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Helsingin työväenyhdistys

Year of induction: 2022

Custodian: The Labour Archives

Helsinki Workers’ Association archives

The Helsinki Workers’ Association archives describe the development of the Finnish labour movement, labour culture and society from the 1880s to the 2000s. The archives show the emergence and growth of a mass movement linked to strong international ideologies, permanently transforming the whole of Finland. 

The working population created the materials independently, enriching and diversifying the image that the archives of the authorities and the prominent figures usually representing the social upper class conveyed of how the Finnish welfare state was constructed.  

The Helsinki Workers’ Association, founded in 1884, is the oldest workers’ association in Finland. Its operations have been unparalleled in their versatility, pioneering and impact. In addition to local significance, the association already had a wider tangible and symbolic impact in its early stages. The association, which started as a small operational group that drew on the renewal spirit of international ideological trends, quickly expanded into a nationally influential mass force. Completed in 1908 in Siltasaari, the granite community hall reflected the growing influence and stable aspirations of the working population. 

The Helsinki Workers’ Association is inextricably linked not only to the birth and development of the labour movement, but also to the everyday life of the ordinary worker. Several affiliates and trade unions were established in connection with the workers’ association, covering every aspect of working people’s lives, from work to leisure. In addition to promoting their position in society and the interests of their own occupational groups, workers have been able to develop and refresh themselves through independent cultural activities. People came to the community hall to spend their free time – to attend social evenings, theatre and sports, for example. 

The Helsinki Workers’ Association archives have been shaped over the decades by donations to the Labour Archives. It is a unique collection of documents, photographs, posters, drawings and audio-visual materials that have been extensively preserved since the early years. They convey the entire history of the labour movement and culture in all its richness of activity and social influence.