The concept of national sentiment: On nation building and emotional language in 19th-century Finland

Jani Marjanen

During the course of the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth-century a language national sentiment was established in modern discourse in Europe. Translations to different language obviously vary and carry slightly different connotations, but there are clear similarities in how national sentiment, Nationalgefühl, nationalkänsla (in Swedish) and kansallistunne (in Finnish) developed. An analysis of the latter two concepts in public discourse in Finland during the course of the nineteenth century shows how the concepts embodied a change both in the language of nationhood and emotion in the period. In its different uses – national sentiment as a devotion toward the nation, as a characteristic of the people, and as a description of the atmosphere in the country – the concept was used to denote both collective emotional states as well as to highlight a romantic and personalized relationship to nation building as a necessary step in self-fulfillment.