First killed by war, then disease. Between 1918 and 1920, tens of millions of people died from the Spanish flu, an influenza pandemic, the highest estimate being one hundred million. There were more than 20,000 victims in Finland, but less than in the civil war.
Virtually everyone lost loved ones and friends on battlefields, prison camps, and sick beds. The growing generation learned through the heel that life was unpredictable and the end was by chance. To forget it, it threw itself into amusement. The happy 1920s began.
On the bus a different atmosphere. Helsinki – Nurmijärvi route in the 1920s.
Photo: Helsinki City Museum
Happy, who is happy? Tapio, the son of a single parent, attended primary school in Tampere. Mom cooked porridge from breadcrumbs. That wasn't enough, and sometimes Tapio stole his hunger. When he got the right to free school food, it had to run to eat at another school. For the purchase of the shoes, the teacher no longer wanted to give a vote of support because she did not believe that her mother’s money would be so scarce. For a week, Tapio walked to school in his mother’s old shoes, then the teacher finally realized that the emergency was real.
Future Olympic medalist and singer favorite Tapio Rautavaara was kicked out of luck when he got to sell magazines to train passengers. It earned as much as a professional mason.
“I don’t know if that week of torment raised me in any way. Perhaps it later added to the need to empower oneself. Maybe in the future it made me throw further out of the spear and sing so that people will definitely listen and forget other things, like what kind of shoes I have, ”Tapio Rautavaara said in his memoirs.
But there is no denying that life also improved. Finnish industry reached a pre-World War II level in 1922. Annual industrial growth in the 1920s was generally around 8%, compared to 21st-century China.
Finland industrialized rapidly. Steam engines gave power to industrial plants.
Photo: National Board of Antiquities
The stagnation of social reforms in the 1910s was one of the mainstays of the Civil War. Now independent Finland made them quick so that it would not happen again. A centralized social administration was established. In 1928, the law on weekly annual leave was passed.
“Summer vacation starts tomorrow, social legislation has come so far that it has imposed on him seven working days of summer vacation for many years. This is again one of those crumbs that every now and then after fierce battles drips from the table of MPs, ”Toivo Pekkanen described the feelings of his alter ego Samuel Oino in the novel In the Shadow of the Factory. Pekkanen worked hard in his hard work while starting his career as a writer in the 1920s. Published in 1932 in the shadow of the Factory was his breakthrough.
Tapio Rautavaara moved with his mother from Tampere to Oulunkylä near Helsinki. After six classes, he left school and went to work in the commercial garden. Luck favored him when he became a magazine boy, selling magazines to train passengers. It earned as much as a professional mason.
Trap's medical dreams collapsed when it became clear that her mother could not afford to train her as a student. High School Ansa had attended a free student place.
The father of a Finnish family who fled the St. Petersburg revolution died of lung disease, and his mother worked at Pasila's machine shop as a painter. Life was scarce and the disappointments great. The movies brought comfort.
Greta Garbo was the sparkling star of the 20th century.
Photo: JT Vintage
“Plays and movies were my life. But the film was different after all, ”Ansa Ikonen recalled.
“The film was seductive in that way. It took the thoughts completely. ”
He admired Hollywood stars, Mary Pickford and Greta Garbo. Garbo was originally Greta Gustafsson from Stockholm. Maybe Trap could become a big star too? And it came in the 1930s, albeit only in Finland.
Operetta The happy widow drew the crowd.
Photo: Photo studio Ortho
After World War I, American entertainment truly captured the imagination of the world. At first, dreams could only be watched, as the screen was still dumb in the early 1920s. The pictures told of a passionate way of life somewhere far away.
Fitzgerald's Golden Hat (1925) accurately describes the post-war jazz generation.
Photo: Mondadori Portfolio / Zuma
The United States had only had time to go to World War I but lost more than 100,000 men. A significant proportion of them died of Spanish disease. In the United States, it claimed at least five times as many civilian casualties. There, too, was a feverish need to escape the oppressive reality.
The entertainment that was created for that - movies and jazz - spread all over the world. In the United States, the troubled generation interpreter was author F. Scott Fitzgerald.
There was no Fitzgerald in Finland, but Olavi Paavolainen was.
“We haven’t‘ invented ’modernity yet! There is no individual ascended with the gifts of the seer and fortune-teller who would have revealed its secrets to the eyes of men directly to the essence of time and with the mighty power of the word. When reading the latest Finnish literature in Meikä, you can still think that he is still alive at a time when his father bought a lamp or the postman's bicycle made all the children of the village run after him, ”Paavolainen wrote.
The students of the Helsinki University of Technology organized masks at the student union house.
Photo: Rosenberg Harald
Paavolainen left his modesty without saying that Finland did have a modern-day prophet. He himself.
According to Paavolainen, Helsinki was the most modern capital of Europe after Berlin and Stockholm. After all, there was an electric light, and Hanko got to New York by ship in nine days. The haircut was part of “the female profile of the stern walled river”. After all, we lived in the neighborhood of “European political priority,” Soviet Russia. Finland could not be in the final train.
Home party for a 1920s model. It was also possible to circumvent the Prohibition Act.
Photo: Rosenberg Harald / Helsinki City Museum
Paavolainen celebrated a world filled with noise. It came from machines, cars and a new invention, radio. He wrote excitedly about the new art trends, futurism and dada in Europe.
"We do not live in the Middle Ages but in the twentieth century!", Paavolainen declared.
He was a chameleon who changed color according to the situation and sucked in new ideas. It always made Paavolainen a man in the right place, a world-class observer. Eventually, over the decades, the colors faded and Paavolainen's enthusiasm diluted to the bottom of the bottle. He has been followed for decades by little people from Espoo, who testify to how Helsinki is just becoming New York. So far this has not been the case.
The big city is growing. Asphalt soup on Helsinki's Kruununhaa on Vironkatu in the 1920s and 1930s.
Photo: Havas Kalle / Helsinki City Museum
Toivo Pekkala describes Samuel's life in the shadow of the Factory at the end of the book:
“He has to close this booth every day for eight hours to file tools. A fluctuation in the London or New York Stock Exchange could dramatically change his living conditions. What happens to Europe happens to him too. And at the moment, it seems that Europe is rotting before him. ”
Spring Carnival at Helsinki Market Square with a statue of Havis Amanda in the 1920s or 1930s.
Photo: Havas Kalle / Helsinki City Museum
In fact, Samuel hates his job at the factory but knows there would be other takers for it. Must be grateful when “there are twenty million unemployed in the world”.
In late October 1929, the New York Stock Exchange experienced its worst collapse of the century. Panic and unfortunate economic policy measures only made matters worse. The recession spread throughout the world and the political order was shaken. In many countries, the Iron Stake trampled on the delicate sprouts of democracy.
Bakery worker at Elanto's bread factory in Sörnäinen, Helsinki, now Hämeentie.
Photo: Sundström Eric / Helsinki City Museum
In Finland, the economic situation was worst in 1930 and 1931. Many lost their jobs, many hosted their farms. Freight trains ran “job-seekers” like in the United States.
The railway bookstore also fired its newspaper boy. Tapio Rautavaara found himself on the edge of the Oulunkylä sports field knocking out stones exploded from a rock into rubble. In return for unemployment work received food vouchers, not money. In the cold of winter, well-to-do people came to sigh in misery. Then Rautavaara reached the Padasjoki log site.
“From time to time, that herd of gossip seemed downright satisfied and grateful to be somewhere. It was as if our happiness had been gratification, ”Rautavaara recalled.
The 1920s began bitterly and ended in disappointment. The joy in between was like an illusion only.
Sources: Meinander: On the road to the Republic; Ahvenainen, Pihkala, Rasila (eds.): Finnish Economic History II; Seppälä: The City of the Sad - Helsinki, the happy 1920s; Rautavaara & Numminen: I wouldn't trade away for a day; Vekkeli & Loivamaa: The Unforgettable Ansa Ikonen; Paavolainen: In search of modernity
In the video at the beginning of the story, you can watch a recording of Ilta-Sanomat's 1920s event from 2017.
The ads called for the purchase of consumer products. The catalog shows a modern woman.
Photo: Timiriasew Ivan / Helsinki City Museum
The nurse apparently works at Tehtaankatu Children's Hospital in Helsinki.
Photo: Helsinki City Museum
The passenger ship Ariadne arriving in the South Harbor in July 1924 with the first installment of the Paris Olympic team.
Photo: Helsinki City Museum
Workers' families lived in cramped places in the city.
Photo: Workers' Archive