Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Day of Finnishness

How will you celebrate today--Finnishness Day? Watch the Duudesons? Listen to HIM? All well and good for the Finnish influence on American teen culture, but read on (if you aren't too caught up in the Duudsonit videos).

Today is a flag day in Finland. J.V. Snellman's Day or The Day of Finnishness, suomalaisuuden päivä.

Snellman is considered one of the architects of Finland. He was born in Stockholm in 1806 and his family relocated to Ostrobothnia when Finland became a grand duchy of Russia. He studied at the university in Turku and then in Helsinki, when the university moved to the new Russian capital of Finland. He was close to both Runeberg and Lönnrot.

He became a professor of philosophy at what was then the Imperial University, but his outspoken opposition to Russia led to his dismissal from the position in 1838. Snellman recognized that language was the key to national identity. Swedish was the language of education and the upper classes in Finland at that time and Snellman worked to promote Finnish and Finnish literature.

He published two periodicals from Kuopio. The Maamiehen Ystävä, the Farmer's Friend, was the only Finnish language periodical at the time. He also published the Swedish language periodical, Saima. Saima was so critical of the government that it was eventually banned.

After the death of Tsar Nicholas, Snellman regained a position at the university and also a seat in the Senate of Finland. With this political power Snellman was able to elevate and promote the Finnish language and tie the Finnish currency to silver rather than the ruble.

During the reign of Alexander II, Snellman believed that close ties to Russia were important for national security. From my reading of the two articles in English I have located (SKS and it seems that Snellman believed that Finland, under Alexander II, could carry out reforms including universal education in Finnish and these reforms would empower Finland to develop its own brand of nationalism. A highly educated population was necessary for a distinct nationality and the Finnish language was necessary for the education of the largely agrarian society.

You can celebrate the Day of Finnishness by entering the Cold Colder Coldest competition:

This competition is for residents of the United States of any age.

By May 24 send me ( an essay that begins:

"The first thing I will do when I visit Finland is....."

Please include your mailing address and whether you are a colorful candy person, a chocolate candy person, or a xylitol gum addict.

The four winners will be chosen by a panel of experts and will win a bag of Finnish candy (or gum) and the publication of their essay on the coldcoldercoldest blog.

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