Johan Vilhelm Snellman

Johan Vilhelm Snellman ' onMouseout='HidePop("55201")' href="/topics/Stockholm">Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

 – 4 July 1881, Kirkkonummi
Kirkkonummi is a municipality of inhabitants in southern Finland. The literal meaning of the words "Kirkkonummi" and "Kyrkslätt" in English is "church moor"....

) was an influential Fennoman
The Fennomans were the most important political movement in the 19th century Grand Principality of Finland. They succeeded the fennophile interests of the 18th and early 19th century.-History:...

 philosopher and Finnish
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

, ennobled in 1866.

Snellman was born in Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, as son of Kristian Henrik Snellman, a ship's captain. After the Russian conquest of Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 in 1808–09, and the promising establishing of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland
Grand Duchy of Finland
The Grand Duchy of Finland was the predecessor state of modern Finland. It existed 1809–1917 as part of the Russian Empire and was ruled by the Russian czar as Grand Prince.- History :...

, his family moved there in 1813, to the Ostrobothnian
Ostrobothnia (region)
Ostrobothnia is a region of Finland. It is located in Western Finland. It borders the regions Central Ostrobothnia, Southern Ostrobothnia, and Satakunta and is one of the four regions making up the historical province of Ostrobothnia....

 coastal town of Kokkola
Kokkola is a town and municipality of Finland.The town is located in the province of Western Finland and is part of the Central Ostrobothnia region. The town has a population of and covers an area of of which is water. The population density is...

, where his mother Maria Magdalena Snellman died only a year later.

In 1835, after academic work in Hegel's following, Snellman was appointed lecturer
Lecturer is an academic rank. In the United Kingdom, lecturer is a position at a university or similar institution, often held by academics in their early career stages, who lead research groups and supervise research students, as well as teach...

 at the University of Helsinki
University of Helsinki
The University of Helsinki is a university located in Helsinki, Finland since 1829, but was founded in the city of Turku in 1640 as The Royal Academy of Turku, at that time part of the Swedish Empire. It is the oldest and largest university in Finland with the widest range of disciplines available...

, where he belonged to the famous circle of Cygnaeus, Lönnrot
Elias Lönnrot
Elias Lönnrot was a Finnish philologist and collector of traditional Finnish oral poetry. He is best known for compiling the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic compiled from national folklore.-Education and early life:...

, and Runeberg
Johan Ludvig Runeberg
Johan Ludvig Runeberg was a Finnish poet, and is the national poet of Finland. He wrote in the Swedish language....

 comprising the brightest of their generation. Snellman's lectures quickly became popular with the students, but in November 1838 his lectureship was temporarily recalled after a judicial proceeding that ultimately aimed at establishing the government's firm control of new and oppositional thoughts among the academics.

As a consequence Snellman exiled himself to Sweden and Germany, more or less voluntarily, from 1839 to 1842. By the time he returned to Helsinki, his popularity had increased further, but the political juncture did not allow the University to employ him. Instead he took up the position as headmaster for a school
Kuopion Lyseon lukio
Kuopion Lyseon lukio is an upper secondary school for students aged 15–19. Kuopion Lyseon lukio is located in Kuopio, Finland. Originally established as a boys' school in 1872, Kuopion Lyseo opened its doors to both sexes in 1977...

 in distant Kuopio
Kuopio is a city and a municipality located in the region of Northern Savonia, Finland. A population of makes it the ninth biggest city in the country. The city has a total area of , of which is water and half forest...

, and published starkly polemical periodicals, including the paper Saima in Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

 that advocated the duty of the educated classes to take up the language of the then circa 85% majority of Finns, and develop Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

 into a language of the civilized world useful for academic works, fine arts, state craft, and nation building.

Saima was suppressed by the government in 1846. In 1848–49, Snellman was again rebuffed when applying for the position as professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 at Finland's University in Helsinki. After having contemplated a renewed exile in Sweden, this time possibly definitive, Snellman in 1850 gave up the position in Kuopio and moved to Helsinki, where he and his family lived under economically awkward conditions until the death of Emperor Nicholas
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...

 in 1855, when it again became possible for Snellman to publish periodical papers on political issues.

In 1856, Snellman was finally appointed professor, which was met with great satisfaction among politically interested Finns. Snellman's unparalleled popularity could however not remain. He was a generation older than the most active political opposition, and now a man of the government who had the brightest expectations for Finland under the rule of Emperor Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

. The language strife in Finland, which he was the chief initiator of, contributed also to substantial opposition against him and his views, and finally not the least his stance against the Polish
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 rebels of the January Uprising
January Uprising
The January Uprising was an uprising in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against the Russian Empire...

 of 1863 were by many seen as the ultimate sign of unprincipled ingratiation.

In 1863 Snellman was called to a cabinet post in the Senate of Finland
Senate of Finland
The Senate of Finland combined the functions of cabinet and supreme court in the Grand Duchy of Finland from 1816 to 1917 and in the independent Republic of Finland from 1917 to 1918....

, in effect as Chancellor of the Exchequer, where he became an energetic and valued senator, accomplishing a language decree from the Emperor, that gradually would give Finnish a position equal to that of Swedish within the Finnish government, and thereby practically in Finland at large, the re-establishment of the Parliament, that had remained inhibited since the Russian conquest, and finally the introduction of a separate Finnish currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

, the Markka, in 1865, that came to be of the utmost value for Finland. Snellman's tenure as Finance Minister would however also be tainted by the worst famine in Finnish history, aggravated by the government's strict fiscal policy
Fiscal policy
In economics and political science, fiscal policy is the use of government expenditure and revenue collection to influence the economy....


Snellman's inflexibility and high prolific position in the political debate would however, together with his old reputation as radical agitator of the 1830s–1840s, accumulate too much of resistance and aversion against his person and his policies. In 1868 he was forced to resign from the senate.

For his remaining life, he continued to participate in the political debate, and now ennobled he belonged to the Nobles' Chamber of the parliament. Snellman never lost in popularity among his fennoman followers, but had become a highly divisive symbol in Finland's political landscape.

See also

Johan Vilhelm Snellman first appeared on a 1960 coin, commemorating the introduction of the markka denomination in 1860. He was recently selected as the main motif for another commemorative coin, the €10 Johan Vilhelm Snellman commemorative coin, minted in 2006 celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth. The obverse depicts J.V. Snellman, It also depicts the logo of the Europe Coins Programme. The reverse design features represent the dawn of Finnish culture.


In 1842 Snellman published his foremost work "Läran om staten" (Study of the State).
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