Finnish philosopher and politician. Born 1806, died 1891.
Snellman was an Hegelian, and inspired by Hegel's philosophy of law, he published Läran om staten ("Teachings on the State", 1842). On the basis of the philosophical points evolved in this book, he found that Finland (which was then a dominion of Russia), having only a small Swedish-speaking cultural élite, was in danger of overwhelming russification, unless the cultural élite voluntarily adopted the Finnish vernacular.
In the periodical Saima (published 1844-1846), he argued vehemently for this viewpoint, and many were convinced, deliberately Finnicising themselves and their children. Opponents of the process dubbed Snellman and his followers "fennomaniacs". While this process of integration between high culture (Swedish) and low culture (Finnish) formed the basis for a long-lasting linguistic rift in the country, it also constituted an important prerequisite for the emergence of Finland as an independent state in 1917.
After the easing of Russian control over Finland in 1856 (as an indirect result of the Crimean War), Snellman became professor at Helsinki, and acquired significant influence as a member of the government. In 1863, he managed to procure from the Czar a language rescript, which gave Finnish equal status with Swedish as an administrative language. As senator for the Treasury from 1863 to 1866, he achieved the introduction of Finnish coinage.
In many ways, Snellman (like Elias Lönnrot, Johan Ludvig Runeberg and Zacharias Topelius) is one of the authors of the modern Finnish nation, and its national identity. His long years of commitment to the cause of Finnish nationalism helped create the Finnish language and culture as they are today.