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Matti Klinge

Born August 31, 1936, Helsinki.

Master of Arts (ultimus), 1959, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1966 and Doctor of Philosophy, 1967 (history), University of Helsinki;

Awarded “best Master of Arts” degree, 1960, riemumaisteri (An honorary master's title awarded to an individual 50 years after the original degree), 2010

Professor Emeritus of History, University of Helsinki, 2002-
Professor of History, University of Helsinki, 1975–2001
Visiting Professor (Finnish Literature and Culture, Sorbonne, Paris), 1970–72
Research fellow, valtion humanistinen toimikunta (present-day Academy of Finland), 1968–75
Docent, Intellectual History and History of Science, 1968-, University of Helsinki
Researcher, the Student Union of the University of Helsinki, 1960–68

Elector for the Helsinki constituency in the Presidential election, 1982 and 1988
Curator, Mannerheim museum, 1966–69
Kuraattori, the student 'nation’ of Southern Finland,  1963–66, Inspehtori, 1976–86, Honorary Member
Member and President of numerous learned foundations and societies as well as Swedish Academies

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Honorary Doctor, University of Uppsala, 1989
Honorary Doctor, University of Greifswald, 2006
Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland, 1980
Commander of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, first class, 2007
Badge of the Presiding Officers (purple ribbon), Student Union of the University of Helsinki, 2001
Commander, Order of the Polar Star of Sweden
L'ordre national de la Légion d'honneur (Chevalier, 1996; Officier, 2015)

Recipient of Dutch, Polish and Russian decorations

Honorary Member, Finnish Historical Society, Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, Swedish Literature Society in Finland and Uppsala division of the Stockholm ‘Nation’

Photo: Laura Malmivaara/Kustannusosakeyhtiö Siltala
Written by Matti Klinge, Kaija Hartikainen (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Science and Culture, Signed and Sealed

Professor Emeritus Matti Klinge is one of Finland’s most prolific writers. Alongside scholarly works he has written a great many newspaper articles and columns.

“I began writing in the 1950s for a journal called Eteläsuomalainen and the student paper Ylioppilaslehti. Then in the following decade I wrote for the Uusi Suomi newspaper and above all the long-established cultural periodical Valvoja. In addition, I have written plenty of articles for Historiallinen Aikakauskirja (‘Historical journal’) and for many years I was a columnist for the Swedish-language Finnish daily, Hufvudstadsbladet.

Klinge’s journalistic activity has continued uninterrupted since 1999, with the annual publication of an intellectual diary. Volume XVII is well underway and will appear in the autumn of 2015. He has also produced the first volume of his memoirs, with the second coming out in 2014, and the third will appear next autumn. These take the reader up to  1982.

The publishing event of Matti Klinge's 'Tanskan sää'. Photo: Mika Federley.​
The publishing event of Matti Klinge's 'Tanskan sää'. Photo: Mika Federley.​

“My academic breakthrough came in 1967-68, when I published a four-part book series on students as citizens. One part was my doctoral thesis Kansalaismielen synty (‘The origins of a civic mind’).  I got the series published in Swedish under the title Studenter och idéer (‘Students and ideas’).

Klinge has managed to get practically all his most important books translated into Swedish and some of them into other languages too. He has also written a great deal in Swedish.

“Many of my substantial books have also been published in German, Russian and English. The most notable fruits of this work carried out over many years are a three-volume history of our University (1987-90, in Swedish, with abridged versions in German and English), a history of the nineteenth century, Keisari Suomi (‘The Emperor’s Finland’), Porvariston nousu (‘The rise of the bourgeoisie’) dealing with Europe, and more recently in 2012, Finnish, Swedish and Russian editions of Pääkaupunki. Helsinki ja Suomen valtio (‘Helsinki and the Finnish state.’).

For Professor Emeritus Klinge himself a very important book “on the imposition of modernity on a periphery” is his 2006 Iisalmen ruhtinaskunta, dealing with two centuries of the northern Finnish principality of Iisalmi. It will soon be available in a Swedish version. Besides these substantial works, Klinge has also written more condensed works: these too form a long list, starting with the 1972 pocket book Vihan veljistä valtiososialismiin (‘From brothers in hate to state socialism’).

“A good deal of attention was attracted – also in Estonia - by my book Muinaisuutemme merivallat (Eng. Ancient Powers of the Baltic Sea. An Illustrated Historical Outline), which was published in 1983. My best known condensed read is Lyhyt Suomen historia- A Short History of Finland, which since 1977 under slightly different titles has appeared in some 20 languages and in total more than 200,000 copies in revised editions. In some sense a sister volume, which I consider one of my most important works is Itämeren maailma (transl. The Baltic World); again, published in a number of language versions. It has gained some standing, especially in Germany.

Professor Emeritus Matti Klinge is clearly the most translated of Finland's historians. He has a considerable readership beyond Finland, above all in Sweden. In Klinge’s view, the interest can be accounted for by the fact that Sweden from the point of view of an interest in Finland is incontestably the most important near abroad.


Translated by John Calton

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