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Matti Hirvola

Matti Johannes Hirvola
Born December 17, 1974, Pori

MA 2004 (General History), University of Helsinki

Project leader (Public relations and communications expert) at SAK, 2015–
Special advisor to Minister of Finance Antti Rinne, secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) ministers’ group, 2014–2015
Senior advisor and partner at Miltton Networks, 2013–14
Special advisor to Minister of Finance Jutta Urpilainen, 2011–13
Head of Communications for SDP, 2006–11
Training and organisation secretary at SDP, 2006
General secretary of the Advisory Council for Youth Affairs at the Ministry of Education, 2004–05
Information officer for the Socialdemocratic Youth in Finland, 2002–04
Board member of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL), 2001
Board member of Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY), 2000

Photo: Matti Hirvola
Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by Joe McVeigh

Blinded by the Big City Lights

For Matti Hirvola, who was born and raised in Pori, the University of Helsinki was a natural progression from upper secondary school. His Finnish teacher had inspired him to study the literature and the cultures of antiquity, to which purpose the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki was best suited.

– When speaking specifically of the humanities, the University of Helsinki has the most wide-ranging expertise in Finland, expertise that has been accumulated over the centuries. I did not even consider any other options. It was crystal clear that I was heading to Helsinki.

Classical philology and Latin grammar did not hold Hirvola’s interest for long, and after a few years he began studying general history as well as taking courses on economics at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

– Classical philology is not that far from history. I regret that I couldn’t get Latin grammar to stick in my head. Perhaps I was blinded by the big city lights. When you come to study in Helsinki in your twenties you have other things on your mind than Latin lectures.

Hirvola’s historical studies were more closely focused on modern times. His interest in antiquity only resurfaced some years ago.

– Some of my old fellow students and I have a hobby which we call visiting piles of stone. We visit various ancient sites and soak up the history and the atmosphere. In 2008 we visited Troy and then we had to see everything else. This summer it was Olympia, Sparta, Argos and Athens.

Upon arriving at the University and settling down with 70 other students in Satakuntatalo, a student accommodation building run by a foundation, Hirvola had to think about his future. Many of the other residents in the building already had relatively clear ideas on the direction their careers would take after graduation.

– At the time I thought to myself that one guy was studying wood processing, so he would end up at some pulp and paper manufacturer. Another was studying finance, so some bank would hire him. I had classical civilisations; what was I going to do with that? Finland is a rather technocratic nation where appreciation of the humanities is not at the same level as in some other European countries with older traditions.

This year “visiting piles of stone” has led Matti Hirvola to the Stadium Gate at Olympia, among other places.


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