Culture of Finland

The heritage of Finland is best represented by the rare Finno-Ugric language of the nation, which include Nordic and European cultural aspects. The development of Finnish culture has been influenced by various Baltic, Finnish and Germanic peoples. The cultural trends of Sweden and Russia had their impact on the culture of Finland as well, as it was a part of these countries during different periods in its history.

The geopolitical heritage of Finland comprises a combination of Western Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Similar to other Nordic countries, Finnish culture is built upon relatively widespread egalitarianism and the ideas of self-sufficiency and closeness to nature.

The Finnish written language came into existence with the 16th-century translation of the Bible’s New Testament into Finnish by Mikael Agricola, as a result of the Reformation. Until the 19th Century, only a few works of literature were created. The beginning of the 19th Century was marked by the rise of the Finnish National Romantic Movement. Elias Lonnrot collected Karelian and Finnish folk poetry, which was published as Kalevala, the national epic of Finland. Many poets and novelists of the age wrote in Finnish, with the most notable poet being Aleksis Kivi. After Finland became an independent country, Modernism spread in literature. A major representative of Modernism was Mika Waltari, whose works included Michael the Finn and The Sultan’s Renegade, as well as his most popular The Egyptian, which won him worldwide recognition. World War II brought a return to more national themes, compared to the international line of thought, which was best represented in the works of Vaino Linna. Modern Finnish literature has been well developed, seen also in popular detective stories. Another popular Finish writer in modern literature was Timo K. Mukka, who wrote avant-garde works and had little respect for social and artistic norms. In the 1960s, Mukka produced nine novels which were written in lyrical prose style. His works are among the greatest literary achievements of the second half of the 20th Century.

Finnish folk music is greatly influenced by the traditional Karelian tunes and lyrics of the Kevala metre. The heritage of Karelia is traditionally considered as the clearest expression of the beliefs and myths in the Finnish language. Nordic folk music traditions are widespread in the west of the country. Sami folk music belongs to the Sami people of Northern Finland. In recent years, the interest in Finnish folk music has been revived, with some trends even employed by Pop music. Finland has produced a large number of world-class artists in the field of classical music as well. Turku was a centre for public concerts in the 18th Century. A prolific artist of the time was Erik Tulindberg, who was famous for his six string quartets. In 1809, Russia annexed Finland and the cities of Helsinki and Viipuri became centres of culture, when opera became a popular form of entertainment. German composer Fredrik Pacius wrote the first Finnish opera in 1852, and also wrote Maamme, Our Land and the national anthem of Finland. Contemporary Finnish music covers a variety of music styles, such as Death Metal, Rock, Pop, Jazz, Hip Hop and Dance. The Finnish tango music form is somewhat modified from the Argentine tango style and exists on the Shlager scene. Finland was host to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007 and has been a lively participant. The Finnish heavy metal group Lordi won the contest in 2006, the first win for Finland.

Two popular festivals in the country include the Ilmajoki Music Festival and Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, which brought interest back to traditional folk music of Finland. A new generation of performers, such as Kimmo Pohjonen and Heikki Laitinen, revitalised the runosong, a traditional Scandinavian style of music. A major event in the popularisation of Finnish folk music is the International Folk Music Festival in Kaustinen, which began in 1968. Finnish folk music was further revived with such artists as the new folk instrumental band JPP (The Little Järvelä Fiddlers), Konsta Jylha and Varttina. 

Finnish architecture emerged in the late 19th Century, following plain and simple styles. The most significant trend of the times was Romantic Nationalism, when Modernist styles were predominant. One of the greatest Finnish architects included Alvar Aaalto, the forerunner and generator of Functionalism.