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||Armas Äikiä (1904 - 1965) - pseudonyms Ami Aarto, Viljo Veijo, Liukas Luikku|
Finnish writer, Communist and journalist, a citizen of two countries, who had several collections of poems published in the Soviet Union. Äikiä was one of the few Finnish exile writers and politicians who avoided in the 1930s and 1940s Stalin's terror and forced labour camps. In Finland, when the Communist Party was banned, he spent years in prison writing defiant poems.
Vettä, leipää taivahastaan
Armas Äikiä was born in Pyhäjärvi, Carelia, the son of Matti Äikiä, a tailor, and Eeva (Koskinen) Äikiä. His formal education restricted to what he learned in the primary school. From his father, who had read Marx, Äikiä learned the basics of Communism. Later in life, he attended in Moscow the International Lenin School. At the age of 19, he moved to Helsinki, where he joined the Finnish Communist Party, outlawed since 1918. Äikiä worked as chief editor at the Communist newspapers Liekki, Itä ja Länsi, and Tiedonantaja. His early poems appeared in the anthology Vallankumousrunoja (1928). Between 1927-1928 and 1930-35 he was imprisoned because of political activities. During these years Äikiä wrote many of the poems, which were published in the 1940s in several collections.
From 1935 to 1947 Äikiä was a political refugee in the Soviet Union in the Russian Carelia. He edited the magazine Punalippu and worked for Comintern from 1938. Äikiä also contributed poems to magazines, and his works were widely introduced to the public. Laulu kotkasta (1941) centered on the Communist leader Toivo Antikainen, and Kaksi soturia, took its subject from the Winter War (1939-40). Kalterilyyra (1945) presented mostly Äikiä's vengeful prison poems, which were born in the Tammisaari penitentiary in 1927-28. Äikiä managed to survive the purges of the late 1930s. It is widely believed that he served as an informer for the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB).
During the years, when Finland was fighting against Soviet aggression, Äikiä was a member of the Soviet-backed Terijoki government in Karelia; he was appointed Minister of Agriculture, not Minister of Culture. The head of the puppet-government was the emigrant communist Otto Wille Kuusinen. Although it tried to appeal to every Finn to join in the struggle against Fascism, the Finns realized that the Soviet Union intended to occupy the country. In his words to a popular song, 'Jesli zavtra voina', Äikiä associated the Red Army with the emergence of light: "Oli tähdetön Pohjolan taivas, / oli synkeä Suomemme yö. / Valo tulkohon siis, / tuli leimahtakoon, / Puna-Armeija lahtarit lyö!" (from Taistelulauluja, ed. by S.K. Hel'man, 1941) Äikiä also served as a propaganda officer and he was a well-known radio voice, nicknamed "Räikiä" (glaring). Much later Mauri Sariola portrayed him in a comic light in Armeija piikkilankojen takana (1970), which dealt with Finnish prisoners of war in Carelia. One of the prisoners says, hesitating after his agitation, that Äikiä is like a radish – but perhaps white and Finnish inside.
After the Continuation War (1941-44), Äikiä returned in 1947 with other emigrant Communists (Tuure Lehén, Inkeri Lehtinen etc.) to Finland, where the political climate had swung to the left. However, he did not get back his citizenship. The Finnish Communist Party (SKP) had been legalized, but because of his Soviet citizenship Äikiä could not play a direct role in its activities.
Äikiä became a columnist at the newspaper Työkansan sanomat and director of the press agency Demokraattinen lehtipalvelu (DLP), which was organizationally under the new left-wing electoral alliance, SKDL (The Finnish People's Democratic Alliance). Due to Äikiä's rough style of writing, Raoul Palmgren edited much of DLP's material before it was published. Äikiä considered it a sacrilege. As a columnist he wrote in Vapaa Sana and Työkansan Sanomat under the pseudonym "Liukas Luikku" (roughly "Slippery Slinker"). On the even of the Olympic Games in Finland in 1952, Äikiä's DLP spread a rumor, that the Social Democrats have set up cheering sections to throw insults at Soviet athletes.
Until 1948, Äikiä's books appeared only in the Soviet Union, but in 1948 the Finnish publisher Kansankulttuuri printed his collection of poems, Henkipatto. Its major themes are the defeat of Nazism in the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, and capitalistic Finland after the collapse of the Finnish-German war pact. In the poem 'Maiju Lassila,' about the famous working class author killed in the Civil War (1917-18), Äikiä identified with Lassila, whose philosophical works had been received with mixed reviews.
"Te, uljaat musteentuhraajat
In cultural policy Äikiä was a hard-line Communist, who did not accept free verse. He was a strong advocate of the Soviet art theory and Socialist realism. From the major leftist writers only Elvi Sinervo enjoyed his approval, but not fully – perhaps because Sinervo had criticized his collection Henkipatto for its clumsy rhyming. Due to his orthodox opinions Äikiä came into confrontation with a number of writers, especially with Arvo Turtiainen, the chairman of the influential literary organization Kiila (the wedge). Usually Äikiä did not publicly attack people, but their opinions, which he did with a vengeance. Turtiainen rejected Stalinism, and was annoyed by Äikiä's self-made position as the foremost poet of the Finnish Communist Party. Kiila, full of leftist intellectuals wavering between international modernism and Communist internationalism, was taken over by Äikiä's ideological supporters. Turtiainen once said, that Äikiä was sent to Finland to kill the 1940s. Also his way of speaking was considered irritating by some people – he had the habit of using the rising tone at the end of a sentence.
From the late 1940s, the Marxists
literary historian Raoul Palmgren, Turtiainen's close friend, became
also Äikiä's opponent. Palmgren accused him for bourgeois moralizing, after Äikiä had attacked in Työkansan Sanomat in a short article entitled 'Kansallisteatterin tökerö teko' Eino Kalima's adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre's play Likaiset kädet (Dirty
Hands). It had premiered at the National theater in October 1948 and received praising reviews.
Aku Korhonen, cast in the role of Hoederer, a party leader, was masked to look like Stalin. Äikiä's
good contacts with the Soviet Embassy gave his writings and opinions an
extra weight. In December the Embassy sent to the Finnish
Foreign Minister Carl Enckell a note, in which the play was denounced as hostile to the Soviet Union. As a result Likaiset kädet was withdrawn from the stage.
Palmgren had his own
reservation about Sartre, but he warned of too rigid political views.
Palmgren was first supported by Hertta Kuusinen, Otto Ville Kuusinen's
daughter. Eventually he lost his battle against hard-liners, and
had to resign from the party in 1952 and from his work as the editor of
Vapaa Sana. His successor at the newspaper was Jarno Pennanen.
From the mid-1950s Kiila was more independent in its relation
to the Communist movement, but attempts were made to undermine its
position. It is possible that Äikiä was one of the initiators behind
Boris Leontyev's attack on Pennanen in 1963 in Literaturnaya Gazeta, the
mouthpiece of the Union of Soviet Writers. Leontyev branded in
his article Pennanen's Tilanne
magazine as "dirty" and its contributors as "vile cowards". Pennanen
was Kiila's board member at that time and Äikiä objected from the
beginning Kiila's decision to write a letter in his defence.
Äikiä's literary production consists also of non-fiction,
translations from Russian, and at least one book written in Russian. His major work in the 1960s was Laulaja tulivuoren juurella: Kössi Kaatran
elämä ja työ (1962), about an
early Finnish proletarian poet, who died in 1928 at the
age of 46. When
Elmer Diktonius had criticized Kössi Kaatra for using rhyme,
which he dismissed as "old-fashioned" and "bourgeois," Äikiä defended
Kaatra and made a difference between content and form in revolutionary
Towards the end of his life, Äikiä suffered from alcoholism and did not write much. Äikiä died in Helsinki on November 20, 1965. His fiction is mostly forgotten, partly due to its ideological content, and wooden, declamatory expression. The titles of his book have a masculine sound – Kaksi soturia (Two warriors), Tulikehässä (In a ring of fire), Henkipatto (Outlaw). Äikiä's Mayakovsky translations have been praised, but among others Raoul Palmgren did not accept his pointed vulgarity. Turtiainen's translation of Mayakovsky's elegy on Lenin, published in 1970, became more popular than Äikiä's earlier version from 1947.