Tag: politics

Juho Kotakallio: Hänen majesteettinsa agentit. Brittitiedustelu Suomessa 1918–1941 [His Majesty's agents. British Intelligence in Finland 1918–1941]

14 August 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Prittiagentti.2.inddHänen majesteettinsa agentit. Brittitiedustelu Suomessa 1918–1941
[His Majesty's agents. British Intelligence in Finland 1918–1941]
Jyväskylä: Atena, 2014. 297 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-952-300-025-4
€34, hardback

Historian Juho Kotakallio’s book deals with the work of the British Intelligence Service (SIS) in Finland from the Declaration of Independence (1917) to the early phase of the Continuation War (1941–1944). The Bolshevik Soviet state was also seen as a threat to Europe in its western neighbour Finland, which offered a key observation post for the gathering of secret intelligence about the Soviet Union. Undercover British agents took up residence in the country, and were moved to and fro across the eastern border. Russian émigrés and some Finns also worked for the British. One victim of the spy world was Sidney Reilly (considered to be a prototype of James Bond), who was lured through Finland to the Soviet Union, where he met his death by execution. In the 1930s the agents’ interest also increasingly focused on economics and on the growing power of Germany. During Finland’s Winter War with the Soviet Union in 1939–40 British intelligence was based more on openness and trust. After the outbreak of the so-called Continuation War, in December 1941, Britain declared war on Finland, and the possibilities for intelligence gathering there became fewer. The book, which gives a fascinating and objective view of the intelligence world, unfortunately lacks an index of names.

Translated by David McDuff

Juhani Suomi: Mannerheim – viimeinen kortti? Ylipäällikkö-presidentti [Finland plays its last card – Mannerheim, Commander-in-chief and President]

30 April 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

suomi.ViimeinenMannerheim – viimeinen kortti? Ylipäällikkö-presidentti
[Finland plays its last card – Mannerheim, Commander-in-chief and President]
Helsinki: Siltala, 2013. 836 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-952-234-172-3
€32, hardback

In his book Professor Juhani Suomi – well-known as the biographer of President Urho Kekkonen – focuses on the life and actions of Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim (1867–1951) during the final phase of the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union beginning in1943 and, in particular, during his term as Finnish President from 1944 to 1946. Mannerheim was elected President by exceptional procedure, and his difficult task was to lead Finland from war to peace, which he succeeded in doing. Suomi seeks to reply specifically to the question of whether Mannerheim lived up to the myth that was created about him, and of whether he was Finland’s last chance as the guarantor of the country’s independence during those fateful years, as he is often presented. On the basis of a number of sources, the author draws a critical portrait of an aristocrat: this was a man who was cold and vain, who at every turn thought mainly of his own posthumous reputation and who as an elderly leader was slow and fickle in his decisions – though the reader will not necessarily agree with all of Suomi’s conclusions. Well-written, occasionally a bit too detailed, his book vividly describes a dramatic period in Finland’s recent history.

Translated by David McDuff

Antti Kujala: Neukkujen taskussa? Kekkonen, suomalaiset puolueet ja Neuvostoliitto 1956–71 [In the Soviets’ pocket? Kekkonen, the Finnish political parties and the Soviet Union 1956–71]

17 April 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Neukkujen taskussa?Neukkujen taskussa? Kekkonen, suomalaiset puolueet ja Neuvostoliitto 1956–71
[In the Soviets’ pocket? Kekkonen, the Finnish political parties and the Soviet Union 1956–71]
Helsinki: Tammi, 2013. 392 pp., ill .
ISBN 978-951-31-7347-0
€39, hardback

In this book, which partly cites new sources in Russia, associate history professor Antti Kujala describes the nature of the policy pursued by President Urho Kekkonen during his term of office from 1956 to 19971 (he resigned in 1981). The parties were divided among themselves, and also to some extent internally. In political plotting secret support was sought after from both the Soviet Union and the West. Kekkonen was able to achieve a strong position, which he made use of. He sought to safeguard Finland’s interests with regard to the Soviet Union and created a good relationship with its leaders. At home, however, he used his position as a weapon against his opponents and tried to restrain criticism that could easily be interpreted as anti-Soviet. The Soviet Union viewed Finland as lying within its sphere of power and was able to influence many Finnish politicians and union leaders, as well as the composition of the government. The section of the book in question contains an account of the central phenomena of Finland’s political history: the influence of the Soviet Union, as manifested by the ‘night frosts’ and the so-called ‘Note Crisis’, and Finland’s reactions to the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops in 1968.

Translated by David McDuff

Timo Vihavainen: Ryssäviha. Venäjän-pelon historia [Ryssäviha. A history of Russophobia in Finland]

10 April 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

vihavainenRyssäviha. Venäjän-pelon historia
[Ryssäviha. A history of Russophobia in Finland]
Helsinki: Minerva Kustannus Oy, 2013. 322 pp.
ISBN 978-952-492-778-9
€31.90, hardback

In this well-written polemical study Professor Timo Vihavainen examines Russophobia mainly from a Finnish point of view, but also in a European context. He also writes about the reverse phenomenon, the emergence in Russia of xenophobia and accusations of ‘Russophobia’ among neighbouring countries. In 20th-century Europe it was more a question of opposition to the Soviet Union and its ideological system than of Russophobia as such. During the late 19th century Finland, which had been part of Russia from 1809 to 1917, saw the rise of so-called ryssäviha, ‘Russia-hate’, which began in the period of Russification and increased during the Civil War of 1917–1918. Between the World Wars it persisted especially in Akateeminen Karjala-Seura (‘The Academic Karelia Society’), a right-wing student organisation, and was fuelled by reports of political terror from across the eastern border, though even then a significant part of Finland’s working class saw the Soviet Union in a favourable light. During the Second World War ryssäviha came to a head in response to a conflict perceived as unjust, and to territorial concessions. In the 1960s, partly for political reasons, anti-Soviet sentiment became replaced by pro-Soviet attitude. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s relations with Russia have largely been free of problems.

Translated by David McDuff

Rauhan ytimessä. Sadankomitea 50 vuotta [In the core of peace. Sadankomitea at 50]

3 April 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

rauhan_ytimessaRauhan ytimessä. Sadankomitea 50 vuotta
[In the core of peace. Sadankomitea at 50]
Toim. [Ed. by] Johanna Sumuvuori
Helsinki: Into, 2013. 170 pp., ill .
ISBN 978-952-264-264-6
€23, paperback

The nonpartisan Sadankomitea (‘Committee of 100’) peace organisation was founded in Finland in 1963 by the young radicals of their time. The movement was inspired by certain British non-governmental organisations. Its policies were established by research, discussion and writing rather than by direct action and marching. An important feature of the movement, especially during the Cold War, was its distinction from Rauhanpuolustajat (The Finnish Peace Committee), which was considered to be a mouthpiece of the Soviet Union. The movement’s discussion forum was the journal Ydin (‘The core’), founded in 1967, whose articles had more weight than its circulation might have suggested, a fact that also indicates Sadankomitea’s influence. This commemorative book contains a dozen or so articles in which peace movement veterans – including Finland’s foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja, who is a founding member – and younger activists discuss the movement’s work for peace. The fascinating articles range from personal recollections to analytical overviews.

Translated by David McDuff

Tarmo Kunnas: Fasismin lumous. Eurooppalainen älymystö Mussolinin ja Hitlerin politiikan tukijana [The allure of fascism. European intellectuals as backers of the policies of Mussolini and Hitler]

13 March 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

kunnasFasismin lumous. Eurooppalainen älymystö Mussolinin ja Hitlerin politiikan tukijana
[The allure of fascism. European intellectuals as backers of the policies of Mussolini and Hitler]
Jyväskylä: Atena , 2013. 686 pp .
ISBN 978-951-796-933-8
€40, hardback

The most prominent fascist states in the period between the world wars were Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, but the ideology was reflected in the extremist movements of a number of European countries. The fascist movements could differ greatly, but their key feature was a strong nationalism that was both anti-democratic and anti-parliamentary. In his book, which at times is rather heavy going, Emeritus Professor Tarmo Kunnas examines the attraction of Fascist ideology for the European intelligentsia of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. He presents a nuanced view of the opinions of the period’s major intellectuals and detects the sources of their world outlook in factors like their philosophy of life. Their fascism rarely fitted in with party political programmes. Kunnas also sheds light on the fascist views of some of Finland’s cultural figures; according to him, in Finland genuine fascist groups did not really have much significance.

Translated by David McDuff

Markku Jokisipilä & Janne Könönen: Kolmannen valtakunnan vieraat. Suomi Hitlerin Saksan vaikutuspiirissä 1933–1944 [Guests from the Third Reich. Finland in the sphere of influence of Hitler's Germany 1933–1944]

20 February 2014 | Mini reviews, Reviews

kolmasvaltakuntaKolmannen valtakunnan vieraat. Suomi Hitlerin Saksan vaikutuspiirissä 1933–1944
[Guests from the Third Reich. Finland in the sphere of influence of Hitler's Germany 1933–1944]
Helsinki: Otava, 2013. 602 pp., ill .
ISBN 978-951-1-26881-9
€37, hardback

Germany had long been a great power with close historical ties to Finland, and when Hitler took over in 1933 the bond was still largely intact. Some Finnish cultural and scientific figures admired the new Germany and accepted its ideology, whereas the views of many Finland’s soldiers were influenced by the help received from Germany during the Civil War of 1918 and by the threat from the neighbouring Soviet Union. During the Winter War of 1939–40, when the Soviet Union attacked Finland and Germany was formally a Soviet ally, relations cooled. After the Winter War politicians sought support from Germany for reasons of Realpolitik, in preparation for another conflict. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union during the Continuation War of 1941–1944, they sent military supplies to Finland and troops to the country’s north. Cultural relations with the Baltic superpower flourished. Hitler’s attendance in 1942 at the birthday party of Marshal Mannerheim (well known to be an Anglophile) was a spectacular display of Finnish-German friendship. However, no persecution of Jews took place in Finland. When it became obvious that Germany would be defeated, even the Nazis’ enthusiastic friends distanced themselves from them, and in the Lapland War of 1944–45 the German soldiers were driven out of Finland. The book provides a vivid and comprehensive reminder of a time when many Finns put their trust in Hitler’s Germany and were flattered to receive its attention.

Translated by David McDuff

Anna-Lena Laurén: Frihetens pris är okänt. Om demokratiska revolutioner i Georgien, Ukraina och Kirgizistan [The price of freedom is unknown: On democratic revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan]

22 November 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

laurenFrihetens pris är okänt. Om demokratiska revolutioner i Georgien, Ukraina och Kirgizistan
[The price of freedom is unknown: On democratic revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan]
Helsinki: Schildts & Söderströms, 2013. 212 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-523-227-4
€25, paperback
Finnish edition:
Kuinka kallis vapaus – värivallankumouksista Georgiassa, Ukrainassa ja Kirgisiassa
Suomentanut [Translated into Finnish by] Liisa Ryömä
Helsinki: Teos, 2013. 219 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-851-473-5
€28.40, paperback

Anna-Lena Laurén (born 1976) is an award-winning Finland-Swedish journalist, author and Moscow-based foreign correspondent. In this volume of reportage, she investigates three post-Soviet states after their ‘democratic revolutions’, which took place between 2003 and 2005. Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan differ from one another in many respects. Georgia has made the most progress along the road to democracy, but even it remains an authoritarian state. Ukraine is plagued by corruption; impoverished Kyrgyzstan – culturally and linguistically divided, like Ukraine – is relatively free, but corruption is rife. For good or ill, these countries are overshadowed by their former ruling power, the present-day nation of Russia. Anna-Lena Laurén has listened with a keen ear to politicians, intellectuals, farmers and workers, as well as members of minority groups. She is well-versed in the history and current situation of these countries and portrays people’s everyday lives with empathy while spotting the green shoots of democracy in among the difficulties.
Translated by Ruth Urbom

Utopia or dystopia?

15 October 2013 | This 'n' that

CMI logo rgb jpeg‘The fate of our societies lies in equity’, claims Martti Ahtisaari – winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 – in his foreword to a study entitled A recipe for a better life: Experiences from the Nordic countries (2013).

The study was compiled and written by Heikki Hiilamo and Olli Kangas with Johan Fritzell, Jon Kvist and Joakim Palme and published by Crisis Management Initiative (a Finnish, independent, non-profit organisation founded in 2000 by Ahtisaari, President of Finland from 1994 to 2000). It is available here.

‘The Nordic experience’ is presented in chapters dealing with the trustworthiness of the society, the role of the state, the amount of efficiency and inefficiency as well as the homogeneity of the Nordic societies and the social investments of these societies in their citizens.

(The Nordic countries consist of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden as well as their associated territories – with different levels of autonomy – the Faroe Islands and Greenland [Denmark] and Åland [Finland].)

         ‘"The Nordic enigma" is a successful marriage between hard-core competitive capitalism
          and the pursuit of egalitarian policies’.

The study provides a concise summary of how these societies function with additional comments on the socio-historical development of independent Finland. It presents the reader with pros and cons, arguments and facts.

        ‘For some analysts the Nordic welfare state is a dystopia to be avoided at all costs....
        It is simply argued that that the welfare state destroys the incentives to work.’
        ‘Despite their strong welfare states and heavy tax burdens – often said to be poison 
        to competitiveness – the Nordic countries are doing well in economic terms.’

The reader is indeed challenged to ponder the best recipes for a better life. Last but not least: how will the ‘recipes’ need to be adapted in the future?

Johanna Korhonen: Kymmenen polkua populismiin [Ten paths to populism]

3 October 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

kymmenenpolkuaKymmenen polkua populismiin. Kuinka vaikenevasta Suomesta tuli äänekkään populismin pelikenttä
[Ten paths to populism. How silent Finland became a playing field for loud populism]
Helsinki: Into Kustannus Oy, 2013. 81p.
ISBN 951-952-264-257-8
€15, paperback

This pamphlet on the populist True Finns party was commissioned by the British think tank Counterpoint (PDF available in Finnish). In 2011, under the leadership of the rhetorically gifted Timo Soini, the True Finns became the largest opposition party in the Finnish parliament. In the background of this phenomenon the journalist Johanna Korhonen sees, among other things, the recession of the 1990s, the fear of economic insecurity, and the paucity of alternatives and debate that characterise politics in Finland. The left-leaning party favours simplifications and longs for national unity and security. It nevertheless includes an extremist nationalist minority whose agenda includes resistance to the European Union, cultural diversity, minority rights and foreign influences, and can even be racist. Korhonen focuses and simplifies in pamphleteering fashion, but argues patiently, basing her views on facts, and considers the beneficial effects the populist party has had on the national debate, offering her suggestions for a more humane politics.
Translated by Hildi Hawkins

Elitist versus pop?

8 August 2013 | Letter from the Editors

An elitist of his time? A caricature of Richard Wagner by Leslie Ward, published in Vanity Fair in 1877 (caption read ‘The Music of the Future’). Picture: Wikimedia

The old phrase ‘art for art’s sake’ has begun to sound like an appeal instead of an bohemian creed, without any negative ambiguity. Please let art be created for art’s sake!

In our times of neo-liberal ideologies, the criteria for assessing art include its capacity to generate profits to creative industries, to have export value, to be of assistance to business in general. But art, in essence, serves no ideology.

Technology now allows us to be more entertained than ever before, if we so choose. Art and entertainment alike come to us by the use of various devices. What has often been called ‘elitist’ art – opera, modern music, ballet – can be enjoyed lying on the sofa in the home. Money is not an obstacle.

Art, too needs money, of course: orchestras, theatres, training of artists and artists themselves need subsidies from society. Entertainment is by nature profitable business, as it attracts and involves large paying audiences. Smaller audiences want to listen to classical music, read books and see films that are not made solely in order to bring in as much money as possible. But why should these forms of art be called ‘elitist’? More…

Reindeer yoga?

15 July 2013 | This 'n' that

Yoga wheel. Photo: Wikimedia

Human yoga wheel. Photo: Wikimedia

While Finnish politicians, just back at Parliament after their summer break, twiddle their thumbs in frustration as the nation faces darkening prospects for economic growth, Finland is being admired across the pond.

The Atlantic magazine took a long look at ‘the secrets of Finland’s success with schools, moms, kids – and everything’ (July 2013).

Olga Khazan reports: Finns enjoy long vacations, better school scores, unemployment insurance, paid parental leaves, cheap child care, education and medical services, and low infant mortality rates.

‘All of this adds up to the stress equivalent of living in what is essentially a vast, reindeer-fur-lined yoga studio.’

Whoa! Are we that happy in Finland? More…

Eveliina Talvitie: Keitäs tyttö kahvia. Naisia politiikan portailla [Put the kettle on, girl. Women on the ladder of politics]

23 May 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

talvitieKeitäs tyttö kahvia. Naisia politiikan portailla
[Put the kettle on, girl. Women on the ladder of politics]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2013. 332 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-0-39485-4
€29, hardback

In 1906 Finnish women were the first in Europe to obtain the right to vote, and Finland, like the other Nordic countries, is viewed as a model of equality. Journalist and author Eveliina Talvitie examines the role of women in politics. She has interviewed seventeen Finnish female politicians, more than half of whom have served as cabinet ministers. Among them are former President Tarja Halonen and Elisabeth Rehn, who has long worked on international assignments – between her and the youngest politician in the book there is a 52-year age gap. The interviewees describe the different aspects of the progress of their careers, their successes and setbacks. At the end of each chapter the author considers the challenges faced by female politicians from a particular point of view, backing up her conclusions with supplementary interviews. Not all of the politicians in the book have been handicapped because of their gender, but the work clearly demonstrates that, even in a relatively egalitarian country, female politicians are still treated differently from men, and their career paths can often be more difficult than those of their male colleagues.
Translated by David McDuff

What does the neighbour think?

26 April 2013 | Essays, Non-fiction

venalaisetFor more than 20 years journalist Leena Liukkonen has been thoroughly involved with Russian culture, commerce, language and psyche. The subtitle of her new book of essays Venäläiset tulevat! (‘The Russians are coming!’) is ‘What we think and know about them’, and refers to the fact that the Finns do not really know their eastern neighbours very well. Liukkonen writes with insight about the differences in history, mentality and world view

Extracts (under original subtitles) from Venäläiset tulevat! Mitä me heistä luulemme ja tiedämme (Siltala, 2013)


In café conversations with other visitors to Russia, we often react with exasperation to the fact that discussions in Finland only ever start with the Winter War. Sometimes we wonder why the threshold between us and our neighbour to the east is still so high. My own living contact with the past, however, makes it clear to me that everything the elderly carry round with them could not have been simply shaken off with the passage of time. Nor can the next generation just break away from it. My own experience also reminds me how distant our eastern neighbour was during peacetime. After all, a very few have made the long journey to the country next door. To many people, the old story was the only story there was about Russia. More…

Maailman paras maa [The best country in the world]

14 March 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

maailmanparas_kansi.inddMaailman paras maa
[The best country in the world]
Toim. [Ed. by] Anu Koivunen
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2012. 255 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-347-0
€ 37, paperback

In this book twelve writers, representing various fields of research, ponder Finland and Finnishness from the viewpoint of history, ethnology, society, culture and economics. Finland-Swedishness and the relationship between Finns and Russians, the need of Finns to defend their participation in the Second World War in alliance with Germany as a ‘separate war’, and the nostalgia related to lost Karelia. The articles deal with Finland facing economic challenges, attitudes towards foreign beggars and self-critical Finnish opinion pieces. They also take a look at Finnish man as portrayed in the classic novel Seitsemän veljestä (‘The seven brothers’, 1870, by Aleksis Kivi) and in a recent prize-winning film about men talking in the sauna about their feelings, and discuss the relationship of the two national languages, Finnish and Swedish. Well-written and original articles question truisms and challenge the reader contemplate his or her own relationship with Finnishness.