villages on the shores of Lake Kiitehenjärvi have played a crucial
role in both the creation of the Kalevala and the rise of Karelianism.
No other bardic village has attracted as many poetry collectors, culture
researchers, and artists inspired by Karelianism as Akonlahti. The
village was also the first place where Lönnrot came into contact with
Viena and its poetic treasures.
Akonlahti includes the main village, as well as several nearby
groups of villages: Munankilahti, Sappovaara, Tetriniemi, Märkävaara
and Jehrimänvaara. At their largest, the villages have comprised
a total of 90 houses with some 600 inhabitants. Until the border
between Finland and Russia was closed, the villages of Akonlahti
had regular and frequent contact with the adjacent Finnish village
of Rimpi in Kuhmo.
Lönnrot did not reach Viena until his third field trip, in 1832.
Viena, and Akonlahti in particular, had long been his goal, and
his visit was not a disappointment.
At the end of his account of the trip, Lönnrot encouraged other
poetry collectors to look for old folk poems in the area, stating
that anyone who went there "would be richly rewarded for his efforts".
Lönnrot himself visited Akonlahti a second time (1833) before other
collectors set their sights on the village. But then they came in
large numbers. At least the following collectors are known to have
visited Akonlahti: J.F Cajan (1836), M.A. Castrén (1839), D.E.D.
Europaeus (1845), Arvid Genetz (1871), A.A. Borenius (1871), Aksel
Berner (1872), P.J. Hannikainen (1877), A. W. Ervasti (1879), Hj.
Basilier (1879), Matti Varonen (1886), J.W. Juvelius (1886), Heiki
Meriläinen (numerous field trips in the 1880s), Lauri Pääkkönen
(1892), K.F. Karjalainen (1894), A.R. Niemi (1904), F. Ohrt (1906),
R. Engelberg (1909), Samuli Paulaharju (1915) and Väinö Kaukonen
The list is impressive, but so was the body of poetry these collectors
On his first field trip to Akonlahti, Lönnrot recorded the following
poems sung by Soava Trohkimainen:
the Sampo Episode, The Rivals, Hunting the Elk of Hiisi, Sister's
Ruin, or The Children of Tuiretuinen, Forging a Bride of Gold, Lemminkäinen's
Tale, as well as a number of spells. Soava's poems were significant
elements in the creation of the first edition of the Kalevala. Lönnrot
did not include The Sister's Ruin, or The Children of Tuiretuinen,
in the first edition of the epic but he did publish it in the Kanteletar.
He adapted the poem and included it in the second edition as part
of the Kullervo Cycle, making use of variants he had obtained elsewhere.
In autumn of 1839, Lönnrot visited Akonlahti on a work-related
trip and obtained 23 poems totalling 350 lines. In the same year
Castrén reported recording almost 40 spells from a single bard
in the village.
Akonlahti was the first destination of Karelianists Akseli Gallen-Kallela
and Louis Sparre when they set off across the border in search
of the song-lands of the Kalevala. Both artists made many drawings
and sketches of the village and its people, and these images are
reflected in their other works. In the summer of 1890, they made
two separate trips to Akonlahti.
Two years later, Sparre came to Akonlahti again on his second Viena
pilgrimage, accompanied this time by the sculptor Emil Wikström.
Sparre told of this journey in his book "A Visit with the People
of the Kalevala", which includes numerous sketches of the villages
along Lake Kiitehenjärvi and the people in them.
In 1894, two significant teams of enthusiasts visited Akonlahti:
I.K. Inha and Kusti Karjalainen, and Yrjö Blomstedt and Viktor Sucksdorff.
Inha's and Karjalainen's trip yielded the greatest accomplishment
of Karelianism: Inha's series of photographs has done more to shape
of the song-lands of the Kalevala than any other, and his accounts
of his journeys, which soon became classics, have brought the culture
of Viena to generation after generation of Finnish readers in superb
detail. Inha took a substantial number of photographs in the area
around Lake Kiitehenjärvi.
Blomstedt and Sucksdorff were architects who meticulously documented
the Karelian building tradition and later published their work as
a book which significantly influenced the rise of the National Romantic
School in Finnish architecture. The villages of Akonlahti were the
only places in Viena besides Luvajärvi that Blomstedt and Sucksdorff
visited on their trip, as they continued on from there to North