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||Aarno Karimo (1886-1952) - surname until 1906 Hasselqvist|
Finnish soldier, painter, writer, best known for his four-volume Kumpujen yöstä (1929-32), a collection of historical stories from stone age to the independence struggle of Finland. The work, which was a bestseller, appealed to the nationalist sentiments of the time. Aarno Karimo's second major opus, Kuva-Kalevala (1952-53), designed and illustrated by the author, was published posthumously.
"Tämä jo hautansa partaalla seisonut, erämaiden pimennoissa piilevä kansa osasi säilyttää kurjuutensakin keskellä henkensä lahjat. Puukelloilla, kun muuta ei enää ollut, se soitti kansan kokoon palveleman Jumalaa, puuaapisella, kun muita ei enää ollut, se opetti poikansa lukemaan. Totisesti tämä kansa ei ole kuoleva kansa." (from Kumpujen yöstä III, 1931)
Karimo was born in Parikkala, the son of Sanfrid
Hasselqvist, a farmer, and Ida Matilda (Forsblom) Hasselqvist. After
attending the Lappeenranta co-educational school, he studied art from 1905 to 1906
Taideyhdistyksen piirustuskoulu (Art Association's Drawing School) and
then continued his studies in St. Petersburg (1907-08). In 1914 he married Aino Olivia Lindqvist. His first
exhibition Karimo held
From 1910 Karimo worked in Viipuri for the magazine Karjala
as an illustrator, columnist and theatre critic. He also contributed to the liberal magazine Velikulta,
one of the most popular of the period, which also featured drawings and
other works from such artists as Hjalmar Löfving, Aleksander Federley,
and Jalmari Ruokokoski. Moreover, he worked for the leftist humor
magazine Piiska, in spite of
being an upright conservative. Many of the humor magazines, which
published drawings, were short lived and paid little or nothing to
During the Finnish
Civil War, Karimo was a battery leader in White Guards on Carelian Front. Later he depicted his experiences in Valkoinen armeija
(1928) and other writings. After the war, the young government did not
believe in the future of the Civil Guards, and planned to suppress
them. But because of the lobbying of influential groups and activist,
the organization was legalized and established again.
the years 1918 and 1925, Karimo served in Viipuri as the
district administrator of the Civil Guard. There, with colonel Adolf Aminoff
and the Jager captain Urho Sihvonen he arranged in 1919 the first
jubilee Finland's War of Independence, which became an
integral component of the city's public image for the next twenty
years. In 1926 he was appointed Editor-in-Chief of Hakkapeliitta,
the weekly magazine of the Finnish Civil Guard. Karimo created the
cover illustrations for several issues. He left the magazine in 1927.
"Pääsemme tänä iltana yhä varmempaan vakaumukseen siitä asiasta, että Saksaa eivät enää hallitse germaanit, vaan juutalaiset, tämä "valittu kansa", jonka suuria avuja päntätään valkoisten lasten päähän jokaisella uskontotunnilla . . . Maailman seuraava suuri tehtävä tulee olemaan epäilemättä olemaan yhä polttavamman juutalaiskysymyksen ratkaiseminen, mutta läheskään kaikkien ihmisten silmät eivät vielä ole avautuneet." (from Germaaneja, 1930)
In the scienfe fiction novel Kohtalon
kolmas hetki (1926,
The Third Moment of Fate), published by Schildt,
Karimo predicted a war between Finland and
Russia. The story, set in 1967-68, is a full-blooded
representative of the Greater Finland ideology. Like in the First World
War, lethal gas is used on the battlefield. (Noteworthy, Finland had
signed in 1925 the Geneva Gas Protocol, which prohibited the use of
poisonous gases in international armed conflicts; the Soviet Union
ratified it with a reservation in 1928.) At the end, the technically
army crushes the Russians with the help of miracle weapons and a
descendant of the legendary conqueror Dzenghis Khan.
The story was originally published in a serialized form in the journal Hakkapeliitta.
Karimo's illustrations show the influence of American pulp magazines.
The idea of an oncoming war against the Soviet Union was not new.
Already in Jalmari Kara's novel Suur-Isänmaa
(1918, The Great Fatherland) St. Petersburg is totally destroyed in
1946. After a short stint at the publishing house WSOY, Karimo became a
freelance writer and journalist.
Karimo's four-volume, richly illustrated Kumpujen yöstä (From the Night of Tombs) was a great commercial success, and a valued gift, which in Finnish homes had for decades a special place in the bookshelf. The first edition of Kumpujen yöstä was a child of its time – it reflected Finland's new national identity, the search of nation's roots from its mythical heroic past and from the rich medieval picture world.
While still working on the tetralogy, Karimo made a journey to Germany. In Germaaneja (1930) Karimo reflected his impressions of the political and social situation of the country. He wrote on critically demonstrations of the workers, saw impressive military parades and visited several restaurants. Karimo's antisemitic attitude casts a dark shadow on his travelogue – his opinions about the solving of the "Jewish problem" are straight from Nazi propaganda. But Karimo was not alone with his views, although he was perhaps one of the most outspoken ones. The most visible promoters of German culture in Finland in the 1930s and '40s were V.A. Koskenniemi and Maila Talvio.
"Matkakirjassaan "Germaaneja" Aarno Karimo kuvaa käyntiään eräässä ylellisessä, vasta avatussa berliiniläisessä tanssiravintolassa. Vieraiden joukossa oli rasvainen juutalainen pankkiirityyppi silmiinpistävästi etualalla. Tämä Gobseck tanssitti vaaleita germaanilaisia kaunottaria, jotka eivät moraalisesti olleet ihanteellisella kannalla. Aineellisempaa ja aistillisempaa tilannetta ei ole. Karimo liittää kuvaukseensa mietelmiä, joissa hän lausuu ihmettelynsä siitä, kuinka kauan tämä materialistinen juutalainen herruus saattaa jatkua." (Rafael Koskimies in Kirjallisia näköaloja, 1936)
Miehiä ja miehenalkuja, a collection of Karimo's autobiographical stories, came
in 1936. Both as a storyteller and illustrator Karimo was influenced by
romantic patriotism. His
political views were dominated by Greater Finland movement and the
historically deep-rooted idea of the Soviet Union as an unreliable,
unpredictable, and hostile neighbour. For Arne Somersalo, an influential
member of the far-right People's Patriotic Movement (IKL) and editor
of Ajan Suunta magazine, Karimo designed the cover of Lapuan tie
(1930). In this book Somersalo defended the fascist Lappo movement and
its anti-democratic, violent activities.
Karimo admired President Svinhufvud, the leading conservative in the 1930s, and C.G. Mannerheim. The marshal's baton, which Karimo had designed, was relatively heavy and Mannerheim used it only on special occasions. The baton was hollow and contained the letter of his appointment.
At the beginning of the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union (1941-44), Karimo served at the Headquarters, where he put his artistic talents into creating medals of honors. Hostilities ended in September 1944. Following an order of the so-called Valvontakomissio (Controlling Commission led by the Soviets), "politically incorrect" books were removed from public libraries, among them some of Karimo's works. Kumpujen yöstä was published again in 1953-54, but in an abridged edition, in which patriotic pathos was softened and many violent images were left out.
Karimo's compelling and entertaining stories of Finnish history reached young and old readers. He was a friend of the painter and graphic artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931), and Sakari Pälsi (1882-1965), the archeologist, folklorist, and explorer, who wrote such highly popular juvenile novels as Ja sitten äitini antoi minulle tukkapöllyä (1931) and Fallesmannin Arvo ja minä (1932). As an expert in ethnology Pälsi also helped Karimo especially in the first part of Kumpujen yöstä. Several of Karimo's books were illustrated by colour reproductions from his own paintings or drawings.
A number of original paintings made for Kumpujen yöstä was sold in an exhibition at Galleria Strindberg in the 1930s to private collections. Karimo's paintings and drawings also ended up in the National Museum and War Museum. Aarno Karimo died in Helsinki, on March 13, 1952.
Like many writers of the far-right who desired a Greater
Finland, Karimo kept a low profile after the war. History offered an
outlet for his creativity. Kuva-Kalevala
(Pictures of Kalevala), a richly illustrated edition of the national epic, was published by
Pellervo-Seura in 1953. It was aimed at to be a Gesamtkunstwerk, a work of book art, in
which graphic design would merge seamlessly with the world of the
poems. Basically, it was the same concept of a well-made book, that William Morris
(1834-1896) developed in his time. With the leather-back binding, the
work was meant to be impressive – moverover, compared to
Gallen-Kallela's steady-seller Koru-Kalevala
(16 x 23 cm) from 1922, it was much bigger (21,5 cm x 30 cm). Karimo's
ideas were never fully realized. He had began to plan it after the war,
managed to finish all full-page pictures. Following Karimo's sketches,
the artist Hugo Otava completed some of the smaller pictures at the
beginning of the chapters.
For further reading: Kamppailun, kurituksen ja kauhun kuvat: väkivallan merkitykset Kumpujen yöstä -teoksen kuvituksissa by Anniina Mikkonen (pro gradu -tutkielma, 2011); Rumpu ja miekka: näkökulmia sotilasperinteeseen, ed. by Markus Anaja (2007); 'Karimo, Aarno,' by Mikko Uola, in Suomen kansallisbiografia, ed. by Matti Klinge, et al. (2004); Aarno Karimon kalevalainen kansa by Varpu Wilska (1989). Note: Literature histories have mostly ignored Karimo's work. The author is not mentioned in A History of Finnish Literature by Jaakko Ahokas (1973), Suomen kirjallisuuden historia by Kai Laitinen (1998), and A History of Finland's Literature, edited by George C. Schoolfield (1998)