Finland - Culture

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 Prehistoric:  The oldest marks of human activity in Finland has found in SusiluolaKristiinankaupunki. Some excavation has been considered as an man-made over 100,000 years ago.After the Ice Age, area of Finland was resettled at around 9,000 years ago and first known sculpture Elk's Head of Huittinen has been dated about 5–7000 BCE.

Medieval: The most important products of medieval architecture in Finland are the medieval stone churches. More than a hundred of them were built during 15th and 16th centuries. Neoclassical architecture arrived in late 18th century, but important building projects started after 1808 when Finland was an autonomic part of Russia. Alexander II of Russia commissioned Carl Ludvig Engel to plan the new Senate and University for Helsinki.

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Academic Drawing Tradition: The Finnish academic drawing tradition began at Royal Academy of Turku in 1707 when first instructions of drawing was given. In 1824 The School moves with the University to Helsinki and first Finland’s art exhibition was organised at the Drawing School in the autumn of 1845. Painting was rising in Golden era of Finnish art in 1880s, when romantic nationalism was the spirit of art. Akseli Gallen-Kallela started in naturalism but moved to national romanticism.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1897,Lemminkäinen's Mother.

In 1950s the Finnish artists looked for foreign influence: first in Paris, then in United States but also in Stockholm, where modern art exhibitions were organized in Moderna museet. Abstract art made its breakthrough first in concrete art. Early concretists included Birger Carlstedt and Sam Vanni. When Vanni's monumental painting Contrapunctus (1959) won competition for mural in Helsinki, abstract art was considered to be accepted and established in Finland.

Informalism: Informalism spread quickly in 1950s and 1960s, when it was considered a new approach to landscape painting. It was also building on strong tradition of expressionism. It spread even outside of large cities.

Contemporary Art: The Finnish contemporary art scene became much more visible than before with the establishment of Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki in 1998. 

KIASMA Modern Art Museum 15th Anniversary Tour - Helsinki, Finland


There are two major traditions of folk music in Finland, namely, music of the Kalevala form, and Nordic folk music or pelimanni music. The former is considered the older one. Its most important form is called runonlaulanta ("poem singing" or chanting) which is traditionally performed in a trochaic tetrametre using only the first five notes on a scale.Pelimanni music is the Finnish version of the Nordic folk dance music and it is tonal. It came to Finland from Central Europe via Scandinavia starting in the 17th century, and in the 19th century pelimanni music replaced the Kalevalaic tradition. 

The Sami of northern Finland are known for highly spiritual songs called joik, reminiscent of a few types of Native American singing. 

For more information on music in Finland, check out Music Finland.

Articles & Essays

A Guide to Finnish Customs and Manners, This is Finland

Finnish Culture and Cross-Culture,Expat Finland

Finland's 10 Best Contemporary Artists and When to Find Them, The Culture Trip

Notes on the Finnish TraditionPole Star Association (Taivaannaula ry)

Culture in Finland, Finnish Institute in the Middle East

The Role of the Kalevala in Finnish Culture and PoliticsNordic Journal of African Studies 1(2): 82–93 (1992)


Top 5 Finnish Films:

1.) The Man Without a Past (Mies Vailla Menneisyyttä) - Aki Kaurismäki  (2002)

A man who has completely lost his memory must restart their lives in a marginal area , with human beings apart from society.

2.) Frozen Land (Paha Maa )- Aku Louhimies  (2005)

When a schoolteacher is sacked he projects his bad mood at his troubled teen son. He in turn buys a CD player from a pawnshop with counterfeit money. This causes a chain-reaction that wreaks havoc on many lives, as everyone transfers their problems to the next victim.

3.) Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale - Jalmari Helander (2010)

In the depths of the Korvatunturi mountains, 486 metres deep, lies the closest ever guarded secret of Christmas. The time has come to dig it up! This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.

4.) The Unknown Soldier(Tuntematon Sotilas) -  Edvin Laine (1955)

The story is about the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Unionas told from the viewpoint of ordinary Finnish soldiers. 

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5.) The Tough Ones (Häjyt) - Aleksi Mäkelä (1999) 

Two ex-cons return to their hometown and learn that their former partner is now a lawman. Despite their friend's help, they fall off the straight-and-narrow and become moonshiners.