On 27 February 2015, the day before Kalevala Day, the Kalevala Society granted the Epic Award to Professor Jan Čermák for his significant work in publishing a contemporary edition of the Kalevala, with commentary, as well as making the Kalevala known in the Czech Republic.
Professor Jan Čermák (b. 1962) is a scholar of English language and historical linguistics, specialising in Old English and Middle English philology and literature studies. He has studied English, Czech, and Finnish at the Charles University in Prague, where he now works as a professor of English language. Čermák is not only an esteemed scholar but also a translator. One of his most significant translations is the Czech edition of the Old English Beowulf, which he finished in 2011.
An interest in epics and the Finnish language guided Čermák to the Kalevala. He has described the epic in the following words: “The Kalevala is an evenly flowing, enthusiastic and extrovert song about the world. It constitutes a catalogue-like collection of stories, and as the keystone of Finnish literature, passes on and creates the national past of Finland.”
The first Czech translation of the Kalevala was finished by author Josef Holeček in 1894. In early 2014, Academic, the publishing house of the Academy of Sciences, published a new Czech edition of the Kalevala, with commentary. Professor Jan Čermák was the powerhouse behind this project, assisted by a group of Finnish teachers from the Charles University. This extensive, over 1000 page volume could be called a critical edition of the Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot and Josef Holeček. It presents and critiques various interpretations of the epic from a linguistic, cultural historic and ethnographic perspective.