Vanha ylioppilastalo

The old student house.

Vanha ylioppilastalo (Finnish for "the old student house"; Swedish: Gamla studenthuset), colloquially called Vanha ("the old one"), is the former student house of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki, located in central Helsinki, Finland, near the crossing of Aleksanterinkatu and Mannerheimintie.

The building was designed by Axel Hampus Dahlström and was completed in 1870. It represents the neo-renaissance style of architecture.

The student house was originally built at the edge of the city centre, so the students' parties would not disturb other citizens. The construction was funded by a collection from the citizens. In dedication of this collection, the façade of the building bears the Latin inscription Spei suae patria dedit ("Donated by the country to its hopes"). Nowadays, the student house is located in the inner centre of Helsinki, near the Three smiths statue.

Near the student house is located the newer Uusi Ylioppilastalo (The New Student House), completed in 1910. At that point Vanha Ylioppilastalo got its current name. In 1938 there was a discussion about whether Vanha Ylioppilastalo should be dismantled to give place for a new business house.

1968 occupation

On November 25th, 1968, one day prior to the Student Union's centennial celebration, a large group of students occupied the Old Student House which was designated as the location of the festivities. The action was in protest at what they saw as a 1950s style "white tie party", and an uprising against the values which this stood for.[1] The group entered by breaking in through a French window at 5:13pm[1] local time. The happenings immediately made nation-wide headlines. The action has been seen as being inspired by the May 1968 unrest in France, and other political movements around Europe in the same year, including the Spring of Prague. In 2008, Laura Kolbe, a professor of European history at the University of Helsinki, described the Vanha occupation as "the ripples of the European student movement in Finland".[2]

The dissidents' main demands concerned democratic reforms to the university's administration. However, some of the participants also demanded the founding of Marxist-Leninist study-circles in the departments and faculties, abolishing compulsory membership of the Student Union and changing the political alignment of the monthly student magazine Ylioppilaslehti.[3] Banners carrying these proclamations were hung from the Student House's balcony and speeches were made. However, not all of the youth involved were communists; people aligned with the Center Party participated as well.[1]

The Student Union relocated its 100th year celebration to the Sibelius Academy, and the The "Vanha occupation" ended relatively short-lived. After having spent the night at the Student House, people began to dissipate the next day. By the evening the remaining occupants had cleaned up after themselves and left the building altogether. Helsinki's Swedish-language newspaper HBL wrote "people became tired and went home after having stayed up for a day, sat on the floor, drank red wine and kissed".[4]

The generation of students and other young radicals who participated in the events have underlined the significance of the occupation as a symbolic revolt against the values of the previous generation. Indeed, many of the people involved became leading figures in Finnish politics and the financial sector, including the Social Democratic Party politicians Erkki Tuomioja, Ilkka Taipale and Ulf Sundqvist, bank manager Björn Wahlroos and diplomat Markus Lyra.[5] However, 40 years after the events, only 36% of the Helsingin Sanomat board of selected Finnish intellectuals believed the events had any positive effect on the Finnish society.


External links

Coordinates: 60°10′08.5″N 24°56′26″E / 60.169028°N 24.94056°E / 60.169028; 24.94056

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