By Enrique Tessieri
Ever wonder why immigrants, multicultural Finns, immigration to Finland and refugees don’t have any history in Finland? If historical importance could be measured like a loaf of bread, the history of older minorities like the Saami, Roma, Tartars, Jews and others would be mere crumbs.
The question why immigrants and minorities don’t have a history in Finland is like investigating the history of the exploited by the exploiters. By not having, or denying a group its history, you forsake them a place in society. Since they don’t exist they have no rights never mind the right to demand them.
In many respects, the social construct of the prototype Finns as the bonafide Finn in the last century was a pretext for steamrolling minorities and denying them their right to be Finns. It explains why a large part of the population has today difficulty in accepting cultural diversity as natural in Finland.
If we look at the independence of the United States in 1776 or that of other Latin American countries during 1808-1826, there is a big difference with Finland’s independence in 1917. Even though the former loathed the political system that permitted their exploitation under colonialism, a large number of them were former inhabitants or descendants of these European kingdoms. They even spoke their languages as well as practiced their culture and religion.
In Finland, however, it was a different story. History teaches us that we sought independence because we didn’t want to be or were Russians. In order to build a national identity we amalgamated or “fennified” our culture through measures like changing our surnames into Finnish ones. Killing our cultural diversity was acceptable because of our hatred of groups like the Russians.
Does this same hatred affect our good judgement today as a modern twenty-first century nation?
Difficult questions about our history and cultural roots had to be conveniently forgotten by history in order for us to forge a near-monolithic Finnish national identity.
One group that were nearly forgotten were Finnish immigrants and their descendants.
Thanks to the over million immigrants that left this country from the 1860s, Finnish culture has evolved in many lands. Instead of accepting our rich cultural diversity that Finnish immigrants and their descendants gave this nation, we passed strict citizenship laws that disjointed them from us.
Debating what happened to our cultural diversity and why it was nearly erased would be questioning the whole essence of our reason for being as a nation in the twentieth century.
What will come out of such a debate in the future is a question mark. One matter is for certain, however: It should make us stronger at the end of the day because Finnish culture will be more acceptant of its diversity.