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Finland 100 / Exhibition: The world is a word - the history of the Finnish aphorism

The new exhibition at the National Library discusses the Finnish aphorism, the art of delivering an idea concisely. Finland has a rich tradition of sayings, and an exceptionally large amount of interest in aphorisms.

The exhibition focuses on aphorism literature from the 18th century to present day. Rarities include Henrik Florinus’s collection of sayings from 1702, and the first-ever collection of Finnish aphorisms (compiled by Jacob Frese) from 1726. In addition, the exhibition features dozens of other works that depict the development, diversity and expressive power of the Finnish aphorism. Finland’s best-known aphorism authors are represented, including: J. L. Runeberg, Juhani Siljo, Edith Södergran, Gunnar Björling, V. A. Koskenniemi, Erkki Melartin, Maria Jotuni, Mirkka Rekola, Paavo Haavikko, Samuli Paronen, Erno Paasilinna, Helena Anhava and Markku Envall.

The exhibition also includes samples from the manuscripts of Maria Jotuni and Samuli Paronen, among others, Paavo Haavikko’s typewriter, Mirkka Rekola’s familiar cap, aphorism calligraphy as well as Princess brand tea bags, with attached aphorisms.  

Two public events (in Finnish) will be organised in conjunction with the exhibition:

Thursday, 6 APRIL 2017, 18.00: Professor Kaisa Häkkinen will speak about aphorisms on the topic “Sananlaskuista aforismiin”, and Professor H.K. Riikonen about V.A. Koskenniemi and his aphorisms on the topic “V. A. Koskenniemi – suomalaisen aforismin klassikko”.

Tuesday, 18 APRIL 2017, 18.00: Author, Docent Katja Seutu will speak about Mirkka Rekola’s aphorisms, and journalist, translator Jaakko Anhava will discuss the works of Paavo Haavikko.

The exhibition is part of the National Library’s programme for Finland’s centenary.


The results of the aphorism competition will be announced on 15 December 2017!

The winner of the aphorism competition is Jaakko Antila.

The National Library have organised an aphorism competition in conjunction with the exhibition, with the theme of “Finland and Finnishness”. The results of the competition will be announced on the website of the Suomen aforismiyhdistys and the National Library of Finland on 15 December 2017. The winners will be personally notified.

The competition is organised by the National Library of Finland and the Suomen Aforismiyhdistys, in cooperation with YLE, the Finnish Broadcasting Company.

Competition rules:

1. You can participate with one or up to twenty, aphorisms. The aphorisms must be written by you and previously unpublished.

2. The theme of the competition is “Finland and Finnishness”, and the aphorisms must relate to this theme. You can approach the topic however you wish, from any perspective. For example, the words “Finland”, “Finnish”, “Finn” or “Finnishness” need not feature in your aphorisms. The aphorisms may also represent any style.

3. You can participate in the competition either by leaving your aphorisms in the competition box at the National Library’s aphorism exhibition (Unioninkatu 36, 6th floor, Helsinki), or by sending them via email to the address The competition aphorisms must include the first and last names of the author as well as contact details.

4. The competition runs from 16 February 2017 until 31 October 2017. The aphorisms must arrive no later than 31 October 2017, either via email or submitted to the competition box in the aphorism exhibition. Late submissions will not be considered.

5. While the authors will retain copyright for the aphorisms, by submitting aphorisms for this competition, the authors consent to the aphorisms being published for no additional compensation in conjunction with the competition and the announcement of the winners as well as in text format on YLE platforms, such as websites and teletext. The aphorisms may also be used in YLE programming for a separate compensation.

6. The composition of the diverse expert jury of three members will be announced in conjunction with the winners. Competing aphorisms will be submitted to the jury anonymously.

7. The winner of the competition will receive a 300-euro award, and runners-up will receive books as prizes. At its discretion, the jury may also divide the award sum between more than one winner.

8. The results of the competition will be announced on the website of the Suomen aforismiyhdistys and the National Library of Finland on 15 December 2017. The winners will be personally notified.

9. The competition organisers are the National Library of Finland and Suomen aforismiyhdistys. More information about the competition is available from the address