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Jussi Nuorteva

Jussi Pekka Nuorteva
Born 22 July, 1954, Helsinki.

Master of Theology (Finnish and Scandinavian Church History) 1979, Master of Philosophy (Finnish and Scandinavian Church History) 1983, Licentiate of Philosophy 1986 and Doctor of Theology (Finnish and Scandinavian Church History) 1997, University of Helsinki
Docent, Church History and History of Science, University of Helsinki 1998

Director General of Archives, National Archivist 2003-

Secretary General, Finnish Literary Society, 2000–2003
Secretary General, Research Council for Culture and Society, Academy of Finland, 1998–2000
Science journalist, Finnish  Broadcasting Company, 1994–1998
Editor-in-chief, University of Helsinki Library’s National Bibliography of Finland 1991–1993
Assistant, Church History, University of Helsinki, 1989–1994 (leave of absence 1991–1993)
Research Assistant, Academy of Finland 1984–1989
Project Researcher, Academy of Finland 1879–1984

Research interests: Church history and history of science, history of early manuscripts, university 'practice masters', prison systems, history of administration, diplomatic history, states of emergency

Written by Jussi Nuorteva and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

The Middle East and the Finnish Institute

My first encounter with the Middle East was in the early autumn of 1974, when I began my studies at the University of Haifa. I had no great ambitions for my studies. Life in the Middle East was, on the other hand, all too real with the sound of sporadic grenades exploding in the direction of Lebanon and the Golan Heights and Israeli Skyhawk and Phantom fighter planes flitting above the surface of the Mediterranean. We followed all this from the terrace of the University cafeteria.

I also recall Finnish Independence Day, December 6th, 1974, and the terrorist attack on the Rosh Hanikra kibbutz bordering on Lebanon. I had left the Warsaw ghetto museum located on the kibbutz around noon, taking the bus back to Haifa and when I arrived I was told about a blast that had injured two people.

Nor can I forget a fellow student and friend, who had been injured in the Yom Kippur war the previous year, as half his skullcap had been blown away by an exploding grenade. We went to visit him in the military hospital at Acre. This world was a far cry from back home in Finland. But you got used to it.


I have made a dozen or so trips to the Middle East and the Islamic world. I was present at the inauguration of the Finnish Institute in the Middle East in 1994. Some twenty or so years later I served on the foundation board, first as member, then vice-chair and chair. My biggest source of pride was the patrician house in the ancient city of Damascus; we acquired it with funding from the Alfred Kordelin Foundation and it was refurbished with monies from the Finnish Cultural Foundation. It soon became a popular venue among researchers and students, with the accommodation booked well ahead. But things in the Middle East changed rapidly. The high hopes of the ‘Arab Spring’ ripped apart the delicate balance in Syria, paving the way for the current civil war.

The Finnish Institute is now closed down. Whether it will ever open again remains to be seen. War has been a reality for the four decades in which the Middle East has been a part of my life and work. Hannu Juusola and Ari Kerkkänen, directors of the Institute in recent years, have been in the public eye more than any other Finnish researchers. And yet having achieved the degree of local expertise that these two have done can still, in a way, be seen as a credit to the Institute.



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