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The Kalevala – Living Epic Heritage

Author: The Kalevala Society Foundation

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The Kalevala Society Foundation is the coordinator linking the "Kalevala – Living Epic Heritage" project and its broad thematic network.

Finland applies for the European Heritage Label for the Kalevala

Finland has applied for the European Heritage Label for the Kalevala as living epic heritage. The application was submitted 1 March 2023, and the European Commission will announce its decision by spring 2024. The application is written by the Finnish Literature Society in co-operation with the Akseli Gallen-Kallela Museum, the Juminkeko Foundation and the Parppeinvaara Runosinger’s Village. The Kalevala Society Foundation is the unifying entity between the project and its extensive thematic network.

About the Kalevala

Kalevala (1849, Finnish Literary Society) is a work of literary fiction written by Elias Lönnrot based on Karelian and Finnish folk poems. It is part of the European epic tradition. From the beginning, it has had a strong socio-political dimension. Historically, the Kalevala has been used in the Finnish nation-building process, but it is also strongly connected with Karelian and pan-European questions about identities and the ownership of cultural heritage. The ambiguity of the Kalevala and the tension of its interpretations embody the great symbolic value of the epic.

The Living and Changing Kalevala

Since its publication, the Kalevala has inspired both artists and researchers. The epos constantly receives new interpretations in the activities of individuals and communities, professionals and enthusiasts: for example, metal music fans draw from Kalevala mythology, and the themes of the Kalevala are repeated in fantasy literature and its film adaptations. Kalevala’s relationship with nature and Kalevala-themed crafts and tattoos are widely seen on social media.

Finnish and Karelian Cultural Heritage for European Youth

At the core of the application, there is the Epic Kaleidoscope project aimed at European youth. The project emphasizes the transformation of cultural heritage in time and place. The project opens Finnish and Karelian cultural heritage from current perspectives: what kind of relationship people and communities from different backgrounds have with the Kalevala, and how the epic work is interpreted today. In the Epic Kaleidoscope project, the Kalevala is introduced in a multi-sensory way through visual art, archival materials, literature, poetry and folk music.

About the European Heritage Label

The European Cultural Heritage Label is a cultural heritage action under the European Union. The purpose of the label is to increase European citizens’ knowledge of European history and the construction of the Union, as well as of the common, diverse cultural heritage. During the years 2014–2022, the label has been granted to 60 properties in 20 different countries. Symbols have been awarded to objects that tell about European history. In Finland, the application and implementation of the European Heritage Label is coordinated by the National Museum Agency. Finland’s first European cultural heritage label was awarded in 2022 to the University of Jyväskylä Seminaarinmäki campus and Equality in Education.

The Main Organizers of the Project

The Finnish Literature Society
The Akseli Gallen-Kallela Museum
The Juminkeko Foundation
The Parppeinvaara Runosinger’s Village


The Wider Network Behind the Project

Kalevala Society Foundation
Kalevala Women’s Association
The Association of Cultural Heritage Education in Finland
The Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes
Karelia University of Applied Sciences
The Karelian Youth League
Karjalan liitto
Karjalan Sivistysseura
Paikkarin torpan tuki ry
Runosong Academy
Uniarts Helsinki, Department of Folk Music
The University of Turku, Degree Programme in Digital Culture, Landscape and Cultural Heritage
Äidinkielen opettajain liitto


Niina Hämäläinen, Kalevalaseura: 040 538 5144, niina.hamalainen[at]kalevalaseura.fi
Kati Mikkola, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura: 050 5987 501, kati.mikkola[at]finlit.fi