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Living Next Door to the Bear How did Finland survive the Cold War? Seppo Hentil Professor of Political History University of Helsinki March 31, 2006 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Historian k

Living Next Door to the Bear How did Finland
survive the Cold War? Seppo Hentilä Professor
of Political History University of Helsinki
March 31, 2006 Hosei University, Tokyo
Map of Finland In the North of Europe, between
Russia and Sweden Surfice Area 330 000
Sqkm Common Border with Russia 1200 km
Historical starting point in 1944 In the Second
World War Finland was fighting together with
Germany against the USSR Separate peace with the
USSR on September 19, 1944 Finland lost the war
but was not occupied by the Soviet troops When
the Cold War broke out in the second half of the
1940s Finland found herself stranded in the
no-man's-land between the two power blocs
Marshall C. G. Mannerheim (1867-1951) Commander
of the Finnish Army during the war and the first
President of the Republic after the war 1944-1946
J. K. Paasikivi (1870-1956) President of the
Republic 1946-1956
Urho Kekkonen (1900-1986) President of the
Republic 1956-1981
Finland's constitution gave unusually extensive
powers to the President of the Republic, which
Kekkonen in particular had no compunction in
exploiting to the full But did he use them
purely in the interests of his country or also to
holster his own position? This question is
currently the focus of intense debate in
Finland Was Finland Finlandized during the
Cold War, and what is the real meaning of this
Finland remained a Western country, but it was a
neighbour of the Soviet Union and politically
within the Soviet influence, while also having a
strong and active Communist Party (ca. 25 per
cent of votes in the parliamentary election of
1945) Contemporaries experienced the situation
as threatening, and in the West Finland's
position was considered difficult in the
extreme But Finland survived. She was the only
country within the Soviet sphere of influence
which did not become a communist satellite at the
end of the 1940s
Finlands democracy and the Western judicial and
social system all survived, the market economy
became a flourishing success, and by the 1960s
Finland developed into a welfare state with a
standard of living among the highest in the
world How did this kind of succes story
become possible?
The years of danger 1944-1948 The terms of the
interim peace agreed in Moscow on September 19,
1944 were hard on Finland The province of
Karelia in the South-East was lost, ceded to the
USSR, and the Karelian refugees, ten per cent of
the Finnish population, had to be resettled
further west reparations were to he paid
and the highest members of the wartime
political leadership were to be put on trial
A Soviet naval base was set up just 20 kilometres
from Helsinki, and, what was worse, to the west
of the capital on the Porkkala peninsula, which
was to he leased to the Soviet Union for 50
years The Allied (Soviet) Control Commission, a
body established by the USSR and Great Britain,
arrived in Helsinki to monitor implementation of
the terms of the peace treaty But Finland
escaped occupation, and the Finnish Government
was allowed to manage the transition to peace
itself Free elections were held as early as
March 1945, at a time when the rest of Europe was
still at war
One of the main results of the Second World War
was that it enabled Communism in Europe to push
almost a thousand kilometres further west By
1949 eight countries in Central Europe and the
Balkans had become one-party Communist
dictatorships It was easy to predict a similar
fate for Finland, given the frightening number of
signs pointing in the direction of 'people's
democracy' in the immediate post-war years in
Finland as well
Although the Wars had been hard, Finnish society
had nevertheless emerged strong and united The
government and the administration was in good
working order, while in workplaces up and down
the country the Social Democrats met the pressure
from the Communists head on There was fear of
Soviet intervention, but despite requests by the
leaders of the SKP the Finnish Communists
received no concrete support from their comrades
in the Kremlin
According to President Paasikivi it was Finland's
responsibility to attempt to build such trust in
her relations with the Soviet Union that the
latter would feel no need to attack our country
Concessions had to be made, but there was no
compromise over the Nordic judicial and social
system of Finland This was the absolute limit of
concessions in Paasikivi's thinking. Finland
would do best if she could as far as possible
keep outside conflicts between the superpowers
Finland left between the blocs In February 1948
Stalin proposed to Finland the same sort of
friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance
treaty as the Soviet Union had just concluded
with Hungary and Romania The Communists had just
seized power in Prague Was Finland to go the way
of Czechoslovakia? The Swedish press was
already writing that Finland's absorption into
the Communist bloc was complete in all but name
Paasikivi informed Stalin that Finland would
agree to negotiations if the text of the treaty
could be discussed without preconditions Stalin
consented to Finland's wishes with surprising
ease, and the final content of the mutual
assistance treaty was largely dictated by
Paasikivi The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation
and Mutual Assistance Between the Republic of
Finland and the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics was signed in Moscow on April 6,
1948 FCMA-treaty
The Finnish-Soviet treaty differed decisively
from those between the USSR and her satellites
Finland was entitled to remain outside disputes
between the superpowers and was not forced into
military pact with the USSR The military
articles obligated Finland to defend her own
territory if Germany or some other country
allied to Germany were to attempt to invade the
Soviet Union through Finland Under Article 2
Finland undertook to negotiate for Soviet
assistance in the event of being unable to resist
the invader unassisted this so-called
'consultation article' was from the Finnish point
of view the most dangerous part of the treaty
The Finnish Communists had high hopes of the
mutual assistance treaty, as in the event of a
crisis it could offer the USSR the opportunity to
occupy Finland The Communists' disappointment
was all the more bitter at their defeat in the
parliamentary elections of July 1948 and their
consequent removal from the Finnish Government
(remained in opposition until 1966) The Soviet
Union protested, but its attitude towards Finland
remained unchanged
There is no doubt that the Soviet Union would
have had the capacity to force Finland to join
the other 'people's democracies' if she had so
wished Finland belonged militarily to the Soviet
sphere of influence, and the Western Powers would
have had no practical means to prevent Finland's
seizure, just as they had been unable to help
Czechoslovakia For some reason, which will
probably remain an eternal mystery, Stalin chose
not to use force
Stalin would certainly have weighed up the
possible costs of using force The determined
Finnish defence in the Winter War of 1939-40 and
again in the massive Soviet offensive of summer
1944 were undoubtedly still fresh in Stalins
From the thaw to the 'night frost' In the
so-called spirit of Geneva after Stalins death
the USSR ended its occupation of Austria and
guaranteed Austrian neutrality Such formal
recognition of neutrality by the superpowers was
something Finland lacked, and was to continue to
lack in the future In autumn 1955, the Soviet
Union waived surprisingly her 50-year lease on
the naval base in Porkkala peninsula in return
for an extension of the mutual assistance treaty
for a further 20 years
Urho Kekkonen won the presidential election of
1956 with the smallest possible
majority Kekkonen was an exceptionally gifted
and ambitious, if controversiai, leader He rose
to political prominence as the defender of the
interests of the poor eastern and northern
Finland, and it took a long time for the
'gentlemen of Helsinki' and the urban middle and
working classes to accept him
Following this short period of thaw,
Finnish-Soviet relations drifted in autumn 1958
into a crisis known to Finns as the 'night
frost The reason for this was the Communist
Party's continuance in opposition, despite its
becoming the largest party in the Finnish
Parliament at the previous elections When the
conservative Party, the centrist Agrarian Party
and the Social Democrats joined forces to form a
majority government, the reaction from the Soviet
Union was unexpectedly severe it broke off trade
negotiations and withdrew its ambassador from
The 'night frost' crisis was a practical
demonstration of just how little room for
manoeuvre Finland had in her foreign policy, and
partly even in her internal affairs However,
this did not prevent Finland in the early 1960s
from joining in the process of Western European
economic integration, although the other
alternative, namely membership in the Eastern
economic bloc under the USSR, was always open to
Finland, too Opening of the Western market was
vitally important to Finlands paper industry
At that time Finland would have been unable to
join any such organization dominated by members
of NATO and including West Germany It was
Finland's good fortune that the French president
Charles de Gaulle prevented British membership of
the EEC and the establishment of a broad free
trade area This led in 1959 to the birth of
EFTA, which the Scandinavian countries duly
joined in Britain's wake In April 1961 Finland
became an associate member of EFTA
The Berlin crisis in 1961 had led to an extremely
tense international situation, while Finland was
facing the approach of both parliamentary and
presidential elections Then, on October 30,
1961, the USSR sent the Finnish Government a note
which, referring to the "imperialist threat" from
West Germany, proposed defence consultations in
accordance with the military article of the
mutual assistance treaty President Kekkonen was
at the time on a visit to the United States, and
when the note arrived he was sitting in Hawaii
with a garland round his neck
The sense of drama was heightened by the fact
that Kekkonen had to meet the Soviet leadership
in Novosibirsk in Siberia The situation seemed
to be calmed rather easily in Novosibirsk Khrushe
v promised to postpone consultations, but wanted
Kekkonen to keep closer watch in future on
developments in the Baltie area and northern
There has been debate in Finland whether the note
was caused by genuine Soviet fears over the
situation in Europe, or by a wish to interfere in
Finland's internal affairs to ensure Kekkonen's
re-election Kekkonen certainly benefited from
the 'note crisis - it marked the beginning of
his period as the unchallenged leader in Finland,
which some critical contemporaries called
"Kekkoslovakia During the 1960s and 1970s a
presidential system was constructed in Finland
In the late 1960s Brezhnev refused to accept any
direct statement on Finnish neutrality,
preferring instead the tortuous formulation of
"the Paasikivi-Kekkonen line, which is based on
the treaty of cooperation and mutual assistance
and includes Finland's intention to pursue a
peaceful policy of neutrality" The friction in
Finnish-Soviet relations was due to Finland's
attempts at the end of the 1960s and beginning of
the 1970s to reorganise her political and trading
relations with the West, this time with the
European Economic Community (EEC)
Because of the military articles of the FCMA
treaty Finland had difficulty in handling her
relations with organisations in which West
Germany was a member For this reason Finland was
not until 1973 free to recognise either of the
German states, whereas other Western nations had
established diplomatic relations with West Gemany
alone. After the German Federal and Democratie
Republics had in 1972 signed a treaty containing
de facto recognition of each other's legitimacy,
Finland could recognise both
President Kekkonen discussed the EEC- matter with
the Soviet leaders in the summer of 1972 at the
Zavidovo hunting lodge, not far from Moscow
Brezhnev took a rather cold attitude towards a
trade agreement between Finland and the EEC and
warned Kekkonen of the danger of taking any steps
which could damage the good relations between
Finland and the Soviet Union Kekkonen indicated
that he would personally guarantee the continuity
of Finland's foreign policy line
Welcome Comrade Kekkonen, Who would ever even
think about that you could be Finlandized!
The homespun aspect of Finlandization The
military articles of the FCMA treaty meant that
Finland was held more firmly within the Soviet
sphere of influence than any other Western
country For this reason Finland's case could be
taken as an example of how a great power could
interfere in the internal affairs of a smaller
neighbour, rendering the latter's independence at
once remote-controlled and incomplete In the
1960s, people in West Germany began to talk of
Finnlandisierung - Finlandization
Taken literally, this meant becoming like
Finland It was seen as the fate awaiting other
Western countries if they gave too much ground to
Communism As a term, Finlandization became
indelibly engraved on Finland's image abroad, and
it also left its mark on historiography Was
Finland actually Finlandized, and, if so, what
did this mean in practice? It was generally
thought in the West that the Soviet Union
interfered in Finland's internal affairs and
forced the Finns to do as it wanted
This was certainly part of the picture, but there
was much more than this, as many Finns actually
participated in it of their own free will It is
unlikely that many in the West really understood
this purely Finnish aspect of Finlandization It
meant self-censorship practised by a portion of
Finland's politicians, journalists and
intellectuals They closed their eyes to the
problems of the Soviet Union playing the 'Moscow
card - appealing to the real or imagined
interests of the Soviet Union - became a powerful
trump card in Finland's internal politics
It is beyond question that some Finnish
politicians pursued their own interests in
unscrupulous fashion by bowing to Moscow more
deeply than was really necessary In using the
concept of Finlandization, it is thus essential
to examine the angle of bow and to distinguish
when it was a question of essential management of
Soviet relations in the national interest, when
again plain grovelling in pursuit of selfish
political advantage
Finland nevertheless survived Kekkonen
sometimes used to say When you bow to the East
you bare your bottom to the West, and vice
versa," and it was through such an approach that
Finland managed to secure her vital economic
interests in the West From the point of view of
Finland's survival, the agreement on associate
membership of EFTA in 1961 and the free trade
agreement with the EEC in 1973 were perhaps more
important than is generally realised Finland's
relative economic growth from the 1960s to the
early 1990s was more rapid than that of any
other OECD country
This development saw the poor, predominantly
agricultural Finland grow during the 1960s and
1970s into a Nordic welfare state with one of
the highest standards of living in the world
During the decades when Urho Kekkonen was in
power there was unquestionably a fair amount of
grovelling in relations with the Soviet Union
But at the same time Finland experienced in the
cultural arena, and above all in terms of popular
culture, a process of Americanization, a process
even more marked in Finland than in the other
Nordic countries
In contrast, there was precious little cultural
influence from Russia amongst the ordinary people
of Finland this was to some extent a problem, in
that so few Finns took the trouble to even learn
Russian language From whatever angle one
chooses to view Finland's survival, from the
situation in the 1940s or from the result in the
1990s, it can certainly be considered a minor
Finland managed to preserve the integrity of her
most important political and social
institutions Alone among those ten European
countries which gained their independence in
1917-18, Finland has been able to continue
uninterruptedly on her own chosen path Actually,
Finnish democracy can nowadays be considered one
of Europe's oldest, in the sense that it has
continued without interruption since 1917 In
2006 Finland is celebrating the 100th anniversary
of universal suffrage for men and women at the
same time
Finland after the Cold War The break-up of the
Soviet bloc in the early 1990s coincided with
deepening integration in the West Without the
collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the
Cold War, Finland would not have been able to
join the new, political phase in European
integration When the members of the EC signed
the Maastricht Treaty in 1991, establishing the
European Union, not many people in Finland
dreamed that they might participate in such
political integration in the near future
Not three months had elapsed from the break-up of
the USSR in March 1992, when the Finnish
government applied to the membership of the
EC Austria and Sweden had also recently applied
to join, and Norway renewed its earlier
application soon afterwards The question of
joining the EU was deeply controversial In
October 1994, the matter was submitted to a
consultative referendum Security policy and
agriculture emerged as the central issues in the
public debate
The supporters of membership saw a unique
opportunity to join the West, to which Finland
had in fact belonged for centuries, the EU
membership would confirm Finlands Western
identity Political integration was also seen as
a source of security, particularly against the
background of chaotic conditions in
Russia Opponents of EU membership claimed that
the EU would deprive Finland of its sovereignty,
opening of borders would bring refugees, crime
and foreign influence
The farmers feared for their profession given
the harsh climatic conditions, Finnish
agriculture could never compete in an open
market, they maintained The supporters of EU
membership won the referendum, but the margin was
narrow at just under six percentage points (56.9
- 43.1) The nation was divided support for the
membership was strongest in southern Finland and
among well-educated city-dwellers and young
people By contrast, the less-educated, the
older generation and the inhabitants of eastern
and northern Finland were mainly opposed to
Finland became a member of the EU on January 1,
1995 it was a transition from a country in the
Eastern sphere of influence into an outpost of
the West with incredible speed Do any of the
previous turning-points of our countrys history
provide a point of comparison? Can we liken EU
membership to the arrival of Roman Catholic
Christianity on the Finnish peninsula in the
mid-twelfth century or to the annexation of the
Grand Duchy of Finland by the Russian Tsar in
1809 or to the Declaration of Independence in
1917 or to Finlands survival of the wars of
Thank You for your attention!
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