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Related: Europe - Scandinavia

Strong Finnish sauna culture is one of the remains of the aboriginal Finnish culture.

The Culture of Finland has historically been characterized by the country's position between Sweden and Russia. While it clearly belongs to the Western civilization due to its long history as a part of Sweden, it has nonetheless been a meeting place between West and East and has received influences from both. The Finnish cultural identity as a separate entity was born in the 19th century in a national awakening under Russian rule, culminating in the popular credo, "we are not Swedes, and we do not wish to become Russian, so let us be Finns." Contents

The Finnish national character could be described as a mixture of Germanic industrialism and Slavic melancholy, leading to Finns' reputation as a straightforward and stubborn people. This is popularly referred to with the Finnish term Sisu. In modern Finland this has been tempered by an emphasis on equality and liberalism, with a popular commitment to the ideals of the welfare state, discouraging disparity of wealth and division into social classes. The Protestant work ethic remains a significant cultural staple, and free education is a highly prized institution.

The Finnish Walpurgis Night, Vappu, involves parades and a carnival atmosphere, and is often celebrated by families by going on a picnic. Though initially a labour holiday, it is today celebrated especially by university students as an opportunity for uninhibited drinking of alcohol.

Though Finnish written language could be said to exist since Mikael Agricola translated the New Testament into Finnish in the 16th century as a result of the Reformation, few notable works of literature were written until the 19th century, which saw the beginning of a Finnish national romantic movement. This prompted Elias Lönnrot to collect Finnish and Karelian folk poetry and arrange and publish them as Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. The era saw a rise of poets and novelists who wrote in Finnish, notably Aleksis Kivi.

After Finland became independent there was a rise of modernist writers, most famously Mika Waltari. The second World War prompted a return to more national interests in comparison to a more international line of thought, characterized by Väinö Linna. Literature in modern Finland is in a healthy state, with detective stories enjoying a particular boom of popularity.

Despite its relatively short history of art music, Finland today is well respected for its musicianship, with a quality education of classical musicians having produced a high proportion of world-class conductors and singers. Finnish art music came to the forefront as a part of the national romantic movement and Jean Sibelius. Since the 1950's, the modernist movement gained ground, producing a number of notable composers.

Modern Finnish popular music has received attention also in foreign countries, especially on the rock and metal scenes, with such bands as The Rasmus, HIM, Nightwish and Stratovarius gaining international acclaim. [1]

Aki Kaurismäki

The Man Without a Past (2002) - Aki Kaurismäki [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The spare and quirky comedy of Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismaki is in delightful form in The Man Without a Past. A man (Markku Peltola) awakens after a brutal mugging with no memory; he wanders into the outskirts of Helsinki with his face wrapped like an escapee from a classic horror film. A destitute family helps nurse him back to health and a Salvation Army worker named Irma (Kati Outinen) helps him get a job. Though bureaucrats and policemen who can't seem to cope with this amnesiac's lack of established identity, the amnesiac plants potatoes, manages a rock & roll band, and romances Irma as he builds a new self. Kaurismaki weaves his movies out of small details and careful, cautious steps forward--but by the end, The Man Without a Past has become a rich, engrossing, and very funny portrait of the possibilities of life. --Bret Fetzer, amazon.com

Jimi Tenor

Out of Nowhere (2000) - Jimi Tenor [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Out of Nowhere is the fifth album from Finland's most flamboyant export, Jimi Tenor. Fans of Tenor's sleazy/easy electro cabaret (imagine Soft Cell crossed with Frank Sinatra) won't be disappointed by this latest offering, but they may be perplexed at first. Jimi has undergone a conversion; he has discovered orchestras. The album opens with a return to Tenor's more experimentally inclined roots, a four-minute pastiche of contemporary composers, including Ligeti. John Barry this ain't; "Hypnotic Drugstore" even wheels out a sitar for some exotic fusion funk. Luckily, it also contains one of Tenor's bona fide top-class pop tunes. There are plenty more--the gruff, broody groove of "Blood on Borscht," the avant-disco of "Spell," the dreamy sound of "Better Than Ever"--all graced and enhanced with Tenor's new-found adventurous orchestral toy. This is clearly an accomplished album, Tenor's best yet. --Amazon.co.uk

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