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Karl Ferdinand Ignatius

Karl Emil Ferdinand Ignatius
Born October 27, 1837, Pori. Died September 11, 1909, Helsinki.

Master of Arts (history), 1860, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1862, Doctor of Philosophy, 1864, Imperial Alexander

Assistant to the Head Statistician, 1865–68,  Head Statistician, 1868–75, Director 1875–1885, Central Office of Statistics (–1870 temporary bureau of statistics, –1884 Statistical Office)
Docent, Nordic History and Docent of Finnish Statistics, 1865, Imperial Alexander University

Senator, Head of the Cabinet Committee, 1885–1900, 1905–8
Representative of the Burghers at the Diet, 1877–8, 1882, 1885, 1904–5
Member, Helsinki City Council, 1875–8, 1903–5

Founder Member, Finnish Geographical Society, 1888, Chairman, 1888–9, Honorary Member, 1907
Member, Finnish Society of Science and Letters, 1879
Chairman, Finnish Antiquarian Society, 1877–85
Founder Member, Finnish Historical Society, 1875, Chairman, 1877–8, 1884–5, 1900–1

Italian Cavaliere, 1884
Knight of the Order of St.Vladimir, Fourth Class, 1883, Third Class, 1887
Knight of the Order of St. Anna, Second Class, 1880, First Class, 1897
Knight of the Order of St. Stanislas, Second Class, 1876, First Class, 1892

Photo: National Board of Antiquities / Daniel Nyblin
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by John Calton

Champion of the dispossessed

In addition to his statistical and academic activities, Karl Ferdinand Ignatius, director general of the central office for statistics, was a pro-Finnish political figure of considerable influence. He participated in the Diet of Finland, worked as a senator and wrote articles for daily newspapers and periodicals.

Together with several other notable Fennomans, Ignatius participated in the establishment of the newspaper Uusi Suometar in 1869. Despite his pro-Finnish stance, Ignatius, who had a Swedish-speaking upbringing, never fully learnt to master the Finnish language. Indeed, he usually wrote in Swedish and had his articles translated. Ignatius’s articles also appeared in such publications as the periodical Valvoja, the mouthpiece of the upper-class reformist movement.

Ignatius participated in the Diet of Finland for the first time in 1877, as a representative of the burgher class. He soon rose to become the leading figure of the Fennoman minority in this class. Ignatius was earmarked to fill the position in the Senate vacated by his friend Georg Zacharias Forsman (later Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen) as head of the taxation and accounting committee. Three years later, the appointment came through. As a senator, Ignatius overhauled state bookkeeping and the land and population registers as well as the supervision of bureaus. Nevertheless, he considered his most important task to be the improvement of the position of the landless section of the population. The fruit of Ignatius’s labour was an 1892 decree to improve the position of tenant farmers and the fund for landless peasants established in 1896 to celebrate the coronation of Nicholas II of Russia. His work on behalf of tenant farmers nevertheless attracted censure – even ridicule– from landowners.

Ignatius, who had initially supported a policy of compliance with Russian rule, changed his political stance at the turn of the 20th century during the years of Russification. He adopted a constitutionalist position, which led to his estrangement from many of his close friends, including Yriö Koskinen.

After opposing the 1900 language manifesto, according to which Russian was to become the official language of government and administration in the course of the next ten years, Ignatius was forced to tender his resignation from his post at the Senate. After the general strike of 1905, he continued to work in the government of Leo Mechelin, until heightened tensions with Russia forced him once more to submit his resignation and a petition for a state pension in 1908.

Karl Emil Ferdinand Ignatius. Photo: National Board of Antiquities.


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