The Modernist Deviation in Finnish Karelianism at the Turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries

Keywords: karelianism, modernism, theosophy, Sibelius, Leino, Swedenborg, Scriabin


In the artistic culture of Finland at the turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries Karelianism was an influential trend in
the development of the Finnish national musical art. In Sibelius’ music Karelianism connected together archaicism and
modernity in such a way that the world of the ancient runes opened up for the composer the path towards the direction of modernism. Lönnrot’s epic poem Kalevala, created on the basis of the ancient Karelian runes, became the central event of the Karelian trend and the reference point for the disclosure of the artistic individualities of Sibelius and his associates in the various arts. The Swedish cultural-lingual sphere developing in Finland (also presented in Sibelius’ musical output) provided close connections between the cultural milieu of the Grand Duchy of Finland and the modernist trends of Europe. As a result, both in Russia and in Finland almost simultaneously there began an interest in theosophy and numerous theosophical societies appeared. Sibelius’ and Leino’s important artistic intentions turned out
to be connected with theosophical views. From Sibelius’ music mention must be made of his string quartet Voces intimae and the poem Luonnotar, while in Leino’s case, it is the mystery based on the rules of Lönnrot’s Kalevala. Sibelius frequently came to England to the premieres of his compositions. Particularly in England his name turned out to be connected with Scriabin’s name. Subsequently, in Finnish, Estonian and Russian historiography scholars searched for points of connection between Sibelius’ music and modernism, including the music of Scriabin.

The Art of Music