Finland's Classy Design

HELSINKI -- You don't need to go to Finland to appreciate its style and design. Finnish glassware and Arabia pottery, Marimekko fabrics and modern furniture, and its great modern architecture are all famous around the world.

But it is still impressive to experience Finnish esthetics all around you every day -- to see, again and again, the care given to objects -- from the use of glass, metal and wood in the buildings we pass and enter daily to a varied style of dress and unique combinations worn on the street.


Large geometric patterns and soft colors -- hallmarks of Finnish design -- feature prominently in the Marimekko fashion show in Helsinki.
View More Fashion Show Photos

To learn more about Finnish design, I visited fashion designer Paola Suhonen, 30, the founder of the Ivana Helsinki label. She is one of the hot young talents in the fashion industry here. But she doesn't fit the flamboyant stereotype often reserved for fashion designers. She is soft-spoken, dressed in earthy colors, and very thoughtful about her business.

Suhonen traces some of the unique Finnish style that was nurtured in the 1950s by a well-known group of local designers to Finland's wars with the Soviet Union. She told me, "After the war with the Russians in the '40s, the Finns wanted to start their own style. The Finns wanted to separate from the Soviet Spirit . . . from their Slavic roots, which was part of the Finnish life [Finland was a province of Russia for more than a century until 1917]. In the '50s people did not want to see any of the Russian influence in design, in the cultural life and in the arts at all. They wanted to do strictly Scandinavian and pure-lines design. That was what pushed the Finns to do their own, very clear and sophisticated style."

But according to Suhonen that is changing. "Now we are quite free to use the inspirations from them [Russia]. Now Finnish design is going back to its Slavic roots. It's more avant-garde and artistic nowadays. It's more wild. It's not so simple with clean lines. It's much more experimental and colorful. For me, it's a mixture from the Slavic and Scandinavian roots."

Suhonen's empathy with the Slavs is not a universal view here. Bob and I have been surprised on our trip around Finland by the continued strength of anti-Russian sentiment among Finns. We've met numerous Finns who say they have never visited Russia (a very short trip) and never intend to. One of the big stories in Finland just now is about Russian overflights of Finnish territory, sharply protested by the Finnish government.

Besides fashion, Suhonen is also experimenting with the business side of her company. She wants to avoid the increasingly popular business model of outsourcing work to a cheaper labor force in other parts of the world. Her materials are produced in Finland, so her employees receive the generous benefits afforded workers here. "I believe my customers want clothes that are handmade and carefully crafted instead of mass produced . . ." she said. "I can carefully follow the whole production process here." She also believes that customers are becoming more aware of the issues concerning the manufacturing of products. "It's not enough anymore to look good, but to know that what you bought was ethically produced."

I asked Suhonen if there were any fashion-related events going on while I was here that might be interesting to photograph. She looked at her watch. "Marimekko is having a fashion show at one of our parks in the next hour." Off I went to find it.

Click here to see the images from the Marimekko Fashion Show.

--Lucian Perkins

By Lucian Perkins |  June 8, 2005; 12:30 PM ET  | Category:  Culture
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To get to know Finnish design, the designers & trademarks, visit https://www.finnishdesignshop.com/index.php?country=72&language=fi (seems to be also in english)

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 09:47 AM

"Bob and I have been impressed on our trip around Finland by the continued strength of anti-Russian sentiment among Finns. "

impressed?

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 10:06 AM

Genuine Finnish clear lined style can be found at:

http://www.artek.fi/
http://www.muurame.com/

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 10:07 AM

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 10:10 AM

http://www.eero-aarnio.com/
http://www.iittala.fi/
http://www.arabia.fi/

too. I don't think those links in the article preresent Finnish design very well..

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 10:16 AM

"Bob and I have been impressed on our trip around Finland by the continued strength of anti-Russian sentiment among Finns. "

Well, we remember very well what Russians did to us. "Never trust a Russian" If you were living next to them in a small country.. what would you think about them?

Posted by: M.A. | June 8, 2005 10:17 AM

Slavic roots? What on earth is the woman talking about?

Posted by: TR | June 8, 2005 10:21 AM

Lets not get to wild on the posting here today with the design section guys ;) I think the reporters should have talked to a few Finns and figured out that in a country where you can only sport your latest fashion for about three months due to weather condictions is not gonna be that interesting to a majority of the people. Maybe a trip into Vantaa, Lahti or Mikkeli for a day or two would be benefical. Helsinki is a great town, loved it when I lived there, but there are some happenings this week that reporters are missing in Mikkeli!

Posted by: Kalevi | June 8, 2005 10:21 AM

"Slavic roots? What on earth is the woman talking about?"

That article is nuts and mostly talks about some Russian designer's shop in Helsinki. I hope people will follow those links above and get at least some kind of picture of actual Finnish Design.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 10:25 AM

Uhhuh... I must say that it sounds like dear Paola has mixed up the words "roots" and "influence". Sure, Finnish culture has some Slavic influences but predominantly it is solidly based on a western tradition. To claim otherwise is not only erroneus, but pretty ignorant of historical fact as well.

Posted by: -N- | June 8, 2005 10:37 AM

Not to mention that Alvar Aalto and other Finnish architects and designers are the fathers of the modern Nordic/Scandinavian design which has nothing to do with slavic style. The article also give a false impression than Fennic people have something to do with slavs, who are indo-europeans.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 10:42 AM

"That article is nuts and mostly talks about some Russian designer's shop in Helsinki. I hope people will follow those links above and get at least some kind of picture of actual Finnish Design."

She is not a Russian designer. She is a Finn named Paola Suhonen, and happens to be the best known young clothes designer in Finland. So, not a bad choice to interview. But I agree, maybe English language has payed a little trick and she really has mixed up roots and influence.

Posted by: EP | June 8, 2005 10:44 AM

>>Slavic roots? What on earth is the woman talking about?

Obviously about herself and her friends. Almost nobody would choose a Russian company name except the Russian style restaurants of course. Her shop is "*Ivana* Helsinki".

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 10:52 AM

Hmmm... I wonder what the designer means by Slavic roots...? Does she really think that there are lots of Slavic components in the Finnish culture...? I find that Finnish culture has a truly unique polarity to it (or a Finno-Ugric polarity if you will). It is NOT Scandinavian AND NOT Slavic NOR is it a mixture between these even though both culture zones are neighbouring it. (Besides, given the historical time line Slavic Russia can just as easily be said to comprise of as many Finno-Ugric components as Finland has Slavic components... This is also true for Scandinavia.)

Posted by: koivu | June 8, 2005 10:58 AM

It's almost funny to see how important it is to Finns not to be confused with the Slavs! These comments are definetely a proof of "the continued strength of anti-Russian sentiment among Finns". Why are we still holding on so strong to these stereotypes of the Eastern Europe and Russia?

Posted by: Kaija | June 8, 2005 11:12 AM

"Russian overflights"? Isn't that too much said? You mean flying from the eastern border across Finland to the western border for instance? That is certainly not the case. I quess russian aeroplanes have crossed slightly the line when flying over the sea. That is serious too anyway.

Posted by: Mikko | June 8, 2005 11:17 AM

Is it not possible that if Finland was a territory of Russia for so long, there was bound to be influence rooted in the culture...hence, "Slavic roots."

Posted by: Ange | June 8, 2005 11:31 AM

"Obviously about herself and her friends. Almost nobody would choose a Russian company name except the Russian style restaurants of course. Her shop is "*Ivana* Helsinki".

May I repeat: Never mind what her shop is named, she is Finnish.

Posted by: EP | June 8, 2005 11:36 AM

"Bob and I have been impressed on our trip around Finland by the continued strength of anti-Russian sentiment among Finns. "

Just to inform you that traveling to St'Peterburg is coming more and more popular
among people like university students (not
so bone headed).

Young people travel there mainly to party
and it's propably just good that rednecks stay in Finland :)

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 11:51 AM

The link to the Ivana Helsinki site takes you to a page w/ that name and an abstract design, but it's not clear how to explore more of the site. There are no links or words to click, and clicking on various parts of the image doesn't take me anywhere. Any ideas re what I'm doing wrong?

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 11:59 AM

There are definitely some Russian influences in Finnish culture but I would never call them roots. During the Russian rule 1809-1917, the two nations never got along very well. Finland was an autonomous part of Russian empire; we had our own languages, currency and legislation.

Before 1809 Finland was part of Sweden and fought numerous wars against Russian empire. After gaining independence there was civil war where Russian backed communists (reds) lost. During the II world war we fought against Soviet Union for ca. five years, lost the Karelian and the city of Viipuri.

As a result of all this anti-Russian sentiment is still quite stong among Finns. Russian is an important bussiness partner for Finland but it is not a nation to be trusted.

This was a bit off topic but I think these things are an important part of Finns as a nation.

Posted by: TS | June 8, 2005 12:05 PM

Pseudo-Russian names sell better as exotica in Europe. Have you seen the prices of the rags... errr.. design clothes? Its the same thing as with any other "Finnish design" - sold best to rich foreigners and we buy whats cheap.

Posted by: Hank W. | June 8, 2005 12:21 PM

Thanks for the articles on Finns.
I have Finnic roots and want to read
all there is about Finland.

Posted by: Stina | June 8, 2005 01:14 PM

"As a result of all this anti-Russian sentiment is still quite stong among Finns."

Yeah, but I hope the time of lack of confidence is now behind. I also hope all the best to the Russian people who suffered a great deal under the communistic regime. Do you know that the communists evaporated the whole elite during the Revolution? The surely did a bad favour to themselves. I can not say anything else but God bless them. I don't feel quite confident with the current leader, he reminds too much one of those despots who used communism to keep them in unlimited power.

Posted by: Me | June 8, 2005 01:16 PM

The people saying that the finns dont have slavik root are absolutly right. The finns are a "finnish-ugrian" people (probably not spelled right).

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 01:42 PM

For Americans, if you want to understand some basics about Finnish history, read Matti Klinge's "A Brief History of Finland". After reading it, I didn't trust the Russians for a while too (thank goodness the US didn't share a common border). I find it imminently ironic that the war reparations that Finland was forced to pay to Russia because RUSSIA!! invaded actually helped push the economy and industrial development of Finland at a rapid pace. The Finns not only paid those reparations back early, they quickly surpassed the Russians and have a much higher standard of living. Now THAT'S Sisu!

By the way, if you are in the Washington, DC area visit the Finnish Embassy designed by the Finnish architects Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen. It's original, daring and beautifully peaceful.

Posted by: Amerikalinen | June 8, 2005 01:45 PM

>>I don't feel quite confident with the current leader, he reminds too much one of those despots who used >>communism to keep them in unlimited power.

That would be Putin. Gorbatchev was OK. Putin seems like man who can do a bad mistake in haste.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 02:02 PM

"The finns are a "finnish-ugrian" people (probably not spelled right)."

It is finno-ugric.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 02:29 PM

Another term for is Fennic. Fennic people are not related to indo-europeans, e.g. slavic and germanic people.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 02:38 PM


"Just to inform you that traveling to St'Peterburg is coming more and more popular
among people like university students (not
so bone headed).

Young people travel there mainly to party
and it's propably just good that rednecks stay in Finland" Go ahead and be "trendy" and party there, but dont you dare call the rest of us rednecks!The truth of the matter is that the russians have committed crimes against us in the past.They havent made any efforts to correct these actions.Infact,they are currently comitting human rights violences and war crimes in several places.So you can stuff your university friends and St'Peterburg visits,where the sun wont shine=b

Posted by: Never forget | June 8, 2005 03:10 PM

Here in Wasington DC we have recently seen the Finnish tv miniseries called RAID. It is a masterpiece. We also saw the sequel movie RAID this past weekend at the American Film Institure in Silver Spring, Md. It was a wonderful experience with the director and the star in attendance.
I would like to hear what Finns thought of it and others also.
I believe it to be far superior to anything on American TV. Not available in the USA at this time. They said maybe in a few months. But only maybe.
It made me want to visit Finland soon.
I find these articles to be bland in comparison to this great tv miniseries and the movie sequel.
I also want to see the Finnish film The man Without a Past. Does anyone know anything about it?

Posted by: joe stewart | June 8, 2005 03:35 PM

"Never forget" and other like minded: please go to the first thread were all the crazy people are ("language-warriors" etc.) In Finland, people who are extremely narrow-minded, ignorant and intolerant are said to have grown up "in between the radiator". ;) Too many of them in this blog. Nothing better to do??

The truth is that your average Russian has a tragic family history to tell. Think about S.U. Who made the decisions there?? I'm not "red" at all, but this blog is becoming ridiculous and giving a very strange picture of the Finns...who are wonderful people, believe me! :-o

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 03:43 PM

"The truth of the matter is that the russians have committed crimes against us in the past.They havent made any efforts to correct these actions.Infact,they are currently comitting human rights violences and war crimes in several places."

Exactly. My both grandfathers fought in the latest war and I don't think it ever occurred to them or their children that they should go visit Russia as tourists after the war was over. There weren't too many russian travellers in Finland either until 1990's. It was around that time when the travelling regulations became slightly easier for average citizens.
I think it's a bit hard for americans to understand what having a war with somebody really means. They are more used to hop in the aeroplane and travel 10000 km, kill people they have never before had any contact with, for 1-2 years, and then return to home sweet home where the dear family has impatiently been waiting that "the horrible war" would end. That is more like a tourist visit and doesn't really give a right image of the situation when you live side by side with your enemy & occasional friend.

I guess after the current "war" there will be massive wave of turism from US to Iraq and vice versa?

Posted by: forgiveness | June 8, 2005 03:49 PM

Joe, if you liked "Raid" I hope they show "Beck" there too. It is Swedish, but also quite good.

"Raid" is quite minimalistic, so I am quite surprised that you'd like it as all American cop series are full of technogadgets, shooting, hot pursuits etc. "Raid" just kills in the house and garden. The actors are brilliant though. I like best Oiva Lohtander who plays "Inspector Jansson" ... I am so sour lemons taste sweet...

Posted by: Hank W. | June 8, 2005 03:55 PM

Hank: Thanks for your comments on RAID. I am 65 years old next month so I am old enough to remember when the USA made good movies like the old Humphrey Bogart ones and the ones Orson Wells made. Also all the old westerns from the 1940s and 50s and 60s. Henry Fonda in Once Upon in the West was an influence on RAID so the director and star said. That is where the harmonica playing comes from.
Two showings were sold out. It was a Big hit here. Most of the audience was older people. Those are the only ones hip enough left in America to know great film art when they see it. Hooray for RAID and Finland. It restored by faith and belief that someone is still making fine art and fine films.

Posted by: joe stewart | June 8, 2005 04:06 PM

Too bad if you don't want to explore St Petersbg. Heard it's a great city and people from all over the Western world visit it. Don't forget that there are great people in every country. BTW all my grandparents were in the war. At least the two Lottas (i.e. my grandmothers) both have been to Russia as tourists. It's not *knowledge* that is dangerous, but IGNORANCE.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 04:14 PM

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 04:14 PM

"Never forget" and other like minded: please go to the first thread were all the crazy people are ("language-warriors" etc.) In Finland, people who are extremely narrow-minded, ignorant and intolerant are said to have grown up "in between the radiator". ;) Too many of them in this blog. Nothing better to do??

The truth is that your average Russian has a tragic family history to tell. Think about S.U. Who made the decisions there?? I'm not "red" at all, but this blog is becoming ridiculous and giving a very strange picture of the Finns...who are wonderful people, believe me! :-o " Well i dont hapen to be crazy.Its nice that you care about the average Russian.And average Finn might also have a a tragic family history to tell.Think about that.My grandmother is a refugee from Karelia.Is she a bad person for disliking Russia??The point is that the Russians havent made account of their past history.So Stalin is to blame?If i recall his pictures were present in the Victory Day parade in Moscow this year..That would be the same if Germans would be marching at Branderburg Gate carrying Hitlers portrait!That might get some atention=b

Posted by: Never forget | June 8, 2005 04:18 PM

Me and my friends have been impressed by the continued strength of anti-Iraqian sentiment among Americans.

Posted by: I rest my case | June 8, 2005 04:24 PM

joe, Raid was hugely popular in Finland and many were happy to hear that the series was appreciated outside our borders. :) Finnish media export is only starting to take its first steps (a small country with limited financial resources for movies/series). The word Raid was commonly recognized as a pesticide (?, stuff that "kills bugs at home and garden"), but nowadays many associate it with the series.

The man Without a Past is a movie by Aki Kaurismäki. There are two film directors that are recognized outside Finland: Aki Kaurismäki and Renny Harlin. :) Two _very_ different directors. Kaurismäki's movies are somewhat symbolical and even Finns tend to describe them "depressing". :D But they are good and I am sure you would enjoy them. If you can find an online movie shop that sells movies that are a bit more artsy, they might also sell Kaurismäki's movies.

Does anybody know any Finnish online shops that ship outside Finland?

Posted by: Zara | June 8, 2005 04:36 PM

"And average Finn might also have a a tragic family history to tell."

Exactly! And that's what i was saying. There are nice people in every country. It's not usually the average people who start up wars, is it? But it's them who end up suffering and they may pass some of these feelings to the next generations.

My grandmother's roots also are in Karelia. She's met some Russian people later in life and is in peace with this now (never says really bad things about Russia, but not very positive either!) Your grandmother has coped with it differently. Nobody should place judgements on them - especially not on that generation. But i think that younger people should aim for co-operation, and forgiveness even, because we only have this one planet that we all have to share. It doesn't mean that we disrespect our war heros.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 04:41 PM

I bought a copy of The Man Without a Past by Kaurismaki through Amazon.com for 3 dollars. It features a man who lives in an abandoned train car after he is jumped outside the Helsinki train station and beaten into a comatose state. He awakens and has amnesia, and then lives in the train car and slowly puts his life back together with the help of a Salvation Army worker (played by Kati Outinen).

The film is very Christian and it gave me the feeling that Kaurismaki must be Christian or at least have some sympathies in that direction.

Renny Harlin on the other hand makes action pictures such as Die Hard and Cliff Hanger (is that the name of the film with Stallone who plays a forest ranger who must conquer his feeling of failure?).

Kaurismaki is a very important artist -- he is as interesting in his own way as Wim Wenders or any American new wave film director such as Jarmusch -- in fact to my mind he is about a light year in front of all the other directors in that area because his mind and his heart are functioning together and I think he may even realize that man has a soul. Harlin is on the other hand just a very competent maker of action pictures. But even there one senses a Lutheran subtext -- Bruce Willis who plays in the Die Hard series was raised as a Lutheran and has that sensibility in many of the roles that he plays -- even in the film Sixth Sense (also made by a Christian film maker). There's some combination of intelligent mercy and stubborn-ness that is in this slice of cinema history. You can't really understand it unless you try to understand the zeitgeist that it comes from. Another Lutheran film maker is John Woo. Again you have this sense in those films of one man up against tremendous odds, and yet he gets a feeling that he is right about something and this feeling guides him. This is Lutheranism in a nutshell, beginning with Martin Luther standing up to be counted in the Diet of Worms.

At any rate these movies are easily available from Amazon.com, and can often be found there very very cheap (used) since almost nobody in America has heard of Kaurismaki even though he is the most important film-maker in the world. All you need is a credit card and an address. I used to get books and films from Amazon when I lived in Finland. It only takes about a week to get them.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 8, 2005 04:53 PM

To learn more about Finnish design, I visited fashion designer Paola Suhonen, 30, the founder of the Ivana Helsinki label. She is one of the hot young talents in the fashion industry here. But she doesn't fit the flamboyant stereotype often reserved for fashion designers. She is soft-spoken, dressed in earthy colors, and very thoughtful about her business.
-------------------

Because this blog obviously contain also "hidden" ads of Finnish design products and companies, I like to tell about my sister, who does not fit to any stereotype :-)
She tried to catch your interest to her general purpose rocking chair "Woodpecker", while you visited Oulu, but maybe you were too busy. However a Finnish proverb says: "Better late than never" :-)

You still have possibility to see her and the product in Suomenlinna. http://www.suomenlinna.fi/index.php?menuid=39&lang=eng


http://www.colmio.com/
http://www.index2005.dk/Members/kunykofyka/homeObject
http://iowc.freeshell.org/colmio.htm
http://www.bothniadesign.com/BD-tuotteet/Colmio__Oy_/colmio__oy_.html
http://www.designforum.fi/servlet/dfpage?did=1537
http://www.formscape.fi/semprog.rtf
http://www.muotolehti.fi/604/testi.htm
http://futon-shop.fi/index.php?id=4640

Posted by: a Finn | June 8, 2005 05:03 PM

Im not even talkin about respecting war heros.And im not talkin about individual Russians.It would be great to live in peace forever and forgive.Whats that Lennon song called?My point is that im worried that Russia hasnt done its dirty loundry.To date they dont admit to some things they have done.Thats not a good basis to build a country or its relations to others..And they are again more interested about neighbours than their own affairs.Balts,Georgia,Ukraine...And the point about not forgetting doesnt mean that it could not be forgiven.But a small word is needed,sorry..

Posted by: Never forget | June 8, 2005 05:06 PM

Yup, Russia is far from being a sound democracy and safe neighbour. The best way to help russians (and ourselves, to that matter) is to cooperate and build new connections, however, not closing our eyes on the problems.

Posted by: forgiveness | June 8, 2005 05:33 PM

Link to Suomenlinna events is http://www.suomenlinna.fi/index.php?menuid=39&lang=eng
(And if this fails, go to
http://www.suomenlinna.fi/ and click "English" and "Events" )

Posted by: a Finn | June 8, 2005 05:43 PM

Kirby, Kaurismäki was a communist earlier, I don't know if he identifies that way any more. He is certainly an atheist.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 06:06 PM

But then, Jesus was a Communist, too.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 06:08 PM

To clear up some things for our american friends I would like to state that Finns are generally not anti-Russian nor anti-anything for that matter.

However, during the last 500 years or so, Russia as an entity has always been a very volatile and unpredictable nation to deal with. Every time the dirt hits the fan in the east, we get our share of it in some form.

Lately, what has affected us directly was the fall of the Soviet Union (a good thing in the long term), which combined with other global economic trends at that time created the perfect financial storm which wreaked serious havoc in our economy. Second, Russian crime is a problem and we do see some of it over here also.

Of course, there are also very big differences in customs, culture, morals and work-ethic on an indivual level. Some of the differences are such that Finns find them both humiliating and embarrassing. Humiliating because "you just don't behave that way" and embarrassing because Finns are generally too shy to critizise unknown people for unacceptable behaviour (unless they are v-e-r-y drunk or v-e-r-y angry, in both cases foreigners beware).

We are not happy to be associated too closely with Russians not because we don't want to be Russians but because we are *not* Russians. Some Finns do indeed have Slavic roots. Indeed, my own grand-grand-grand-father came from Belorussia. But I still don't feel very slavic, and my family has been Lutherans for just as long as they haven't been Roman-Catholic.

As a nation Finland is finno-ugric, the culture being *very* close to that of Sweden, with some Slavic influences here and there to add some flavour.

To make a very long story short: Finland has a complex, sometimes difficult and sometimes symbiotic relationship (often both) with Russia. It's not currently hostile, but it's not entirely relaxed either. Cautious might be the most precise term.

And yes, I've been both to Moscow and St.Pete several times. Russian classical art and music are great, and the people are nice enough once you get to know them. But I still feel more at home in Washington D.C. than in St.Petersburg. Russia is just too different on way too many levels for me to fully comprehend.

Yet, in the long run, Russia still is a larger opportunity than a threat for Finland.

Posted by: -N- | June 8, 2005 06:26 PM

Finland's economic miracle is pretty much the same thing that happened in (West-)Germany. The war reparations forced the state to invest in industries. In 1952 the last payment was made to Soviet Union, and after that the russians started to pay for things Finland exported there. Not with mone because they didn't have any, but with oil and military equipment etc. That's why we have the welfare state today.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 07:22 PM

I am probably just a simple-minded person but I saw so much of Finland as being Lutheran that I am kind of astonished to see how this vision of things isn't the way that the Finns largely see themselves. I wonder if being an outsider allowed me to see something that the Finns have forgotten about, or forced into their unconscious.

For instance, even the Marimekko designs -- seem to me to follow the design imperatives established by Luther in response to the Catholic church. Unlike the Calvinists he didn't outlaw arts or design or icons but suggested that they should be simpler, and clearer.

This is something that I saw throughout Finland in the churches, and also in the athletic suits the people wore, and even in the Marimekko designs.

Even back to Albrecht Durer -- Luther's close friend -- you see the influence of Luther's urge to clarification and simplicity, and of course in tremendous honesty.

Here I stand.
I can do no other.
God help me.
Amen.

That's from when he stood before the Diet at Worms -- changing the world with such a simple clear utterance.

I could swear I see this in Kaurismaki, too. Can you find a recent quote in Finnish and translate it where he says that he is an atheist? I would be amazed by this. Something, say, that has been said over the last five years? I think that early on he was a communist, but I think something has changed. Perhaps that's just me, projecting my own thoughts on to the Rorschach.

It's odd though -- I see Luther as the author of Finnish aesthetics and ethics, not the weather and not Slavic or Finno-Ugric genes.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 8, 2005 10:38 PM

Indeed Kaurismaki has some connection to Jarmusch. Have you see the movie "Night on Earth" by Jarmusch? It is GREAT! There is also a story in that film that is filmed in Helsinki with Finnish actors. One of them is Matti Pellonpaa, who used to be the trusted actor in ALL Kaurismaki films before Pellonpaa past away. You can see his picture in frames in one shot in the movie "The Man without past" to honour his memory. I am sure Kaurismaki and Jarmusch had some meetings during filming the Night on Earth...

Posted by: Tomi | June 9, 2005 01:47 AM

To Kirby Olson

Finland has been a lutherian country for so long that a lot of things, which in the beginning were lutheran, now are just cultural things. Things that we don't even realize are there. And I don't see anything bad about that. But a lot of people have stopped believing in God or rather maybe in the church itself. So we have the lutheran culture still in our backbone, but we don't wanna here about grace of God etc. anymore.

Of cource we in the last sentence doesn't include all the Finns. Probably something like half of us, but that's just a guess.

Posted by: atheist | June 9, 2005 02:46 AM

Kirby,

I don't think Aki Kaurismaki has ever said publicly that he would be an atheist. But as far as I know he hasn't told anyone that he would be a believer either. I think that this behaviour sums up the Finnish attitude regarding religion quite well.

Most people I know tend to practice what I would call a pragmatic agnosticism. I.e. that there are certain values and morals in Christianity that are worth honoring regardless of the very existence of the Holy Trinity, but that everyone must judge by themselves the rest of it.

Finns tend to pay more attention to how a particular person behaves towards others than to how strongly they proclaim their faith. The latter is considered a personal matter, and could be faked anyway so why bother?

So, back to considering (Aki) Kaurismakis faith. I don't really think it matters whether he is a christian, an atheist, an agnostic or a general humanist. What matters is that trough his movies he preaches compassion for the fellow man and hope even in the darkest moments.

Posted by: -N- | June 9, 2005 02:59 AM

Kirby Olson:
"I see Luther as the author of Finnish aesthetics and ethics, not the weather and not Slavic or Finno-Ugric genes."

Luther may well at the bottom of it, but the religious revivalism of the 19th century is another influence of huge importance. Especially Pietism (isn't it related to Shakerism?) has influenced spheres of life far beyond religion, and aesthetics may well be one of them.

Religious revivalism was a powerful Finnish movement at a time when higher civilisation was generally considered to be the scene of the Swedish-speaking upper classes and secular power was in the hands of the Russian rulers.

Finland developed into a nation in an atmosphere of tension between the powers that were and the new rulers. Like the still often quoted 19th century political slogan put it: "Swedes we are not, Russians we do not wish to become, so let us be Finns". Without the Russian rule (1809-1917) that suffered and even encouraged the emerging Finnish identity in order to undermine sympathies towards the old Swedish rulers, we might not even have the Finnish language today -- we might all be speaking Swedish now. From the point of view of the Finnish language, culture and identity, even the Russian occupation of 1809-1917 was more an opportunity than a threat, as -N- pointed out.

Religious revivalism could be seen as an early manifestation of the intellectual aspirations of the Finnish-speaking part of the population, as opposed to the "fine arts" cultivated by the Swedish-speaking educated classes and the imperial Russian culture of the rulers. Although the original idea of simplicity in aesthetics may certainly go back to Luther and his separation from the ornate catholicism, the 19th century Pietist ideals of starkness and purity could easily be seen as the truly Finnish alternative to aesthetic traditions not only worldly but also foreign ("Swedes we are not, Russians we do not wish to become" &cet.)

To some extent, Finns adopted these ideals of simplicity themselves, to some extent these were thrust upon us by others: the projection of the Finns as modest, God-fearing people was a favourite theme in the (Swedish language) literature of the time. J.L. Runeberg, who is celebrated as Finland's national poet even today, was an especially powerful disseminator of this idea. Projections of melancholy and slow thinking could be part of the same package.

So, being aesthetically simple, "authentic" and "natural" was the only accepted way of being Finnish (as opposed to Swedish or Russian). All right, these ideals have resulted in some remarkable design and music and film (even though Finnish cultural achievements are more typically appreciated by a few aficionados than by the crowds -- and the version that I've heard about Jackie Onassis and Marimekko says that she ordered the gowns as uniforms for her cleaners) but these ideals can be very restrictive, too. Note, for instance, that most of the Marimekko patterns celebrated today were originally designed in the 1960s. OK, retro is in, but where is the new creativity?

It may be that in our near-compulsive anti-ornamentalism we are actually carrying a heavy baggage dating back to the 19th century, faithfully implementing a cultural demarcation that is no longer relevant.

From this point of view, I think that the designer Paola Suhonen is saying something important, although her interpretation of the roots of the current state of affairs does not go far enough in history. We should welcome every new designer and artist who is prepared to look beyond the venerable but restrictive ideals of "good Finnish taste". Otherwise even our greatgrandchildren will be stuck with Marimekko's Raita stripes!

Posted by: Virpi | June 9, 2005 03:04 AM

And the church has changed and gotten a lot more leftwing.Turns of some of the people.Big change from the days when we where the chosen people of the north.;)Finland is rare European country because it has so many friends of Israel.Yes,im one of them and no,im not going to argue about it.So dont bother.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 03:07 AM

Kirby,

I think both "atheist" and "-N-" have pinned it down well. As for Aki Kaurismäki: here is one (rather typical) interview. Figure it out yourself:
http://www.collectivechaos.org/maninner.html
More important than his religios/political preferences is this (quote):
"99.9 percent of directors are concentrating on showing sex and violence, and I thought that there must be 0.1 percent concentrating on what you should try to present, and that is simple life."

Posted by: -U- | June 9, 2005 03:14 AM

"Finland was a territory of Russia for so long"

???
Well, not "so long". We were apart of Sweden for almost a thousand years and an autonumous Grand Duchy of Russia for 100 years. We never spoke Russian and always had a law system inherited from the Swedish rule!
Still, there were a lot of Finns in St. Petersburgh, and the largest towns of Finland had people of various nationalities thanks to the situation.

I have never been to Russia, but I would like to visit St. Petersburgh at least. When I was working in the States, someone asked me why haven´t I ever just crossed the border and gone for a drive. Thats not so easy for any of us, I think. People expect it to be at least slightly dangerous to travel like that on your own.

I do not have anything against the Russians though. I do not meet so many of them regularly, my cousin dates a girl whose family immigrated here when she was young, so she was born in Russia, and is still a citizen I think. She spends holidays, and family celebrations with our extended family, and she is great. My grandfather fought in the war against the Soviet Union, but he got along great with her.
Also, my friend has an uncle, who is married to a Russian.

I think it is quite fair to say that we share in the slavic mentality, we relate to the "slavic melancholy" in music for example. The average Finn will choose a melancholy tune over a happy one!

I think it is very sad when our society is not inclusive of people percieved as "others". It is our loss! No matter what you say about the pittfalls of multiculturalism. I was waching football "soccer" yesterday and even the simpeltons might feel sad if we did not have people who do not "look like" Finns on our team. Even though we lost! :-)

Posted by: female,27 | June 9, 2005 03:15 AM

Sorry, we lost to the Netherlands 4-0 Ouch!!

It would be good to remember that a person, whatever their nationality, is different from the government of a country, and certainly not responsible for what has happenend in the past!!!!

Posted by: female, 27 | June 9, 2005 03:29 AM

"Me and my friends have been impressed by the continued strength of anti-Iraqian sentiment among Americans."

*applause* :)

Now, for something more on topic, to see what people actually wear you might want to go browse the H&M websites.

In response to Kirby Olsen, most finns I know are not really lutherian in the sense of ever practicing their religion, except maybe around christmas or funerals. However, essential parts of the building blocks of our current society have been made by people of strong religious beliefs during times when religion was more important than it seems today. As an example, the father of our current school system, Uno Cygnaeus was a lutherian priest. Lutherian values, if considered as such, are embedded deeply into the society and not really thought of as a religious view, but rather as common sense. ;)

For brief info on Uno Cygnaeus: http://cnserv1.cygnnet.jkl.fi/koulut/cygnaa/english/brhist.htm
- in all an interesting person in our history.

Posted by: Hanzel | June 9, 2005 04:09 AM

Oh, and referring to something about Kaurismäki being communist, being communist was sort of a fashion thing during the 60s-70s at least amongst the university students of the time.

Posted by: Hanzel | June 9, 2005 04:16 AM

I am also disgusted because of the finn's attitude towards Russians, it is like some strange obsession, almost some mental problem for some of us, they keep repeating the mantra about the evil russians. Here are some people telling how their grandparents suffered. And how THEY themselves now in their 30's would know anything what war is blaming americans about the ingrorance about it. We have had peace for 60 years. And we will, if you keep your mouth shut and change your attitude. Attitude easily becomes practice and then action. My both grandfathers were veterans and my gradmothers spent their 5 years of their youth in Helsinki trying to avoid being exploded in peaces by russian bombers. Big part of Helsinki's beautiful old buildings were destroyed. But biggest amount of beautiful old buildings were destroyed by the Finnish "Anti Slavic Modern Architechts". They wanted those old fashioned, slavic (like in Saint Petersburg, which was, in fact designed by italians) buildings away. They destroyed them and built those HORRIBLE dull boxes instead. Helsingin Sanomat made a big series of articles about that crime against the Helsinki Image. Unfortunately I was not able to find a link to that series. Thanks to those modernists, Helsinki is not as idyllic and attractive as it could be. None of my grandparents never told a bad, personal opinion about russians. My parents had more negative attitude, because they were brainwashed when they were chidren, when the anti-russian teachers had the power. One of my father's highschool teachers was openly a nazi. Luckily they have changed, because they have met russians after that and also lived in Russia. Usually veterns don't shout on the streets and call russians by names. They also respect the russian veterans. They all were boys in a horrible situation. But war is over. Problem is the generation after them. I have seen it in Helsinki. A well dressed middle aged man calling women speaking russian as "ryssa" whores. One started it in a tram but the others suprisingly started to fight against that man. These disturbed people seem to have a childhood trauma. Like Hitler had about the jews. Hopefully these people never get into any important positions in our society. Youngsters tend to think more positive. Some of them at least. Those who are generally interested in this world and other cultures, travelling. They don't see big difference in the "coolness" of visiting Russia or Italy. In fact, russia is very interesting, difficult to understand, alien, exotic, dynamic place to visit nowadays. Youngsters might have russian friends. They study there and learn the language. Many finns still live in the past, sadly big group of us. "Oh, I remember when I visited Soviet Union...". "They were so cheap there, I brought them jeans and got vodka". Times are different now. Russia has changed. Maybe some Finns should change as well? Anyways, these "true finns" who get offended if you say they have slavic roots or influence or mentality, most likely they listen finnish evergreens, the finnish iskelma music, and by the way, most of those melodies loved the most by finns are russian romance melodies, composed by a russian, lyrics by finns. So, nobody can deny the slavic melancholy would not be a part of finnish soul. Do you think this small area has been totally influence free for centuries? No cross cultural breeding? No cultural exchange? If we were, you would not have nothing to complain about different countries "occupying our territory". "We are pure finns, no swedes no russians" can't be true. We are a mixture of sami, scandinavian, russian, ugric, fennic, german, baltic and other cultures nearby.

Posted by: Suomalainen | June 9, 2005 04:20 AM

Ok, we have a Russia there, huge country, lots of people. Urban russians are very well educated and as smart people as any other.

Finns and russians are a lot a like.

Yes, there is now popular support for strong
leader and goverment in Russia, some national
media is beeing controlled by the state (comments about american media and politics are wellcome:)).

Still, russians have huge resources, both mental and natural, people in urban areas are 'middle classing' step by step. There are hundreds and thousends of independent local news papers & tv channels and russians have access to all global media as well.

I as a finn think it's a colossal mistake if we keep living 1940's and dont mix with this very interesting neighbour we have.

Just remember, if for no other reason, racism is bad for business :)

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 04:31 AM

And I forgot to mention, when asked from russians about the finns, they ALWAYS have a good image of us. So, they are not likely causing us any problems. They like us. Unfortunately most of us don't deserve that good image. Both of us have something to give to each others. Culture exchange, specially music will be a big thing in the future. One of the founders of the russian radio station "Radio Sputnik" in Finland who's name I can't spell composed the russian eurovision song contest song, lyrics by finn and some of the band members were finns. Finnish music is now popular in Russia, specially the professionality finns show, they come to learn here, they look up to us in some cases. There is no reason to fear them, neither under estimate.

Posted by: Suomalainen | June 9, 2005 04:40 AM

"One of the founders of the russian radio station "Radio Sputnik" in Finland who's name I can't spell composed the russian eurovision song contest song, lyrics by finn and some of the band members were finns."

NOW I see why it was so bad :)

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 05:06 AM

Yes, it was horrible, but still cross cultural project :) joining ourselves to equal misery.

Posted by: Suomalainen | June 9, 2005 05:29 AM

In Helsinki we have a vibrant Russian community. Radio Sputnik is a great channel. Old people tend to be more anti-Russian than the young. I don't think anyone who has Russian friends can be anti-Russian. I certainly couldn't. My grandpa once said he was a guard at a POW camp during World War II and after he got to know some of the Soviet POWs, he could never be anti-Russian after that. Many people in Finland who were anti-Soviet or anti-communist or fearful of a Soviet invasion could still be pro-Russian. Just take Mannerheim as a prime example.

Posted by: Topi L | June 9, 2005 05:39 AM

The Russian entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, that horrible piece of music that some people have been talking about... http://www.eurovision.tv/english/russia.htm
The lyrics were in English and about America. Just in case anyone's interested. Joining ourselves in equal misery, indeed.

And as to Paola Suhonen... At least you all realize that this http://www.ivanahelsinki.com/ivana/index.php?cid=1 is a joke, right?

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 05:53 AM

So you people honestly think its OK if the Russians are comitting genocide in te caucasus?We should only see the good in them?Our dear president was keen to criticize the Americans about Irak.Why dont you people see similarities of the two situations.It must be that you dont want to.I question your morals as human beings..

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 06:24 AM

""The finns are a "finnish-ugrian" people (probably not spelled right)."
It is finno-ugric."

To be exact, the Finns belong to the Finno-Ugric group, but represent the "Finno" branch of it. "Ugrig" branch people are another group that is a part of the same major group. More common term for the "Finno-" is Fennic.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 06:32 AM

And those Fennic and Ugric branches separated from each other long time ago in the prehistoric era.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 06:33 AM

"So you people honestly think its OK if the Russians are comitting genocide in te caucasus?"

Russians? All of them?

I honestly think you are an idiot (in a non russian way).

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 06:44 AM

"As a nation Finland is finno-ugric, the culture being *very* close to that of Sweden, with some Slavic influences here and there to add some flavour."

The culture is totally different to that of Sweden.
Slavic influences are not that huge either.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 06:57 AM

"I also want to see the Finnish film The man Without a Past. Does anyone know anything about it?"

Try kazaa or emule.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 06:59 AM

"My grandmother's roots also are in Karelia."

Tuesdays TV2 shows the excellent 10 part documentary about life in Karelia, 18.20-18.50 or so.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 07:02 AM

I agree with some posters that Russia hasn't dealt with her past properly (Putin says it's not important!), but that Finns should put more effort in good relations.

More young people would like to visit, but the visa regulations are still a pain. I recently send my application which included: 1) original passport, 2) visa application form, 3) proof of insurance, 4) hotel reservation & official tourist voucher 5) payment for 40 euro. Sheesh!

If you don't have a hotel reservation, you can buy a fake one off the internet, or have your friends in Russia send a private invitation. If they don't mind waiting in line at 10 different offices and spending a few months to get it.

Posted by: Windy | June 9, 2005 07:10 AM

Why the need to generalize? Not all Finns share the anti-Russian sentiments, and those sentiments should be seen as a reflection of our history with Russia. However, no history can justify the hang-ups some still have of Russian. This said, I am not saying that I only see good in the Russian politics. Surely a Russian commonfolk aren't to blame for the policy of their leaders. After all, Russia is not democratic in the American or Western European way.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 07:16 AM

"Surely a Russian commonfolk aren't to blame for the policy of their leaders. After all, Russia is not democratic in the American or Western European way."I suspect that if you would make this stament to a member of Russian commonfolk, he would desigree.The policies are infanct very popular.The gallups say,that Russians have pretty radical wiews in many issues.The fact,that part of the small but growing midle class is more enlightend,gives us hope for a better future.Lets hope.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 07:31 AM

"The culture is totally different to that of Sweden.
Slavic influences are not that huge either."

I beg to disagree on this. As an insider, one tends to see huge differences in cultural and behavioural subtleties, while an outsider might not even start to understand what you are speaking about even if you drew them a picture, pointed them out with a flashlight and honked a horn every time they manifested themselves.

For an american, Finns and Swedes look and sound pretty much the same. For a Finn, a Tavastian and a Savonian are completely different animals. Turning the situation around, a Texan and a New Yorker are just "americans" for a typical Finn, while Californians and New Yorkers themselves certainly find huge differences between their kinds.

Do you understand this analogy?

It is a fact that Finnish culture has been influenced by both Slavs and Swedes, more by the latter than the former due to the longer common history. It's somewhat ignorant to claim anything else, because we really have been in constant cultural interchange with all our neighbors trough the times.

E.g. during the Swedish era, most of the regular Swedish army was of Finnish origin, trough the ranks from foot-soldiers to generals and admirals. When these guys finally returned home, if they returned, they brought with them a whole lot of customs, values and ideas with them. Ever wonder where the all the syren-bushes came from? Well, a guy called Ehrensvärd thought they were pretty nice and gave these away to his soldiers when they had finished their tours so they could plant them in their small gardens when they returned home.

During the Russian era, on the other hand, there never was such a broad participation of Finns in Russia. I am not saying that Finnish culture is just an mix between Swedish and Slavic culture but an original culture that has taken some impressions from both sides.

Of course a good many aristocrats, tradesmen and craftsmen went there, and fared quite well in Russian politics, its military and business. But the ordinary people where freed from military duty in the Russian Army and thus never had to mix and mingle with their Russian peers. Which would have been hard anyway, as serfdom was ended there as late as in the 1880'ies. You might point out that St.Petersburg did have a Finnish population of around 200 000 until the Revolution, but bear in mind that these were mostly traders and craftsmen who mingled mostly with Russian aristocrats and borguoise (of which many were striving to be culturally more German and French than Russian). The cultural immersion never happened on all levels of society as it happened during the Swedish era.

I stand by my claim that our values and culture still reflect very strongly Nordic traits rather than Slavic ones. Of course there are some differences, but these are somewhat minor and not outside of what would be expected.

Posted by: -N- | June 9, 2005 08:15 AM

I think compared to the USA, if Finns have an anti-Russian sentiment then Americans can be said to have an anti-Mexican sentiment; even the countries haven't been at war in a few hundred years. OK, so in Finland someone speaking Russian gets called a name - in the USA you hear "damn wetback" if you speak Spanish. Yes yes, same kind of "all Americans" as "all Finns" eh? So if we haven't visited Moscow have you visited México City? The Finnish equivalent of Tijuana is Tallinn and Acapulco would then be Pärnu... south of the border is always south of the border.

Posted by: Hank W. | June 9, 2005 08:24 AM

"I stand by my claim that our values and culture still reflect very strongly Nordic traits rather than Slavic ones. Of course there are some differences, but these are somewhat minor and not outside of what would be expected"Il stand by you;)

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 08:35 AM

"Here in Wasington DC we have recently seen the Finnish tv miniseries called RAID. It is a masterpiece. We also saw the sequel movie RAID this past weekend at the American Film Institure in Silver Spring, Md."

And guess what, Mr. Stewart, I just might have seen you on TV. Because people were so surprised that it was liked in Washington, that they showed people going to that movie theatre in the news.

Posted by: EP | June 9, 2005 09:19 AM

" We have had peace for 60 years. And we will, if you keep your mouth shut and change your attitude."

This is a scary attitude from the sixties. Are you saying that if we speak bad of the Russians they will be offended and because of that will invade our country? In your other post you said that the Russian like us. You have serious conflicts in your thinking. Your attitude reflects the times when the atheistic and communistic despots ruled the Soviet and required all kinds of ego flattering theater play from the leaders of the surrounding countries to keep their little minds satisfied.

Posted by: periscope | June 9, 2005 09:28 AM

EP: Thanks for your comments. Yes we saw the tv people from yle filming the crowd waiting in line and talking with the director and the star who played Raid before and after the film in the lobby of the AFI Silver Theater. It was a fantastic experience. I think it must have been one of the most exciting cross cultural experiences I have ever had in my life. And I have never been to Finland but I intend to go soon and take my wife with me.
RAID the tv mini series is a true masterpiece. The music is so beautiful and the lyrics so moving and touching. Everything in film and music in America has become so commericial that none of it has any value artistically anymore. To find the good old stuff you must find things from the 1920,30s,40s and 1950s.
Everything since the 60s has been trash pretty much. There are a few exceptions. But very few. I think Americans have lost thier souls in exchange for money.

Posted by: joe stewart | June 9, 2005 09:49 AM

So you people honestly think its OK if the Russians are comitting genocide in the caucasus?"

Russians? All of them?

I honestly think you are an idiot (in a non russian way)." A conscript army in a suposedly free country.You would think there would be demonstrations,people voting for difrent leadership.You live in denial like most of the Russian people.As long as we dont see it,it isnt happening.Its easy to have a fatherfigure like the Zar,Stalin,Putin and tell you how things are.Dont have grow up as an individual or as an nation..You should move there,away from us rednecks..

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 09:54 AM

"A conscript army in a suposedly free country."

Well, conscription is pretty much a necessity for Finland due to the size of the population. And anyway, there are plenty of free countries that still use conscription as a means to raise the necessary manpower for their defense forces. Thus I don't think your argument is particularly valid.

As long as our government doesn't get stupid ideas, like sending the army overseas to fight wars of choice that don't directly concern us there will be no general opposition against conscription. And I think this is extremely unlikely to happen anytime soon, if ever.

Posted by: -N- | June 9, 2005 11:02 AM

Mr. Stewart, you really seem to like RAID. Somebody already suggested that you would also like Swedish Beck films, and I agree 100 %. If you can get hold of those, do so. We had them on TV in Finland just a couple of months ago on Sunday evenings, and I watched every time. Now I really miss them, because there is some American police series on that place, and the contrast to Beck is just too big.

Those young people who condemn their parents suspicious attitudes about Russia. Please, remember that you are the first generation who have not had to deal with war or its wounds. I was born after war, but spent my childhood nights listening to my father´s horrible nightmares. No, he did not tell them, he just screamed in his sleep. Every night.

And lets not forget that Putin is swiftly rebuilding the army with oil and gaz money. And the old idea of Russia is still very much alive: "From sea to shining sea."

It is not suspicion toward Russians, it is suspicion towards Russia. It is not stable.

Posted by: EP | June 9, 2005 11:05 AM

Yes, Finland has had many influences from its interesting neighbours both via domination and friendship in the last hundrets of years. However, these fairly recent events must be put into perspective. Millenia of Sami inhabitation in the Scandinavian peninsula (and Finland) and the numerous "Fennic" and "Ugric" tribes some of which are still inhabiting North-Eastern Europe have inevitably left their mark on those parts of the world.
Genetics are a totally different matter altogether and must not be confused with culture and language.
Why would e.g. melancholy be a Slavic trait that Finns have? Why don't we say that the Slavs in Russia have Finnic melancholy in them? (Not that I think that melancholy is somehow either Slavic or Finnic. I'm just trying to make people realise the age old patterns they seem to think in and refreshen them).
In the end, Finland is way more "Finnic" that it is either "Slavic" or "Scandinavian". And this is a cool thing.

Posted by: koivu | June 9, 2005 11:09 AM

Mr. Kaiser, if you think anti-Russian sentiment is strong among Finns, why not compare it with that of Koreans or Chinese towards the Japanese? Indians and Pakistani? Jews and Germans? Although it's been years and years people still hate the other nation enormously. I think Finnish sentiments are very mild compared to these.

If you want to undestand Finnish feelings about Russia, how about studying history? How we unjustly had to give Karelia, how people had to leave their homes, how we suffered and how we have had to be afraid until very recently. And that it was the Russians who attacked. In lots of countries, also in the US, this fact is often obscured because we co-operated with the Germans later on. Finland is only viewed as allies of the Nazi, and no further explanations are needed to put us in the category 'bad and evil'. The only reason why we co-operated with Germans is that we wanted to protect our country. Finland was also mentiones in the Molotov-Ribbentropp treaty, but unlike our poor baltic neighbours, we managed to keep our independence.

In Finland it's been virtually impossible to criticize Russia or the SU until lately. Although Finland was an independent country, SU had a huge influence on our foreign policy and what was being said in public. Even the term 'finlandization' originated during this period. It expressed the process of turning into a neutral country which, although maintaining national sovereignty, in foreign politics resolves not to challenge a more powerful neighbour. In Finland's case Russia. This happened because of the fear that we would have to go through war again.

Nowadays it is possible to criticize Russia, even in public, which I thinks is great. However, some forms of Finlandization still exist. (As an example is the recent closedown of the website kavkazcenter.com from a Finnish web werver. Russians don't want true knowledge about the situation in Chechnya to come to the world. When the Russian embassy told Finnish government to close the website down, we did it immediately.) Free speech is the precondition of a democratic and free country. What comes to the overflights, they would never have become public unless MTV3, a Finnish TV channel, had published them. Our stupid politicians wanted to keep them secret. Our neighours Estonians publish such offences immediately. I hope this becomes the official policy in Finland too.

Russia cannot be a safe neighbour before they teach history correctly. In Russian schools they still don't tell that Russians were the ones who attacked to Finland. They don't even admit they were occupying the Baltic countries. If you don't believe me, you can check out what Pravda, a major Russian newspaper has to say about it. http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/88/354/15614_occupation.html

Russia isn't a justice state and it isn't democratic. They don't have free broadcasting, everything is under Kreml nowadays. Fifth of the population is living in poverty. It makes the country internally unstable. Finland cannot trust Russia as an official entity before they have true democracy, justice, free speech and correct knowledge of their past.

Posted by: justme | June 9, 2005 12:38 PM

Virpi, your answer about pietism was quite fascinating. I'll think more about it.


Also, thanks for the link to Kaurismaki. He doesn't seem to be very Christian in that interview at all. Maybe there is some kind of discrepancy between the conscious and the unconscious personality -- or essence -- he is such a great artist. Whenever I read interviews with him though he seems to be quite petty and silly in a way that I find somewhat disturbing.

Still love the movies, though.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 9, 2005 12:55 PM

Kirby, I think you may be projecting a bit about us Finns and Lutheranism :) Maybe we shouldn't attribute Kaurismäki's films to any unconscious Lutheran ethic because we don't know what his conviction is. In interviews he's always weird, so no help there. But I really can't see Finns going around in some Lutheran nirvana which causes them to help others. Most whine a lot about taxes, jobs and other Finns, trying to make ends meet for themselves, but still the welfare state works somehow.

The religion has been a powerful influence, but it was mixed with a lot of other Northern European traditions before arriving here, look at the Finnish Christmas for example. So the similarities in Lutheran countries are not due to religion only.

Posted by: Windy | June 9, 2005 02:07 PM

"And I forgot to mention, when asked from russians about the finns, they ALWAYS have a good image of us. So, they are not likely causing us any problems. They like us."

I think there was a news piece half a year ago or so which told that according gallups made in Russia the Russians pretty much dislike all foreigners. I don't remember the hate-percentages (they started from 70-80% with Chechenians, and Finns were somewhere among the top 15 most hated nationalities) but I do remember having been very surprised reading that racism was so common over there.

I have met mostly nice Russians and I don't have anything against ordinary citizens of Russia. It's their administration that is creepy (the same goes with US).

Posted by: binoculars | June 9, 2005 02:10 PM

What is scary about Russia is that they are completely unwilling to accept any critisism towards their government. Someone wrote earlier that

"The point is that the Russians havent made account of their past history.So Stalin is to blame?If i recall his pictures were present in the Victory Day parade in Moscow this year..That would be the same if Germans would be marching at Branderburg Gate carrying Hitlers portrait!"

I do not about Stalin's picture but the concept of Russian politics comes clear from the writing.

-Russian did not attack Finland
-They only help civilian people in Tchechnia
-Russian partisans did not kill hundereds of Finnish women and children who were living on the eastern part of Finland
-Russia did not invade Baltic countries, they came there because the people wanted so.
-Russia does not oppress minorities in central Russia eventhough EU has consulted with Russian about this issue

As Finns are living beside Russia, I think that it is justified that we are a bit afraid Russia and the consequence of this fear can be rasistical behaviour towards russian people.

Bit I also have to say that I know some Russian people and they are all great persons. My writing is not agaist the people of Russia, it is critisism about the government of Russia.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 02:21 PM

Thank you for catching the error, Bob and I were not "impressed" by the continued strength of anti-Russian sentiment among Finns, we were "surprised." Lucian

Posted by: Lucian Perkins | June 9, 2005 02:53 PM

The Finnish design from the 1910's to the 1930's was very modern and very European and had nothing to do with the Russian influence - for example, jugend and functionalism. Paola Suhonen has been talking rather lightly here.

Posted by: Numppa | June 9, 2005 02:56 PM

>>My writing is not agaist the people of Russia, it is critisism about the government of Russia.

Yes, the Russian people are also victims of the leading mafia.

Posted by: periscope | June 9, 2005 03:15 PM

I would like to know what Finns think of the USA and the people of the USA. Culture, govt.,etc.

Posted by: joe stewart | June 9, 2005 03:15 PM

Finland has also given something special to Russia and probably to whole world. This sample fits especially well under the title Finland's classy design

"On Easter morning 1913 Tsar Nicholas II gave his mother the Winter Egg. Of the 50 eggs Fabergé made for the Imperial family between 1885 and 1917, this one is exceptional. A very rare example of a winter motif in goldsmith history, it was designed by a young assistant, a 23-year-old Finnish girl called Alma Pihl, who died in 1976, aged 87."

"The Winter Egg, a Russian Imperial Easter egg produced by the jeweller Carl Faberge, sold for nearly $9.6m (€10.7m) in New York"

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 04:08 PM

In case you are interestd you can read more of this Alma Pihl from

http://www.christies.com/promos/apr02/1172/specialist.asp

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 04:12 PM

Kirby, I understand it is very important to you to see things you like as being Christian and Lutheran. I think some of this may be hopeful thinking.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 04:38 PM

"Well, conscription is pretty much a necessity for Finland due to the size of the population. And anyway, there are plenty of free countries that still use conscription as a means to raise the necessary manpower for their defense forces. Thus I don't think your argument is particularly valid"Actually i ment the Russian army in this comment.It was a response when someone said that common Russians have nothing to do with the war crimes comitted,it all the goverment.Good point from you about our conscript army.Would be nice to see how our boys would feell if given the order to kill civilians.All Finns know,it would never happen..

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 04:44 PM

"More young people would like to visit, but the visa regulations are still a pain. I recently send my application which included: 1) original passport, 2) visa application form, 3) proof of insurance, 4) hotel reservation & official tourist voucher 5) payment for 40 euro. Sheesh!"

Well, it is difficult. But you can't even imagine how it is for a russian citizen, who wants to travel abroad. To any country almost. Nobody wants them. I once experienced the treatment in finnish embassy in Saint Petersburg with my wife. All the honour to the staff of Finnish embassy, they are great, but the conditions there are humaliating. Imagine a cold, very cold day. -25C. 7 am. 200 meters long line before the doors open, to both directions from the door on the street. Other line is for those who are bringing all the documents and applications. The other for those who are picking their visa. And believe me, they are not just one document like we have to leave. You feel frozen in the line. Finally they let people in. People get angry. Some fights. Yelling, pushing. Who gets in? Some people have some VIP entry. Others get frustrated. You wait until the noon, ten meters still to go. They say "Lunch break, doors are closed for one hour". Waiting, more waiting. People are asking for help from each others. Those who are leaving the documents are now all in. Some fighting in the corridor. "You must pay in EUROS". Customers start to cry. Young girl is hysteric. Her visa was rejected. Someone had only roubles, now they must go to exchange the money. This was not informed. Because the rule changed (again) the other day. We heard the money should be paid to bank afterwards. But it is not true. We must go out and try again after getting the roubles we have changed to euros. Some people buy their place in the line. Travel insurance sellers are hunting customers outside. If you buy from them, you can get forward in the line. Finally we get the visa. My wife gets only three days in Finland even we though she could stay much longer. She cries. It all feels very miserable. We are exhausted. "Never again this treatment". We spend a christmas in Finland and then she has to go back to Russia to wait 3 monthes until she can apply for a next visa.

OK, now we are happily in Finland living together, but you can't imagine what kind of inspection process and how long, how demanding it is to learn the language, get a job, FINNISH education because no other education is valid in Finland. "Finnish is always the best". This is how we are brainwashed. Partially it is true. But the second best is sometimes better than the best. After one year of studying finnish, I must say my wife was VERY fluent in it. No bad accent, very accurate. "You don't speak finnish fluently enough" was the kind reply from most employees when she applied some work. She knows 5 languages, but emploers were a bit concerned if she has an accent in finnish. They never even heard her speaking finnish. Now she teaches russian to important finnish businessmen who wants to get to russian markets. They say russian is very difficult to learn.

Posted by: Married to russian | June 9, 2005 04:45 PM

Joe,

that's a very simple question you just asked, but the answer is more complex. I'm trying to be as objective here as I can. Please don't feel hurt about what follows...

On a general level, the Finnish attitude towards Americans and the U.S. is quite positive, in some aspects even admiring. On the other hand, there are also things Finns are not so sure about.

Extrovert, positive, optimistic, arrogant, narsistic (self-centered), all embracing, social, unsophisticated, ignorant, idealistic, naive, are adjectives that Finns often associate with Americans.

Finns definitely admire the entrepeneurial spirit, the generally positive outlook on life and the often extrovertness that Americans often posess. On the negative side, we tend to think of Americans as somewhat self-centered and ignorant of other cultures, and there is a certain chauvinism there also which can make selling our own ideas to you quite frustrating.

Usually these are things that nobody cares to make a big fuss about, "Americans are like that, just live with it" has been the general attitude. The positive has still been more dominant than the negative aspects. So nobody have minded that much.

But then came along 9/11 and things changed.

I think that 9/11 scared the living daylights out of every sane person over here also. Partly because nobody actually knew what was going on, but also because everyone knew that the event would give your current administration a pretext to do pretty much whatever they wished. And so they have... The current events are really putting a serious strain on many peoples belief in the United States as the leader of the free world.

But still, Americans as individuals and even as a nation are very much respected over here. It's the dude and his pals at Pennsylvania Av. many have trouble with.

Posted by: -N- | June 9, 2005 04:46 PM

Well actually.. Not all Russians are that nice either. I was in a lukio where there were lots of Russian immigrants because we had A level Russian. The Russians didn't want to socialize with Finnish kids. They spoke bad things and made fun of Finnish pupils in front of them. The majority of pupils didn't take A level Russian and didn't understand what they were saying so the Russians could do this freely.. There's a lot talk about Finnish prejudices towards Russians, but there's always several sides to every story. Some Russians, especially many of those living in Finland, could really take a look in the mirror and ask themselves, whether they're doing everything they can to integrate or are they actually raising anti-Russian sentiment with their own behaviour.

Posted by: | June 9, 2005 04:57 PM

"I would like to know what Finns think of the USA and the people of the USA. Culture, govt.,etc."

Joe,

you might want to start by glancing through the discussions of this blog e.g. Live discussion and many earlier chapters of the journey.

I guess it's fair to say that most Finns are very critical of your current government, especially their actions abroad. USA used to be a popular and admired thing, now the situation is more controversial. I'm currently staying in US and I have enjoyed my stay so far. People are mostly friendly, landscape is nice, I'm learning new things etc. I don't think I'd like to live here permanently though mainly because of the twisted politics.

About the culture I haven't formed a thorough opinion yet. It seems to be quite difficult to cut through the small talk and forced friendliness and build true friendships with americans. I definitely prefer the shy sincerity of Finns if the alternative is seemingly friendly cultural mannerism. In Finland, you don't have to keep guessing what people really mean because they usually don't say things they don't mean. There are of course some exceptions to the rule but making empty (polite) suggestions is not considered culturally desirable behavior and that really makes a difference in everyday life.

Posted by: binoculars | June 9, 2005 05:31 PM

>>I would like to know what Finns think of the USA and the people of the USA. Culture, govt.,etc.

Most of the Finns - or the Europeans for that matter - have never visited USA so their opinions are mostly based on newspapers TV news and series. As we all know, more often only the bad news are newsworthy which naturally gives a one-sided view of everything. So you probably don't want to hear these opinions.

But the same one-sidedness applies to the Americans too who seem to have a pretty narrow view of the Europeans. Not to mention some strange bunch living somewhere up north. The worst thing is that people are most often inclined to accept negative images than positive and false information and gossip seems to spread faster than good news.

I understand that the Americans have a huge country of their own and lots to learn about it naturally, but what strikes me is that when ever I speak to an American who has never visited Europe they seem to have a lot of false information there. This is specially true concerning Finland who despite it's smallness has been put on some maps because of its strange position in WWII. But if even WP can repeat the same old false facts (don't mean Kaiser & Perkins), it is not a wonder that the common folks do too.

Today I had a stroll in Helsinki and noticed quite a few elderly American couples orienteering in the city. I really admire these folks who want to visit even the distant corners of the globe to see what the world really looks like. One of my personal dreams has been to take a boat from England to America and make a motor cycle trip starting from the north driving down to Mexico. We have been touring in England, Ireland and in Central Europe and this trip would really make it.

Posted by: periscope | June 9, 2005 05:37 PM

"USA used to be a popular and admired thing"

My memory extends from 80s to present. I wouldn't say that USA was ever widely "admired" in Helsinki region. Some things imported from USA were cool: some bands, skateboarding, gadgets, academic theories, TV/film. And these have obviously had a great impact on our culture. But I think that there's always been an undercurrent in the Finnish mentality which sees Americans as valuing quite different things than what we do.

And politically..let's not even go there. During the cold war, both sides seriously sucked! I don't know if even today Reagan is seen as positively in Finland as he is in some other countries...

Posted by: IMO | June 9, 2005 05:46 PM

My grandmother's house was burned down by Russian soldiers. My mother-in-law hid in the basement when Russian soldiers dropped bombs on Helsinki. My grandfather died in the war and the other one was taken as a "war prisoner" during the civil war, which was more or less caused by the wars against Russia. My grandfather's crime was that he chose not to take sides, thus both sides considered him a traitor.

I am 28 years old, my grandmother died just 2 years ago and my mother-in-law has only recently started talking about her childhood during the war. Is it odd that there is still worries and anxiety towards both Russia and Russians?

I have been to Russia many times, I have Russian friends and I have seen the place where my grandmother's house stood. My generation has no images or personal stories of war, has not lost parents in the war and we do not "understand" what an air-attack means. Our parents may have a vague idea, e.g. losing their parents, but many of us have grandparents or other older relatives who have actually lived through this.

This is why I understand why many Finns still have strong emotions towards Russia and Russians. At the same time I am happy to see that many young people are starting to close the gap between these two countries and nationalities. This process will take time and most likely more generations must come before the horrors of war are not that strong in our minds. After all, it is not that long ago when "siding with Russians" could get you killed or at least make you an outcast in your society...

Posted by: Daughter | June 9, 2005 06:29 PM

"USA used to be a popular and admired thing"

""My memory extends from 80s to present. I wouldn't say that USA was ever widely "admired" in Helsinki region. Some things imported from USA were cool: some bands, skateboarding, gadgets, academic theories, TV/film. And these have obviously had a great impact on our culture. But I think that there's always been an undercurrent in the Finnish mentality which sees Americans as valuing quite different things than what we do.""

It may have been an overstatement to say that USA was admired. I mostly meant that it has had a more positive image among us than it has now and admiring/liking USA or its gadgets wasn't considered a sign of serious brain damage but just slightly shallow, innocent fun.
Helsinki region consists of wide variety of people including the ones that still love American cars (described in the most recent post of this blog) and that certain style of life...

Posted by: binoculars | June 9, 2005 06:31 PM

Some seem to say that its wrong to blame individual Russians about crimes comitted.I just wonder why did Russians drag evrybody they could to the Nurnberg trials if Hitler was the only one to blame.Was Stalin personally pointing the gun at the men raping and murdering in Germany.The "partisans" that stuck their bayonettes to Finnish babys are still a live and honored as heroes.The Finnish officials have expressed to the Russians, that we are willing to bring then to court of law if they hand them over.The answer has been that they are heroes and that Finland was an allie of nazi Germany in their attack on Russia.Well if thát is a crime,what was this thing about soviet Russia and nazi Germany invading Poland together?And dividing the lands as they wished,Balts and Finland to be occupied by the Russians.The funny part is that the Russians are openly proud of this era of IIWW.They just ignore the part(most of it)that puts them in a bad light.And this is how we come to the present day.The Soviet Union is gone and we have Russia with free elections and freedom of speech.We have Russians comitting human rights violations and war crimes inside and outside their country.Whats wrong with this country?Whats wrong with its people?Dont feel really close to them in any level.Maybe i just have to find my inner slav and go to St.Petersburg or something..

Posted by: Never forget | June 9, 2005 10:27 PM

Never forget: I think best for you is to get away from Finland to middle of the Atlantic ocean where the Russian bear can't cause you nightmares anymore.

History is always written by the winners. When a soldier in the side that looses the war pulls the trigger he is a war criminal, if he is the winning side, he is a hero. No people participating in war are innocent and not responsible.

Posted by: | June 10, 2005 01:16 AM

>>So we have the lutheran culture still in our backbone, but we don't wanna here about grace of God etc. anymore.

hence, my love affair with nordic countries.

Posted by: atheistsophie | June 10, 2005 01:39 AM

>About the culture I haven't formed a thorough opinion yet. It seems to be quite difficult to cut through the small talk and forced friendliness and build true friendships with americans.

it i snot just finns who feel this way, but many europeans in general. the "forced friendliness" you refer to is indeed very taxing. i was in spain recently (moving there soon)and found their natural ways to be very refreshing. you never have to guess what they are thinking, or plaster a phony smirk on your face..americans and their superficial manners becomes wearisome after a while. and yes, i don't have any american friends either (though i am american) and prefer the company and friendship of europeans.

Posted by: sophie | June 10, 2005 02:20 AM

Anti-American sentiment in Finland? Government is not liked, true. Anti-Russian then? Oh yes, deep-rooted hate of all Russian things. Russians are hated by the older generation and disliked by younger ones.

Still, it's not the people we hate, just like in the case of USA, it's the governments and if they make decisions like wars in Iraq, Chechnya, not signing environmental accords, drilling for oil in national parks, restricting minority rights, you as people won't get appraises either. Take responsibility over what your government does. Should Russian and US governments start showing committing for funds into improving this world of ours, I am sure you'd an approriat response to the peoples of these two countries.

Posted by: Timo A | June 10, 2005 03:10 AM

"Never forget",

it actually could be a good idea for you to visit St.Petersburg. It's a fine city, and represents what Russia has to offer at its best. It also impresses you with how terribly big the whole country is. I mean, it's huge. Humongous.

And we sit right next to it. While I don't believe we should bow at every turn to Russia, on a longer perspective it's not a good idea to start making unnecessary grudges either. Unless there happens some radical and unforeseen change in contintal drift we will have to live with the fact that Russia is our neighbour for the next couple of billion of years or so. Which gives us plenty of time to study them and try to get into their heads. Not an easy task, I admit.

For Russia it's very typical to every now and then fall into complete chaos after which the order is gradually restored until it's almost totalitarian. Often in this latter stage, Russia starts to pay back those who they think have taken advantage of them when they were in a weak position.

So, it's good to keep in mind that a Russia is a very fluid entity and that what is today is not necessarily tomorrow. I think that if one remembers a few things about Russian mentality, then one can avoid the most dangerous pitfalls there are. Russians are a very proud people, they believe that they are highly sophisticated and that their nation is somehow "the chosen one". Pride, ego and nationalism, in short.

If these core attributes are not directly insulted, then I think it's possible to work with them. But if you handle a Russian like dirt, call him a "nekulturnyi durak" and insult the "Rodina", you can be sure there's going to be hell to pay sooner or later. And these guys really do remember old grudges, I am not kidding.

Which brings us to their current human rights violations and other misconduct. These are very delicate issues, especially so because the Russians believe they are within their rights. I don't know what would be the best way to takle these issues, but I'm quite sure that a big public condemnation of Russia will just make them feel humiliated and won't advance the issue on iota, quite the contrary.

Life is easier with the Russians if you apply a ton of pragmatism and keep your own goal in mind. Sometimes you can get more accomplished by getting drunk with the right guys in some smoky cabinet and discuss general philosophy and poetry than soberly proclaim the big truth in a conference or official meeting.

Posted by: -N- | June 10, 2005 03:28 AM

"History is always written by the winners. When a soldier in the side that looses the war pulls the trigger he is a war criminal, if he is the winning side, he is a hero. No people participating in war are innocent and not responsible."Your one of those people that the dictators need to get their way.Have you heard about the geneva convention?I know its little naive to think that great powers would always honor the international law.But it is essential that we keep reminding them.Thats the reason we joined the EU.The more widespread democracy and the rule of law becomes,the less we will have wars.History isnt something we should forget,it might repeat itself..That is why its dangerous that the Russian are teaching their children lies about their past.Maybe your just affraid of them,get over it,it. no way to live your life.You might even call it little bit sad.I just hope the Americans dont think were all like you.

Posted by: Never forget | June 10, 2005 03:41 AM

"Never forget",

it actually could be a good idea for you to visit St.Petersburg. It's a fine city, and represents what Russia has to offer at its best. It also impresses you with how terribly big the whole country is. I mean, it's huge. Humongous."I know what you mean,im just little bit irritated by some comments people have made.It smells like suomettumiselta.I would like to see the museums,i know they must be great.

Posted by: Never forget | June 10, 2005 03:50 AM

'Never forget',

you are absolutely right and I agree wholeheartedly with you. I am, however, a bit concerned about the tendency of some of our politicians to display that they are not kissing up to the east by going to the other extreme.

Posted by: -N- | June 10, 2005 04:57 AM

Years ago there was a 60 Minutes documentary on Finland that presented the Finnish people as being without a sense of humor. I am the editor of a humor newsletter and attend academic humor conferences and thanks to that 60 Minutes Documentary I still hear people say that Finland is the one country in the world that has no sense of humor whatsoever, as if it's some kind of fact.

I think the Marimekko design has a certain element of humor to it, and also Kaurimaki films. Perhaps some of your humor is more hidden to us -- I remember seeing TV shows in which people were clearly laughing although I never knew exactly about what.

Could anybody explain the Finnish sense of humor, and how it would differ from say the Swedish, the Russian, or the American sense of humor?

I've heard a lot of humor in these comments. I'm not going to say that Lutherans are generally quite humorous -- but it's weird that again this seems to be true. Luther himself was a joker -- there is a book called Martin Luther: God's Jester, and when we have a Lutheran who becomes known in this country it is generally as a humorist (although the BTK serial murderer was a Lutheran and he seems to have been somewhat overly zealous!!) --

Well, anyway, let's just say that Finns are now a primarily secular country. Is humor an important part of everyday life in Finland? In America we have been told that it has nothing to do with Finnish life. But I think I saw differently when I was there. Perhaps it's just hard to make jokes in other languages? Do you have famous literary humoristsas we have Mark Twain and Richard Brautigan and Garrison Keillor in America? If you do, I would say that Finnish people must appreciate humor. If you don't then maybe they don't!

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 10, 2005 09:33 AM

Or maybe a Finn would argue that Finns don't have any sense of humor at all?

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 10, 2005 11:07 AM

"Years ago there was a 60 Minutes documentary on Finland that presented the Finnish people as being without a sense of humor. I am the editor of a humor newsletter and attend academic humor conferences and thanks to that 60 Minutes Documentary I still hear people say that Finland is the one country in the world that has no sense of humor whatsoever, as if it's some kind of fact."

Kirby,

This is paradoxically the funniest characterization of Finns I've ever heard :) It would be interesting to see that "documentary" but it probably isn't available anywhere? How exactly did they prove that Finns don't have any sense of humour - by telling them american jokes and not seeing them laugh?
Obviously the language has been some sort of barrier in this study. It may be that Finns are not confident to make jokes and be humorous in a foreign language, because (Finnish) humour is often based on unexpected, but not random, use of language. When you communicate in foreign language it quite effectively limits your tools of humour.

I can assure you and other americans that have seen the film that Finns do have humour, all kinds of it. Don't believe anything you see on TV! Not even the reality tv-shows!

Posted by: binoculars | June 10, 2005 11:13 AM

"Do you have famous literary humoristsas we have Mark Twain and Richard Brautigan and Garrison Keillor in America?"

I forgot to answer the literature question.
We have a number of "official humorists", first name coming to my mind is Arto Paasilinna (I think his books have been published in English as well). He's the guy whose newest funny book is a common Christmas present for Finnish fathers. I don't personally find his books that great but tastes differ.

Posted by: binoculars | June 10, 2005 11:42 AM

They showed them standing at bus stations in the dead of winter, and also at tango dance festivals during serious romantic songs, and in a few other situations, always looking deadly glum. It made an interesting story. I think this is the main impression that Americans have of Finland because 60 Minutes is a national show. I wonder if you can buy an episode from their archives? You probably can, but I don't know how to go about it.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 10, 2005 11:46 AM

Funny enough, but Swedes usually think that Finns are just about the funniest people they know. But it is like binoculars said, Finnish humour is usually not about telling jokes. It is cracking something unexpectedly. And it is often weird, dry and sarcastic. And based on double meanings. Curiously enough stand-up comedians have recently started to pop up like mushrooms after rain. I would have thought that that style would not fit into Finnish sense of humour, but obviously I have been wrong.

There are many humorists in Finnish literature. The above mentioned Paasilinna (his earlier books were way better) is just one of them. For example Aleksis Kivi´s Seven Brothers is full of humour. (It is considered to be the first great novel written in Finnish.)

Posted by: E | June 10, 2005 12:06 PM

Funny enough, but Swedes usually think that Finns are just about the funniest people they know. But it is like binoculars said, Finnish humour is usually not about telling jokes. It is cracking something unexpectedly. And it is often weird, dry and sarcastic. And based on double meanings. Curiously enough stand-up comedians have recently started to pop up like mushrooms after rain. I would have thought that that style would not fit into Finnish sense of humour, but obviously I have been wrong.

There are many humorists in Finnish literature. The above mentioned Paasilinna (his earlier books were way better) is just one of them. For example Aleksis Kivi´s Seven Brothers is full of humour. (It is considered to be the first great novel written in Finnish.)

Posted by: E | June 10, 2005 12:06 PM

Well, those examples somehow tell it all. You don't exactly feel that humorous when you are waiting for a bus in the chilly wind with your toes frozen. Tangos again are quite serious, often sad songs by content. Laughing or smiling while dancing to a tragic song would be as absurd as looking happy at a funeral.

Nobody is laughing nor crying 24/7. American TV-documents and news rarely give a very valid image of the reality because they consist of short glimpses that have been chosen based on their ability to make the end product sensational and selling. This process often makes originally most normal things to look weird.

Posted by: binoculars | June 10, 2005 12:28 PM

Finns are very funny people, it's just difficult to express yourself with a foreign language. That's all. Not very easy to tell a joke, wehen you don't know how..

Posted by: Merja | June 10, 2005 01:08 PM

>> In America we have been told that it has nothing to do with Finnish life.

Again one of those generalizations not true. Actually Finns like humorous stuff as everybody else. It would be interesting to see the 60 minutes you mentioned. In Finnish TV series the humor is usually a bit crazy similar to English or Australian humor which one could describe as "workmans humor". At work places, if the atmosphere is not tensed or not too busy you encounter snappy answers, funny stories and what ever. In young peoples parties making fun is usually an essential part of the conversation as elsewhere. Currently we have reruns of old Finnish comedy series, Maxwell Smart, Seinfeld and Benny Hill to name some from the top of my head. The TV people have apparently collected information how many watch and what type of comedies and seen that folks like that kind of stuff. The 60 minutes is really doing injustice.

Posted by: periscope | June 10, 2005 01:12 PM

We have Friends, Simpsons, Frasier, South Park, these for example are very popular here.

Posted by: Merja | June 10, 2005 01:39 PM

Thanks so much for these comments. I remember watching Friends and South Park and Simpsons and Seinfeld in Finland. I had forgotten about that. Of course they must be popular, I suppose I had foolishly imagined that someone they had gotten through just for me. I was probably not thinking!

I remember watching a Seinfeld episode with some Finnish friends and it was the one where Jerry's grandma was having trouble with her bank. The bank was Chemical Bank. My brother-in-law thought that it was some kind of joke. But actually Chemical Bank is a real bank in New York City. I don't know how it got that name either. Quite a weird name for a bank, but one of the strange things is that if you live in a country you take everything for granted, and can only see it anew when someone new sweeps through.

I liked seeing Finland through the eyes of Lucian Perkins and Bob Kaiser. I remembered my own first impressions. After five years there the impressions have stopped as it has become reality. I really enjoyed the series immensely and look forward to anything else these two write. I suppose I have become a fan.

By the way, if anyone is interested -- I have a novel coming out that is set in Finland. It tries to recapture some of the feeling of my years in Finland. It is listed at Amazon.com as Temping (this is the word for what temporary workers do) but it won't be published until October. It is almost entirely set in Finland. I don't think there are many such novels set in Finland.

Perhaps however after these articles more Americans will visit your delightful country, and some of them will write other novels!

Kiitos, hei.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 10, 2005 05:12 PM

By E: "it is often weird, dry and sarcastic. And based on double meanings"

That´s finnish humour and it´s part of everyday life. On double meanings you just have to rely on that your meaning is understood right ;)

Posted by: Simmy | June 10, 2005 05:29 PM

A short description of my novel can be read at:

http://www.midpointtradebooks.com/detail.php?bk_id=7322

Thanks so much to everyone for helping me understand various Finnish phenomena. My love affair with Finland has recommenced.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 10, 2005 05:53 PM

>>A short description of my novel can be read at:

http://www.midpointtradebooks.com/detail.php?bk_id=7322

Link saved. All the best to Kirby Olson.

Posted by: periscope | June 10, 2005 06:06 PM

"Years ago there was a 60 Minutes documentary on Finland that presented the Finnish people as being without a sense of humor."

Ah, the famous "Tango Finlandia" episode. They did a sequel on the mobile phone craze. Both episodes were shown on Finnish tv (they showed 60 minutes for some time) and I was laughing my ass off in a few of the interview parts. A Finnish guy was feeding such yarn to the interviewer and he was taking it hook, line and sinker. The "Finns not having a sense of humor" claim is kind of undermined if you are made the laughing stock of a nation.

Posted by: Hank W. | June 11, 2005 08:08 AM

Thanks for that link to your book, Mr. Olson. Sounds like your imagination has been rally soaring. Since it will most likely be sold also in Helsinki´s two biggest bookshops, I will definitely take a look in October.

"A Finnish guy was feeding such yarn to the interviewer and he was taking it hook, line and sinker"

I am afraid Finns do that quite often. Because frankly, it is fun to pull the innocent foreigner´s leg.

Posted by: EP | June 11, 2005 10:30 AM

Thanks for that link to your book, Mr. Olson. Sounds like your imagination has been really soaring. Since it will most likely be sold also in Helsinki´s two biggest bookshops, I will definitely take a look in October.

"A Finnish guy was feeding such yarn to the interviewer and he was taking it hook, line and sinker"

I am afraid Finns do that quite often. Because frankly, it is fun to pull the innocent foreigner´s leg. But usually people later tell that they were just acting and telling stories.

Posted by: EP | June 11, 2005 10:33 AM

"I think it is quite fair to say that we share in the slavic mentality,
we relate to the "slavic melancholy" in music for example. The average Finn will choose a melancholy tune over a happy one!"

What an ignorant stereotype. There's no such thing as a "slavic mentality" to begin with. Or do you actually believe that everyone who speaks a Slavic language is sharing the same mentality and cannot possible be an induvidual person...

Melancholy is not something typically slavic or typical for the culture. Nor is it that typical for Finns. But keep believing your own stereotypes.

Most music is melancholic, does that mean it's slavic? Huh... As far as the Slavic roots. Bogus mogus. Slavic is an ethno-linguistic term and Finns are not rooted from these people.

Finnish culture is Nordic with local variants.

Posted by: | June 12, 2005 06:57 AM

Finns are fenno-ugric ethnically: they are quite close relatives to other european peoples, f.eg. flemish, swedish, danish, norwegian and german people. Of course, the closest relatives are baltians, estonians,
latvians and lithuanians. Russians and finns
are not close relatives.

Posted by: Risto | June 13, 2005 03:49 AM

Damn right, "The Finns wanted to separate from the Soviet Spirit"...! look what the Bear did to our country: the Russians attacked Finland first in 1939, and finally took over and are still occupying large land areas of our country after the peace treaty 1945. If I am not mistaken, Mr. Kaiser has served as a WP journalist in Moscow during the cold war, and written extensively about Russians; and should know the situation of Finland, and the sentiments of Finns connected to these events. Paola Suhonen draws from warped nostalgia which is gilded by time. And: "Now Finnish design is going back to its Slavic roots." Slavic roots! Please!

Posted by: Maarit | June 13, 2005 04:38 PM

Finnish humour is just as versatile as everywhere else excluding the Germans who are the ones without the sense of humour. There's a long history of telling jokes in Finnish. Why it hasn't much been seen on TV is beyond me. Most of the TV comedies are crazy, slap-stick kind with some refreshing exceptions. Telling jokes is very much alive in the deep ranks of Finnish men everywhere, trust me on this.

Posted by: Timo A | June 14, 2005 03:34 AM

"Why it hasn't much been seen on TV is beyond me."

The TV has people from universities.

Posted by: | June 14, 2005 07:13 AM

Personally I find Finnish men's habit of telling jokes all night long quite irritating. Then again, I'm a Finnish woman, so maybe that has something to do with it. :) But to say that Finns have no sense of humour is absurd. It enters all aspects of our lives. For example, Finns play with words, expressions and double-meanings. They easily share humorous stories from their everyday lives etc. In fact, while living abroad I was constantly told that I had a strange way of reacting to many situations *with humour!* So, I believe that it's very deeply embedded in our culture (and travels with us!) We can laugh at ourselves and that may even be socially expected (well...not everyone can laugh at themselves...) The misconception that Finns lack humour must have something to do with the differences in body language in different cultures. By the way, when it comes to Finnish comedies, they are usually slap-stick and (I believe) can only be understood by Finns!

Posted by: Nauru | June 14, 2005 03:21 PM

TV mini series RAID was very funny and serious also. It was very very funny. So I know that Finland has much humor and so do Finns. I understand they like to "crack wise". I really like that dry sarcastic humor that was in RAID.

Posted by: joe stewart | June 15, 2005 10:01 AM

Too bad these articles showed very little of the dark side of Finland; the poverty, alienation, drug problems, the necessity of EU food aid and mass unemployment.

Finland is among the richest nations of the world, yet very little is done about these major social issues.

But perhaps understandably the better-offs want to hear as little as possible about the real life.

Posted by: APK | June 26, 2005 12:28 PM


Paola Suhonen is a joke. You've been had. You're as gullible as the people who take The Yes Men seriously.

Suhonen's website talks about a nonexistent Russian entrepreneur named Paolovski (notice the similarity with Suhonen's first name), a nonexistent Russian occupation of Viborg in 1938 and a nonexistent match factory in Eastern Helsinki:
http://www.ivanahelsinki.com/ivana/images/upl/ivana-2-1103051194.gif

If you believe in Suhonen's fairy tales, you probably believe in Santa Claus.

Suhonen says, "Finns wanted to separate from the Soviet Spirit . . . from their Slavic roots" - too bad Finland has never had any "Soviet Spirit" or "Slavic roots". Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, eh?

WP: "Bob and I have been surprised on our trip around Finland by the continued strength of anti-Russian sentiment among Finns." If that is surprising to you, you would probably be equally surprised by the continued anti-German sentiment among Jews.

Posted by: Mikko Ellilä | June 26, 2005 01:39 PM

Ermm if someone's still reading this, I would point out that there are cultural differences even within Finland. The eastern Finland, where the folk speaks often with a strong eastern Finnish accent has taken more Slavic influences than the folk (and dialects) in the west, who are more influenced by the Swedish culture. To put it at its crudest, the people who lived in the Karelian provinces of Viipuri/Viborg and Käkisalmi/Kexholm were probably most Slavic-influenced, and in contrast in the western provinces of Ostrobothnia (Pohjanmaa/Österbotten), Uusimaa/Nyland and Finland proper (Varsinais-Suomi/Egentliga Finland) are very strongly affected by the Swedes, as there is even today a strong enough Swedish-speaking minority (majority in certain municipalities) that makes Finland bilingual.
In traditions, the west relies much to the west; we eat more saltwater fish here than in the east. Another example, in my honest opinion they celebrate Easter more in the Eastern Finland (pun intended), eating pasha and lamb, while we in the west have only our mämmi (memma in swedish, a sweet dessert that looks like excrement).

Therefore I assume that the ones debating here about whether Finland is more Slavic or Nordic come from either side of the "inner border", depending on the opinion. Not sure though. ;)

My own opinion is that we have more Nordic than Slavic traditions overall, but the basic melancholy of the people must come from the east, where our language also comes. (the folk has come from Europe while the language from around Volga, probably not far away from the origin of Indo-European languages)

Posted by: ultrix | June 27, 2005 11:41 AM


Eastern Finland isn't Slavic. I have seen statistics from pre-war Karelia which indicate that the number of Russian immigrants there was below 1 % of the population. The Karelians themselves obviously weren't Slavic, they were Fennic.

The Finnish melancholy is more myth than reality. It's a stereotype, like the Finnish joke that all Swedes are gays. It's not something that you should take seriously. Moreover, it's wrong to say that the "(melancholic) national character must come from the east, whence our language also comes". The supposed geographical origin of our language has nothing to do with the Slavic population that arrived there much later.

And according to prof. Kalevi Wiik, the theory that our language "comes" from the Volga region is mistaken. The Samis in Sweden and Norway are remnants of the original Fennic population there. Languages related to Finnish have been spoken thousands of years ago in a vast area stretching from the west coast of Norway to the banks of the Volga. There is no reason to assume that the eastern border of this area is the "origin" of Finno-Ugric languages.

You are right that the Finnish population has its genetic roots in Central Europe. Finns are genetically part of the same stock as the Swedes and Norwegians who settled in Scandinavia a few thousand years ago and outbred the original Fennic population there. For some reason the newcomers, i.e. the Central European agricultural settlers who arrived in Finland, adopted the language of the indogenous population, but the opposite happened in Sweden and Norway: the Central European settlers maintained their own Germanic languages instead of adopting the indogenous Fennic language.

Posted by: Mikko Ellilä | June 27, 2005 04:30 PM

I would estimate the basic melancholy is the result of Finland so clearly being a nation under the control of another: everyone having to study Swedish etc.
Why would the people living near Volga been melancholic ?
Karelians surely were not. Today there is the series about Karelian life on TV2 sometime after 18.00

Posted by: | June 28, 2005 07:18 AM

Could the web author please change the caption in one of the fashion-photos: Finland became independent from from Russia in 1917, i.e. NOT in the 1950s, which was the "Winter War". And also, it's only Finns who understand the meaning of "Ryssä", no matter how much we travel to St. Petersburg and whatever these days. It's a completely different story.

Posted by: Finntelligence | July 7, 2005 08:41 AM

And also, it's only Finns who understand the meaning of "Ryssä"
--
ask the baltics, poles, east germans, they understand it better

Posted by: | July 12, 2005 07:47 AM

"In the '50s people did not want to see any of the Russian influence in design, in the cultural life and in the arts at all. They wanted to do strictly Scandinavian and pure-lines design."

Usual people. Politicians and others (=the rich) who were bought were a different matter.

Someones sayings:
"he eastern Finland, where the folk speaks often with a strong eastern Finnish accent has taken more Slavic influences than the folk (and dialects) in the west,"
That is ridiculous. The western Finns sucked up to Swedes (and Russians) the Karelians fought both with success when considering they were alone being brave and fighting whereas the western Finns rised their asses for the Swedes to put it into and simultaneously having their mouth ready for the Russians (and they are the ones who boast about wars and fighting, not the eastern Finns who once, after their wives and children were killed and raped by the viking, demolished their then-capital, sigtuna, alas, not enough eastern-finns, in finland, too many of the "i'll raise my behind, surely it feels good for me too's"

Posted by: | July 12, 2005 08:42 AM

"Bob and I have been surprised on our trip around Finland by the continued strength of anti-Russian sentiment among Finns. We’ve met numerous Finns who say they have never"

Most have not. There are clear historical reasons for that. It is different to americans whose "anti-russianism" was only propaganda, not real: You fought _with_ the Russians, never against them. Obviously there are clearminded people in america too, if I ever had the money, I would move to some red-neck community in the heartlands (or towns), not the "intelligenzia" communities who do not know what to support and what to be against.
On tv there was some british show with some guy with eye-glasses visiting people who were against the (american) state, them I could understand, they lived in their own community and wanted to have nothing to do with the state:
State brings corruption, more state=more corruption, not good for people at all.
Even here they have changed laws to be even more nazist because _in america_ some "terrorists" (apparently) tried to fight back: never on tv is the question: how many of them you killed before they came ?


"visited Russia (a very short trip) and never intend to. One of the big stories in Finland just now is about Russian overflights of Finnish territory, sharply protested by the Finnish government."

That was show only. Maybe for _you_ (seriously) - the russians in power now have nothing against Finland.

Posted by: | July 12, 2005 08:50 AM

Maybe for _you_ (seriously) - the russians in power now have nothing against Finland.

..or......maybe _they_ asked _them_ for the show ?

Posted by: | July 15, 2005 08:10 AM

Well, let´s be proud of our country, and respect every other country in this world.

Finnish girl

Posted by: | July 19, 2005 07:29 AM

"Well, we remember very well what Russians did to us. "Never trust a Russian" If you were living next to them in a small country.. what would you think about them?" we have an offive in Russia, and I really like the people who work at our web design company. Maybe nowadays we should forget the past and try to build a friendly world...

Amy Goldwell
web designer
http://72works.com

Posted by: Amy, web designer | October 27, 2005 05:00 PM

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