The Ancient Finnish Kings: a computational study of pseudohistory, medievalism and history politics in contemporary Finland and Russia

A three-year research project about Finnish and Russian medievalist internet pseudohistory.

In Finland, these include, among other, theories about mighty warrior kings and glorious past of a nation before the written history from the 12th century onwards. Sometimes such narratives are enforced through conspiracy theories stating that academic researchers or Swedish-speaking funding organisations knowingly hide the “true” history of the Finns. Correspondingly, Russian blogosphere has stories about an ancient Slavic empire, whose history is forgotten. Some, though by no means all, pseudohistories imply extreme-right political ideologies. In the past few years, pseudohistorical rhetoric in Finland has spread from the alternative blogosphere into major newspapers’ comment feeds. Currently, pseudohistory is blurring the line between the results of historical research and fiction.

The project combines the expertise of a team of cultural historians to information technology. We apply a program called BLAST to track text-reuse on a large scale. The goal is to find when and where certain narratives are born, and how they spread and acquire new contexts. We expect to find different textual communities with various mixtures of pseudohistory, medievalist fantasy and results of historical research. In addition to online texts, the team surveys the printed tradition of pseudohistory in order to track connections between internet writing and more traditional media.

The project is based at the University of Turku at it is funded (2019-21) by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation