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Pro Finlandia. Finland's road to independence. Perspective: France and Italy.



Pro Finlandia. Finland's road to independence. Perspective: France and Italy.



Pro Finlandia. Finland's road to independence. Perspective: France and Italy.

On 3 December in the Finnish National Archives (Rauhankatu 17, Helsinki), an exhibition will open to launch Finland's centenary celebrations, entitled Pro Finlandia. Finland's road to independence. Perspective: France and Italy.

Pro Finlandia. Finland's road to independence. Perspective: France and Italy exhibition is a part of a more extensive series of four exhibitions, which show how Finland, the Finns and Finland's aspirations were seen in other European countries in the decades preceding independence and the country’s first years of independence. The first part focuses on the perspectives of France and Italy, while later exhibitions will discuss the them from the perspective of other Nordic countries as well as Germany and Russia.

The exhibition presents Finland from the 1880s to the beginning of the 1920s, first as a Grand Duchy of Russia and then as a young independent nation. The exhibition also takes a look at significant Finnish opinion-leaders in art and culture, who also affected Finland's outward appearance at the time. The exhibition comprises artefacts, photographs, paintings, old newspaper articles and discovered documents. The visitors will also have the opportunity to step into the Finnish pavilion from the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris through a virtual pavilion.


Early images of Finland

Pro Finlandia. Finland's road to independence. Perspective: France and Italy primarily focuses on the decisive decades with regard to our development as a nation, but also takes into account earlier images of Finland: French interest in Lapland in the 17th century and the wars of the 1850s and 1860s:  the Crimean War and the Italian Independence War.

The first images of Finland came about from the early texts written about Lapland. Indeed, Lapland was the primary source of interest of for French scientists and tourists up until the 19th century, when the rest of Finland was 'discovered': The land of saunas and the kantele. French travellers and expeditions arriving in our country during the first decades of autonomy added further depth to the image of Finland. The French translation of The Kalevala was published in 1845.

The Crimean War brought French troops to Finland, while the Italian Independence War took Finns to Italy. During the Crimean War, the French took the fortress of Bomarsund in the Åland Islands in 1854, while the Italian Independence War attracted, among others, the Finns Herman Liikanen and Waldemar Becker, who both participated in the fighting and simultaneously in the birth process of modern Italy.


Dreams of separation and international pressure

Waldemar Becker, who fought in Italy, was one of the first proponents of Finnish independence, but his action did not attract much attention internationally – the opposite happened to the survey on the constitutional status of Finland written by the professor of jurisdiction and senator Leo Mechelin. Mechelin is one of the key figures of the exhibition; his active role in emphasising Finland's special status is extensively discussed. For example, he was the prime mover behind the book Finland in the 20th Century which was translated in 1899. The book describes an advanced Grand Duchy separate from Russia.

The publication of the February Manifesto in 1899 raised opposition in Finland, which was also noticed internationally. The most impressive of measures taken in opposition of the manifesto was the 'cultural petition for the rights of Finland'.  It was signed by 1,063 representatives of European sciences and arts. The number of Italian signatories was particularly high.

However, the Russian Emperor Nicholas II did not accept the cultural petition. The original petition with its handsome casing is one of the most impressive objects of the exhibition.


From World Fairs to World Wars

Finland participated in the world fairs, or Expositions Universelle, organised in Paris in 1878, 1889 and 1900. The documents, publications and brochures related to the world fairs displayed at the exhibition speak of the attempts to highlight Finland but also about the mixed reception of these attempts.

Finland had the opportunity to build its own pavilion at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris. The building of the Finnish pavilion became a joint national effort in which many Finnish artists participated. The virtual pavilion, on loan from Aalto University, gives visitors a unique opportunity to experience for themselves how it was.


The Finnish pavilion at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris.

The exhibition also discusses the tensions brought on by World War I. The significance of the military pact between France and Russia, which was important for the former, intensified when war broke out in 1914. The exhibition includes copies from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs of reports from the French embassy in Helsinki on various subjects including the Jaeger movement and pro-German stance.


A cartoon mocking Russia in the French magazine Le Grelot.

France recognised Finnish independence as early as 4 January 1918, Italy only in summer 1919. The Finnish Civil War of 1918 and the subsequent pro-German movement with the election of a king led to a break in relations with France – albeit for a short time only. The exhibition also discusses this interim stage which Finland attempted to steer clear of with the Regent C.G.E. Mannerheim at the helm, and ends naturally in Finland's membership in the League of Nations in 1920.

Pro Finlandia. Finland's road to independence. Perspective: France and Italy. is open at the National Archives from 3 December 2014 to 18 June 2015 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entry is free.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the National Archives will publish a book of the same name.


Data: da Mer 3 Dic 2014 a Gio 18 Giu 2015

Ingresso : Libero