Sharon OJanpa Mackey, FHM Staff Reporter


The September 11, 2017, meeting of the Finnish Heritage Museum was called to order at 7 P.M., with an opening prayer by FHM President, Lasse Hiltunen. Carol Vrabel then led us in singing the Star-Spangled Banner, after which Chip Knox encouraged everyone to sing the Finnish national anthem, Maamme, in Finnish. It was a good thing that Anne Pohto had passed out copies of this song, written in Finnish, as only a few of our members in attendance could read or even speak Finnish. Notwithstanding the language barrier, we sounded pretty good.

Lasse then introduced Fred and Adam Butcher of Fred’s Appliance, the leading appliance repair training school in the U. S. For the last eight years, these gentlemen have been responsible for raising thousands of dollars for the museum. For each of those years, they have bought and donated to us a TV that FHM has then raffled off. The dollars raised have enable the museum to do much needed repairs and maintenance, in addition to upgrading of the furnace, air conditioning, etc. As a token of our appreciation for their generosity, FHM presented Fred and Adam with a plaque signed by several dozen museum members. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you to Fred’s Appliance.

Again, as part of our anniversary celebration for both the museum and for Finnish independence, four more symbols of Finland were examined at our meeting.

The first was the Finnish flag, reviewed by Anne Pohto. The blue cross flag was designed by artists Eero Snellman and Bruno Tuukkanen at the start of the 20th century, when Finland declared its independence from Russia. The flag was officially adopted May 29, 1918, about six months after independence. finnflag

The blue cross symbolizes Christianity, and tells us that Finland is part of the Nordic nations – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Aland. The first five listed are the independent Nordic countries, and all have a cross on their flags. The blue of the Finnish flag represents the sky and the many lakes in Finland, and the white is for the snows of winter.

Finland has two other official flags. Parliament, government ministries, and the Supreme Court fly the state flag, which has a lion coat of arms in the center of the blue cross. The third official flag, the swallow-tailed state flag, is the President’s flag.

The Finnish flag is raised at 8 A.M. and lowered at sunset, but not later than 9 P.M. On Midsummer only, the flag may be flown from 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. to symbolize that the sun doesn’t set and darkness doesn’t come to any part of Finland during Midsummer’s night.

Granite did not become the national rock of Finland until 1989, according to Jeff Werronen, who was our next presenter. Jeff had with him three distinctive examples of different colored granite – gray with green crystals, brown with red, and a dark granite. Granite is a very dense igneous rock, or magma, which slowly crystallizes deep below the earth’s surface. It has been quarried commercially in Finland for over 100 years. Finland is known mostly for brown and red granite, with “Baltic Brown” currently the most popular color. jeffwerronen

Finnish granite is exported in large blocks to other countries where it is processed into products such as countertops, exterior facades of buildings, bridges and even cobblestones. But it is seldom processed into floor tiles for domestic use; it is just too cold.

In the 1770s and 1780s, a massive granite boulder called the “Thunder Stone” was dug up, moved to St. Petersburg, and used as a pedestal for the Bronze Horseman statue of Peter the Great. At 2 ¾ million pounds, it is considered the largest stone ever moved by humans.

In the southeast part of Finland, a black granite quarry has a perimeter fence only 66 feet from the Russian border. It seems logical that there should also be granite on the Russian side of the border, but no quarrying is going on, probably due to security reasons. Russian airplanes and helicopters regularly patrol the area.

Our third presenter of the evening was Chip Knox, who donned a Sou’wester fisherman’s hat as he spoke about the national fish of Finland – the perch. Perch fishing is one of the most famous recreational, sport, and commercial fishing operations across Eurasia. Perch are found mostly in the coastal waters; not too much in brackish waters. Perch, pike, and zander are common to the lakes coast.chip

A fishing license is needed if you are age 18 to 64, and it’s quite expensive - 39 euros. For those under 18 and over 64 years old, no license is needed. In addition, Finland has something called “every man’s rights” to fish and hunt. You can go anywhere in the country and have the right to fish or hunt, as long as you don’t disturb the land, and you have a permit or license.

The inland recreation fishing is about 90% of the catch. About 50% is commercial along the coastal waters and the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland. Some people feel the best perch fishing is the ice fishing. Some fishermen believe that global warming has strengthened the spawn of the perch, and made the fish that are caught larger.

Our last presenter of the evening was Larry LaBounty discussing the kantele. The kantele is classified as a Baltic Psaltery, or a stringed musical instrument of the harp or zither family.

There has been a lot of research done about the origin and dispersion of the kantele, but there is nothing definitive. Larry favors the oriental theory developed by Curt Sachs, around 1916. This theory suggests an Asian origin for the Baltic Psalteries, but doesn’t discuss the route by which they arrived in the Baltic area. Sachs used linguistic evidence as the basis for his ideas. The kantele may also have come to Finland through Karelia and the Savo speaking people. However the age and early history of the kantele remain a mystery. larry

What defines a kantele? It depends. Are you looking at a carved kantele, a box kantele, a concert kantele, the Jouhi-kantele (made in the configuration of a very early instrument), or the virsi-kantele (which has one or two strings played with a bow). The carved kantele was made and played in the farm homes in Finland. It was also used in shamanic rites involving charms and casting of spells, before the Christian era. Some studies have shown that the soundholes on some instruments mimic images painted on drums used by Sami shamans.

There is a theory that, after the Reformation, the kantele was looked down upon due to its shamanistic background and many were hidden away from the clergy, or even destroyed. The Orthodox clergy in the west seems to have been more tolerant about past customs, and that may be why the kantele remained a bit stronger in Karelia.

In the mid 1800s, Elias Lonnrot collected runes and assembled them into the Kalevala. At this time the carved kantele made a resurgence and evolved into the box kantele, made from separate pieces of wood and having up to 40 strings.

The box kantele eventually came to the United States, becoming a symbol of what was left behind in Finland. A number of immigrant musicians wrote nostalgic music for the kantele – a sort of Finnish blues.

At the completion of the program, the meeting broke to enjoy the refreshments provided by Barb Ollila and Carol Vrabel. FHM President Lasse Hiltunen then called the business meeting to order at approximately 8 P.M. If you are ever in the Fairport Harbor area, please visit the Museum. Our website is finnishheritagemuseum.org.

Text © Sharon Mackey, Photos © Bill Lukshaw 2017








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