Finnish Volunteer Battalion of the Waffen-SS (5. SS-Panzer-Division “Wiking”) in Tampere, Finland, 1943
The pen has been used to fix what the sword has ripped to shreds in our history.
– J.K Paasikivi
Every state that participated in the Second World War has written its history in support of national unity, with its narratives eliminating certain facts and emphasizing silence over controversial and ‘unpleasant things’. This has resulted in the patriotic, religious and quasi-scientific mythologization of war events, and fomented a hysterical attitude towards anyone who disagrees with the official narratives. Today we are in a situation where those unpleasant things are unconsciously avoided because openly confronting them causes fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
A specific interpretation of history, in which absolute evil and blame for the war is projected onto the adversary, even decades later, becomes, for most people, ‘how it was always so’. Conversely, ‘absolute good’ is measured by good deeds on behalf of the constituted authorities of the motherland, and done in the name of liberal-individualist ‘freedom and democracy’. Such a black-and-white ‘division of values’ has no place for self-criticism, compassion/forgiveness, or openness to new ideas.
In Finland, we have been so strongly raised (conditioned) in this “patriotic” (i.e. non-questioning) way that even the slightest hint that our war-time leaders bear some responsibility for the war invites accusations of heresy and evokes strong emotional resistance in most, along with pronounced cognitive dissonance.
Selective memory theories and the Separate War Thesis
Finnish historian Heikki Ylikangas wrote, in Mitä on historia – ja millaista sen tutkiminen (‘What is history and how is it researched’), about the factors hindering renewal of historical narratives, not least the control of research by policy-makers. Commenting on the 1939-1940 Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland, he wrote:
Even today, contemporary policy-makers limit the picture of the political background behind the Winter War. The hand of the clock that measures the progress of research on this issue is stuck in place. It is stuck at the point where Tanner, Ryti and Mannerheim penned their words on the matter. From the perspective of historical research by the amateurs of like mind in this field, and from the point of view of strongly biased people in legal research, a historical picture of the political background of the Winter War was constructed, which continues to be almost fully in force.
This is a very common problem in the writing of history. The closer the personal ties historians have with a topic, the more critical we should be about what they say. A classic example is the great effect Cicero and his writings have had in shaping today’s perception of Julius Caesar: Many historians have ignored the fact that they were political rivals, which makes Cicero a very questionable source when building an objective portrait of Caesar. Ask yourself, would future societies get a realistic description of Russian President Vladimir Putin by only using American politicians and Western media as sources, or the fifth column of Russian ‘opposition’ leaders?
With this in mind, let us examine a generally accepted historical narrative from the Second World War: the Finnish ‘Separate War Thesis’ (Erillissotateesi). Finland and Nazi Germany fought together against the Soviet Union. In Finland this war is called The Continuation War (Jatkosota), which commenced in the summer of 1941, after the Winter War had ended. This invasion formed part of Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front, which set the course of the Second World War between the Axis and Allied powers.
Barbarossa comprised the largest ever series of battles. The Nazis, approximately 4 million strong and spread from Finland to Romania, stormed towards the Soviet Union. In Russia, this war is remembered as the Great Patriotic War. By enduring attempts to conquer Leningrad (in which Finland participated indirectly through Operation Brazil), Moscow and Stalingrad, the Soviet Union suffered gargantuan losses (27 million Russians were killed) but finally managed to crush Nazi Germany. Germany’s defeat became clear at the end of the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943. Two years later, Germany finally surrendered. Meanwhile, Germany’s allies began rewriting their history.
When catastrophic defeat on the Eastern Front was becoming increasingly clear, Erillissotateesi or ‘The Separate War Thesis’ was invented to help the Finnish government distance itself from Germany. A biased and politically-distorted interpretation of events, the Separate War Thesis sought to prove that the German and Finnish wars against the Soviet Union were separate and independent of each other within the Second World War as a whole. While this thesis is today, more or less, abandoned by most academic researchers and experts, political rhetoric and public opinion relies on them more strongly than ever. Professor Markku Jokisipilä wrote in his book Sodan totuudet (‘Truths of War’):
During the last 15 years a constantly intensified effort to make Finland’s war years 100 percent right and of high moral standards has produced an almost monolithic, unrealistic and positive picture. Even the grey area of international politics is no longer recognized in this picture at all, not to mention a dark side. As Professor Henrik Meinander has stated, “it is almost as if the collapse of the Soviet Union has released the Finnish people from considering the war years self-critically.”
Lack of self-criticism is clearly reflected in poll-results. For example, according to the Continuation War survey conducted by MTV News, 61% of Finns felt that Finland had been in a “Separate War” and only 16% considered Finland and Nazi Germany to have been allies. Among Finns, therefore, there is a crushing single-mindedness that Finland was not an ally of Germany, but rather a state that participated in a ‘separate war’. Why is that, even though the facts are there for all to see? The researchers interviewed by MTV said:
The popularity of this so-called Separate War Thesis, according to Finnish historian Jenni Kirves, stems from the teaching of history. It has been based on a separate war and this is very deeply entrenched in the Finnish mind. After the war, shame followed when the reality of Hitler’s Germany dawned on the general public. It seems repulsive to think that the Finns would have been an ally of Nazi Germany. After the Second World War, with Germany’s defeat and the revealing of the Third Reich’s atrocities, Germany’s reputation collapsed.
So the ‘Separate War Thesis’ basically quibbles that Finland de jure was not allied with Nazi Germany, and has proven to be one of Finland’s coping mechanisms for ending up on the wrong side of history. It has also given meaning to the absurdity of war, placing emphasis on Finland’s “lack of real options”, as it was “between a rock and a hard place”. It is true that Finland was (and still is) in a very awkward position geopolitically, hampering its pursuit of neutrality in relation to Russia. Nevertheless, the Finnish leadership made choices that, when viewed retrospectively, weakens confidence in its claim to have preferred a policy of neutrality. There were also ideological reasons for aligning with Hitler; the extreme right in Finland resonated strongly with Nazi Germany.
There is no escaping the fact that Germany attacked Russia through Finland, and delivered war materiel to the invading troops, and was therefore ade facto ally. Among the former Axis states seeking to clean their reputation, Finland is not exceptional in this regard. Each of Germany’s partners have distanced themselves from the Third Reich’s atrocities.
A younger generation of scholars have revealed a lot of new information about the relationship between Finland and Nazi Germany. Researcher Oula Silvennoinen has called for the complete rejection of the Separate War Thesis, arguing at the Presidential Forum organized by the President of Finland Tarja Halonen that the security services in both countries co-operated to a much stronger degree than previously thought:
The Einsatzkommando Finnland‘s most important task was the implementation of ideological cleansing in Murmansk, guidelines for which had been agreed with the [Finnish] State Police. Since progress in the northernmost part of the Eastern Front remained modest, Einsatzkommando Finnland’s main task consisted of sifting out ideological and racial enemies from among the prisoners of war. The State Police, in conjunction with the German Security Police, also made preparations for the invasion of Leningrad. This joint security operation meant the search for, and destruction of, active communists, council officers, members of the educated class and Jews.
There was another key Finnish part played in this dark drama. Management of Prisoner of War Prison Camp Number 3 in Ruokolahti collected ‘suspected active Communist prisoners of war’ from other Finnish POW camps. By autumn 1942, the department in tasked with prisoner transfers had delivered a total of 520 suspects into the hands of Einsatzkommando Finnland. All surviving sources suggest that the fate of these prisoners was a quick execution.
The Finnish security services did not engage in a ‘Separate War’, but rather in an ideological war of exterminationalongside Nazi Germany. The basis of cooperation was radical anti-Communism. Through the Finns, Jewish prisoners of war also ended up in the hands of Einsatzkommando Finnland.
“Finland was not an ally, but had a separate war”
The Finnish military leadership had ideological connections – and contacts – with Nazi Germany, through the German education system and comradeship stemming from Germany’s involvement in the Finnish Civil War of 1918. Bolshevism served as a unifying ideological enemy. Additionally, cultural and academic leaders like V.A. Koskenniemi, Yrjö Kilpinen, Olavi Paavolainen, Maila Talvio, Heikki Klemetti, Rolf Nevanlinna, Emil Öhmann, Mika Waltari, Jalmari Jäntti, Wäinö Aaltonen, Eino Jutikkala, Bernhard Wuolle and Kaarle Sanfrid Laurila were strongly pro-German. InKolmannen valtakunnan vieraat (‘Guests of the Third Reich’), Markku Jokisipilä and Janne Könönen list Finnish leaders that were under the sphere of German influence, not least among them C.G.E Marshal Mannerheim:
When considering who was the main driving force behind foreign policy in Finland, Marshal Mannerheim stands above all others. He was, as a foreign policy leader, many times weightier an actor in his formal position than the chairman of the defense council. His opinions were closely listened to in military and right-wing circles, and also by those in government and the foreign ministry.Not even in the 1930s would it have been possible for the government to conduct foreign policy that Mannerheim would have objected to, nevermind during the war years. In the 1930s, Mannerheim gave his support to German-mindedness by, for example, participating in the 1918 Finnish-German ‘brothers-in-arms’ memorial ceremonies, regularly going to the German embassy, discussing with major German visitors to the country, as well as maintaining his own personal relationships with German officials – above all, with Hermann Goering. Most importantly, his extensive ‘covet’ military-security network was allowed to pursue its own pro-German diplomacy, which often competed with the public government position.
Mannerheim probably was not, however, a genuine Nazi, nor a Hitler sympathizer, but rather a cold tactician, who chose the best path of self-interest. In a letter he wrote to his sister, Eva Mannerheim, in 1939, he describes how the peoples of Europe have been made slaves of the Third Reich, and that “we complained about Russian repression here and are angry about it, but it is only child’s play compared to Adolf’s, his chief Himmler and their helpers. We are facing the end of the world.” His realization came too late to do anything about it. Just a few years earlier, Mannerheim had said of Hitler that “it is always nice to see a man, who puts acts before speaking rather than wasting his time on fruitless conferences“.
Mannerheim gave different versions of his motives to different people, depending on their position and the direction unfolding events took. It seems that he played ‘multi-board chess’, wanting to keep Finland’s options open. One of Mannerheim’s motives can be clearly highlighted; the desire to fight for “White Russia”, that is, on behalf of the old empire. He strongly despised Bolshevism. In a speech he gave in 1920 following the White Guards’ liberation of Tampere and Rautu, Mannerheim described the Finnish Civil War as a struggle between absolute good and evil:
White Guards! Old Medes tales tell of the battle between Ormuzd, the god of light, and Ahriman, the god of darkness. When Ormuzd gives sunshine and rain, so Ahriman brings darkness and frost, as well as the desert winds. When Ormuzd tries to protect the people and lead them to the path of truth and purity, so Ahriman lies in wait for a chance to seduce them to the path of human debauchery and falsehood. This battle between light and darkness is as old as mankind.
When you achieved victory in Tampere through bloody sacrifice two years ago, it was not only a great victory, but also a resolution of fighting between two world views. When you you fought on behalf of religion, the fatherland and home, religion was used as an unheard of object of ridicule and reproach from the side of your adversary, who does not recognize the fatherland, and not even home. When you attempt to gather all the citizens for common work for the benefit of the beloved fatherland, then the other side instigates hatred between different ethnic groups. When you consider having a job as a blessing, your adversary considers it a crime.These two world views can not agree, a bridge cannot be built between them.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler also identified Bolshevism as the ideological enemy of Germany, so the two leaders clearly shared a common enemy. Early Bolshevik Russia was certainly a horror story in itself, and Finland’s birth as an independent nation during that turmoil could only happen thanks to imperial Germany. But by later aligning Finland with Nazi Germany, was Mannerheim blinded by the earlier ideological confrontation with Bolshevism?
Be that as it may, time has treated the public image of Mannerheim exceptionally (and maybe even suspiciously) well; he has been made a mythical, superhuman character in Finnish history, which is why examining Mannerheim’s actions and motives from a critical point of view is considered, to this day, to be a somewhat reprehensible position.
The years before the Winter War was an era of nationalism in which the left was politically marginalized and the right dominated the Finnish political field. Accordingly, much radical thinking was accommodated in the military and political hierarchy, as well as in national movements. Loudly conforming with Nazi Germany clearly had an impact on relations between Finland and the Soviet Union: after Germany, Japan and Poland,Moscow saw Finland as the next most aggressive state. Visits with military representatives and close relations with Germany throughout the 1930s certainly did not nothing to weaken this impression.
It is a historical fact that Finland opened its gates to the Third Reich. This truth has petrified our nation’s spiritual climate, leaving it in a kind of no-man’s-land, where ownership of this historical fact is not recognized by anyone, and everyone hopes it will just disappear through silence. This absence of confronting the past limits the nation’s ability to foresee the future.
Silence has led to the depolitization of the Finnish SS-voluntary movement, whose connections with the German SS have been obscured. In 1983 a monument to commemorate members of the Waffen-SS Finnish volunteers corps was set up in Helsinki at the Hietaniemi cemetery. In probably no other European country would it have been possible to set up a public memorial in honor of the infamous elite Nazi army combatants, who were responsible for countless atrocities during the war. Oula Silvennoinen explains in Luvattu maa (‘Promised Land’) the Waffen-SS troops’ operating principles:
The Waffen-SS was simply the SS’s military wing, and its members were required to be enlightened and reliable National Socialists in just the same way. Foreign recruitment, of which the SS began from 1940 onward, does not change the idea in principle. Foreign volunteers were trained in the same way to be sympathetic to National Socialist Germany and loyal drivers of “Germanic ideology” in their home countries. The Waffen-SS and its foreign volunteers were not isolated from the National Socialist regime’s engine of terror. On the contrary. As the Waffen-SS were required to be a politically aware and well-informed group, it was normal practice to reuse its members, for example, convalescents, for tasks in the concentration camp system. There was no fundamental difference between the Waffen-SS and the rest of the SS. The Waffen-SS members were political soldiers.
The memorial to the fallen Finnish Nazi Waffen-SS troops erected in the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki in 1983.
Rejection of the Separate War Thesis in political and social debates at every level could do good for Finnish spiritual well-being. It would encourage us to look at our past honestly and to understand that our own leaders also have made poor decisions that had an impact on the course of the war. This does not mean that we should accept the injustices that occurred in the Soviet Union, but that as a nation we could release the war trauma that is passed from one generation to the next, that still today affects our ability to interpret current events and recognize our role in them.
Greater Finland Ideology and the Extreme Right
The notion of “Greater Finland” holds, for various historic, linguistic, and ethnic reasons, that particular areas outside the country’s eastern borders ‘belong’ to Finland. Those supporting this tribal ideology believe that the areas of Eastern Karelia and the Kola peninsula belong to Finland. At times this ideology included Estonia, Ingria (Inkeri) and Finnmark (Ruija). Although less common, the most ambitious dream places the eastern border of Greater Finland in the Ural Mountains. This ‘ideology’, if we can call it that, is based on a late 19th century national romanticism, termed ‘Karelianism‘.Kalevala, the most significant national epic of Finnish folklore, inspired the glorification of Karelia by artists, writers, and composers in all cultural circles. Very few actually visited eastern Karelia, and those who did often found a strange culture with a strongly Russianized population who spoke in a language that was very difficult to understand. The experienced soldiers of the Finnish Jägers and other military volunteers of the Kindred Nations Wars (1918-1922) noticed the same thing after attempting to liberate eastern Karelia from Bolshevik control and bring the area under Finnish influence.
During the Finnish Civil War, Mannerheim, then top military chief of the ‘White’ side in the conflict, infused the German-backed White soldiers with the Greater Finland ethos in his famous Sword Oath speech:
“I will not sheath my sword before law and order reigns in the land, before all fortresses are in our hands, before the last soldier and thug of Lenin is driven not only from Finland, but from the White Sea of Karelia as well.”
Mannerheim planned to invade Saint Petersburg (Leningrad) with a volunteer army, however this failed due to lack of support from the Finnish government. From 1920-1930 Finland supported Russian ‘White’ emigrants and other anti-revolution resistance groups. From these Finnish bases, several terrorist attacks were conducted in Russian territory, in both Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Finnish security officials including the Central Police and General Staff Intelligence often turned a blind eye to these actions or even assisted in carrying them out together with the British intelligence agency SIS (MI6). Due to the geographic location, Finland was a strategic passageway for underground anti-Soviet combat groups. The newly published book by Aleksi Mainio, The Nest of Terrorists (Terroristien pesä) explores the happenings and actors in detail during this time. According to a review by the newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat:
“The main findings of the book show how repeatedly and profusely Finland promoted the Russian counter-revolution. With permission from Finnish authorities, the eastern border in the area of the Karelian Isthmus was often crossed to carry out bombings, murders, and sabotage. Often these groups experienced humiliating losses.
Contrary to what has been thought, Finland was not a terrorism-free zone in the decade from 1920-30, and the Finns were not “particularly immune to the philosophy of bombs and assassinations”.
At the same time, from the ashes of the civil war, and the unsuccessful ‘kindred nations war’, in which Finns raided parts of Russia where Baltic Finns lived, arose nationalistic organizations aspiring to ‘Greater Finland’, such as the Academic Karelia Society (Akateeminen Karjala-Seura, AKS), Independence Union (Itsenäisyyden Liitto, IL) and the later Patriotic People’s Movement (Isänmaallinen Kansanliike, IKL). The socialist version of the Greater Finland movement led an insignificant historical existence as ‘red’ leftist groups were completely marginalized in Finland, and could not compete with ‘white’ right-wing nationalism.
© Terra (1941)
The Greater Finland geographic division was to be formed via the so-called tri-isthmus border of Viena, Karelian Aunus, and the Kuola peninsula – according to the article by Geographer Väinö Auer “Upcoming Finland from an Economic Geographical Perspective” (Tuleva Suomi talousmaantieteellisenä kokonaisuutena, Terra, 1941)
From the 1920s onward, the Greater Finland ideology became strongly personalized by Elias Simojoki, a member of parliament, ordained priest, and the founding member of the Academic Karelia Society. His writings and speeches were frothing displays of anger and bitterness, containing a mix of nationalism, racism, and religious fanaticism. As part of its propaganda, the nationalistic organizations of the Lapua movement, IKL, and IKS openly spread anti-Russian hate speech (“ryssäviha”). One of the main objectives of this propaganda was the militarization of the youth, as can be seen in a 1938 speech by Simojoki from the parliamentary speaker’s podium: “Our battlefield is the soul of the Finnish youth“.
These nationalistic organizations were able to operate freely, which was not a surprise as most of the members of AKS were officers in the Finnish armed forces. Simojoki’s schizoidal/psychopathic mental state came through in his speeches. An example is from this excerpt of an article titled ‘Hatred of the Ruskies’, published in the Helsinki University student newspaper Ylioppilaslehti (issue 5, 1923):
Finnish students! Within you, the hope of this country, a miraculous patriotism – a great patriotism – excitement and love has awakened. Join us in the forefront also in hatred! Our fatherland does not need those kinds of lovers who do not know how to hate. If you wish to be great in love, then you must be great in hate. The more passionately a citizen loves his country, the more bitter his hatred toward the enemy. Oh how beautiful is the Finnish student in love, but even more beautiful in hate.
Therefore in the name of glory and freedom let our motto resound: Hate and Love! Death to the Ruskies, whatever their colour may be. In the name of the shed blood of our forefathers, death to those destroyers and rapists of our homes, our close ones, and our fatherland; death to the shatterers of the Kaleva tribe, the polluters of the Finnish people. In the name of the lost glory and the future greatness of Finland: Death to the Ruskies!
How was this kind of hate speech regarded? The prevalence of a ‘Greater Finland’ mentality can be deduced from the published text of the Finnish popular magazine Suomen Kuvalehti (23.8.1941), in which we read:
“Russians under the leadership of a civilized nation could be a very good weapon of war as first-class colonial troops would be gained for the use of keeping Russian regions in check. Likewise a prime and cheap labor force would be achieved, provided that the whip is used frequently, and rigorous / merciless discipline is kept.”
In addition, fascist operations were given support and approval among some military officers. For example, in 1931 Generals Hagford, Runolinna, and Strann recorded the political agenda of the ‘Association of the Soldiers of the Independence War’ (Vapaussodan Rintamamiesten Liitto), which Mannerheim himself later acknowledged to have read:
“Enthusiasm towards matters of Karelia is to be maintained and supported as part of the propaganda mechanisms of AKS. Contact must be kept with the leadership of Karelia in the midst of the refugees. With the help of newspaper propaganda and speeches, hatred towards the Ruskies is to be maintained and incited in all possible ways, along with carrying out terrorist acts to provoke the threat of war. Propaganda must be created for the benefit of the ideology of Greater Finland. The situation and the developments across the border must be monitored both militarily and politically.
Terrorism, war provocation, and the incitment of hatred towards Russians: this is the core of Finland’s “patriotic” organizations laid bare, and all with the blessings of the highest military officers. When the objectives of these nationalists are examined, it is not difficult to understand how deeply “Ruskie hatred” has been rooted in Finns’ souls. Politician Eino Yliruusi wrote about the political dimensions behind these nationalist groups, and what they were used for, in his 1945 book The Guilty Ones of the War and Finnish War Politics (‘Sotasyylliset ja Suomen sotapolitiikka’):
The university student youth who took part in the military invasions into Karelia founded the organization called the Academic Karelia Society (AKS). They established themselves as leaders of the ultra-nationalistic Greater Finland propaganda against the Soviet Union. Above all, AKS took care of the political upbringing of the university youth and turned it into a politically indiscriminate group lacking any independence – a group inspired only by the zealous ultra-nationationalism of the Greater Finland ideology. Under the spell of the Greater Finland ideology they [AKS-members/sympathizers] have been led to also support ideas of unconstitutional dictatorship, because it was understood that during normal conditions the general population never gives their support to war of conquest.
In this way the AKS formed to become the nurturer of both Italian fascism and German Nazism, as well an agent to larger circles. Already from the beginning stages a very solid connection was formed with Nazi Germany. In parallel with the Nazi dream of world domination, the imaginings of a Greater Finland ripened to new life. Increasingly, even in the public eye, the thoughts born from fanatic brains were seeded to militarily shift the border to the Urals.
As far as there was any common sense behind these ideas at all, it was imagined that everything was possible with the help of Germany. In this way AKS and its academic youth were completely driven into the lap of Nazi Germany as their humble and weak-willed servants in both domestic and foreign politics. It can be mentioned that in 1930 when the Nazis won a landslide victory and went from a small party of 12 to 107 representatives, at the same time the Nazi-like Lapua movement gained significant attention as it attempted by non-parliamentary means to take over the whole government [in Finland]. But this ultra-nationalist dictatorial movement would never have formed into any kind of real danger to our internal democracy nor to our foreign relations,had it not been for those wholly imprudent and irresponsible powerful capitalist circles financing and supporting this movement. These elitist groups gathered for themselves a huge amount of wealth during the gulag period following the World War.
At the same time all of this was going on, the warmongering and revolutionary right-wing began to water down our democratic and parliamentary state organization. Degree by degree the most important citizen freedoms such as the press, gathering, association, and freedom of speech were removed. Simultaneously the criminal code and regulations around treason were widened to include almost all actions of opposition parties, and could be explained away as “supporting the act of treason”, as the letter of the law was written.
All of this activity was deliberate preparation for war and revolution. It was feared that at a critical moment some party might start to openly oppose the plans for war and make its declaration very questionable, and therefore a coup d’état was prepared. However, a formal coup was not needed, as all parties submitted in a common understanding to support and drive the plans of the right-wing chambers of Nazi-fascists. Militarization started already in 1935 when the Department of Defense accepted a procurement program of 1.65 billion marks. A few years later at the suggestion of the Social Democratic Party leader, the budget was increased to 1.9 billion, for a total of 3.5 billion marks worth of equipment. In addition, the permanent military department expenditures rapidly increased over a few years, doubling itself from 500 million to 1 billion.
Yliruusi was an experienced politician and his writing supports the view that among those with power in Finland were an extreme nationalistic clique who sought open conflict with the Soviet Union, in complete contradiction to the narrative that Finland was ‘a victim of Stalin’. Among ordinary Finns, the Greater Finland ideology did not receive strong support, but this ideology received high visibility because the loudest supporters were from the top echelon of culture, politics and business life. This radical movement is partly responsible for the fate of the dead and traumatized veterans of the wars.
What can we learn from history?
War is madness. It creates a social state in which citizens’ hysteria completely rules their behavior. Parties driving for peace are alienated and regarded with suspicion, requiring each member of society to either adapt or perish. Orwell’s words, “war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength”: this double-think does not allow room for shades between black and white. There is only “us” and “them”.
War creates space for psychopaths to exercise their innate impulse to control and dominate normal people, and the situation in Finland was unexceptional in this regard. Prisoners of war, and other prisoners, were killed, with abandon, in prison and labor camps. Atrocities were carried out, people starved by famine, and documentation of the deeds were later destroyed. Of 67,000 prisoners of war, nearly 20,000 died. People were placed in “protective custody” for their political opinions, and the probability of being branded a dissident significantly increased as WW2 approached. Researcher Sari Näre relates in her book Ruma Sota (‘Ugly War’):
The pre-war period created strict standards for allowable thinking and different viewpoints from it meant the risk of being denounced, even with treason. A law called ‘the protection of the republic’ came into force at the beginning of the Winter War, the purpose of which was to prevent agitation and sabotage against the state. By some estimates, one in five Finnish adults were in the secret police registry in 1940, some half a million citizens.
During the war, Mannerheim-established concentration camps were brought into use. There were in total 14 concentration camps in Eastern Karelia. The mortality rate in these conditions was very high. Forced into the camps were “anti-national material“, “politically unreliable” national and non-national individuals in the military-occupied areas, as well as any Finnish people “whose freedom would not be considered desirable.” The camps reached a peak of 24,000 prisoners, mostly elderly and children. An estimated 4,600-8,000 people died. Later the name concentration camps was changed to ‘migrant camps’ in order to make the connection with their Nazi equivalents less obvious.
Petrozavodsk concentration camp. Picture from 1944, taken one day after the Finns had retreated. The plaque reads: “Accessing the camp and socializing through the fence forbidden under threat of being shot.”
Today, a nationalist renaissance is rampant in Finland. Previously-dormant extreme right-wing activists have awoken, and old fascist organizationsare being reactivated, emboldened now by the global anti-Muslim hysteria of anti-immigration. Daily Russophobic propaganda in the media has nurtured Finnish enthusiasm for war to the highest level in Europe. In both cases, the nation’s fears are being directed to emerging contrived ‘external threats’, Muslims and Russians.
The activation of the extreme right in Finland also has been noticed in Russia:
The Russian Federation’s Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, said, according to news agency TASS on Thursday, that Finland has seen the activation of nationalist and revenge seeking organizations. According to him, they increase their influence in Karelia with the help of Russian NGOs.
According to University of Jyväskylä researcher Tommi Kotonen, Finland currently has a favorable atmosphere for extreme right-wing thinking: “We have, to some extent, a stronger nationalist tradition, which makes right-wing extremist thinking more acceptable.” Greater Finland ideology is one explanatory factor behind this neo-nationalism. On the surface, fascist ideologies were silenced after the war, but their remnants have been hiding in the national subconscious, waiting for a new and better time. You can see this in the fact that war veterans are considerably more generous in admitting their own mistakes, than the following generations. As researcher Oula Silvennoinen says (related to the contents of his book Salaiset aseveljet – or Secret Brothers In Arms):
“From not one veteran have I received nothing other than positive feedback. The relationship to war by the generation after them seems to be more difficult. They look [to the matter] to defend the honor of the veterans. Those experienced in war have not criticized the research. They know what it was like then.”
Veterans know that war is ugly, but the new generations with diminished understanding often mythologize the past, which opens the door to pathological thinking.
A sudden increase in asylum seekers has increased support for the nationalists, and it is seen in the increase in protests. During a recent protest in Lahti, a man dressed in a hooded Ku Klux Klan outfit was seen, and a bus transporting families with children was shot at with fireworks. In Kouvola, Red Cross workers, journalists and security guards were pelted with stones and a Molotov cocktail. In connection with a demonstration in Helsinki, the re-establishment of the fascist Lapua movement was announced. In Kemi, the Soldiers of Odin neo-Nazi group, at least some of whose members were involved in a stabbing in Jyväskylä with the analogous Finnish Resistance Movement (called Suomen Vastarintaliikke or SVL), has started an independent street patrol with an active force of approximately 50 “to improve people’s sense of security.” The irony of this situation is that for years Islamophobes have fear-mongered that immigration will lead to stone-throwing, fires, people cloaked from head to toe, and radical movements. Well, all that is here now, and it’s coming from white Finns, not immigrant Muslims.
Finland’s most famous anti-immigration politician, MEP Jussi Halla-aho (PS), has proposed the construction of a “village of barracks” for refugees, in which living standards should be kept at a minimum in order to be remove “unhealthy attraction factors”. According to Halla-aho, applicants should remain in the village as long as the asylum application is being processed. Last year, the average processing time for asylum applications was about half a year.
Such extreme views undoubtedly resonate in today’s Finland, strongly than ever. The economic situation continues to deteriorate and the government has implemented strong austerity measures. Immigrants and refugees are easy scapegoats for people. Writing about the immigration debate, a lawyer, Saku Timonen, describes the situation on his blog:
If anyone, besides a believer in democracy and human worth, is afraid of anything, then it is certainly this country’s government. It fears for its own position. It is afraid of its own people. A right-wing government makes unprecedented cuts to the poor, low-income, families with children, and against civilization, and consolidates their own ranks by allowing political violence. Actually, the government incites violence by requiring us to understand the political terror [against immigrants].
The government’s proclaimed working party without socialism [True Finns party] has eaten all of its election promises. It has nothing to appeal for other than support for its opposition to immigration, and it has zealously stuck to this. It accepts any kind of cuts, as long as the supporting goons can kick refugees and put them into camps. The other two parties allow this, so that the final redistribution of wealth to the rich is realized under the cover of this noise.
This country has changed itself, in just a few months, into a travesty. Racist rampage is a demonstration that is not being condemned. Attacks against aid workers is seen as an expression of fear. Proposals for concentration camps are held to be just ‘sensible discussion’. Who do you think will be put into these camps when the supply of refugees is exhausted? The weaker portion of society? Those ‘tolerants’ [a term used in Finland for people who have sympathy for refugees] who oppose government, who in their tolerance are downright intolerant and therefore a danger to society?
In recent years nationalism has gained a foothold in the political arena, resulting in new parties and raising the True Finns party to the second largest political party with a number of “immigration-critical” politicians. In addition to the recent furore caused by Olli Immonen, for example, the current defense minister, the True Finns’ Jussi Niinistö has a right-wing radical background. According to journalist Kai Byman, “in the early 1990s he was in a close relationship with the Kansallinen Kulttuuririntama or KKR (National Cultural Front) organization, characterized as extreme right-wing. Niinistö wrote an article for the Valkoinen Rintama (White Front) magazine, and knew intimately the National Cultural Front’s founder, Jukka I. Mattila.” In the summer of 2011, Niinistö demanded that Karelia be ‘returned’ to Finland. Now, this same person is responsible for Finland’s security policy relations with Russia.
Jussi Niinistö has described the spread of Russia-hatred by AKS-founder Elias Simojoki in glowing terms: “In my view, the historical significance of Elias Simojoki was specifically to awaken motivation for Finland’s national defense during the Winter War […] Elias Simojoki was one factor behind the Winter War miracle.” The Finnish Defence Minister believes that Simojoki was, therefore, a defense motivator. However, to the reader of Simojoki’s psychopathic writings it should be clear that he drove the Greater Finland ideology and incited a specifically offensive mentality towards Russians that lasted for decades.
Elias Simojoki, famous russophobic writer and fascist.
Russophobia-fueled tabloids have done a sterling job in Finland. Last year, according to oneGallup poll, a record 40% of respondents believed that Russia is to be feared. This numberhas doubled in four years. When this is combined with the urge to grab arms, for defense of course, you can see how Finns are easy to manipulate into making bad foreign policy decisions, like joining NATO. But then, Finland opened its doors to the Third Reich, so why not the ‘Fourth’ American one?
Both Russians and Muslims are the scapegoats for many different social problems, which are ultimately caused by deep structural problems in the global economic system. Few can see what kind of danger is hidden behind this, especially if the economic situation continues to deteriorate, resulting in national crises. So-called ‘Western values’ of ‘freedom and democracy’ have been exposed for what they are: aggressive and insane behavior justified through self-deception and falsehood. At some point this will break down under the weight of its own absurdity, probably taking ‘Western civilization’ with it.
Human memory is short at the best of times. It is significantly shorter when hysteria abounds. Most do not seem aware that the current refugee crisis is the result of Western wars. ‘The war against terrorism’ – ‘You are either with us or against us’ – ‘Axis of evil’ – ‘Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction’. Do people even remember those? Do people see what has happened, how much our world has changed? Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria… hundreds of thousands, millions dead – so-called collateral damage. The September 11 attacks justified these wars and gave the US and its allies the green light to suppress countries that seek a multi-polar world instead of uni-polar hegemony.
Milton Mayer, writing in his book, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45, describes how underlying psychopathological currents in a society change it, step by step, to become increasingly totalitarian. I recommend reading it, and considering how the atmosphere in the West in general has become so hysterical in a very short time. We fear contrived threats ‘from outside’ so much that we giving away all our freedoms for the illusion of safety:
“What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. …
“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security.
“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.
“To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.
“How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—’Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.
“You see,” my colleague went on, “one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.
… in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’
“And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.
“But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to—to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.
“But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked…. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.
“And one day, too late…. and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
“You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. …”