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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.

State, academia and family

In his biography, Rafael Koskimies mentions that Eino Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen has said that his father’s influence as a university professor on his own academic growth and development was not particularly great or fruitful. This is easy to understand when considered in terms of history teaching in today’s schools. Of course, Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen did make a contribution by basing Finnish historiography on source criticism, as exemplified by his book Nuijasota (the so-called ‘Cudgel war’ from the late-sixteenth century). Moreover, his academic approach was in part inherited from Snellman and Hegel. But in the end the picture we get is more that of statesman than academic.

Yrjö Koskinen married at the relatively young age of twenty. For many years, the couple lived at different addresses, which was uncommon at the time. They moved together to Helsinki when Koskinen was appointed professor. During his long excursions, Koskinen wrote fondly to his wife back in Loppi, some 50 miles north of Helsinki, thanking her “for the support, encouragement, child-rearing and house-keeping in the city and at the Leppälahti manor alike”. Koskinen was also in frequent correspondence with his closest brother, Jaakko Forsman. They saw eye to eye on many issues and worked on a number of joint projects. Although Yrjö Koskinen was a reformist outside the home, his domestic life, according to Eino Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen, was rather conservative. Yrjö-Koskinen’s wife Sofia died in 1895, but he remarried the very next year. His new bride was Theodolinda Hahnsson, an old friend. Yrjö-Koskinen had many children, and his sons followed in their father into politics and teaching.

A little street near the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Helsinki is named after Yrjö-Koskinen. In addition, the Finnish Cultural Foundation distributes a grant named after him to upper secondary school students, whose Finnish matriculation examination essays show promise.


  • 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’ National Biography of Finland online Accessed 15.11.2014
  • Wikipedia Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen Accessed 15.11.2014

Citation from Sainio.

Photo: Museovirasto, Daniel Nyblin​


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