Just like when Finland won its independence from the former Soviet Union in the last century, the country will face new challenges to its cultural identity.
In the 20th century, after December 6, 1917, when Finland gained its cherished independence, there was a lot of work done to exert Finnish culture and wipe out the symbols of Russian culture.
Finland almost succeeded at becoming a near-homogeneous society in the last century. By the 1960s, the number of foreigners had dwindled to a mere 6,000. Presently, there are over 100,000 foreigners that live in Finland. Some Finns see “multiculturalism” as a threat to what was achieved culturally in the past century.
Multiculturalism is not a new concept. Since the dawn of time, when primates became bipedal, different tribes and groups have integrated with each other with varying results. The Canadian concept of multiculturalism aims to teach all nationalities and people with different cultural backgrounds to live side by side in harmony.
Finnish culture was never monocultural nor homogeneous. We were taught to think that way by keeping our definition very tight and inflexible on Finnish culture.
Some may ask about the outlandish things that the former Soviet Union did to Finland during the Second World War. Nobody cannot deny that the injustices that Finland endured at the hands of an autocratic communist regime were terrible.
I am in favor that the the Karelian Isthmus, Viena Karelia, Salla and Petsamo should be one day returned to Finland. I understand, however, that we can never aspire to rejoin these territories as purely Finnish regions but with other minorities such as Russian speakers. Taking into account our upbringing, history with Russia and cultural intransigence, it would be a too difficult pill for some Finns to swallow.
While multiculturalism is no magic cure for all, it offers us better chances to live side by side other cultures and possibly even find solutions to old territorial disputes such as Karelia.
Owing to the rapidly aging Finnish population, which is a real threat to our culture and economic livelihood, multiculturalism will help us resolve many difficult challenges in the future.
If Finland’s aim was to build a near-homogeneous culture in the last century, it’s greatest challenge will be to build a multicultural Finnish society in this century.