The Otherland exhibition depicts an era when the country called Finland did not yet exist. The exhibition presents perspectives, fates and people’s lives from the region’s international and diverse past from the 11th century through the times of Swedish and Russian rule up to the early days of Finland’s independence. The exhibition describes how the idea of being Finnish was born – and how it was constructed. The Otherland exhibition focuses on three main aspects: Humanity, Faith and We as Part of the World.
More than 600 objects have been selected for the exhibition, some of which you can see on this page.
Carl Bäck’s armour
Kousa tankard from Rusko
Bridal trinket crown
Carl Gustafsson Horn’s burial gown
About a month after the beginning of the Finnish War in February 1808, the Russian Emperor Alexander I declared that he would keep the areas conquered from Sweden as part of Russia. At the turn of the year 1808–1809, “Grand Duke of Finland” was added to the Emperor’s titles, as Russian emperors assumed the highest title used in the territory annexed to the empire. It was also normal practice to enter into a status agreement with the occupied territory, under which subjects were required to swear allegiance to their new ruler. The ruler, on the other hand, retained the religion, laws and privileges of the subjects. The Emperor also convened the Diet of Porvoo.
The Estates met in Porvoo in March 1809 in accordance with the Swedish Parliament Act. Alexander I arrived in the town on 27 March, and the next day saw the inaugural ceremonies of the Diet, a church service in the Cathedral and a ball. The Estates swore an oath of allegiance to the Emperor at a ceremony held in the Cathedral on 29 March, after which the Emperor gave his oath as a ruler.
The Imperial throne was brought from Russia for the celebrations in Porvoo. Nicholas Clausen, a Dutch-born silversmith based in London, had made a silver throne for Empress Anna Ivanovna in 1731, of which Emperor Paul I commissioned six copies in the 1790s. These gilded wooden thrones were to be placed throughout the empire as symbols of the Emperor’s power and presence. The throne brought to Porvoo is one of these. Two of the thrones are in the Kremlin in Moscow, one in the Hermitage in St Petersburg.
After the Diet, the throne was left in Porvoo Cathedral, but it was soon moved to the premises of the new administrative body of the Grand Duchy of Finland, the Administrative Council in Turku, and later to the session hall of the Imperial Finnish Senate in Helsinki. The throne symbolised the Emperor’s presence and, for the opening of the Diet in 1863, it was moved to the State Hall of the Imperial Palace. In front of the throne, the Governor-General read out the Emperor’s speech written for the occasion, the so-called throne speech.
Originally located on the land of the Innanen farm in the village of Pajasyrjä in Jaakkima, this chimneyless cabin was purchased by the newly completed National Museum of Finland in 1913 to make it part of the museum’s interiors. The cabin had been built by Antti Siili, and the year 1836 had been carved on the log above the door.
At the beginning of the 19th century, a large part of the rural population still lived in chimneyless cabins. The development of buildings progressed at different rates in different parts of the country: the change was the fastest in the west, where the majority of the population had already moved to rooms with chimneys by the 1880s. In Eastern Finland, the development was slower and, in the 1880s, there were still twice as many chimneyless cabins as there were ones with chimneys.
In the usual Karelian way, the Jaakkima chimneyless cabin was part of a whole, which included the cabin, an outbuilding opposite it and a covered porch between them. The National Museum decided to buy only one half of the building: the cabin. Unheated and windowless, the low outbuilding had been built with notched round logs and used for storing food. It was not moved to the museum with the cabin.
The National Museum wanted the chimneyless cabin to represent the oldest form possible. Since the windows of the Jaakkima cabin had glazing, which had become common in the early 19th century, it was decided to replace the logs in the side wall with logs that still had old-fashioned hatch windows. They were found in a chimneyless cabin in the village of Lahdenmaa in Kirvu.
The chimneyless cabin from Pajasyrjä, Jaakkima, is one of the first complete sets purchased for the museum and, in addition to the drawing room of the Jakkarila Manor, the only remaining part of the National Museum’s original interiors. The cabin significantly represents the ordinary Finnish way of life and the part of the population that formed the majority in Finland.
Carl Bäck’s armour
Lieutenant Colonel Carl Bäck was a member of a German noble family that had moved to Finland from the Rhine region in the 16th century. He was born in Nuutajärvi in 1609 and died there in 1663, having had a long military career.
Carl Bäck’s armour is one of the six suits of armour in the National Museum of Finland, which together form a significant selection. All of them date from 1550–1650 and were manufactured in Northern Europe, apparently in present-day Germany, Flanders or Netherlands.
All of the suits of armour in the National Museum are related to the history of Finland and the name of their last owner is known. This is rare in Europe; usually, information about the owner of the armour and his life has only been preserved in the case of royalty and other nobles.
The National Museum’s suits of armour have their own unbroken history. For example, they have mostly not been supplemented with parts that did not originally belong to them or parts dating from different periods. They were placed in burial churches after the owner’s death, and parishes donated them to the museum’s collections in the late 19th century. Thanks to this, the suits of armour in the National Museum are almost complete and in their original late 16th century and 17th century appearance.
Judging by its style, Carl Bäck’s armour was made sometime between the 1600s and 1650s, so it is about 400 years old. In terms of its structure and form, it is a typical suit of heavy cavalry armour, a cuirassier’s armour. Such suits were intended to be worn on the battlefield and only on horseback. They were forged from iron and steel and assembled together with rivets and leather straps. Weapons used with the armour usually included two pistols and a sword, but sometimes also a third firearm with a longer barrel.
Very little is known about the manufacture of this suit of armour and the history of its ownership. For example, it is not known whether it was made to order for Carl Bäck or if it had previous owners. It could have been bought, received or gained as spoils of war. If the suit of armour was made for Carl Bäck, it was made to fit his measurements and body shape. In that case, Bäck’s height can be estimated to have been about 184 cm, his shoulder width 56 cm at most and his waistline less than 97 cm. The maker of the armour or the exact location where it was made are not known. No markings have been found on the armour, such as the stamps of an armour maker or guild, armoury or city. No stamps were found in the X-ray examination carried out in connection with the conservation either. However, it is possible that markings are hidden by the layer of black paint, which is thick in places.
Carl Bäck’s armour ties the region of Finland to 17th century Europe. The suit of armour could also have been worn by a cavalry officer in the present-day area of Italy or England. Indeed, 17th century suits of armour were pan-European, proto-industrial and often made in a few major European centres of armour production.
During his military career, Carl Bäck participated in the Thirty Years’ War. In addition, he fought in the Polish-Swedish Wars, also participating in the Battle of Warsaw in 1656. Bäck was seriously wounded in a battle against the Poles in 1658. He sustained a gunshot wound to his arm and apparently a lance thrust above his heart. The bullets could not be removed from his body, and he died partly due to his wounds in December 1663. Carl Bäck was buried in the old wooden church of Urjala in 1664. According to the custom of the time, his suit of armour and coat of arms were placed in the church at his funeral. In 1872, the parish of Urjala donated Carl Bäck’s armour to the State Historical Museum, which later became the National Museum of Finland.
Kousa tankard from Rusko
The ‘kousa’ tankard was used at catechetical meetings in the village of Hujala in Rusko in the 19th century. At the end of each meeting, it was taken in a procession to the house where the next meeting was to be held. The date 1542 has been painted on the tankard. The cup part of the vessel bears the Latin inscription “Cras erit vobis salus, cum incaluerit sol” – “To morrow, by that time the sun be hot, ye shall have help” from the Bible (I Samuel 11 or I Kings 29). Made of spruce rootstock and painted red, the vessel is 2.3 litres in volume and 75 cm in height.
The kousa is the only Finnish celebration tankard that has been preserved, and it was probably custom-made. Scandinavian museums have over twenty of them. The majority of the celebration tankards, which are closely linked with Finnish-Swedish noble families, have survived in Sweden, where they were taken from Vakka-Suomi. The vessels usually have the coat of arms of some noble family.
Bridal trinket crown
Dressing a peasant bride in brilliant borrowed jewellery is an old custom adopted from the gentry, which can be dated back to at least the 17th century in Finland, and even to the Middle Ages for individual pieces of jewellery.
Even brides in a modest position were dressed in borrowed jewellery in the same way as young ladies of the gentry. It was the job of a special bride dresser to make the bride look as impressive as possible on her wedding day. In the 18th century, dressing up peasant brides was often the duty of wives of the clergy. Gradually, the task was given over to near-professional bride dressers. The bride was decorated with engagement jewellery and, on her head, she wore the most important symbol of all – the bridal crown.
The second half of the 18th century saw the rise of bridal crowns made of silk fabric or of paper like a wreath, decorated with various trinkets, paper ornaments and fabric flowers. In Kymenlaakso, the easternmost region where bridal crowns were traditionally used, trinket crowns developed into a half-moon shape in the second half of the 19th century and were decorated with staniol paper. In the western part of the country, the bridal crown tradition continued until the late 19th century.
This crown comes from Vehkalahti, Kymenlaakso.
Carl Gustafsson Horn’s burial gown
Carl Gustafsson Horn was born on the morning of 27 February 1662 and died on the evening of the same day, living for only half a day. He was buried in the Kankas Chapel of Turku Cathedral on 4 November 1662. The little one was buried in a grand manner befitting his estate, and a memorial poem in German, Schuldige Traurpalme, was also printed for him in Turku. The poem was possibly written by Heinrich Amand, who served as the family tutor.
The ancient way of burying the dead in their best costumes was followed until the late 17th century. The precious fabric and fine lace of Carl Gustafsson Horn’s gown indicate that he was a member of the nobility because the use of similar materials was forbidden for the bourgeoisie. In the 17th century, burial clothing followed the same estate-specific rules as other clothing, and this was pointed out in the luxury regulations of 1664 and 1668, for example. The burial gowns of the high nobility were made of gold or silver fabrics, and the wealthy bourgeoisie and clergy used silk and sometimes velvet. The differences between the various estates were reflected in the materials and decorations, not in the designs of the gowns.
The gown was recovered in 1866 in connection with the renovation work carried out in Turku Cathedral. At the same time, tombs under the church floor were also examined. The coffin of Colonel Gabriel Evertsson Horn, buried in the Kankas Chapel, had also been used to assemble bones and parts of other coffins that were in the same tomb and had broken down over time. The child’s gown was found among these.
The Kalanti altarpiece consists of the central panel and double doors on both sides. The central panel and the insides of the inner doors have relief sculptures depicting the life of the Virgin Mary. The panel paintings on the doors depict the martyrdom story of Saint Barbara. They were painted by a painter known as Master Francke, who carried out the painting work in Hamburg in the 1430s. The workshop that did the sculpture work is unknown.
No records have been preserved of ordering the altarpiece or transporting it to Finland. It was probably ordered for the Kalanti Church shortly after the completion of the building in the 1430s. The documents in the church archives described it as old-fashioned in the late 18th century, but the altarpiece was valuable for the parishioners. An exceptionally large number of folk stories about it have been preserved in the area.
The altarpiece was purchased from the Kalanti/Uusikirkko parish for the National Museum’s collections in 1903. The sculpture and painting parts were separated in the 1920s, as the panel paintings were sent to Germany for conservation. Since then, the parts of the altarpiece have been separated from each other, and the doors with sculptures of Virgin Mary now have modern backgrounds.
The altarpiece is made of oak. The panel paintings on the doors were painted with oil paint, the middle part shows a later coating. The altarpiece is approximately 200 cm high and 260 cm wide when opened.
Text and video manuscipt: Docent Elina Räsänen
Photos: Soile Tirilä