Racist propaganda during Finland’s Winter War (1939-40)

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Consequently, racial prejudice and discrimination are nonexistent (in Finland).                                                                                                          

Heikki Waris, An introduction to Finnish Society (1965), p. 2

Finland was also denying in the 1960s that racism did not exist because there weren’t any foreigners living in the country. Racism has, however, been part of our culture for a very long time: Kongo shoe polish, Neekeripusu (n-word kiss) chocolate,  the Fazer licorice Gollywog are some examples of how this social ill had implanted itself in the national culture.

If Waris and other researchers wanted to find out if racism existed in our culture, all they’d have to do was study Finns that emigrated to Africa, North and South America. I once asked a second-generation Finn in Argentina how many races there existed in the world. “There are three,” he said. “White, black and pitch-black.”

We can even see racism prevalent in a Suomen Kuvalehti Easter 1940 issue: “In the East Indies Islands there appears a strange form of sudden mental disorientation that is called ‘running amok,’ or being taken over by horror and then reacting in a mad fashion. Even while running away from battle with a dagger in hand, the inflicted person rushes here and there striking anyone dead (that gets in his way).”

And then on the next page of the story is a picture of two Finnish solider representing the “civilized” world who know how to keep calm in the face of shocking situations. “Can somebody imagine for example that these Finnish soldiers would “run amok?” the caption reads.

The gist of the story by PhD Jan Gästrin, headlined “Spiritual discipline,” is that blacks are uncivilized and Finns civilized. In battle Finnish soldiers don’t “run amok” but can withstand the most rigorous tests of war: rats, lice, poisoned air etc.

The first page of a Suomen Kuvalehti article published in 1940 that attempted to show how the European white man was superior to blacks.

Note: The author apologizes for the racist content of the Suomen Kuvalehti article and wants to make clear that he does not play down the valiant fight the Finns put up against the former Soviet Union in the Winter War.

    • Enrique

      Allan, do you remember the argument you used: We are natives (Euroindians) and immigrants are the conquerors? Well another common tactic by anti-immigration group is the switch the accusation around: You — no me- are the racist! That’s a bit like accusing the Jewish concentration camp victims of being SS. Does it work? Maybe on Hommaforum and other “popular” websites but not on Migrant Tales. Here such arguments appear ridiculous.

  1. Allan

    And please rnlighten us how “Easter 1940” is “during Winter War”? Or do you invent everything as you go along ?

    Really pathetic post, I would have expected some juicy Rymy-eetu cartoons or propaganda leaflets, or even antisemitic writings off the more obscure newspapers or Hakkapeliitta. Far more and better material. But some amok- running? That is just sad. And the willpower article… Seriously, you must have gotten the same negro-fixation as “Saw of God” Hakkarainen. Are you two related? Such overbearing thought, take a few double chocklate laku neekerinpusu and go get a spraytan in the morning. 😆

    • Enrique

      Allan the post is baed on a REAL Suomen Kuvalehti article — or is it that you actually believe what is being written by “Fil. Tri Jan Gästrin?” If you do I feel sorry for you.

  2. Allan

    While you are riding the holocaust, tell who are racists to the Palestinians while you are at it. Or is building the wall a mark of human rights?

  3. Allan

    So what about the article? It is a) not from during the Winter War b) running amok is not invented up and c)not racist if you compare it with anything contemporary of 1940 or even 1950’s

    So what else are you trying to prove except that you do not know anything about anything?

  4. Mary Mekko

    My favorite story from the Winter War is the Sausage Battle. The Finns carried frozen sausages with them, to cook or, I suppose, eat frozen if necessary. The poor Russians were marching through very low temperatures on bread and tea, or perhaps kvas. In any case, they’re starving for fat and protein. The white-clad Finns behind their birch trees set up a big bonfire, roasting all their sausages, and the Russians, who are marching in ranks through forest paths, b olt out of formation to the frying food aroma, whereupon the Finns then slaughter them all. Stalin was appalled, probably shot a few more to teach those lousy leaders a lesson.

    In any case, watching the reenactment on the video THE WINTER WAR, I could not help but notice that both Finns and Russians appear to be European blood. There may be language and ethnic pride issues, but racism? I scratch my white Irish head over here in San Francisco. Enrique, why are the Finns always the “bad guys” called “racists” when the whole planet is racist by its very nature? We’re born to distinguish those similar to us and those different, and it starts in early childhood. If this inborn ability didn’t exist, only then could that person be a nonracist, but then, he’d be a nonhuman, probably with a brain defect or lobotomy, or perhaps a dog loyal to any human who fed him. Even the Russian army was loyal to its own stomach, until their own deaths!

  5. Mary Mekko

    I meant to add that the Russians (whites) in this case ran “amok” just to get some fried hot food! And you say a Finn with his sisu would never do that? Isn’t he just as white as the Russian? Then his skin color ain’t the factor, it’s his culture.

  6. JusticeDemon


    The region traditionally known as the East Indies includes the Malay Peninsula. Amok/amuk is a Malay word. The article even points this out. The Finnish expression Itä-Intia is a bit misleading in this regard, but then again so is Itämeri.

    The illustration does not immediately call to mind the typical appearance of a Malay, and you are correct in noting that no modern researcher would write in this way about civilised and primitive peoples.

  7. Arto

    “…Neekeripusu (n-word kiss) chocolate, the Fazer licorice Gollywog are some examples of how this social ill had implanted itself in the national culture.”

    !? Are you serious!? I have never seen these as an expression of a slightest bit of racism. I have always thought these candy products gave a very positive impression of black people. In addition, the “N word” did not have any racist meaning at the time – this connotation is rather new, and caused largely by confusing the word with English word “nigger”, while a correct translation would be “negro” (you mistranslated the word in your blog writing about Teuvo Hakkarainen).

    I am sorry that I did not read the whole text this time. The absurdness of the ingress just did not give any reason to believe it would be worth it.

    • Enrique

      –!? Are you serious!? I have never seen these as an expression of a slightest bit of racism.

      Arto here is where we diverge. You, a white Finn, think so but a black person or another minority may consider highly offensive. I could also mentioned some Finnish classic songs like “Mutakuonot ja lakupellet” and Esa Pakarinen’s “Marcelino Macaroni.” I wonder were Irwin Goodman got “lakupellet” from? Nah, these are not racist because they don’t offend us.

  8. Allan

    Well, if I would be walking around town in the 40s or 50s, I would rather seen myself associated with something positive, like candy Suomalaisenpusu I could make a play with words with girls, rather than going to the clinic and reading about the dangers of contracting a Suomalaisensankkeri * … but thats just me.

    * check out what lymphogranuloma veneorum was called.

  9. Jonas

    Well, I will be honest. I don’t think that Brunberg was originally being racist when it started producing the chocolate products called Negerkyssar (incidentally, many people I know here in Borgå still call them this, and I doubt they’re being racist either – they are just old and are not really so aware of the word’s further meanings today). Apparently in fact negerkyss comes from German’s Negerkuss. At the time it was surely just thought as something exotic, as the image on the box. Africa was a remote, exotic location for the Finnish mind. This was before mass travel. So, it’s not fair to judge Brunberg’s name decision of many years back by 2011’s standards. Of course, over the time the meaning of words evolve. Today neger and neekeri have clearly other associations that are far less innocent than in the past (most often down-right discriminatory) – and there has surely also been influence from the English word nigger as well in forming the contemporary meaning in Swedish and Finnish. And I am sure it is absolutely correct that today Brunberg has renamed their product.

    More on Brunbergs “kisses” here, including a brief discussion on the name from an FST children’s programme from the 1999 (Brunberg apparently changed the name in 2001): http://www.yle.fi/elavaarkisto/?s=s&g=7&ag=62&t=202&a=9493

    • Enrique

      Hi Jonas and thank you for your thread. It is quite evident that the people at Brunberg or Fazer did not have malicious intent on marketing their products in this way. Nobody said anything until much later.

  10. gloaming

    “The Finnish expression Itä-Intia is a bit misleading in this regard, but then again so is Itämeri.”

    Die Ostsee, Östersjön etc.

    Enrique, ever heard of the West Indies?

    • Enrique

      Gloaming, thank you for pointing that out. So he’s talking about the Caribbean?..

  11. JusticeDemon


    Indeed. Geographical terms can be highly misleading. My all time favourite is the Star at the bottom.

  12. gloaming

    Enrique, that would be “Länsi-Intian saaristo”. The picture and the text just don’t match as someone pointed out previously. There is a historical reason for these parts of the world somewhat misleadingly having these names. I’m sure you are familiar with the story.

  13. Allan

    Well that Itämeri is just another historical reminder.In Estonia its logically Läänemeri, as it logically would be in Finnish maybe even Etelämeri… No doubt it is East of Sweden, but who cares

  14. Allan

    So why do you then? Except your have a malicious intent of portraying Finland in a bad light just because you have to find “racism” everywhere?

    • Enrique

      So you mean that all these things, like being “critical of immigration,” is done without mailice? I think it is and an expression of the racism that has existed in Finland for decades. It hasn’t had the opportunity to come out except for now by boosting 39 MPs to the Eduskunta. I am not saying that all PS MPs are challenged on this front, but many are. It’s their style. I guess suspicion is a good word to begin with.

  15. JusticeDemon


    Expressions in a living language change their meaning. This includes descriptive names. Neekeri is nearly always pejorative in modern Finnish, and the burden of showing that any particular instance of its use is not pejorative has very clearly shifted to the person who chooses to use this word. Hakkarainen’s persistent use of neekeriukko cannot really be understood in any other way.

    Similarly viinanystävä could theoretically be used to describe someone who specialises in praising the merits of various strong alcoholic beverages. There are such people at companies like Altia and Alko, but if I describe you as maijan takapenkillä istuva viinanystävä, then I cannot credibly argue that I intended to identify you as some kind of connoisseur who just happened to get a ride in a police van.

  16. Jamaican in Finland

    Just to clarify, the West Indies refer to the Caribbean islands, so there is no discrepancy between the photo of the black man and the news article. Can’t figure out however what Finns were doing in the Caribbean in the 1940’s!!!

    • Enrique

      Hi Jamaican in Finland and welcome to Migrant Tales. I think it would be safe to say that this story is a fabrication. They used racism (how blacks cannot be trusted in battle) against civilized “whites” who did not run amock. I Goggled the author, Jan Gästrin, but could not find any references.

  17. Allan

    I do not understand why you need to bring forth West Indies when JD already pointed out the obvious?

    The article starts “Itä-Intian saariston malajien”, that is Malays of the East Indies

    The caption in the picture says “A primitive person easily gets into a sudden mental state of anguish”.
    It should have your picture.

  18. Jamaican in Finland

    Allan, I do hope that your verbal attack was not directed at me!

    I do not understand Finnish ( so was unable to read the Finnish newspaper article), however from some of the comments above, noticed there was some confusion as to where exactly the West Indies is located. Just felt that I would help out; can’t help it, it is the Caribbean way of life. There is absolutely no need for all of this bitterness and hostility from you!

    “It should be your picture”??? You need to know that skin colour is no indication of how cultured or civilized an individual is. I have been in Finland long enough to see that many of you Finns lack basic social graces,are quite violent and unnecessarily spiteful.

    Maybe a bit of sun will do you good.
    Always a pleasure Enrique!

    • Enrique

      Thank you Jamaican in Finland and that is some good advice for Allan.

      We have had some confusion what Itä-Intiaan saaristo means in English. Translated it means East Indies. It’s a long story… But the West Indies has got to be one of the greatest places on Earth. A bit of sun would to a lot of people good!

  19. Allan

    The only one with confusion about it was you.

    And Jamaican, I was writing to Enrique who was talking about West Indies, but he has never been good with facts, but now that you started being obnoxious I dedicate it to you. But the picture is still Enriques, as he is always in such a mental anguish.

  20. JusticeDemon


    Viininystävä does generally refer to a connoisseur. My point is to use an expression that could theoretically correspond, but in relation to stronger beverages. Like tired and emotional, the expression could have an innocent, respectable meaning, but it’s much more likely to be taken to imply an unhealthy fondness for alcohol and frequent antisocial inebriation.

    Neekeri is similar in this regard.

    I didn’t coin the term. Google it.