While the centenary forms the perfect opportunity for a great big party, it’s also an occasion for contemplation and insight. The 100-year mark offers a chance for people to look back to understand the way the nation emerged, but also to gaze ahead to the future to see what Finland can still become.
Starting in 1809 and up to independence, Finland formed an autonomous grand duchy in the Russian Empire. This proved to be an important time for laying the societal and administrative groundwork that allowed the Finns to break with Russia in 1917. Before 1809, the area that is now Finland had been under Swedish rule since at least the 13th century.
The theme for the celebratory year is “Together,” showing that everyone – Finns and friends of Finns – is welcome to take part, just as creating and building the nation were joint efforts. Here’s a sampling of the more than 2,000 centenary events and projects, large and small, emphasising Finnish strengths such as equality and democracy:
New Year’s Eve: On December 31, 2016, the kick-off party spreads along the shore of downtown Helsinki’s Töölö Bay and over Kansalaistori, the plaza between the Music Centre and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. A whole kilometre of Mannerheimintie, the busiest street in Finland, is closed to traffic and becomes a dance floor as Finland rings in the centenary year and fireworks light up the winter sky.
New passport design: Starting January 1, Finnish passports and ID cards have a new look with artwork portraying the landscape of Finnish Lapland, the northern lights and snowflakes.
Tom of Finland, the Musical (premiere January 27): What cannot be said will be drawn, and what cannot be drawn will be sung. Tom of Finland achieved international renown with his art, playing an influential role in the liberation of homosexuals and in moving the world towards greater equality. A separate Tom of Finland biopic opens in movie theatres on February 24.
Independence through the Lenses: Backlight Photo Festival is organising a touring exhibition of seven Finnish photographic artists to Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia.
100 Natural Wonders of Finland: The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation’s project will identify 100 nationally significant natural wonders to preserve for posterity to see and experience: lakes, peaks, forests, even swamps.
The Hieno, a blog by Wan Wei, features a whole section full of interviews with people from all walks of life, Finns and foreigners, answering the question “What is Finnishness?”
These are just a smattering of what’s happening to commemorate 100 years of Finnish independence. Other events include tango, samba, sauna, snow castles, hackathons, silent films, an arctic expo, a project to involve refugees in startup businesses, Finnish wine from France, and a Finland 100 satellite that will take photos of the northern lights from space. They have even released a Finland 100 menu, complete with recipes. Finnish embassies and consulates are holding their own events, and concert planners around the world are including more Finnish composers and musicians than ever.
Check out the schedule (link below) and join the celebration!
By Peter Marten, December 2016