| Olli Matikainen
and Transition of Society in Finland 1945 - 1970: Student Corporation
Karjalainen Osakunta as a Case Study 
1. Academic Citizenship, Social Capital
and Student “Nations”
In the 1940s during the years after the
WW II, card games – whist enjoyed popularity – became one topic
among the students belonging to the student corporation Karjalainen
Osakunta (Karelian Nation) at the University of Helsinki. Some
members were ready to prohibit the card games in the Nation premises,
associating the cards to vicious life: like the heavy use of alcohol,
characteristic to many student veterans of war. While “regaining
the lost years”, many post-war students had a clear goal to study
quickly and find a decent occupation and income in a reconstructing
country. In the card debate, one student of medicine had a personal
argument defending the game of whist. According to him, the playing
skills were essential in getting into the society in the future.
The future for the student of medicine perhaps meant an occupation
as a practitioner somewhere in the countryside, with a limited circle
of friends belonging to the local elite. “Supports the whist club
because of egoistic reasons”, commented the Nation chronicle.
From the sociological point of view, the
card debate can be treated as a question of social capital, in which
individuals and associations are seen as possessing and collecting
non-material capital – like adopting various skills or habits and
creating useful human networks.
 This article discusses the concept of “academic citizen”,
often used in the discourse of the university students in post-war
Finland. Behind the discourse on academic citizenship, different
role models and future expectations imposed on the university students
can be found. These traditional views and the status of the educated
people as an elite faced crisis during the great social and economical
transition of the 1960s.
At the University of Helsinki, the traditional
“Nations” (Osakunta in Finnish) were central reference groups
in socializing the students to their future role. The Nations have
their roots in the structure of medieval European universities,
where students were divided into “nations” according to their regional
origin. The idea was adapted when organizing the first university
in Finland, the Academy of Turku in 1640. The Academy was later
to be known as the University of Helsinki, which was the only university
in Finland until the 1920s. Its position as compared with the new
province universities remained superior until the expansion and
decentralization of the Finnish university system during the 1960s.
Most students at the University of Helsinki joined the various Nations,
at least as passive members for practical reasons until 1969 - 1970,
when the position of the Nations as a part of the University changed.
As joining the Nations became voluntary in practice and in student
world the subject-related and political associations were felt more
attractive, many Nations decayed in the 1970s and lost their “social
capital”. In the 1980s, however, a wave of neo-traditionalism, continuing
ever since, was experienced and the Nations became popular again
among students. 
The Nations have always functioned as
“clubs” arranging usual student social activities, but especially
before the great transition they had also wider role in building
the Finnish national state. The regional importance of the Nations
in their recruiting areas, producing local elites, should also to
be noted.  “You have now got experience, how this society
is lead, since we have got the highest education”, as Erkki Kivinen,
the inspector of Karjalainen Osakunta (KO) pointed out to
the Nation members before the students left for the summer vacation
in 1950.  Practising
argumentation in the Nation meetings, cooperating inside the Student
Union and outside the university with different corporations in
the Province, creating networks with senior members, all this could
be useful in the future. It was emphasized that in order to become
a successful academic citizen, studying and adopting the technical
side of the profession was not enough. This meant that wide all-around
education, including knowledge in culture and cultivated habits,
was considered essential. Otherwise the Nation (State) and Province
might get only “bookish and self-satisfied” civil servants, “not
capable of paying the debt to the Nation (State)”.
2. The Great Transition of the 1960s:
The Finnish Case from a Local Perspective
In Finland similar transitional phenomena
– the general “emancipation” of manners, crowded universities of
the large age groups born after the war, the politicalization of
student culture – were experienced in the later part of 1960s as
elsewhere in Western Europe. Focusing on a single “Nation” offers
a micro-level tool in analyzing how these structural and ideological
changes took place. Karjalainen Osakunta is one of the mid-sized
Nations, established in 1905 after division of a larger corporation.  The main recruiting area of the Nation after the war has been
the province of North Karelia (Pohjois-Karjala), a rural
and one of the poorest provinces in Finland, if measured by BNP.
After the war the regional capital Joensuu was the only significant
town of the area.
1 shows the number of the new Nation members coming from the
capital (Helsinki), provincial centre (Joensuu), the countryside
of the province (North Karelia) or other parts of Finland (1944
-1969): here it should be noted that the Nation lost some parts
of the recruiting area to Sovjet Union after the war. 
The most important feature worth noticing
is the expansion in the number of students coming from the countryside
of North Karelia. The phenomena is partly explained by the regional
politics and more effective education, but the development reflects
also one typical feature of the “Finnish case”. Still in the 1950s
Finland was by economical structure an agrarian country, and the
following social change – migration, industrialization – in the
1960s was felt strongly, especially in the areas like North Karelia.
Many of those leaving the countryside after school never came back.
“Out of my thirty classmates, only one has a permanent residence
in Nurmes”, as one senior member (born 1941) had to notice in 1983.
2 shows the development of the social background of the new
members, based on the occupation of the father. Those students,
who were second generation “academic citizens” or the social position
of the father clearly refers to the upper strata of the society,
are classified as “elite”. All the groups are, of course, heterogeneous.
Especially so is the case with the “middle class”. The classification
leaves to this group a large amount of non-academic professions
in private and public sector, which clearly differ from the groups
of farmers and workers: shopkeepers, technicians, lower officials
in state administration, railroads and army, elementary school teachers
and white-collar workers in companies. “Characteristic to the attitude
of the middle class is the struggle upwards…to reach higher wages
and greater independence, or at least to educate its children to
higher position and easier circumstances”, as Heikki Waris, one
of the path breakers in the Finnish history of education and social
structure writes.  The march of the farmers`
children to the University began already in the 1950s, and it is
explained as previously mentioned: in North Karelia the structural
change of the countryside was felt strongly. Although the education
provided opportunities to social rise, the relatively small number
and modest role of the workers` children as active members in the
Nation still indicated a certain inequality in education. 
3. Servants of the State: Some Ideological
Aspects of the Transition
In the first phase of the transition,
beginning already in the 1950s, the students of KO became
more active (“student as a citizen”) outwards, without rejecting
the traditional ideals of “academic citizenship”. The ideology of
planning had infiltrated into the state administration in the 1950s,
it was thought that the social and economic problems of the countryside
like North Karelia, could be kept in check by regional politics
and planning.  During the 1960s, KO took initiative in arranging
large conferences, in which the problems of the province were discussed
by decision-makers, experts and students: even ideas of the game
theory could be taken of help in finding solutions. The students
organized expeditions to the North Karelian countryside: in the
published reports the social sciences and quantitative methods were
gaining ground. 
The impact of political radicalism and
leftist ideology reached rural and traditional KO later than some
other student corporations. The traditional ideal of the Nations
has been that they are not involved in party-political affairs.
This has been, of course, more a subjective ideal than an objective
reality. In post-war Finnish student life, resisting “politics”
often meant in practice the same as anti-communism.
 Still in the beginning of the 1960s, the majority of the
active members of KO relied on academic traditions, local identity
and politically conservative ideology. When at the same time international
pacifistic ideas began to spread at the university, the “peace”
bagde kept by some “radical” students could be characterized by
traditionalists as a “Tupolev in take-off”. The Sovjet aeroplane
referred to the supposed source of the Peace movement.
In KO, more serious criticism against
the ideology of the Nation was to be heard around and after 1968.
In Finland the year of the European student revolution culminated
in the occupation of the Old Students´ House by the radical students
in November 1968, just before the Student Union was about to celebrate
the 100th anniversary. In a discussion held earlier
same year in KO, the students´ views of role of the Nation and academic
citizenship were clearly more diversified than a couple years earlier.
The “student as such”-approach had still supporters, but, according
to one critic, the Nation now “educates only bureaucrats for the
By the end of the 1960s, the Nations were
inevitably becoming too limited and for many students their traditionalist
world-view did not seem to match the new reality shaped by television,
global social problems and international popular culture. In KO
the downfall of the “academic citizenship” was summarized in 1969
by Jukka-Pekka Sarola, a student of sociology, who criticized the
dress code of the traditional anniversary celebration of the Nation
– dressing in white tie was obligatory – as unnecessary: 
Today it is no longer self-evident that we students become elitist
onanists (eliittinonanisti) of the society… we might end
up as unemployed graduates… When we are not integrating to this
system, it is useless to try to dress us to a hired white tie and
try to get us to believe something that we know is untrue.
The crowdedness of the universities aroused
fear that high education does not necessarily lead to a secure future
position. Already the sociologist of the 1960s classified the students
according to their subject of study: Those studying in a subject
with a lower status and worse future prospects – the expanding social
sciences belonged to this category – leaned towards radicalism.  Some historians have even explained the leftist
student radicalism as a frustration of the students because of losing
the traditional status as elite.
 Fortunately, in many cases the fear in ending up as an
unemployed graduate was only a fear. The critical student of sociology,
Jukka-Pekka Sarola, offers one example not untypical for his generation
of Nation activists. Many landed later in public sector, to work
in the universities and administration: Sarola became a lecturer
of sociology at the University of Joensuu, which had been established
To sum up, the structural changes and
ideological conflicts of the 1960s easily hide some important aspects
of continuity, which now perhaps could be seen in a new light, while
the self-evident role of the national states as a governing historical
power has been questioned because of globalization. Although the
role of the highly educated people as relatively homogenous, cultivated
national elite came to end in the 1960s, the belief in the central
role of the State remained strong. At the University, the Nations
still trained people for the needs of the national state and local
province. “Who could take better care about the conditions in Northern
Karelia than us, the Hopes of the Province, who have the best qualifications”,
could a young student of KO still ask in 1971. 
Olli Matikainen, PhD, is a researcher
at the department of history and ethnology, University of Jyväskylä.
 This article is based on my reflections
in writing the post-war history of Karjalainen Osakunta
(KO) at the University of Helsinki (Matikainen 2005). Especially
I wish to thank the senior members of KO for their valuable interviews
and comments on my texts, as well all the commentators in the
European Social Science History Conference, Berlin 24 - 27.3.2004.
 Puukello (The magazine of Karjalainen Osakunta)
 The competition in collecting social capital by
individuals, taking place in a complex system of distinctions
and hierarchies (unlike playing card, the game of chess was never
considered suspicious by the students of KO!), is stressed by
Pierre Bourdieu (1984), while in anglosaxon theoretical tradition
the effective use of social capital possessed by individuals and
associations is seen as a vital resource in creating a functional
civic society and democracy. On associations and “social capital”,
see Kaunismaa 2001, pp. 119-131.
 Klinge 1990, pp.258-261; Kolbe 1993, pp.110-128;
Kolbe 1996a, pp.272-277, 453-454; Kolbe 1996b, pp.52-53.There
has been also more specific interest in the history of the Nations,
especially by earlier historians, and various PhD theses have
been written on their 19th century history. See, for
example, Kuusisto 1978. The period after the war has, however,
aroused more analytical interest only recently: see Kokkonen 2004.
 KO meeting 15.5.1950: Archives of KO (Helsinki
 Tolvanen 1955; Saloheimo 2005.
 Source for the graphs: The Name register (Nimikirja)
of KO, vol. 2-3 (KO Archives, Helsinki University Library).
 Pieni Puukello 1983: 4.
 Kolbe 1993, pp. 425-427.
 See, for example, the reports and discussions
of Provincial Conference of North Karelia in March 1966: in Tanner
 Kolbe 1996b, pp. 58-59.
 KO meeting 12.11.1962; interviews of the senior
members of KO by the author (Matikainen 2005).
 The classification by Erik. Allardt and R. F.
Tomasson is cited by Ulf Sundqvist in a well-known collection
of pamphlets and articles of the “1968 generation”: Tyynilä 1968,
 Ylikangas 1987, p. 223. The cultural transition
of the 1960s in Finland is well discussed in Tuominen 1991.
  KO Archives: Annual report 1970, dated 30.9.1971
(Helsinki University Library).
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Name registers (Nimikirjat)
Minutes of the general meetings
Puukello (The magazine of KO)
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pääoma. In: Ilmonen, Kaj (ed.), Sosiaalinen pääoma ja luottamus
Klinge, Matti Politiikka ja korkeakoulupolitiikka.
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