The Forum

The Kalevala: the Finnish epic that inspired a nation

When the Kalevala was published in 1835, Finland had a distinct cultural and linguistic identity but it had always been part of either the Swedish or the Russian empire. Neither did Finland have much of a literary tradition, but as the 19th-century progressed the Kalevala took on a symbolic role as the representation of a Finnish identity that fed into the movement for Finnish independence. Rooted in the folk culture of the Karelia region, a travelling doctor shaped the song texts into a story in a way which is still being debated today.

Joining Bridget Kendall to discuss how the Kalevala underscored the search for Finnish national identity are Dr Niina Hämäläinen, executive director of the Kalevala Society in Helsinki; Professor Tom DuBois from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the author of Finnish Folk Poetry and the Kalevala; and the award-winning British musician, playwright and storyteller, Nick Hennessey.

Produced by Fiona Clampin for the BBC World Service.

[Image: The Defense of the Sampo, 1896. Artist: Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images]

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