When Finland gained its independence in 1917, an extensive Finnicization program began. Those that had foreign or non-Lutheran backgrounds were encouraged to throw away their history and amalgamate. In seven years, Finland will celebrate its centenary as an independent nation. What will be its winning identity in this century?
If we were able to forge a national identity in the 1920s by amalgamation and Finnicizing surnames, the same method would probably not work today because diversity is seen in a totally different light than back then.
Contrary to the first three decades of independence, Finland is in no threat of being overtaken by another country as was the case with the former Soviet Union.
Finland faces today different types of threats like aging, attracting skilled professionals, financing our comprehensive social welfare system, global warming and ever-competitive global markets. Even populism has poked its head from the undercurrent of discontent as one of the threats to our future growth as a vibrant and dynamic nation.
What type of a Finnish identity do we need to pull us through this century if in the previous one it was highly exclusive and amalgamated?
I believe that the key word is diversity. We are all “us” in such a society irrespective of our backgrounds. All of us work together for the common good of society that has the ability to accept others in a spirit of equality as is enshrined in our laws.
One of the matters that has always impressed me about Finns is that we shun arrogance. Our offer of treating others in a spirit of equality offers a good springboard to build a society that will not be overcome by greed.
Our greatest enemy that can put in jeopardy our society of this century are the old culprits of exclusion and very selective pathways to incorporation.
Acceptance, opportunity and inclusion will be the trademarks of success of our society in the twenty-first century. Without them we are doomed.