CBG-424 Under The Forest Cover

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Under The Forest Cover

Master Thesis Bauhaus-Universität Weimar “Public Art and New Artistic Strategies” Weimar, Germany 2016

Written by: Pia Grüter Advisor: Dr. Boris Buden Examiners: Anke Hannemann Prof. Pia Lindman Financed by: Aue-Stiftung Juminkeko

Special Thanks:

Helena and Ludwig Grüter Jaana Grüter Anni Hämäläinen Nicolás Buenaventura Annika Klemmayer Päivi Sarin Stina Riikonen Riikka Keränen Hanneriina Moisseinen Markku Nieminen Jussi Huovinen Sergei Tarmov Laina Lesonen Juho Remsu Sergei and Olga Lesonen Santeri and Niina Lesonen Juhani and Anitta Aaltio Thekla Musäus


Chapter 1.

Chapter 2.

Preliminary notes






1.1. Mökki life


1.2. Travelogue


Show me your forest and I’ll tell you who you are 43 2.1. The sublime It all starts with an egg Birch in chains The bear’s wedding day 2.2. The stranger The christian axe The devil’s church Good tree, bad tree 2.3. The rescuer

47 47 52 55 61 61 65 66 71

Green gold Häyhä’s ambush Getting naked

71 74 76

2.4. The national symbol


Landscapes of ideologies The wilderness paradox The who?

81 86 91

2.5. The distance keeper The bear paradox “The best fish in the world is the sausage� Wearing the green belt 2.6. The image campaign Harry Potter versus Green Grinch The betula pendula paradox Chapter 3.

Under the forest cover Battlefields Externalities

95 95 100 107 113 113 116 125 126 128

3.1. What is it like in there?


3.2. Can the forest be seen as a mirror of human societies?


3.3. CBG-424 upside down




About this book Photo archive

147 149

Fig 1. Inarintie, road from KÜngäs to Pokka, July 22nd, 2015.



When you get lost in the forest or you mistakenly step across a forest spirit’s track, you might end up caught in the metsänpeitto, the forest cover. Once you are inside, it is difficult to find your way out. It is a world where everything runs in reverse, things turn upside down, rivers run backwards, the crowns of trees point downwards and the sun rises in the West and sets in the East. Familiar places become somehow strange and your eyes can be deceived by the forest. Searchers who come looking for you should know that they must wear their clothing the wrong way round and their shoes on the wrong feet. If they hear you shouting, they should walk in to the opposite direction of where your voice is coming from. They will have to bind the forest together with a red thread, hit the ground and say “now let go!”, they might even have to clamp the devil’s testicles by placing a stone as weight on a branch1.

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 62-63.



Preliminary notes

The idea of the forest cover stems from an old pagan belief referring to the phenomenon of being “covered by the forest”. For the first settlers in Finland, it offered an explanation for inexplicable happenings and for people or cattle going missing in the wild and immeasurable forests. People or animals who fell into the enchanted forest cover would suddenly find the terrain around them unfamiliar, and be unable to return home. To the outside world, these creatures would become invisible, or simply blend into the forest floor or canopy. The phenomenon of the forest cover is the guiding line for the following reading, and will take you by the hand to lead you deeper and deeper into its clutches. Each chapter’s title describes one characteristic of the forest cover and, slowly but surely, we will become lost inside it. Here, you will be taken on a journey through the Finnish forests, on a search for its multiple personalities and paradoxes, along its transformation over time, and into the knowledge that forests hold and mirror about the human attitudes and relationship with them. This artistic analysis of the appropriation and domestication of nature opens up room for speculation, and aims to move beyond research that is simply scientific. The forest landscapes of Finland, a nation that identifies and represents itself with its forests, are the main focus of my research and of the following text. The findings are certainly translatable beyond the Finnish borders, since most of the topics dealt with can be linked to broad global, economical and socio-environmental issues. However, I chose to focus only on the Finnish forest rather than attempting to bring up concrete global comparisons, since that would go beyond the scope of my master thesis. Therefore, I leave the comparisons and global translations up to the reader’s own experience and perception. Chapter 1 comments on the project CBG-424, my field research venture in summer 2015, its methodology, itinerary and my role as an artist within it. The travelogue details the particular stops and stations of the itinerary, and where there 15

are references to them in this text. Every location is identified with a number, which is marked on the travel map on page 26, and is used in subsequent chapters for ease of reference. Chapter 2 analyzes the six multiple personalities that I found to have been projected onto the forest by humans throughout different historical and geopolitical periods. By borrowing strategies from environmental forensics and abiding by the view that all contact between humans and the environment leaves a trace, the very definition of “nature� itself will be questioned, as well as the human position in it. Examples found in Finland during my research project CBG424 (including, for instance, specific forest sites, particular trees and the Finnish-Russian border) allow for new insight into sociological and socio-environmental matters, such as reconsidering the mythological, economic forest management-related and postcolonial concepts of nature. Chapter 3 is the conclusion of the thesis. This section takes a closer look at what it is like under the forest cover nowadays, and what our position is within it. What does the forest cover look like in our modern forest mythology? Who are our forest spirits, gods and heroes?



I grew up in between two cultures that were forever intermingling one another. First, there were my German surroundings: the school, friends and language that defined my family’s location near Cologne in West Germany. But at home, the Finnish influence prevailed, and was expressed mostly in the details. Two languages were spoken in the family, the interior of our home included many characteristics of a Finnish house, and our Christmas days we spent absorbed in Finnish traditions. My mother, who immigrated from Finland to Germany in 1975, was the primary parent shaping these small but formative aspects of my childhood. The Finnish side of the family has also always been the larger one, since there are no immediate relatives on the German side. This is why, although I grew up in Germany, I have often felt a longing to be a little closer to my other cultural background, the one that is far away, hiding some secrets about itself. When I moved to Weimar1 in 2013 for my master’s program, I found myself confronted with a direct and public approach to radical German national identity. I was unused to such frequent gestures in my normal environment, and as I witnessed plenty of little right-winged signs and actions in local public life, I began to feel alienated in the country I’d grown up in. Just months later in 2014, the rightwing movement Pegida2 was established. As numerous demonstrations began taking place, mostly in Eastern Germany, I started thinking about the concept of national 1 Weimar is located in the central German federal state of Thuringia, and has approximately 65,000 inhabitants. However, it is generally considered to be East German, due to the proximity of the Czech Republic, and it was also part of the former GDR, which bordered Thuringia with the East German states Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Today, 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the cultural and economic differences between West and East Germany are still present and can be seen, for example, in the income average, costs and value of education, etc. Thuringia is also the state with the second lowest percentage of foreigners, with approximately 56,000 in 2014 (http://de.statista.com). Furthermore, it is one of the states with the most active right-wing extremist scenes with established organizations such as NSU in Jena (National Socialist Underground). 2 PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident), is a national movement, active since 2014 and founded in Dresden. Political opinions of members range from right-winged conservativism to right-wing extremism.


identity, and how it is connected to specific sites, objects, species, cities and landscapes. Weimar itself, although small, is loaded with several layers of historical significance, which live in every corner of the city. As a current resident, one gets the sense that it is almost impossible to discover or create a new layer of Weimar, since the city seems to live in its past more than in its present. Weimar’s historical significance is so abundant that it could be seen as national monument itself with a national identity projected on it, which is a concept I find particularly interesting. The location simply cannot be seen as disconnected from its historical meaning, associations and memories. It seems to be entirely shaped by its past, which it cannot stand free from. The city will continue to carry that “burden“, as long as people can associate historical content and memories with it. During my exchange semester at Aalto University in Helsinki in 2015, I explored the Finnish notion of national identity, and the cultural background that lies behind it. The notion of “Finnishness”, and of being a rather new and independent nation is deeply rooted in the peoples’ identity. It is visible and acted out in many small details and behaviors of daily life. Furthermore this notion is becoming more and more visible in the broad political image of Finland. During my stay in Helsinki, the right-wing political party True Finns received 17,7%3 of the votes during the Finnish parliamentary elections of 2015. At the same time, I began reading about mythology and studies related to Finnish forests. What had always appealed to me the most about Finland, and what I was most drawn to, was not the capital or the cities, but the nature in its extremes, and especially the forests. These areas always seemed to be the most mysterious magnetic force of my second homeland. I desired them in an almost romantic way, felt nostalgic about them and sometimes imagined that I could isolate myself within them. I quickly dropped the romantic idea of deep and endless forests in Finland, and instead started to uncover the 3 Statistics Finland; The Centre Party of Finland victorious in the Parliamentary elections 2015, (2015), http://www.stat.fi/til/evaa/2015/evaa_2015_2015-04-30_ tie_001_en.html.


forest’s connection to the historical development of Finnish national identity, the role it played during independence, war and post-war times, as well as its representation in the global market, for instance the idea of the “green” thinking of a northern forest nation. As a nation with 86 percent woodland area, the reason for the connection between the forest and Finnish national identity becomes quite clear: it is always present. The Finns have lived with the trees and off their trees since the first settlements, for which the primeval forest provided all necessary ingredients for survival, as well as the basis for pagan belief systems and mythologies. Even though the Finns are, as compared to many other European nations, chronologically close to their heritage of forest dwellers, a huge transformation of the Finnish forest landscape has occurred within just the past two centuries - the life span of a single birch generation4. In the summer of 2015 I began my investigatory travel through Finland’s forests in order to research the meaning of trees, forests and wilderness and society’s relationship with them. I planned to do this by considering different layers of time, by collecting local stories that people associate and remember about the forest, as well as delving into books and readings connected to these subjects. My primary research question was: Can the forest be seen as a mirror of human society? My thesis project investigates the human-nature relationship from a variety of angles, as well as considering its transformation over time. My conclusion in Chapter 3 should be understood as food for thought rather than an approach to solving the problem. --What I discovered during my journey of field research was the story of how Finland got caught in its own superstitious pagan belief, the forest cover. The meaning of the forest, the human appreciation and treatment of it have turned upside down and inside out. Things work different now and places have changed their appearance completely. Hidden paradoxes reveal a twisted interrelation between forest and human. 4 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 9.



Chapter 1. CBG-424 Disappear into the ground and rise from the ground1

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63.


“Works well and drives fucking smoothly“, read the online advertisement. For 700 euros, this sounded convincing. Within two weeks, I had turned the old, rusty 1992 Fiat Ducato into a livable field research station, the Mobile Mökki2 that would be my home and working space for the following two months. The interior was made from leftover materials I had found around the university in Helsinki; and other parts I bought in the numerous second hand stores in the city. Every element was based on the style of the typical Finnish Mökki, meaning a lot of wood, colorful patterned textiles, and keeping things simple. The Mobile Mökki provided all basic necessities and was very multifunctional: During the day it is a living and working space, and during the night it transforms into a sleeping room. CBG-424 is the license plate number, and the title of my master thesis. In the beginning of the journey, I defined a rough itinerary for myself, planning visits to several places, forests and specific trees that remain from pagan times, such as a Karsikko pine tree stand in Häkkilä, near Saarijärvi. These memorial trees display deep carvings with the most important dates of the deceased, reminding those who have passed of their own death, in case they try to wander back home from the cemetery. Many of the remaining tree sites that are connected to pagan traditions I found in the book Tree People by Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, who traveled to Finland and Estonia in 1996, collecting and transcribing the mythological stories of the trees and people’s relation to them. Additional destinations of my research journey included national parks, such as the Lemmenjoen Kansallispuisto in Northern Lapland, Finland’s largest nature reserve, which attracts visiting tourists as well as locals. Furthermore, I wanted to find some of the few leftover oldgrowth forests, which represent a very small proportion of the total forest, and are mainly found in national parks or wilderness areas in the sparsely populated areas of northern and eastern Finland. 2 The mökki is a Finnish cabin, nowadays mostly used as a holiday facility, but earlier often functioned as small living space for hunters and forest dwellers (e.g. erämökki = wilderness cabin).


Fig 2. the transformation of the Mobile Mรถkki in three steps.


Fig 3.


Karsikko pine trees near Saarijärvi, July 19th, 2015.

Another aim of my travel was to investigate the Finnish-Russian border, and the impact it has on the forest along the border regions, on both sides. And this is how my adventure led me into the old Viena Karelian folklore villages in Russia. Here again I found plenty of links to the Finnish mythology and pagan forest beliefs, as well as information about the Fennoscandian Green Belt, also called the Green Border3. While driving through the forest landscapes I came across plenty of examples of the current and dominant state of the Finnish forests: massive deforestation and wood logging industry activity. To find examples of this, I needed no special plan or itinerary. The evidence was clear almost anywhere the road met the forest. On my journey, I intended to travel within the context of an open research project, meeting and communicating with locals in order to consider various first-person perspectives and opinions on my themes. The Mobile Mökki Field Research Station was the perfect way of accessing my subject matter while remaining free and flexible, and being able to interact directly with the forest and the population. By being mobile and independent, I was able to plan my itinerary according to the needs and interests of the investigation; and it was possible to react spontaneously to changes and outside influences. That mobility enabled me to access my places of interest, which otherwise might have been difficult to reach. The field research station allowed me to physically place myself into the very material of my research. My role as ‘explorer’, the Mobile Mökki Field Research Station, and the investigation itself represented a performative research and an artistic approach to my master thesis subject. Over the course of the project, the Mobile Mökki and I covered a distance of approximately 7,000 kilometers on roads through Finland and Russia.

3 The European Greenbelt is an ecological network and living memorial landscape that was established along the former Iron Curtain in 2014. The Fennoscandian Greenbelt is the part of the European Greenbelt, which runs along the Finnish-Russian border. Fennoscandia is the vast geographical area in Northern Europe uniting Scandinavia, the Kola peninsula, Finland and Karelia.


Fig 4. Tree plantation near Lappeenranta, August 20th, 2015.


1.1. The mรถkki life Cannot judge the passage of time1

The bare necessities The Mobile Mรถkki was equipped with only the bare necessities for life on the road, in the forest or at the lake. An extendable sofa served as seating during the day and as a double bed at night. To eat comfortably or to work, the foldable table could be installed in front of the sofa. Spacious drawers placed underneath the sofa served as storage for clothing, kitchen implements and bed linen. Along the walls were several shelves providing loads of space for books, food and items collected during the journey, such as samples and objects from the forests, or things that turned out to be useful, like a thermometer and humidity measuring instruments. A small map of Finland on the wall showed all the stops and places visited, marked with map pins.

Fig 5. Everything has its place in the Mobile Mรถkki.

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63.


Nomad way of life Sleepover locations varied every night and depended on the place or town that I was resting in. It was mostly possible to find beautiful, deserted spots to camp out, either on small forest roads or in small beach areas by the lakes and rivers. I cooked my food on a small gas stove, or on an open fire when possible, preparing my meals and boiling water for coffee. I caught my own fish with a homemade fishing rod, frying my catch in butter and salt. I collected berries and ingredients for teas, like pine needles or the Chaga mushroom2. Mäntysuopa, an environmentally-friendly soap made from pine oil, was my soap for everything; body, hair, dishwashing and laundry. My puukko3 was an essential tool that stayed with me at all times, either with me on my waistbelt or hanging on the Mobile Mökki’s wall hook.

Fig 6. Sun-drying pine needles and blueberries in Nurmes, August 5th, 2015.

2 The Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) grows on the birch and other tree species in Eastern and Northern Europe, Russia, Korea, northern areas of the United States, in the mountains of North Carolina and in Canada. It is an incredibly strong healing substance, a medical mushroom, which has long been used in folk medicine. It was proved to decrease the growth of tumors and to have a strengthening effect on the immune system. Its use in modern medicine is emerging, especially for cancer therapy and immunotherapy. 3 The puukko is a typical Finnish hunting and woodsman’s knife with a short, sharp blade and a flat back. It is used for all daily tasks, such as food preparation, gardening, wood carving, fishing and hunting.


Fig 7.

Preparing dinner at a lake in Punkaharju, August 7th, 2015.

Don’t be afraid of cold water One of the most important components of MÜkki life were the lakes, because, no matter how cold, they provided water for washing dishes, clothing and myself. Furthermore, they provided me with fresh fish every day. But above all, the lake sites are unique because of their beauty. They provided stunning environments in which to spend the night, always surprising me with incredible sunsets, rain showers and northern lights in the middle of summer. 29

Two months of day On the road - and there were some long distances to drive - there was a lot of time to think about what the journey was bringing up, and to analyze the different forest landscapes passing just outside my window. Often I stopped to photograph unusual or modified landscapes, forests or logging sites. The weather showed me its full repertoire, starting with endlessly rainy and gray summer days. Water leaked into the vehicle through the front window, and everything was wrapped in a constant dampness and moisture. Then, the sun poked its way through the cloudy sky and dried up the Field Research Station with a sudden warmth. Sunny days were rare in the first three weeks of my journey, and it wasn’t until August that a gentle summer came to make things easier and more flexible. Thick blankets of fog coated the streets and fields up on the way to northern Lapland, where the days were endless and darkness never arrived. The mosquitoes took this opportunity to stay wide awake, and they danced around the Mobile MÜkki, eager to sneak in at any moment.


Fig 8.

Sleepover location at a lake near Saarijärvi, June 18th, 2015 (photography by: Nicolás Buenaventura).


There are no moose in Finland Rabbits, otters, cranes, fish, mice, ... life was everywhere. And we mustn’t forget the mosquitoes, and the reindeer - plenty of reindeer. With the first reindeer warning street sign near Lapland, an invisible border is crossed into the reindeer region, and suddenly they appear everywhere, trotting along the street in front of the car. These animals are clearly used to contact with people as well as with traffic, which in this case means, on average, one car every five minutes. In Finland, almost all reindeer belong to Sámi herders and are each marked with a special ear carving, assigning them to an area4. Chapter 2 - The Who? will touch further on the Sámi people, and deal in depth with their modern traditions.

Fig 9.

Reindeer calf (Rangifer tarandus) near Saariselkä, July 26th, 2015 (photography by: Nicolás Buenaventura)

4 With the exception of the wild forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus), which lived all over Finland in the 17th century, but had disappeared completely by the end of the 19th century due to over-hunting. A small group survived in Russian Karelia and crossed the border during the 1960s. Currently, there are three wild forest reindeer populations in Finland, in Kuhmo, Suomenselkä and Lieksa (2015). www.nationalparks.fi/en/elimyssalo/nature/ wildforestreindeerrangifertarandusfennicus?inheritRedirect=true.


Fig 10. Mobile MĂśkki front window.

Humppa or die5! The soundtrack of the field research mainly consisted of old Finnish music, such as humppa, polkka or tango, played on cassette tapes collected from various second-hand stores all over the country. Cassettes were the only item that the stereo deck could handle and translate into sound.

5 Songtitel; Humppa tai kuole; Eläkeläiset.


Fig 11. Travelogue map.


1.2. Travelogue Don´t recognize familiar places1

15.07.2015 Arrival in Helsinki and preparation of the departure with the Mobile Mökki. 18.07.2015 After asking locals in a café in Keuruu for help, I get information about the address of my first destination, the Aaltio yard birch, of which I found a photograph from 19962. Locals Juhani and Anitta Aaltio kindly show me the way to the tree and explain its story and history. (Read more about Aaltio’s yard birch in chapter 2.1. - The sublime.) 19.07.2015 Finding the Pyhäkangas Karsikko pines (referenced in the second paragraph in the introduction of this chapter) is not an easy task. Locals in Saarijärvi and Häkkilä explain different locations and identifying features. Finally, someone is able to help out with a detailed map and a helpful website. I find a poster of the Savela bear pine in a local second-hand store. In 2007, there was an exhibition about the Finnish tree mythology, and the pine was chosen as the poster’s image. After asking several locals for the tree’s exact location, an old man finally guides me along a hidden field path, beyond which the huge tree emerges. (This tree will be brought up again in chapter 2.1. - The sublime.)

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63. 2 Cf: Kovalainen and Seppo, 119.


23.07.2015 Spend the day in the Forest Museum of Lapland in Rovaniemi. 24.07.2015 In the morning, I take the boat up the Lemmenjoki river. I have approximately 18 kilometers ahead to hike through Lemmenjoen Kansallispuisto (Lemmenjoki National Park). I pass by an old-growth pine forest, which some of the locals had told me about earlier at the information point.

(In chapter 2.4. - The national symbol, this park will be a topic) 25.07.2015 I spend the day in the Siida Sami Museum in Inari and find an interesting tree timeline, which I would later take as model for the flipbook illustration in this volume. But the visit to the museum left me wondering‌ (More on this in chapter 2.4. - The who?)

28.07.2015 I visit the Urho-Kekkosen Information Center in Saariselkä, to get advice on how to reach the Korvatunturi and Kolliskaira old-growth forests. I learn that access to these places requires special permission, since they are located within the boundary zone of the Finnish-Russian border. (More on the boundary zone in chapter 2.5. – The distance keeper) 28.07.2015 In the Korvatunturi Information Center in Savukoski I purchase a detailed hiking map of the surrounding nature sites and wilderness areas in order to start my journey towards Moukavaara, an old-growth forest on a hilltop that located near Naruska in a sparsely populated wilderness region in the boundary zone. In the forest there are no paths. Even with the help of a compass it is difficult to keep the correct orientation and I almost get lost. Almost. 36

(Moukavaara and the other old-growth forests I visited will be dealt with in chapter 2.5. - The distance keeper) 30.07.2015 I go hiking Riisitunturi National Park near Posio and the old-growth forest. 31.07.2015 In the Metsähallitus Information Center in Kuusamo, I learn about the access points to Närängänvaara, a nature reserve and old-growth forest located within the boundary zone. From the hilltop, I enjoy the view across the Finnish-Russian boundary zone. (We’ll come to this again in chapter 2.5. - The distance keeper) 02.08.2015 I receive a friendly and spontaneous invitation by locals in Sotkamo for a coffee. We chat about Talvivaara3 and its effects on the lakes, forests and locals in the region. 07.08.2015 I pay a visit to the Carelicum Museum of North Karelia in Joensuu. 08.08.2015 I spend the entire day in Lusto-Metsämuseo (Lusto Forest Museum) in Punkaharju, where I discover a considerable huge amount of information about Finland’s forest history, providing new insights for my research. (This museum will be brought up again in chapter 2.3. – The rescuer) 09.08.2015

Patvinsuon Kansallispuisto is a national park located near

Ilomantsi, with a beautiful location on the water. I hike for several hours in order to reach the Autiovaara old-growth forest.

3 The Talvivaara Mining Company near Sotkamo is a nickel mining business, which went bankrupt in 2014 after its chemicals leaked into the surrounding lakes and waterways. However, the company is still in operation and there continue to be demonstrations and petitions for its closure.


10.08.2015 At Juminkeko, the information center for the Kalevala4 and Karelian Culture in Kuhmo, I meet with Markku Nieminen, the chairman of the board. I agree to go on a journey of several days with him, visiting places and people linked to Finnish mythology and pagan beliefs. This journey would also lead us to the Karelian Republic in Russia for several days. 11.08.2015 We drive through the only three Finnish poem villages in Viena Karelia Rimpi, Kuivajärvi and Hietajärvi5, where we meet Jussi Huovinen, the last rune singer of Finland, who knows all the old rune songs by heart and whose family property was lost in the destruction of the historical villages during WWII6. 13.08.2015 We cross the border into Russia, Karelian Republik, via Vartius. We drive on to Kostomuksha, where we meet Sergei Tarmov, the chairman of Ystävyyden Puisto7, who explains to us the cooperative work of some Russian and Finnish forest conservation programs. (More on this in chapter 2.5. - The distance keeper) Further towards Viena Karelia. Vuokkiniemi, we meet Laina Lesonen, a Viena Karelian rune singer, who sings for us and shows us an example of the old storytelling tradition that has been passed down through several generations of her family. Afterwards, we visit Juho Remsu, a carpenter from Vuokkiniemi, who presents me with pieces of pine from the nearby forests, which I used to make this book’s cover.

4 The Kalevala is a collection of epic poetry about Finnish mythology and oral folklore, compiled by Elias Lönnrot on his travels throughout Finland and Russian Karelia. It was the most important literary source for the development of a new sense of a Finnish national identity near the end of the 19th century, and thus decisive in the independence from Russia in 1917. 5 Viena is a region of Karelia located in the Karelian Republic in Russia. The Viena Kerelian villages have been the richest source of folk poetry, collected in the 19th century by Elias Lönnrot. Rimpi, Kuivajärvi and Hietajärvi are the only three Finnish villages that are part of the official Viena cultural heritage site. 6 In WWII, the Viena villages were destroyed and burned by Finnish troops. The inhabitants had to be evacuated. (Read more in chapter 2.5. – The distance keeper) 7 Ystävyyden puisto (park of friendship) is a cooperation between the programs of one Russian and five Finnish nature reserves. It was founded in 1989 with the aim of conserving the forest, peatland, lakes and mountains, as well as the natural environment of the wild forest reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus).


On the way to Venehjärvi, we stop at the location of the oldest Fennoscandian birch. Markku tells me the story of Tsinkki-Riiko, a shaman who received magical energy by hugging this specific birch tree. (We will find this tree and its legend again in chapter 2.6. – The image campaign) In Venehjärvi I find my sleeping spot for the following two nights, parking my Mobile Mökki in the yard of Sergei and Olga Lesonen, locals of Venehjärvi. The Lesonen family is the only family in this small village, and has been for a long time. I meet the other brother, Santeri Lesonen, his wife Niina and their dog Ukko8. Santeri is the only one of five brothers that carries on the shamanistic practices of his ancestors, and who knows everything about the nearby forests, its tree stories and its mythology. Paavo Lesonen is the third brother that I meet. He is the fisherman of the surrounding lakes, but tells me that he has traveled around the world while working on fishing boats. 14.08.2015 We take a tour through the small town of Venehjärvi. We visit the cemetery, the church and the houses of the village. In the afternoon we take Sergei’s boat to the old-growth forest on the other side of the lake, which is also part of the border’s restricted zone. We find a mysterious tree, which Santeri had told us to search for, with a vertically placed stick through its trunk. In the evening I go back to the cemetery to find the village’s karsikko9, a hiisi10 stone , wind places11 and the memorial tree. This memorial tree is different from the ones I have seen before. It is decorated with a rose and beautiful 8 Ukko, in Finnish, as well as in Estonian mythology, is the god of the sky and the most powerful of all gods. Ukkonen means thunder and is drawn from the name of the overlord of Finnish mythology. 9 A karsikko tree is a memorial tree that is supposed to remember special events, places, people or they can be reminders for the dead that they are no longer under the living. The methods vary from cropping the branches or carving dates into the trunk. 10 The hiisi is a holy place, a pagan temple, where people gathered for celebrations, to sacrifice to the forest gods. It could be a big rock, a tree, a grove or a cave, where the stories of creation were passed on. Also it was a place that linked the living with the departed and a gateway to the past. When Christianity found its way to Finland from on the 12th century, the pagan sacred places were destroyed and the rocks and trees replaces by churches. 11 By knotting a textile band on a tree’s trunk, branch or on a grave’s cross, people remember their lost ones who they still did not forget. When the wind makes the band wave in the air it shows that someone remembers the departed.


ribbon, to commemorate a deceased family member , whose grave is in an unknown location. 15.08.2015 Before leaving the village, we have a look at the Lesonen family’s family tree12, an ash located on a hilltop in an open field. We head back to Vuokkiniemi, where we visit the village hall with its museum, as well as Otsin talo, an old Karelian house museum. When crossing the border on our return, my attempt to film the border aisle is detected. I have to hand over my camera, delete the filmed material, and the Mobile Mökki goes through a full body inspection. 10. – 15.05.2015 Within the framework of a university course during my exchange semester, I visited the Koli National Park for five days to research the region and work on projects. I probably got to know this park most during all my travels. (Koli will come up again in chapter 2.2 - The stranger and chapter 2.4. - The national symbol) --During my travels through Finland I had the chance to meet a lot of friendly and helpful people, everyone with his or her own story and approach towards a life alongside the forest. These people taught me a great deal, and influenced my research and my way of seeing the forest. Over the course of my research I also got to experience and to know my second homeland more deeply, and from a perspective that took me to places I might never otherwise have found.

12 A family tree, or also sacrificial tree was usually planted by a family member and chosen to have a special relationship with the family. When the oldest member of the family died, the tree would drop one branch. The tree was almost seen as a god, because it could hear the family’s prayers, heal and decide about their destiny.


Fig 12.



Chapter 2. Show me your forest and I’ll tell you who you are Have your eyes deceived by the forest1

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63.


“Every contact leaves a trace“2 is a principle stated by French forensic scientist and director of the world’s first crime laboratory Edmond Locard. The principle has become the basis for all forensic science as it is known today. Within the discipline it means that with trace evidence, everything can be linked to one another - such as people or objects to places, other people or other objects, because they continue to hold information about all contact with the other3. In environmental forensics, these principles are transferred to the medium of nature and environment, and involve trace evidence of, for example, human action. Nature becomes a historical and archaeological mirror, a geographical and geochemical4 fingerprint of an interrelation with people. The environment records and saves information about the life we live on this planet, about our relationship to it, and how it changes with us over time, and what it leaves behind. Information about recent contact may be directly visible on the surface, and still more information is hidden in layers of time. Timothy Morton, a British contemporary philosopher, explains a related idea of the interconnectedness of all living and nonliving things, with the concept of “the mesh”. This refers to a mesh network in which everyone and everything has its place. Within the mesh, there is no central position and no form of being is privileged over another. Thus, within the mesh, everything can influence and effect everything else, and everything is connected5. This chapter will analyze certain characteristics of the Finnish forest, which I call the forest’s multiple personalities. These personalities are the forensic trace evidence of human societies and different transformations in societal systems throughout the history, such as christianization, colonization, independence, modernization and capitalism, and their effects upon their natural surroundings. As a mirror, these traces function to reflect how the forest changed as a result of 2 Diagram Visual Information Ltd.; Every Contact Leaves A Trace, (Facts On File, Inc.), http://mthsscience.org/Science_fair/SF_Forensics/Every%20Contact.pdf. 3 Cf: Diagram Visual Information. 4 Paulo Tavares; “Nonhuman Rights”, in Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth, ed. Forensic Architecture, (Forensic Architecture, 2014), 560. 5 Timothy Morton; The Ecological Thought, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2010), 16.


human influence, but also demonstrate the effect of changing landscapes on societal minorities. Each sub-section of this chapter and each forest personality refers to a step in the process of alienation between human and forest, and examines the roles that have been given to the forest, or projected upon it.

Fig 13. System of the mesh, with no central position in it6.

6 Fig 13.: people.eecs.ku.edu, 28.12.2015.



2.1. The sublime Don´t get wet even if it is raining1

It all starts with the egg Imagine the world as being flat and circular, covered by a lid in the shape of a dome, which is supported by a column in the center to keep it from falling down. The column holds up the sky right at the point where we see the North Star. One perspective of what exactly this would look like is the World Tree2, also called Tree of Life. This tree is the point of connection between the earth and the sky, the humans and the gods, the living and the deceased. The spirits of those who have passed wander to the land of the dead, Tuonela, by entering a swirl on top of the column that is caused by the rotation of the sky dome3.

Fig 14. The universe according to Finnish mythology, based on a drawing of E.N. Setälä (1932)4. 1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63. 2 The World Tree can be found in many world myths, describing a tremendous, lonely and powerful tree, holding up the sky, forming the world, mankind and order. The World Tree is thought to have existed even before the birth of the forests. The mythological tree had the life of all humans written on its leaves, and so held the fortune of each and every person. 3 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo; Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 19. 4 Fig 14.: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain, 28.12.2015.


The creation of the earth, the genesis how it is told in old Finnish folklore, as for instance in the national epic Kalevala, is the tale of Ilmatar. The virgin spirit of the air, is impregnated with wind and water by Ukko, the most powerful of all the gods. As she floats along on the ocean surface, a duck settles on her knee and builds a nest for its eggs. But the eggs roll out of the nest and break; and from the broken pieces the earth, sky, sun, moon, and clouds form, with the top of the egg becoming the heaven, or sky dome5.

Fig 15. “Ilmatar, the maid of the clouds”6.

5 Elias Lönnrot; Kalevala, Das Finnische Epos [Kalevala, The Finnish Epic], (Philipp Reclam jun. GmbH & Co., 1985), 6-9. 6 Fig 15.: Illustration by Kat Menschik; Kalevala, Eine Sage aus dem Norden, Nacherzählt von Tilman Spreckelsen, mit Illustrationen von Kat Menschik [Kalevala, a northern saga, retold by Tilman Spreckelsen, with Illustrations by Kat Menschik], (Galiani Berlin,2014), 11.


The first settlers who arrived in Finland between 10,000 and 6,500 before BCE7, were confronted with a forest that had had time to regenerate and grow according to its own rules for approximately 5,000 years, after the last ice age. In order to survive, the peasants had to cultivate the land as question of survival and maintenance of livelihood; but even so, humanity only represented a small and isolated island within an expanse of vast, wild forests. This dynamic evoked a somewhat ambivalent relationship between the people and the forest. On one hand it was the source of all livelihood, providing food and hunting ground as well as the materials for building and medicine. But on the other hand, it was home to all sorts of threats including the wild bears and wolves that stalked the peasants and their cattle. This ambiguity and uncertainty about their surrounding laid the foundation for many old pagan beliefs about the forest itself as omnipotent and as the home of the forest gods, creatures and spirits that, if not treated respectfully, were able to punish and curse at will. The forest was believed to hold power over the population, and always had to be handled with care. Multiple spirits and creatures were believed to reside in the old Finnish forest, of which Tapio was the most powerful and controlling. Trolls, gnomes, giants, elves and demons were the spirits, keepers and local deities who took care of the living and nonliving in the forest realm. All elements and areas had their own keepers, with various names and appearances. It was believed that everything and everyone who crossed the border into the forest and entered the realm had to ask the spirits for permission, and to lay their own fortune into the hands of the spirits. People were required to show respect, treat the forest well, and avoid harming or insulting it through their actions. If one treated the forest and the spirits with respect, they would guide the hunters well, warning them of any imminent danger. If the spirits were made to become angry, they could easily cause misfortune. If someone accidentally stepped into a spirit’s path, the forest casts its spell and catches the person inside the forest cover.

7 Siida Sami Museum, Inari.


Within this belief system, every person has a spirit, a personal keeper and protector that one must likewise be respectful and careful with. If offended, the spirit might abandon its owner, leaving them alone and unprotected. In such cases, one would start to suffer from a mysterious illness called forest-nose, becoming restless, with infected eyes and flaking skin8. It is not certain whether each tree was thought to have its own spirit in Finnish mythology, as they did, for example, within the Estonian pagan belief system. Overall, information is hard to come by, especially since mythologies could differ by region. Finnish folklorists have spent time arguing about whether the juniper is the only tree with its own keeper (named Katajatar). Some argued that there were several other spirits associated with the pine tree, ash or cherry tree, which people would turn to with prayers and wishes if Tapio or the other forest gods did not seem to be listening to them. Other folklorists asserted that there was no basis for assuming that these other tree spirit names existed, and that they may simply have been invented. In the mythology of some Lapland regions, trees are seen as sentient, living beings with souls. In earlier times, when a tree was about to be chopped down, it had to be numbed by knocking on its trunk with an ax three times and then hitting it with the sharp blade to wake and warn the spirits inside. In some traditions, the lowest branch was to be cut off and thrown away, so that the tree’s soul could relocate in it. If this did not happen, the soul was taken along with the tree’s body into the loggers’ home, where it would pester him to death. Especially for the Sámi people it was a strong animistic belief, that not only trees, but everything and everyone, had a soul and spirit9.

8 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo; Tree People (Bookwell, 2014), 62. 9 Satu Guenat; “Puulajien perusolemuksista kansanperinteessä” [About the creatures of the tree species in Finnish mythology], in Metsä ja Metsänviljaa, Kalevalaseuran vuosikirja 73 [Forest and forest grain, the yearbook of the Kalevala Assosiation], eds. Pekka Laaksonen ja Sirkka-Liisa Mettomäki, (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1994), 120-121.


Fig 16. “King Hobgoblin Sleeping” (Hugo Simberg)10.

10 Fig 16.: The Peddle Journal: ; Tonttukuningas Nukkuu, www.thepeddle.com, 14.01.2016.


A birch in chains 18.07.2015 It was long believed that people and families were somehow intertwined with their sacrificial trees, and that whatever happened to the tree would be reflected in their lives. In southern Finland and Karelia, the sacred trees belonged to entire villages. This kind of tree has a different type of name, such as “hallow tree”, “tree god”, “magic tree” or one of many other. A family tree would be planted by the first family member who settled in a particular location; almost every farm used to have such a tree. The tree was the symbolic link between the earth and the sky, mortals and gods. It was part of the family inheritance, passed down from generation to generation. The sacred tree was considered like a local “World Tree” and must be treated with respect and be allowed to live its life, in peace. Today, there are still some sacred trees to be found in Finland, as they were still common until the beginning of the 19th century11, and families were able to take good care of them, preserving them from the christian axe12. One of my first destinations during the field research was the tree of the Aaltio family in Keuruu, which is a giant birch approximately 200 years old. I recognized this specific tree from a photograph I stumbled upon, which had been taken in 199613. Its size and appearance were most impressive, especially for a birch. Finding the birch in the family’s yard was, at first, a big surprise because it had changed quite radically. The trunk’s main column had broken off at the middle of the tree, and the crown had been lost along with it. What was left was still a enormous birch, but split into two separate parts and left, sadly, without a treetop. The two parts of the big remaining trunk had been are wrapped together with a thick metal chain in order to prevent it from breaking apart completely. A strong rope, attached to the farm’s barn, had been placed in order to hold one of the branches and keep the tree balanced. The family explained how the rope and metal chain must be adjusted every once in a while, as the tree shifts and transforms.

11 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo; Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 110. 12 Many paganistic sacred places and churches were destroyed during christianization processes from on the 13th century (see chapter 2.2. Forest - The Stranger). 13 Cf: Kovalainen and Seppo, 119.


Fig 17.

Aaltio’s yard birch in July 18th, 2015.


Someday, the tree will collapse entirely, but the family is planning to cast the trunk in cement in order to replace and commemorate the special, award winning tree14. Thinking of this example within the context of a family tree being the reflection of its people’s lives, and their personal fortune teller, the example becomes quite tragic. As one of the few remaining examples of an ancient tradition, the tree is soon going to die15 - but that is not the tragic part, since the pagan practices in Finland mostly died out long ago, and examples like this birch are mostly remains of bygone belief systems. The more tragic element, it seems, is that the family is trying desperately to keep the tree standing for as long as possible. It almost seems that letting the tree die for good is simply unacceptable, an impossibility.

Fig 18.

Birch in chains.

The fate of this tree somehow becomes an example of how nature is slipping out of people’s hands. No longer is there space for the imagined “omnipotent” within it. After the Aaltio’s tree finally dies, it will leave behind a landscape of wide agrarian fields and the cultivated forests beyond. 14 The family tells how 30 years ago the birch got under the first ten places in the competition of the biggest tree circumference in Finland. 15 I spotted a Chaga mushroom on this birch, which started growing five years ago, as I was told. If a Chaga mushroom takes over a tree, the tree will die within seven years.


The bear’s wedding day 19.07.2015 In the small town of Häkkilä near Saarijärvi, I asked around for the exact location of another tree that I had found in a photograph from 199616, the huge Savela bear-skull pine Bear-skull trees played an important role in Finnish mythology, they were like smaller versions of the World Tree, because they too linked the earth with the sky. Furthermore, they were used as shrines and places from bear worship as part of the Karhunpejaiset celebration, organized around the event of a bear hunt. The bear was thought to be the primary, most powerful and even supernatural animal of the forest, as well as being a human ancestor17. As such, it should actually never be killed. But if it became necessary to hunt the bear for its meat, then that hunting had to be undertaken according to strict rules and rituals. Each bear had to be given a proper burial, equivalent to one for a human.

Fig 19. A bear’s wedding into a community18. 16 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo; Tree People (Bookwell, 2014), 85. 17 The bear is a human ancestor in many other Northern old beliefs, and tales about a bear that married a human girl who became lost in the woods occur in various folklore, as for example in Siberia, North America and Lapland. (Tampere Museum and authors; The year of the bear, ed. Marjo Meriluoto-Jaakkola (Tampere Museums’ Publications, 2011), 50.). 18 Fig 19.: Cf: Kovalainen and Seppo, 80.


It was not allowed to kill a sleeping bear during its time of hibernation. He must first be woken up with a song, so that his soul would not be left wandering around, homeless without its body. The families’ good relationship with the bear (thought of as the forefather) was ensured by celebrating his funeral as a wedding, marrying him into the community. In this scenario, a boy played the role of the bridegroom, and a girl his bride. The bear’s skull and bones were carried to an old pine tree, where the bear’s slayer would hang the skull on the tree’s trunk or branch, facing South. The bear’s bones were carefully buried in a grave under the pine, in anatomical order19. This complete ritual remained important in central Finland until the 17th century.

Fig 20. Bear skull hang on pine20.

Through the window of a fully-packed rummage shop in Häkkilä I could immediately spot the poster with the exact same image of the Savela bear-skull pine that I’d been looking for. It took a while until the shop owner came over from the neighbor’s house to open the door. He did not know about that specific tree and could not tell anything about its location either. The poster was from a 2007 exhibition about Finnish tree mythology that had taken place in Saarijärvi. 19 Lusto – Suomen Metsämuseo [Lusto - The Finnish Forest Museum] in Punkaharju, 2015. 20 Fig 20.: Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo; Tree People (Bookwell, 2014), 81.


Fig 21.

Rummage shop in Häkkilä near Saarijärvi, June 19th, 2015.

I bought it for two euros. After asking several more locals for directions, somebody was finally able to tell me the name of the street that the pine supposedly stood near. The old man walked me along a field path that entered into a small forest, and there we found the old bear-skull pine. It had lost some of its main branches, some of which had obviously been cut off with a motor saw, but its trunk and chief branches were still enormous, intact and impressive. Next to it, a little plate explained: “Protected – According to the Nature Conservation Law”. The friendly local could not tell me much about the tree, only that he had walked passed it many times, and that it was an old tree that featured in myth, on which bear skulls had been hung for pagan rituals. He could not tell me the age. In comparison to the Aaltio yard birch, this pine seemed to already be quite forgotten. Häkkilä is a very small town with just a few houses, but nobody seemed to be very concerned about the tree. Its mysterious story, tucked away in the forest, is somehow still visible to those who seek it. Now the pine has found itself a safe spot, on protected ground, and will probably live the rest of its life there in peace.


Fig 22.


Savela bear-skull pine, Häkkilä, June 19th, 2015.

--What is it exactly that makes today’s concept of the forest so different compared to the old pagan view of a sublime forest? Today, the appreciation of the natural landscape is great by many people. Finland represents itself to the outside world with an image of a vast forest dotted with blue lakes. Though the forest remains fascinating, appreciated and beautiful, all of it is nonetheless mapped and “under control”. The wilderness with all its secrets, dangers and unknowns is now cultivated and clear. We know the exact numbers of each plant and animal species living and growing in the forest, and in cases of overgrowth, those numbers can easily be managed. As Kant explains the difference in between the beautiful and the sublime, it is the formless that carries a type of negative pleasure with it, and which makes something appear powerful and superior, precisely because it is not clearly identifiable or knowable21. The Aaltio yard birch might be beautiful, but it is not the tree’s appearance that gives it a sublime dimension for the family. Rather, they seem to project the sublimity onto the object. It is not the old forest itself that is sublime, but the potential horror with which the human mind fills it. The more unknown and wild the forest seems, the more danger it could hide. The old, mysterious birch reflects the family’s losses and, according to the belief, if it should one day die, the family will die along with it. True or not, the belief is a hugely potent one. Over centuries, the tree has been implanted with a horrifying and supernatural perceived force, which causes the family members to do everything in their power to preserve it.

21 Immanuel Kant; Critique of Judgement, translated with and introduction, by J. H. Bernard (Hafner Press, A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York, Collier Macmillan Publishers London), 82-86.



2.2. The stranger See and hear strange things1

The christian axe The bible describes the wilderness as a terrifying place, where one only ends up fighting against one’s own will. It is a place far from civilization and full of moral confusion, where one can get lost in despair, where Christ had to directly face Satan: “And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness for forty days tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him”. (Mark 1:12-13, KJV)2 Eventually, a new religion slowly started to eradicate old beliefs, smashing down the sacred places, trees and groves, which were the hiisi sacrificial forest-temples, now all condemned as evil. These places of worship had to make way for churches, and many sacred trees were chopped down. Mythology adapted to the new influence of Christianity, which arrived in Finland during the 11th century, and established itself through the Swedes who occupied Finland in the 12th century. This process was still going on until the end of the 19th century. In 1686, Charles XI, the King of Sweden, approved a law punishing all sacrifices made to sacred trees. The clergy declared all pagan practices as horrific and objectionable evil, of terrible danger to people, and stated that they would lead directly to retaliation and punishment by God. This process happened faster in western Finland, than in eastern Finland,

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63. 2 William Cronon; The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature, ed. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, (W. W. Norton & Co., 1995), 2.


where the Orthodox Church remained somewhat tolerant towards local beliefs3,4.

Fig 23.

Hiisi stone in Hietajärvi, Russia, 14.08.2015.

This process was still going on until the end of the 19th century. In 1686, Charles XI, the King of Sweden, approved a law punishing all sacrifices made to sacred trees. The clergy declared all pagan practices as horrific and objectionable evil, of terrible danger to people, and stated that they would lead directly to retaliation and punishment by God. This process happened faster in western Finland, than in eastern Finland, where the Orthodox Church remained somewhat tolerant towards local beliefs5,6. Tapio, the king of all forest gods, was the first pagan god on the list of false gods created by Mikael Agricola in 155178. On behalf of the Reformation’s idea Agricola aimed to free people from the diabolic pagan traditions. 3 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo; Tree People (Bookwell 2014), 39-42. 4 Nowadays 1,1 percent of Finland’s population are members of the Finnish Orthodox Church, which was part of the Russian Orthodox Church until 1923. It was firstly established by the medieval Novgorodian missionary work in Karelia. 5 Cf: Kovalainen and Seppo, 39-42. 6 Nowadays 1,1 percent of Finland’s population are members of the Finnish Orthodox Church, which was part of the Russian Orthodox Church until 1923. It was firstly established by the medieval Novgorodian missionary work in Karelia. 7 Tampere Museum and authors; The year of the bear, ed. Marjo Meriluoto-Jaakkola (Tampere Museums’ Publications, 2011), 73. 8 Mikael Agricola was a cleric and popular advocate of the Protestant Reformation in Sweden in the 16th century, which included Finnish territory. He founded literary Finnish and as bishop of Turku started the reform of the Finnish Church according to Lutheran guidelines.


“Many heathen gods were worshiped here, near and far. The Häme fold, both men and women, bowed to these. Tapio brought game from the woods, and Ahti fish from the sea. (…)9” All pagan gods, one after the other, made their way onto the List of Finnish Heathen Gods . And so it was that the bear, who embodied the forest as the king of the animals, was turned into the very symbol of paganism and repulsion by the Christian church, already by the year 1347. The bear cult came to a violent end when the church put a price on each bear’s head, starting a long season of intensive bear hunting in southern Finland. In Lapland, even the old traditional Sámi drums were forbidden, because they bore painted representations of the bear10. The hunter Martti Kitunen (1747-1833) became something of a hero of forest lore, with a record 198 adult bears killed and countless more cubs shot dead during his lifetime11.

Fig 24. Martti Kitunen on a bear hunt12. 9 Sagazorn.net; Mikael Agricola’s List of Finnish Heathen Gods, http://www.sagazorm.net/zorm/mythology/epajumalat.html. 10 Tampere Museum and authors; The year of the bear, ed. Marjo Meriluoto-Jaakkola (Tampere Museums’ Publications, 2011), 114. 11 Ari Aukusti Lehtinen; Postcolonialism, Multitude, and the Politics of Nature: On the changing Geographies of the European North, (University Press of America, ® Inc., 2006), 97. 12 Fig 24.: Etching in Zacharias Topelius writing “Maamme kirja: 87. Mestari-ampuja Martti Kitunen”, 1875, http://www.migrationinstitute.fi/.


The old view about forests and trees being powerful decisionmakers, able to guide and protect people, clearly reached a turning point with the Christian influence. It was not the trees and elements themselves that were looked at as gods, spirits and conscious beings, representing a link between earth and sky, and deciding people’s fortunes. Instead, the new ideas were drawn from an anthropocentric perspective which began shifting the environment, as well as the animals, into a position in which they were simply servants and resources for the humans. The relationship with the forest as a powerful entity slowly but surely gave way to one based on cultivation and domestication. Churches, the “houses of God”, were built on top of the old sacrificial pagan temples and now rose higher than the treetops.

Fig 25. “German priests felling sacred trees of the Estonians”13.

13 Fig 25.: “Die Mißionare hauen die Götzenbäume der Ehßten um. 1220.” [The missionaries fell the idol trees of the Estonians.], Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 41.


The devil’s church May 2015 I would like to describe one pagan church in particular, which I visited during my stay in Koli National Park in May, 2015. It is called Pirunkirkko, which means “devil’s church”. In the middle of the forest one finds a set of steep stairs, which have been installed relatively recently to make the place accessible. These stairs lead approximately twenty meters down a hill, where a small cave opening appears in the ground in between some large rocks. A narrow entrance leads down into a dark, cramped 33-meter-long rock crevice, which bends to the left after a time, before curving back to the right again. Here, one comes to an opening in the ceiling, revealing the sky. The space is dark, wet, slippery, and not that easy to access. Some members of the group with whom I visited the spot did not want to enter into the space, because of its frightening appearance.

Fig 26.

Entrance and corridor of Pirunkirkko, May 11th, 2015.

To me, the most interesting aspect of this place was its location underground, inside the earth. It is not oriented towards the sky, or to the gods, but instead towards the ground and the darkness. According to folklore, whoever made it through the narrow entrance, which was blocked by a heavy stone, could find the devil’s church hall with its benches at the end of the corridor. The church was actually believed to be used by many of the pagan devils of mythology14. 14 Suomi Tour; Pirunkirkko (2006), http://www.suomitour.com/2006/08/pirunkirkko. html.


Good tree, bad tree Tales of the pagan forest and beliefs adapted to the new influences, with God and the devil now appearing in the origin stories - although they don’t seem to embody the great and powerful so much as the childish and the playful, like in the new version of the genesis, where God and the devil create the world. Keeping the pagan version of the genesis in mind (chapter 2.1. - The sublime) the following is a very clear example of how mythological tales and beliefs were twisted by the Christian influence:

“In the beginning, God created the earth from a single piece of clay, out of which he built everything. He blessed the clay and said: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” The clay did so and swelled, and the globe began to take shape. The devil observed God’s doings and came to say: “You made the globe to large.” “Is that so?” wondered God. “Yes it is,” the devil replied. “How are we supposed to get enough creatures to fill such a big globe? Shouldn’t we make it smaller?” “Well, let’s do so then,” God consented. They placed the earth between them and began to squeeze it smaller. And it did become smaller, but at the same time it became uneven and bumpy. This is how mountains, hills, valleys and lakes were formed. Next, mountains and waterways were created; but the forests, trees, stones, cliffs, swamps - and those who dwelled within them - were still missing. God and the devil began to argue about how best to complete the job. The devil became angry at God. He fetched


some stones from hell, and began to throw them on God, who ran off to hide. The devil followed him, still throwing stones in all directions, trying to strike God. And this is why the earth is, still today, covered with stones. In the olden days, stones used to grow and grow, because they had roots. It was only when Jesus died on the cross, when the earth trembled, that the stone’s roots

were severed. Ever since that day, they haven’t grown any more.15”

Trees were divided into good trees and bad trees, depending on their significance in the Christian origin story. If a tree was considered to be God’s creation, in several regions of Finland, it was seen as a good tree. The different tree species were thought to have been formed out of the disagreements that God and the devil had while creating the forest. Trees with strong and thick branches were the devil’s doing. He wanted them to be steady, in case someone tried to hang himself, or to hang others, if necessary. Deciduous trees were believed to lose all their leaves in winter because of a spell that God put on them as punishment for betraying Jesus. In this tale, Jesus was on the run to get away from people chasing him through the forest. When the people chasing Jesus asked the trees which direction he had gone in, the pine and the other conifers replied “we don’t know“, but the deciduous trees answered “this way, this way!“. And so, they were doomed to drop their leaves in autumn, and be naked and cold through the winter16.

15 Marjut Hjelt; Taikametsä: Tarinoita ja taikoja suomalaisesta metsästä [Magical forest: Tales and magic from the Finnish forest], (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2000), 7-8. 16 Satu Guenat; “Puulajien perusolemuksista kansanperinteessä” […], in Metsä ja Metsänviljaa, Kalevalaseuran vuosikirja 73 […], eds. Pekka Laaksonen ja Sirkka-Liisa Mettomäki, (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 1994), 120.


The tree’s appearance and characteristics were often placed within a Christian context as well. If a birch shows red spots on its leaves, it was said to be Christ’s blood, which sprinkled on them when he was crucified. The explanation why the dwarf birch is so small, is the following story:

“One day, Jesus was playing in the courtyard with the other children, they were forming birds out of clay. Jesus used magic, to make the clay birds fly high up into the sky. But the other children were so upset, because they wanted to continue playing with them. They told Maria about what Jesus had done, and she became very angry about Jesus not caring about the others. She broke off a dwarf birch’s branch, ran after the boy and hit him several times. The dwarf birch stayed small ever since, because it was its branch that had been used to punish Christ.17”

Fig 27. Birch twig18.

17 Marjut Hjelt; Taikametsä: Tarinoita ja taikoja suomalaisesta metsästä [Magical forest: Tales and magic from the Finnish forest] (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2000), 12. 18 Fig 27.: https://tidcf.nrcan.gc.ca/en/trees/factsheet/16.


--“The stranger”, the untamed neighbor, is not exactly a power that holds the people’s destiny in its hands, rather the power lies completely in the people’s hands. Humans are created in God’s image. And people are therefore believed to be like small gods, organizing and mastering the planet’s surface, which has been gifted from god to human, to extend and perpetuate human life. The animals and plants and all other things live with the express purpose of offering resources, fertile ground and food to humans for their survival and reproduction. Here, the human sits at the center of the world image, the world’s column, around which everything else rotates.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food.” And it was so19. With this new anthropocentric worldview, an absolutely different perspective of the human-to-nature relationship was introduced, and the forest landscape was about to change drastically.

19 BibleStudyTools.com; Genesis 1 (Bible Study Tools, 2014), www.biblestudytools. com/genesis/1.html.



2.3. The rescuer Turn into a strange stone, stump or hummock1

Green gold2 The economist Heikki Renvall, who emphasized economical significance on Finnish forestry exports in the early 20th century, compared the growing wood industry to the Sampo, a mysterious and magical artifact in the mythology, which would provide its owner with good fortune and wealth. The Sampo was sometimes even considered synonymous with the World Tree3.

Fig 28.

Pölkky Oy sawmill near Kuusamo, July 30th, 2015.

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63. 2 The economist Heikki Renvall “adds his voice to the chorus of Finnish “forestry fundamentalists” (Raumolin 1987), who viewed the forests as the rising nation’s “green gold”…”. Tuomas M. S. Lehtonen; Europe’s Northern Frontier, Perspectives on Finland’s Western Identity (PS-Kustannus, 1999), 51. 3 Cf: Lehtonen; 51.


Already during the Middle Ages and through until the end of the 19th century, Finland exported forest goods such as tar, timber, pulp and paper to Central Europe. It was and remains Europe’s leading paper and pulp supplier. Funnily enough, there is a very real possibility that the paper you are reading from right now originated in a Finnish forest. Even though the primary revenue streams came from agriculture (especially in southwestern regions where the peasant life guaranteed the most jobs and income), the forests started to be cleared in order to make way for farmland and habitation. Forests were used up for the sawmill and iron industries, and everyone, whether they were landowners or not, used wood freely as desired. It was at this time that the impression first arose that Finland might indeed be using up its forests and the endless forests could be lost4. The state forest management body Metsähallitus introduced itself in the 1800s, and still remains the primary decision-maker when it comes to Finnish forest land. Fully established in 1859, it distinguished private forests from state forests, and one of its main goals was to protect the forests from destructive peasant actions and exploitation.

Fig 29.

Metsähallitus emblem5.

4 Lusto – Suomen Metsämuseo [Lusto - The Finnish Forest Museum] in Punkaharju, 2015. 5 Fig 29.: Photography taken in Lusto – Suomen Metsämuseo [Lusto - The Finnish Forest Museum] in Punkaharju, 2015.


But another purpose was to produce a financial profit for the crown, which also extended the forest economy network6. Landscape started to transform into landshape. “The Green Gold“, as it was called, reached its full potential as Finland’s number one breadwinner by the time of the independence from Russia in 1917. This is also when the exporting of forest-based products to Central Europe became increasingly significant, so as to geopolitically orient itself towards Western economies and to distance itself from its Eastern neighbor. Forest resources in the North were now also starting to be used by Metsähallitus. During the times of oppression7 the aim was to avoid cooperation with the Russian rule, and to stand against “Russification”. The movement was spearheaded by the Pro-Finnish director of Metsähallitus, P.W. Hannikainen8, which is why state forestry was not intensely active yet, forests, especially not in the hardly accessible forest regions in the North and East. Finland’s geographic location, considered Europe’s northern frontier9, sandwiched by western and eastern cultures and economies, has led to it becoming something of a politically neutral ping pong ball between two dominating forces, which in some respects has remained the case until today. This could arguably be the cause of the aforementioned robust national identity of Finnish people, which seems to have fully unfolded since its declaration of independence after centuries of colonization first by the Swedes, then by the Russians. The forest is what helped Finland build up its own economy and export market, so the “green gold” is not only what provided people livelihood, and afforded them a presence on the international market, but furthermore, it was the foundation upon which they could establish an independent nation and identity.

6 Lusto – Suomen Metsämuseo [Lusto - The Finnish Forest Museum] in Punkaharju, 2015. 7 Finland had been taken over by the Russian armies of Alexander I on 29 March 1809, in the Finnish War, and became an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until the independence of Finland in 1917. 8 Cf: Lusto – Suomen Metsämuseo. 9 Finland is Europe’s northern borderland with the neighboring eastern continent, with a border of 1,340 kilometers.


Häyhä’s ambush The forest also served as a reliable defense for the Finns. Finnish soldiers and snipers knew the forests very well, using them skillfully as both hideout and battlefield. Simo Häyhä, also called the White Death by the Soviet army, was a Finnish sniper during WWII, and managed to kill over 500 soviet soldiers in just 100 days. Hiding in the underbrush of the forest, perfectly camouflaged in a white snowsuit, Häyhä waited patiently to gun down any Russian that entered his sights. The Soviets even set numerous counter-snipers on Häyhä in an attempt to get rid of him, all of whom failed. Only one counter-sniper managed to hit Häyhä’s jaw with a single explosive shot in March, 194010. The deep forest provided shelter for the Finnish soldiers and the perfect hideout, as well as a means of ambushing an enemy. The better someone knew the forest, the more effective it could be as a battleground and a source of protection. Simo Häyhä recovered from his injury, received several awards for his achievements on the battlefield and died at age 97, on the 1st of April, 2002. After the war Simo Häyhä became a successful moose hunter and dog breeder11. Until today, Häyhä’s name carries a questionable sort of hero status. He is not perceived as a murderer, but as the enemy’s nightmare, and a hero of the Finnish forests.

10 SimoHäyhä.com; Simo Häyhä, www.simohayha.com, 2015. 11 SimoHäyhä.fi; Simo Häyhä, Life Story, www.en.simohayha.fi, 2015.


Fig 30. Simo H채yh채 and his dog Kille (left); Simo H채yh채 camouflaged in the underbrush (right)12.

12 Fig 30.: (left) www.simohayha.fi, 29.12.2015; (right) www.didyouknow.link, 29.12.2015.


Getting naked 08.08.2015 During my visit to the Lusto Forest Museum, I found one entire room dedicated to the story of how people, amongst others, with the help of the forest, processed post-traumatic times after WWII, also called “the long 1950s”. During the war, Finland had been fighting alongside both the Germans and the Soviets, changing sides several times with the aim of sustaining the least damage possible and winning back lost parts of Karelia that the Soviets had taken over in the first winter war attack in November, 1939. In 1944, Finland signed a peace treaty with Russia, casting out the last remaining German troops in northern Lapland in a destructive war, but nevertheless resigning to the loss of land. War reparations had to be paid to Russia, which led to harsh rationing and shortages during the “long 50s”.

Fig 31. My grandparents on a German tank during Continuation War, 1941-4413.

In the aftermath of WWII, there was a desperate need for a stable national economy and rebuilding efforts. Soldiers who had served during the war considered their experiences of living in the forest as the main motivation for their subsequent 13 Fig 31.: Photography by: unknown soldier.


choice of profession - as forest workers. The population that had lost some of its homeland and its farms 38.000 farms in Karelia now had to be integrated in southern Finland – moved to freshly-divided plots of land, which had been sectioned off in order for order families to establish their new lives and farms, and in order for men to work towards the economic growth of the forestry industry14. One of these families was my own. My grandparents, Veikko Jaakko Hämäläinen and Anni Elviira Hämäläinen (born Pekkanen), resettled from Kurkijoki in Karelia to a small farm in Loimaa in South Finland, where my grandfather mainly concentrated on milk production and cultivation of grain.

Fig 32. My grandparents farm in Joenperä near Loimaa15.

14 Lusto – Suomen Metsämuseo, [Lusto - The Finnish Forest Museum] in Punkaharju, 2015. 15 Fig 32.: Found various family photo albums, 2015.


Besides agriculture, dairy production and factory work in the metal industry, the forestry industry was the key major player, and was driven to its maximum effective use with the construction of a dense industrial infrastructure. Intensive forestry practices were applied throughout the country, now also reaching the forests of northern and eastern Finland, which became a prime target for the export market. A dense forest road network was cut into the landscape, the rivers were heavily used as floating transport water roads for wood, the peatlands were extensively drained, and deforestation methods became more radical, with techniques such as clear cutting and monoculture plantations becoming the norm16. At its highest level, the forestry industry accounted for 90% of the nation’s exports17. Still today, some of these methods have not developed any further, which is something that becomes clearly visible when travelling Finland by car, passing by the pure birch or pine tree plantations, or entirely cleared forests. I came to realize that the latter are often hidden by a five- or tenmeter wide tree stripe along the road. On the road, you also regularly meet the logging trucks that mostly replaced floating transportation on waterways. --The forest may indeed have rescued the people in times of desperation and in urgent need of economic growth, but through this rescue, it has lost its image as an endlessly rich and untouched wilderness. Now a poor biodiversity has replaced the former wealth of local tree species. The incremental disappearance of the old-growth forests has been the price to pay for a flowering economy and the independence of Finland. The new image of the forests is supposed to distance itself from the outmoded thinking of the peasants, instead introducing an organized, managed form of economic growth society with the potential to compete autonomously on international markets.

16 Heikki Simola; From a private Email conversation with the Finnish biologist, 2015. 17 Lusto – Suomen Metsämuseo, [Lusto - The Finnish Forest Museum] in Punkaharju, 2015.


Fig 33. Wood floating near Kuopio, August 18th, 2015 (above); logging truck in Rantasalmi, August 19th, 2015 (bottom).



2.4. The national symbol See searchers but be seen and heard by nobody1

Landscapes of ideologies May 2015 After hiking up a steep hill for several kilometers, I reached the top of Ukko-Koli, the mountaintop of the national park Koli in North Karelia, which is home to the most impressive and world-famous view of the Finnish national landscape. In total, there are 27 official national landscapes and views, considered to be the most beautiful and significant representations of Finnish nature and landscape. In 1992, on the 75th anniversary of Finnish independence, sites all over the country were chosen, although the stories of these specific sites as embodiments of a national identity have longer and more complex histories, as is the case with the example of Koli2.

Fig 34.

The view from Ukko-Koli mountaintop, May 11th, 2015.

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63. 2 Luontoon.fi; Merkityksellinen kansallismaisema [Significant national landscapes] (Mehtsähallitus,2015), http://www.luontoon.fi/kansallismaisemat.


During the 19th century, an educated pro-Finnish class started to establish a new concept of Finnish national identity, one that separated itself from Russian oppression, and also from Swedish affiliation, in order to finally become a fully Finnish nation. But the time span of six hundred years of colonization made the Finnish cultural heritage and material difficult to build upon. The people and places remaining from what could be considered “old” Finland were in the backwoods and the isolated regions of Lapland and North Karelia, in the areas that had been left out of all the cultural transformations and industrial advances that had so affected the other areas. During the 19th century, artists like Akseli GallenKallela, the photographer I.K. Inha and musicians such as Jean Sibelius, began looking backwards at Finnish folklore as something greater, nobler than the present, which itself seemed impoverished and lacking in originality3. By celebrating old traditions and legends, as for instance in Kalevala, local identity was strengthened, and the wild forest became the national symbol of Finland. Eero Järnefeld, for instance, produced plenty of famous paintings depicting breathtaking Koli landscapes, one of which a fresque was installed on a wall in the entrance hall of the Helsinki central railway station, where nowadays Burger King sells its delicacies. The old natural forests were the inspiration, that the national Romantic movement was looking for, in which artists found spirituality and beauty, and an unbroken connection to a real, primal Finnish culture, as well as the mythical beliefs of the ancient Finns. There in the backwoods, one could feel the difference of the West and South of Finland, where the cultivated landscape was too similar to that of Sweden and Central Europe4. The old-growth forests of the backwoods evoked the idea of an untouched nature - as well as an untouched culture - which in itself seemed sacred and sublime again. And so, the forests were conquered by the Romantic ideals of an identity-seeking Finnish elite. 3 Siegfried Neumann; Erzähler, Erzählstoff, Erzählkunst: Ein Beitrag zur volkskundlichen Erzähler-Forschung [Narrator, Narrative Material, Narration: A

Contribution to Folkloristic Narrator-Research] (Rostock Wossidlo-Archiv, 2012). 4 Petri Keto-Tokoi; Primeval Forests of Finland, Cultural History Ecology and Conservation; Symbol of Finland (Maahenki, 2014), 32-34.


Fig 35. Burger King fast food restaurant, Helsinki central railway station1. 1 Fig 35.: www.yle.fi.


May 2015 Looking back at the devil’s church that I described in chapter 2.2. – The Stranger. In the last corridor of this underground church, on the wet wall, in indistinct letters stands written: “one secret, one spirit,

happiness for both is this church its holiness I remember forever.5”

This poem has been written on the church’s wall by Eero Järnefelt in 18936, when he was on one of his artistic discovery journeys.

Fig 36.

Järnefelt’s writing on the devil church’s wall, May 11th, 2015.

5 Nationalparks.fi; Sights in Koli National Park, Historical Sights, Art and Stories, Pirunkirkko (Metsähallitus, 2015), http://www.nationalparks.fi/en/kolinp/sights;jsessionid=05071C9F75D4A90F6E2401 A92768B837. 6 Suomi Tour; Pirunkirkko (2006); The original Finnish version: ”yksi salaisuus yks henki, yksi onni kumpaisenki, on kirkko tämä, sen pyhyyttä muistelemma aina.”, http://www.suomitour.com/2006/08/pirunkirkko.html.


I found the description to be a very good visual example of a cultural occupation by a romantic artist, leaving his fingerprint on a pagan sacred site, which he considered as a memorial or source for an arising national ideology. Elias LĂśnnrot, author of Kalevala, traveled many places in Finland as well as to the old Karelian villages in eastern Finland and Russia to collect mythological runes and poems that have travelled down generations by oral tradition since ancient times, with which he finally ended up discovering and transcribing a national epic, and one that would become an important resource for the later pro-Finnish elite. The interesting aspect here is that a considerable part of the collection of stories originates from villages in Russian Karelia, for example the villages of Vuokkiniemi and Venehjärvi, both of which I visited during my field research journey. The Finnish nationalists were thus leaning on cultural heritage, a big part of which was actually bestpreserved in the neighboring nation, which they necessarily wanted to distance themselves from. About these villages and relations I will explain more details in chapter 2.5. – The distance keeper.


The wilderness paradox Looking at nature as something untouched, as a romantic wilderness, is something very common still today. The Koli park is a perfect example of a holiday experience, during which tourists hope to encounter sublime nature, with all its potential dangers in mind, and all the wild beasts that populate those few leftover niches of wilderness. 09.08.2015 On my way to Patvinsuo National Park, I stopped in the town of Ilomantsi to try and find out the best possible way to reach the park by car. I approached an old man outside a street café, he puffed his cigarette and said he could not tell me how to get there, but added, “You’d better be careful not to get lost or eaten by the bears out there. It’s dangerous!”. This effect is very important for the function of a national park. Besides the preservation of these places from, for example, logging activities, they also serve as human reminders of bygone landscapes images and once-omnipotent nature. Different theories put forward by Immanuel Kant, Edmund Burke and William Gilpin describe sublime landscapes as the only places where it was actually possible to face the power of God7. Let’s return to what I described in chapter 2.2. The Stranger, when Jesus faced Satan, while cast out in the wilderness. Wilderness does have this religious aspect to it, which we can still recognize in most of the old mythologies. Only now, wilderness is no longer our constant environment, with which we are confronted daily. Instead, it is a destination, where we go to reload ourselves with freshness and inspiration, and from which we return to the “safety” of the towns. William Cronon, an US-American environmental historian, describes the sublime effect of national parks as having become domesticated. They might still be overwhelming and pleasant, but they have clearly lost the element of religious veneration8. 7 William Cronon; The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature, ed. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, (W. W. Norton & Co., 1995), 4. 8 Cf: Cronon, 6.


Fig 37.

Lemmenjoki National Park, July 24th, 2015.


People are seeking a nostalgic experience of nature, remembering what the world was like before modern society, commemorating the very origin of themselves and their ancestors. Equally, there is a romantic or idealized element to the concept of a lost way of life, and the attempt to escape the modern system, if only for a day trip. In this way, national parks become outdoor museums, in which people experience the natural world and its components as artifacts, something completely apart from themselves. Preserving these niches of wilderness means preserving our wild roots. It means that this component has not disappeared completely. But, national parks and nature reserves are actually just as much part of the modern forest landscape as the economically-driven forests in Finland. They are no longer elusive and unreachable backwoods, untouched by the profithungry forestry industry, because of their far out locations. Practically speaking, modern loggers can still take advantage of these woods as well. Through the introduction of forest conservation laws and conversation areas, especially after the long 1950s, and a growing number of environmentalists arguing against the forestry industry, the national parks and natural reserves could be protected against exploitation9. But while these areas are considered “wilderness”, they are intentionally planned, managed and controlled by the Finnish state forest management body, Metsähallitus, which practices natural-like or nature-imitating logging in certain areas10. 24.07.2015 The national parks are all well organized and offer various hiking trails that run through stunning landscapes. When I was hiking through the Lemmenjoki National Park, I accidently got off the hiking that tourists are normally meant to follow, and ended up in a blind alley, a gold digging site in the middle of the park. Gold digging is actually one of the main draws for some park visitors. They travel to northern Lapland, hoping to be lucky, finding big chunks precious metal during a few days of digging. The site that I encountered, though, was 9 Ari Aukusti Lehtinen; Postcolonialism, Multitude, and the Politics of Nature: On the changing Geographies of the European North, (University Press of America, ® Inc., 2006), 29. 10 Cf: Lehtinen; 218.


Fig 38.

Gold digging site in Lemmenjoki National Park, July 24th, 2015.

no holiday activity, but rather an intensive and well-funded treasure hunt, which lasts all summer long, as one of the gold diggers told me. My accidental find demonstrates how commercially exploited and profit-oriented these “preserved� natural reserves are. 89

Fig 39. Sรกmi man and child in Finnmark, Norway, approx. 1990, (left); Modern reindeer herding methods (right)11.

11 Fig 39.: www.whitewolfpack.com, 29.12.2015 (left); http://travelingyourdream. com/, 30.12.2015 (right).


The who? Another aspect that often seems to be forgotten is that these forests were human territory long before a modern society started to develop. The Sámi, Finland’s indigenous population, have been living with the forests in Lapland and North Karelia, practicing nomadic reindeer herding, since before Finns even touched the ground. It took until the early 1990s for Finnish legislation to approve the Sámi as the indigenous peoples of Finland, and to recognize their right to practice their cultural traditions, such as reindeer herding, hunting and fishing, all of which were authorized in the constitution in 1999. Thus, the Sámi people are relatively well-protected in their traditional practices, but the government has not made any attempt to deal with the question of the Sámi’s right to land ownership. Forestry stakeholders represent a strong opposition on this issue, and beyond that the Finnish state claims approximately 90% of Sámi territory as its own12. The Sámi people do not have much of a voice when it comes to logging debates and decisionmaking about property. They consider the land of Sápmi13 as their home and source of livelihood, but are treated as outsiders when it comes to questions of the land use. In my research I found that the Sámi people do mostly not play a part in the public conception of the Finnish national landscape and represent a rather exotic and primitive element of the North. Finnish national parks are by many visitors perceived as pristine landscapes, while the footprints of the Sámi are often overlooked. Considering the Sámi, who were the first humans to populate Finnish land since the last ice age, the myth of untouched nature is simply an illusion. They have been constantly confronted with changing concepts of the forest, to which they have had to adapt, whether it be industrial forestry, or forest conservation, both of which restrict their traditions of living along with the forest.

12 Rebecca Lawrence and Kaisa Raitio; Forestry conflicts in Finnish Sápmi: Local, National and Global Links (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, IWGIA, 2006), 1, http://www.iwgia.org/iwgia_files_publications_files/IA_4-06_Finland.pdf. 13 Sápmi is the multi-state area of Lapland traditionally populated by the Sámi, running from Norway through Sweden and Finland until Russia.


25.07.2015 During my visit to the Sámi Museum Siida in Inari, I got the impression that Finland’s indigenous people were being represented as an almost extinct population. The museum’s aim is to show a Sámi collection that displays the traditional Sámi practices and to preserve the culture. One motivation is that modernization processes in the Sámi areas of Finland in the post-war period lead to a reduced public interest in the Sámi culture14. Information about the old traditions and ways were well demonstrated and illustrated in the museum. The Sámi people’s migrations, developments and traditions were displayed in detail until many thousands of years ago, but when it came to the contemporary Sámi people, there was much less to find. A timeline explained all historical events considering the Sámi. A modern snowmobile was displayed, showing that the old dog sleds of the herders and hunters had been replaced, but with that the Sámi story simply ended. Details about modern housing, farming and hunting were barely mentioned, and if a viewer didn’t know any better, he could get the impression that the Sámi culture is barely existing anymore in modern society.


“While talking about forests we, Finns, talk about ourselves”15, says Jakob Donner-Amnell, a forest sociologist. This statement can be read to mean that the modern image of Finnish forests has come about simply as a byproduct of human activity. The modern forest landscape is a result of an economically-minded society: organized, cultivated and competitive. Traditional practices of indigenous populations gets very little recognition within this profit-driven perspective of the forest. At the same time, environmentalists

14 Arne Bugge Amundsen; “National Museums in Sápmi” in Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010, eds. Peter Aronsson & Gabriella Elegenius (Linköping

University Electronic Press, 2011), 743. 15 Ari Aukusti Lehtinen; “Landscapes of Domination: Living in and off the Forests in Eastern Finland” in Nordic Landscapes: Region and Belonging on The Northern Edge of Europe, eds. Michael Jones and Kenneth R. Olwig (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 475.


criticize non-sustainable forest management policies that don’t consider the future of the forest, while tourists desire limited engagement with romantic outdoor museums and continue to view the “wilderness” as pristine16. For the Sámi people, as I mentioned above, such a perspective would perhaps seem alien, since they have been using and living with these forests since they first stepped into the Finnish forest. And so we see that the forest itself contains contradictory relations between past, present and future.

Fig 40. The Sámi flag17. 16 William Cronon; The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature, ed. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, (W. W. Norton & Co., 1995), 9. 17 Fig 40.: The Sámi flag was first used in 1986 but not approved as an official flag until 15 August 1992. The red part of the circle symbolises the sun, the blue part the moon. The colours red, blue, green and yellow reflect the Sámi national costume. Green symbolises nature, blue water, red fire and yellow the sun. Norden.org; The Sámi flag (www.norden.org/en/fakta-om-norden-1/the-nordicflags/the-sami-flag, 2015).



2.5. The distance keeper The sun rises in the West and sets in the East1

The bear paradox Let us now step back and take a look at the Finnish forest landscape from a satellite’s perspective. One look at Google Maps and Google Earth is enough to glimpse the intensity of forest cultivation and management in Finland, especially if one zooms in to the Finnish-Russian border zone2. Here we find sparse forests and a dense forest road network are in stark contrast to the comparatively partly lush forest landscape on the Russian side, where logging activities reached the borderland only since the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet era. Along some stretches of the border, the two forest landscapes show immense differences, especially in the South. “The differences in forest use pattern may at least

partly be due to the vastly bigger forest resource in Russia, and differences in the timing of events. During the Soviet era the Russian Karelian borderland was primarily a border zone, in which practically no forestry was practiced. In the post-soviet period, large-scale forestry has extended even to the borderland belt, which previously was excluded from civilian activities. Luckily, though, several quite large forest protection areas have also been established in this formerly continuous forest wilderness, which nowadays is largely checkered with square clearcut patches.3“

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63. 2 Finland has three state borders: in the West it borders Sweden with 536km, in the North it borders Norway with 716km, and Russia in the East with 1,340 km. This last border runs mostly through sparsely populated areas, forests or taiga and is controlled by Finnish and Russian border guards. 3 Heikki Simola; from a private email conversation with the Finnish biologist, August 2nd, 2015.


Fig 41. Screenshots of the Finnish-Russian border, Google Maps (left) and Google Earth (right)4.

4 Fig 41.: (left) www.maps.google.com, 30.12.2015; (right) https://earth.google.com, 30.12.2015.


The border is defined by a 1,340 kilometer long aisle, which can be followed with satellite pictures. From the aisle, on both sides of the border follows a several kilometer wide boundary zone, a no-go forest area only accessible with a special permit. “The East and the forest are necessities, fixed

dimensions repeatedly faced and, therefore, needing spatial antipodes: Westernization and modernization”5, says Ari

Aukusti Lehtinen, professor of geography at the University of Eastern Finland. He describes how the wilderness it is generally seen as the “landscape of fear”, which has been transformed into a safe and familiar environment. The bear, the former guardian of pagan beliefs, has been a constant representation of this landscape of fear and a threat to the existence of peasant life. He hides in the backwoods, in the uncontrollable, the unknown, the dangerous. Just as the threatening bear approaches from the East, the wilderness and old growth-forests along the Finnish-Russian border also embody a constant threat from the vast eastern continent - a geopolitical one6. The wild bear lies waiting in the East - as does Russia. The idea of a domesticated forest means reducing the fear of hidden or unknown dangers. The further forest cultivation reaches towards the East, a better overview of the landscape is provided, which in turns signifies increased safety. Since the conservationists began to be politically active with regard to forest preservation, they have been blamed for rising unemployment, and for letting forests run wild, allowing bears and wolves to reproduce unchecked and thereby increasing insecurity for communities7.

5 Ari Aukusti Lehtinen; “Landscapes of Domination: Living in and off the Forests in Eastern Finland” in Nordic Landscapes: Region and Belonging on The Northern Edge of Europe, eds. Michael Jones and Kenneth R. Olwig (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 477. 6 Cf: Lehtinen, 472. 7 Cf: Lehtinen, 470.


Fig 42. Standing bear8.

13.08.2015 While visiting the historical town of Venehjärvi in Russia, Sergei Lesonen told me many stories about the bears that live in his immediate environment, and his frequent experiences with them. His conclusion was: “You probably don’t even know how many bears you have already indirectly encountered living here… Because before you even see them, they have already run away!”. Sergei spoke of great misunderstandings about bears, perpetuated by its commercial representation in tales, paintings and the media, which show the bear as a dangerous and aggressive animal, standing on his hind legs, baring his teeth, ready to beat down a person any moment. He went on to explain that bears tend to walk on four legs, and in this position, the eyes point downwards and it is difficult for them to get full view of their surroundings, which is why they sometimes stand on their two hind legs in order to see better. 8 Fig 42.: Luontokuvat Eskonen, www.luontokuvateskonen.com, 14.01.2016.


The brown bear is long thought to be king of the forests, and also a human-like ancestor. In mythology, this belief seems to have been common because when a skinned bear was placed lying down with limbs outstretched, the shape looked surprisingly similar to a human body9.

Fig 43. Skinned bear10.

The majestic and familiar bear was chosen as the national animal of Finland in 198511, but still it is preferable that the creature stays away as far as possible, hidden in the East.

9 Tampere Museum and authors; The year of the bear, ed. Marjo Meriluoto-Jaakkola (Tampere Museums’ Publications, 2011), 81. 10 Fig 43.: Cf: Tampere Museum and authors, 83. 11 Aulikki Kauppila; From a private email conversation with the counselor at Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 2015.


“The best fish in the world is the sausage”12 A similar ambivalent character can be marked in Finland’s attitude towards Russia. Due to the complex history surrounding the Finnish-Russian border, as well as current events that worry the Finns (such as the instance of Russian army jets entering Finnish air space several times in August, 201413), there has always been a distrust of the neighboring giant. In June, 2015 the Finnish army sent letters to the country’s 900,000 army reservists, explaining what their duties would be in case of increased tensions with Russia14. On the other hand, a tight, inextricable cultural connection makes the very fact of Russia a necessity for Finnish self-conception. In addition to former Finnish territories that were cut off and now form part of Russia15, a long cultural relation connects Finland with the other side of the border. 13.08.2015 In the frontier section, near Kuhmo on the Finnish side and Kostomuksha in the Republic of Karelia on the Russian side, the border has remained stable since the end of the 16th century16. This is the location where many of the oral traditions have been best preserved, being written down by Elias Lönnrot and others in the Viena Karelian villages at the start of the 19th century, and which thus have had an important impact on the development of a Finnish self-conception. At the time, these 12 Sergei Lesonen, Venehjärvi, 2015. 13 Kati Pohjanpalo and Kasper Viita; Finland’s Fighter Jets on Alert as Russia Violates Airspace (Bloomberg Business, 2014), http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-08-28/finland-puts-fighter-planeson-alert-as-russia-violates-airspace. 14 Jon Stone; Finland writes to 900,000 military reservists amid heightened tensions with Russia (The Independent, 2015), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/finland-writes-to-900000military-reservists-amid-heightened-tensions-with-russia-10268920.html. 15 The Finnish-Russian border has moved back and forth several times throughout history. Today’s border was drawn during the Continuation War in 1944. At that time, Finland had to give up the region of Petsamo in North-East Lapland, Salla in SouthEast Lapland and big areas of Karelia including Finland’s second biggest city, Viipuri. This loss of territory, especially in Karelia, is still an open wound for Finland, because it had been the country’s most bountiful region, with over 38,000 farms lost behind the new border. Lusto – Suomen Metsämuseo, [Lusto - The Finnish Forest Museum] in Punkaharju, 2015. 16 Carelicum Museum of North Karelia in Joensuu, 2015.


villages were seen as the ancient birthplaces of Finnish culture, less “contaminated” by other cultures due to their peripheral location in the backwoods. Today these places, the three small towns located in Finland, (Rimpi, Kuivajärvi and Hietajärvi) and the 18 villages in the Karelian Republic are almost forgotten, and their connection to the national epic barely known17. The old villages continued on in the peasant way until they were burned to the ground during the Winter War in 1939 and 1940, first on the Finnish side. The fire was actually set by Finnish troops, because the inhabitants’ life was thought to be leaning too much on Russian traditions and culture. Later, the destruction spilled over into the Viena Karelian towns on the Russian side of the border. After these events, just 600 out of 12.000 inhabitants remained in the old villages making up the Finnish occupation zone. People relocated to other Russian-speaking regions, which is also one of the reasons why the Karelian language was not passed further within many families18. After the war, small villages that were too close to the boundary zone were not permitted to be inhabited. The “liquidation of the villages without prospects19” resulted in the centralization of the bigger towns in North-West Russia20. The purpose for the Soviet Union was to establish efficient agricultural state farms in order to compete with the United States during the Cold War. Another reason was to balance the living standards between the rural and the urban dwellers. And so, the entire Kalevala region turned into an inaccessible frontier zone. To ensure the purging of the population, public services such as schools, post offices, libraries and stores were closed, and people were paid to move their houses out of the small villages in order to re-erect them in the new centers21.

17 Juminkeko.fi; The Viena Karelian Folklore Villages: Introduction (Juminkeko, 2015), http://www.juminkeko.fi/viena/en/taustaa.html. 18 Markku Nieminen; Vienan runonkylät, Kulttuuriopas (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2004), 19-20. 19 Cf: Nieminen: 20. 20 Cf: Nieminen; 18-20. 21 Juminkeko.fi; The Viena Karelian Folklore Villages: The Background to the Revitalization Programme (Juminkeko, 2015), http://www.juminkeko.fi/viena/en/ taustaa.html.


Fig 44. Map of Viena Karelian folklore villages22.

In 1989, a revitalization project was founded, firstly to preserve Vuokkiniemi, which is considered to be the most important of the Viena Karelian folklore villages. The project quickly grew to include other villages, and to return their former inhabitants, reintroducing private farming and introducing international cultural tourism, as in Venehjärvi.

22 Fig 44.: Markku Nieminen; Vienan runonkylät, Kulttuuriopas (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2004).


14.08.2015 During my stay in Venehjärvi23, I was able to find many sites and trees that are linked to pagan traditions and beliefs, many of which are still practiced today in the village. One example is the Karsikko tree, located in the village cemetery, whose branches are still choppedoff with an axe for special occasions and happenings in Venehjärvi.

Fig 45.

Venehjärvi’s Karsikko spruce, August 14th, 2015.

23 Venehjärvi has been one of the many deserted villages, losing its status during the 1960s and 1970s.


The sacred yard tree of the Lesonen family is an ash tree standing on the open field near the house, and it still has its fortune telling powers above the family. The Lesonen family is the only family of Venehjärvi. Santeri Lesonen, who carries on his father’s shamanistic traditions, told me the following story about an old lady that lived in a neighboring town, in her little house: In front of her living room window stood an ash tree, the old family tree. For several years she had complained about the tree, because it blocked the sun coming through the window during summertime. It was too dark inside her house, she thought, so she wanted to cut it down. The neighbors warned her. Everyone knew that you were not supposed to cut down a family tree, because something terrible would happen, that you would die just like the tree. In the end, she decided to chop down the tree, and died at its feet. “True story...” said Santeri. Eventually, the towns buildings were rebuilt with exact replicas of the burnt buildings and designated historical villages by UNESCO in 1993. The area was listed among the 100 endangered cultural sites by World Monuments Watch from during 1996 to 1997 and from 1998 until 200124. Some former inhabitants that moved back to their old places nowadays only use the traditional houses as second residence, in addition to their primary residencies in the nearby bigger towns. Because of their “heritage” status, the villages have to follow strict regulations, which does not include much installation of contemporary equipment. Electricity cables must have to run underground, and new buildings in modern style are officially not allowed. If erected, they risk being torn down by the ministry of culture25.

24 Juminkeko.fi; The Viena Karelian Folklore Villages: The Background to the Revitalization Programme (Juminkeko, 2015), http://www.juminkeko.fi/viena/en/ taustaa.html. 25 Markku Nieminen, Venehjärvi, 2015.


Fig 46.

The Lesonen’s family ash (above); Venehjärvi, August (below), 15th, 2015.


Similar to the example of national parks along the eastern frontier, one function of the revitalization of the folklore villages is to provide a romantic vision of bygone times, like as an outdoor museum, looking back on the origin and birthplace of Finnish identity. One interesting fact to note is, that even though the revitalization project functions with close cooperation between Karelian and Finnish cultural ministries, most project funding and motivation comes from Finnish sources and initiatives26. Thereby, the project sometimes seems like a mission from the Finnish side, as its champions try to rescue its cultural heritage and birthplaces. One could argue that the idea of giving the land back to the people to whom it belonged, who had previously been banned from it, conflicted with the official expectation that villagers maintain the old-fashioned way of life. On the one hand the purpose was to return the land to its people. On the other hand the importance of rebuilding a cultural birthplace almost held more weight, which exposes a rather colonial approach to the whole affair. As was the case with the bear, these historical villages have their meaning and cultural impact projected upon them, but do not seem to matter much to the broader public, who still prefer this backwards way of life – projected or not – to remain tucked away in the eastern wilderness.

26 Support for the revitalization comes from the Arhippa Perttunen Foundation and the Juminkeko Foundation (Cf: Juminkeko.fi), as well as Kalevalaseura, Museovirasto and Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (Markku Nieminen; Vienan runonkylät, Kulttuuriopas (Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2004, 172).


Wearing the green belt The old-growth forests along the eastern frontier that have remained untouched by intensive logging activities, are an example of a general phenomena and the result of boundary zone distance-keeping measures. Cut off from commercial forest use and public access, nature actually gets a break from radical human influence. The division of Europe during the Cold War and the separation of natural areas from commercial ground actually provided space for forests as well as endangered species to recover, all along the Baltic Coast, through Central Europe, the Balkans until the Black Sea27. In 1970, a dark green line of old-growth forests was spotted on satellite pictures of the Finnish-Russian border. A Finnish-Russian nature conservation group established four twin nature reserves along the border in the mid1980s. Around the same time, German biologists discovered that the inner German border zone between Thuringia and Bavaria hosted several endangered bird species that had all disappeared from the intensely forested regions in Central Europe28. After the Fall of the Iron Curtain, the old-growth forests along the former inner European boundary zones were endangered by the industrial logging business, which consequently led to the establishment of preservation areas, much like the aforementioned protected reserves on either side of the Finnish-Russian border29. The wild forest reindeer, for example, have started to wander back into Finland from Russia since the 70s, because the isolated border forest near Kuhmo has provided the appropriate space and conditions for the species to thrive and reproduce30.

27 European Greenbelt; From Iron Curtain to Lifeline (Coordination Group of the European Green Belt Initiative/BUND, 2015), http://www.europeangreenbelt.org/. 28 Andrew Terry, Karin Ullrich and Uwe Riecken; The Green Belt of Europe From Vision to Reality (IUCN, 2006), 3, https://portals.iucn.org/library/efiles/documents/2006-049.pdf. 29 Cf: Terry, Ullrich, Riecken: 4. 30 Nationalparks.fi; Wild Forest Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus fennicus) (Metsähallitus, 2015),http://www.nationalparks.fi/en/juortanansalo-lapinsuo/nature/ wildforestreindeerrangifertarandusfennicus.


Fig 47. Wild forest reindeers (rangifer tarandus fennicus)31.

31 Fig 47.: http://jymy.kase.fi/, 30.12.2015.


The Finnish-Russian boundary zone is only approximately one sixth of an overall 12,500 kilometer natural green belt, the so-called European Greenbelt, and is nowadays the only part that still remains as a continental division line. The other parts of the greenbelt borders in between the East and West have shifted after more than 40 years of Cold War. The greenbelt now remains as a living memorial landscape32.

Fig 48. The European green belt33. 32 European Greenbelt; From Iron Curtain to Lifeline (Coordination Group of the European Green Belt Initiative/BUND, 2015), http://www.europeangreenbelt.org/. 33 Fig 48.: http://www.europeangreenbelt.org/, 30.12.2015.


13.08.2015 “Nature knows no borders”, reads the brochure that Sergei Tarmov gave me during our meeting in the in Kostomuksha. Sergei is the chairman of the national park Zapovednik Kostomukshkij, which is the Russian part of a partnered nature reserve next to Ystävyyden Puisto (Park of Friendship) on the Finnish side of the boundary zone. He explained to me how important the partnership and cooperation between the two parks is, firstly because of the preservation of the old-growth forests, secondly for the purpose of rescuing endangered species of animals and plants. One goal is to reintroduce the species into the Finnish fauna, as was the case with the wild forest reindeer. Animals can cross the border through open sections in the fence along the aisle, which makes their movement back and forth freer than human counterparts. Furthermore, he says, the practice of teamwork enriches and sustains conversation and openness between the two neighboring states. --From the satellite’s perspective, the European Greenbelt is just one example of how landscape forms a monument for human geopolitical interrelations between neighboring countries and continents. By zooming farther in, regional and local border relations become more visible, as well as the border’s effects on local populations and minorities. Every section of this monument carries its own historical fingerprint. Deeply engraved into the landscape, like a scar that remains after a long conflict and separation, the Finnish-Russian border acts as a representation of how cultural differences seem only to be resolved by concrete distancing, and keeping “the other” as far as possible. The isolation of natural areas as boundary zones provides a feeling of safety. The forest acts as a cushion, effectively excluding the other. As Hegel describes the Conflict of the Opposed Selfconsciousness, the idea of Ego - a subjective perception - is formed based upon the exclusion of every other from the self. But with this, every object is aware of itself, but not of the other, and ultimately it actually can’t be sure of the existence 110

of its “self”. By risking the existence of the self and the fact of one’s own life, each must aim at the destruction of the other. They need to prove themselves to one other via a life and death struggle, bring certainty of the self, to the level of objective truth. This is true both in the case of the other and the case of the self. Thus, the other is a necessity for the certainty of one’s own existence34. And so is, according to Hegel, the East a necessity for the West, Russia for Finland, and vice versa.

Fig 49. Finnish-Russian border aisle (photography by: Markku Nieminen).

34 G. W. F. Hegel; “Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness” in Identities, Race, Class, Gender, and Nationality, eds. Linda Martín Alcoff and Eduardo Mendieta (Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2003), 12.



2.6. The image campaign Be cut off from the others by a mysterious veil1

Harry Potter versus Green Grinch In October, 2003 the author of Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, announced along several other British writers that her following books should be printed exclusively on environmentally friendly paper, either recycled paper or paper from production strictly avoiding the use of oldgrowth forests. The writer particularly addressed this issue to Canada and Finland, whose old-growth forests were, and are, constantly threatened by the local logging industries. After a speedy reaction from certain Finnish forest companies, guaranteeing the fair trade and reliability of their paper production being sourced from companies with a specific certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, strictly excluding any usage of old-growth forests, the author went accord with the argumentation2. The incident evoked a huge public discussion. Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace were accused for spreading false information to the media. The newspaper Iltasanomat started patriotic call for Finnish readers to boycott new Harry Potter books and to ban them from their reading list. The district director of the Finnish State Forest Service in western Lapland, Kirsi-Marja Korhonen, claimed the British assault as unfair, since, in her opinion, old-growth forests were not worth preserving, and too high a percentage of Lapland’s forests were already under conservation status. She accused environmental 1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63. 2 Ari Aukusti Lehtinen; Postcolonialism, Multitude, and the Politics of Nature: On the changing Geographies of the European North, (University Press of America, Ž Inc., 2006), 129.


organizations of publishing one-sided information from an emotional standpoint, and thus deceiving British authors who did not have access to appropriate information3. Environmental discussions caused a clash between forest conservationists, who accused logging companies of exploiting Finnish old-growth forests and focusing only on capital gains. In turn, the companies and forest industry workers blamed the conservationists for unfair, duplicitous manipulation of the media, as well as for falling employment rates, and for pushing private forest owners into opposition to state forestry4.

Fig 50.

“There are still pines rustling in the wind”5.

3 Ari Aukusti Lehtinen; Postcolonialism, Multitude, and the Politics of Nature: On the changing Geographies of the European North, (University Press of America, ® Inc., 2006), 129. 4 Cf: Lehtinen, 131. 5 Fig 50.: Poster found in Lusto – Suomen Metsämuseo, [Lusto - The Finnish Forest Museum] in Punkaharju, 2015. “Vielä niitä honkia humisee”: song titel written by Oskar Merikanto (1868-1924 and Teuvo Pakkala (1862-1925).


These discussions in Finland garnered international attention and negative publicity from important export partners, as can be seen exemplified in the newspaper article “Plünderer im Norden”6 (“Looters in the North”) by the Der Spiegel magazine in Germany, in which Finnish forestry practices were compared with the ongoing clear cutting of the Brazilian rainforest7. At the same time, an economic crisis in Finland during the 1990s called for cutbacks in all areas, including nature conservation. Some forest conservationists then chose to enter the forest industry, or became forest professionals within the government, which led to the formation of a new force from within, as it were, that was able to actively participate in decision-making and forest management. In this way, companies began to be more active in matters of conservation8. An increasing environmental awareness among the public, as well as massive media attention, forced the Finnish forest politics to develop effective image campaigns, and furthermore, to fix its blotted reputation on the international market. The rising interest and concern of consumers regarding chains of production, and greater media attention on sustainable forestry in comparison with other international players, made the image of Finland as a “green” exporter more essential than ever before9.

6 DER SPIEGEL 46/1993; Plünderer im Norden (SPIEGEL-Verlag Rudolf Augstein GmbH & Co. KG, 1993), http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-13692905.html. 7 Ari Aukusti Lehtinen; Postcolonialism, Multitude, and the Politics of Nature: On the changing Geographies of the European North, (University Press of America, ® Inc., 2006), 130. 8 Cf: Lehtinen, 132. 9 Cf: Lehtinen, 130.


The betula pendula paradox 15.07.2015 A spring-like young birch forest stands shining before me, with its fresh green leaves casting a beautiful shadow pattern onto the ground while the sound of singing birds injects me with happiness and makes me feel quickened. I feel ready to start my hike through the sunny forest landscape. Such is the first experience of the Finnish forest for travellers arriving in the women’s restroom of Helsinki International Airport. The wallpaper shows a beautiful betula pendula (silver birch) plantation and the speakers pipe in the lilting, cheerful songs of various bird species, while the guests refresh themselves after a long flight. Chosen as the national tree in 1988, the silver birch is the most common ambassador of the Finnish forest. For the official referendum, an overview of all 23 domestic tree species was produced, so that every voter could choose the species that they thought should become the national tree of Finland. 105,784 votes were cast, of which 25.224 marked betula pendula10. The birch is a fast-growing tree species and is sometimes even considered a pest, since it is normally the first sprout growing on clear ground; as for instance it was the first tree growing on the Finnish peninsula, in South Finland up to Lapland, after the last ice age11. It is not picky in its choice of soil, and was therefore growing and available for the first settlers, who used the tree’s wood and bark for all sorts of things, such as tools, goblets, ropes, shoes, bags and much more. This is why the birch plays such a significant role in Finnish culture and tradition. Aulikki Kauppila, counselor at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, states: “The amount of votes

probably indicates that forests are very important for the Finns. Betula pendula is rather common in all of the country, so people in Lapland have voted for it, as well as people in the

10 Aulikki Kauppila; From a private email conversation with the counselor at Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 2015. 11 Simo Hannelius and Kullervo Kuusela; Finland the country of evergreen forest (Metsahallitus, 1995), 43.


Southern areas. And Betula pendula is the only tree species which is used for the Vihta12 in all Finnish saunas .13”

Fig 51. Birch alley near Loimaa, December 21st, 2014. 12 A bundle of birch twigs for use inside the sauna is called vihta in West Finland, and vasta in East Finland. Gentle hits on the skin with the Vihta stimulate blood circulation, protect against mosquito bites, and spread a fresh smell inside the sauna. 13 “There is no precise information about the argumentation of the voters for the national tree”, as Aulikki Kauppila, the counselor at Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, explains me in an private Email conversation, 2015.


The silver birch plantation, a gathering of numerous straight-growing slender birches, appears everywhere. The representation caught my attention as it is used in art, design and interior design. Apparently, the image seems to be immediately recognizable and relatable as “Finnish�. The silver birch plantation is the representation of a young, modern forest, fresh and somehow clean, just as contemporary Finland wishes to appear on the global playing field.

Fig 52. Birch design from Finland14. 14 Fig 52.: (from left to right) dishcloth from Lapuan Kankurit, www.finnshop.at; birch photograph wallpaper, www.uniikkikoti.com; bed linen from Marimekko, www. scandinavian-lifestyle.de, 31.12.2015.


13.08.2015 I would like to mention one tree in particular that I visited during my travel in Viena Karelia. It is the oldest Fennoscandian15 birch, located on the path between Vuokkiniemi and Venehjärvi. This birch has its own particular mythological story about Tsinkki-Riiko, an old shaman who lived near the mysterious tree: Earlier, the shaman played an important role in the community, healing disease by using spells and herbs. Every shaman had a place from which he received his energy. Tsinkki-Riiko’s energy place is said to have been this old birch. By embracing the tree, he was infused with magical powers. His relationship with the tree also provided him a long life16. The birch lived to approximately 350 years, but is now finally beginning to collapse. Tsinkki-Riiko’s birch is a good example of how a subject, that is considered Finnish national symbol or identity survived the longest beyond the borders, just like the oral folklore tradition and mythology. During the last century there has not been much room left for trees to grow very old in Finnish forests. Pure birch or pine plantations replaced wilderness and dominate the landscape. And so did the economic thought replace the ground on which mythology was based upon. While driving through the Finnish forest landscapes, geometrical tree formations pass by my car window. The movement of the birches past my window creates a flickering pattern of black and white. I become hypnotized by the passing formations, and I cannot look away. The optical phenomenon is mesmerizing – a fascinating and indeed beautiful flickering blanket to watch. But at the same time there is something irritating about it, because of its monotony and clean perfection. A similar effect seems to take hold with the Finnish forest marketing strategies: although the birch plantations are not the true image of a sustainable forest management 15 Fennoscandia (also Fenno-Scandinavia) is a term for the region comprising Norway, Sweden, Finland and a part of Russia. 16 Markku Nieminen; told me this tree’s story while we visited the site in Viena Karelia, 2015.


system looks17, their images nonetheless flood the international market, in the name of the green thinking northern frontier. The black and white pattern works as to hypnotize the broader public, and it becomes almost impossible to look through it to see what reality lies beyond.

Fig 53.

A birch plantation meets a pine plantation in Koli, May 10th, 2015.

17 Heikki Simola; from a private email conversation with the Finnish biologist; „(...) Unfortunately, the same spirit still seem to prevail, even though serious environmental concerns have been emerging. We are still practicing forestry by methods more vigorous than anywhere else in the Boreal conifer forest zone, including monoculture plantations, clearlogging customarily accompanied by mineral soil tilling, peatland forestry including extensive ditch drainage of practically all peatlands south of the Arctic circle, building and maintenance of dense forest road network etc. In this atmosphere the contrasting arguments demanding more nature protection and softer forestry measures, are still generally discarded as mere opinions of lesser importance, even though there is plenty of scientific evidence of ecosystem deterioration due to the current forestry practices.�, 2015.


Fig 54.

Fennoscandian oldest birch, Tsinkki-Riiko’s birch August 13th, 2015.


--The forest has a great load of responsibility and expectation upon it, in that it must keep Finland’s image clean and competitive. On the one hand it represents a healthy forestry industry and effective economically-minded use of forest land, which has strategic and global political weight. On the other hand, Finland needs to advertise itself as a nation focused on sustainability and fair forestry management in order to appeal commercially to consumers and the international public. During my research, I found these two representations or faces of the Finnish forestry marketing strategy. There are many hints at old forest mythology, as can be seen in commercial art and design. Old beliefs and creatures lure people back into a fairytale world, one that remains mostly in a collective memory, reminding people of the Finns’ ancestors. The other significant image of the Finnish forest in design and contemporary art, is the image of the industrial forest, the most out standing example of which is the pure birch plantation. Now associated internationally as a symbol of the Finnish landscape, it seems that this image has become entirely accepted as the reality of the forest, and, therefore, what the forest should look like, naturally.




Chapter 3. Under the forest cover Must wear clothes the wrong way round or undress in order to get out1

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63.


Battlefields In all the matters discussed, through every step of the research, the forensic traces tell stories about the transformation of human-nature relations and what they leave behind as a readable mark, and as evidence. With every historical and societal episode, the human fingerprint on the forest landscape becomes more detailed and complex. In relation to people, it mirrors the numerous battles that have taken place in the backwoods. At the beginning of the journey, the forest played host to an essential fight for human survival against the wilderness; forest beasts and natural predators threatened forest dwellers and their cattle. The forest was a battlefield of clashing religions, ecclesiastical oppression and domination over indigenous worldviews. A new worldview had been introduced, which was the starting point of a radical transformation of landscapes, as well as human behavior and contact with nature. Two neighboring nations took turns with colonial occupation of the land, bearing down upon the local population and indigenous communities. Borders were shifted back and forth, local communities were evacuated, relocated and finally adapted to freshly-imposed regulations. The forest has also been the basis for a struggle about Finnish national identity. “Swedes, we are not – Russians, we do not want to become… so let us then be Finns.2”, was the slogan of a new arising Finnish awareness, which was characterized by a distancing from dominating neighbors and becoming an independent nation with its own borders. Wars took place in the Finnish forest landscape and Finland’s independence was once again threatened. The backwoods had been a fighting ground as well as the perfect ambush spot for snipers during WWII, and became familiar territory and even a home during times of war. An ongoing conflict between East and West put the forest into the position of being a political buffer zone, representing a conflict that might break out again any moment. On the other hand, forest-focused cooperation 2 375 Humanists, Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki; Adolf Ivar Arwidsson (Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, 2014), http://375humanistia.helsinki.fi/en/humanists/ adolf-ivar-arwidsson.


across the border aisle depends on a close partnership in order to provide maximum protection for the forest. Nevertheless, the border holds the distance between the two nations, and is ready to close down immediately if necessary.

Fig 55. Tree piles near Nurmes, August 8th, 2015.

After Finland declared independence, the forest landscape quickly transformed itself into an economicallydriven and profit-orientated battlefield. The result of the forest management discussions between the two opposing elements – logging companies and environmentalists – was the formation of a new image of the forest. But who is actually fighting against whom nowadays? This battle is not only taking place between two opposing social elements, but rather between human society in general and the forest itself. Yet, the story of this economic battle is rather onesided, because it is mostly nature that ends up being destroyed or exploited, while the human profits from the forests’ losses. Or perhaps that is just how it seems at first glance. In the long-term, the human depends on a thriving landscape. Just like with the family trees explored above, if the environment ends up exploited and destroyed, so will humanity. 127

Externalities „Therefore, for humanity, there is nothing in nature that

would not be marked by culture. The same is conversely true, too: there is nothing in culture that is not built upon nature“3.

Everything humankind has built and developed until today finds its traces in nature. Nature is the source and starting point for everything, from that first moment when there was nothing else. All everyday products, all matters of course, and all that seems to be taken for granted finds its beginning in the natural resources of this planet. Electricity, machinery, plastics, cars, computers and the Internet; they all had to be developed over time from out of the very basic resources offered by the environment. Thus, there is nothing without its own relationship to nature. Nature and the environment are unquestionable necessities for humanity. And the human continuously domesticates, organizes, classifies and divides nature according to his economic needs or geopolitical circumstances. In my research I found that through these activities, the human mind and way of life has alienated itself from nature. Borders were not only drawn into the landscape as cultural dividing lines, but also between humanity and nature. This outlines the human as an independent, detached entity next to nature, living outside nature and outside the mesh. These two entities exist alongside one other, interfering with one another, but not interrelated with one another. The creation of landscape and nature as a separate entity is a result of a human notion of building better nature through culture, as a necessity for a more effective livelihood. Clearly, humanity depends upon nature, it is the basic ingredient for life. The human is an active part of it, inside of it and depends on it in all aspects. But nature likewise depends upon the human and his respectful contact.

3 Ari Aukusti Lehtinen; “Landscapes of Domination: Living in and off the Forests in Eastern Finland” in Nordic Landscapes: Region and Belonging on The Northern Edge of Europe, eds. Michael Jones and Kenneth R. Olwig (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 475.


--An ideology introduced by Christianity, positioning the human as the master of all other living and nonliving things, is deeply engraved in people’s minds. Our anthropocentric worldview places humans at its center. This very essay, too, is yet another element of this human perspective. One could argue that the human, in his own conception, owns all land as well as all animals. That idea of power and ownership above all may also have twisted the way in which we handle other species, nature and land. From my perspective, owning things seems to be the primary desire and aim that humanity displays. Yet, who defines what it means to own and is it actually at all possible to own land and appropriate it through ongoing battle? Does the power to cultivate land and to shape it according to one’s needs really constitute owning it? Paying an amount of money for a piece of land perhaps means something in our societal economic system, but beyond that it could be quite meaningless. History shows us that the conception of land ownership, be it private or state-owned land, is an human invention and tool that allows for and directly causes oppression, genocide and colonialism. In the end it all just seems like a fiction, one that leads humanity towards delimitation and outlawing, and leads us to our story underneath the forest cover. “… nature was confined to the position of an object

of human mastery and possession. Alongside cultural domination, the enforcement of a natural order has been one of the most powerful instruments of power and domination in modern/colonial history.4”

4 Paulo Tavares; “Nonhuman Rights”, in Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth, ed. Forensic Architecture, (Forensic Architecture, 2014), 570.



3.1. What is it like in there? While researching into the Finnish forest landscape, I always kept the old mythology in mind, because it was a starting point of the human-nature, or human-forest relationship. During the progress of my research and at the point when the entire narrative came together, I realized that this was a story about the battle of humanity moving away from its place in the mesh, and ending up in a world that is upside down. The world of the forest cover looks different from place to place, from location to location. It is full of opposites. And yet, it covers the entire planet. But how differently do things work in our modern forest mythology of the forest cover? Who are our forest gods and heroes nowadays? What do the spirits look like? Who holds the destiny in his hands, and where does the power lie? With the modern mythology, landscape transformed into landshape. Everything is organized within the human order – nature, animals, the entire planet. Nothing is left to chance, and only those things that are known and familiar can ever really be trusted. The forest is tamed and adapted to human needs. The planet’s surface is branded with a manmade pattern, reaching out even to the most remote places with its processes and functions. With the process of forest domestication, even the sublime has been domesticated. The modern forest dwellers could also be called homo economicus1 in our modern mythology. Nowadays, the homo 1 “A term that describes the rational human being assumed by some economists

when deriving, explaining and verifying theories and models. Homo economicus, or economic human, is the figurative human being characterized by the infinite ability to make rational decisions. Certain economic models have traditionally relied on the assumption that humans are rational and will attempt to maximize their utility for both monetary and non-monetary gains. Modern behavioral economists and neuroeconomists, however, have demonstrated that human beings are, in fact, not rational in their decision making, and argue a “more human” subject (that makes somewhat predictable irrational decisions) would provide a more accurate tool for modeling human behavior.”, Investopedia; Homo Economicus; Definition of “Homo Economicus” (Investopedia,

LLC., 2015), http://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/homoeconomicus.asp.


economicus lives in big cities with high buildings, piled and stacked on top of each other. During the day, he spends his time in the small cubes, called offices, and during the night he rests in his own private cube somewhere in another pile of the city. He has mostly forgotten how to live in a self-sufficient way and how to use the natural environment for his survival. What the homo economicus believes in and obeys are the spirits hidden in the objects of his desire. Even though these spirits do not have individual personalities or names anymore, they make him smile and his eyes light up. They evoke an extraordinary ecstasy and keep people running. They are called money spirits, the seduction of a magic spell that leads to another level, a life-changing level. Money is the drug of modern society for which people are willing to risk their mental and physical health. It is the source of endless joy and happiness, so believes the homo economicus. But the great ecstasy, which is the ultimate consumption, has a very addictive side effect. It ensnares people in a world of consumption without limits, and people always desire more. There are also gods in the forest cover, but only a hand full. The famous one percent2, the elite of the entire human population: they too are gods of the system, and they hold the magical Sampo in their hand. Sampo, the sacred artifact in our version of the forest cover world, means capitalism. The one percent is protecting its artifact and is able to use it to determine and guide the rest of the forest cover’s population, the dwellers, through manipulation, punishment and modern slavery. The main god of modern mythology, standing above all others, the Tapio that people believe in nowadays, court and main power of society, is economy. It is the main body that the homo economicus sacrifices his energy and time to and even the other gods sacrifice their lives to. Tapio is a god that must be respected and fed continuously, because it is he who keeps humanity running. Humanity now depends on him entirely, and the main idea is that the more he is being served 2 The one percent is a political slogan that was used and invented during the Occupy Movement in 2011. It refers to the 1% of people to whose benefit the economy functions. Ethan Miller, “Occupy! Connect! Create! Imagining Life Beyond “The Economy”” in A Guidebook of Alternative Nows, ed. Amber Hickey (The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, 2012), 21.


and the more he can grow – the more powerful and adorable he becomes. Yet, that also means that the more Tapio grows, the more homo economicus depends on him. Tapio is not a fair-minded god, he does not treat all his believers equally. A part of humanity is richly rewarded, while another part is almost being forgotten. Tapio has his sacred temples and churches everywhere, the hiisi of the modern mythology, in the banks and companies. The most worthy sacrifice that people can lay at his feet is profit and interest. He who sacrifices enough shall be rewarded by Tapio. These temples are run by the one percent, who control and benefit from all sacrifices and prayers. These are powerful places that organize the modern forest mythology and make decisions for the rest of humanity. It is a competitive world in which the homo economicus is trying to make his living. He needs to find his safe place within a money-making machinery. He is the profit-oriented working class playing the Sampo directly into the hand of the one percent. --But where is the shaman that reminds the lost ones of another world? Who is the wise one and communicator that reminds us of the forest cover’s grip? It could be the bear, king of the forest, that finally reminds humanity of the wilderness and of the potential danger hiding in the backwoods. Also, it might be the forest itself that reminds us of its powers, and that will prove its strength, forcing humanity to change its mentality. But perhaps there is a chance that, prior to this, our own comprehension and intellect will help us find our way out of the forest cover, to the next level that is neither the old mythological world, nor our modern mythology.


Fig 56. The money tree (arboreus economicus)3.

3 Fig 56.: www.fishofgold.net, 01.01.2015.




3.2. Can the forest be seen as a mirror of human societies?

I started with this research question, and came along numerous forest personalities and faces that answered the question positively. But this mirroring effect involves additional, more complex aspects. Beyond simply mirroring humanity, I found the Finnish forest to be an example of a global human-nature problem. Similar to the case of Weimar that I described in the Preliminary Notes of my thesis, the forest represents a monument of human history and is projected with a national identity, in the example of Finland. Yet, it is not a monument of great achievements or a memorial of honor, but, as I saw it, rather a counter-monument reflecting the human paradox and negative elements. It bears witness to the evidence of how humanity forgets to reflect itself. As destroyed as the mirroring forest landscape appears, so too does human society reveal itself to be destroyed. In our modern mythology of the forest cover, in the economic court of Tapio, the forest and nature in general do not have many legal rights. Christopher D. Stone, professor of law at the University of Southern California, reviews how the law has progressed through time to impart rights upon persons, or entities that society previously had considered unworthy. He explains how, for example, children, slaves, women, indigenous peoples, racial minorities, fetuses or endangered species all lacked a legal voice and rights for a long time. All these have been afforded status before the law over time. So too have corporations, states, estates, municipalities or universities received legal rights and a voice before the court. These latter examples are organizations, companies and institutions that cannot physically speak for themselves, but only through a lawyer1. 1 Christopher D. Stone; Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment (Oxford Universsity Press, 2010), 3-10.


Perhaps a lawyer, or as Stone puts it, a guardian2, could equally speak on the behalf of a natural body before the court. Yet, considering nature or natural objects as equals within our anthropocentric legal system, would it require understanding ourselves as part of the natural system, would it be a step towards or away from an anthropocentric worldview? There are a few examples, such as Ecuador in 2008, where the rights of nature have been recognized by the constitutional Court. Two years later, Bolivia made strides towards instituting legal rights for nature, and in 2010 was added to constitution under the “Law of the Rights of Mother Earth3”. --During my research, I realized how deeply the question of the forest can reflect and critique humanity, and how many societal matters it touches upon and brings to light. The forest displays all of society’s dirty little secrets. Within the framework of my thesis, I am not able to formulate concrete answers or propose solutions for the forest cover problem that we are facing today. The conclusion will not provide a recipe for how to escape this forest cover, or forecast of if it is even necessary to get out. Nor does it aim to turn back time and return to bygone worldviews. People and societies have changed, and with each change we require new solutions, new ways forward. This thesis intends simply to open questions and to bring about the reader’s on present-day society and relationships to our surroundings, using the forest as the access point.

2 Christopher D. Stone; Should Trees Have Standing?: Law, Morality, and the Environment (Oxford Universsity Press, 2010), 19. 3 Paulo Tavares; “Nonhuman Rights” in Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth, ed. Forensic Architecture, (Forensic Architecture, 2014), 558.




3.2. CBG-424 upside down

After more than 7,000 kilometers, I arrived with the mobile mรถkki back to Weimar, the starting point of the research. Many things happened on my journey through the Finnish forests, and as I drove myself further and further into the forest cover. Every forest personalily that I encountered lead me one step further into the its catch. Back in Weimar, my perception of the forests had changed, and the world seemed to be standing upside down. On the day of my thesis defense in Weimar, the 3rd of February 2016, a final performance took place. Attendees of my public lecture were invited to participate, and to join me as I flipped the mobile mรถkki, CBG-424, over once, and then again, so that it ended up lying upside down, with its roof to the ground. My conclusion in chapter 3 described how our society appears to me to be functioning, as it were, upside down in the world of the forest cover. And so CBG-424 will itself be turned upside down, as its last performance. Furthermore, this represents and attempt to peer outside the forest cover, by starting to turn things the other way around.


Fig 57.


Fig 58.



Go in the direction opposite to that from which the voice of the person sought is heard. Put his shoes on the wrong feet and wear his cap back to front; wear his jacket with the right sleeve on the left arm and the left on the right. Dig up the track of an animal sought and turn them towards home. Beat the ground and say “now let go!”. Perform magic at anthills or places where paths cross. Bind the forest using red woolen thread to tie three spruces together. Put the devil’s testicles in a clamp; a stone as a weight on a branch or on top of sticks. Look for and call to the lost one from beneath the roots of a tree or a horse collar. Gaze a water to see if the trapped person or animal is visible1.

1 Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo, Tree People, (Bookwell, 2014), 63.




About this book Throughout this text, I have used the birch tree as a means of demonstrating my thoughts on many matters. In addition to the fact that the birch is a special tree within Finnish culture, and a central figure in any exploration of the Finnish forest, it is also my own favourite tree for several reasons. The birch as a species is incredibly impressive and useful. It can thrive in the most difficult terrain, its wood is strong and sustainable and also makes wonderful firewood. Birch bark is highly flammable and makes great kindling, as well as being a robust construction material, defending against humidity and fungus. It contains betulin, a triterpine that is used in medicine to, among other things, combat tumors. Beyond all this, the bark can be used for the production of various kinds of products and tools; fresh birch leaves can be added to a salad; and its water is drinkable. The aforementioned chaga mushroom is a fungus that is most often found thriving on birch trees. It is said to activate immune cells responsible for combating cancer and to supports blood vessel integrity1.

Fig 59.

A piece of bark from the fennoscandian oldest birch.

1 Global Healing Center; Chaga Mushroom: The Immune-Boosting Superfood (Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM, 2015), http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/chaga-mushroom-the-immune-boosting-superfood/.


This book was bound by hand, by myself, using a threadbinding technique that I taught myself – with the help of online tutorials. The book paper is a chlorine-free, environmentally friendly product by BIOTOP, I could not find out from which forests it originates. The front cover of the book is made out of the pine which I received from Juho Remsu in Vuokkiniemi. Juho is a carpenter and retrieved the wood from a forest near his house. The back cover, meanwhile, is made from industrial birch plywood that originates from Finnish forests, and which was bought from the Stark building center in Helsinki Herttoniermi. I made the lettering on the wood cover by using a woodburning pen.

Fig 60.

Juho Remsu and me in his carpenter’s workshop in Vuokkiniemi, August 13th, 2015 (photography by: Markku Nieminen).

Fig 61. Juho Remsu and Markku Nieminen in in front of the carpenter’s workshop, August 13th, 2015.


Photo archive


Fig 62. Juhani and Anitta Aaltio.

Fig 63. Anitta Aaltio explaining me details about the yard birch (photography by: Nicolรกs Buenaventura).



Fig 64. Karsikko pine tree stand in Häkkilä (photography by: Nicolás Buenaventura).

Fig 65. A local from Häkkilä showing me the way to the Savela bear pine (photography by: Nicolás Buenaventura).



Fig 66. Locals explaining me how to find an old-growth pine forest in the Lemmenjoki national park.

Fig 67.

Fig 68.


Fig 69.

Fig 71.

Fig 72.


Fig 70.

Fig 73.

Fig 74.



Fig 75. Moukavaara old-growth forest.

Fig 76. (photography by: Nicolรกs Buenaventura)


Fig 77.

Fig 78. Sleepover location in Naruska (photography by: Nicolรกs Buenaventura).



Fig 79. Riisitunturi old-growth forest.

Fig 80. A low grown spruce, also called Tapio’s table.



Fig 81. Beginning of the Finnish-Russian boundary zone at Närängänvaara.

Fig 82. View over the Finnish-Russian boundary zone.



Fig 83. A pine in Patvinsuo national park.


Fig 84.

Fig 85. Palleroporonjäkälä lichen (cladina stellaris).



Fig 86. Jussi Huovinen in his kitchen in Hietajärvi.

Fig 87. Accordion playing with Jussi (photography by: Markku Nieminen).


Fig 88. Using an old karelian grinding stone (photography by: Markku Nieminen).

Fig 89. Markku Nieminen, Jussi Huovinen and me in Hietajärvi.



Fig 90. Meeting Sergei Tarmov, in Kostomuksha (photography by: Markku Nieminen).

Fig 91. Fennoscandian oldest birch (photography by: Markku Nieminen).


Fig 92. Markku Nieminen and Laina Lesonen in her house in Vuokkiniemi.

Fig 93. Laina Lesonen.



Fig 94. Memorial tree on the cemetery of Venehjärvi.

Fig 95. Sergei Lesonen preparing his boat.


Fig 96. Wind place in Venehjärvi.

Fig 97. Paavo Lesonen.


Fig 98. Paavo Lesonen’s fishing cabin.

Fig 99.

Fig 100. Venehjärvi’s cemetery.


Fig 101. Tree with a vertically placed stick through its trunk in the Finnish-Russian boundary zone near Venehjärvi.

Fig 102. Ukko and me (photography by: Markku Nieminen).


Fig 103. (photography by: Jaana GrĂźter)


Fig 104.

Fig 105.