PL 19 (Mariankatu 11)
000140 Helsingin yliopisto
Phone: +358-9-191 22633

Folklore Studies
Staff Information
Teaching in English
and other useful information!
Finnish Folklore Scholarship
Contemporary Research Topics
International Activities

In Finnish

Latest update February 27, 2002


The Department of Folklore Studies, along with the departments of Ethnology, Cultural Anthropology and Archaeology, belongs administratively to the Faculty of Arts and the Institute of Cultural Research. The Department of Folklore Studies is located at Mariankatu 11, right across the street from the Finnish Literature Society and Folklore Archives.


Folklore studies enjoys immense popularity at Finnish universities. The University of Helsinki currently has 173 students with folklore as their major. Every year, the Department admits 11 new students to study folklore as their major subject. Folklore is also taught at Joensuu University, the University of Turku, the University of Jyväskylä, and Åbo Academy in Turku.

Folklore has been recognised as an academic subject in Finland for over a century. In 1898, when Kaarle Krohn (1863-1933) was appointed professor of Finnish and Comparative Folklore at the University of Helsinki, he became the world's first professor in the discipline.

During the history of the Department, two professors (Martti Haavio and Matti Kuusi) have received lifetime appointments at the Academy of Finland.
Anna-Leena Siikala was recently nominated to be Academy Professor for the term 1999-2004.


To the Top Staff Information Teaching in English Finnish Folklore Scholarship Contemporary Research Topics International Activities Links


Professor, SATU APO, DPhil.

Satu Apo specialises in cultural models in popular thought, gender systems, fairy tales and the cultural aspects of alcohol consumption. She is also a literary scholar.



Lauri Harvilahti’s field of expertise resides in epic poetry, ethnopoetics, discourse analysis, and identity studies. He has done fieldwork in Mongolia, China, Bangladesh, the Altai region, and Ingria.

Professor at the Academy of Finland, ANNA-LEENA SIIKALA, DPhil.

Anna-Leena Siikala has held the  professorship at the Academy of Finland since 1st August 1999. Prior to her nomination as Academy Professor, she held the professorship at the Department of Folklore Studies. Professor Siikala's research interests include Kalevala-meter poetry, folk beliefs, mythology, shamanism, oral discourse and tradition processes. She has conducted fieldwork among Finno-Ugric peoples in Europe and in Siberia, as well as among ethnic groups in Polynesia. Furthermore, she is academically qualified in cultural anthropology and comparative religion.


Dr Naakka-Korhonen's interests are in traditional folk medicine. She has also studied ethnology, comparative religion, sociology and communication studies.

Assistant teacher, KIRSTI SALMI-NIKLANDER, PhilLic.

Kirsti Salmi-Niklander has studied local festivals in Finland. Other interests include industrial lore, immigrant culture and ethnographic filmmaking. The topic of her doctoral thesis concerns the transition period between oral and written tradition in a Finnish industrial community in the early 20th century.

Assistant teacher, LOTTE TARKKA, PhilLic.

Lotte Tarkka specialises in Kalevala-metre poetry and its interpretation from an anthropological perspective. Her research  interests include questions of genre, symbolic anthropology, epic studies and the problems of interpreting archaic folk poetry.

Department secretary, IRMELI SCHWARZ

Approximately 20 researchers are also working closely with the Department. Those most actively involved at the University of Helsinki are Anna Anttila, LicPhil, Docent Pertti Anttonen, Sanna Heikkilä, LicPhil, Pia Isojärvi, MA, Jouni Hyvönen, MA, Eeva-Liisa Kinnunen, LicPhil, Pauliina Latvala, MA, Docent Helena Saarikoski, Docent Laura Stark,  Arno Survo, DPhil, and Leila Virtanen, MA.
They can be contacted through the amanuensis.

To the Top Folklore Studies Teaching in English Finnish Folklore Scholarship Contemporary Research Topics International Activities Links




Credits possible: 2

Instructor: Laura Stark-Arola

Dates: March 5 - March 23, 2002

Days and times: Tuesday 14-16, Thursday 16-18

Place: Mariankatu 11 (M11), lecture room 1



To the Top Folklore Studies Staff Information Finnish Folklore Scholarship Contemporary Research Topics International Activities Links


 Folklore and folklore research have always enjoyed high esteem in Finland; and the reasons why reside in the country’s history. Prior to being ceded to the Russian Empire as a Grand Duchy in 1809, Finland had long been a part of the Kingdom of Sweden. This change in governance coincided with a general climate of national and cultural awakenings throughout Europe. Although Swedish had persisted as the language of officialdom, literature, and science, the educated classes began to work towards establishing Finnish as a language. Acquainted with the ideas of Herder, young Finnish intellectuals now understood that the soul of their people was to be found in the Finnish periphery, expressed in rustic songs, tales and beliefs. Elias Lönnrot, a country doctor with a passion for folk poetry, noted down vast amounts of folk poetry from which he compiled the national epic, The Kalevala (1835, 1849), which further added to the prestige of folklore. The Kalevala and its lyrical companion, The Kanteletar (1840), have had a powerful and lasting impact on the Finnish language, literature, visual arts, music, theatre and film.

Inspired by Lönnrot, many scholars, students and enthusiasts of folk culture collected folklore during the second half of the 19th century in what is now eastern Finland and Russian Karelia. These field trips were organised and promoted by the Finnish Literature Society, which was established in 1831. Their field notes came to comprise an enormous and systematically organised collection in the Society's Folklore Archives. As the 19th century drew to a close, more and more researchers began to draw upon this vast collection of data in order to investigate the roots of Finnish folklore and the culture's remote past. From the very beginning, research was characterized by a comparative approach: Finnish researchers sought to learn about cultural development in Finland in comparison to that of neighbouring regions in Europe and in Northern Eurasia. To tackle these research questions, Finnish folklorists (Julius and Kaarle Krohn, Antti Aarne) developed the historic-geographic method, which, for many decades remained the discipline's most influential method both internationally and nationally.

After Finland gained independence in 1917, folklore research played a significant role in constructing the young state's cultural identity.
Until the 1960s, Kalevala meter poetry, mythology and folk belief were the most highly valued research topics. During the next three decades, however, the field of research began to expand. Professor Matti Kuusi (1914-1998) introduced the study of both Finnish and international popular culture. At the same time, new theoretical approaches were being borrowed from linguistics. Anthropological ideas also made their way into Finnish folklore studies and this prompted folklorists to come to terms with the living tradition and people who use it.

To the Top Folklore Studies Staff Information Teaching in English Contemporary Research Topics International Activities Links


Currently, historicism is undergoing a renaissance. The great majority of our researchers and graduate students are tackling questions bound up in archaic cultural forms and periods. Their primary data are Kalevala poetry and prose traditions. Finnish mythology and folk belief are attracting the most interest.
Professor Anna-Leena Siikala's international project Mythology of the Uralic Peoples is a prime example of this.

In the 1980s and 1990s, researchers have returned to the old archival materials equipped with new research questions. These correspond well to contemporary historical research, e.g., studies on mentality. Finnish folklorists have begun to (re)construct archaic folk thought by using folklore texts collected from the 1500s to the 1800s. Drawing on such data, researchers grapple with topical concerns in European cultural debates. At this moment, the favoured topics are gender, the body, sexuality, nature and the environment, power relationships, as well as the emotions.

A number of researchers are also fascinated by Finland's rapid development from a poor agrarian country to the modern and post-industrial culture it has become by the turn of the century. One form of data that has helped us to understand the significance of this swift and profound change is the autobiographical narrative. These written documents have been collected since the 1960s. In these stories, ordinary Finnish men and women recount their life experiences and allow readers an intimate view of their working lives, relatives and families, child-rearing, attitudes to alcohol consumption, and personal healthcare.

A significant part of today's folklore research is concerned with contemporary and popular culture. Professor Leea Virtanen (born 1934) was the first to bring scholarly attention to the folklore of children and young adults. Fieldwork is an effective way to learn about the ever-changing cultural world of children and teenagers.
Professor Satu Apo's multidisciplinary project, "The Changing Models of Girlhood", is now investigating pre-adolescent (10-12-year-olds) concepts of love and dating, a girl's reputation, and children's humour. In addition, the project covers other areas such as the way girls think and feel about protecting animals and the environment.

To the Top Folklore Studies Staff Information Teaching in English Finnish Folklore Scholarship International Activities Links


Although the study of folklore is often regarded as a national discipline, some prominent Finnish folklorists have looked beyond Finland and its nearby regions. Today, there is a growing scholarly interest in non-European cultures. The increasing internationalisation of the past decade can be seen on every level: the high number of student exchanges, Finnish researchers taking part in international conferences, and guest lecturers and international scholars visiting the University of Helsinki. Senior researchers at the Department are also actively involved in the administrative and leading organs of national and international scientific and cultural organisations.

The projects under the direction of Professor Anna-Leena Siikala, The Uralic Peoples' Myhologies and Ethnic Traditions and Societies in Transition, are bringing together scholars from Finland, Russia, Estonia and Hungary. Professor Siikala and PhD Pertti Anttonen are taking part in a Nordic project entitled Folklore, Heritage Politics and Diversity.

Professor Lauri Harvilahti has been directing the international project Ethnocultural Identity in Asia. The project focuses on ethnic minority cultures in Russia's Altai Mountains, Northern China and Bangladesh.

In 2002 two new research projects have been launched: Ethnopoetics, Processes of Textualization, and Cultural Dynamics directed by Professor Harvilahti and Modernization and Popular Experience in Finland 1860-1960 directed by Doc. Laura Stark.

Folklorists from the University of Helsinki publish a significant number of their books and articles in English, Swedish, German and Russian. They are also involved in the international scene through various Finnish publication series. The most important of these are Folklore Fellows' Communications (FFC) and Studia Fennica Folkloristica. Volumes from both series can be purchased at the Finnish Literature Society Bookstore (Hallituskatu 1, entrance on Mariankatu) as well as from Tiedekirja (Kirkkokatu 14).

Every second year, the international research course, Folklore Fellows' Summer School, is held in Finland. The Summer School attracts researchers and graduate students from around the world to exchange ideas and enjoy first-class instruction from internationally renowned folklorists. The University of Helsinki's Department of Folklore Studies, along with other Finnish universities, takes part in organising this highly successful research course.

To the Top Folklore Studies Staff Information Teaching in English Finnish Folklore Scholarship Contemporary Research Topics Links


Folklore Fellows

To the Top Folklore Studies Staff Information Teaching in English Finnish Folklore Scholarship Contemporary Research Topics International Activities