By Enrique Tessieri
The early 1990s were a gruesome time for Finland for a number of reasons. Apart from suffering one of its worst-ever recessions in a century, the ugly face of racism become ever-public. Fortunately at the time, immigrants accounted for less than 1% of the total population so there weren’t too many around to blame except for Russians, Estonians, Roma, blacks and Somalis in the tabloids.
Migrant Tales got a hold of some Ilta-Sanomat tabloid ad posters from the 1990s from the Migration Institute of Turku.
A rapid glance of them shows how isolated Finland felt from the world and how that world was supposedly caving in on Finland. Russians were depicted as prostitutes and mafiosi types, while blacks, especially Somalis were seen by Ilta-Sanomat as people who had “swindled” their way to Finland or were spreading HIV.
Another ad poster below warns readers: “Somalis to remain in Finland.”
Or what about this one from August 13, 1992: “Somalis’ phone bill totals hundreds of thousands [of marks].”
Another odd ad asks readers: “Why do Russians irritate Finns?”
Finnish State Railways (VR) was even cited: “VR will hinder refugees from coming to Finland.”
If one wants to dive into the dark side of Finland’s issues with xenophobia and racism, check out what was written on these tabloid ads in the 1990s.
The fact that neither Ilta-Sanomat and Iltalehti would think twice today about publishing such racist stuff shows that we are making some progress but we still have a long way to go.
The day when xenophobia is acknowledged as a real social problem in Finland by a wide spectrum of society we will discover another painful truth: It will take generations to cure.