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Severi Nuormaa (1865-1924) - surname until 1906 Nyman


Finnish journalist, educator and poet, who assisted the poet Arvid Genetz (1848-1915) during his journeys in Carelia and East-Russia. Severi Nuormaa was influenced among others by the Swedish poet Viktor Rydberg (1828-1895), whose lyrics he translated into Finnish. During the period from the late 19th-century to the early 20th-century, when Russian government started to integrate Finland more firmly with the rest of the Empire, Nuormaa's patriotic works had a deep influence on public opinion and strengthened opposition against Russian authorities.

Nyt valitkaa!
Joko orjan kieli
ja orjan mieli
ja orjan omatunto,
tai Suomen kieli
ja Suomen mieli
ja Suomen tunto ja kunto
Nyt valitkaa!
Joko kulta ja kullan kunniaa,
tai isänmaa!

(from Runoja, uusi sarja, 1900)

Severi Nuormaa was born in Pälkäne, the son of Reinhold Nyman, a blacksmith and farmer, and Helena Salomontytär. Reinhold Nyman gained fame as a blacksmit but he never became wealthy. In one poem Nuormaa depicts his father, who works in his smithy, all in a swelter, and later carries his son home with his strong arms: "Kylän lapset ne vain näki raatavan sun hikivirrassa huoaten, kylpein, mut minä, min' olin ylpein, käsivars se kun kantoi kotihin mun." Nuormaa's sharp mind and eagerness to learn caught the attention of his primary school teachers, who encouraged him to continue his studies. Although the family was poor, his parents decided to send him to Helsinki and Hämeenlinna for higher education.

Nuormaa graduted from the Hämeenlinna lyceum in 1888. The next year, he travelled with the linguist Arvid Genetz in Eastern Russia, collecting folklore and linguistic material. Their journey to the Urals took half a year, and Nuormaa wrote during this period some of his earlies poems, such as 'Näköala Kremliltä' and 'Näköala Uralilta'. Between the years 1891 and 1893, Nuormaa edited the newspaper Hämeen Sanomat.

In 1893, Nuormaa received his M.A. from the University of Helsinki. He then worked as a director of Etelä-Häme folk high school (1894-1898), resigning when the newspaper Hämetär criticized his teaching. Upon founding the Worker's Institute of Tampere, he became its first director. In 1894, Nuorvala married Hilja Dagmar Ernestine Wendell, the daughter of a district police superintendent, who was politically active in the passive resistance movement against Russia. She also participated in many ways in municipal politics in Turku.

To collect material for his doctoral thesis, Nuormaa visited the universities of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, Copenhagen, and Uppsala. A highly popular and outspoken orator, his speeches arose suspicion among Russian authorities, who had started campaign to restrict freedoms. He also angered clerical circles in 1902, when he accused the Church of forgetting the oppressed. "Kuinka kova onkaan se uskon käsitys, joka tahtoo lyödä jo lyötyä, sortaa jo ennestään sorrettua. Kuvittelen mielessäni maassa makaavan sidotun raukan, jota piestään ja tallataan, ja jonkun uskonnon kannalta vaientavan kärsivän liikahduksia: olet paha, nöyristy, nöyristy! Epäilemättä Jumala sanoisi moiselle lphduttajalle, niinkuin hän sanoin Jobin ystäville: te ette ole oikein minuista puhuneet."

After General-Governor Bobrikov received several letters from informers, Nuormaa was dismissed from his office at the Worker's Institute of Tampere. To avoid arrest, he left the country. Between the years 1903 and 1905, Nuormaa lived with his wife and three children in the United States. With Eero Erkko, also exiled, he edited the Amerikan Kaiku (American Echo) in New York. The newspaper was founded in 1904, its circulation was 4,000 copies. For a short time, the Amerikan Kaiku was a leader among immigrant papers, partly thanks to Nuormaa's humorous sketches, which he wrote under the pseudonym 'Rannanjärven Jukka'. 

Following his return back to Finland, Nuormaa edited the newspapers Tampereen Sanomat (1905) and Helsingin Sanomat (1906-09). He also wrote for the magazine Kodin Kuvasto, (1911-1914), and then for the newspaper Turun Sanomat (1919-24). While in Tampere, he frequented the City Hotel restaurant near Tampere Cathedral, where Hugo Simberg was finishing his frescoes. In the aftermath of the Sveaborg rebellion, when the government tightened its control over the press, Nuormaa took a vacation from Helsingin Sanomat, and went to Berlin; the staff raised questions about his leadership. Moreover, he entered into conflict with Eero Erkko. After resigning from his post, Nuormaa left Helsinki for Turku.

In the last decade of his life, Nuormaa worked as the director of the Finnish Workers's Institute of Turku (1908-1918). At one point, the institute was put under the surveillance of the tsarist police. His students at the Turku Finnish Classical Lyceum included Martti Haavio, the future poet P. Mustapää and professor of folklore at the University of Helsinki.

"Samaran-Ufan rautatiellä elok. 2 p. Aro, tukahduttava kuumuus. Vaunusta on loppunut vesi. Eräällä asemalla oli tatari tullut tarjoamaan suuresta, mustasta pullosta kumiskaa (hevosen maidosta tehtyä juomaa) ja olimme juoneet sitä kumpikin 3-4 lasillista. Oikaisetessamme penkillä toisiamme vastapäätä Genetz alkoi viheltää iloista säveltä, ja minä olin näkevinäni, että hänen silmänsä loistivat kummallisesti. Vihdoin hän kohottausi paikallaan ja sanoi: - Kuule, minä luulen, että me olemme juovuksissa!" (Nuormaa's foreword in Muistoja ja toiveita by Arvi Jännes, 1918)

The period, during which Nuormaa published his major works, was marked by resistance to Russification policies. National themes dominated literature, and deep tensions and social unrest burst into the surface with the Great Strike of 1905. In the wake of the great name change of  1906, he  Finnicized his surname from  Nyman to Nuormaa. His son Arvi, a journalist and translator, recalled once in an article, that his father was totally unmusical and had great troubles with the rhythm. Thus, while writing a poem, he often drummed a metronomic rhythm on the table with his finger. Among Nuormaa's close friends in Helsinki was Eino Leino, a master Fiinnish poetic forms, who greatly influenced his writing.

Kotoisilla rannoilla (1895), Nuormaa's first collection of poems, came out  under the name Severi Nyman. It ws followed by Runoja (1900), Seitsemän runoa (1902), Elämän ulapoilla (1904). These collections were characterized by enthusiastic patriotism, forcible rhythms, idealism, and solemnity. In reviewing Runoja, Juhani  Aho suggested that one of the poems should be set to music by Jean Sibelius, but otherwise the book did not impress him (... "a campfire in the woods, that don't light up the clouds...") Nuormaa published also studies, and translated into Finnish works from such authors as Alexander Petöfi (1892) and Viktor Rydberg (1896). From 1906 to 1908, he was the chairman of the Writers' Association. The Finnish Civil War (1917-18) left Nuormaa politically disillusioned. Some of his friends were killed by the Reds. As a poet he felt he had lived past his own time.

Following the defeat of the Reds in the war, Nuormaa resingned from his office at the workers' institute. For a short time, he edited in Helsinki the military propaganda magazine Sotilas-Viikkolehti (Soldier Weekly Magazine). As a humanist, who read Homer, Horace, and Heinrich Heine, and associated with writers and artists, Nuormaa was not happy with this kind of assignment. Much of his free time he spent in the company of Leino and Larin Kyösti, discussing poetry and the life.

On the invitation of Arvo Ketonen, the managing director of Turun Sanomat, an influential regional newspaer, he returned to Turku to work as its editor in chief. During the last years of his life, he became interested in Theosophy. Nuormaa died of pneumonia on June 11, 1924, in Turku. A postcard greetings, which his friend Eino Leino had sent him, arrived a few days later, with the question is he still writing: "Vieläkö helskytät, hei, / tätä suomesi soipoa kieltä: / Veljesi Eino Leino." Nuormaa's last book, Risti ja runo, came out in 1922. It was more personal than the previous collections, which were coloured by political and social upheavals. Nuormaa's daughter Sirkka Ruotsalainen became the first editor of the Finnish Donald Duck magazine (Aku Ankka). Nuormaa has sunk into oblivion as a poet. Jaakko Ahokas says briefly in A History of Finnish Literature (1973), that he "published a few collections of poetry between 1985 and 1922." His name is not mentioned in A History of Finland's Literature (1998), edited by George C. Schoolfield.

For further reading: Uudempi suomalainen kirjallisuus I-II by O.A. Kallio (1928); 'Severi Nuormaa,' in Aleksis Kivestä Martti Merenmaahan (1954); Severi Nuormaa: Kansansivistäjä, sanomalehtimies, runoilija by Urho Verho (1956); Suomen kirjallisuus IV: Minna Canthista Eino Leinoon, ed. by Matti Kuusi, Simo Konsala (1965); 'Routavuosien Severi Nuormaa' by Marja Niiniluoto, in Helsingin Sanomat (15.10.1965); Aikuiskasvattaja Severi Nuormaa by Matti Peltonen (1981); Matkan määränä kansan menestys by Raimo Vahtera (2004); Kansan, sivistyksen tähden: Severi Nuormaan vaiheita kansallisen murroksen vuosina by Mauri Nest (2005); Valistajia, sivistäjiä, poliitikkoja ja asiantuntijoita: näkökulmia aikuiskasvatuksen kentän vaikuttajiin, edited by Kari Kantasalmi ja Mauri Nest (2014); Loistavat Erkot: patruunat ja heidän päätoimittajansa by Antti Blåfield (2014) - Note: Oskar Merikanto's song 'Kuin hiipuva hiillos' was based on Nuormaa's poem, Selim Palmgren set several of his poems to music. 

Selected works:

  • Runoja / Alexander Petöfi, 1892  (translator)
  • Kotoisilla rannoilla, 1895
  • Uusi Grottenlaulu / Viktor Rydberg, 1896  (translator)
  • 'Hengen vapaus', 1898
  • Kansanomaisesta opetustavasta, 1899
  • Runoja: uusi sarja, 1900
  • Joulujutelmia, 1901 (editor)
  • Luominen. Oratoriumi / Franz Joseph Haydn, 1902 (translator)
  • Seitsemän runoa, 1902
  • Elämän ulapoilla, 1904
  • Lukemisia lapsille / Zacharias Topelius, 1905 (translator, with others)
  • Taistelujen mainingeissa, 1909
  • Adolf Ivar Arwidssonin tutkimuksia ja kirjoitelmia, 1909 (translator, with Edv. Rein)
  • Kultaisilta vuosisadoilta: siirtomaatalous Europan kansallisrikkauksien perustuksena, 1909
  • Niin olkoon: runoja, 1915
  • Meren kaupunki: Uudenkaupungin 300-vuotisjuhlaan, 1917
  • Suomen sotilaan ja suojeluskuntalaisen muistikirja, 1919 (editor)
  • Risti ja runo: runoja, 1922
    - "Kokoelma sisältää runoja isänmaallisista juhlarunoista ja subjektiivisia helkähdyksiä aina satiireihin saakka. Nuormaa on aikanaan niittänyt parhaat laakerinsa aatteellis-isänmaallisissa runissa; niiden miehekäs mahtiponsi helähtää tässäkin viimeisessä kokoelmassa - herkkien ja hauraitten tunnelmapalasten keskellä - siellä täällä." (Lauri Pohjanpään, in Arvosteleva luettelo, 1922)
  • Kotoisilta rannoilta taistelujen maininkeihin: Severi Nuormaan valitut runot, 2006 (edited by Mauri Nest)

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