Kauko Laitinen
Humanist of the day

Kauko Laitinen

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.

Kauko Laitinen

Born May 10, 1951 Kangasniemi

PhD (Sociology) 1985, University of Tokyo
Studies in Japanese language and international relations, 1979–84, Japan
Master of Social Science 1975, University of Helsinki (Political Science)
Studies in Chinese language and history 1975–78, China

University lecturer in Asia-Pacific Studies
Docent in East Asian Studies

Professor of Chinese Studies and director of the Confucius Institute 2014–15, University of Helsinki
Finnish Institute in Japan 2011–14
Confucius Institute 2007–11, University of Helsinki

Research themes:
Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld in Finnish-Japanese relations
Self-governance of islands in the era of regions: comparison between Okinawa and Åland
Finnish-Chinese research collaboration on Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim’s 1906–08 ride across Asia.

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Special achievements:
Report on the possibility of establishing the Finnish institute in Japan
Initiative and preparatory work for making Asia-Pacific Studies a university subject
Initiative to establish the Confucius Institute at the University of Helsinki

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Kauko Laitinen (Kaija Hartikainen, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

My career at the University of Helsinki began in 1970, when I enrolled at the Faculty of Social Sciences to study international politics. In 1973, with the encouragement of the renowned UN expert Professor Göran von Bonsdorff, I applied to study in the US for a year.

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I finished my Master’s thesis, the topic of which had changed from the UN to the history of Tibet, one early September morning in 1975 and handed it in, post-haste, to the faculty for marking. By the afternoon I was already sitting on the train to Moscow en route to China, which was then under the rule of Mao Zedong, and which, according to later history books, was still in the grip of the Cultural Revolution.

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At the end of 1986 my embassy work was behind me, and I began work at the Department of Asian and African Studies with the support of a grant for returning scholars from the Academy of Finland. Nevertheless, as early as the following summer the invitation came for me to go to Copenhagen, where the Nordic Council of Ministers had decided to reorganise the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS).

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