Literary history


Until 1809 Finland was part of Sweden and after that for over hundred years, an autonomous part of Russia.  Thus Finnish literature in Finnish is rather young. The archbishop of Turku and reformer Mikael Agricola (1510-1557) wrote and translated the first books printed in Finnish. The first work to appear by Agricola was the ABCbook (1543), an alphabet-book containing the basics of reading and Christianity.


The first proper Finnish language writer was Jaakko Juteini (1781-1855), whose main productive period was the first decades of the 1800s. Jaakko Juteini was a pioneer of the Finnish fiction, emphasizing the work of the Finnish people and their language. Juteini wrote nonfiction books about social topics as well as books on the fields of education and children's upbringing. He produced collections of proverbs and wrote plays and poetry.


Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884) collected traditional lyric poetry during his trips in the Karelian regions.  From these collections the Finnish national epic Kalevala was born.  Lönnrot modernized the Finnish language, editing several Finnish dictionaries and publishing and editing the first Finnish newspaper. He also published several works on health and science. Lönnrot's contribution to the development of Finnish culture, literature and language is unique.


The influences on Finnish literature came from two directions. From the east came influences of Russian literature, but via St Petersburg and Vyborg came also European influences. During the Swedish rule, the language of the national gentry was Swedish and thus occidental literature had an important impact even on modern literature.