Matthias Akiander
Humanist of the day

Matthias Akiander

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.

Matthias Akiander

Matthias Akiander (formerly Matti Akkanen)
Born June 17, 1802, Jääski. Died August 8, 1871, Helsinki

Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy 1822–28, Imperial Academy of Turku

Ordained as a minister 1848, Diocese of Porvoo
Acting professor of Russian language and literature 1837­–43, professor extraordinary 1853–62, professor 1862–67, Imperial Alexander University
Lecturer in Russian language 1836–52, Imperial Alexander University
Helsinki school inspector 1855–70
Russian teacher 1832–41, Helsingin yksityislyseo
Russian teacher 1830–27, principal 1835–39, Helsingin triviaalikoulu
Translator of Russian 1825–30, provincial government of Turku and Pori

Founding member of the Finnish Literature Society 1831, secretary 1838–39, supervisor 1868–70, auditing committee member 1833–62, chairman of Historiallinen Osakunta (‘historical association’), precursor to the Finnish Historical Society

Honorary doctorate 1860, Imperial Alexander University

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by

In 1802, a boy was born to the Akkanens, a farming family in the rural parish of Jääski, and they named him Matti. He was not predisposed to manual work on the farm, but with the help of a local surveyor he learned to read and write. When, in 1811, the Russian navy began conscripting young boys in Jääski, Matti Akkanen was sent by his father to school in Vyborg.

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Matthias Akiander, professor of Russian language and literature, pursued a noteworthy career both as a linguist and historian. Despite the lack of an academic degree, he was respected in the academic world and worked to promote Finnish as a language of science and letters.

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