Cover story Misc

Light and shadows on the silver screen

Regina Linnanheimo (1915-1995) was passionate about movies from the very get-go: as a girl, she spent her every last penny on going to the cinema. She also had her sister to look up to, for Rakel Linnanheimo was an actress as well as the first Finnish professional model. Regina’s own acting career got started at the age of 15, when her sister could not be in two places at once. Rakel was doing a fashion show, so Regina stood in for her as an actress. Soon after, her talent as an actress in her own right was noted and she landed a speaking role in a 1934 Valentin Vaala comedy. It wasn’t long before Regina Linnanheimo became known as the leading lady for many a historical melodrama and screen adaptation.

During the 1930s and 40s Linnanheimo worked for the Finnish studios SF and Suomi-Filmi, and appeared in several box office hits such as Kulkurin valssi (The Vagabond's Waltz, 1941), Kaivopuiston kaunis Regina (The Beautiful Regina of Kaivopuisto, 1941) and Katariina ja Munkkiniemen kreivi (Catherine and the Count of Munkkiniemi, 1943). These are movies that generation after generation of Finns have seen and loved (for their sense of fake nostalgia, if nothing else), and which gained her enormous popularity. With her dimples and great big eyes, Linnanheimo certainly brought to the productions a measure of glamour, romance and beauty. Her acting skills were not inconsiderable either, and she was awarded the Jussi prize, the Finnish equivalent of an Oscar. 

{mosimage}This is how Linnanheimo describes her life in the July 1938 edition of SF News:-Your main hobby, dear Lady? -The cinema, or SF movies, to be exact.-And your other hobbies? This is a very important question, Miss, for its answer gives the readers a true picture of you. -The cinema, dear Mister interviewer, or SF movies, to be exact. My other occupations – hobbies or pastimes, as you will – are books, languages, music and sports of all sorts, the latter including certain walking-tours to the SF studios in Haaga, swimming, cycling, workouts (that is, standing) with seamstresses for hours, etc. One at a time, of course, and taking into account the demands of the seasons, etc. There are times when I do needlework, clean, and sit in cafés. You could be surest of finding me downstairs at Fazer. As you can see, I am a hopelessly ordinary creature, and cannot think of anything to make me interesting to the readers. Except perhaps for the fact that I forget to greet my acquaintances, and run into passers-by, especially if I am turning a part over in my mind…

However in the late 30s Linnanheimo started feeling the limitations of her roles, and as (a graduate of the Helsinki German School) she spoke fluent German, it seemed reasonable enough to look into launching a career in Germany. She visited the UFA studios in Berlin in 1938 and 1942 and chose for herself scenes out of a script called “Nacht ohne Abschied”. The Germans loved her, and the preparations for the making of the movie got well under way: the studio built new sets, and had costumes sewn to her measurements. Linnanheimo returned to Helsinki to wait for the final call, but meanwhile the tide of the Second World War turned against the Nazis, and the movie was left unmade. Even its test reels have never been recovered from the vaults of UFA. 

Teuvo Tulio’s lady and writer
After the war Linnanheimo continued her domestic career as the leading lady in Teuvo Tulio's smouldering melodramas, and later also as the screenwriter of his films. Teuvo Tulio (born Theodor Tugai, 1912-2000) was an independent producer/director who today is recognised as one of few true auteurs of Finnish cinema, and who has a cult status amongst film buffs.

Tulio’s movies typically emphasise melodrama at the expense of more psychological “drama”. More important to Tulio than the authenticity of the material or the internal coherence of the plot was the cinematic flow of emotions. With the use of melodramatic devices, such as light, shadows, and camera angles, he sought to create ever greater emotional charges. From the understanding between Tulio and Linnanheimo emerged great works of art: intense, modern movies, which reach beyond mere symbolism to the very edge of lunacy Together, the two constitute the unsurpassed creative duo of Finnish cinema; their interaction has been compared to that between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and their friendship lasted throughout the years.

The alcoholic melodrama Olet mennyt minun vereeni (You've Invaded My Blood, 1956) was Linnanheimo’s final movie, after which she retired completely from the screen and public life. She had always been one to keep her private life private (we know that she married a Swedish count during the 40s, yet never really lived with him), but with her retirement, she grew even more reclusive. In the end, it was the popular imagination that transformed this leading lady of so many blockbusters in to a myth and a legend. 


Photos by Finnish Film Archive 

Cover story Misc

The tigress of the world


Prima donna of the Grand Opera in Paris

Aino Achté was born in Helsinki on the 23rd of April 1876 to Emmy and Niklas Achté. The Achtés were talented musicians, and Aino learnt to sing from her mother. The audiences loved her from her very first performance. Aged 17, Aino was a tall, slender girl with big brown eyes, an exceptional voice, and great skill. She had another important asset as well, namely her mother. Emmy Achté was an ambitious and enterprising woman who had aspired to an international career herself, and studied in the conservatories of Stockholm, Dresden and Paris. It was the Paris Conservatoire she now chose for her daughter: it represented the absolute élite of the French musical scene, and could launch a successful student into fame.

Having passed the entrance examination with flying colours Aino studied at the Conservatoire for three years (1894-7). Her diligence and ambition were soon noted, but the competition was intense, and Aino's surname made her the butt of jokes as its French pronunciation resembled that of the word "achetée" (bought). "Excusez-moi, mademoiselle Achté, mais est-que vous êtes déjà acheteé?", one of her teachers would often say, eventually leading Aino to change the "h" in Achté to a "k", Ackté.

Regardless of the name, Aino's studies were a success. At the end of her third year she won the first prize at the annual competition of the opera class. This secured her a place at the Grand Opera of Paris, or the Théâtre National de l'Opéra as it was known at the time. Her début role as Marguerite in Charles Gounod´s "Faust" was a triumph, and the Opera eventually came to sign her for six years (1897-1903), during which time she made several recordings.


A cultural ambassadress

Ackté and the painter Albert Edelfelt were considered unofficial cultural ambassadors of Finland. At the Paris World Exhibition of 1900 the young prima donna had an active role in organising concerts of Finnish music. Her diplomatic skills and intimate knowledge of Paris helped ensure the success of the Finnish Pavilion, and thus consolidated for their part the idea of Finland as an autonomous cultural entity.

Ackté and Edelfelt, who had observed his young compatriot's career from its start, were friends, and Edelfelt painted a number of portraits of her. Back home, the two might have been rumoured to be more than just friends, but in the eyes of the Parisians Ackté was exceptionally celibate. Her private life gave little cause for gossip. In fact Ackté had been secretly engaged to Heikki Renvall, a fennoman lawyer, since 1896. Her mother and the Opera were against the marriage, as it was thought to be an impediment to her career, but the couple eventually married in the spring of 1901. Later that year Aino gave birth to a little girl, and in 1908 the Ackté-Renvall couple had a son. The marriage ended in divorce nine years later, and in 1919 Ackté married the general, Governor Bruno Jalander.


{mosimage}Disappointment and success

The Metropolitan Opera had been courting Ackté for some time when in 1903 she finally had the chance to disengage herself from the Grand Opera. The Americans signed her for two seasons, but the experience proved to be a disappointment. The competition was even fiercer than in Paris, the audience favoured the Italian style of opera, and Ackté could not reconcile herself with the language, the magazines' practice of reviewing performances (in exchange for bribes), or the American lifestyle in general. She missed Europe, Paris, and the civilisation she was accustomed to.

Ackté returned to Europe, and started increasingly to tour the great stages of England and Germany, singing parts from Wagner's "Mastersingers", "Lohengrin", "Tannhäuser", "Flying Dutchman", and "Siegfrid" as well as Puccini's "Tosca" and Massenet's "Thaïs". Her greatest success, however, was in the role of "Salome". Ackté had heard of this new, challenging opera by Richard Strauss already in 1906. Strangely transfixed, she studied the part zealously under the composer himself. Not only did she study the music, but she also secured a famous orientally styled dress (designed to give an illusion of near-nakedness) from the foremost fashion house in Paris, and worked out a choreography for the "Dance of the Seven Veils" with an expert of ancient on Greek dances. It was all for one goal: Ackté considered Salome the role of her life, one that could make her the No. One opera singer of the world.

The 1910 performance of Salome in Covent Garden finally obtained Ackté the climax she had longed for. The opening night was a high society event, and Ackté delivered on all the expectations. The audience was absolutely entranced by her dramatic, passionate Salome; the clamour of the crowd forced the curtain up sixteen times, and the stage overflowed with flowers. The reviews called her a cat, a tigress, an enchantress, a Woman, a pure sensation, and reportedly Strauss himself told Ackté that she was the best Salome in the world. 

Pioneer of the Finnish opera

Ackté's international career came slowly to an end at the eve of the First World War. She continued to give occasional concerts abroad, but on the whole the war made it easier for her to gradually retire from the stage. She now turned her attention fully to the needs of the Finnish opera. 

Finnish opera had experienced a golden age in the 1870s, but since then there had been only a few irregular groups performing at their own expense. There was, and had been for years, talk of a national opera, and Aino Ackté decided to turn the idea into reality. In 1911 Ackté, together with Edward Fazer, Oskar Merikanto and others, established the Kotimainen ooppera – Inhemska operan, renamed in 1914 the Finnish Opera, and today known as the Finnish National Opera. Ackté brought her artistic abilities, international style and glamour to the new house while her mother acted as singer, teacher, and artistic director. The first performances were a success, but the artists perceived Ackté to be rude and arrogant. She became entangled in bitter disagreements with the other founders, and was forced to quit the enterprise.

After leaving the Kotimainen ooppera Ackté began to organise international opera festivals in the historic castle of Olavinlinna, Savonlinna. The setting was perfectly beautiful, St. Petersburg only short distance away, and the town teemed with summer guests seeking amusement. "I wish to offer artistic experiences also for those people who have never in been to opera", Ackté explained to the press. She organised the festival successfully during the years 1912-1914, again after the war in 1916, and finally in 1930, when she also gave her last public performance. In 1938 Ackté was invited to become the director of the Finnish Opera, but after one glorious season, and renewed quarrels about budget, she resigned the post.

Aino Ackté died of pancreatic cancer on the 8th of August 1944. Savonlinna and Helsinki have streets named after her, and the City of Helsinki owns her summerhouse of 40 years, Villa Aino Ackté, which has been restored to its original appearance.

Cover story Misc

Meet Mr. Finland – the czar’s swedish-speaking spy

Baron Mannerheim is the man without whom Finland might have wasted decades
as part of the Soviet Union. He is the only
man ever to be named Field Marshal of Finland, but then, the Republic has known
no other Commander-in-Chief in times of war. In fact, Mannerheim’s bio reads
like a crash course in Finnish independence. He was there for it all. He led the
government troops to victory in the Civil War, united the nation in two wars
against the Soviet Union, and finally expelled
the German army from Finland
at the end of the Second World War. And saving Finland was something Mannerheim
only took up after retiring from the Russian Army at the age of 50.


Mannerheim: the controversial national
Over the years, Mannerheim has inspired awe in many Finns and foreigners. One
of his ardent fans is Matthew Kirk, the former British Ambassador to Finland
(2002-2006). Now Vodafone’s director of external relations, Mr. Kirk still has
fond memories of the time he lived just down the road from Mannerheim’s house
in Kaivopuisto.

“One of my favourite things about Mannerheim actually
is the fact that he never owned his house, but rented it from the confectioner,
Karl Fazer, whose signature still appears on the famous Fazer Blue chocolates”,
Mr. Kirk says. Mannerheim's signature can be seen in many public buildings throughout
but the only document on which these two most famous signatures appear is the
lease for the house in Kaivopuisto. The house, which was transformed into
a museum after Mannerheim’s death, still gives a very vivid impression of this
extraordinary man.

The many parallels between Mannerheim and Churchill
also fascinate Mr Kirk. Both were born into great houses, both were badly
behaved at school, and dropped out. Both travelled widely, and had military careers.
In the run up to the Second World War, both argued for rearmament against the
wishes of the political majority in their countries. Both smoked, and enjoyed a
drink or two.
An officer in the Imperial Army
Born in June 1867 at Louhisaari Manor, near Turku, Mannerheim was the second son
of a moneyed, Swedish-speaking noble family. (The family actually spoke a
different language every day of the week: Swedish, English, French, Russian,
German, and Portuguese. And yes, even Finnish.) While Mannerheim’s mother was a
devout Christian, a dutiful and loyal person, the Count passed on to his son an
appreciation of the good life, a love of beautiful women, good food, and the
fine arts. Indeed the Count was declared bankrupt and, taking his mistress with
him, fled to Paris
before Gustaf turned 15. The family home was sold, and the mother died of a
heart attack.
At the time Finland
was still a part of the Russian Empire, even if an autonomous Grand Duchy. It
was not exceptional for young men to seek their fortune outside their native
land, and in 1887 the impoverished young Mannerheim enrolled in the Nikolayevskaya Cavalry School
in St. Petersburg.
This was the start of what was to be 30 eventful years of loyally serving the
Emperor in the Imperial Army. Mannerheim was an ambitious man, but fortunately
he also turned out to be gifted, effective, and absolutely just as a military
leader. He demanded the impossible from everyone, including himself.
Maintaining a lifestyle suitable for a Cavalry Officer in Guard's cavalry was expensive.
In 1892 Mannerheim came into a great deal of money by way marrying a wealthy
Russian heiress. This, however, proved only a temporary solution, since after a
few unexpectedly happy years Baroness Mannerheim emigrated permanently to Paris with the couple’s
two daughters. This left Mannerheim free to pursue his career unobstructed, but
sadly out of funds. Already in 1911 he complained to a friend about his
financial situation: “I am forced to lead a very moderate life. All my money
goes to horses and beautiful women. There is nothing left for trifles!”

A great traveller

Being a soldier and a lover were not the only things
that defined Mannerheim. Among other things he was also a masterful rider, an
adventurous explorer, an accomplished photographer, and a skilful diplomat.
These at least were the qualities required of him on the two-year reconnoitring
(spying) expedition his Russian masters sent him on at the beginning of the
20th century.

Like many others, Mr. Kirk too is amazed by
Mannerheim’s journey. Under the cover of a Helsinki University
professor engaged in ethnological and biological research, Mannerheim travelled
from the Middle East to the eastern Chinese
coast during the years 1906-08. A fair-sized entourage accompanied him, but in
the end only two were there for the whole length (over 14,000 kilometers) of
the journey: Mannerheim and his horse. Mannerheim drew maps for 3,000
kilometers, took more than 1,350 photographs, obtained more than 1,200 objects,
prepared impressive statistics, and wrote detailed reports. Ironically, his
ethnographic studies are still of use today while the products of his spying
were soon buried in archives.

A man ahead of
his time

Mannerheim’s national importance to Finland is not
solely due to his role as the supreme wartime Commander-in-Chief. He was also a
political leader who twice assumed the role of Finland's Head of State. Straight
after the declaration of independence, Finland decided to become a
monarchy and invited a German prince to become king. In the interim, Mannerheim
became regent. The prince never came, and the Finns decided to become a republic.
Mannerheim became President of Finland during the war in 1944 in order to
secure peace with Russia.
As Mr. Kirk points out, Mannerheim was effectively both a royal and a republican.
He was a loyal servant of the Czar, advocated monarchy for Finland, and
ended up as the head up the Republic himself.
As a travelled cosmopolitan Mannerheim had a very broad field of vision, or the
rare gift of reconciling the national interests of a small, peripheral country
with those of the great powers. A man of many contrasts, paradoxes and
exceptional timings, Mannerheim was “cosmopolitan in a time of nationalism,
aristocrat in the era of democracy, and conservative in the age of

Cover story Misc

The subversive scientist?

Scrooge McDuck or Uncle Scrooge may be a comic book
character, but (Nils) Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (1832-1901) is a very real
historical figure. Born in Helsinki, on Bulevardi 5, Nordenskiöld spent his youth
and childhood at Frugård manor in Mäntsälä, where he developed an early interest
in the natural sciences. Already as a child Nordenskiöld accompanied his father
Nils, the chief superintendent of the Finnish mining board, on various
mineralogical expeditions around the country. The boy's formal schooling began
at 13 with a false start, but two years later he was already at the top of his
class. In 1855, six years after entering the Imperial Alexander University of
Helsinki, Nordenskiöld had already defended a doctoral dissertation, published
several other scientific publications, and accompanied his father on a
scientific trip to the Urals.


{mosimage}A man of principles, or, banqueting
will do that to you

In November 1855 Nordenskiöld and a group of friends
from the University arranged a banquet to celebrate their birthdays and name
days. There was live music, singing, and a great deal of drinking and
merriment. Many speeches and toasts were made, some parodying the great
eastern, some the western powers. The party ended on the streets of Helsinki
with some of the guests singing the Marseillaise in Swedish.

Much to the misfortune of the revellers, these were
the years of the Crimean War (1852-56), and the resident Russian Governor-General
of Finland, the count Fredrick von Berg, was in no way predisposed to opening
space for public political dissent. In fact, Nordenskiöld and his friends had
already evoked Berg’s wrath by exposing one of the university students as his

The new incident gave von Berg the excuse he needed to
take his revenge. The speeches and the Marseillaise were construed as
subversive political acts, and von Berg had the University expel or detain the
involved students. Some of those punished left Finland for good. Nordenskiöld,
suddenly stripped of his academic positions, travelled to Berlin for further
study, but returned the next summer.

The following spring Nordenskiöld took part in a
formal degree ceremony of the faculty, and had the degrees of master and doctor
conferred on him. Two days later he was invited to make a farewell speech to
the Swedish guests. Nordenskiöld's chosen subject was the future of Finland, and
he spiced up the speech with phrases such as “the indomitable consciousness of
our right to freedom”. The audience responded with rapturous joy, but not
everyone was pleased. The Governor-General thought it near-treason, and gave
Nordenskiöld two options: to apologise, or to emigrate permanently. Nordenskiöld
chose exile, and never again returned to live in Finland.


Explorer of the Northeast Passage

Nordenskiöld settled in Sweden where he was soon offered
the chance to participate in an arctic expedition to Svalbard, an archipelago
lying in the Arctic Ocean. Between the years 1857 and 1883 Nordenskiöld
participated in and lead a total of ten scientific expeditions in the arctic
regions. He explored Svalbard, Greenland, and even attempted to reach the North
Pole, but it was the Northeast Passage that truly captured his imagination.

{mosimage}At the time all commercial shipping routes from Europe
to Asia or the west coast of North America circumnavigated either Africa or the
southernmost tip of South America. In theory however, the shortest maritime
route between Europe and East Asia was the Northeast passage, a passage from
northern Norway to the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Siberia and through the
Bering strait. Something like this had been mapped out already by Olaus Magnus
in his 1539 Carta marina map. But no-one had ever succeeded in sailing
through the route. Was it inevitable that all attempts should fail? Would the
passage always be blocked by ice, or could the arctic weather permit the
journey? Nordenskiöld was convinced that it could be done, and set out to prove

In 1877 Nordenskiöld had secured the necessary funds,
and started planning and preparing for the voyage. For the expedition’s ship he
bought the Vega, a whaler with a powerful steam engine, and gathered her
a crew of experienced volunteers. The captain of the Vega was to be
Louis Palander, a Swedish naval lieutenant. Indeed, had it not been for Palander
and his exceptional navigational skills, the expedition might never have
succeeded, since Nordenskiöld himself was no arctic sailor. He was constantly
sea-sick, and according to contemporaries “no one has ever dreaded ice as much
as Nordenskiöld did”.

But Nordenskiöld had mastered the skill of preparing
well, and when the Vega weighed anchor on the 21th of July
1878, it had everything needed to weather an arctic winter or two. That is, if
the Bering strait froze over before they could pass through, the ship would
have enough coal, and the people enough warm clothes, food, and entertainment.

The journey started auspiciously enough with the
numerous scientists and officers aboard the Vega all carrying out their
specific measurements or research tasks. Hardly anything from the sea currents
to petrified prehistoric plants and local tribes escaped their attention.
Longitudes were measured, maps drawn, and everything was going according to plan.
But on the 28th of September, when the Vega was only two days
away from the Bering strait, the ocean froze around her. Had the expedition arrived
on the spot only a few hours earlier, it could have sailed through the entire
length of the passage in two months.

As it was, the Vega and her people were stuck
in Kolyuchin Bay for ten months of arctic winter. Thanks to Nordenskiöld’s
planning, however, the time was spent in relative comfort. While the
temperature outside eventually dropped to -46°C, inside the ship’s cabins it
was always at least +12°C. The scientists carried on with their research, and the crew’s
inevitable boredom was alleviated with a celebration on every possible
occasion. It turned out that the only thing Nordenskiöld had forgotten was a
Christmas tree, and even that could be rigged up from twigs and driftwood.

On 18th July 1879 summer finally reached the Vega in
the form of a break-up of the surrounding ice. Soon they were through the
Bering strait, and on their way home. Nordenskiöld had proved the Northeast
passage could be safely sailed through. The expedition’s success was a global
sensation, and the Vega was received with festivities in every harbour
it put into. From a first stop in Port Clarence (Alaska) the expedition
continued on to Japan, where even the emperor was curious to meet Nordenskiöld.
Hong Kong, China, Borneo, and Ceylon followed, and then, on the other side of
the Indian Ocean, Yemen, the Suez canal, the Mediterranean, and Naples. Twenty-one
months after the beginning of the expedition the Vega finally arrived to
a jubilant Stockholm on the 24th of April 1880. Nordenskiöld’s
voyage around the continent of Eurasia was complete.


Founder of the History of

In the end the discovery of the Northeast passage did
not immediately reroute much commercial traffic, but it did provide excellent
fuel for the popular imagination. The true age of explorations was coming to an
end, but the fascination, the romance still lingered. After all, this was the
time when Jules Verne published his Voyages extraordinaires, and the two
books Nordenskiöld wrote about his journey were soon published in 11 languages.

With his royalties Nordenskiöld built up an extensive scientific
library of geographical history. He took a particular interest in early
cartographical literature, and in works describing voyages of exploration. Especially
the discovery of the New World fascinated him, and Nordenskiöld actually did go
to the Chicago Universal Exposition to promote his book "First maps of
America". It was a fitting occasion since the Exposition, also known as
the Columbian Exhibition, commemorated the 400th anniversary of
Columbus' journey to America.

Nordenskiöld had become a Swedish citizen, held the
post of Superintendent of the mineralogical department in the Swedish Royal
Museum from the age of 26 unto his death, and made all his great expeditions under
the Swedish flag. He had been created a baron, appointed a member of the
Swedish Academy, and received a place in the Swedish Diet, but in his heart he
always remained a Finn. After all, it was here, at Louhisaari manor, that he
had married the baroness Anna Maria Mannerheim, the aunt of another Finnish
hero. While during his lifetime Nordenskiöld had made his collection available
to other scholars by publishing a Facsimile-atlas of the most important maps, at
his death he wanted the collection, in its entirety, to be located in Finland.

Today The A.E. Nordenskiöld Collection, comprising
over 400 atlases and 24, 000 historical maps, is one of the greatest treasures
of the Helsinki University Library, and included in the UNESCO Memory of the
World Register.