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Eemil Nestor Setälä

Born 27 February 1864, Kokemäki. Died 8 February, 1935, Helsinki.

Master of Arts, 1886, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1887 and Doctor of Philosophy, 1890, Imperial Alexander University
Docent, Finno-Ugric Languages, 1887–1893

Professor of Finnish Language and Literature, 1893–1929, Imperial Alexander University (University of Helsinki after 1919)

Teacher, Finnish Language in Helsinki Läroverket för gossar och flickor (Grammar school for boys and girls), 1884–1887
Member of editorial board, Valvoja journal,1886-, editor-in-chief, 1897–1905
Assistant, Uusi Suometar journal, 1891–1899
Editor-in-chief, Finnisch-ugrische Forschungen periodical, 1901–1935
Full-time Assistant, Helsingin sanomat newspaper, 1905–1917
Chairman, Kaleva Society, 1919–1935

Senator, 1917–1918, Minister of Education, 1925, Minister for Foreign Affairs, 1925–1926
Finnish Ambassador to Copenhagen and Budapest, 1927–1930
Chancellor, University of Turku, 1926–1935
Councillor of State, 1934

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

Parliamentary reformer and minister of education

Apart from excelling at linguistics, Emil Nestor Setälä also played an active part in social affairs as a prolific writer and politician. He is said to have been an enterprising and efficient organiser, outlining Finnish cultural policies and administration as well taking part in legislative work in the newly-independent country. The ambitious Setälä was one of a number of University men for whom scientific and academic success alone was not enough.

E.N. Setälä got to exert influence on matters of social policy as a member of the editorial board of the Valvoja journal, especially during the years he served as editor-in-chief from 1897 to 1905. The teachers in the diocese of Savonlinna elected him as a parliamentary representative of the clergy in 1905. He was a member of the parliamentary committee that drafted the proposal for the new parliament act and electoral law, and served as a member and the president of the Committee for Constitutional Law in the unicameral parliament. In addition to this, he also participated in making statements on the country's laws. The wording of the Finnish Declaration of Independence is said to have largely been penned by E.N. Setälä.

Setälä also served as Finland's first Minister of Education, taking part in reforming compulsory education and promoting the freedom of religion. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Finnish Ambassador in Copenhagen and Budapest Setälä joined the ranks of academics whose international scientific and cultural contacts were utilised in advancing Finnish diplomacy. He was also the chancellor of the University of Turku from 1926 to 1935.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.​
Image: Wikimedia Commons.​



Members of the Finnish Parliament 1907-, E.N. Setälä, website of the Parliament of Finland. In Finnish.

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