Finland Presses Sweden to Return Historic Skulls Exhumed for Racial Biology Studies

Skull on grayscale - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.10.2021
The remains of dozens of Finns were taken from Finnish cemeteries in the 19th century to prove the superiority of the Nordic race, a scientific trend that stretched well into the 20th century.
The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture is preparing an official request to return human remains that were removed from the country's churchyard cemeteries nearly 150 years ago and shipped to Sweden for racial studies, the Swedish newspaper Expressen has reported.
The collection of 82 human remains, mainly skulls, held by Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, one of Sweden's premier research institutions, were taken from parish churches and cemeteries in the Pirkanmaa region of Finland in 1873.
Meanwhile, efforts to convince the Karolinska Institute to return the remains once used for studies have been going on for years.
In 2019, the Karolinska Institute issued an apology for their removal from Finland, but still has not returned the remains despite a plethora of requests and demands from organisations and private individuals alike.
Senior Ministerial Adviser at Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture Joni Hiitola said that the remains will be reburied where they were excavated. If the cemetery where they were originally taken from is no longer in use, the remains will be buried in the existing cemeteries of the same parishes from which they were excavated.
In the summer of 1873, three Karolinska Institute researchers travelled to Finland. Future professor of histology Gustaf Retzius lead the expedition and was accompanied by anatomists Erik Nordenson and Christian Lovén, who later became a professor of physiology. A 23-time Nobel Prize nominee, Retzius is celebrated for his contribution to the histology of sensory organs and nervous system, yet is also known for his interest in a branch of racial studies that today is seen as "scientific racism". Following the steps of his father Anders Retzius, a professor of anatomy, Gustaf Retzius saw the Nordic race as the pinnacle of mankind.
Sweden's Prime minister Stefan Lofven attends a press conference at Rosenbad, the Swedish government headquarters, in Stockholm on July 27, 2017 - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.08.2018
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However, the skulls from the Pirkanmaa region didn't fit into the skull index developed by Gustaf Retzius' father Anders Retzius, based on their length. Since most of the so-called Pälkäne skulls were oblong, a type considered characteristic of Germanic people (as opposed to shorter skulls considered typical for Finns and the Sami), Gustaf Retzius surmised an early Swedish population in the area.
Sweden's interest in the subject culminated in the creation of the State Institute for Racial Biology (SIFR) in 1922 with the purpose of studying eugenics and human genetics. In 1958, it was renamed the State Institute for Human Genetics and is today incorporated as a department at Uppsala University.
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