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Never satisfactory, according to the Finnish standards”. From optimism and interest to disappointment and disillusion: Finnish views on the nations in Eastern Central Europe between the word wars

Author(s): Vesa Vares

Journal: Revista Româna de Studii Baltice si Nordice
ISSN 2067-1725

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 225;
Date: 2011;
Original page

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

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.

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