Oscar Mathisen
Speedskating - Oscar Diary


A hundred years ago today, Oscar Mathisen was preparing for his fourth appearance in the Finnish Cup races. Having lost once and won twice, he and his teammates now would be able to secure the cup outright with a third win. No doubt, the Finns could be expected to put up a determined resistance, both because they were in danger of losing the cup, and to compensate for their surprisingly poor display in Stockholm last weekend.

The first sight Oscar and his mates saw in Helsingfors was the jovial, smiling face of Gösta Wasenius, Chief Fire Officer in the capital, topped by a fiery red fur hat, vividly visible from afar. He was a great sport enthusiast, promoting gymnastics, swimming and athletics in addition to speedskating. And a patriot, having spent years in Siberia for his convictions in his youth. Oscar says he was like a father for the Norwegians when they came to skate in Helsingfors, and the sight of his red hat always filled them with joy.

There was a particular mutual sympathy between Finns and Norwegians in those days. Norwegians, having recently successfully won their liberty after centuries of unions and dependency, naturally could understand the plight of the Finns more deeply than could the Swedes and other Nordic neighbours. And the example the Norwegians had set filled the Finns with hope and strengthened their already strong resolve. The hospitality shown towards Norwegians in Finland was beyond compare in those years.

BobrikovBut the plight of the Finnish people also was incomparably harder than anything the Norwegians ever had been exposed to from the Swedes—yes, even the Danes would struggle in the comparison. In the 90s, Russian leaders started discussing the russification of Finland and the abolition of her privileges as a partially self-governed Grand Duchy. This intended obliteration of all finnishness proved difficult to bring about, however, and strong measures had to be taken. The implementation of these measures fell to Nikolai Ivanovich Bobrikov. Take a look at this guy to the right here. Doesn’t he just look the right man for the job? Evidently the Czar and his advisors thought so.

He was Governor General of the Duchy from 1898 and undertook to dismantle the Finnish state step by step. Next year, Russian laws got precedence over Finnish ones in accordance with the infamous February Manifesto. From 1900, all correspondence between government offices was to be held in Russian and the language to be taught extensively in schools. In 1901, the Finnish army was dissolved and conscripts could be forced to serve anywhere within the Empire. Only 42% of them appeared at the first call-up in 1902, and in 1905, they were called up no more, as Finnish recruits were deemed too unreliable. The press already was under heavy censure, and now newspapers could be stopped temporarily or permanently for disobedience. All public utterances had to be personally approved by Bobrikov. Any letter could be opened and numerous spies were planted everywhere to catch illoyal subjects. In 1903, the Governor General was given dictatorial powers and was able to depose government officials at will. He increased the police force with the most brutal elements he could find, including former convicts, and gave them full liberty in their dealings with citizens. Many thousand Finns were deported under his reign, and the Finnish hatred of Bobrikoff and his regime was white-hot.

Then, on June 16, 1904, the day Leopold Bloom sauntered through Dublin, Eugen Schaumann, born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, focused all the hatred of the nation through the barrel of a gun he held in his hand, and fired three shots into the physical body of Bobrikov. Schaumann immediately became a shining name in Finnish history. Three films are made about him, two of them with relatives in the leading role, an unusual fact in itself.

By 1904, the Russo-Japanese war had started, and rather than unifying and calming the stirring masses of the Empire, the string of embarrassing defeats resulted in more unrest at home, eventually leading to the revolution of 1905. The Finnish nationalists, too, were given concessions. Deportees were sent home, and censure was lightened. The Finns contributed to the revolution with a great strike in October-November 1905, to end russification and restore or improve public rights. A new parliament, parallel to the Duma, was founded, and the first general election held in 1906. As only the 4th nation in the world (behind Isle of Man, New Zealand and Australia), Finland gave women the right to vote. But reactionary powers were at work in the Empire. In 1907, suffrage was restricted, resulting in a more conservative Duma, favouring renewed russification of Finland. The liberal Governor General, Nikolaj Gerhard, was replaced by Vladimir Böckmann in February, 1908. Thankfully, even Böckmann had some liberal sentiments and was able to offer some resistance to the new russification pressures from Moscow.

Into this atmosphere of renewed terror fears, Oscar Mathisen and his comrades sailed over the Baltic Sea a hundred years ago to fight for the 2nd Finnish Cup. Unfortunately, I don’t have so much information about the races, as Oscar does not remember particulars, and neither is Preben’s data complete or the accounts in Skøyteboka and Norsk Idrætsblad very fulfilling. But the weather must have been great all weekend, and several personal bests were set. The Finns no doubt fought bravely, but only Schrey was able to mingle in with the Norwegians in the 5000m, equalling his pb from Davos.

During training before the races, Oscar had an accident, as he collided with the figure skater Nadja Franck. He broke her arm in the collision, and himself suffered such a battering that for a while he thought his 5000m start doubtful.

1.Oscar Mathisen  9.06,2
2.Arne Schrey     9.07,6 lpb
3.Magnus Johansen 9.08,4 pb
4.Sigurd Mathisen 9.14,6 pb
5.Franz F Wathén  9.23,2
6.Vainö Wickström 9.24,2 pb

Points: KSK 8, HSK 13.

The results of Vikander and Andersen are not known. Apparently, Wiinikainen and maybe some others skated outside competition, but their 5000m results are not known either. Can anybody help?