The Irish National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, Roscommon has staged a 150th anniversary exhibition on the Great Finnish Famine already for a few months. The exhibition was officially launched on 26 January.
NÄLKÄ! The Great Finnish Famine exhibition is a brainchild of Dr. Andrew G. Newby and based on his research of the Great Irish and Finnish famines. Dr. Newby worked for five years at the University of Helsinki on a project funded by the Academy of Finland. In addition to the Academy of Finland and the University of Helsinki, the exhibition has been supported by the Irish Heritage Trust, Strokestown Park and the Embassy of Finland in Dublin.
Two decades after Ireland's Great Famine, Finland faced years of bad crops. The hard winter of 1867 was the final trigger for nationwide famine, although the situation had been developing over several years. NÄLKÄ! exhibition explores the causes and consequences of the catastrophe with diligence and analysis. Maps, letters and the real bark bread together with informative texts bring the history of Finland in the 1860s alive.
Dr. Newby's research approaches the Irish and Finnish famines also from a comparative perspective. In the 19th century both countries were part of empires, but unlike Ireland, Finland enjoyed a high degree of autonomy as Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire. Ireland's experience and memory of the famine are remarkably more national than those of Finland. The Great Irish Famine has been researched extensively and remains a conversation topic still today. The national identity of Finland is in turn based on other events: mainly on the independence and the wars.
While conducting his research, Dr. Newby travelled around Finland and noticed that the memories and history of the Finnish famine are very local. Although around one-tenth of the Finnish population died during the famine, the regional differences were significant. The famine memorials also reflect this fact. Dr. Newby has found 85 separate and often very modest memorials around Finland, and these are usually in areas with most casualties.
NÄLKÄ! The Great Finnish Famine exhibition is open daily and runs until the end of April.
Intern Miia Pietilä
Further information on the website of the Irish National Famine Museum
Articles and videos by the Finnish public broadcaster YLE, Academy of Finland and the University of Helsinki about Andrew Newby, his research and travels while searching for famine memorials in Finland