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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

A Professor without a Degree

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.

As was typical of the time, the young pupil’s name was rendered into Swedish, and he became Matthias Akiander. At school Akiander learnt Swedish, German and Russian alike. He was an extremely promising student, even the best in his class in his penultimate year at upper-secondary school. However, the money ran out and his school career was foreshortened.

Akiander collected funds for continuing his education by working as a private tutor for the children of the provost in Tohmajärvi until the completion of his upper-secondary education and subsequent enrolment at the Imperial Academy Turku in 1922.

In 1825, due to his Russian language skills, he gained employment in the provincial government as a translator. The responsibilities of his post took much of his time, for which reason his studies were first neglected and then entirely abandoned upon the university’s transfer to Helsinki in 1824.

Akiander himself moved to Helsinki in 1830, where he secured a teaching post at Helsingin triviaalikoulu. Teaching Russian language became Akiander’s fulltime occupation, first at Helsinki schools and then, in 1836, also at the University. He was named professor extraordinary of Russian language and literature in 1853 and professor ordinary nine years later. Aside from his professorship, he also worked as a supervisor at the Russian library founded by Jakov Grot. Akiander was also involved in establishing the Finnish Literature Society, where he worked as a supervisor from 1868–70. Akiander had resigned his school teaching posts by 1841. Nevertheless, he continued to work with schools as an inspector, first, in 1853, in Eastern Finland and then throughout the entire country between 1863 and 1868. He was also a long-time school inspector in Helsinki and worked on various committees planning school reform.

Akiander’s parents, particularly his mother, had hoped he would become a minister. To fulfil his mother’s wish, he successfully studied for the priesthood, ordaining in 1848, although he never held a post in the clergy.

In contrast, he was never to complete an academic degree. Nevertheless, his academic merits were significant, as a result of which he was granted an honorary doctorate in 1860.

Picture source: Wikimedia Commons.


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