What is more shameful? The atrocities we committed or covering up those atrocities?
One of the matters that surprised me when I was writing for a number of publications from Finland like the Financial Times, was how its geopolitical isolation helped it to cover up some unpleasant facts about itself. Its isolation gave it a free hand to write history to avoid it answering unpleasant things like its alliance with Nazi Germany in World War 2.
One of these unpleasant episodes of its history, which have gathered dust for decades, is the complicity of Finnish SS-volunteers in atrocities against Jews and civilian population of Nazi-occupied Russia.
Relations with Nazi Germany were so good that Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and Marshall Carl Gustaf Mannerheim drank a schnapps together in Mikkeli in fall 1942
For me personally, the geographic and later during the Cold War its geopolitical remoteness from Western Europe molded Finland into being too alike. Up to the 1970s even Finnish historians continued to use pseudoscience disciplines like eugenics dividing Finns into two “races:” the Nordic and East Baltic. Even at elementary schools in the 1970s, children leaned that that the letter n stands for the n-word.
This led to distorted views about oneself just like Heikki Waris’ academic denial in the cold war years of the 1960s. He wrote: “Racial homogeneity particularly characterizes the Finnish people who have practically no racial minorities…Consequently, racial prejudice and discrimination are nonexistent.”
Being too alike has given racism and exceptionalism fertile ground to grow and shed roots.
Near-isolation has not helped us to deal with our demographic woes. As the population grays, and as our demographic, social and economic problems grow, some of us will search for answers in populist and Islamophobic parties like the Peussuomalaiset.*
It’s not difficult to connect the dots and seek the answer why racism, fascism, and nationalism are on the rise.
I believe that it will be the migrants, their children and grandchildren that will cure this country of its myopic view of itself and the outside world. They will be an effective antibody against racism.
Back in the good old structural racism days of the 1980s, laws such as the Restricting Act of 1939 (law 219/1939), which became redundant in 1992, prohibited foreigners from owning real estate and acquiring a majority stake in Finnish companies—limiting this to 20% normally and 40% under special permission. Other “darlings” of that period were that foreigners weren’t allowed found newspapers, never mind organize demonstrations and be politically active.
At the time in Finland, there was no habeas corpus, no right to appeal your deportation, and no laws against racism never mind hate crime. Even Soviet citizens were forcibly returned to the former Soviet Union after requesting asylum.