Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Johan Vilhelm Snellman
Snellman was born in Stockholm, in Sweden, as son of Kristian Henrik Snellman, a ship's captain. After the Russian conquest of Finland in 1808–09, and the promising establishing of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, his family moved there in 1813, to the Ostrobothnian coastal town of Kokkola (Karleby), where his mother Maria Magdalena Snellman passed away only a year later.
In 1835, after academic work in Hegel's following, Snellman was appointed lecturer at the University of Helsinki, where he belonged to the famous circle of Cygnaeus , Lönnrot, and Runeberg 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, 1839–1842. 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 in distant Kuopio, and published starkly polemical periodicals, including the paper Saima in Swedish that advocated the duty of the educated classes to take up the language of the then 80% majority of Finns, and develop Finnish into a language of the civilized world useful for academic works, fine arts, state craft, and nation building.
Saima was expired by the government in 1846. In 1848–49, Snellman was again rebuffed when applying for the position as professor 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 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 unparallelled 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. 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 Rebells of the January Uprising 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, 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, the Markka, in 1865, that came to be of outmost value for Finland. Snellmans's tenure as Finance Minister would however also be tainted by years of bad harvest, worse than any year Finland has experienced ever since.
Snellman's inflexibility and high profilic 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 nobilitated 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.
- Cultural strength is our only salvation.
- Small countries [like Finland] should not reach for goals that they can not hold on to when international relations take an unfavourable turn.
- Nations do not sacrifice themselves for other nations.
- Man is born unfree and irrational. — Education, therefore, aims at both reason and freedom; Reason inasmuch that the child independently becomes involved in Tradition, and Freedom thus it grews capable to overcome prevailing circumstances.
In 1842 Snellman published his foremost work "Läran om staten" (Study of the State).
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