30.10.2010

A Finnish Monument



In September 1863, Alexander II, by the grace of God the Emperor and Sovereign of Russia, Tsar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, Prince of Estonia, etc, etc, etc, etc, arrived in Helsinki to open the parliament session in his Grand Duchy. He also visited Aurora Karamzin, who was a former waiting-maid of the Empress and the widow of Tsar's close friend Paul Demidov. Paul, who deceased in 1840, had been not only a friend of the Tsar but also one of the richest men in Russia at the time, and now Aurora, re-married in 1846 to colonel Andrei Karamzin and re-widowed by the Crimean war in 1854, possessed a vast fortune which she governed with iron will and rigid but moderate religious furor, contributing significantly to various philanthropic causes like schools and hospitals.

Aurora had a nice mansion in Träskända, Espoo, some 20 km from Helsinki. Her people were enthusiastically waiting for the important guest.

But they had a problem. A visit by the Tsar is not an everyday occasion. Any host or hostess would want to impress the important guest. How?

Finland had no great monumental buildings, the palaces were dwarfed by what the emperor had back home in St. Petersburg. The country doesn't have the tallest mountains in the world, nor access to the great seas, and no magnificent rivers. This was nice, wooded country, perhaps one of the neatest parts of the vast Russian empire, but being just neat isn't very impressive. What could we show to the emperor? What could we build, something the emperor surely has not seen before?

And now follows a very Finnish idea. Let's build something that is really novel to the Tsar.
The greatest loo in the world!

And here it stands, to this day, on the grounds of Träskända manor. A huge, six-cylinder wooden outhouse, decorated with wood carvings, and ventilated through a tall tower in the center, in the shade of the great oaks that have grown here since Aurora and other manor owners had them planted almost two centuries ago. And it's called The Imperial Outhouse (Keisarillinen Käymälä).

Alexander also participated in a hunt that was arranged on the manor grounds, and then left off to take care of other parts of his empire, which his descendants then mismanaged and lost. The manor house burnt down in 1888 and a new one was erected, designed by messiers Lindgren-Gesellius-Saarinen. The house has since then been a nursing home for the elderly.

A part of the manor grounds is preserved as a nature reserve, but some of the woodlands were chopped off after Second World war and given as plots of land to refugees from the Porkkala area that Soviet Union took for a forcible 50 year lease (but ceded back as economically unsustainable and militarily outdated in 1956). The refugees built their houses here. Later this former woodland turned suburban, and now the streets in the area are given names that remind us of Alexander's hunt: Hare Road, Hunting-hound's Road, Hunt-master Alley.

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