Finland became an independent state on 6 December 1917. Like throughout her much longer cultural history, the first Finnish century of independence has been an unique balancing act between the east and the west. Sharing the democratic and welfare values of the neighbouring Nordic nations, independent Finland was able to survive the bloody 1918 Civil War and two wars against the Soviet aggression.
The path from a rural, almost backward community of men and women of few words towards a civilised society has not been uncomplicated. The arctic climate and intricate geographic location have given the Finns the Winter War, night frosts of Finlandization and precarious political position in between western Europe and unpredictable Russia.
However, we Finns are stubborn. We may lack social finesses of our royal Scandinavian cousins, but we work hard and believe in educating our children for an egalitarian society. Although the athletic and mobile miracles of Paavo Nurmi and Nokia phones may be a memory of the past century, the Finns have had the habit of bouncing back when the going gets tough. Slush, game industry and other new forms of Finnish innovation are attracting investment and innovators to Helsinki, Turku and Tampere, and the preserved nature of the land of thousands of lakes is appreciated by travelers from the congested global metropolises.
We Finns value our country, but we have throughout our history sailed across the Baltic Sea and other seas to earn living or new knowledge. Members of clergy, academics and early educators of medieval Turku were respected members in the university towns of central Europe. And more recently, Finnish ice-hockey, basketball and volleyball professionals have earned respect overseas and created cultural reputation not entirely unlike in opera or other forms of classical music.
Modern day Finnish heroes like Jari Litmanen, Teemu Selänne, Lauri Markkanen, Karita Mattila and Bengt Holmström may live abroad or work on global arenas, but they all take great pride for representing their country of origin. As does the ”average Finn” who enjoys sauna & Sibelius, but also heavy metal and wife-carrying contests and believes it is a lottery jackpot to live in Finland.
Sibelius, sauna & sisu – made in Finland!