The National Biography of Finland
The National Biography of Finland is a collection of biographies of 6,000 Finns going back a thousand years.
The biographies were produced as a project for the Finnish Historical Society during 1993–2001 (see the Editorial Board). The writing skills of around 700 experts in the fields of history, science, art, culture and business life were used in what was one of the biggest history projects ever undertaken in Finland. The Biographical Centre of the Finnish Literature Society edits and publishes the National Biography of Finland.
Hundreds of influential people from independent Finland contained in the National Biography of Finland are being presented for the first time, and attention is being focused on new individuals from earlier centuries, too. Around a quarter of the people who have been written about were influential during the time of Swedish rule (before 1809) and another quarter from when Finland was a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire (1809–1917). Half of the biographies cover the period when Finland had become an independent republic (from 1917 onwards). Of the biographies, 13% are about women.
The collection also includes individuals who were not born in the area that is now considered to be Finland, but who have influenced the history of Finland in a significant way.
The National Biography of Finland not only contains examples of traditional great men but also a great many less well-know figures, who were representatives of their own field, from all periods and different sectors of society. Many of the individuals included in the collection worked and distinguished themselves in several fields. On the basis of their main occupation, they represent the following fields:
- rulers, ministers, members of Parliament 13%
- scientists, teachers 14%
- farmers, factory owners, merchants, bank managers 13%
- writers, journalists, publishers 10%
- government officials, judges 10%
- artists, architects, designers 8%
- actors, entertainers, sportsmen and women 8%
- clergymen, religious leaders 7%
- soldiers 6%
- popular leaders, leaders of organisations 4%
- doctors, nurses, nature healers 4%
- composers, singers, musicians 2%
The National Biography of Finland is published both as a book and online. The project's own Internet site was launched in 1998 at www.kansallisbiografia.fi. The biographies of the Swedish kings and queens, Russian tsars and tsarinas who ruled Finland and presidents of independent Finland and their partners were published on a CD-ROM containing a great deal of multimedia material in 1998 under the title Kuninkaallisia, keisarillisia, tasavaltaisia. Suomen valtionpäämiehet ja heidän puolisonsa (Studia Biographica 1), and as a book with the same title in 2001 (Studia Biographica 12).
A collection of one hundred biographies was published on the Internet in English in 1999–2000 for international readers. The collection was also published as a book in 2000 under the title 100 Faces from Finland – A Biographical Kaleidoscope. (Studia Biographica 2)
To mark the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg in 2003, a collection of 100 biographies was published online in Russian. This collection was published in 2004 as a book, Sto zametshatelnyh finnov: kaledoskop biografij. (Studia Biographica 5).
Some of the biographies in the National Biography of Finland will also be published in Swedish. The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland (Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland) is editing the Swedish-language publication Biografiskt Lexikon för Finland.
March 2003 saw the publication of the first volume of the series of books entitled Suomen kansallisbiografia [The National Biography of Finland] (Studia Biographica 3), in which all the 6,000 biographies of the project on the National Biography of Finland will be published. The last volumes of the major 10-volume series and the index will be published in 2007. The articles in the book series are identical with the ones published online; however, the notes to the online publications (career, education, output, etc) are more extensive than has been possible to publish in the book. The biographies online will be updated and added to if the need arises.
In 2002, the materials and office of the National Biography of Finland project together with its staff transferred from the Finnish Historical Society to the Finnish Literature Society, where the publishing activity of the Historical Society had been transferred earlier. The Biographical Centre, which is responsible for permanently maintaining the National Biography of Finland and for publishing material, is part of the Research Department. The Biographical Centre edits and publishes other biographical material as well.