|The Senate Square on this day last year|
The Popular folklore about how Finland got its independence goes like this:
In December 1917 a small delegation of Finnish statesmen travelled to Moscow in the hope that the leaders of the newly established Soviet Union would discuss independence with the small Duchy of the old Russian empire. Instead of a start to discussions, the Finns were surprised to receive a swift decision by Lenin and so a democratic state of Finland was established. It was rumoured that either Lenin was in a particularly good mood, or that he had a soft spot for Finland and that a Finnish woman was involved in this somehow. I have no idea if any of these rumours were true, or if the decisions was highly political and tactical, but the good fortune enjoyed by Finland in 1917 certainly shaped the country’s future. Not that we didn’t have to fight for it…
Looking back at Finland’s history one could believe that on several occasions the Soviet Union regretted its decision. After the independence came a civil war between the Reds and the Whites (Whites won). A decade or so later Finland fought two wars against the Soviet Union. In 1939 Stalin and Hitler made a secret pact where Finland was one of the European countries used as pawns.
Later during the Cold War the phrase Finlandization was coined by the West to describe the USSR’s influence on Finland’s foreign policy.
All through its short history Finland has been balancing on a knife edge between East and West, careful not to upset either side, striving to trade with both.
In spite of this diplomatic struggle Finland has excelled as a country: Nokia, the mobile phone company, is one notable example of how well Finnish business has fared in modern times. Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and its population is one of the most highly educated in the world. This year Finland was voted the world’s best country to live in by Newsweek. Number one in the world – that’s quite a lot for a small country in the North.
As you may have noticed, I’m fairly proud of my native land; something that comes easily when you live away from it, some might say. It’s true that when I do go back it takes about a nanosecond for me to get fed up with the sometimes odd ways of my fellow countrymen – but on day like today there really isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be than shivering in the drizzle – or snowstorm – or freezing cold wind – of the Senate Square, listening to the students’ choir sign Finlandia and shed a tear or two. At least I was there in 2009…
Old, foolish, sentimental Finnish ex-pat that I am.
Happy 93rd Birthday Finland!