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August Ahlqvist

Karl August Engelbrekt Ahlqvist
Born 7 August, 1826, Kuopio. Died 20 November, 1889, Helsinki

Master of Philosophy 1853, Licentiate of Philosophy 1854 Doctor of Philosophy, Imperial Alexander University

Acting professor of Finnish Language and Literature 1862, Full Professor of Finnish Language and Literature 1863–88, Imperial Alexander University

Finnish teacher, Helsingin yksityislyseon (private school in Helsinki) 1859–61
Inspector for the Savokarelian ‘Nation’ 1868–77
Vice-rector 1878–1881, Dean, School of Philosophy (present-day Faculty of Arts) 1882–84
University Rector 1884–87, Imperial Alexander University

Kanslianeuvos (Finnish honorary title granted to distinguished senior civil servants) 1884
Councillor of State 1887
Joint winner of St Petersburg Scientific Academy’s Demidoff Award 1862
Honorary member of various international learned societies

Photo: Museovirasto
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by John Calton

Translator, poet and critic meets professor, dean and rector

Karl August Engelbrekt Ahlqvist was born and raised in Kuopio. As a schoolboy he became acquainted with Johan Vilhelm Snellman, his headmaster. Ahlqvist’s Finnish translations of poetry were published in Snellman’s journal Saima and Ahlqvist translated the Dane, Ludvig Stoud Platou’s celebrated work Udtog af Geographien (‘Aspects of geography’), making it the first Finnish-language geography textbook. In translating this work, Ahlqvist gave the Finnish language words such as maapallo, napapiiri, päiväntasaaja ja siirtomaa (‘globe’, lit. ‘earth-ball’, ‘pole’, lit. ‘button-region’, ‘equator’ lit. ‘day-leveller’, and ‘colony’ lit. ‘move-land’). Ahlqvist’s Finnish translation of Johan Ludvig Runebergs verse was also the first to be published.

Besides Snellman, Ahlqvist also befriended Elias Lönnrot, and safeguarding the Finnish language became a matter of great importance to him. In 1847, together with D. E. D. Europaeus and Paavo Tikkanen, he founded the journal Suometar. Later Ahlqvist set up the language and literary journal Kielettären, which ran from 1871 to 1875.

August Ahlqvist gave expression to his own artistic bent by writing poems under the pseudonym A. Oksanen. The best known of these lyrical verses is the popular ‘Song of Savo’ (Savolainen laulu). As a literary critic, Ahlqvist paid attention not only to the content of the works under consideration but more especially to the quality of the Finnish.

Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo.​
Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo.​

Besides professor of Finnish language and literature in the Imperial Alexander University, August Ahlqvist was very much a roving linguist. He went on a number of field trips around Finland, in Russia and Central Europe. He also researched Finno-Ugrian languages in the Volga and Ural regions. In addition to his academic findings, Ahlqvist published the first Finnish travel book, Muistelmia matkoilta Wenäjällä 1854–1858 (‘Memoirs of travels in Russia, 1854-58’). With a view to international recognition, he published his research findings in Finnish, Swedish and German.

The business of University administration came naturally to Ahlqvist. He was vice-rector between 1878 and 1881 and dean of the School of Philosophy from 1882 to 1884. Upon his appointment as rector in 1884, he gave the first inaugural address in Finnish.

Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo.​
Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo.​



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