Go Back

Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen

Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen (formerly Georg Zacharias Forsman)
Born Vaasa December 10, 1830.  Died Helsinki November 13, 1903.

Professor of General History 1863-76, Inspector for Ostrobothnian student ‘nation’ 1868-82 (Imperial Alexander University).

Master of Arts 1853 (history)
Licentiate of Philosophy 1858 (history)
Doctor of Philosophy 1860 (history) Imperial Alexander University

Elementary school teacher 1853-54 (Turku)
Senior Secondary School teacher 1854-63 (Vaasa).
He was also chair of the Senate House Affairs Committee (1882-85) and chair of the Ecclesiastical Affairs Committee (1885-99)

Ennobled in 1884 with the name Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen
Made a Baron in 1877

Photo: Museovirasto, Daniel Nyblin
Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by Kaisla Kajava. Revised by John Calton.

From journalist to leading light of the Fennoman movement

As an active journalist, Georg Forsman both established and edited numerous newspapers during his life, and frequently took the opportunity to voice his views on contemporary social debate in their pages. His choice of vocabulary often resulted in matters being blown out of proportion or at least their meaning rendered quite different from what he had intended.

In the 19th century, each newspaper tended to represent a certain political disposition. One of the earliest examples of this is the Swedish-language newspaper Saima, which was published by J.V. Snellman and which served as a platform for his Fennicising agenda. Saima was also delivered to the home of the young Georg Forsman and may have influenced his thinking. Forsman’s first newspaper job was in Åbo Tidningar in the 1850s. Åbo Tidningar had become identified as the newspaper of the Swedish-speaking party, which seems slightly ironic in view of Forsman’s later political incarnations. Money was likely his primary motivation for working on the newspaper.

It was only in the following decade that Forsman began to move in more obviously political circles. His writings were published in the newspaper Suometar over many years, but as the paper became more liberal, Forsman needed to find a new outlet for his thoughts. And so he founded two new newspapers. The first of these was Helsingin Uutiset in 1863, whose leading lights were his friend Agathon Meurman and Jaakko Forsman. The newspaper was short lived, however, and was soon incorporated into Suometar. Another newspaper founded around that time was Kirjallinen Kuukauslehti (1866) (‘The literary monthly’), which for a while published writings by Aleksis Kivi. Kirjallinen Kuukauslehti published book reviews, but with a journalistic twist.

Within the Swedish-speaking movement, the dominant newspaper was the daily broadsheet Helsingfors Dagbladet, which was a byword for the Swedish-speaking movement. The Finnish-minded side began to call for a newspaper to challenge the Swedish-language broadsheet and to mediate their views.

“But now I wish to turn to the other question. What a great, unforeseen source of regret for the Finnish cause that Dagbl. is allowed to prance around our country alone and, when it comes to the Finnish language, alter its mind at will, demoralising the minds of the educated population. Is there not a university city in Finland that can produce a single Swedish newspaper which would further the cause of Finnishness?”

Yrjö Koskinen seized on this idea and founded Morgonbladet at the beginning of the 1870s. Despite his best efforts, the newspaper never enjoyed the circulation figures of Helsingfors Dagbladet, even if it did bring some balance to the journalism of the day. Owing to financial difficulties Morgonbladet was eventually discontinued in 1884.

In his own journalism, Koskinen took an unabashed stand on social issues, making express use of the language status of Finnish. It was thanks to the newspapers that Yrjö Koskinen became known throughout the country, and rose to self-appointed leading light of the Fennoman movement.


  • Rafael Koskimies, ”Nuijamieheksi luotu. Yrjö Koskisen elämä ja toiminta vuosina 1860–1882.” (’Born to be a cudgelman. The life and times of Yrjö Koskinen, 1860-1882’). Otava: Keuruu, 1968.
  • Venla Sainio, Yrjö-Koskinen, Georg Zacharias” The National Biography of Finland online. Accessed 15 November 2014
  • Wikipedia, ”Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen”. Accessed 15 November 2014

Citation from Koskimies, p. 192.

Photo: Kansalliskirjasto, digitoidut sanomalehdet​​


Go Back