How can a country like Finland, which saw over 1.2 million people emigrate during 1860-1999 and resettled 420,000 Karelian refugees after the Continuation War (1941-44) with the former Soviet Union, loathe migrants and speak contemptuously against refugees? How do you explain the rise of an anti-immigration party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) that grew from a mere 5 MPs in the 2007 elections to 39 MPs in 2011?
How is it possible that the president of that party, Timo Soini, could claim on national television Thursday that it was immoral if people fled war and came to Europe as refugees instead of fight for social justice in their war-ravaged homelands?
Posing next to a monument for those Finnish migrants and refugees in the southern Finnish city of Hanko that left this country during 1880-1930. The picture was taken in 1980 by Erkki Siirilä.
Why do we continue to call evacuees those who fled their former homes and lands because they were ceded to the USSR? Why do we still refer to Soviet citizens who fled the country to the West as defectors and not refugees?
The answer is pretty clear: Denial of our history mixed with the shadow of the cold war, which ended with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Add to the latter the fact that we’ve done everything to kill diversity in the last century and a picture emerges. Our identity rests in that diversity. Erasing it is like erasing ourselves and our history.
Such a one-sided view of who we are and our history was and still is possible thanks to a closed and exclusive view.
Certainly it was politically correct to call Karelians and people from Petsamo and Salla “evacuees” and Soviet citizens “defectors” as opposed to refugees. Our giant eastern neighbor wouldn’t have liked it.
Our own prejudices and racism is nothing more than denial of who we are. We still lack courage to challenge this denial. However, time is on our side and one day we’ll be able to see the last century in a different light. This will make us stronger, not weaker.
The ethnic and racist fairy tales of some Finnish politicians and parties like the PS is based on your ignorance and theirs.