The legacy of the centenary year – lessons for the next century of independence

Ambitious goals were set for the centenary of Finland’s independence. It was expected to boost the sense of togetherness in Finnish society, and it was also hoped it would strengthen Finland’s international profile. The centenary year was to be celebrated in a captivating manner that would challenge people to participate and explore new ways to make events happen.

Finland’s centenary year managed to exceed all expectations in its success and diversity. Finland 100 soon became a concept that brought about a new kind of thinking. The hundreds of thousands of people who participated in the construction of the centenary year felt that their involvement in the organisation was an important experience.

As well as the large figures describing the activities, there were other things happening. The centenary year left a mark on Finnish society, influenced attitudes, and renewed traditions. The image of Finland and Finns was updated both in Finland and overseas. Finland received gifts that will be reminders of the centenary in years to come. The centenary of Finland’s independence became more than just a celebration: it grew to be a historically exceptional phenomenon.

How did the phenomenon occur? What attracted so many people to participate? Where did the enormous power that mobilised the whole country come from? What kind of emotions and memories were left in people’s hearts?

The achievement of the centenary year goals was closely monitored along the way. In early 2018, a large amount of material was collected and several studies and surveys measuring the results and impacts of the centenary year were conducted.

A five-strong expert group was also set up to assess the social impact of the centenary year. The working group made several interesting observations regarding social capital, inclusion, pluralism, and the concept of Finnishness.

Assessing the impact and permanent legacy of the centenary year will require a longer-term review and further research in addition to the initial assessment in this final report, and the enormous scope of the material offers an excellent opportunity to do this.