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Vesa Vares

University of Turku, Finland, E-mail address:



This paper has been presented at the Second International Conference on Nordic and Baltic Studies in Romania:Black Sea and Baltic Sea Regions: Confluences, influences and crosscurrents in the modern and contemporary ages hosted by the Romanian Association for Baltic and Nordic Studies, Târgoviste, May 20-22, 2011.



The questions of national prejudices, xenophobia and enemy images have been lately popular issues. The creation of the ”Other” has been evident in racial issues, like in the ideologies of imperialism or anti-Semitism. However, it is important to see the same mentality inside the European political culture itself, because the images often did and still do divide the nations into different categories. This mentality gained even more impetus after the collapse of the empires in 1918 and yet again in the discussion about ”Old Europe” and ”New Europe”. My purpose is to study how Finland saw Eastern Europe and its political systems and national peculiarities between the World Wars. Finland formed an interesting hinge between Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. On the one hand it wanted to emphasize how Western its mental heritage was; on the other, it had to fight off assumptions that it was still ”half-Russian” and behaving in a ”Balkan” manner. In the early 1920s there were also ideas of similar interests in European politics and similarities of the social structure. In the longer run, the Finns saw Eastern Europe as an area which was not ready for democracy, because it lacked the elements of national cohesion and basic people’s education. Argumentation resembles the German one, but was not necessarily decided by it – rather by own experience or Scandinavian and sometimes Hungarian information. For the Finns, Hungary formed some sort of exception of the prejudiced view because it was considered to be a kindred nation, but the experts could see little similarities even between Finland and Hungary.



Chestiunea prejudecatilor nationale, a xenofobiei si a imaginii inamicului au reprezentat aspecte populare în ultima vreme. Crearea „Celuilalt” a fost evidenta în problemele rasiale, ca si în ideologiile imperialismului sau antisemitismului. Cu toate acestea este important sa observam aceeasi mentalitate si în interiorul culturii politice europene în sine, deoarece imaginile de multe ori au împartit si înca mai împart natiunile în diferite categorii. Aceasta mentalitate a câstigat un impuls si mai mare dupa prabusirea imperiilor în anul 1918 si înca o data în discutia despre „Vechea Europa" si „Noua Europa”. Scopul meu este de a aborda modul în care Finlanda a perceput Europa de Est, sistemele sale politice si particularitatile sale nationale în perioada interbelica. Finlanda a constituit o „balama” interesanta între Scandinavia si Europa de Est. Pe de o parte, a vrut sa sublinieze cât de occidental era patrimoniul sau mental, pe de alta parte, a trebuit sa lupte împotriva asumptiilor ca ea era înca „jumatate-ruseasca” si ca se comporta într-o maniera "balcanica". La începutul anilor 1920 au existat, de asemenea, conceptii cu privire la interese similare în politica europeana si la asemanari ale structurii sociale. Pe termen mai lung, finlandezii au vazut Europa de Est ca o zona care nu era pregatita pentru democratie, pentru ca îi lipseau elementele de coeziune nationala si educatia de baza a oamenilor. Argumentarea se aseamana cu cea germana, dar nu a fost neaparat decisa de aceasta – mai degraba a fost preluata prin experienta proprie sau prin informatiile provenite din mediile scandinave si, uneori, din cele de limba maghiara. Pentru finlandezi, Ungaria a format un fel de exceptie în ceea ce priveste aceste prejudecati deoarece era considerata a fi o natiune înrudita, dar expertii au putea observa putine asemanari chiar si între Finlanda si Ungaria.


Keywords: nation-building; identity; nationalism; Finnish foreign relations; Eastern European image abroad; the “Other”


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