We are sad to spread the following news today: Leif Rantala, long time at the University of Lapland the grand old man of Sámi research, has passed away. From the very start of the anthropology team in Rovaniemi, he has been a benevolent, albeit quiet supporter, and joined with great interest some of our discussions. He has also been a great help with background information from his immense library and archive in his head, as well as in his office and home, for much of our work connected to the Sámi in Russia. Our ORHELIA oral history project would not have got a Sámi component in the proposal that was rich enough in background information without Leif’s help. Leif is less known to international Arctic anthropology, but very well in Arctic language studies, end even more so Finno-Ugric linguistics. Many of us will also remember him from his numerous roles as translator at international meetings. Who else could translate in all directions between Finnish-Russian-Sámi-English-Swedish in the way he could? For us in the team Leif will also be in warm memories for his firm orientation in fundamental advancement of knowledge on the one hand, and for making this knowledge always available for the people themselves. He did not care about citation indexes, scopus, web of sciences, credits etc. He wanted to make sure that his work is useful, and was not ready to compromise it according to some criteria made by somebody else. At times this may have seemed stubborn, but it was admirable in its crystal clear agenda and strict rigour. As Suvi Kivela wrote in her facebook obituary, there is no answer to any of the questions “who now?” Leif was unique as a scholar, and as a personality. Who for example would have guessed that he went to see the Scorpions’ last concert in Oulu in 2014? We sincerely hope that all the colleagues working with his materials in the future, and on his field sites, will keep Leif’s legacy alive. Leif, rest in peace!
Here is some more info on Leif from online in wikipedia (English), or the same in Finnish (both with list of works and publications), and from the Sápmi news service in Finland