Finland’s long-overdue issue with the cold war

by , under All categories, Enrique

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.

    • Enrique

      Hi Jouko, when you debate with someone do you look at what he writes or what his ethnic background is? But don’t let the name fool you. As I mentioned, I consider myself a Multicultural Finn. For your information, and I am certain many bloggers can confirm this, I am not into nationalism.

      I checked your FB site and noted that you are from Savonranta. My great grandparents used to live in Sääminki and they owned Miekkoniemi in the end-1890s and early nineteenth century. Beautiful city.

      In the pictures you have on your FB page I was a bit concerned about an SS soldier and crosses. When you respond to this thread, and if you ever do, you could explain what these pictures mean. I consider them personally insulting taking into account that some of my relatives were Jews.

  1. Örmy

    Isn’t that racism when you declare that every Perussuomalalainen represents populism, xenophobia and nationalism? And what has happened to freedom of speach when I can’t say that not all is good what multiculturalism brings, without that I will be instantly judged as a racist?

    • Enrique

      Hi Örmy, welcome to Migrant Tales. As a Finn with a multicultural background, the PS represent for me a threat to my identity as well as that of my relatives and other people like me. I have said it many times on this blog that there is nothing wrong with standing up for poor people but if you start using racism, populism and xenophobia to get your message across then that is wrong. I don’t like and accept the PS’ stance on immigration and their view of Finnish society. That is my right to disagree and your right to be a PS member if you wish.

      Now let me ask you a question: Do you think I am wrong in stating that the PS ISN’T a populist and xenophobic party? Maybe not all members think that way but those two components are the gravy of the party.

      By the way, I cannot be racist towards the PS because it is a party – not an ethnicity.

  2. Perussuomalainen

    I’m a Finn living outside Finland the past 22 years. Right now I’m planning to move back to FInland, but this time with my Dutch (basic West-European) husband (with brown hair and eyes, unlike his sisters) and our kids. I never thought this would be a problem, before this summer. On the flight back from the summer vacation in Finland with my kids in July this year, however, I read an article in a Finnish newspaper (Iltalehti or Helsingin Sanomat) about racism. According to the article there are people in Finland who (verbally or even physically) attack everyone who deviate from the peroxide-blond version – they can even get the idea to attack born Finns – women with children too – with a little darker hair than they are used to. I almost can’t believe it actually. I’m ashamed that such stupid fear occurs within the people that I thought were reasonable, brave and fair.

    But I guess we’ll all need to acknowledge the fact that within every nation in the world, a certain part of the population will feel themselves threatened by everything that doesn’t look like themselves. This part of the population will grab any argumentation they can think of for keeping any elements away from themselves that they are incapable of understanding. If they possess any level of intelligence, they’ll try to use some kind of argumentation for it. The (new)nazi’s commonly use(d) argumentation such as stating that they are “good Christians” As a basic Christian I”m the first one to admit that I’m not good, but, even so, I recently came across a Bible sentence saying, in a free translation: “Treat the foreigners, orphans and widows that live within the gates of your City, weill”.I guess it’s a universal truth that those who repress minorities are the weak ones themselves.

    • Enrique

      Hi Perussuomlainen and welcome to Migrant Tales. It is truly sad that some part of the population believe that they can exclude and insult other groups from society. Fortunately there are Finns who are “reasonable, brave and fair” who can speak out. I guess one thing about living in Holland (despite Gert Wilders) is that it is culturally diverse and normal people don’t have an issue with that. Europe has a bad track record with racism. There is some positive news: The Progress Party of Norway is going to suffer a big defeat in the municipal election as is the Islamophobic Danish People’s Party; Swedes continue to see the Sweden Democrats as a bad joke. The PS are doing their balancing act on a thin rope. The only reason they won’t fall into the pit is because they are in the opposition.

  3. Hannu

    Enrique so you have right to see PS as threat on your identity but people cant see mass immigration threat to their identity?
    Is it wrong when i say youre finnofobic, racismfobic, nationalityfobic and psfobic.

    • Enrique

      Hannu, the PS IS a threat to Finnish society and even a worse one to minorities like visible immigrants living in Finland. They base their prejudice on ignorance, fear and low self-esteem. Take racism out of the PS and it could become a “normal” party. However, if you took that component out of the PS would it ever be the PS?

  4. Niko

    Enrique, I think people would still vote for the PS even they wouldn’t criticize immigration system in Finland (and I think they haven’t even done that after getting elected). I think the bigger issue for people was the EU bailout and that’s why so many voted for them. That is just my feeling about the party.

  5. Mary Mekko

    How are foreigners lumped with orphans and widows? Are widowers not a problem in the treated-badly department of Biblical life?

    Besides, just by looking, how could one know that a person is 1. an orphan 2. a widow or 3. a foreigner (male or female?) Perhaps in the Hebrew tribal system, everyone knew everyone.

    I do wonder if all these black=dye-punk types in Finland are getting attacked. IN the 2000’s, it seemed to me that there were a LOT of such young people in Finland pretending not to blonde or mousy-haired. Besides, don’t most of the Finnish women after a certain age dye their hair, and usually blonde? So in other words, a real Finn isn’t a blonde, unless he or she is dying it, especially after a certain age?

    How can a Finn, who can barely look at his neighbor’s shoes due to introversion, get the oompahpah to stand up and strike his or her nonblonde neighbor man? That takes a lot of guts for the shy Finn!