Finland’s exhibition displays a journey from west to east


The Finnish Embassy in Ankara on Tuesday launched a photo exhibition of rare photos by Lt. Col. Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim of the Russian army taken during his journey on horseback along the Silk Road between 1906 and 1908.

The exhibition of 48 photographs from Central Asia to China will be open to visitors who want to discover this unique journey until Nov. 14 at CerModern arts center in the capital Ankara.

The photos taken in the early 1900s draw the visitor’s attention due to their extraordinary vividness, details and stories.

Mannerheim used a heavy 9×12 cm field camera, difficult to use and carry on horseback, and took 1,200 negatives in total. Some of the photos were taken for military purposes while others were for anthropologic records. Within this scope, we can see photos taken from the same person from a front view as well as a side portrait.

The natural life, expressions, feelings of locals and their culture can be seen in detail in Mannerheim’s photos as some of the local people he met had their photo taken for the first time and saw a camera for the first time. Some of the people he met include Uyghurs, Kalmyks, Torghuts, Yugurs, Kyrgyz and Tangut.

Life, as it was more than 100 years ago, is depicted in the photos, from everyday drudgery to festive occasions. Mannerheim met with haughty Mandarins, beggars, opium smokers, soldiers, tribe leaders as well as nomads.

Photos depicting Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim's journey through Central Asia are seen at CerModern, Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 12, 2021. (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Photos depicting Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim’s journey through Central Asia are seen at CerModern, Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 12, 2021. (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

The photos come together with a photo diary that documented every shot, amounting to a colorful reportage of a bygone world.

In the spring of 1906, 39-year-old Mannerheim from the Grand Duchy of Finland received a task from the Russian army. Being assigned to gather up-to-date political and military intelligence, Mannerheim posed as an explorer throughout his undercover adventure.

At the time Russia had suffered a humiliating defeat to Japan in Manchuria only a couple of years before, and intricate gameplay was now in progress throughout Central Asia with Russia, Japan, Britain, spies, agents and investigators of several countries being part of it

During the more than two-year journey, Mannerheim traveled around 14,000 kilometers mostly by horse in various circumstances as is being depicted in the photos he took. We see many photos of his caravan traveling through rivers, steep mountains, steppes and deserts while engaging with the local people.

Mannerheim took measurements, drew maps and documented his experiences throughout the journey while he had studied the region, previous travels as well as discussed the scientific goals of the trip with the Finnish scientific community before he departed for the expedition.

The curator of the exhibition, Peter Sandberg, elaborated on the incidents and stories behind each of the 48 photographs during the opening of the exhibition on Tuesday, which was attended by several media members as well as ambassadors.

Curator of the exhibition, Peter Sandberg is seen at CerModern, Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 12, 2021. (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Curator of the exhibition, Peter Sandberg is seen at CerModern, Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 12, 2021. (Photo by Dilara Aslan)

Ambassador of Finland to Turkey Ari Mäki made an opening speech, briefing guests on the exhibition and Mannerheim.

Attendants had the chance to try Vorschmack – a favorite dish of Mannerheim usually made of salty minced fish or meat as well as Finnish drinks.



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