Michael Branch

Photo Hanna Tahvanainen

Photo Hanna Tahvanainen

The third Kalevala Society Award was granted on 28 February 2008 to Professor Michael Branch. Professor Michael Branch (b. 1940) studied Fenno-Ugric languages at the University of Helsinki in the 1960s, writing a doctoral dissertation on A. J. Sjögren (1794–1855) for the University of London in 1967. Sjögren, who in Branch’s view had remained a fairly obscure figure in Finnish cultural history, was one of the most important scholars of Fenno-Ugric languages and a great influence on the national identity in the early 19th century. In his many extensive studies, Branch has given a voice to this cobbler’s son from Iitti, who later became an Academician in St.Petersburg, and has made him famous. Branch wrote the definitive monograph on Sjögren in 1973.

Michael Branch has spent most of his university career at the University of London, acting as the dean of the School of Slavonic and East-European studies in 1980–2001. He has also been active in research, taking part in editing and publishing several works on the Kalevala and verse folklore. The Finnish Folk Poetry Epic (1977), completed through the collaboration of Michael Branch, Matti Kuusi and Keith Bosley, is an extensive work on the original notes on Kalevala-metre narrative poetry, in both Finnish and English. Branch has edited a second important verse folklore anthology together with Lauri Honko and Senni Timonen, namely The Great Bear (1993), a broad thematic cross-section of the oral poetry of the Fenno-Ugric peoples. Michael Branch has also written numerous articles on the languages and cultures of the Fenno-Ugric peoples.