Project Researchers of St. Petersburg - Helsinki (Finland)

Team: Larisa Orfinskaya, Liisa Byckling, Timo Vihavainen, Kirsti Ekonen, and Alexey Shkvarov.
Photo: Sami Syrjämäki

Dr Kirsti Ekonen
The Slavonic Library at the University of Helsinki:
History, Collections, Significance

My work on the Slavonic Library at the University of Helsinki will place the history of the Library in a larger cultural and political context from the beginning of the 19 th century until the present. The basis of the Library collection consists of legal deposit copies obtained from Russia during the period of the Finnish Grand Duchy in 1820–-1917. Since the declaration of Finland’s independence in 1917 the Library has accumulated a large collection of resources in Russian and East European studies.

The first part of my work presents the history of the Library within the expanding Russian Empire. The second part shows the way a Russian institution functioned in the Republic of Finland. In both centuries the Library has provided a forum for the Russo-Finnish cultural and political interaction. The research will take into account the biographies, writings and networks of people working in relation to the Slavonic Library.

Lic. Phil. Larisa Orfinskaya

In the 19th century Finnish prisons were governed by special order, and their central administration located in Helsinki. They were not a part of the Imperial penitentiary system and were not submitted to the Main Prison Management of the Russian Empire in St. Petersburg.

As part of the Russian Empire during this period, Finland was in many ways the favourite model for the progressive strata of the Russian society. The prison reform, implemented by the Grand Duchy of Finland, was no exception. Many Russians considered it exemplary.

Lic. Phil. Aleksei Shkvarov

My research topic is the influence of Russian garrisons placed in Finnish territory on the Finnish population, especially in the Helsinki district. They were important not only for the development of Finnish National Defence Forces but also for public, cultural and social town life. My research also deals with the service of Finnish officers in the Russian Army.

A specific question is the relationship between the Finnish people and the Cossacks regiments placed in Finland (1809–1917). This part of the project will result in publication of several articles (in Russian) about the different periods of Russian military dislocation in Finland, and also in the publication (in Finnish) of a monograph about the cavalry regiments connected with the Russian period of Mannerheim’s military service.

I will continue to work at a doctoral dissertation on the Russian Cossacks during the reign of Peter the Great, a transition period from a state of traditional Cossack “freedom” to a regular social state.

Docent Liisa Byckling
Cultural contacts: Finland–St. Petersburg.

The purpose of the research and the resulting two monographs (one in Russian, the other in Finnish) is to study various ways of cultural communication, exchange and the potential two-way influence of Finnish and Russian culture. In the first monograph, to be published in St. Petersburg, I will examine the two-way contacts in the theatre and literature at the turn of the twentieth century, including tours of the Finnish Theatre to St. Petersburg, the Russian State Theatre in Helsinki, Russian drama performed in Finnish, personal contacts, etc.

In the second book the field of research is wider, including many forms of cultural exchange between Finland and the “new” St. Petersburg from 1991 until the present day. The forms of exchange have multiplied and their scope is wide, from “high” culture to all kinds of popular and amateur activities. The main source are personal Interviews of Finns, with in-depth interviews and more general overviews. Special attention is paid to the impact of modern Russian culture on Finland (music, opera, theatre performances and theatre training, arts, and cinema).

Professor Timo Vihavainen
In Our Neighbour’s Capital. Images of Urban Life in St. Petersburg and Helsinki in the 1870s through 1920s as seen through the neighbours eyes

This study purports to survey the image of St. Petersburg in Finland and that of Helsinki in Russia during a period which comprises perhaps the most intensive breakthrough of modernization of urban life in European history.

St. Petersburg was a special case in the anti-urbanism discourse, because it had had enemies since its founding. It was disparaged as a “non-Russian” element within the Russian national organism, an outcome of rational design, which had even been built on foreign soil.

I intend to survey the descriptions which Finns wrote about St. Petersburg and Russians wrote about Helsinki between 1870 and 1930. The period covers both times of “peaceful” steady urban growth (which in fact was dramatic enough), the turmoil of 1905–07 and the catastrophe of 1917–21. Within this timespan also Finnish-Russian political relations, which had been fairly good to start with, drifted into a serious crisis in about 1899. This was solved only by the independence of Finland in 1917.

Both socio-political development and the political turbulence were naturally reflected in both Finnish and Russian assessments of the neighbour’s capital. The focus in this study, however, is on the assessments of the modernization and the quality, the vices and virtues of urban life in the neighbour’s capital.

Research Project