Immigration to Finland and the cold war

by , under All categories, Enrique

While history provides a good answer why Finland as a nation has shown a clear manifest unease of foreigners and outside investment, it still does not provide us with an all-encompassing answer as to why. Are we still resentful of newcomers because our language rights were granted in 1862?  Is it due to the Russification period, when the Russian Empire attempted to impose their language and culture on us at the cost of our precious autonomy?

If so, we Finns hold grudges for a very long time.

Irrespective of those two historical factors, I believe the biggest culprit of our present-day negative stance gained strength during World War 2 and the cold war years. Even though we rebuilt our nation from the ashes of war, we had the right to be resentful of the Soviet Union but were censored harshly by the Finnish political intelligentsia to air our views.

The fear of the USSR, which strengthened our negative view in general of all outsiders, was reinforced by our “successful” relations with Moscow. The history of Finland in the cold war era is in a nutshell a story about how a nation broke out little by little of its political and economic near-isolation from Western Europe that culminates in 1995, when we became EU members.

Our special relationship with Moscow gave birth to Finlandization. Even though the relationship was good for Finnish-Soviet trade (we bartered manufactured goods that we could not sell elsewhere for oil), it was devastating for democracy, freedom of the press, internationalization, immigration to this country and to our identity as a nation.

During those near-stagnant cultural and political years, immigrants were called “aliens” (muukalainen) and refugees “loikkari” (a person who skips a country).

If I were a politician living at that time and wanted to impose my rule on the country, I would have certainly used the Moscow card like Center Party icon Urho Kekkonen did on many occasions.

While some Finns believe that enough historical psychoanalysis has been carried out on those bygone years, nothing could be further from the truth. There are still many skeletons in closets that will haunt and surprise us in the future. One way of keeping those revelations from appearing is by keeping them to a minimum with respect to our former relations with the USSR and the cold war period.

By keeping guarding the secrets of the past we end up doing great harm to ourselves and future generations because we continue to wrongly believe that the way things were done politically, democratically and economically (monopolies and oligopolies) were right.  A good example of what I am saying is the Center Party: they appear to be for the EU but in reality they continue support it opportunistically and reject it at every turn, like Paavo Väyrynen as a political phenomenon.

Don’t expect anything to change in Finland too rapidly. Even so, part of the answer lies in how courageously we open up the cold war years in order to understand who we are today.