Day of the Finnish Identity Date in the current year: May 12, 2016

Day of the Finnish Identity Day of the Finnish Identity is observed in Finland on May 12 each year. It commemorates the birthday of Johan Vilhelm Snellman, an influential philosopher and statesman.

Johan Vilhelm Snellman was born on May 12, 1806. In 1835, he began to lecture at the University of Helsinki where he met Elias Lönnrot and Johan Ludvig Runeberg, two outstanding Finnish men of letters who would later make significant contributions to the development of the Finnish culture.

Snellman was the chief initiator of the language strife in Finland during the mid-19th century. Snellman himself was born in Sweden, but he deliberately chose to promote the Finnish language in culture. He wanted Finnish to gain an official language status equal to that of Swedish.

In 1863, Snellman became a member of the Senate. While serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he accomplished a language decree from the Russian Emperor, the re-establishment of the Parliament of Finland, and the final introduction of the Finnish markka that replaced the Russian ruble as the currency of Finland.

Day of the Finnish Identity is not an official flag day in Finland, but the Finnish flag is customary flown from 8 a.m. to sunset on the occasion.

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