A national jubilee year

The 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence was celebrated as a party for everyone. In principle, however, it was a state celebration: the independent state of Finland was a hundred years old. The government and other state institutes, from the Finnish Parliament to the ministries, participated in the centenary in various ways.  

Kuva: Eduskunta / Hanne Salonen
Photo: The Parliament of Finland / Hanne Salonen

The Parliament celebrated with citizens

The Parliament cherished traditions and created new ones during the centenary. The jubilee year was present in international collaboration activities as well as in Finland, particularly in the measures taken by the various parliamentary bodies such as select committees. The Parliament also participated in the celebrations by producing more than 70 Finland 100 events in Finland and abroad. Many events belonged to the long continuum of parliamentary traditions, while foundations for new ones were also created. The events for citizens were well received.

The centenary started in the Finnish Parliament in January, when MPs made nearly 600 school visits during the MPs at schools project. In August, MPs made 200 visits to nurseries. Both events exceeded all expectations, and the project will continue. 

At the beginning of the autumn session, the MPs moved back into their old building as the renovation was completed. This was important from the centenary viewpoint, as Parliament House was built as a monument to the country’s independence.

The centenary culminated in a jubilee session on 5 December 2017, when the Parliament decided to fund the Itla Children’s Foundation.

The President of the Republic had a busy year

The Finland 100 jubilee year had a versatile and visible role in the programme of the President of the Republic, Sauli Niinistö. The programme covered all the provinces of mainland Finland as well as the Åland Islands, and he made a total of 15 visits to the provinces. The president’s wife, Mrs Jenni Haukio, also took part in the celebrations, accompanying the president, for example, on numerous visits to the provinces and events overseas.

The presidential couple hosted a number of foreign leaders during the centenary, including the presidents of Estonia, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, Italy, and Poland, as well as the prime minister of Japan and the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William. The president and his wife also visited other countries; the cities where they attended the Finland 100 celebrations and events included Stockholm, Tallinn, Washington, and Minneapolis. 

Kuva: Tasavallan presidentin kanslia / Matti Porre
Photo: Tasavallan presidentin kanslia / Matti Porre

The President of the Republic sent 13 greetings related to the centenary and was the patron of 14 events. The presidential couple sent birthday messages to more than 500 Finns who turned 100 or more in 2017. The veteran members of the Finnish War Veterans’ Federation received a certificate of honour signed by the presidential couple during visits organised by the federation in the autumn.

Younger Finns were also remembered: the 152 children born on Independence Day, 6 December 2017, received a congratulatory message from the presidential couple, together with a baby package from the Martha organisation. The President of the Republic opened the #kannustusryhmä campaign in March, during which one hundred 100-euro stipends were handed out to a hundred groups of students who had worked towards preventing bullying and encouraging others.

The special centenary programme also included an open-house event at the Presidential Palace in May, which turned out to be very popular, as well as a sculpture exhibition at Kultaranta, the president’s summer residence, in the summer. The exhibition featured a sculpture or a group of sculptures from each decade of independence.

For the President of the Republic and his spouse, the centenary celebrations culminated on Independence Day and Independence Day Eve. Sauli Niinistö opened the ceremony and took part in hoisting the flag at the Market Square in Helsinki on Independence Day Eve. The Presidential Palace was illuminated blue and white at the same time. The traditional Independence Day reception continued the Together theme. The reception was watched by a record television audience.

The Commander-in-Chief’s order of the day was issued on Independence Day on 6 December 2017 and culminated in the statement: ‘Finland is the best country for Finns and worthy of defence now and in the future. Three cheers for the 100-year-old Finland! Hip hip hooray!’  

Former presidents celebrated the centenary

Kuva: Valtioneuvoston kanslia / Lauri Heikkinen
Photo: Prime Minister’s Office / Lauri Heikkinen

Former presidents were also prominently present in the jubilee year programme. Those presidents who are no longer with us featured in the themes of programme projects, such as exhibitions or documents. 

President Tarja Halonen and President Martti Ahtisaari actively participated in the implementation of various centenary projects. Martti Ahtisaari’s 80th birthday was also celebrated in 2017, and to mark the occasion, the Wisdom Wanted seminar was arranged in May as part of the Finland 100 programme.

The death of President Mauno Koivisto on 12 May 2017 and the state funeral held on 25 May deeply touched the Finnish people. The centenary of independence was visible in the funeral; people saw a strong link between the funeral and the jubilee year, as President Koivisto was one of the most important statesmen in independent Finland and his life story closely reflected the story of the nation.

The prime minister was in charge of design and implementation

The Prime Minister’s Office was central to the arrangement of the centenary programme, as it was in charge of the design and implementation of the celebrations, and the Finland 100 Secretariat was part of the office’s organisation. The office also carried out several centenary projects of its own. Its officials worked with the Finland 100 project every day throughout the year. 

The Government took a prominent role by opening the door to some government bodies in August. As the climax of the centenary drew closer, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä hosted a Finland 100 event for more than 3,100 officials from all ministries in the Finlandia Hall on 4 December. The occasion was also marked by an impressive blue-and-white illumination of the Government Palace facade.

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä chaired the Finland 100 delegation, which had almost 70 members and outlined the general principles and approved the main themes for the centenary celebrations. Parties in society were widely represented in the delegation. As chair of the delegation, Juha Sipilä encouraged various organisations to actively produce programme content and to participate in the centennial celebrations in the spirit of togetherness.

As prime minister, Sipilä hosted or participated in almost 40 Finland 100 events across the country. In honour of the centenary, the Government announced the recipient of the International Gender Equality Prize. This will be awarded every other year with a view to promoting gender equality and encouraging discussion about gender equality. The EUR 150,000 prize is awarded to a person or an actor who has promoted equality in an internationally recognised way. The recipient identifies a cause that strengthens the position of women, to which the prize money is then donated. The first recipient was Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, to whom the prize was awarded in November 2018.

The Prime Minister’s Office launched a comprehensive online service featuring Finnish female ministers. The Government’s busy year culminated in late November and early December with the week that started with the unveiling of the national Winter War memorial in Kasarmitori Square in Helsinki. In Oulu, the prime minister, together with the City of Oulu, hosted the national Finland 100 celebration. 

The Government, led by the prime minister, convened for a special session on 4 December, exactly one hundred years after the Senate of Finland declared Finland independent. Prime Minister Sipilä also opened the Pro Finlandia exhibition at the National Archives of Finland and attended the Parliament’s jubilee session on 5 December.

Shared experiences

The Government’s open jubilee session in the Parliament of the Future

The Parliament of the Future event gathered together citizens, policy-makers, and experts in Porvoo on 4 May. The event sought to find new forms for the realisation of democracy and public involvement to carry on the continuous, one-hundred-year-old democracy in independent Finland.

Kuva: Valtioneuvoston kanslia / Laura Kotila
Photo: Prime Minister’s Office / Laura Kotila

History was made in Porvoo when the Finnish Government convened for an open plenary session and discussions in front of a live audience for the first time in 100 years. The theme of the discussions, following the session of the Ministerial Finance Committee and the plenary session, was the development of Finnish democracy. 

The ministries were eager to do things together

Kuva: Suomi 100 / Leena Koskela
Photo: Finland 100 / Leena Koskela

Finnish ministries were engaged in extensive collaboration with many different organisations during the centenary. The centenary gave the ministries the opportunity to explain their work to a wider audience, and the Together theme also encouraged the inclusion of people in projects where this had never been done before. This enhanced the sense of pride in how well the Finnish society functions, its position, and the esteem it holds.

Each ministry prepared its own implementation plan to accompany the Government’s shared general centenary project plan. The ministries organised Finland 100-themed events both for particular target groups and the general public. Ministers visited hundreds of Finland 100 events across Finland and abroad. All the provinces were visited, and the visits covered small individual project-opening events, panel discussions, and official centenary events. The Finland 100 Secretariat registered more than 300 ministerial visits in 2017.

The ministries were also involved in joint projects, such as the event at SuomiAreena in July, and the Open House event at the Together Weekend at the end of August. All in all, ministries were involved in hundreds of centenary events and activities.

Shared experiences

The public embraced the idea of the open house

Kuva: Valtioneuvoston kanslia / Laura Kotila
Photo: Prime Minister’s Office / Laura Kotila

The Prime Minister’s Office took part in the events of the Together weekend at the end of August by opening its doors to the public. The event was very popular, and almost 3,000 citizens visited Government Palace, the House of the Estates, the Government Banquet Hall, Smolna, and Arppeanum (an administration building).

The public had access to the history, architecture, and art in the buildings. The public could meet Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in his office in Government Palace, and officials described their jobs and careers to the visitors.

Historical characters, played by actors, took the audience back to the first moments of Finland’s independence a hundred years ago in the House of the Estates. A collection of the rare documents that formally recognise Finland’s independence was on display from the archives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In the Government Banquet Hall, Smolna, visitors could see works of art such as portraits by Albert Edelfeldt, and Regent Carl Gustaf Mannerheim’s office.