Author Topic: "Kejsaren i skärgården" / The Emperor in the Archipelago  (Read 6148 times)

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Naslednik Norvezhskiy

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"Kejsaren i skärgården" / The Emperor in the Archipelago
« on: April 15, 2010, 07:10:01 PM »
As promised here are a few words about a great book:

Original Finnish title: Keisarit kesalomalla Suomessa. Venäjän keisarien matkat Suomessa (= The Emperors' summer vacations in Finland. Russian Emperors' trips in Finland.) Published by Atena Kustannus Oy, 2002. ISBN 951-796-287-8.
Title of the Swedish translation: Kejsaren i skärgården. Den ryska tsarfamiljens sommarvistelser i Finland. (= The Emperor in the Archipelago. The Russian Tsar Family's summer vists to Finland.)
Title of the Russian translation: Императоры на отдыхе в Финляндии. (= The Emperors on Holiday on Finland.)
Authors: Jorma and Päivi Tuomi-Nikula.

I see that there are many online references to it, so if you are interested it's easy to find ISBN, publisher etc. for the edition you want. I read the Swedish translation.
Since it's such a great book, it's a pity it hasn't been translated into English. If anybody here have contacts with publishers who publish Romanov stuff, I'd strongly suggest you recommend it to them for an edition in English.

I don't really recommend getting it just for the pictures, because they are mostly the ones from the Beinecke albums and other family snapshots featured on the forum. What makes the book unique is how it reads as a running commentary to those pictures - a flow of delightful anecdotes. There really are so many that I feel like quoting the entire book! The book deals with all the emperors from Alexander I, who made an interesting tour through Northern Finland, but concentrates on Alexander III and MF - and NAOTMAA. Their Finnish visits were quite different:

AIII and MF's visits were characterized by rather relaxed security (in contrast to Russian conditions). MF, who could speak to and be understood by Swedish-speaking Finlanders, loved semi-official visits to small towns and villages where she could interact with the locals, shop in local shops, visit schools and simple people's homes. AIII on the other hand, who relied on his wife as interpreter, loved to find himself an isolated skerry where he could fish undisturbed. But he also liked to meet the simple, robust fishermen and women who in many ways resembled himself.

He became especially good friends with a toothless old fisherwoman, Serafina Lindblad on Högsåra, nicknamed Kejsar-Fina or Imperial Fina, who once had brusquely asked the burly, strong man standing on a quay to help her, poor old woman, lifting some heavy stuff out of her boat, not knowing it was the Emperor! They became good friends and in the following years she always provided the IF with lots of fresh fish when they came to her island. MF even corresponded with her from her xile in Denmark.

There are lots of such anecdotes about AIII: That even the Emperor and Autocrat of All Russia had to comply with various local fishing regulations and other demands made by local officials, who either didn't know who they were dealing with or insisted that all were equals in the eyes of the law. AIII always complied, knowing that the Finns were quite different from the Russians in these matters. And of course the Finns loved him for that.

MF always adviced her husband to uphold Finland's autonomy and respect Finnish symbols. (E.g. baring his head while the Finnish anthem was played and allowing the originally anti-Russian military March of Björneborg/Pori's Regiment to be played.) It's quite interesting how much politics there were in these innocent summer trips. One could say that the IF bought some popularity too, because everybody they met and all local officials they dealt with received amazing gifts or tips in the form of cash, gold watches and other precious souvenirs.

Of course AIII and MF's love of Finland was crowned with their fishing lodge at Langinkoski where they spent very happy times. Less well known is the fact that they also planned on going on a cruise up the Gulf of Bothnia and that a cabin was built for them in Avasaksa high up on Finnish Lapland, where they wanted to experience the midnight sun. But they never made it that far north.

NAOTMAA's Finnish holidays were of a different character: While NII as a young Grand Duke had been severely reprimanded by a Finnish farmer for dismantling a fence in order to get his entourage closer to a famous waterfall, it's signifcant that when OTMA wreaked havoc with some timber stacks on an island by the Bay of Shtandart, the merchant's guardsman who was watching them was most concerned with burying his gun in the sand, because he would be arrested as a terrorist if he was caught with a gun in the presence of the Grand Duchesses. But nevertheless a local managed to give Alexei a good telling-off when he destroyed some local children's play things on the beach!

The whole Vederlax / Virolahti area was in a state of emergency during the IF's stay. A British lumber ship was actually shot at because it had come too close to the Imperial ships! In order to limit the potentially terroristic activity on the water, the locals were forbidden to go about their fishing and received thousands of roubles in compensation! Interestingly NII was not interested in the democratic sport of (sea) fishing, like his father. He preferred hunting, on a riduculous scale: Whole islands were shut off and lots of locals engaged as beaters just so that the Emperor in some instances could shoot no more than a single rabbitt!

NAOTMAA did not have much interaction with the locals because of the strict security measures and because of the language barrier. (It is often claimed that NII knew some Danish from his mother, but the Virolahti area was quite monolingually Finnish anyway.) NII also became increasingly unpopular in Finland as his government started Russification and limiting Finland's autonomy.

But still old people in the area could remember encountering the Tsar walking on the local roads. He smiled and greeted them politely in Finnish. There were a few instances however when the IF met with the locals. For instance in 1913 locals were invited to an al fresco supper and dance on the island of Paatio close to the Bay of Shtandart. The young fishermen discussed who should have the honour of asking the Emperor's eldest daughter for a dance. A certain Matti Mikkola assembled the courage to ask the Grand Duchess Olga for a dance and they danced a polka in the Nordic midsummer night....

As you can see, you HAVE to read this fantastically charming book, even if means learning Russian, Swedish or Finnish!
« Last Edit: April 15, 2010, 07:12:16 PM by Fyodor Petrovich »

Naslednik Norvezhskiy

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Re: "Kejsaren i skärgården" / The Emperor in the Archipelago
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2010, 09:49:55 PM »
While NII as a young Grand Duke had been severely reprimanded by a Finnish farmer for dismantling a fence in order to get his entourage closer to a famous waterfall,

Upon checking - a correction: It was not Nicholas, but his aunt Maria and uncles Pavel and Sergei, who as young Grand Duchess and Grand Dukes had met rather fierce resistance from some Finnish farm boys when they and their entourage destroyed a fence.

The widely circulated story that AIII ordered the Russification of the Finnish postal service because a Finnish postmistress had denied him service when he wanted to pay for stamps with roubles instead of Finnish marks was probably not true, but it shows how much importance the Finns placed on legality and the law being the same for all - and that obeying this principle was a key to the hearts of the Emperor's Finnish subjects. E.g. AIII returning all the crayfish his entourage had catched to the sea when a local policeman came complaining that it was forbidden to catch crayfish at that time of the year.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2010, 09:54:08 PM by Fyodor Petrovich »

Offline Georgiy

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Re: "Kejsaren i skärgården" / The Emperor in the Archipelago
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2010, 12:56:25 AM »
Where can I get a copy in Swedish from via the internet?

Naslednik Norvezhskiy

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Re: "Kejsaren i skärgården" / The Emperor in the Archipelago
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2010, 05:45:42 AM »
Where can I get a copy in Swedish from via the internet?
From the Finnish publisher of the Swedish translation: Schildts
« Last Edit: April 19, 2010, 05:47:36 AM by Fyodor Petrovich »

Naslednik Norvezhskiy

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Re: "Kejsaren i skärgården" / The Emperor in the Archipelago
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2010, 02:08:22 AM »
Those who wonder what the IF's Finnish holidays really were like, can of course get a good feeling by reading (or watching) Astrid Lindgren's children classics  "Vi på Saltkråkan" / "Life on Seacrow Island", which take place (in the 1960s) in the neighbouring Archipelago of Stockholm on the other side of Åland.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2010, 02:13:03 AM by Fyodor Petrovich »