Celebrating 100 Years – Freemasonry In Finland

Celebrating 100 Years – Freemasonry In Finland



Celebrating 100 Years

Finland Centenary 2024

Did you know that our Grand Lodge of New York consecrated the Grand Lodge of Finland in 1924?
Finland, a picturesque Scandinavian country of 5.5 million is popularly known as “the land of a thousand lakes” (180,000 lakes).

Situated at the top of Europe, Finland has a history that spans 9,000 years. During the Crusades, Finland became part of the Swedish Kingdom and was later absorbed into the Russian Empire, finally declaring itself an independent state in 1917. Having visited Finland as a young man in the 1970s, I remember late summer nights where the sun did not set until after 2AM and the Finns robust, hearty and welcoming.

Today, across 40 locations in Finland there are now 180 Finnish Lodges and 7,300 Freemasons. America’s cultural ties with Finland span back more than 150 years. Between 1870 and 1920, 340,000 Finns immigrated to the United States mostly to Minnesota, Ohio and Illinois. A shared priority was to keep their heritage, language and traditions alive. Today, there are more than 650,000 Finnish-Americans in the US.

A Brief History

Since the Treaty of Nöteborg in 1323, Finland was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden for 500 years. As such, Freemasonry in that part of Sweden was practiced through the Swedish Rite. In 1756, St. Johannes Lodge was founded for the eastern province of Finland which held sessions in Stockholm and Turku (Finland’s oldest city located in the south). Starting in 1762, the Lodge held some sessions in Helsinki.

Following the Russo-Sweden War of 1808-1809, Finland was absorbed into the Russian Empire making Finland a self-governing Grand Duchy with allegiance to the Czar. Freemasonry was suppressed under the Russian Emperor, Alexander I who on Aug. 13, 1822 issued an order “…prohibiting secret societies and Masonic lodges.”

Operating in Foreign Countries

Only few Finnish Masons continued to practice in other countries like England, Scotland and France. Due to Russian political oppression, ongoing wars and the economic situation in Europe, many Finns from the Russian Grand Duchy emigrated abroad. According to the US Library of Congress 389,000 Finns immigrated to North America from 1870-1920, many taking jobs in mining and tenant farming. (image: many Finns were recruited by American mining companies to work in Michigan and Minnesota) Many Finns joined Freemasonry in the regions to which they immigrated especially in the Midwest, while Freemasonry as such no longer existed in the old mother country.

Image: A collection of Finnish Masonic artifacts

Image: News article reporting the official visit from the Grand Lodge of New York
Image: Charter of Suomi Lodge No 1, May 3, 1923

A New Finnish Grand Lodge

Finland declared its independence on December 6, 1917 which laid the foundations to establish its own Grand Lodge.

On May 2, 1922, the Grand Lodge of New York, in the spirit of Fraternity, assisted in the founding of the Grand Lodge of Finland. The Finnish automobile engineer Brother J.E. Tuokkola alongside lawyer and Brother Toivo H. Nekto (who attended law school in New York) started working on establishing the first Finnish Masonic Lodge, Suomi Lodge 1. Both Brothers Tuokkola and Nekto returned to Finland from the US and labored together to draw up a charter-member list of prospective members including the world renowned composer Jean Sibelius, General C.G. Mannerheim, Archbishop Gustaf Johansson, architect Lars Sonck, painter Pekka Halonen and composer Robert Kajanus. On August 14th, 1922, with hopes that Sibelius would serve as the Lodge Organist, it was recorded in the minutes that Jean Sibelius would compose “original, genuinely Finnish music for the lodge”. Other music performed in the Lodge, at first on a Mannborg harmonium, were classical works by Mozart, Beethoven and unique Masonic Ritual music for the third degree composed by Sibelius in 1922. To this day, Finnish Lodges use the music composed by Sibelius for the Webb ritual.

On August, 22 1922, Most Worshipful Arthur S. Tompkins, U.S. Representative from New York and Justice of the New York Supreme Court, who served as Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of New York visited Finland on three occasions: in 1922, 1923 and 1924. MW Tompkins performed an induction to the Order according to the prescribed Entered Apprentice Ritual and Finland’s first Lodge or “Loosi” – the Suomi Lodge No 1 was born. It was an august beginning to a new and truly Finnish Freemasonry in a modern Europe and an example of American Freemasonry’s commitment to the Fraternity worldwide. (Image: Summons to Stated Communication Suomi Loosi (Lodge) No 1, Dec 28, 1922.
The first charter of Suomi Lodge 1.

On May 2, 1922, J.E. Tuokkola sent to New York a request to establish a Lodge. On August 14, 1922, the establishment session of the temporary Suomi Maja 1 Lodge was held in Tuokkola’s residence in Helsinki, at the invitation of Toivo H. Nekton, an American-Finn who was appointed as the Deputy Grand Master of the Finland District. On August 18, 1922, MW Tompkins and four other Masonic representatives from the Grand Lodge in the State of New York led the ritual in the Säätytalo at the first Masonic session of independent Finland where 27 Brothers received all three degrees on the same day. This was followed by the establishment of Tammer Lodge No 2 (in Tampere) and Phoenix Lodge No 3 in 1923 (in Turku). The formal Consecration was performed by MW Tompkins in September 1924 and the Installation of W Bro Axel Solitander (a member of the “twenty-seven” original founders) of Suomi Lodge No 1 as the first Grand Master of Finland. In 1931, a Lodge was established at Abo (Turku) on the southwest coast of Finland.

The 1930s marked a challenging time for Finnish Freemasons during the Great Depression and in the years approaching the Second World War while many groups faced severe persecution across Europe. Membership dipped to 238 in 1938 and the Craft officially suspended activities in 1941 but continued “underground”, especially in the form of charitable work. At the close of the War in 1945, Finnish Freemasonry resumed its operations with zeal and in the booming 1950s expanded with the noted establishment of the Humanities Society which focused on Masonic education, speaking and charity. By the 1970s, membership grew from the original 300 of the 1920s to 4,000 by 1980 and soon culminated into the first Masonic conventions held in Turku and Tampere.

As the Grand Lodge of New York had collaborated with Finnish Freemasons to establish a Grand Lodge, so did the Grand Lodge of Finland collaborate with their Estonian neighbors in the founding of the Grand Lodge of Estonia in 1999. The Grand Lodge of Finland has continued to build amity and Masonic relations with its Grand Lodges in Scandinavia with regular Lodge visits.

Today, Lodge ritual is performed in Finland in Finnish, Swedish, English and German using the ritual developed by the Founding Father of American Masonry Thomas Smith Webb (1771-1819).

The Future

The Grand Lodge of Finland and the Grand Lodge of New York both celebrate profound Fraternal Bonds in 2024 as part of the Centenary of the Founding of the Grand Lodge of Finland. New York Brethren are particularly welcome to attend the celebrations, learn more about this event by listening to the recent Craftsmen Online Podcast on Finnish Freemasonry below.


We are grateful to esteemed Brethren of the Grand Lodge of New York including RW Steven A. Rubin, Assistant Grand Master, RW Richard Schultz, Grand Secretary, RW Richard Bateman, Grand Pursuivant & Assistant Grand Secretary, RW Michael LaRocco, Executive Director, Robert R Livingston Library, VW Christophe Loubry-Boulanger.

And from our distinguished Brethren from Finland, our thanks to RW Lauri Helaniemi, Past Assistant Grand Master Centenary Program Director 2022-2024 and the team of devoted Brothers who have made this project possible.