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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.
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
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
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
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
In the last decade of his life, Nuormaa worked as the
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).
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.