Finland’s finest

Finland’s finest

All things Finnish visit the city for the Helsinki Days in St. Petersburg.

Published: October 12, 2011 (Issue # 1678)

A stool from the
‘Woodism’ exhibition
at the Peter and Paul

Alittle piece of Helsinki is visiting St. Petersburg for the third time this week, promoting a healthy relationship between the two cities.

Once every two years, Russia and neighboring Finland take it in turns to organize a cultural exchange, bringing different programs, events, shows and sometimes simply ideas across the border in order to unite people and familiarize each other with their culture.

Helsinki Days in St. Petersburg first took place in 2003 and consisted primarily of official meetings, but when the festival returned to the city in 2007, sponsors tried to make the program less formal and more interactive, bringing exhibitions and musical events to St. Petersburg. This year, the event will give Petersburgers the opportunity to learn more about Helsinki and present the city as a Finnish urban giant. This year’s program has a special flavor, as it looks ahead to next year: Helsinki has been designated World Design Capital 2012.

“Sometimes referred to as ‘the smallest big city in the world,’ Helsinki is a place where everything good — and by everything, we mean everything — is just around the corner,” said the organizers of Finland’s World Design Capital campaign.

An item from the ‘Design
From And For Kids’ show.

On Oct. 14 to 15, Petersburgers can immerse themselves in Finnish culture without even leaving the city center. Both the Finland House and the Center of Finnish Culture, Science and Entrepreneurship will open their doors to the public to take part in a wide range of events, from getting an inside view of how Finnish companies work here in St. Petersburg, to the opportunity for visitors to create their own knick-knacks made from junk. The cultural centers will also host various master classes and competitions in the Helsinki Yard of Finland House, where visitors can have a cup of coffee and sample Finland’s celebrated Fazer delicacies inside a marquee set up in the courtyard.

In the basement gallery of the Finland House, a group consisting of a painter, musician, designer and an artist will show projects created with the use of light and shadow.

Finland is famed around the world for its progressive environmental policies, and the festival’s organizers will showcase handcrafted items made from various recycled materials, brought to St. Petersburg from the Uusix workshop especially for the Helsinki Days event. Visitors will also be able to try their hand at making their own decorations from recycled materials.

Uusix workshops are part of the Social Department of Finland and employ people struggling to find work. All the items in the collection were made with the participation of Aalto University students.


Signe Brander’s photos show a very different Helsinki from the early 20th century.

The Helsinki Days program also comprises a trio of exhibitions running from Oct. 6 to Nov. 2 at the Peter and Paul Fortress. For the first exhibition, the Helsinki City Museum has loaned photographs by the eminent Finnish photographer Signe Brander (1869-1942). Brander took many pictures of Helsinki at the beginning of the 20th century, and they are unquestionably the most interesting and most frequently used documentation of the Finnish capital. The exhibition will feature a broad selection of diverse images, including snapshots of Helsinki at the time when it began to rapidly change its architectural style and structure from wood to stone. These photos also clearly capture what life was like for the average Finnish citizen between 1907 and 1913.

The second exhibition, titled “Woodism,” is dedicated to the work of groups of designers and architects from Helsinki, Lahti, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. They design and make furniture and household items from trees that have fallen naturally in yards and parks, eschewing timber that has been felled. Woodism is also part of the ‘World Design Capital Helsinki 2012’ program.

The third exhibition, “Design From And For Kids,” is part of an educational program that invites children living in Finland and Russia to take a fresh look at the objects that surround them in everyday life and paint them from their own point of view. Afterwards, professional designers bring the children’s paintings to life. Organizers of the program believe in the creative potential of children and that talent and creative vision are should be developed from early childhood. The local exhibition will show items created by young designers from both Russia and Finland. 

The Helsinki Days also have something to offer to party-lovers. Griboyedov club has a special program from Oct. 11 to 15, featuring the celebrated Finnish rock singer Jimi Tenor, as well as the Finnish band Dusha Petera and the We Love Helsinki DJs.

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