The concept of “bildning” (Fi. sivistys, Germ. Bildung) was at the center of attention in the early 19th century debate on education in Finland. True bildning vas often contrasted with false enlightenment in order to emphasize that bildning was not just mere education and the sheer knowledge of facts, but rather a heightened moral capacity which made the individual aware of what the community expected of him and able to act accordingly. In the intellectual debate in Finland, the introduction of the term bildning in this sense coincident with a newly risen interest in the Finnish language and culture around the 1820’s. To some of the intellectuals of the time, this meant that true bildning could be understood as the moral responsibility of the elite to promote the use of the Finnish language as a cultural and scientific language and to preserve the genuine and original Finnish culture. This particular discourse has dominated much of the previous writings on the self-understanding of the intellectual elite in Finland during this period and has led to a long lasting neglect of those Finnish intellectuals of the early 19th century who associated bildning with more universal humanism or a cosmopolitan scholarly profile. In this paper I will discuss how the nationalistic interpretation of bildning was used as a strategy to promote scholarly position and to marginalize academic competition from more universally oriented and cosmopolitan scholars.