is the most important of the bardic villages in Viena. The island
of Kalmosaari there is a shrine of Finnish and Karelian culture
- the grave of Viena's greatest bard, Arhippa Perttunen.
Lönnrot, who rarely tells anything about the bards he met
or even mentions their names, was inspired to describe his meeting
with Arhippa thus:
After spending only a short time in this village (Kivijärvi),
I went on another ten kilometers to the remote village of Latvajärvi,
where everyone praised the bardic gifts of a certain Arhippa. This
old man was over eighty but his memory was still amazingly sharp.
For two days, and part of a third, in fact, he kept me busy recording
poems. He sang them in the proper order, with few serious gaps,
and most were items I had not obtained anywhere before; indeed,
I wondered if they were to be had anywhere else anymore. I was thus
very happy that I had decided to visit him. Who knows whether I
would have found him alive had I come later. If he had died before
my meeting him, a great deal of our ancient poetry would have gone
to the grave with him....Although Arhippa's house was a poor one,
it seemed more cheerful than that of many wealthier people. Everyone
in the household respected him as they would an ancient patriarch,
and this was certainly a status he had in my eyes as well..
Arhippa sang a total of 4,100 lines for Lönnrot;
of these, 2,600 were epic poetry, 270 lyric poetry, and 1200 incantations.
If one adds to these figures the poetry the bard sang to Cajan
and Castrén, his contribution runs to a total of 4,500
lines of poetry.
The figure becomes even more impressive if one compares it to the
total number of lines in the Kalevala: some 12,000. One realizes
that his contribution accounted for over one-tenth of the material
Lönnrot had at his disposal when "composing" the
village of Latvajärvi is located along the Maaselkä Ridge
on the hills forming the eastern shore of the small lake which gives
the village its name. The village includes the nearby hill Mantsonvaara,
an island in the middle of the lake, the hills Vasonvaara, Nauvunvaara
and Hoapavaara, as well as the more distant settlements of Kossi
and Lapukka. At the turn of the century, Latvajärvi comprised
slightly more than fifty households.
The diverse landscape of the village is characterized by hills
and the swampy valleys between them. Many a year the frost has risen
from these valleys to claim the crops while still on the stalk,
and many of the well-known residents of Latvajärvi have had
to resort to "counting chimneys", or begging from house
to house, at various times in their lives.
village's most celebrated resident, Viena's prince of poetry, Arhippa
Perttunen, was well aware of his importance. He asked those who
wished to remember him to bring stones to his grave, because these
would not rot. A pile of stones thus accumulated on his grave, disappearing
for a time under the "skirts" of a spruce, not to be rediscovered
until 1996. For twenty years or so, people actually paid their respects
to Arhippa at the wrong pile of stones; it seems that in the late
1960s - when the village was empty - local cultural officials assembled
a pile of stones which was then declared to be Arhippa's grave since
the real one could not be found. The reason for this "forgery"
was that the officials had been told to place a commemorative plaque
presented by The Association of Karelian Writers on the bard's grave,
but when they were unable to find a grave fitting the descriptions
they had received, they decided to create one. The officials were
not afraid of their deed coming to light, however, since the village,
being near the border, was a closed area accessible only by special
poetry was not Arhippa Perttunen's only forte. The sequences he
sang also provided dozens of the lyric poems in the Kanteletar.
Väinö Kaukonen considers him to be a lyric poet on a par
with Mateli Kuivalatar, a noted bard from Ilomantsi.
Arhippa himself considered his father "Ivan the Great"
to be many times better than himself as a singer and told Lönnrot
that he felt his own sons would never become accomplished bards.
But he was wrong here, for later collectors have recorded almost
70 poems, nearly 3,500 lines, sung by Arhippa's youngest son, Miihkali.
Miihkali's life was by no means an easy one. He had to support
seven children of his own and the children of his two deceased brothers.
In addition to farming and fishing as best he could in Karelia,
he had to look for work in Finland, where he learned to sew furs
and dress sheepskin.
Miihkali lost his sight in 1865 and lived the last 34 years of
his life blind. Despite this disability, he did not stop working:
he went from village to village working hand mills, crushing and
grinding pine bark, making fishing nets, and the like. Sometimes
he was forced to beg as well. He was finally spared this indignity,
however, when the Finnish Literature Society awarded him a modest
annual pension as the last great bard, a distinction for which he
most gratefully acknowledged "the powers-that-be in Helsinki."
Miihkali was one of the most sought-after bards. In the 1870s,
Borenius and Berner came to record his poems. In the following decade,
it was Juvelius and Varonen, and in 1894 he was visited by Kusti
Karjalainen and I.K. Inha.
The photographs taken by Inha have made Miihkali the symbol of
the Viena bards. This status became all the greater with the erection
in Vuokkiniemi in 1991 of a statue of Miihkali by the sculptor Alpo
Sailo. The earliest photographs of Miihkali date back to 1872 and
were taken by Berner.
Finnish Literature Society, which had awarded Miihkali a pension
while he was alive, chose to honor his memory by erecting a stone
monument on his grave; it is a tribute which is unique in the graveyards