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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

Church History and Better Finnish

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.

Akiander wrote his first textbook as early as 1831, while working in his second year as a Russian teacher at Helsingin triviaalikoulu. The text book was a Russian primer written in Swedish, which was followed four years later by a grammar of Russian. Its Finnish language edition was published in 1864.

Akiander’s interest in history had already been piqued while at school in Vyborg, thanks to his enthusiastic teacher, Evert. Well-versed in Russian, Akiander already made a significant contribution to the field in 1848, by publishing a wide collection of Swedish translations of Russian annals.

His greatest work in the field of history was, however, the study of Finnish religious movements, for which he collected material until the end of the 1950s. The research material was considered of great value, and the University decided to fund its publication in its entirety. Historiska upplysningar om de religiösa rörelserna i Finland i äldre och senare tider, his magnum opus, was released in seven parts between 1857 and 1863.

The first volume of Mathias Akiander’s seven-part series on Finnish religious movements.

On the theme of church history, Akiander also published a wideranging work on Finland’s Eastern Diocese, Herdaminne för fordna Wiborgs och nuvarande Borgå stift (1868–1869), and a study on the formation, conditions and judicial nature of the ceded territories of Old Finland (1864).

Akiander also worked to promote Finnish as a language of science and letters. As early as the 1840s he outlined the establishment of an entirely Finnish-language institute of further and higher education in a letter to Elias Lönnrot. The idea was realised, but not until the founding of the Jyväskylä Lyceum school in 1858 and the Jyväskylä teacher training college in 1863. Akiander felt that the lack of Finnish textbooks was a problem. He proofread and improved the Finnish in a hymn book in 1846, a manual for clerics in 1848 and a catechism in 1852. Akiander was also praised for his corrections to the Finnish language edition of the New Testament (1852). Among others Georg Zacharias Forsman commended Akiander’s redaction with the words “the purest Finnish for the holy books.”


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