Saimaa Phenomenon 2026

Why Savonlinna and Saimaa Phenomenon?

The enchanting city of Savonlinna is the candidate for European Capital of Culture (ECoC) 2026 among the provinces of eastern Finland (North and South Savonia, North and South Karelia), and their respective central cities: Kuopio, Mikkeli, Joensuu, and Lappeenranta. Collaboration and ideas for building the network started in earnest in the summer of 2018.

The area included in the Savonlinna Capital of Culture project is determined by natural boundaries consisting of the Greater Saimaa and Vuoksi watersheds, and characterised by a common history and culture inspired by water. The name “Saimaa Phenomenon” derives from the "Tuuliajolla" (“Adrift”), rock festival tour in the early 1980s, created by Savonia-born musician Juice Leskinen. In 1981, Finnish film directors Aki and Mika Kaurismäki made the documentary film “Saimaa-ilmiö” (“Saimaa Phenomenon”). Just like the movie, we want to achieve an honest, rough, ambitious, and energetic application which tells the story of the cultural activities in eastern Finland. The name of the project has Kaurismäki's blessing.

What is a Capital of Culture?

The EU has been formally designating European Capitals of Culture since 1985. During that time, two Finnish cities have received the coveted recognition: Helsinki in 2000, and Turku in 2011. The prestigious title brings with it considerable cultural, social, and economic benefits to the area — Turku, and southwest Finland in general benefited to the tune of 260 million Euro as a direct result of receiving the designation.

Soon, another city in Finland will join the ranks as European Capital of Culture 2026. Savonlinna has been nominated for the title, along -with Tampere and Oulu. Currently the nine-member team is formulating a high-quality programme and plan to be implemented for the European Capital of Culture 2026 year. The team will submit its final bid book entry to the jury on the 23rd of April 2021, and the jury is expected to announce its designee on June 2.