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Veikko Koskenniemi

Veikko Antero Koskenniemi (previously Forsnäs)
Born 8 July, 1885, Oulu. Died 4 August, 1962, Turku

Master of Arts 1907, Imperial Alexander University

Assistant 1905, Uusi Suomi newspaper (previously Suometar)
Editor-in-chief: Uusi Päivä newspaper, 1917–1918; Iltalehti newspaper, 1918–1919; and Aika journal 1912–1921
Professor of Finnish Literature and Literary History, 1921–1948, University of Turku
Vice-rector 1923–1924, Rector 1924–1932, University of Turku

Member of the Academy of Finland, 1948–1955

Photo: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura
Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by John Calton

Alumnus of three cities

Veikko Antero Koskenniemi was born in Oulu in 1885. There was a large age difference between his parents, and this was partly reflected in young Veiko’s upbringing. His father died when Koskenniemi was only a couple of years old and after this he grew up in female-dominated company. His father’s surname was Forsnäs but during his schooldays, and along with many other Finns with Swedish surnames, Koskenniemi translated it into Finnish.

After completing a university degree in his hometown in 1903, Koskenniemi moved to Helsinki to continue his studies. But he never left home completely, returning at least through his poetry. At the Imperial Alexander University of Finland, Koskenniemi studied aesthetics and modern literature. His first collection of poems came out in 1906, followed by the creation of five more collections at regular intervals.

After graduating from the University, Koskenniemi worked as a freelance poet, journalist and critic. There was little obvious sign of a research career at this stage, but this did not stop him in the 1920s from getting a professorship at the newly established University of Turku. Koskenniemi’s merits as a poet, writer and critic were more than enough proof of his academic aptitude.

Koskenniemi’s professorship marked a new stage in his output, as the post included both research and teaching. Neither of these tasks, however, were a problem for him. In his research, he focused on the work of Goethe, Aleksis Kivi, and Maila Talvio. In particular, he approached the author and playwright Aleksis Kivi from a new perspective, and in doing so drew fairly intense criticism from the likes of Viljo Tarkiainen, who had published a monograph on Kivi some 15 years earlier.

Professor Koskenniemi was also one of Finland’s most popular writers, so it is hardly surprising that his lectures were popular. After stepping down as professor to work at the Academy of Finland, his legacy was a group of diligent doctoral students, every one of them committed to the field of Finnish literature.

In the 1920s and 30s, Koskenniemi identified with a right-wing worldview, which is evident in his work. Sympathy for Germany both before and during the Second World War cast Koskenniemi in a bad light in peacetime. Right-leaning sympathies and a changed society did not, however, prevent him from being granted the title of Academician in 1948. He also remained an influential figure in cultural circles.

Photo: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura.​
Photo: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura.​




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