After about 150 years, the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture is preparing an official request to return human remains that have been stolen from Finnish cemeteries and transported to Sweden for racial research, according to reports from the Swedish newspaper Expressen. In 1873, Swedish researchers discovered the remains of cemeteries in Finland, which became known as the Pälkäneskallarna. The skulls were transported to Sweden as part of Karolinska Institutet’s (KI) race study project.
There are currently about seventy skulls bearing the word “pimple” in Karolinska Institutet’s collection. According to a Finnish radio company, Yle, several demands have been made for the skulls to be returned to the ground where they were excavated. Many KI students, doctors and other activists in Sweden and Finland demanded that the Finnish remains be returned before the autumn term begins this summer.
Karolinska Institutet apologized in 2019
Karolinska Institutet apologized to Finland in 2019, but the remains have not been returned. According to KI, they are investigating the matter because returns follow international standards and there are no laws for leaving remains. Against this background, KI will continue to investigate the wishes for the Finnish remains to return, in collaboration with the National Heritage Board and other relevant Finnish authorities and institutions, according to Expressen. The Finnish Ministry of Education is now trying to determine the exact location of the bodies, with the intention of burying skulls at the same place where they were exhumed, when they are returned to them. Major changes in Finland’s geography have taken place over the past 150 years, however, and what was once Rautalampi parish, where KI discovered Skull, was much larger during the nineteenth century than the current municipality of Rautalampi. According to Prime Minister Joni Hiitola from the Finnish Ministry of Education, their goal is to complete the investigation into the skulls’ origins by the autumn of 2021, Expressen reported.
“There is no precedent for how to handle return claims”
The activists’ initiative is applauded at KI. According to Swedish Radio, however, the administrator and medical historian at Karolinska Institutet, Maria Josephson, stated that they are happy that this issue has been raised, but there is no precedent for how to handle return claims when they come from a collection of private people, as in in this case.