Case of Hjalmar Linder (bourgeois with a heart)
The installation in the Helsinki City Museum includes newspaper articles and other literary fragments in Finland from 1918 and years surrounding it, loaned objects from various museum collections, reproductions of letters sent to Hjalmar Linder in 1918, and a wall painting. These are elements related to newspaper article by Hjalmar Linder, ‘Nog med blodbad’, published on 28th of May 1918 in Hufvudstadsbladet.
Hjalmar Linder (b. 1862 Helsinki, d. 1921 Marseilles) was chamberlain, vice judge, land owner and donator. In 1918 Linder was the richest person in Finland, who owned among others the manors in Kytäjä and Mustio, two groundwood departments, the pulp mill of Lohja, Högfors factories, Rautakoski ironworks and several sawmills. He had some 5000 employees and 64 000 hectares of land. He was an exceptionally broad minded patron, who already in 1903 complied with his workers’ demands in Mustio for 8 hours’ working day.
Linder lived in the Mustio Castle from 1901 onwards, but Hotel Kämp in Helsinki was like his second home, and he resided there when in Helsinki. In Kämp he held his most important business meetings and he especially enjoyed the restaurant downstairs, where in the morning hours he would meet the ‘whole town’, meaning university people, artists, representatives of the diet, and members of the press.
Linder fled the Civil War of Finland in January 1918 to Sweden, as advised by his former brother-in-law general Gustav Mannerheim. When he returned after the war in May, he wrote in the main Swedish speaking newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet with the title “Nog med blodbad!” [Enough with blood bath!]. This text cost him his life. He did not receive public support, but condemnation, death threats and was blamed for favouring the Reds. He had to sell and donate his enormous possessions in Finland and go on exile again. He died alone and penniless on 4th of June 1921 in Marseilles, France, cutting open his arteries.
What made Linder behave so exceptionally in May 1918 in regards his class position?
Linder did not grow with the war. He was in exile in Sweden and outside of the reach of the war. And outside of the image, which the bourgeois media was constructing of the war and the Red urban workers. For the class that Linder was part of, the Civil War meant preservation of a certain ideology. By the time Linder’s return in May 1918 it had gained monstrous dimensions up to dehumanisation and mass elimination of workers. Within a few months the nation had almost taken on a new form, of absolute state power. Linder was suddenly faced with the new reality of Finland, which he was not tuned in with. He was surprised that his workers were not back even if the war was over. He found them languishing in the prison camps and in his opinion, which was still tuned in with the old nation, it was inhumane atrocity.
The history writing of the White hegemony has not had room for Hjalmar Linder’s brave dissent in the national narrative of the ‘Freedom War’. Nevertheless, we cannot erase his legacy, which remains especially significant in visual art. When going on exile for the second time, he sold and donated his possessions in Finland. In 1919 he donated the Helsinki University funds for establishing art history professorship. Also in 1920 he donated to Ateneum some of its most valuable artworks, among them Rembrandt, Reynolds, Turner and the famous Queen Blanka by Edelfelt.
The installation was made for exhibition ‘Objection!’ in Helsinki City Museum. Central element in the installation is Linder’s text in Hufvudstadsbladet. It also consists of loaned objects from various collections, among them The Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, Hotel and Restaurant Museum, The People’s Archive, Svartå Manor, and the Helsinki City collections.