By Enrique Tessieri
Every country has its silent minority or majority and Finland is no different in this respect. The victory of the right-wing populist Perussuomalaiset (PS) party in April raises a lot of questions: Have the ghosts of Finlandization and the Continuation War (1941-44) been resurrected?
When future historians write about the post-April era in Finland, when the PS gained a historic victory in the election, they will uncover many things that have their roots in our history.
Seeing a country like Finland jump into the arms of populism and xenophobia is a tragedy indeed. Seeing the country slide into social and economic poverty as a result is even sadder.
While some analysts may be scratching their heads why a significant part of Finland’s population wants to turn its back to the outside world, it should not come to any surprise because it was already written in the sand a long time ago. The isolation we suffered during the cold war for decades still dictates how we see ourselves in relation to the outside world.
One of the biggest casualties of the Winter War (1939-40), Continuation War and cold war era was the blow to our cultural diversity. We encouraged ethnic purity at the cost of cultural diversity. By 1970, for example, there were only 7,000 foreigners living in the country. The biggest national group back then were Finns who were naturalized Swedes.
When diversity is almost blown off the face of the map and replaced by cultural myths like ethnic “purity,” it is clear that we lack the resources today to tackle many problems facing the country, especially those that address our cultural diversity. We speak and look so much alike that we all agree with each other. The immigration debate is a classic example. Debate is one-sided and poor because mostly Finns, not immigrants or Multicultural Finns, are taking part in the debate.
Our lack of cultural diversity has impoverished us as a nation in many ways. The rise of the PS in April is one of many examples of what our past geopolitical isolation has brought on our doorstep today.
Moreover, we never even debated in earnest our geopolitical isolation from the world and how relations with the former Soviet Union changed our mindset.
We chose, instead, to live off myths about ourselves and put off and leave our future to chance.