Today we tackle another one of Jeffrey’s questions.
With where Finland is, what kind of perspective do the Finns have of the tensions that have/had existed between the United States and its allies and Russia (and/or the former Soviet Union)? Has this changed a lot since the fall of the Soviet Union?
Thank you for yet another excellent question. Finnish history cares less about the United States than one would assume. We had our own tensions with the big bad Soviets. We fought two wars trying to stay out of the Soviet Union after our independence (1917). The winter war (1935-1940) that lasted just a couple of weeks because the Soviets were very ill prepared. They basically thought they would drive across and counter no resistance. They were poorly dressed and from the south so they were unprepared for winter and Finland easily defeated the invaders.
After this we had a grudging peace. The Soviet Union attacked again in1941 and this time the Soviets were better prepared and the fighting lasted until 1944. In the end the Finns were technically the victors but could not afford to keep going. Russia could keep throwing men at the war, Finland could not. Russia actually lost many more soldiers to one Finnish soldier. For this reason Finland had to make some concessions and give up some land.
After this, appeasement characterized Finland’s policy toward the Soviet Union for the entirety of the cold war and the existence of the Soviet Union. The reason for this was simple, we were afraid of having to go to war again. We did not want to lose more of the ones we loved, have our homes destroyed and we were tired of living in fear. We paid our war reparations which paradoxically revolutionized and jumpstarted our economy and ushered us into the modern era of industry.
Only now are the extreme anti-Russian sentiments going away. Finns used to fear and hate them. The fear in fact was so strong in cases that rumours about Soviet communists drinking blood circulated and other extreme tales of the macabre. This resulted in many Finns migrating to the United States to get away from living in the shadow of the iron curtain. They moved to the area of Minnesota in the USA and parts of Canada. So during the cold war I suppose the United States was seen as a safe haven, away from the Soviet Union. After all, we were in it together, in the fear and worry over what would happen with the cold war.