This week, I blogged about the Fifth International Directory of Anthropologists, published in 1975. Of course, I couldn’t resist looking at what Finnish content might be in there. The Directory lists 13 anthropologists in Finland in 1975, down from 18 in the first edition in 1938. Seven are listed in Helsinki and three in Turku, which they call Åbo.

There are predictable features of this group. Women are absent. Swedish Finns are over-represented. Some of them are very connected with the West, to the point that they might not have had much of a presence in their Finnish home institutions by 1975, although they proudly claim each other. They are many academic expatriates.

The physical anthropologists, some of whom would today be identified as human geneticists proper, rather than anthropologists, play a big role. Folklorists are not far behind. Archaeologists are completely absent. This is perhaps because at the time in Finland, they were so strongly associated with history departments that no one thought of reporting them as anthropologists, and they were not themselves interested in being called that.

Raimo Anttilla, despite spending most of his career at UCLA, is listed as a Professor at Helsinki with an interest in Proto-Indo-European protophonemics. As any proper old-school historical linguist should, he can work in Finnish, Swedish, English, Norwegian, Danish, German, French, and Spanish. His Introduction to historical and comparative linguistics was first published in English by Macmillan in 1972. He is now a Professor Emeritus at UCLA.

Professor Aldur Eriksson, Professor of Human Genetics and head of the Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, lists everything in its Swedish form, as could be expected. He is in Helsingfors and is interested in the genetics of the Aland islanders. Not being a linguist, his mastery of languages is somewhat less than Antilla’s. He limits himself to Swedish, English, German, and lists Finnish last, obviously. Outside of anthropology, he is remembered as a pioneer and leader in genetic research on twins. By 1975, he was also Professor and head of human genetics at the Free University of Amsterdam.

At the opposite end of the Finnishness scale, Aarne Koskinen is a Docent near retirement age at the Kansatieteen Laitos in Helsinki, with an interest in religion, placenames, and the impact of missionaries in Polynesia. His work seems to be classically anthropological in a very western sense.


Björn Kurtén anchors the traditional physical anthropology contingent for Finland. Professor of Paleontology at Helsinki, his work is both famous and infamous in the west at that time, for various reasons.

Juha Pentikäinen, Professor of Comparative Religion at Helsinki is squarely a circumpolar scholar with a keen interest in structuralism. More firmly connected to Finland than some others on this list, he authored in 1989 one of the definitive studies of the Kalevala available in English, Kalevala Mythology.

From Turku, or rather Åbo, we have Knut Pipping, Professor of Sociology and Statistics, Sociologiska Institut vid Åbo Akademi. Professor Pipping is interested in rural sociology of Finland, but also of Tanzania. He was at the University of Dar es Salaam in the early 1970s.

Docent Matti Sarmela from Helsinki is interested in social organization in Finnish Karelia, both Finnish and Soviet, and in Thailand. This feeds his interest in cross-cultural comparison of social institutions. Like Koskinen, he was originally appointed to Kansatieteen. His carrer shows the evolution of Finnish terminology in this area of scholarship. According to Wikipedia he was in national science until 1981, then was called a social anthropologist until 1988, and finally a cultural anthropologist until his retirement in 2000.

Nils Stora, Professor at the Institute of Nordic Ethnology at Åbo, not quite as all-ecompassingly circumpolar as Pentikäinen, focuses on Finland, Sweden and Norway, especially the maritime economy of coastal Lapps.

Niilo Valonen, a veteran of the Lapland War, in regular Finnish international scholar mode, is listed as Leiter, Ethnologisches Institut, Helsinki Univ. A specialist of rural economies of eastern Finland, he works in the traditional Finnish, Swedish and German, in that order, but also English, listed at the end.

The enigmatic Karl Wikman, a Tsarist era ethnologist, about whom I have not found much more information, is simply listed as existing in Åbo. There are a few more details in the 1940 edition of the Directory, where we learn that he was born in 1886 and earned his MA in 1910, making him by far the most senior scholar by age on this list. Which explains why, according to his 1940 listing, he would also be the most hard-core folklorist in the Directory. He has the distinction of being the only Finnish scholar to appear in both the 1940 and the 1975 editions of the Directory.

One thought on “A snapshot of Finnish Anthropology in 1975, as seen from the outside

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