the Department of English, first led to his becoming a video game journalist and then a video game designer. His time at the University also sparked his interest in associations and societies and the Japanese language.
Tuomas Heikkilä is one of Finland’s most prominent scholars of the medieval period. He is known as the slayer of St Henry and Lalli, an acclaimed illuminator of the Dark Ages, a pioneer of digital humanities, a trailblazer in the field of research into Finland’s earliest literary culture, a researcher of saints – and the director of the Villa Lante in Rome.
Tiina Merisalo, director of Helsinki City Museum, has led one of Finland’s largest cultural history museums for over 12 years and has been in the service of the City of Helsinki for 20 years – the majority of her career. The constantly evolving centenarian museum lives and breathes with the city and its residents. Through the activities of the museum, everyone has the opportunity to fall in love with Helsinki.
Data must be open and free, Jörg Tiedemann strongly believes, and for his purposes it should be multilingual, parallel and aligned. Learning to translate from data is fascinating but human translations carry so much more implicit linguistic information that he cannot stop collecting them. Modern language technology profits enormously from such resources but also other disciplines in the humanities enjoy working with them with growing interest. And the key to success is to make them freely available.
Johan Reinhold Aspelin
Johan Reinhold Aspelin was a pioneer of Finnish archaeology. He was the first Finnish professor in the discipline, published the first general work on Finnish prehistory and was appointed Finland’s first State Archaeologist. The greatest of his life’s works was nevertheless the creation and development of Suomen muinaismuistohallinto, an institute for the preservation of ancient Finnish relics. The foundation of the present-day National Museum of Finland was also to a large extent the result of Aspelin’s work.
Salama Simonen (from 1954 Hirvonen) forged a long and illustrious career in the Finnish press. She was a journalist at the newspaper Uusi Suomi for almost 40 years, trained aspiring journalists at the School of Social Sciences, the forerunner of the University of Tampere, and held positions of responsibility within the Finnish press until her retirement.
Jari Tervo writes in newspapers, on the web and between the covers of books. His public writing career began in a bohemian manner with poetry. After decades of journalism, it changed to diving between the realms of fact and fiction in the form of prose and columns. In 1998 Jari Tervo, who occasionally yearns for colleagues, agreed to discuss current affairs on the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s news panel show Uutisvuoto – he remains there to this day.
Veikko Somerpuro exploits his expertise in philosophy and aesthetics in his work as a photographer. Every photographic situation is different: in addition to mastering techniques with the camera, a top photographer requires a profound vision of the idea of the photograph and the skill to interact with its subject. Veikko Somerpuro is happy that by accident he became an entrepreneur. Through his photographs he feels that he is providing valuable content to his customers. In his view, it is something that he could not provide with the pen.
For Mikko Sarjanen, singer-rapper in the bands Atomirotta and Notkea Rotta, studying Finnish literature opened the door to the world of literary culture. During his student days, his music hobby became his work and university became a hobby. Nevertheless, Sarjanen vows to complete his Master’s thesis – traveling the path to becoming a humanities scholar has already proved worthwhile.
Mauri Ylä-Kotola, rector of the University of Lapland since 2006, studied philosophy at the University of Helsinki in the 1990s. After swiftly graduating, an interest in media studies took Professor Ylä-Kotola to Rovaniemi, where work as a part-time teacher progressed to a post as university lecturer and then to a professorship in media science.
Ville Laakso, managing director of Paletti Oy, thinks he can detect a logical continuation on his path from student of linguistics in the 1990s to his current role as an entrepreneur: “the challenge of learning a language purely in the situation in hand, without grammar, a teacher or written texts is about risk-taking and the management of uncertainty. Being an entrepreneur involves living with very similar risks and uncertainties.” Indeed, Ville Laakso wonders why the University fails to take better advantage of the hidden entrepreneurial talents of those in the humanities.
Annamari Sarajas forged a significant career as a journalist and academic. As a journalist she played a key role in the development of cultural journalism in the press and as a researcher she wrote impressive works of literary history that combined hard fact with a reader-friendly style of presentation. As both a journalist and a professor, Annamari Sarajas’s guiding principle was a holistic approach to culture.
Edvard af Brunér
Edvard af Brunér was a multifaceted scholar of antiquity who as a professor strove to develop the teaching of classical languages and literature both in schools and at the University. His grammar of Latin was used for over half a century. His career was nevertheless cut short by illness, and af Brunér’s pioneering international research on Catullus was lost to posterity.
Mauri Antero Numminen
Renowned for the breadth of his repertoire, Mauri Antero Numminen, multifaceted man of culture, enrolled at the University of Helsinki in 1960. Mauri Nurminen studied a rich tapestry of subjects, including philosophy, linguistics, sociology, economics, Inuit and Bantu languages and folk poetry. A final degree was not forthcoming, but a long career in music, literature and film was rewarded with an honorary PhD in 2014.
Peter Stadius is a historian, cultural scholar and professor of Nordic studies. He has primarily researched descriptions and conceptions of the Nordic countries from outside their borders. Professor Stadius’s research has focused on the period between early modernity and the present day, and in terms of theory he has combined intellectual history with literary studies and cultural geography. As research director of the Centre for Nordic Studies (CENS), he works to create a platform for research in themes related to the Nordic countries. He also wishes to raise new questions and ways of understanding the Nordic countries in a global context.
The psycho-historical interests of Juha Siltala, Professor of Finnish History, began in the 1980s, and initially stemmed from the psychoanalytic tradition. Nevertheless, since then they have expanded in the direction of social psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and behavioural economics. Irrespective of the approach, Professor Siltala’s aim in his research is to create a synthesis between human and societal principles in the light of history.
In the summer of 1984, the young baccalaureate Markua Itkonen found himself particularly attracted to the Gill Sans font, little knowing that in the classification of fonts it was particularly associated with the humanities – more specifically with the grotesque. Today Dr Itkonen is a graphic designer specialised in book design who also writes non-fiction and teaches typography. Moreover, he is the only Finn known to have completed a doctorate in typology. Gill Sans is still one of his favourites, and he now understands more about its connection to the humanities.
Kari Hotakainen has penned works of literary fiction, books for children and young people, poems, plays, columns, newspaper articles and advertising copy. The breadth of his writing ensures that something is produced every day. For Hotakainen, the readers are kings or queens, reading and experiencing the text in the manner they wish. The author’s task is simply to write well.
Gabriel Rein’s career at the Imperial Alexander University included periods as library amanuensis, lecturer in German language and professor of history. In addition, he was rector of the University between 1848 and 1858. Rein, a liberal and advocate of Finnish identity, was ennobled in 1856 and participated in the Diet of Finland in the 1860s. Rein held the position of rector at a difficult time, and he was forced to balance between an authoritarian leadership and liberal students. Eventually, he was forced to resign, following a conflict that shook the university.
Marco Mäkinen is a passionate advocate of brands and marketing whose life’s work is to save Finnish enterprises, and in turn Finland, in the global market place. According to Mr Mäkinen, neither Finnish enterprises nor Finnish society can flourish if we don’t listen to and tell inspiring stories. In 2016 he will publish a new book on brands co-written with Anja and Tuomas Kahri and Ossi Ahto.
Olof Enckell’s biographers divide his career into two parts: literary and academic. Both are significant, because as a novelist Enckell, along with his brother Rabben, was an advocate of Swedish modernism, while as a professor he was a notable scholar of Finland Swedish verse and considered the father of research into the Finnish poet and composer Elmer Diktonius. Enckell’s literary works display a strong sense of patriotism and a romantic longing for Karelia, where he made long sojourns just before the outbreak of World War II.
Professor Timo Honkela has been characterised as a renaissance man. He is an expert in human-centred informatics who wants to answer the fundamental questions of language, society and the mind. He is a philosophical thinker who wants artificial intelligence to serve the humanities, a reflective scholar whose heart beats for art.
Theoretical philosophy was Harri Lammin’s first love, but then he was swept away by environmental organisations. He has worked for almost the entire 2000s in the service of Greenpeace. Right now he is campaigning for a global reduction in the use of fossil fuels, particularly coal.
For Professor Hanna Korsberg, the University represents a dream working environment in the field of theatre research, as she loves both research and teaching. At work she has learned that the only permanent thing is change. Following the example of the university teachers she most admires, Professor Korsberg has attempted to be active and energetic in everything. She commutes to work on foot, as she is best able to think while on the move.
Anni Sinnemäki, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki, dreams of Helsinki’s growth and city boulevards. Prior to becoming Deputy Mayor, Ms Sinnemäki was a Member of Parliament for almost 16 years. Studying Russian and philosophy provided her with a critical eye, analytical thinking and the skills needed to understand the big picture. During her student days, Anni Sinnemäki began writing lyrics for the Finnish band Ultra Bra. She still writes poetry to this day.
Marjatta Väänänen has forged a long career as a journalist, politician and opinion-shaper. She is remembered from the 1970s and 1980s as a strong minister who defended cultural diversity against Taistoism, a pro-Soviet movement within the Finnish Communist party, and pushed through improvements in the status of housewives. She was also a supporter of Nordic cooperation, and an advocate for school children of Finnish decent living in Sweden. Marjatta Väänänen also enjoyed a long career as a women’s representative, among others at the National Council of Women of Finland. She was awarded the honorary title of minister in 1994.
Emeritus Professor Fred Karlsson feels he is something of a linguistics all-rounder. As a discipline, general linguistics is astronomically broad. There are a few dozen professors of different languages at the University of Helsinki. However, in addition to these, general linguistics also exists for the remaining 6 900 languages, as well as for linguistic theories and methodologies.
Mikko Saikku, McDonnell Douglas Professor of American Studies, is a long-term scholar of America and a well-rounded, humanities-based environmental researcher. Professor Saikku’s research has particularly focused on the environmental history of North America and the culture of the Southern United States, within the interdisciplinary framework of American Studies. He is just as interested in the blues lyrics of Charley Patton as he is in James Fenimore Cooper and Zachris Topelius’s conceptions of nature, film noir, the comparison between Daniel Boone and Martti Kitunen and Cajun food culture.
Axel Lille, dubbed Finland’s most significant journalist by his contemporaries, was an extremely influential figure in the Finnish Svecoman movement for several decades. He was editor-in-chief of the country’s leading Swedish language newspaper, founded the Swedish People’s Party of Finland and worked as its chairman and spoke emphatically for Finnish Independence. Finnish Swedish Heritage Day, celebrated on November 6, was established on Lille’s initiative in 1908.
Heikki Nevala began practising magic tricks as a youth, and the hobby has had an indelible effect on his life. This writer of non-fiction is specialised in entertainment and amusement, and he has produced several works on the subject, the latest of which describes Finnish circuses and fairgrounds between 1900 and 1950. Heikki makes appearances as a magician under the stage name Heikki Harha, and he is currently planning to begin writing a new book.
Sanna Kaisa Spoof
Sanna Kaisa Spoof has extensive knowledge of the field of higher education and research. Today, her work involves ethical review in the human sciences and preventing academic dishonesty throughout all academic disciplines. On her desk is a recommendation to universities on the ethics of supervising and inspecting doctoral dissertations. Although she is an ethnologist, Dr Spoof did not become a ‘heritage watchdog’; she became a ‘science watchdog’.
Marjo Timonen often knows beforehand what will be reported on the TV news. Her task as director of information and communication at the Finnish Parliament is to inform the press and the public about the Parliament and promote openness, transparency, and interaction. The Parliament of Finland is the world’s most open parliament, which is also partly thanks to Marjo Timonen’s unshakeable expertise as a communications director.
Johanna Vakkari, an art historian specialised in contemporary art, old Italian art and the historiography of art history, works as the head of the programme for arts and culture at the Finnish Institute in London. Prior to moving to London, she worked at the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of the Arts, and before that she taught and conducted research in art history at the University of Helsinki for two decades. She has also held various positions of responsibility in her field, including the chairmanship of the Society for Art History in Finland and the post of editor in chief of its journal and its online publication TAHITI.
Professor Emeritus Yrjö Kaukiainen is descended from the seafaring Koivisto clan of Karelia. Professor Kaukiainen, an internationally renowned scholar of maritime history, stresses that in a time of globalisation it is important to study the meeting of people and cultures. Maritime history is an excellent tool for such research.
Sten Björkman is the director of Helsinki University Museum. After studying art history, he worked in museums as a researcher and Head of Research. Under his leadership, Helsinki University Museum has opened the Helsinki Observatory, a Centre for Astronomy for the public, as well as a permanent exhibition in the University Main Building. The museum’s gaze is fixed on the future: both collection and exhibition work are moving into uncharted waters.
Outi Alanko-Kahiluoto, chairman of the Greens’ parliamentary group, is enjoying her third term as a Member of Parliament. Dr Alanko-Kahiluoto, from eastern Helsinki, worked as a teacher and researcher at the Institute for Art Research for 13 years before being elected as an MP. Outi feels that the humanities involve the ability to lead a positive life, and practising this is one of the basic professional skills of a politician. The humanities involve the ability to empathise, but to retain its vitality empathy must be turned into deeds and action.
Tuija Talvitie, fresh from completing her master’s degree, found work at the British Council Finland temping for a substitute and eventually spent over 20 years at the organisation. As the executive director of the international conflict resolution organisation Crisis Management Initiative, Tuija has become familiar with the search for the root causes of conflict. She gains fresh ideas through think-tank communities, while at the same time sharing her own expertise and experiences.
Liisa Tiittula is a professor of German language specialised in Translation Studies. In research, what she finds of particular importance are interdisciplinary collaboration and investigation of questions arising from society. Cooperation with working life is important both in education and research.
Pekka Impiö studied history and political sciences at the University of Helsinki, and on the basis of his choice of subjects, he should have become either a journalist or a diplomat; however, the world of business eventually proved more attractive. After graduating, Mr Impiö, who also completed an EU studies programme, moved on to expert roles in industry. Now Mr Impiö is the managing director of TutorHouse, a company focused on commercialising Finnish teaching expertise and providing private-sector supplementary educational services.
Professor Emeritus Kimmo Koskenniemi began his studies at the University of Helsinki with mathematics. He was originally devoted to programming but moved soon to the Faculty of Arts, with the aim of combining general linguistics and computer science. Professor Koskenniemi, who developed the so-called two-level morphological model used for identifying word forms, worked for over two decades as Professor of computational linguistics and language technology.
Jan von Plato
Jan von Plato has taken as his guideline a statement by the logician and philosopher Bertrand Russell by which the universe does not recognize the divisions of a university. He has published articles in journals devoted to philosophy, mathematics, and history of science, without second thoughts on the choices. The aim of writing "seven books" is close, five or six are finished now depending on how one counts.
Marjut Vehkanen’s devotion to the promotion, support and study of Finnish language and culture was already evident in her choice of university subjects. Finnish history, Finnish language and Finnish literature flavoured with a dash of political history and general history perhaps set the direction for an international career. As is so often the case, chance also played a role in the matter.
Leevi Haapala began as director of Kiasma in 2015, but he had already worked in various roles at the Museum of Contemporary Art for 20 years. Dr Haapala, who completed his PhD in art history, also held the post, for one year, of Professor of Praxis at the University of the Arts. Here, Dr Haapala explains modern art and the role of Kiasma and offers a sneak preview of the themes of the forthcoming ARS17 exhibition.
Juha Janhunen originally studied Uralic and Altaic languages as well as Japanese, later also geology and geophysics. He began his university career in 1973 as a research assistant in Finno-Ugrian studies at the University of Helsinki, and he completed his PhD on Samoyedic languages in 1986. He has held the post of Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures since 1994, and is currently responsible for the Asian Studies degree programme at the Department of World Cultures. During his student days, he already spent extended periods of time in Hungary and Japan, and he has later worked as a visiting professor in several Japanese universities and research institutes.
“Well, cooperatives weren’t my field either,” remarked Sami Karhu, at the end of a difficult university course. The complexities of the cooperative system had felt challenging, and he was irked by the poor grade he had received. Nevertheless, after working in temporary positions in public administration, Karhu accepted the post of researcher in a historical project connected with cooperatives, and there began a long career which led all the way to the position of Managing Director of the Pellervo Society.
Anja Snellman is constantly mastering new areas of life out of pure curiosity. She is well-known as an author, but she has also enjoyed a long career as journalist. For Ms Snellman, a novelty in the field of media is hosting digital television talk shows. She has just completed her studies in advanced Solution-Focused Therapy and now her attention has turned to a Master’s degree in Finnish Literature.
Kauko Laitinen has studied and worked at the University of Helsinki for a total of 20 years, forging a career at the Faculty of Arts. Moreover, he has spent a full 19 years in Japan and China, where he studied their language and culture and worked for the Finnish embassies in Beijing and Tokyo and the Finnish Institute in Japan. One of the most significant achievements of this expert on the Asia-Pacific region was the establishment of the Confucius Institute at the University of Helsinki, which promotes knowledge of Chinese language and culture in Finland.
Janne Saarikivi is too precise to be an artist but too much of a bohemian to be a world-renowned scholar. He thinks that publishing research involves not only writing in prestigious journals but also community work with language minorities, lecturing, and writing columns. Saarikivi is a restless spirit and is always beginning new projects, of which half never reach completion. This no longer bothers him, as he knows that at least the other half will be finalised.
Antti Aarne forged a notable career in the study of folklore, particularly in the development of an international classification for traditional folklore collections. Aarne’s typology of folklore narratives is still used around the world today. He is among Finland’s most internationally recognised folklorists.
Tuuli Merikoski, who admits to being an eternal runner at heart, has forged a reputation as a top athlete. The holder of the Finnish 800 metres record studied general linguistics at the University of Helsinki. Ms Merikoski, who is influential in sport at various levels through her role as a professional board member, is known internationally as an expert and career advisor specialised in Dual Career planning for athletes.
Simo Parpola is professor emeritus of Assyriology at the University of Helsinki. He is specialised in the ancient Assyrian Empire and has raised its scholarship to a whole new level with his international research projects and studies challenging traditional conceptions within the field. In addition to his academic activities, Professor Parpola has worked for the benefit of oppressed and persecuted modern Assyrians and has participated in the revival of endangered Finno-Ugrian languages in Russian Karelia.
Anna-Liisa Haavikko is a journalist whose curiosity about the past and interest in the present coexist in complete harmony in her work. The inquisitive Ms Haavikko believes in the power of coincidence when hunting for a story. As a journalist she is equally at home in her role as host of the Yle radio programme Julkinen sana and as editor of the diaries of the Finnish poet Aila Meriluoto.
Eeva Ahtisaari has been able to follow peace talks and the realisation of Namibia’s first free elections alike. Over the years she has become acquainted with many different ways of life, both in Finland and abroad. In the 1960s she became a Bachelor of Arts in history and concluded her subsequent teacher training. Two decades later she returned to continue her studies. Completing the degree was no guarantee of work or a career, but it transformed her way of thinking.
Professor Jyrki Nummi has always been drawn to intellectually independent and distinctive personalities at the University. In the 1970s, when stepping into the small smoking room in the canteen of the Main Building one could chance on the philosopher Pertti ‘Lande’ Lindfors having a beer and hear first-hand the famous ‘Lande paradox.’ This was the alternative teaching of the day, which surpassed drier and dustier courses.
Päiviö Tommila, one of the central figures in Finnish historical research, began his studies at the University of Helsinki at the beginning of the 1950s. During his career this prolific scholar of history worked as the leader of wide-ranging history projects. In addition to his professorships at the universities of Helsinki and Turku, he is also known for his term of office as Rector of the University of Helsinki. Professor Tommila, who participated in the first wave of alumni activities, hosted, in his role as Rector, the University’s 350th anniversary celebrations.
Asko Parpola, Emeritus Professor of Indology, is one of the world’s leading scholars of Indus Civilization and the Sāmaveda. On his numerous research trips to India, he has become acquainted both with Sanskrit manuscripts and with Vedic rituals dating back thousands of years. Professor Parpola, who in his student days also studied classical languages, vividly remembers a course on Roman topography organised at the Villa Lante.
José Filipe Silva
José Filipe Silva was born in Porto, Portugal. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Lisbon for one year, where he also engaged in amateur dramatics; however, he moved back to Porto and a degree in Philosophy. After graduating, he taught at several upper-secondary schools until he discovered (in Rome) the pleasure of medieval philosophy. In 2004, he moved to Helsinki to work on his PhD.
Uno Cygnaeus, dubbed the father of the Finnish primary school, began his studies at the Royal Academy of Turku just before the fire of 1827. Cygnaeus, who graduated in Helsinki, travelled the world as a member of the clergy, while at the same time expanding his conception of education. In later life Cygnaeus, who led the Jyväskylä Teacher Seminary and held the post of Inspector General of Finnish primary schools, was to play a key role in the formation of Finnish comprehensive education.
Emeritus Professor Markku Henriksson, a long-term scholar of North America, has received wide recognition across the Atlantic. Until 2014, he was the Faculty of Arts’ first holder of an externally funded professorship, the McDonnel Douglas Chair for American Studies. Henriksson has a background in the social sciences, but he has spent the majority of his career at the Renvall Institute, under the auspices of the Faculty of Arts. Henriksson has always encouraged his students to engage in field work. A researcher should know the conditions in the area to be researched.
Otto Wille Kuusinen
Otto Wille Kuusinen is one of the most controversial 20th century Finnish figures – attracting both severe criticism and admiration. He is perhaps best known for his political role in the Finnish Civil War of 1918, his leadership of the so-called Terijoki Government of 1939–40 and his work with the Communist Party of Finland. Kuusinen was nevertheless more than a mere ideologue; he was also a poet, a sensitive, multitalented product of the Jyväskylä Lyceum who in his youth was even considered destined for a career as a professor.
“Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.” This quip from Mae West also applies to Kirsti Manninen’s career. She has researched the Academic Karelia Society, causeries, and light entertainment for women and written literary reviews, non-fiction, detective stories, novels, books for children and young people and television series. Right now she is working on a musical.
At university Alice Martin studied useful subjects, such as prosody and Old English. Her studies remained on hold for many years after she found work at WSOY Publishers, first as a translator and then as an editor for fiction translated into Finnish. During a ten-year project to produce new Finnish translations of the plays of William Shakespeare, the playwright became an important part of Alice Martin’s life.
The public educator and liberal thinker Zachris Castrén studied ethics and the philosophy of religion at the University of Helsinki at the end of the 19th century. As chairman of the student union, Castrén wrote for both the newspaper Päivälehti and the periodical Valvoja. He is remembered at the University as a popular teacher and colleague. Elected as an MP from the ranks of the Young Finnish Party in the 1909 Elections, the remainder of Castrén’s career was spent as the director of the Finnish Adult Education Institute in Helsinki. Dubbed the soul of the adult education movement, Castrén strived to provide it with a firm academic foundation.
It is far from simple to find your own path, but what Olli Vänskä considers most important is the journey to that discovery. His Master’s degree was left unfinished when music swept him away into the world and his natural curiosity led him to journalism. As a journalist and violinist, Mr Vänskä’s work involves striking a balance between heavy metal music and the world of IT.
The author Maila Talvio addressed societal and psychological themes and was known not only for her dark style of writing but also for her skill as a speaker. As a counterbalance to her works, which dealt with death and melancholy, Talvio’s speeches displayed optimism and a belief in progress. For her dedicated work with the Satakuntalainen student nation, The University of Helsinki awarded Talvio an honorary PhD in 1950.
Gunnar Suolahti created the cultural-historical research paradigm in Finland. He is known for the precision of his research and his use of wide-ranging material. In particular, his studies of the Finnish clergy constructed a picture of the wider whole through the use of detail. In addition to his professorial tasks, Suolahti participated in the activities of student nations and played a leading role in several scholarly societies.
Olavi Paavolainen is considered one of the most controversial figures of Finnish cultural life. This writer, essayist and critic, influential in the Tulenkantajat (Flame Bearers) literary group during his youth, sailed between the extremist causes and ideas of his time. Paavolainen was fascinated by Karelian tradition and national landscapes, but as a globetrotting cosmopolitan he was also drawn to the topics of the day, from futurism to fascism.
Aesthetics proved an ingenious choice as a major subject for a multidisciplinary innovator, although when studying aesthetics, Laura-Maija Hero was unaware of the career she would pursue. She was nevertheless deeply interested in the visual world, creativity and innovativeness and the person as a being in the social world. In hindsight, Hero sees that it was an inspired choice when combined with different minor subjects and complemented by further study in the field of marketing and technology.
Erja Tenhonen-Lightfoot is a university teacher of interpretation. She has worked for many years in all the various fields of interpreting, in particular as a conference interpreter. Tenhonen enjoys seeing students embrace good working methods for interpreting and then succeeding in their careers. She sees not only risks but also many possibilities in machine translation and interpreting.
Liisa Savunen studied history and wrote her doctoral dissertation on the history of the classical period. Nevertheless, her career led her not into research but into academic administration, science and higher education policy, and cultural activity. In administration, a rounded education in the humanities has many benefits.
Paavo Hohti, PhD in Classical philology, forged a career at the helm of the Finnish Cultural Foundation. He speaks for the rounded education offered by the humanities and warns of research in the field becoming of mere instrumental value. Professor Hohti, who has devoted his life to the promotion of art and research, is concerned about trends in research funding. Hohti is charmed by the University’s new Main Library, and after years of foundation work he still considers the University of Helsinki his spiritual home.
Tyyni Tuulio spent 60 of the near 100 years of her life working diligently as a writer, translator and researcher. In addition, Tuulio held positions of responsibility in cultural institutions, through which she was able to influence issues of equality. A sanguine worldview combined with a passion for writing allowed Tuulio, through her books, to highlight the issues she considered important.
Oiva Tuulio was among the first Finnish Hispanists. He began the work of making Spanish culture and literature known to a larger audience in Finland. Tuulio was among the first to organise practical Spanish courses at the University of Helsinki. As a professor and as chairman of the Satakuntalainen student nation, he also participated in the cultural education of students outside the lecture theatre.
The career of Toivo Haapanen, docent in musicology, as a music researcher, conductor and director of music at the Finnish Broadcasting Company, culminated in an extraordinary professorship of musicology at the University of Helsinki. In addition to his scholarly achievements, he was influential for many years as the chief conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Emeritus Professor Jaakko Frösén began by researching linguistic methods. His international career opened with papyrus research and continued from Egypt to the archaeological excavations in Petra. His working group at the Finnish Institute at Athens, for its part, researched the Hellenistic period. Outside the academic world Frösén is known for his voluminous mainstream writing, presentations, exhibitions, interviews and his expertise as a travel guide in the countries of the eastern Mediterranean.
Leevi Madetoja rose from humble beginnings to become one of the grand old men of Finnish music. He was among the first significant Finnish composers to draw his most important inspiration from France. Madetoja’s opera The Ostrobothnians has even been acclaimed the best Finnish opera of all time. He was also the leading symphonist of his time.
Maria-Liisa Nevala’s whole life has been spent working with art. First she studied literature as a university student, then she taught and researched at the University and finally she was able to participate in the process of transforming literature into flesh and bones on the stage. International contacts and work abroad have been the spice of life for her, and she has not shied from positions of trust connected to her profession. She has lived for art.
Cecilia af Forselles
Cecilia af Forselles exerts a wide-ranging influence within the academic community through her presence on the governing bodies of scholarly societies and various institutions. Her position as Library Director of the Finnish Literature Society affords her a panoramic view over changes and developments in the information society, communications and research. As a researcher with a keen interest in art and nature, she operates in a multidisciplinary field, focusing broadly on environmental history, cultural studies and the history of culture, ideas and science.
Jan-Ola Östman is professor of Scandinavian languages, a Jack-of-many-trades with constantly new, often risky, sometimes hopeless ideas. But even potentially hopeless ideas need to be tested; they lurk around the corner and wait to be falsified. Östman’s motto: Understanding is our goal; truths we will never find, but we must continue to look for them.
Tommi Salomaa is an entrepreneur in the field of music, audio and IT: a sound craftsman of the digital age. He is 99 percent musician-come-artist with just a hint of nerd, but he is a humanist through and through. Salomaa feels he could describe himself as an eternal student whose master’s thesis foundered when four bands, a day job and development of the music business took all his energy.
Martti Pärssinen is professor of Latin American studies. He has a broad knowledge of his discipline and internationally he is especially well known for his expertise in Andean and Amazonian cultures. The thing he values most on his expeditions and in his other tasks is meeting different kinds of people. A morning in a mud hut might be followed by an evening dining at the table of a minister or president.
Docent Kai Häggman has been hailed “the foremost authority on Finnish publishing history.” In 2000s, he wrote five sturdy studies on the book and publishing industry. In addition he has researched the likes of genealogy, the forest industry and everyday Finnish life. Häggman is proud to have supported his family for the last 30 years through fixed-term academic work and writing books.
Dr Laura Hirvi, who completed her PhD in ethnology, has enjoyed a varied career with many different tasks and posts. At present she works as Director of the Finnish Institute in Berlin. Before her move to Germany, Dr Hirvi worked as a researcher investigating immigration. Fortunately, she is also able to benefit from her research background in her current work: the Finnish Institute’s theme for 2016 is immigration and mobility.
Johan Jakob Tengström
Contemporaries of Johan Jakob Tengström, Professor of philosophy, failed to appreciate his interdisciplinary approach to his subject. Instead, he was even heralded the best Finnish historian of his time. The mainstay of Tengström’s life’s work concerned the training of professional public officials and the education of influential figures in the Fennoman movement, who were soon to eclipse his fame.
Sara Negri’s alma mater is the 793-year-old University of Padova, where she completed a PhD in logic before moving to Finland in 1996. Her work on proof theory bridges the gaps between the normative, the descriptive, and the deductive aspects of philosophical logic.
Pirjo Kukkonen is the first professor of Swedish translation studies at the University of Helsinki. She is a semiotician and translation researcher at the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies, where she is responsible for the teaching and research of translation for our national languages Finnish and Swedish and other Scandinavian languages. As a semiotician she works with the interplay of signs and meaning, studying how meaning is created and how different worlds are translated.
Born into a farming family, Matthias Akiander excelled in his academic career without ever completing a degree. Akiander became professor of Russian language and literature and a respected historian and linguist. His research interests included Finland’s Eastern Diocese and religious movements. He also developed the Finnish language for church and educational purposes by writing textbooks and editing translations into Finnish.
Mikael Reuter is a linguist, language consultant, translator, expert in Nordic languages and organisational activist. In particular, he has worked to ensure that Fenno-Swedish remains a fully functional variant of Swedish that can be used in all areas of society. Reuter sees Swedish as an important link to Sweden and the other Nordic countries.
Juha Matti Henriksson
Juha Henriksson first completed a Master of Science (Technology) degree and worked with production execution systems. However, during the last recession he decided to change tack and found his spiritual home at the Department of Musicology at the University of Helsinki. Aside from popularising music research, Dr Henriksson works as the director of the Music Archive JAPA, where the experience gained from his many degrees does nothing to hurt.
At school, the careers advice officer claimed that Terttu Nevalainen was best suited to life as a farmer's wife on a large farm. This did not come to pass—large farms were few and far between in Kainuu—but leading a National Centre of Excellence for more than ten years has apparently required similar gifts of this professor of English.
Professor Antti Arjava, secretary general of the Finnish Cultural Foundation, is a classical philologist who has researched the status of women in antiquity and published the carbonised papyrus scrolls found at Petra in Jordan. However, it is his (incomplete) student career at the Helsinki School of Economics that qualifies him to manage the Finnish Cultural Foundation’s billions. In addition to researching Latin and Ancient Greek, professor Arjava spends his spare time studying birds.
Karita Laisi is active in the humanities and is a do-gooder, public official and member of numerous clubs and societies. She believes in active citizenship, which changes the world both near and far. She feels that a person involved in development work needs grass-roots experience. At present she works for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Palestine, so her many pastimes at home, such as the circus and theatre, are on hold.
In addition art in its varied forms, Arto Haapala, professor of aesthetics, is interested in aesthetic problems related to everyday phenomena. He is the long-term chairman of the Finnish Society for Aesthetics and president of the Advisory Board of the International Institute of Applied Aesthetics. Moreover, he holds posts in many international organisations. Professor Haapala believes in the power of aesthetic values: they are key factors for well-being and important also in decisions affecting our environment.
Professor H. K. Riikonen is a humanities researcher for whom narrow specialisation is alien. His research interests extend from ancient traditions to the history of Finnish translations, certain central domestic and foreign writers, and the history of science and learning. He feels his main literary activity is nevertheless his extensive correspondence with colleagues and friends; of this, his correspondence with professor Eero Tarasti during his school and student years from 1961–76 has been published.
Mikko Tolonen is a researcher of the history of philosophy and ideas who has spent a large slice of his life considering why individual evils also lead to the common good. In his post-doc years Tolonen awakened to the potential of modern data processing techniques in historical research. He later became hooked on digital humanities.
Kirsti Simonsuuri is a researcher, writer, poet and translator whose career and passions are as international as they are Finnish. She has lived half her life abroad conducting research into ancient literature. Dr Simonsuuri is also known for her Finnish translations of the works of William Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf.
University Drawing School
The University Drawing school at the University of Helsinki is the oldest public educational institution in Finland to provide art teaching. The University Drawing School belongs to the Faculty of Arts and it has been part of the University since 1707. Many of the key figures in Finnish art have either studied or taught at the Drawing School. For this presentation we have chosen three of them to represent the School: Magnus von Wright, Eero Järnefelt and Albert Edelfelt.
Equality is a passion that Tapio Bergholm has had no difficulty in effectively combining with his work as a historical researcher. In contrast the problem for him is that to clearly and coherently describe chaotic, contradictory events is often an unreasonable assault on reality. Today, Dr Bergholm is a senior researcher working with equality issues at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions.
Irma Hyvärinen, former professor of Germanic philology at the University of Helsinki, enjoys conducting the kind of research free from tight timetable constraints that her contract as emeritus professor allows. The teaching duties she most enjoyed were supervising theses and dissertations, and indeed many students finished their treatises with her help. A project for her retirement years is to research German complex compound structures.
For Ilkka Herlin humanism means participation. He believes that a humanist should not just watch from the sidelines but instead should bravely enter the fray. He has realised this vision both as a researcher of history and as a participant in business life. Herlin feels he can best make his contribution to society through working to protect the Baltic Sea and through experimental agriculture.
Jan Lindström is an expert in Nordic languages specialised in Swedish and Fenno-Swedish. He has primarily researched interactional linguistics, i.e. how language functions in social interaction. During his study days, Lindström had no particular idea of a university career. Nevertheless, when those courses demanding independent research began to feel the most rewarding, he soon found himself on an academic path. Today, Lindström is a professor of Scandinavian languages.
Leena-Maija Rossi is a researcher of gender and visual culture who works as the Executive Director of the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York. Before leaving Finland, Rossi was long influential at the University of Helsinki as a teacher unafraid to engage in social dialogue as a feminist. In New York Rossi conducts research alongside her cultural work and dreams of returning to teaching.
Karo Hämäläinen possesses a mastery of both letters and numbers. This literature graduate became a stock market commentator who then began writing novels. His list of titles has grown long, with a target audience of children, young people and adults. As editor-in-chief of Parnasso, Hämäläinen leads Finland’s most prestigious literary magazine.
Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen
Docent Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen is a veteran researcher of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, and a founding member of the Indigenous Studies Research Programme, which will begin in autumn 2015. The aim of this modular minor subject is to bridge the traditional divide between disciplines. The programme will focus on the native languages and concepts of indigenous people. Dr Virtanen would like the potential impact of cultural research on well-being and the economy to be more widely recognised.
In his research projects Pertti Hietaranta, professor of English, often seeks to discover why misunderstandings arise—misunderstandings primarily in translation texts but also occasionally in texts produced outside translation. When the external factors affecting a person’s performance are excluded, what are left are information processing skills. Characteristically, they include interpreting texts largely on the basis of one’s own experience and the occasional, sometimes groundless, tendency to trust intuition at the expense of analysis.
Marcus Hjulhammar is a professor of Baltic Sea marine archaeology. He is fascinated by the breadth and diversity of the discipline, both in terms of research environments and epochs. He is a member of numerous scholarly societies and works for the preservation of our maritime cultural heritage. Hjulhammer recalls how both students and departmental staff warmly welcomed him on his first day at the University.
Jakke Holvas is a voice of FBC radio, philosopher, writer and prodigious reader of classic literature. He should have become President, but instead became a TV personality who interviewed presidents. Holvas, who enjoys contemplating the philosophy of economics, spends his spare time with his children and, when in Helsinki, goes fishing for zander.
As a Finnish Language professional, Lari Kotilainen is something of an all-rounder. All his university research and teaching positions have involved work with the Finnish language, and he has taught Finnish to natives and foreigners alike. He is also familiar with university teaching in neighbouring countries both in the East and West. Outside academia, he popularises science, writes textbooks and is a member of the band Jytäjysijät.
Gabriel Sandu is a professor of theoretical philosophy. After studying economics in Romania, he came to Finland in 1978 and began studies in theoretical philosophy at the University of Helsinki. Sandu became inspired by courses in philosophical logic and by rational thought and action, which he attempts to understand with the help of logic and game theory.
Anna Moring, project manager of the Kaikkien perheiden Suomi (‘Finland for all Families’) project wants to make Finland a better place for diverse kinds of families. Gender studies have given her a good platform for achieving this goal. Moring’s doctoral dissertation dealt with the position of rainbow families in society.
No doctoral dissertation, but a wealth of posts in art and culture. Hanna Nurminen, who entered the field by chance, has worked as a cultural secretary, producer of cultural events, and director for a residency programme for artists. She began at the Kone Foundation 35 years ago as a part-time assistant officer and is now chairman of the board.
Leo Mechelin is best remembered as a staunch defender of Finnish autonomy. He diligently participated in the activities of the Diet of Finland as a representative of two estates and continued his work in the Finnish Parliament. For his first university degree, Mechelin studied aesthetics and literature. Later, he changed to jurisprudence, a field in which he was to work as a professor. With a keen interest in economics, Mechelin strove to improve the foundations of the Finnish economy by developing the tax base and improving winter seafaring.
Sirpa Seppälä is a language industry entrepreneur who translates, interprets, teaches and guides. Ideally, she would spend her whole day as a court interpreter, but language professionals need many strings to their bow to earn a living. Seppälä emphasises the importance of cultural knowledge alongside language skills. For that, arts graduates are needed in every walk of life.
Adolf Ivar Arwidsson
Adolf Ivar Arwidsson was a poet, historian and librarian. Arwidsson is best known for his political writing, which led to his dismissal from the university and exile in Sweden. The comment “Swedes we are not, Russians we do not want to become, let us then be Finns” is often attributed to Arwidsson; however, this is something he neither said nor wrote.
Aleksi Neuvonen wants to influence society and make changes for a better future. This Master of theoretical philosophy is not content with mere theorising; instead, he wishes to speak and act, research and then apply that research. Neuvonen believes in the power of cooperation, curiosity, reading and thinking.
Yakov Grot was Russian official, researcher and professor who forged a long career propagating Russian and Finnish culture. Grot worked both to make Finnish and Nordic culture known in Russia and also to promote knowledge of Russian language and culture in Finland. He also founded a Slavic library within the National Library of Finland. Grot rose to become the leading authority of his time on the Russian language.
Sakari Siltala, research doctor in Finnish and Nordic history, has researched economics and capitalism through Finnish businesses. The focus of his research has included cooperatives, the forestry industry, trade and the press. Siltala has a further string to his bow, as he works as a publishing editor and sells publishing rights abroad for the publisher Siltala Publishing
Reading, writing and teaching are the holy trinity to which Helena Ruuska has entrusted her life. She refuses to speculate on where work ends and her hobby begins. Depending of the situation, Dr Ruuska is a lecturer in Finnish language and literature, writer of textbooks, critic, literature researcher or biographer. She has changed jobs, even professions, according to her tastes and the winds of fate.
Knut Tallqvist was a professor of Oriental literature specialised in Assyriology. His diverse and extensive production had a decisive effect on the development of the discipline in Finland and also brought research in the field, in a popularised form, to a wider audience. Tallqvist spent many years in the eastern Mediterranean and described his travels and activities in his letters to his fiancée, which were later published.
Arvi Lind, who is considered Finland’s most trustworthy news anchor, studied Finnish literature and the Finnish language until he took up journalism. He has however preserved a love of language throughout his career and this has made him a popular authority of Finnish.
Pekka Tarkka is a literary critic and scholar. In his long career at the culture desks of newspapers, he has noticed that literary researchers and newspapers need each other. Tarkka thinks that a critic’s job is first and foremost to guide readers to new creators and works. From the university, Tarkka warmly remembers the Finnish literature practicum courses which he was involved in starting.
Erkki Salmenhaara was one of the most important music researchers and composers in Finland in the second half of the 20th century. He held a Professor of Musicology post and for over 30 years his research concentrated on music history and theory. He is remembered especially for writing the biographies of Jean Sibelius and Leevi Madetoja. Salmenhaara was a wide-ranging composer; his repertoire included choral music, piano music, chamber music, electronic music, opera and symphonies.
Jörn Donner has had a many-sided career and he is known variously as a film director and producer, a member of both the Finnish and the European parliaments, and as a diplomat. He is a man of culture who is interested in the world. Above all of these things, however, Donner is a writer.
Emil Nervander was above all a researcher of medieval paintings. He was one of the founders of the Finnish Antiquarian Society and was involved in documenting art history materials. Nervander did important work by restoring church art, although his methods were criticised by his contemporaries. Nervander also worked as a journalist and author.
In the 1970s, Arja Suominen decided to study various subjects in what was known at the time as the Historical-Languages Division of our university, but she saw other faculties on the side. Her life has been full of joyful coincidences which she feels her training at the university prepared her for. Even after a 30-year career in communications, Suominen still dreams that she will be able to hold on to her hunger for life, knowledge and experience for a long time.
In his long career, Timo Eränkö has been an actor, screenwriter and musician. He started in the Students’ Theatre, continued with a street band and has made thousands of performances. Eränkö writes controversial and provocative music and plays. He is best known as a founding member of the Lapinlahden Linnut band (‘The Rampton Birds’).
Hanna Lehti-Eklund is the Professor of Scandinavian Languages and so studying the Swedish language is close to her heart. She is also interested in small but important words, such as nå ‘so’ and att ‘that’, and their roles in modern and historic language use. Lehti-Eklund is the Head of the Department of Finnish, Finno-Ugrian and Scandinavian Studies for 2014–17.
Matti Hirvola has served as a special advisor to ministers, a spokesperson and an influential communicator. In his career Hirvola has witnessed fateful moments in the European Union and he has taught the importance of social expertise to Finnish companies. A fascination with classical civilisations and the ancient world has led Hirvola to spend his free time learning about how historical events – from Troy to Mycenae – played out on the world stage.
Jenny af Forselles
Jenny af Forselles was one of the first female doctors and one of the first female parliamentarians in Finland. Her true passion was teaching as well as promoting women and social work. Af Forselles did significant work with the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, while for women’s causes she worked as the first chair of the Finnish Federation of Graduate Women.
Ulla Tiililä is a multi-skilled person when it comes to official languages. She trains and consults in government agencies, but also works behind the scenes with administration development. Her work deals with new subject matters, and often innovative ones, in addition to her own research and supervising dissertation work in various fields. Tiililä is also an active populariser of science.
Mika Huovinen swore that his 30-year history of a student organisation would be the last deadline of his life. But that was not the case since his graphic design company currently has over one hundred deadlines a year. Huovinen’s success in business was made possible by his expertise and experience, as well as the friends he made in his university days.
The host of the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s Morning News programme imagines in his sleep deprived state that everything can be easily explained and understood as long as there is a desire to so. He believes that a background in the humanities lays the foundation for an all-round education and is the best foundation for being a jack-of-all-trades in journalism, and that humility makes one understand that the topic and the interviewee – not the interviewer – are always the most important!
Professor Jooseppi Julius Mikkola was a multi-talented linguist and a cultural Fennoman. He specialized in Slavic Philology and he got to know many different language groups through wide-ranging research trips. During his time, Mikkola was among the international elite in his field. He was an inspiring lecturer and his home was a meeting place for writers, researchers and students.
Uno Lindelöf was the first Professor of English Philology at the University of Helsinki, as well as a highly esteemed teacher and researcher. As a Swedish People’s Party member of parliament and a Helsinki City Councilperson, he sought to improve education and culture in Finnish society. Lindelöf’s influence can also be seen from the more than thirty years he spent on the Matriculation Examination Board.
Academic freedom was the stimulus for Jussi Niinistö to study at the university, write his dissertation and pursue a scholarly career. His research was put on hold when he was offered the opportunity to go into politics. Niinistö continues to follow the winds of Finnish historical research. Another relaxing activity for him is to listen to the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s Saturday Request Show on the radio.
Julio Reuter was the first Finnish Sanskritist to appear on the international stage, which had a great influence on Finnish linguistics in the 1900s. He had a central role in the Kagal, a secret society that opposed the oppressive Russian government in Finland, and was involved in bringing independence to his country.
Helsingin Sanomat newspaper editor Kimmo Oksanen wants to be on the side of the small and the good. He has written many articles on urban culture and displacement, as well as Romani beggars, who are talked about vigorously in the media. Oksanen originally planned to study the Finnish language and although the subject did not suit him, he found many more interesting and rewarding aspects in the humanities.
While wondering where to find a job with the subjects she studied – English philology, political science, journalism and literature – Anita Lehikoinen was reassured by her teacher that there is really only one kind of job like this in Finland. And so she took it. Lehikoinen is the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC). She has worked with higher education and science policy since 1989.
Lauri Järvilehto is an explorer of metaphysics, a philosophical investigator and a Sherlock Holmes fan. He has a passion for developing and building new solutions which increase the well-being of people around the world. He has worked as a researcher, author, entrepreneur and musician. More recently Järvilehto has focused on working with education and school reform.
Juhani Lindholm is a literary translator and journalist. Student activism and his choice of minors at the university led him to begin a career in journalism. Lindholm has translated many classics into Finnish and he has influenced literary culture through such organisations as the Eino Leino Society. He has also been one of the driving forces behind the biennial Lahti International Writers’ Reunion, which works to bring Finnish literature to an international stage.
Ilona Herlin is a linguist for whom the study of Finnish grammar is above all the study of meaning. Through her research she has found her own area in ecolinguistics, or the mapping of language and nature terminology. Herlin’s passions are linguistic research, intellectual meandering, developing the operations of foundations, and kindling interdisciplinary projects.
Award-winning journalist and author Leif Salmén got tired of being in the limelight and left the Finnish Broadcasting Company (FBC) at the end of the 1980s. Afterwards he has focused on writing about European history, and especially the Mediterranean, which is a spiritual home to him.
Tommi Uschanov is a non-fiction writer, columnist, cultural commentator and a popularizer of academic research. The wide selection of books available at the University of Helsinki has made him an enthusiastic advocate for library services, and he continues to emphasize the role that libraries play in universities. In his career, Uschanov has taken an unplanned route by sometimes accepting and sometimes rejecting the job offers that have come his way.
Iris Schwanck was born in Geneva into a bilingual and bicultural family. She has worked in international affairs and has built bridges between countries and cultures through education and academic cooperation. Schwanck went from the Department of Romance Languages to the university central administration to manage international affairs. At CIMO she developed cooperation between universities and worked as an assistant director. Schwanck returned to a culture track when she became the director of the Finnish Institute in France. Her career continued naturally to her role as director of the Finnish Literature Exchange organisation.
Curiosity is a virtue, at least to Suvi Ahola. Without curiosity she would not have been able to work as a journalist for the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat for over 30 years. A passion for literature and for writing led Ahola to publish books and to write her dissertation about reading circles. Her dream is to learn to write better for online readers.
Jessica Parland-von Essen
Jessica Parland-von Essen is a historian, café owner and social activist. She is interested in literary and book history, the emergence of meaning, and more recently the digital humanities. Parland-von Essen strongly believes in transparency, education and cooperation. She is of the opinion that today’s increasingly digital world allows for a greater potential for all kinds of research.
Elina Anttila, the Director General of the National Museum of Finland’s, has worked for half her life in the National Board of Antiquites. Now she is in charge of the National Museum with its various museums and castles. She originally planned a career as a language teacher, but art history studies took her away. Anttila sees the future of the museum field as one where the public has a greater role in determining what in the museum is important.
Päivi Koivisto-Alanko passionately read fantasy literature as a child, wanted to specifically become a language historian and ended up as a publisher. Her research training left her with a yearning for science and the dream that she should still try to analyse the world through language. Koivisto-Alanko believes that publishing is easy in theory, but in practice it requires all sorts of challenges.
Fortunately I was able to go to university before the ‘reforms’. Getting started is the hardest part. For me at least. I wandered through different subjects, which was allowed by the academic freedom in the 1960s, but is not allowed now. Being retired is nice. I can research without the responsibility to produce results. My achievements added to my subject’s output. It was nice that I got to conclude my time at the university as professor emerita!
Suzie Thomas trained first as an archaeologist, before specializing in Cultural Heritage Studies in her Masters and PhD. She worked in a number of diverse organizations across the UK including museums, cultural heritage charities and even a criminology research centre before moving to Finland in Spring 2014. Now university lecturer in museology at the University of Helsinki, Thomas is enjoying life in this beautiful city, and even trying to pick up the odd Finnish word.
Pekka Hako is a curious, brave and outspoken developer of the future music of our lives. He is also an effective international networker. Hako has researched and studied Finnish music culture and industry as a musicologist, folklorist, educationalist and sociologist. In his reference books and documentaries, he wants to preserve our contemporary interpretations of cultural phenomena.
Tuija Peltomaa has become familiar to many Finns as an expert in antiques from the TV programme Antiikkia, antiikkia (‘Antiques Roadshow’). She is a multitalented player in the art industry whose career began with a temporary job in one of the leading Finnish auction houses. She is currently interested in teaching work, but she has not abandoned the world of antiques and collecting. Peltomaa writes columns and the art buyer’s guide section for the magazine Antiikki & Design (‘Antique & Design’).
Jakob Johan Wilhelm Lagus became known as the ‘festival organiser’. As university rector, he established good relations with the Tsar’s court through academic celebrations and tributes, which improved the position of the university. Lagus’s contribution to research is particularly apparent in his grammar of Arabic and Persian. He also recompiled the University of Turku’s register, which had been destroyed in the Great Fire.
Saila Susiluoto is a performance poet whose productions highlight an interest in a dialogue between the arts. Susiluoto teaches creative writing and she loves literature and new things. Artistic freedom, creatively setting the boundaries, curiosity, and wonder are all important to her.
Professor emerita Aili Nenola started as a student of the Finnish language and comparative literature at the University of Turku in the early 1960s. Her dissertation on folklore and religious studies came out of research she did on Ingrian lamentations in 1982. The traditional laments of women inspired her to think about the roles of women in culture and society in general. A new stimulation was brought by getting acquainted with feminist literature and multidisciplinary and critical women’s studies, an area in which Nenola was one of the pioneers in Finland. Her university and science administration career started as a student member of a department council at the University of Turku and led all the way to becoming the first female dean of the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Arts.
Kati Suurmunne is an industrial humanist with a 30-year communications career in engineering, construction and the energy industries. Her work experience ranges from stock exchange communications and mergers and acquisition to brand management. At the moment she works as Vice President, Financial Communications at Fortum. English philology studies gave a solid foundation for her work.
Arvid Genetz was a Finno-Ugrian linguistics researcher who focused on the Finnish family of languages. After a fierce contest, he was appointed the first professor of the subject. Genetz seemed to drift into politics more than being drawn in, even though he was an ardent Fennoman. He is also known as a poet under his Finnicized pen name Arvi Jännes.
A two-year stint as the editor-in-chief of the Ylioppilas student newspaper was the perfect deal for Antti Pikkanen. He gets enthusiastic about things easily and wants to leave before he gets bored. Pikkanen is not interested in permanent employment – he enjoys fixed-term and temporary jobs. He studies Finnish literature, but has also included gender studies and management studies in his degree. As an editor he is fascinated by writing and brainstorming. He can see himself using these skills in the future, such as in marketing work. San Francisco also shines in his dreams.
Today Zacharius Topelius is fondly remembered as a storyteller and a favourite of children. Behind this man’s modest image, however, lies the life of an ambitious young journalist, poet, literary pioneer and skilful populariser of history. His importance to the development of Finnish history can hardly be overstated.
Ville Keynäs translates literature into Finnish for a living. For the last few years he has focused on translating French literature. His next translation is Louis Ferdinand Céline's Linnasta linnaan (orig. D’un château l’autre, ‘Castle to Castle’), which will be published by Siltala in 2016.
Ville Vuorela is a Bachelor of Arts and an eternal student of the old school. He has worked as a teacher, a translator and technical writer and most recently as a games designer. He has also written several books and reckons the humanities and industry have a good deal more to give each other than is generally supposed.
Academician Anna-Leena Siikala is a scholar of oral traditions and comparative religion. Her works, which cover a wide geographical and historical range, deal with issues relating to folklore, ethnography and cultural anthropology. She has carried out fieldwork in both Finland and the Polynesian Cook Islands, as well as among Russia’s Finno-Ugrian peoples, the Udmurts, the Komi, or Zyrians, and the Khanti of Siberia. Siikala holds that the small departments are an equally important resource for the University as the large ones.
Markku Envall is a literary scholar and author. In the 1980s he was also a literary critic. So very much ‘a literary man’. The Faculty of Arts in the University of Helsinki was where it all started, and indeed his sole employer until he moved over to writing full time.
Timo Vihavainen was professor of Russian Studies at the University of Helsinki between 2002 and 2015. His research interest has been first and foremost on Russian and Soviet history. As for Finland’s history, he has investigated relations between Finland and the Soviet Union during the period after the second world war, the so-called ‘Finlandisation’ phenomenon, as well as Finns’ and Russians’ perceptions of each other. Before his professorship, he headed the Finnish Institute in St Petersburg and was a researcher for the Academy of Finland. Besides his writing, Emeritus Professor Vihavainen is a keen cyclist, sailor and musician.
Taru Salminen is the best known Finn in South Korea. Restaurateur, translator and TV personality, Salminen is a regular contributor to Korean culture and society. She aims to bring the Finnish and Korean cultures closer together and hopes to be able to work on a more flexible basis between the two countries.
Esa Saarinen is a philosopher, a writer, company trainer, media figure, colourful public intellectual and Professor at Aalto University. He is the husband of “the Queen”, as he likes to say, with reference to his “Special Lady”, Pipsa Pallasvesa, “father of twins”, and “an ordinary bloke from Hyvinkää”. He sees it as his calling to promote a better life through philosophy as applied to everyday life, and seeks to enhance broad, imaginative, human and unbridled independent thinking in his audience.
Merete Mazzarella, a literary all-rounder, has a delight in just about everything. The Professor Emerita of Nordic Literature wonders if she might have become an anthropologist rather than a literary scholar. Mazzarella has lectured on Finnish literature written in Swedish on two continents. In the final analysis, she considers herself an essayist more than an academic.
When Katarina Koskiranta began her studies at the University of Helsinki in the 1980s with Finno-Ugrian ethnology as her main subject, she neither knew nor could guess where she would end up or what would become of her. But she has become a very useful member of the University ‘firm’ and especially the Faculty of Arts: office secretary, hourly-paid teacher, assistant and amanuensis representing four different subjects.
Päivi Isosaari has had the good fortune to be in workplaces that combines a staff with a strong sense of vocation and good leaders. The Master of Arts may well get excited by excel and be learning company law, but it is out of her love of the Finnish language that she ended up in the cultural realm.
Heikki Ojansuu was a professor and researcher of Finnish and Finnic languages, studying Estonian, Karelian and Finnish dialects. Ojansuu is best remembered however as an expert on Finnish onomastics, or names, and old forms of the written language. His controversial view on the mother tongue of the Finnish translator of the Bible, Mikael Agricola, sparked a long-running academic cause célèbre.
Janne Halmkrona could have buried himself in computer programming if music hadn’t held sway. He switched from computer studies to the humanities in the early 1990s. His parents were delighted by their son’s Master’s degree in musicology. His father imagined this would lead to a cantor’s post, but his son became a rock musician – the guitarist for the bands CMX and Sapattivuosi.
Artturi Kannisto was a professor of Finno-Ugrian languages. He served for many years on the Finnish schools examination board along with a number of learned societies and academies. The greatest of his life’s achievements was to collect material of interest to linguists and ethnologists relating to the Mansi of west Siberia. Kannisto is also credited with coming up with the longest word in the Finnish language.
Robert Kajanus developed Finland’s orchestral culture and, with his compositions, engendered a sense of national romanticism in the young country. He became a conductor of international renown and disseminator of Finnish classical composition, most notably the works of Jean Sibelius. For nearly three decades Kajanus worked as a music teacher in the University. And through his international contacts, Kajanus succeeded in getting many leading artists to perform in Finland in the early years of the twentieth century.
Pehr Evind Svinhufvud
Most Finns remember Pehr Evind Svinhufvud for his role in quelling the 1932 Mäntsälä rebellion as well as for being a resolute man of the law. In many respects he was a key figure in Finland’s uncoupling from the Russian empire, and he also led his country in its first years as an independent nation. His extensive knowledge, both of history and the law, ensured his competence as a judge as well as his ability to meet the demands of head of state in the 1930s.
Jali Wahlsten lives in Buenos Aires where he manages the affairs of the Ibero-American Foundation of Finland and works as a cultural producer. He holds a Master’s degree in Aesthetics. Many will remember him as an ice-hockey player for the Helsinki team Jokerit, who also represented his country, or later for his work as cultural secretary at the Finnish Institute in London, or then as a representative for Artek and Marimekko, not to mention setting up the Nordic Bakery chain of coffee shops in London.
Ulla-Maija Forsberg is charmed by words, their use and their origins. In terms of research, she gets most excited by the topic of threatened languages and the already dead Finno-Ugrian languages and dialects, as well as the very latest and dynamic language developments. The latter is represented by Helsinki slang, or ‘stadin slangi’, Forsberg’s mother, or more accurately, father tongue. It’s a form of the language that she has just been challenged to grapple with in the shape of an etymological dictionary (forthcoming!).
Kristiina Rikman has translated hundreds of popular books into Finnish. She had planned initially to go into journalism, but after attending one particular course organised at the University, Rikman decided to take up translating as a career, and it’s a vocation she still pursues. Her repertoire is extensive: over the years she has translated authors ranging from Astrid Lindgren to Philip Roth, not to mention her loyal task of bringing to Finnish readers the work of the American author, John Irving.
Katariina Styrman has long been active in the University's Student Union, and has now moved on to act as a representative for Finnish sauna culture. In her spare time Styrman works on the board of the University’s Alumni association, with the brief to make the University relevant for those who have already transitioned into the workplace. It’s not unheard of for her to let slip a politically incorrect remark or two, safe in the knowledge that she is a qualified historian, of course.
Rainer Knapas is a historian, a critical upholder of tradition, an academic teacher and a director. He seeks to combine knowledge, art and culture as a means to understanding – for himself and others. For Knapas, advancing academic knowledge in research and in practice, together with students and colleagues, is of importance. Knapas spends the bulk of his spare time reading and writing.
Kirsikka Saari is a Helsinki screenwriter who had a Oscar nomination for her short film Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Engl. ‘Do I have to take care of everything?’) She has also written the screenplay for the film Korso, a fictional tale of a young man’s trials and eventual triumph in a suburb north of Helsinki. During her studies in general history, Saari was interested in microhistories, and through her films she tries to reflect big themes through small incidents. When she was studying, academic freedom sometimes proved a source of stress. But in her present line of work, her history studies have proved useful.
Kaari Utrio is one of Finland’s most popular authors. Her historical novels and works of non-fiction have been read across the generations. As a young woman however, Utrio did not aspire to become a writer; she was intent on a career as a historical researcher. But there was just one insurmountable problem: “I had an imagination: a huge, unrestrained and unrestrainable imagination.”
Lars-Folke Landgrén is a versatile individual. His career has gone from research assistant and assistant to teacher and researcher and then later head of archives and academy director. He has written commissioned works and non-fiction, for example, a history of the Finnish press, Finnish book design, the rationalising of state administration, the press in the Nordic countries and Nazi Germany, as well as sixteenth-century military history.
During his career Oiva Ketonen influenced a great many Finnish students’ world-view and approach to philosophy. This can partly be attributed to using his works as the basis for the entrance examination, but clearly also to his approach more generally, a combination of humanism and naturalism. As well as practising philosophy, Ketonen was long influential in various university working groups, and his contribution is evident in both Finnish academia and the current model for universities of applied sciences.
Heta Pyrhönen is professor of Comparative Literature. Her research has concentrated on British and American literature, dealing with both popular, and ‘high brow’ literature. Recently, she has extended her range to include television and film. When she is not teaching, doing research or reading students’ papers, Heta Pyrhönen cooks, checks her children’s homework or does yoga.
Mark Shackleton came to Finland in 1975 and has been here (with small ‘escapes’ – a year in London, two years in Gothenburg) ever since. He started as a teacher in the Finnish-British Society in Helsinki, worked in ‘Kielikeskus’ (University of Helsinki language services), and has been a lecturer in the English Department since 1981. Shackleton’s research has focused on the Native American Trickster figure, and lately on the literature of transnational adoption.
Virpi Hämeen-Anttila’s ideal is the all-round educated individual of the Renaissance. She graduated with a broad palette of subjects and the omnivorous humanist has progressed as a university teacher, translator and writer of fiction and non-fiction alike. Virpi the researcher works on the writing and culture of South Asia; Virpi the author writes on language, mind, the world, past and present.
Professor Jyrki Kalliokoski investigates the Finnish language from the viewpoint of multilingualism. He is interested in the range of linguistic resources and their effective use in interaction between people. Kalliokoski enjoys the fact that his work involves everyday encounters with a whole range of varieties of Finnish spoken by students with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
A career in professional football shaped the progress of Aki Hyryläinen’s history studies. Today the Vice President of Mercuri Urval is proud of his Master’s degree from the University of Helsinki. Studies in the humanities and his experiences as a competitive sportsman have become significant advantages in his managerial and consultancy work.
Frans Michael Franzén
Frans Michael Franzén’s career at the Royal Academy of Turku advanced rapidly because the leading figures there wanted to keep him at the Academy’s disposal. Franzén was first university librarian, then professor of history and later was consecrated as a bishop. He was one of the first noteworthy Finnish poets and he also composed both hymns and drinking songs.
Gunnar Mickwitz was one of the most promising Finnish historians of his day. His research had significant consequences for our understanding of antiquity and the economic history of the middle ages. Writing in seven languages, Mickwitz was an international scholar ahead of his time. In 1940 however, a promising career was cut short in Finnish Karelia during the Winter War.
Rafael Koskimies was a versatile and hard-working literary scholar and critic. His research interests drew him to both theoretical positions and the cultural history of literature. As a critic he aimed to write in a lively style, to be fair and moderate. He enjoyed a long career, which extended from undergraduate days until his death.
Maija-Liisa Vartio was a poet and prose writer. She is particularly remembered for her novels, which she put through three drafts before publication. Vartio’s career was brief, but her works are regarded as milestones of modernism. Her novels typically deal with the joys and sorrows of everyday life.
Jaakko Laitinen is the singer-songwriter with the Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha band. As well as singing with Finland’s most manically praised live band, Laitinen studies west and south Slavonic languages and culture in the University of Helsinki’s Department of Modern Languages.
Georg Henrik von Wright
In a letter to the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Georg Henrik von Wright tells his friend how he has found the tune which will take him into the realm of thought. His fear however is that he’ll never find a way through it. Nonetheless the search resulted in an outstanding career. He became one of the most notable representatives of the logical-analytical school of philosophy, but also one of the leading twentieth-century humanists and intellectuals in the Nordic region.
Johan Vilhelm Snellman
In 1837, Johan Vilhelm Snellman, a docent in his early thirties, announced his intention to lecture on the subject of academic freedom. There followed a long-running dispute between the University hierarchy and the young teacher about what, in essence, a university should be. Snellman was later to gain recognition as the leader of the Fennoman movement and embodiment of the Finnish national conscience. In 1906, on the centenary of his birth, tens of thousands changed their surnames by deed poll into Finnish calques of their Swedish original.
Karl Ferdinand Ignatius
Karl Ferdinand Ignatius investigated Finnish history through numbers. As a representative at the Diet and subsequently as senator, he worked on behalf of the tenant farmers and brought about reforms in the state’s bookkeeping. His long career in the central office of statistics gave Ignatius the opportunity to put the country on a statistical footing fit for purpose.
Ella Kivikoski was professor of Finnish and Nordic Archaeology. She was the first woman to gain a doctorate in the subject and the first woman professor in the Faculty of Arts. As she saw it, the fact that she was a woman had little bearing on the work of an archaeologist. Kivikoski’s students remember her as a demanding but motherly figure.
Fredrik Wilhelm Pipping
For many, Fredrik Pipping remains an obscure historical figure. However, the scale of his contribution to the University library, and through it the establishment and conservation of the collections in the National Library of Finland, is beyond doubt. Following the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, he built up the collections once more, acquiring new books as well as knowledge about the early stages of Finnish literature. His efforts have tangible form in the National Library’s Fennica collection.
With her involvement in academia and society in the 1980s and 1990s, Päivi Setälä, teacher and researcher of history, provided a role model for women. She was a pioneer of women’s studies and the first professor of Women’s Studies. Through various positions of trust, Setälä helped shape Finnish scientific and cultural life.
In addition to the by now classical status of his research, Eino Jutikkala is remembered for the work he did for various learned societies. He was ubiquitous. Jutikkala was known for his brisk pace and with larger projects he usually worked as an editorial secretary to speed up the collective writing process. Jutikkala lived long enough to have an influence on many contemporary historians’ lives and the direction of historiography, presenting the past with a greater emphasis on social and cultural trends.
Martin Wegelius, who studied aesthetics at the University, was, by the turn of the twentieth century, Finland’s most notable figure in the world of music education. He was a composer, but most of his life’s work was spent creating a framework for the study of music. Wegelius set up the Helsinki College of Music (nowadays the Sibelius Academy) and was its first director. An institute in Helsinki is named after him as well as the foundation that runs it.
A Belgian scholar of Finnish literature, who wrote the first book-length study of Helsinki in Finnish-written literature. After a Ph.D in which he studied Helsinki in literature, he now looks at narratives in urban planning, more particularly, in the development of Kalasatama and Jätkäsaari (Helsinki). Ameel also works as a teacher, critic, and translator.
Anna Baijars is a Master of Arts, who became a publisher. This wasn’t before she had been a market seller, a museum guide, a social worker, a religious education teacher, a script supervisor, a reporter, project secretary and managing director of a listed company. She’s convinced that literature can make the world a better place.
Juho Kusti Paasikivi
Juho Kusti Paasikivi was the seventh president of the Republic of Finland and the first to hold office in the postwar period, where he played an important role on the foreign policy stage. Although Paasikivi is known as a legal scholar, his initial interest in the University came in the shape of Russian history, language and culture. Indeed, his background in the humanities became a useful resource, one which Paasikivi exploited in the struggle for independence and later in the machinations of the Second World War.
Professor Pirkko Nuolijärvi is the director of the Institute for the Languages of Finland. She studies change in the Finnish language, interaction in television discussions, the role of spoken language in literature as well as writing on language policy and matters relating to the status of languages. She relaxes with music and reading fiction, picking berries in the woods and rowing in the quiet, early morning in a little lake called Lummenne.
Professor Emeritus Matti Klinge is one of Finland’s best known and most prolific historians. His work is also widely recognised abroad. He is an important commentator on cultural affairs and holds many positions of trust in academia. During his time as professor, teaching and supervision of written work were important for him. Klinge has a visual sense of the world, which is apparent in his hobby – painting.
With her research, Alma Söderhjelm gained an international reputation and went further in Finnish academia than any other woman had done previously. Söderhjelm, who studied the history of the French revolution, was appointed docent and subsequently professor. She did not pursue a feminist agenda as such, but certainly cleared the way for women to build an academic career for themselves. Besides her scholarly work, Söderhjelm could list a variety of popular written work among her achievements, from novels to newspaper sketches to film scripts.
Otto Donner was Finland’s first professor of Sanskrit and comparative linguistics. His special area of expertise was the organisation of fieldwork. He was an encouraging teacher for many young linguists, many of them becoming internationally recognised scholars in their own right. Donner was also a representative in the Diet and an education minister.
Carl Gustaf Estlander
Professor of Aesthetics and Modern Literature, Carl Gustaf Estlander had done pioneering work in the area of Finnish art history even before it was established as an academic discipline. He was also a central figure behind the founding of the art museum Ateneum and the Swedish literature society in Finland. Estlander distanced himself from both radical Finnish- and Swedish-language campaigners, preferring to speak out on behalf of a bilingual nation.
Eila Pennanen dreamed of becoming a Finnish language researcher. This was not to be her primary vocation however. Instead she became an influential figure across a whole range of literary and cultural fields. Her career, spanning fifty years, resulted in fifty works and over a hundred Finnish translations. Pennanen was also an astute critic of literature and culture. Passing on her knowledge and skills to the next generation of translators and literary types was, for Pennanen, a matter of honour.
Fredrik Cygnaeus was a Finnish poet, historian and art critic. He was professor, dean and vice-rector at the University of Helsinki, as well as an important patron of the arts. Cygnaeus was a key figure in the Fennoman movement and the principal architect behind the Flora day celebrations which take place every year on May 13th.
Susanna Pettersson began working in museums during her student years back in the late 1980s. In autumn 2014 she took up the directorship of the Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Art Gallery. In between times she has amassed a wealth of experience in the museum world, from curator to development director. And in that time the entire field has witnessed a transformation.
Michael Wexionius (Gyldenstolpe)
Michael Wexonius was Finland’s first professor of history. Owing to his talents and good personal connections, he went from minister’s son to professor, nobleman and judge. Wexonius devised the opening ceremony of the Royal Academy of Turku. He was greatly influential in shaping academic traditions for the newly-founded university as well as instigating the practice of publishing scholarly writing.
Counsellor of State Riitta Uosukainen has been a longstanding parliamentarian and speaker for the Eduskunta, or Finnish parliament. She has also served as the Minister of Education. Uosukainen is recognised for her advocacy of the Finnish language, in all its richness, and her unshakable faith in the humanities. Uosukainen takes her motto from the nineteenth-century Finnish playwright and protofeminist, Minna Canth: “Anything, as long as it’s not a somnolent, half-dead existence!”
Juha Kanerva is a sports writer on the popular tabloid newspaper Ilta-Sanomat and the sports paper Urheilusanomat. But he finds plenty of time and space for more than just the seconds and the centimetres. His history studies have sparked his passion for social life, a passion he’s been able to pursue through the breakfast television programme Jälkihiki (‘After the Game’), with his writing and shrewd observations on the sporting scene. Kanerva has also penned a dozen or so books, either playing solo or as part of a team.
Daniel Juslenius was a professor and rector at the Royal Academy of Turku, as well as Bishop of Porvoo and Skara. He not only compiled the first lexicon of Finnish but also translated the ‘Small Catechism’ into the vernacular Finnish: his word was literally heard as part of the Lutheran service for over a hundred years. As such he distinguished himself as an advocate of Finnish culture and one of his age’s most influential Finnish ecclesiastical figures.
Kersti Juva has been translating English literature into Finnish since 1972. Together with her teacher Eila Pennanen, she translated the first two parts of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; the third part she did on her own. This, her first translation, together with Richard Adams’ 1972 novel Watership Down, won the young ‘suomentaja’ the annual State Prize for Literature. Since then she has worked steadily to bring a variety of English texts into a Finnish-language world: first fantasy, children’s books and thrillers, and more recently works of classic literature and contemporary fiction.
Markku Kuisma, Professor of Finnish and Nordic History, has studied the role played by industrial and business history in our understanding of the world economy. Kuisma’s most central works examine the key areas in the rise of modern capitalism: mining, forestry and oil, together with commercial banking, focusing on Finnish names such as Outokumpu, UPM, Neste and the Kansallis-Osake-Pankki bank, respectively. Kuisma is a regular commentator on the economy, economic history and business-state relations.
Tuomas Anhava had the reputation of a plain-speaking critic, who set the bar high, both for himself and for the works he was assessing. He was an influential figure in the world of books, a grey eminence, whose work has remained largely hidden from the general public. His involvement in publishing brought him into contact with new writers, and he did indeed have a hand in setting many on a career path to recognition as established authors. Anhava also wrote poetry and provided Finnish translations of the works of several ‘difficult’ poets, such as Ezra Pound.
Ilkka Niiniluoto has been active in the University of Helsinki for half a century. The student of mathematics was so enthused with theoretical philosophy that he gained the chair in the subject by the age of 31. Niiniluoto is known to be an astute philosopher of science, one who has defended a scientific view of the world and the idea of the university as a force for good.
Barbara "Baba" Lybeck
Baba Lybeck’s career as a journalist and presenter began in 1985, as soon as she left school, with Helsinki’s Radio City. The journalist in her competed with the budding student of literature throughout her undergraduate years and finally the work as anchor for Channel Four news swept her clean away. On the eve of her fortieth birthday however she returned to the University, a working mum, and completed her Master’s degree. Lybeck gets the strength she needs to cope with the daily grind from triathlons, literature and sailing.
The academician Kustaa Vilkuna was a professor of ethnology, head of the war censorship office and a political mover and shaker. He was involved in establishing the Peasants’ Cultural Foundation and a member of countless associations, societies and commissions. Vilkuna was also an influential figure in postwar Finnish politics.
Minna Lindgren is a journalist and author, known for her humour and forthright way of dealing with serious matters, like old age and opera. She studied musicology as her main subject for twelve years in the University of Helsinki. Lindgren has made her mark in her radio programmes, columns and sketches on classical music. Her trilogy, set in the Ehtoolehto (‘Twilight Grove’) retirement home, has been an international hit.
Arthur Långfors was a leading scholar of mediaeval French, active both in the interpretation and publication of manuscripts. Following Finland’s independence in 1917, like many of his professorial contemporaries, he carried out diplomatic tasks and represented the country in various international conferences, including the League of Nations council sessions. In addition to his duties as professor of Romance Languages, Långfors served the University of Helsinki first as dean, then vice-rector and rector.
Professor Jaakko Leino is interested in the form and meaning of language, as well as the relationship between language and thought. He has researched grammatical phenomena and their changes from different angles and varieties of language. He is also interested in the content of the Finnish language curriculum at school and issues related to the social status of the Finnish language.
Henry Hedman has come a long way from Riihimäki Business College and a Canadian university to the Institute for the Languages of Finland and finally to the University of Helsinki, where he now works as a University Instructor in Romani and Roma culture. Research and teaching are close to Hedman’s heart because they enable him to act as a mediator between the Roma and the majority. Hedman is also a musician who has recorded several albums of religious music. He still gives occasional public talks and performs as a singer with his band.
During her study years, Mari Hatakka used to dance and sing with Topi Sorsakoski, Agents and Leningrad Cowboys. She retired on a well-deserved go-go pension in 2000 and started working on her doctoral dissertation in folkloristics, which focussed on the course of the heterosexual relationship. She decided early on during her dissertation work that she would not apply for a single scholarship anymore, and eventually built a career in the business world. Hatakka, who is the director of development at Lippupiste, has also found time to comment about relationship-related phenomena on the TV show Ensitreffit alttarilla (‘First date at the altar’).
Hilma Granqvist was a primary school teacher, a researcher of Palestine and the first Finnish female Doctor of Sociology. As a woman pioneer of sociological research, she suffered from many setbacks in her career. Although she gained international recognition early on in her career, her efforts were acknowledged only much later in Finland.
Professor Minna Palander-Collin researches the history of English, language change and contact, and language as a tool for building identity. She is Professor of English philology and the Deputy Head of the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Helsinki.
Juhani Aho was a Finnish author best known for his novels Rautatie (‘Railroad’) and Juha as well as ‘Splinters’, a series of shorter texts. He was the first Finnish author to earn a living by writing. Aho began writing as a newspaper journalist, something that he continued to do through his life. Aho was also one of the founders of Päivälehti, which later became Helsingin Sanomat. He was a keen fisher and even spent his 50th birthday fishing in the Huopalankoski rapids.
If you were born in Europe, chances are you grow into a dominant national language. If you are African, you will have experienced a much richer linguistic trajectory. It is from African languages and cultures that we learn how to navigate complex language landscapes artfully and with great creativity. This is what got me into African studies, and what still drives me.
Pentti Saarikoski is known as a bohemian poet who led an eventful life as an artist. His literary oeuvre consists of numerous collections of poetry, as well as sterling translation work. Saarikoski was also a socio-critical columnist and a candidate for the Finnish Parliament.
Sakari Pesola teaches history and civics. He has three passions: history, music and orienteering. His professional life falls neatly into two halves, music and history. As for sports, orienteering has the edge over skiing, although Pesola admits to a degree of fanaticism there too. Besides the band Kolmas Nainen, Pesola has played guitar for Moon Cakes and Luunelonen.
Volter Kilpi had a long career both as a librarian and as a writer. As the University of Turku's first head librarian he had a decisive impact on its organisation, cataloguing system and the early stages of its collection, such as the Finnish explorer Nordenskjöld's huge map library. But Kilpi is usually remembered first and foremost for his writing, especially for one of the best works of literature from Finland’s period of independence, namely the stream-of-consciousness novel Alastalon Sali, ‘In the parlour at Alastalo’.
Teemu Keskisarja researches some of the darkest recesses of the Finnish soul. His research subjects range from mediaeval sexual crimes to twentieth-century wars and economic boom and bust. His wish is that his work would be preserved in the memories of the coming generations.
Curiosity is what has taken Tuomas Lehtonen from mediaeval studies to heading Suomalainen Kirjallisuuden Seura, the Finnish Literature Society. He is intrigued by all things human, in fact anything from satirical verse to good governance. He enjoys the challenge of balancing between various tasks - establishing partnerships and creating research opportunities for others. Currently, and alongside his day job, Lehtonen is studying the interaction between the spoken and written cultures of the sixteenth century.
Bo Carpelan was a writer, honorary arts professor and influential in library affairs. His extensive written oeuvre included everything from four-word poems to novels and a doctoral thesis. The bulk of his works were written during his time as a full-time librarian in the Helsinki City Library. Carpelan is one of the best loved and most feted Finns writing in Swedish of all time.
Jaakko Juteini has been described as the first proper writer of Finnish. His principle occupation was that of secretary but his reputation rests on the works he wrote in both Swedish and Finnish, each according to the needs of the specific readership. His thinking was influenced by the spirit of the Enlightenment and national romanticism. Indeed, writing in what for his time was a liberal vein did occasion the odd difficulty. For all that, Juteini was a popular figure, not least for his role in the development of a written standard language.
As Vice-rector of the University of Helsinki, Anna Mauranen is responsible for both international and societal relations, together with personnel policy. In her capacity as Professor of English, Mauranen is one of the University’s most internationally cited researchers. If after all this there’s any time left over, Mauranen uses it on her favourite hobby, painting.
Leena Lehtolainen has a thirst for knowledge. She loves the background research involved in an author's work: interviewing specialists, reading the relevant non-fiction, checking out locations. Although studying literature did not prepare her for a writing career, it has certainly come in handy when sifting through the welter of information to hand.
Irja Seurujärvi-Kari is the sole lecturer in Sámi language and culture in the whole of Southern Finland. She began her University career by setting up a study module for Sámi research – Sámedutkan. The publication of Johdatus saamentutkimukseen (‘An introduction to Sámi studies’) in 1994 gave a boost to a new, multidisciplinary direction in Sámi research in Finland. Issues relating to human rights and the Sámi people’s indigenous status have become particularly dear to Seurujärvi-Kari with her work in various social forums.
Axel Olof Freudenthal
Axel Olof Freudenthal was a professor of Swedish language and literature, a man of cultural influence and advocate for Finland’s Swedish-speaking nationalist movement; he is remembered for his principled views on matters of language and nationality. However, Freudenthal was also active in promoting the teaching of Swedish and was closely associated with the establishment of a number of cultural associations, which are important to this day.
Göran Schildt’s long sailing voyages to the Mediterranean are familiar to Finns and an international readership alike through his numerous travel books. He also wrote essays and studies on art history. In later years, as the official biographer of Alvar Aalto, he has proved seminal in the appreciation of the distinguished modernist architect.
Edvard Westermarck was a pioneering social anthropologist, holding chairs variously in Helsinki, Turku and London. He was rare among his contemporaries in that he was a fully-fledged member of the international scientific community. Moreover, Westermarck was an advocate of nature conservation and a critic of religious practices.
Andrew Chesterman came to Finland from London in 1968 and has been based there ever since. He has become a “Finnish Brit” or, in the words of a research seminar student, “meidän hovimamu” (‘our court immigrant’). He started as an English teacher in Savonlinna, and retired in 2010 from a professorship in Multilingual Communication at the University of Helsinki.
For Minna Maijala, research and writing are elements in a sophisticated game. A thirst for cultural knowledge has taken her ever deeper in her absorbing topic. For close on twenty years Maijala has studied the nineteenth-century Finnish writer and champion of women’s rights, Minna Canth, and the times in which she lived. “It’s gratifying to find that your own research interest still throws up so much material and that the research is even in demand. People want to know more about Minna Canth.”
Antti Nylén is a translator and essayist. He is best known for his 2007 essay collection Vihan ja katkeruuden esseet (‘Essays about hate and bitterness’), stylistically homogenous but a riot of subjects, ideas and opinions, and Pahan kukkia, his 2011 Finnish translation of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. Over the years he has spread his creative activities to encompass photography, and his latest work is indeed a book of photographs.
Jukka-Pekka Pietiäinen has spent the last thirty-five years of his working life as a researcher, non-fiction author, non-fiction critic and publisher of non-fiction. He is currently a tribal leader, i.e. the Executive Director of Suomen tietokirjailijat ry, the Finnish Association of Non-fiction Writers, which looks after the interests of non-fiction authors in Finland. Jukka-Pekka is a friend of literature and a bibliophile. He also cycles, goes bowling and follows football. His favourite spot, weather-permitting, is the front porch, which looks out over a beautiful garden.
Aale Tynni was a poet, author, literary and theatre critic, translator and Olympian. Tynni won the gold medal in the literature category at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. In addition to her poetry collections, she published children’s fiction and essays. With her translations she acquainted a Finnish readership with lyrics from other countries, most notably France.
Armas Einar Leopold Lönnbohm, perhaps better known as Eino Leino, was a literary lion. Leino wrote poems, prose and plays, and translated works by classic writers such as Dante. He was also a prolific journalist, unafraid to take a stand on matters relating to the arts and politics. Leino was granted the Finnish State’s literary prize no fewer than eight times.
Axel Olai Heikel
Axel Olai Heikel was an archaeologist, ethnologist and leading light in museology. He made countless ethnological field trips, wrote the first doctoral thesis on an ethnological topic in Finland and was granted the honorary title of professor. His most significant lifetime achievement however was to establish the Seurasaari open-air museum on the outskirts of Helsinki.
Erik Tawaststjernasta could well have become a mathematician, but a disposition towards the humanities and his musical talent were to hold sway. For many, Tawaststjerna is chiefly associated with the life of Finland’s national composer, Jean Sibelius, which he brought so vividly to life on the radio from the 1960s on. As a person he was decidedly self-possessed. He was pedantic in his working habits but otherwise courteous and genuinely interested in the people he met. His charming presence is remembered by many who knew him.
A set of volumes, 'Kansojen historia', an account of the history of the peoples of the world, on the top shelf in the family’s library was what made a humanist of Mikko Laakso. Entranced by the author Carl Grimberg’s style, the boy from Lohja in southern Finland worked alongside his history studies, and subsequently in museums and archives, before earning his living by writing history.
As a child, Janne Hopsu liked reading and would tap out stories on his typewriter. It is perhaps no accident then that he earned a Master’s degree in history and went on to become a foreign correspondent. He has worked as a journalist for twenty years at MTV3 News, travelling to exciting locations and devouring non-fiction literature. His dream is to combine his three passions: football, Spanish and journalism.
Hilja Onerva Lehtinen
Hilja Onerva Lehtinen, better known as L. Onerva, was a poet, author, translator and critic. Through the boldness of her lyrical expression, L. Onerva has been an inspiration to many women poets. Her poetic output was quite staggering: she penned over a hundred thousand poems. Besides her writing, L. Onerva painted watercolours and sketched.
Pekka Pesonen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Literature. He worked in the University of Helsinki from 1970 to 2010, the last 22 years as professor. In addition to his research and teaching duties, over a period of almost 50 years he has written newspaper articles, appeared on radio programmes and drawn critical plaudits from the general public for his lecture series and discussion forums.
Malin Gustavsson has spent nine years bringing her expertise to issues relating to gender equality and diversity. She is head of her own growing business, Ekvalita. Gustavsson’s passionate engagement through dialogue and innovative practices has made her a sought-after ideas person, speaker and advisor on organisational matters.
Georg August Wallin
Georg August Wallin was a Finnish Arabist and ethnologist. He was the first European with a knowledge of Arabic to explore the Arabian and Sinai peninsulas. In the course of his travels, Wallin took extensive notes and kept a travel diary. The past existence of a great many Bedouin tribes is only known about because their particulars were jotted down meticulously by Abd al-Wali aka Wallin.
Mika Waltari is one of Finland’s better known authors, both in Finland and beyond. Waltari’s output, unparalleled in its scope, included novels, poems, plays and film scripts. During wartime the State Information Office co-opted Waltari to draft political propaganda.
Professor Emerita Maarit Kaimio examines classical Greek drama from both literary and linguistic standpoints, as well as the stagecraft practised in Antiquity. She has translated several Greek tragedies and novels and taken part in Bible translation work. Another perspective on the lives of people living in ancient times is provided by her research on papyrus rolls, which brings documents written over a thousand years ago directly to the scholar’s desk, nowadays via the computer screen.
Eino S. Repo was a literary, radio and television critic. He is best known as the Director-General of the Finnish Broadcasting Company, bringing about bold reforms and driving a liberal agenda. Not everyone was grateful for his renewing zeal however: during his period in office he, and the organisation he headed up, earned the withering put-down ‘Reporadio’.
Áile Aikio came down to the University of Helsinki where she gained her Master’s degree and returned to her home in Sápmi, Saamenmaa in Lapland. Her studies included ethnography, archaeology, folklore studies and anthropology. She spent several years in the service of the Siida Sámi museum until chance led her to work for the local station of the Finnish Broadcasting Service in Sápmi. Work as a Sámi-language journalist in the frenzied media world was quite a contrast to museum work, but an important lesson in the need to challenge oneself and one’s education. In museums, traces of the curator’s input are sporadically visible, but on television the presenter is seen and heard on a daily basis.
A linguistic pioneer, Matthias Castrén's legacy is still evident in the scientific world. Over the course of a number of research trips, he developed and refined his research methods, with the result that the material he collected is still entirely valid as source material for language and ethnological research today. Castrén's early death from complications following tuberculosis did nothing to stop his scholarly achievements enjoying posterity, albeit through the application of his successors working on the basis of their mentor's meticulously prepared groundwork.
Kalevala Day is the day when Elias Lönnrot, the esteemed anthologist of folk poetry and compiler of the Finnish national epic, Kalevala, is justly celebrated. It was on February 28, 1835 that he undersigned and dated the preface to the first edition, the 'old' edition. Lönnrot was a very capable man: he distinguished himself variously as a physician, a journalist, a Finnish language expert as well as a writer and translator of literature and factual prose.
Pirkko Koski has had an extensive career in theatre studies. Nor has she rested on her laurels since retiring. Koski continues with her research, attends conferences and stays in touch with her fellow researchers. As professor of Theatre Studies in the University of Helsinki, Pirkko Koski did much to strengthen the subject’s international contacts.
Inkeri Vehmas-Thesslund (formerly Vehmas-Lehto), Professor Emerita of Russian Translation, has been and still is a firm friend of translation teaching. Her doctoral thesis, entitled Quasi-Correctness (1989), was among the world’s first in translation studies to follow empirical methods. She was the University of Helsinki’s first (and hopefully not last) professor of Russian Translation. Her research has focused on translation and terminology.
David Emanuel Daniel Europaeus
D.E.D. Europaeus was one of the leading Finnish folklorists of the nineteenth century. He carried out a total of seven field trips throughout Karelian Finland, during which he collected literally thousands of oral poems. What Europaeus was able to collect had a great influence on the second edition of the national epic, Kalevala, and constitutes one of the most important sources of research material in Finnish folklore studies. Europaeus was also a journalist, linguist and mediaevalist.
Vice-Rector, professor Hanna Snellman is an ethnologist with an interest in people’s daily tasks and movements. She has studied such topics as forest workers and loggers in their itinerant working life, and Finnish emigration to Sweden and Canada. Snellman has a particular interest in the study of minorities, and in this capacity has researched Finns who emigrated to Sweden. Snellman is a tireless networker and enthusiastic promoter of co-operation between the various academic disciplines.
Martti Haavio was a folklorist and mythologist. In addition to academia he was involved in publishing, making a forceful contribution to cultural life. He was perhaps best known by his pseudonym P. Mustapää. His verse lent the Finnish language a new rhythm and form: many a Finn has been lulled to sleep with the words of the ‘Sininen uni’ (‘Blue dream’) lyric, taken from his poem: “Joka ilta kun lamppu sammuu ja saapuu oikea yö”, 'Each evening when the lamp is out and true night comes around'.
As a young man Thomas Thesleff had ambitions to become a teacher or follow a career as historian in the service of his alma mater. Circumstances were to change rapidly however and in the end he was swept into the world of finance. The choice as such was not difficult because the formal qualifications he had gained amounted to a good and useful general education. Thesleff’s professorial father had hinted that his son was “more civilised than not..” Thomas takes this as axiomatic for survival in our world today, a world in constant flux. One should grab at fleeting opportunities. As the ancient Roman playwright Terence had it: “Humani nil a me alienum puto”, I hold nothing that is human to be alien to me. That’s why a humanist will always cope.
Eemil Nestor Setälä
E.N. Setälä was a scholar of Finnish and Finno-Ugric languages. He is best known for his Suomen kielen lauseoppi (‘The syntax of Finnish’), which he had written even before he began his university studies. Setälä was Professor of Finnish Language and Literature in the University between 1893 and 1929. He also enjoyed a long career in politics, and was particularly influential in areas of cultural and language policy.
Professor Emerita Elina Suomela-Härmä is a specialist in Romance languages at the University of Helsinki. She defended her doctorate on medieval French literature before taking up the post of associate professor in the University of Tampere. In 1998 she was appointed the University of Helsinki’s first ever professor of Italian Philology. She retired from this position in 2014.
Werner Söderhjelm is not really remembered as a literary historian or linguist, although he was both of these. He set up the Neuphilologischer Verein, the Modern Language Association, and its prestigious journal, the Neuphilologischer Mitteilungen, is just one indication of how he underpinned both teaching and research in Romance and Germanic languages at the University. Having held down a series of professorial posts, Söderhjelm went on to run the information office in Copenhagen and served as Finnish Ambassador to Sweden.
Professor Tiina Onikki-Rantajääskö heads up the Tieteen termipankki project, a public-access terminology ‘bank’, where contributors from various scientific fields present relevant specialist vocabulary. The main focus of Onikki-Rantajääskö’s academic work is on semantics and how language shapes reality. She is the first woman to chair the board of the Finnish Literature Society, founded in 1831.
The poet Veikko Antero Koskenniemi is principally remembered by Finns for the lyrics written in 1940 to Sibelius’ hymn Finlandia. This commission was not however Koskenniemi’s key to fame: the poems published in the 1910s had already established him as a firm favourite among Finnish readers. He also worked as a literary critic and editor-in-chief of several journals. He was professor, vice-rector and rector at the University of Turku.
Jussi Nuorteva knows a thing or two about science. He began his practical research collecting fleas from swans’ nests. But the itch to go further with his studies in the natural sciences proved underwhelming and he turned his attention to the humanities. His work on the history of science has given him a grandstand view of the entire spectrum of scientific endeavour. Be it scientific communication and organisation, visiting prisons, cafés in the souks of Cairo and Damascus or the closed stacks of archives and libraries, Nuorteva is equally at home.
Henrik Gabriel Porthan
In the annals of Finnish scholarship, Henrik Gabriel Porthan is arguably the forebear of many of the country’s historians. In his own day he was quite the renaissance man. As well as being the Royal Academy of Turku’s most influential scholar, he was instrumental in the publication of Finland’s first newspaper. Porthan’s accounts of Finnish history helped generate a sense of Finnish national identity.
Elsa Enäjärvi-Haavio, who gained her doctorate in the subject of Finnish folklore, was a great organiser, and very influential from the Thirties to the Fifties. She played an active role in the public discourse of that period, both oral and written, cultural and societal. Enäjärvi-Haavio wrote non-fiction, and literary and theatre reviews. She was also a councillor on the Helsinki City Council and had a place on the presidential electoral college.
Tuija Pulkkinen is professor of Gender Studies at the University of Helsinki and currently an Academy Professor of the Academy of Finland. Pulkkinen has the ambition of strengthening the international dimension of doctoral and postdoctoral research training in Helsinki. She heads a multidisciplinary doctoral programme, ‘Gender, Culture and Society.’ With her own research team she focuses on the study of concepts within feminist philosophy and politics.
When Outi Karemaa embarked on her history degree it was with the idea of becoming a scholar. Her research took the form of both commissioned work and her doctoral thesis. But being a bookworm interested in broad themes, she was also drawn to the world of publishing. So it was that the young doctor decided to give the business world a try. She hasn’t looked back. Karemaa is currently managing director of Metsäkustannus Ltd.
Edwin Linkomies forged a career both as an academic and a politician. During a long tenure at the University of Helsinki he held the Chair of Roman Letters and the office of Rector. Linkomies had a considerable influence on Finnish academic policy, placing due emphasis on scholarly endeavour and cultural heritage. As Prime Minister in the early stages of the 1941-1944 Continuation War, he was involved in complex negotiations with the co-belligerents, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, in an attempt to extricate Finland from the world conflict.
Hannu Juusola became Professor of Semitic Languages and Cultures at the University of Helsinki in 2011. Previously he worked as the director of the Finnish Institute in the Middle East in Damascus. He has also lived and studied in Jerusalem. It has always been clear to Juusola that a profound knowledge of the Middle East can only be gained by living there for a longer period of time. He considers it important to share this experience in his expert assignments with the media, government and political organisations.
Eino Kaila was a pioneering psychologist and philosopher in Finland. He was a brilliant lecturer and all-round cultured individual. In his research he is known to have been a thinker who drew on many academic disciplines to resolve problems. He introduced the Finnish academic community to new international trends, such as experimental psychology, Gestalt and personality psychology, as well as logical empiricism. Kaila was professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki from 1930 to 1948 and a member of the Academy of Finland from 1948 to 1958.
The one-time punk rocker Jan Fast is an archaeologist with a long career supervising public excavations behind him. His first digs were in the late 1960s when, as a small boy, he picked among the remnants of the WWII fortifications at Hanko, the most southwesterly point on the Finnish coastline. As part of his work at the Heureka Science Park in Vantaa, he took charge of the ongoing excavations at nearby Jokiniemi during the 1990s and in 2014. Jan Fast is a born performer and popular lecturer. His particular research interests are the Neolithic Period, or New Stone Age, and the archaeology relating to the Second World War.
The Swedish-speaking Finn, Gustaf John Ramstedt, was an internationally renowned Finnish man of science and diplomat. Ramstedt went on numerous expeditions to central Asia, Mongolia and Siberia between 1898 and 1912. He was a pioneer in the study of the Altaic language family, ranging from Turkish to Japanese. He was Professor of Altaic Languages at the Imperial Alexander University and for a few years he also held the position Professor of Phonetics. In addition to his university career, he was ten years a Finnish diplomat in Japan.
Samu Nyström PhD is a history researcher and urban historian. He has participated in a great variety of research projects and been active in promoting the public understanding of science. His tasks have taken him from riding in ambulances to clambering along fortress walls; from sharing his knowledge in the lecture hall and radio studio, and in the course of a walk around the city. In his archival work, Samu moves via the scholar’s carrel to the city life of bygone days.
Johan Ludvig Runeberg
Johan Ludvig Runeberg is justly celebrated both for his national romantic poetry and the eponymous 'torta' or 'torttu', a seasonal delicacy, which bears his name, as prepared according to his wife Fredrika’s recipe, or so the legend has it. His poetry lent strength to the Finnish sense of national identity. Notwithstanding his Swedish-speaking background, together with Elias Lönnrot, J.V. Snellman and many others he formed the cultural backbone for the rise of the Fennoman movement. Runeberg gained recognition as the nation’s poet laureate in his own lifetime, and it is for this that he is chiefly remembered. And yet his principal source of income came through teaching, first as a home tutor and later as a school 'lektor'.
Riho Grünthal is a linguist specialising in Finno-Ugric languages and the language situation in the northeast Baltic Sea area. In particular his research has concentrated on language change and shifts in speech communities from different standpoints. As Professor of Finnic and Finno-Ugric Languages and Cultures, Grünthal is responsible for the University’s teaching of this language family. In his spare time he enjoys fishing and occasionally the feel of fish scales between finger and thumb.
As a history scholar, Panu Pulma has turned his hand to many topics. He began his work on projects at the Academy of Finland, but has since made his living with specific commissioned research, such as a history of child welfare in Finland (1987), the history of Kajaani city (1994), and in 2000 a work which focused on social problems in post-war Helsinki. His research focuses on the history of social, urban and minority issues between 1700 and 2000. This broad range of research has helped Pulma in his teaching, which he has done at university level since 1982.
Yrjö Hirn was professor of Aesthetics and Modern Literature at the University from 1910 to 1937. His wide-ranging academic work covered aesthetics, literature, cultural history and theatre studies. During research trips abroad he gathered material and forged relations with influential figures in academic and cultural life beyond Finland. In his work for various committees and organisations beyond the University, he demonstrated a strong commitment to serving Finnish society at large.
Juha Töyrylä has carried out various tasks on behalf of student organisations for several years. Countless trips to central Europe have thrown Töyrylä into the midst of international student organisations and EU administrative bodies alike. By the same token he has helped export Finnish student politics and culture around the world. Through various projects and partnerships, Töyrylä has been able to build up friendly relations across borders. These days it’s hard to name a European capital that he hasn’t couch-surfed!
August Ahlqvist was a notable linguist, professor of Finnish language and literature, cultural figure and poet. Besides his professorship he held the office of faculty dean, vice-rector and rector of the Imperial Alexander University. Ahlqvist was also an influential critic; his diatribe against Aleksis Kivi’s seminal work, Seven Brothers, was strident enough to delay its publication.
During a long life, Ilmari Krohn not only found time to compose music, he also conducted research and taught. His breadth of knowledge in the field of music, together with an aptitude for languages, made him the ideal person to become Finland’s first professor of musicology and develop this new discipline. His family background provided him with a penchant for religious music, an aesthetic realm he was to return to throughout his life. The pinnacle of Krohn's long and distinguished career was to have produced the first oratorio in Finnish and to be the first in the world to set the Psalms in their entirety to music.
Dr Kimmo Svinhufvud teaches Finnish as a first language in the Language Centre of the University of Helsinki. He runs writing courses for undergraduates working on their Master’s dissertations and doctoral candidates working on their theses. His blogs – Gradutakuu and Tohtoritakuu – offer practical advice and support for students working on their academic writing. Alongside his teaching duties, Svinhufvud continues with his research on writing and the various forms of interaction related the writing process.
Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen
Baron Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen came from a Swedish-speaking family. He taught Finnish and rose to a position of prominence in the Fennoman movement, which sought to promote the use of Finnish in all areas of public life, including the provision of Finnish-medium education. Yrjö-Koskinen fought loudly and energetically to this end. He was ennobled in 1884.
Terhi Ainiala is a Finnish-language University lecturer and researcher in onomastics, the study of names. She is very busy with teaching, supervision and societal engagement. Ainiala is currently investigating how place names serve to construct identity. These multidisciplinary research projects involve scholars of language, literature, history, folklore and archaeology. Slang names close to Ainiala’s heart are Hesa (Helsinki) and Vuokki (Vuosaari, the eastern district of Helsinki).
Pirjo Lyytikäinen is a respected scholar of Finnish literature. Her works on Volter Kilpi, Finnish symbolism and decadence, Alexis Kivi’s Seven Brothers and Leena Krohn earned her the Prize of the Finnish Association of Non-Fiction Writers in 2014. Lyytikäinen has also brought Finnish literature into the international arena through her publications, edited numerous anthologies on literature and literary theory in both Finnish and English, and held various positions of trust. She chairs the Volter Kilpi Society.
Timo Santala is the central figure behind any number of successful volunteering concepts. Santala and his friends are fearless when it comes to dipping their toes in the sea of red tape. We Love Helsinki events have been organised over 50 times along various themes. Another of their ideas, Restaurant Day, has spread to over 60 countries in just four years. Santala, a firm believer in people joining forces to get things done, is currently the eyes, ears and yes, mouth of Helsinki food culture.
Professor Pirkko Moisala is equally familiar with Himalayan village music as contemporary western art. She has examined music from cultural, historical, cognitive and gender perspectives. She is interested in the people who create music and the kind of life music makes possible for individuals and communities. Moisala believes that musicology can be a form of social activism.
Jarmo Korhonen, Professor Emeritus, is a linguist specialised in German and Finnish phraseology and lexicography. He has compiled and edited many book publications on these and other fields of linguistics, as well as two dictionaries. Korhonen was Professor of Germanic Philology at the University of Helsinki between 1993 and 2014.
Jouko Lindstedt is a language professor, but perhaps not your standard language professor. He is a Slavist who doesn’t teach Russian. His specialist subjects are the Slavonic languages, spoken by nearly 100 million Europeans. Lindstedt has spoken Esperanto since 1969, and it’s the second language in the family home.
Maria Jotuni was a well-known short-story writer and playwright. Her interest in writing began at an early age. It began to bear literary fruit in the Savo-Karelian student ‘nation’ which gave her the credibility she needed to become a fully professional writer. Jotuni never graduated from the University but did meet her husband there. A brave, even iconoclastic figure, Maria Jotuni was often to be found at the centre of attention and a target of moral censure.
Laura Kolbe is a Helsinki-based history scholar and non-fiction author. She holds the Chair in European History at the University of Helsinki, and is on the Helsinki City Council. Kolbe sees the University not just as a crucible of research activity, but as a place where teachers and students interact for everyone’s benefit. Docendo discimus, by teaching we learn. Kolbe also enjoys sharing information by taking people out for a walk. In the autumn of 2013, she founded Helsinki Walks Oy, working together with students and scholars who share her enthusiasm for urban history.
Juhani Härmä, Professor of Romance Philology, hopes for a greater appreciation of the French language in modern society. He has found an abundance of as yet unresearched French language material that gives new perspectives on the significance of the French language in Finland.
Is the only place for a researcher in the humanities to be found in a university? Jorma Kaimio, Classics scholar, left the groves of academe to spread his wings as a businessman. At the age of 25 he defended his thesis on the ousting of the Etruscan language. His main academic work was about the position of the Greek language in the Roman Empire. Upon completion, he became managing director of the Akateeminen bookshop, and, further in his career, literary director and, thereafter, president of the leading Finnish publisher WSOY. In retirement he moved to the rectory in Rantasalmi, in central Finland, and got back to his research on Etruscan gravestones and carbonised papyrus rolls found at the ancient site at Petra in Jordan.
It was a fascination with the academic world that took Viljo Tarkiainen from an investigation of the local dialect to further study in Denmark, and finally back to Finland to work on novels and plays. His authorship of Aleksis Kivi's biography and a constant stream of book and theatre reviews put Tarkiainen at the forefront of the literary scene. A person very much in the public eye, he conducted himself with absolute integrity, not least when reviewing the works of Maria Jotuni, his wife.
Professor Mervi Helkkula works on the interface between the French language and its literature, and is currently researching the expression of negative emotions in contemporary French fiction. Helkkula is especially interested in the relationship between the text and the reader, and the feelings the text gives rise to.
René Gothóni is a scholar of the study of religions specialising in monasteries, pilgrimage and hermeneutics. In addition to academic monographs, professor Gothóni has published works of non-fiction and study material as well as fiction and songs, all of which draw on his knowledge in the fields of the study of religions and the psychology of religion. Gothóni is the first Professor of Comparative Religion at the Faculty of Arts.
How does literature represent life? How are rhetorical figures and narratives combined? How are we to interpret literature? What does it mean to different people in different periods? Professor Bo Pettersson seeks to answer such questions. The author and scholar David Lodge has said that literature is a treasure trove of human consciousness – if so Professor Pettersson is a treasure hunter.
In 1882, Emma Irene Åström was the first Finnish woman to be awarded a Master’s degree at the Imperial Alexander University. Her main subject was philosophy. She became an important role model for women studying in the University and the activities of the women’s movement. And subsequently Åström was the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Helsinki’s School of Philosophy.
Johan Richard Danielson-Kalmari
In Finnish politics and the study of history, J.R. Danielson-Kalmari was something of a Finnish hero. He was a key player in the contemporary political scene and also played an active role in the development of history as an academic discipline, drawing inspiration from the German historiographical tradition. At the turn of the 20th century he defended through historical precedent the status of the Grand Duchy of Finland as an autonomous state of the Russian Empire. This won him great popularity within the country, but also internationally.
Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila enjoys an international reputation as Professor of Arabic Language and Islamic Studies at the University of Helsinki. Hämeen-Anttila has also done much to promote his research field in Finnish through dozens of works of non-fiction and translations. He is the kind of scholar who is not afraid to venture out of his study. Besides scientific texts, he has published poetry and poetry in translation, been crowned “Finnish King of Nonsense” at the Vammala Old Literature Fair by telling lies to children, and, rumour has it, dances on the tables at student parties. He is a polymath: an academic, a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Hämeen-Anttila is a king of wit and master of revels. Wherever he lectures, crowds gather round just like listeners gathered around the Damascene storyteller.
A researcher who specialises in large-scale comparison of languages, studying literally hundreds of languages at a time. Professor Miestamo's research topics include the expression of negation and questions in the world's languages, and issues of language complexity. He is also interested in the documentation of less-studied languages, such as Skolt Saami.
Hella Wuolijoki was the first Estonian woman to graduate with a master’s degree from the Imperial Alexander University in 1908. Wuolijoki was a politically active leftwinger who was imprisoned during the Finnish Continuation War of 1941-1944. Hella Wuolijoki was a woman of many parts: an author, a member of the Finnish Parliament and the director-general of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle), to mention a few of her roles. Her grandson, the politician Erkki Tuomioja received the Tieto-Finlandia book prize in 2006 for his book on Wuolijoki, Häivähdys punaista (Eng. A Delicate Shade of Pink).
Mirkka Lappalainen, university lecturer and docent, is a historian who takes the long view on Sweden’s hegemonic status. Her works have received numerous prizes and praise for their literary merit. In her university teaching Lappalainen guides students in their investigation of the materials and mysteries of the past.
Professor Timo Riiho’s long career has been good for the languages of the Iberian Peninsula. It is partly down to him that, in addition to Spanish and Portuguese, it is also possible to study Catalan, Galician and Basque at the University of Helsinki. Being a linguist, Riiho has found himself in some interesting situations: anything from meeting members of the Spanish Royal Family to translating the lyrics of Finland’s first ever Eurovision Song Contest winner, Lordi’s Hard Rock Hallelujah, into Spanish, at the request of the embassy.
Lauri "Tahko" Pihkala
Lauri ”Tahko” (‘grindstone’) Pihkala is known as the man behind the Finnish national sport, Finnish baseball. And it’s thanks to Pihkala that schoolchildren’s annual week-long skiing holidays and the idea of sports institutes arrived in Finland. Pihkala recognised the philosophical dimension of exercise and its role in galvanising the entire nation.