Finlandization was very bad for refugees, especially Soviet asylum seekers

by , under Enrique Tessieri

A story in Thursday’s Helsingin Sanomat shows that the shadow of Finlandization continues to hang deep on Finland even if the demise of the former Soviet Union ocurred in 1991. Even if the Helsingin Sanomat story writes about Finland’s first-ever airplane hijacking case in 1977 involving two Soviet citizens on an Aeroflot flight, it sheds an eerie light on a disgraceful era we should never repeat

For those who aren’t that familiar with how Finland returned Soviet citizens to the USSR even if they asked for asylum, the journalist doesn’t tell us why the Soviet hijacker wanted the pilot to fly to Stockholm but ended up instead landing the plane in Finland.

The hijackers wanted to fly to Sweden because they knew they’d get political asylum in that country. Even the pilots knew, which explains why they tricked the hijackers into thinking that they were going to land in Stockholm but ended up at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.

After almost twenty years of searching, I finally made contact with a former Soviet citizen who crossed the border but was sent back to the USSR in 1976. While there are stories written in the Estonian media about such refugees, the story I published in Apu magazine was one of the few ever published in Finland about the whole ordeal.

Näyttökuva 2014-7-31 kello 8.22.22


Read full story here.

It’s unfortunate that Finland isn’t still ready to debate and open up that murky period to investigation.

Writes American Interest about Finland and the cold war:

Usually intended as a pejorative, “Finlandization” describes the phenomenon that occurs when a small country living alongside a large and aggressive neighbor accepts a reduction of its sovereignty, particularly in the realm of foreign policy, in order to maintain independence. The term derives from the posture of neutrality that Finland adopted during the Cold War.

I would go as far as to suggest that one of the roots of Finland’s present-day xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment, like with the rise of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party in 2011, stem from the cold war era. It would be naive to believe that decades of geopolitical isolation and living next door to a country like the Soviet Union didn’t impact it.

Finland was during the cold war effectively a closed country to foreigners never mind foreign investment. Apart from wiping out the little cultural and ethnic diversity that this country enjoyed, the cold war era discouraged as well any serious debate about fascism in this country during the 1930s and especially in the Continuation War (1941-44), when we were an ally of Nazi Germany.

You may ask why Finland and it’s largest daily, Helsingin Sanomat, aren’t enthusiastic about opening up the stuffy dungeons of the past and our complex relations with Moscow.

A partial answer to that question lies in the picture on the Helsingin Sanomat story with Paavo Väyrynen, then foreign minister and today MEP.


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