Sunday, October 16, 2011

Depressed feeling is generally true of the Finlanders

I met to-day a young gentleman from Finland. He had come over to make inquiries of Mr. Siljestrom, in regard to the improvements he had brought back from America in the school-system.

He said that the young Russian Emperor was beginning to be in favour of popular schools ; and some of those interested were trying now to find what had been done elsewhere. At present, they have nothing in Finland of value in institutions of popular education. A progress, however, was beginning. It is well known, though this gentleman did not state it, that it is the policy of the Russian Government now to encourage the Finnish national spirit, in order to counterbalance any attachment towards their old masters or countrymen, the Swedes. For this object, the revival of the old Finnish literature, of such poems as the Kalewala and the Kantelitar, has met with great favour from the Russian authority. The great Finnish University, as is well known, has been removed from Abo to Helsingfors, where it can be more directly under Russian influence, and at present no Swedish is allowed in the language of instruction. This process of Russianizing goes very skilfully on, year by year. The nobles are enticed by honours to Russia ; the offices in Finland are filled by Russians, and the peasants made to forget as much as possible their old connection with Sweden. From all accounts, these efforts are succeeding. The peasantry is becoming attached to the government. Russia has never kept, of course, her promises in regard to States Assemblies with local powers in Finland ; but she is now forced by the spirit of the age to do something for popular education.

This gentleman, like all the Finlanders I have met, was very guarded; yet you could not help remarking a certain depressed or sad expression, both in his appearance and in the few words he said of political matters.

My friends say this depressed feeling is generally true of the Finlanders. You instinctively know it is the shadow of despotism.

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