Alma Median terrierimäinen Helsingin-toimitus heitti pari päivää sitten lisää löylyä suomettumiskeskustelun kiville. Katja Boxberg ja Taneli Heikka olivat haastatelleet 11 professoria ja tutkijaa. Lopputulemana oli, että suomettuminen painaa yhteiskuntaamme yhä, koska neukkuja ihailleet radikaalit pitävät nykyisin hallussaan keskeisiä paikkoja niin politiikassa tieteessä kuin mediassakin. Tämän valta-aseman tuloksena on syntynyt kiusallisen menneisyyden välttelyn ja kieltämisen kulttuuri, minkä vuoksi keskustelua 1970-luvun ylilyönneistä ei ole kunnolla saatu käyntiin vieläkään. Myös ulkopolitiikka on yhä arka asia eikä parlamentarismikaan kaikilta osiltaan toimi täysin terveellä tavalla. Jutun voi maksutta lukea esim. täältä.
Poliittisen historian tutkimus oli nostettu tämän menneisyydenhallinnallisen mätäpäiseen myrskynsilmään. Sitä käytettiin esimerkkinä siitä, kuinka 1970-luvun vasemmistolaiset nykyään hallitsevat oppituoleja ja sitä kautta pääsevät ohjailemaan menneisyyskeskustelun suuntaan. Haastateltavien kautta ilmoille heitettiin todellinen poliittisen historian Tiitisen lista, jossa neljästä virassa olevasta professorista mainittiin menneisyytensä vuoksi epäilyttävinä kolme eli Seppo Hentilä ja Pauli Kettunen Helsingistä sekä Kimmo Rentola Turusta. Myös emeritusprofessori Jorma Kalela oli päässyt listoille. Nimien mainitsemista konkreettisemmalle tasolle asiassa ei päästy, eikä yhtäkään vasemmistolaisprofessorien ryhmän jäsentä oltu myöskään haastateltu.
Pääsin itse puuttumaan suomettumisen problematiikkaan 20.-22. syyskuuta Tallinnassa pidetyssä Places of Commemoration in North Eastern Europe. Minulta oli pyydetty esitelmää sodanjälkeisen historian muistamisen vaikeuksista Suomessa, ja tällöin tietysti suomettuminen nousi keskiöön. Alla koko esitelmä.
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Remembering the Post-war Era in Finland
Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 there has been an ongoing debate in Finland about the interpretations of country’s Cold War era history. Finnish Vergangenheitsbewältigung of the 1990s was very much influenced by the general neopatriotic turn in the interpretations of history, and consequently many events, processes and individuals of the past were re-evaluated against the backdrop of new post-Soviet standards of historical and political discussion. This exchange has been dominated by a couple of overarching themes, most importantly the effects of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union, the long presidency of Urho Kekkonen from 1956 to 1982, the so called Finlandization or Finnlandisierung, contacts with eastern intelligence agencies, most importantly Soviet KGB and East-German Stasi, and the communist movement Taistolaisuus (Engl. Taistoism). The aim of this paper is to give a short overall account of this historical debate and its background.
Postwar Finnish Foreign Policy
After having fought on the side of Adolf Hitler’s national socialist Germany from June 1941 onwards Finland concluded a separate peace with Soviet Union in September 1944. This started a whole new era in country’s foreign policy. In the 1920s and 1930s Finland had tried to keep its distance from Soviet Union and the relationship between the two countries had been marred by the atmosphere of mutual suspicion. Although Finland was the only country in the German coalition that wasn’t occupied by either the Germans or the Soviets during the war, the defeat in the Continuation War of 1941-1944, as it was and is still called in Finland, marked the definite bankruptcy of the foreign political doctrines of Finnish rightists and conservatives. From September 1944 onwards Finland had to abandon its traditional ties to Germany and the most important task for Finnish policy makers was to work out a modus vivendi with the Soviet Union.
The so called Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine, named after two consecutive postwar Presidents J.K. Paasikivi and Urho Kekkonen, constituted the cornerstone of Cold War Finnish foreign policy. It was premised on the assumption that in order to achieve a peaceful coexistence Finland had to acknowledge and take into account the Soviet security interests and accommodate to them whenever necessary. This principle was consolidated in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance that was concluded between the countries on the 6th of April 1948. The form of treaty was similar to the ones Soviet Union concluded with its Eastern European satellites, as it contained a mention of defensive cooperation in case of outside aggression and thus significantly curtailed options available for Finnish foreign policy.
The critics of Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine saw that the treaty effectively compromised Finland’s sovereignty by making it possible for the Soviets to heavily intervene in internal Finnish matters with the pretense of security interests. This was also a commonly held view among international observers. For nearly four decades Moscow grew accustomed in having a say in the composition of Finnish governments and the suitability of individual politicians for ministerial portfolios. President Kekkonen was heavily criticized for using the foreign policy and relations to Moscow to prop up his own position, which eventually became so strong that the Soviets became to see him as an irreplaceable guarantor of harmonious coexistence between the countries and refused to negotiate with anybody else. Whenever Soviet leaders saw signs of change in Finnish policies, they didn’t hesitate to resort to veiled threats and political blackmail to put a stop to unwanted developments. In the course of years Kekkonen learned to anticipate Soviet reactions to the extent that Moscow didn’t even have to do anything to guarantee that the line of Finnish foreign policy conformed to Soviet interests.
The concept of Finnlandisierung, in English Finlandization, originated as a cautionary term during the 1960s and 1970s in the commentaries of West German political scientists and conservative politicians. On a general level it referred to a political configuration where a small state is too weak to challenge or resist the influence of a more powerful neighbor and consequently has to give up portions of its sovereignty and neutrality. In the West the term was usually seen as a pejorative one, although also a more positive Machiavellist interpretation is possible. The famous Finnish political cartoonist Kari Suomalainen for example, has defined Finlandization as “the art of bowing to the East so carefully that it could not be considered as mooning”, that is displaying your bare buttocks, “to the West.” As the choice of word reveals, the real world example of the phenomenon that the coiners of the term had in mind was Finland.
During the Cold War Finnish foreign policy was based on the premise that accommodating Soviet security interests was an imperative that couldn’t be circumvented. Because of the geopolitical realities country had no other alternative than to comply with Soviet demands. Therefore the number one task of the foreign political leadership was to protect the country from descending any deeper under the Soviet influence by keeping Moscow happy with the way things were going in Helsinki. This meant low profile in international politics, refraining from foreign political acts that could cause alarm in Soviet Union and withholding any criticism of its actions. In certain questions like forming of governments it also meant that the Finns had to allow Moscow the right to intervene in Finnish internal affairs whenever Kremlin saw it necessary.
One of the most integral parts of Finlandization was the self-censorship exercised by the Finns. It became an everyday practice that participants in public discussions followed particular caution when they expressed views on Soviet Union or the Finnish-Soviet relations. Finnish authorities closely monitored the media in order to keep the criticism of Soviet Union out of the public eye and made specific requests to publishers to abstain from giving voice to opinions that could be detrimental from the point of view of Finnish-Soviet relations. To make the compliance with these requests more attractive this principle of foreign political reserve was even sanctioned by the criminal law. Eventually it became customary for the journalists themselves to voluntarily and on their own initiative omit parts of their stories and articles that could be interpreted as anti-Soviet either by the Soviet Union or by the President, who kept a close eye on Finnish public opinion.
Moscow squarely and openly branded certain political groups and individual people in Finnish society as “anti-Soviet”. Because this effectively buried any chance of reaching the positions of power, even the bourgeoisie parties and politicians competed for friendship with Moscow. In most cases the term “anti-Soviet”, however, was used by the Finns themselves. Threat of becoming stigmatized for anti-Sovietism was a forceful incentive for political self-censorship, and the authorities frequently used it as a tool for molding and guiding the public opinion. During the darkest days of Finlandization air was thick with self-seeking accusations of this or that opinion, group or person being “anti-Soviet”. In the 1970s and 1980s the term became a real catch phrase for malicious campaigning and political opportunism.
Kekkonen and the decay of Finnish political culture
President Kekkonen built his incomparable political dominance on the good graces of Soviet leadership, and his anticipatory and accommodating political strategies attracted many power-eager followers. Being in favor of Moscow became one of the central prerequisites for a successful political career in Finland. The most blatant indication of this was an institution called Kotiryssä, a proper English language translation of which would be something like “domestic Russian” or “home Russian”. The pejorative term referred to those Soviet contact persons of Finnish politicians who operated with private appearance and outside official diplomatic structures. Very often these contacts were KGB agents with various cover roles. Finnish politicians used these contacts to quietly and unofficially find out the Soviet position on various political questions like foreign policy initiatives and decisions to appointments in office.
Having a “domestic Russian” actually became a political status symbol, without which it was deemed to be impossible to climb to the upper rungs of the political ladder. Similarly the invitation to the celebrations of October Revolution to the Soviet embassy in Finland was highly esteemed as a public testimony of belonging to the chosen few appreciated in Moscow. Those who couldn’t secure Russian contacts and invitations turned to East Germans as substitutes. Needless to say they on their part were mostly Stasi agents. All political parties had their share of people who frequented the Soviet embassy to supply information on their organizations and colleagues.
Taistolaiset (Engl. Taistoists) was a minority group within the Finnish communist party. The group was faithful to the Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy and strove to pose as the vanguard of proletarian internationalism in the country. The most visible and vocal group within the Taistoism-movement were the university students, who succeeded in colonizing the student and university politics to a considerable degree. Taistoists admired Soviet Union for its achievements in building a communist society and regarded it as a rightful leader of international socialism. They strictly denounced criticism of Soviet policies and for example hailed the repression of Prague Spring in 1968 as a legitimate and necessary measure for safeguarding the progress of socialism. Taistoists were eager to point out and pass judgment on the anti-Sovietism of other political groups. They praised Soviet Union for its sacrifices for world peace and genuinely believed in the supremacy of the Soviet system, and lent their services willingly for promoting Kremlin’s goals in Finland.
Doctor Jukka Tarkka, a renowned Finnish expert on the political culture of the 1970s, has given a telling account of the atmosphere of the time:
“There was no need to spy on the Finns. On the contrary, they were flocking in and racing against each other to deliver inside information. No documents changed hands, much less money. As long as the sauna stove was hissing and beer was foaming the Finns were full of stories.”
On his third (1968-1978) and fourth (1978-1982) terms President Kekkonen’s support and power had become so overwhelming, that his position started to resemble those of the leaders of the communist bloc. Kekkonen used his extensive powers and foreign political monopoly to actively intervene in most diverse matters in internal politics to make sure that the country stayed on his preferred political track. The rivalry for Kekkonen’s favor and blessing among the Finnish political elite became so fierce that it threatened the democratic core of country’s political system. Pleasing the President and courting the Soviets were used as a key to open the doors to the corridors of power. During the 1970s and 1980s many such plots unfolded in the political wings that from the point of view of democracy, transparency and national interest were more than questionable.
More benevolent commentators have tended to see this foreign political dependency on Moscow as a price that Finland unavoidably had to pay in order to be able to pursue its Western cultural and economical orientations. The country undoubtedly had to adapt to Soviet demands in foreign policy, but at the same time it also greatly benefited from its close relationship to Moscow for example by being able to exercise trade with Soviet Union on very favorable terms. For long periods of time Finland was the second largest Western trade partner of Soviet Union after West Germany. Many Finnish corporations made huge profits on the Soviet market as the demand was surefire and the quality requirements weren’t anywhere close to the Western standards. Enormous construction contracts brought massive revenues for Finnish construction companies and an abundance of job opportunities for skilled Finnish workers.
Despite the dismal starting point after the lost war in 1944, Finland managed to safeguard its democratic form of government in contrast to all other countries in the Soviet sphere of influence. During the Cold War it underwent a great transformation from a mostly agrarian country into a Nordic welfare state with one of the highest living standards in the whole world. The politics that brought forth a leap forward of this magnitude couldn’t possibly have been that erroneous. Therefore the actions that for others represent condemnable political gamble and self-interested plotting at the expense of national interest bordering on treason, appear as raison d’état and cunning small state Machiavellism for others. Therefore Finlandization can also be seen as a strategy for survival, where the political trade-offs and compromises are dictated by the supreme need to protect the national existence.
Balance sheet of Finnish Vergangenheitsbewältigung
For the Soviet satellite countries in Central and Eastern Europe the year 1989 brought about a complete collapse of the communist single-party regimes. With this abrupt and all-encompassing change came the political necessity to settle the scores with the past and to purge the public life of the remnants of old regime as thoroughly as possible. Admittedly, there was a considerable degree of variation in the strategies for coping with the problematic past. As for example Germany and Czechoslovakia opted for swift legislative measures, the process proved to be much more difficult and complex in countries like Estonia, Latvia and Poland. Nevertheless the policy of blocking the former informants of secret police and communist officials from postcommunist politics and civil service had a strong backing of the populations of these countries.
Although Finland was neither a Soviet satellite nor a communist one-party state, the revolution from 1989-1991 had tremendous repercussions for it too. During the Cold War Finland had closer ties to Soviet Union than any other European country outside the communist bloc. Together with India it was the only non-socialist country that had bilateral trade arrangements with Soviet Union. Official Finnish foreign policy statements were waving a flag of neutrality, but nobody really believed this, not the Soviets, not the capitalist bloc, not even the Finns themselves. It was clear to all parties involved that Finland belonged to the Soviet sphere of interest and that the Finns had to adjust their behavior accordingly.
Finnish political system survived the end of the Cold war intact. What didn’t survive was the corrupt and unhealthy political culture with its “domestic Russians”, hissing sauna stoves and charges of anti-Sovietism. As the political career ladders were no longer provided by the KGB or Stasi contacts completely new contact networks and success strategies had to be developed. Despite the abruptness and unexpectedness of change in 1989 the overwhelming majority of Finnish politicians carried out this renewal with almost astonishing speed and easiness. As the future of world politics remained unclear most of the prominent political figures of the 1970s and 1980s chose to put their past behind them and not to look back. If somebody had the nerve to ask embarrassing questions about their one-time attitudes and activities, pleading to the so called general reasons and the then normal mode of operation sufficed to explain everything.
Although the public discussion about Taistoism and Finlandization has now continued for over 15 years, the attitudes among the political elite towards a systematic historical settling of accounts have remained lukewarm at best. Although the political culture of Finlandization years was buried long ago, the level of continuity among the political, cultural and office-holder elites from Cold War era to this day is high indeed. This undoubtedly explains a great deal of the reluctance to launch inquiries of the political realities two or three decades ago. The elites, or at least parts of them, have both the desire and the motive to prevent this kind of discussion, and, most importantly, the means to do it.
At the moment discussion about the legacies of Kekkonen and Finlandization revolves around the contacts with the East German secret police Stasi. In 2003 Mr. Alpo Rusi, former foreign political advisor to the President Martti Ahtisaari, serving from 1994 to 2000, was suspected by Finnish security police organization Supo of aggravated espionage for the benefit of German Democratic Republic. The authorities failed to keep the ongoing investigation out of the public eye, and an avalanche of sensationalist publicity ensued. With the lack of sound evidence the case however fizzled into nothing, and Rusi decided to sue the state for damaging his reputation and causing injuries to his feelings. As we speak, the court decision is pending, but the public debate rages on. Many prominent figures in Finnish political life have been singled out as possible Stasi informants, including two former Social Democrat Prime Ministers.
Need for further discussion
There is a broad general opinion urging for a thorough scrutiny of political events of Finlandization era. There is a growing consensus on the standpoint that at least during the 1970s adaptation to Soviet needs and political horse-trading with Moscow went too far. The alleged Stasi-contacts are only a tip of the iceberg, as the most important foreign intelligence agency in Finland was of course the Soviet KGB. It is demanded that in the name of democracy, transparency and historical integrity the Finlandization years have to be studied as carefully as possible to arrive at a realistic estimate of the effects of the foreign political culture of the time. The exposure of compromising contacts with KGB and Stasi is at the very center of these demands.
The flipside of the coin are the internal developments in Finland, especially the influence and effects of the radical-left Taistoism-movement. Many of the careers of today’s prominent Finns among the political and cultural elite began in 1970s and was considerably helped by Soviet contacts, on some occasions even built on them. It must be embarrassing for many of them to recollect for example the whole page declaration resisting the Finnish free trade agreement with the European Economic Community and demanding increasing the trade with Soviet Union and Comecon-countries, published in the largest Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat on the 19th of September 1973. Among the signatories of this “No to EEC” –appeal you can find many people who nowadays hold high positions and are preaching the all-embracing blessedness of economic integration and devoutly endorsing the Finnish membership in the European Union, for example the current President, General Director of Bank of Finland, members of European Parliament, members of Finnish parliament, ambassadors and other top officials, university rectors and distinguished professors, award-winning novelists and filmmakers, and so on.
Interestingly enough, one of the most enthusiastic strongholds of the Taistoist stripe of communism was Toimittajaliitto, the union of Finnish journalists. The union used its power over public opinion to fight against perceived anti-Sovietism and to disseminate empathetically positive information about Soviet Union. Many of its members also had frequent contacts to the representatives of the Soviet Embassy in Helsinki and provided their services to further the aims of Soviet policies in Finland. The most interesting thing about the journalists’ union is that many of its former members today are prominent figures in the Finnish media universe, editors-in-chief, influential political journalists, highly valued academic experts on journalism studies, news chiefs, producers et cetera.
When talking about reflections of Finlandization on the level of civic organizations, one definitely has to mention also the Finland-Soviet Union Association, a broad-based organization established to cultivate civil society level contacts and friendship between the two countries. Notwithstanding its allegedly non-political nature the association became to have a strong influence in Finnish foreign and domestic policies, serving as an important platform for political performances for politicians from all political parties.
Most of those who have been pointed out as active participants in contacts with Soviet and East German agents have tended to brush the whole issue aside by stating that they simply acted in a way that was not only perfectly normal but also a national custom in those days. Many members of Taistoism-movement have countered the criticism by saying that their actions fell well within acceptable range of idealistic student activism and stemmed more from their youthful zealousness than any genuine attachment to Soviet communism.
Taking into account the more than considerable current influence in Finnish politics, media, cultural life and higher education of these one-time friends, supporters and partners of Soviet Union, a broad public discussion concerning the characteristics, nature, effects, significance and necessity of the political culture of the Finlandization period would certainly be interesting. With each passing day this kind of public scrutiny also seems to be more and more necessary from the point of view democratic openness, public opinion and historical integrity.
In dealing with the legacies of Cold War history Finland at the moment is a European exception. Unlike in all other European countries that had close ties to Soviet Union and Marxist-Leninist ideology, in Finland the genuine efforts of openly facing this difficult period of recent history are yet to emerge. Quite awkwardly and disturbingly, at least from the Finnish point of view, the country thus falls in the same category of Cold War Vergangenheitsbewältigung with Albania, where the debate about possible opening of the secret files of security police Siguirimi has only just started.
Although Finland was not a communist Soviet satellite, an adequate understanding of country’s Cold War history is impossible without taking into account the enormous influence of Soviet Union and communism. High level of elite continuity between the Finlandized Finland and today’s Finland is more than obvious. This is why we need discussions about really how far it was necessary to go to accommodate Moscow, and to which extent Finlandization was a domestic phenomenon, something essentially brought forth by the Finnish initiatives. As we know from the experience of the Central and Eastern European postcommunist countries, striking a balance between sensationalist political witch-hunts on the one hand and brushing aside important historical issues in the name of political expediency on the other is a delicate matter. What we need is an honest and unprejudiced reckoning with the complex and difficult past, and this is where the historians have to step in.