ATLAS OBSCURA

The Silent People - Finland

Over one thousand figures stand silently in a field near the road, colorful clothing billowing around their still bodies, faceless heads all facing the same direction.

On Highway 5 outside of Suomussalmi, Finland, motorists who come upon the scarecrows unaware find the sight either glee-inducing or terrifying. The figures are made up of peat heads covered in straw hair and simple wooden bodies draped with colorful clothing that is changed twice a year. The immobile army seems to stand watch over the road, but despite their stationary appearance, they haven’t always stood here in this lonely field off of the highway.

The work of artist Reijo Kela, the Silent People once stood in a field in a town near Helsinki named Lassila, and in 1994 were in the populated Market Place of Helsinki’s Senate Square. After a stint on the banks of the Jalonuoma river, they made their way here to Highway 5, eliciting questions and curiosity to all who pass. 

The truth is, the meaning of the art installation is a mystery. The artist refuses to give any sort of explanation for the figures, preferring the viewer use their own perception to define it. Many find the scarecrows sad or disturbing, evoking a forgotten people, and a popular theory is that they represent those lost during a brutal battle that took place nearby during the Winter War of 1939-1940 between the Finns and Soviet Russia.

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