Archives for the tag “ Finns ”

Stéphane Thibault >_

28 février 1835. Publication du premier Kalevala ou Les vieilles chansons caréliennes du peuple finnois d’antan.

Les territoires de la Finlande actuelle sont devenus, vingt-cinq ans plus tôt, Grand-Duché de Russie après trois siècles passés aux marches du Royaume de Suède. Mais ce 28 février 1835, sans crier gare, l’auteur de la publication du Kalevala vient de hisser le peuple finnois au-delà de ses territoires et de sa mémoire même, à hauteur de l’humanité tout entière : la somme poétique qu’il a moissonnée auprès de ses obscurs frères de langue et de chants est sans précédent, et déjà cette première version du Kalevala, sans équivalent dans l’héritage de l’humanité, est par sa densité une contribution unique à la mémoire collective des hommes de tous temps.

Lönnrot, Elias (1991 [1849]). Le Kalevala, Épopée des Finnois, trad. du finnois, présenté et annoté par Gabriel Rebourcet, Paris, Gallimard — NRF, coll. « L’aube des peuples », t. I, p. 7.

Stéphane Thibault >_

Again and again the Kalevala has been described as the national heroic epic of the Finnish people, a description which, at least outside Finland, has tended to do the work a certain disservice by raising expectations that the reader is not likely to find fulfilled, regardless of what else he may find that is richly rewarding at a poetical, folkloristic, or ethnographic level. Any talk about a national heroic epic is bound to evoke thoughts of the Greek Iliad and Odyssey, the Old French Chanson de Roland, or the Middle High German Nibelungenlied, all of which possess a more or less unified and continuously moving plot with actors who are wealthy aristocratic warriors performing deeds of valor and displaying great personal resourcefulness and initiative, often, too, on a rather large stage. The Kalevala is really nothing like these. It is essentially a conflation and concatenation of a considerable number and variety of traditional songs, narrative, lyrics, and magic, sung by unlettered singers, male and female, living to a great extent in northern Karelia in the general vicinity of Archangel. These songs were collected in the field and ultimately edited into a book by Elias Lönnrot, M.D. (1802-1884), in two stages. The first version appeared in 1835 and is now known as the Old Kalevala ; it contained about half the material in the 1849 edition […]. For the many poems added to this 1849 Kalevala, now the canonical version, Dr. Lönnrot was indebted to a younger song-collector, David E. D. Europaeus (1820-1884).

Lönnrot, Elias (1963 [1849]). The Kalevala or Poems of the Kalevala District, trad., intro. et annexes par Francis Peabody Magoun Jr., Cambridge — Londres, Harvard University Press, p. xiii.

Stéphane Thibault >_

It was widely known or supposed in the 19th century that Finno-Ugrians were Mongolians. Christoph Meiners (1747-1810) had classified humanity as beautiful or ugly peoples (“ schöne ”, “ hässliche ”). White people were beautiful, dark people were ugly. Of old, non-Europeans had been regarded as unattractive. Their character had also been considered with the ugliness of the body. According to Meiners they — the Mongol race for instance — were greedy, shameless, irritable and suffering from lack of compassion, while Caucasians were courageous and moderate. Both Blumenbach and Meiners thought that the climate had determined the quality of body and character but the ideal racial types of their age were in any case ready formulated. Mongols were in general considered in the first place as practical and less adapted for intellectual activities.

In the middle of the 19th century some men of letters and many anthropologists began to represent the viewpoint that the so-called Aryan race was the most highly advanced race of mankind. This race was thought to include the Caucasian race, or most Europeans. The concept of Aryan expanded when the criterion became the Indo-European linguistic family, which began to be called “ Aryan ” in memory of the tribes who about 4000 years ago conquered the northern part of present-day India. In this classification the position of Semites was obscure. Sometimes they were counted among Caucasians and could be regarded as Aryans.

In some early groupings of mankind Finns had been of Caucasian origin, but in general Indo-Europeans and Finno-Ugrians were divided in different racial classes. They belonged to different language families, and Finno-Ugrian languages were still more often associated with Turkish and Mongolian or with the assumed Ural-Altaic language family.

The concept of Aryan included both a language group and a race. Speakers of Aryan (Indo-European) languages were considered to form a race. Before long the Aryan theory came to mean race discrimination. […]

Kemiläinen, Aira (1998). Finns in the Shadow of the “ Aryans ”. Race Theories and Racism, Helsinki, Suomen Historiallinen Seura (SHS), coll. « Studia Historica », n° 59, p. 82-83.