Raija Rymin-Nevanlinna was a teacher and had a passion for Russian literature, particularly contemporary poetry. She chose to donate her estate to the University of Helsinki to support the study and translation of Russian literature. The impact of the donation is already being felt in the discipline.

Raija Rymin-Nevanlinna studied Russian and Czech at the University of Helsinki. She had an exceptional gift for languages. Even though Finnish was her native language, she lost it while living in Sweden where she was evacuated as a child during the war. After returning to Finland, she enrolled in a Swedish-language school, but she quickly relearned Finnish as well. She was also proficient in French and English.

Rymin-Nevanlinna was a full-time teacher of Russian at the Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu (SYK) for 33 years (1967-2000). In addition to teaching, she worked as an interpreter and private tutor of Russian, and translated Russian literature into Finnish. She was particularly interested in contemporary poetry.

As an alumna of the University of Helsinki, she made a legacy donation to support the study and translation of Russian literature. Raija Rymin-Nevanlinna came from modest beginnings, and accrued her wealth through hard work and frugality.

Raili Rymin-Nevanlinna had a reciprocal will with her spouse Jorma Nevanlinna, but after Rymin-Nevanlinna’s death, Jorma Nevanlinna waived his inheritance for the benefit of the University of Helsinki. Thanks to Nevanlinna, the University gained access to the donation in 2012. The capital is €650,000, and is being used to award scholarships amounting to €27,000 annually.

Support for students, research and translation

According to Tomi Huttunen, professor of Russian literature and culture, the revenue from Raija Rymin-Nevanlinna’s legacy donation has been used to support students of Russian language and literature.

“The fund has awarded annual Master’s thesis scholarships to students of Russian language and literature, grants to doctoral students as well as grants for travel relating to the study of Russian literature and its translation. This has enabled students to get involved in literary translation and academic publishing, which has also helped their integration into the research community.”

The donation has also supported research

“The most recent research into the Finnish translations of Russian literature uses the latest tools of the digital humanities, which allow us to gain an increasingly precise understanding of issues of literary history that have national significance. In addition, we have created a parallel corpus of literary texts with the University of Tampere, which can be used to compare the languages of the texts,” explains Huttunen.

To honour the spirit of Raili Rymin-Nevanlinna’s legacy donation, the remaining available funds will be used to support the translation of Russian literature and to award translators.

“Award-winning poet and translator Pauli Tapio is currently editing a unique anthology of contemporary Russian poetry,” explains Huttunen.

The fund has also enabled the University of Helsinki to host esteemed Russian authors and researchers, and to organise related seminars.

“Research in Russian literature and its translation has grown closer to the study of the Russian language.  This is of crucial importance to the field,” says Huttunen.

“Russian literature has been more prominent in Finland during the current decade than previously, and Finnish translations of contemporary Russian literature are being published at a delightful rate. The Rymin-Nevanlinna fund has contributed significantly to this phenomenon – and will continue to do so.”