Scattered among the Heathens
Part of the Finnish people, the Ingrians, have traditionally lived outside the Finnish boarders, in an area surrounding the present site of St. Petersburg .. This inhabitation goes back about 1,000 years. St. Petersburg was built in the middle of this Ingrian area by the Russian Czar, Peter the Great, beginning in 1703. About the same time the institution of serfdom was established, which was to last until 1861. After the heavy burden of serfdom was removed, the Ingrians started the quick development toward their own identity and culture through Finnish schools, language, newspapers and especially their own Lutheran churches, even though they were surrounded by an Orthodox and later atheistic Russian speaking population. The play begins with the church bells ringing (1924) at the happy wedding of Ella, who is the main character in the play. The wedding is a happy event but there are also some ominous signs. And soon after, start the great changes which communism brought to the country; collectivism of all the farms, shutting down private businesses, denying the people the right to their religion and their language. As a consequence, almost all Ingrians were resettled in one remote area or another, with many being taken to slave-labor camps in Siberia and other parts of Russia. In the process about one-half of the Ingrians died of hunger, disease, and inhuman treatment. Finally at the end of the 1980's they were able to begin returning to their old areas. Their first priority upon returning was to rebuild their destroyed and desecrated churches. All the characters in the play are fictitious except for Rev. Halttunen who disappeared in some labor camp, Rev. Kuortti, who was able to escape from the camps and survived, and the young charismatic pastor Arvo Survo who is also a poet, composer and singer. He continues to live and work among the Ingrians and his personality reflects the poetical and deeply religious nature of the Ingrian people.
The original Finnish play premiered at the Kaleva Theatre in 1991.