Nearly 70 invited guests including Tellervo Koivisto, President Mauno Koivisto’s widow, their daughter Assi Koivisto-Allonen and her husband Heikki Allonen gathered in clear but cold weather to reveal a cenotaph dedicated to the memory of the late president.
President Sauli Niinistö and his wife Jenni Haukio as well as former Presidents Tarja Halonen and Martti Ahtisaari and their spouses and a number of politicians attended the ceremony. They included parliamentary speaker Paula Risikko, deputy speaker Mauri Pekkarinen and second deputy speaker Tuula Haatainen.
Conducted by Music Major Pasi-Heikki Mikkola, Finland’s oldest operating orchestra, the Guards Band, launched the proceedings with a rendition of Jean Sibelius’ Isänmaalle (roughly translated as "To the Fatherland" in English).
Speaking at the unveiling, President Niinistö said that Koivisto had left an indelible mark on the country’s history.
"The key routes on President Koivisto’s map – unity, trust, a sense of justice, democracy and our parliamentary system are the directions in which we should continue to travel in the future." Niinistö said in his remarks.
Key role in independent Finland's development
Representing the government, Foreign Minister Timo Soini described the deceased president as "humane and elegant" and said he had played a central role in the development of an independent Finland.
Artist Perttu Saksa was on hand to participate in the unveiling ceremony. His creation, a gold-embossed sculpture titled "The Map" (Kartta, in Finnish) won a competition to select a suitable cenotaph for the grave of the president, who died 12 May 2017 at the age of 93.
The massive sculpture weighs in at 9,000 kilograms, is 2.5 metres wide and stands at a height of 70 cm off the ground. It was sculpted from a single continuous slab of black diabase rock and the installation was scheduled for 25 November, when the elder statesman would have turned 95.
Following the unveiling, Koivisto’s widow laid a single red rose on the cenotaph, followed by Niinistö and representatives of the government and parliament, who laid wreaths at the base of the monument.
Mauno Koivisto was Finland’s ninth president and served from 1982 to 1994. Koivisto was well-liked and highly-respected and his funeral on 25 May last year drew tens of thousands of mourners eager to pay their respects. More than one million viewers also followed the live broadcast on Yle.