The list of Finnish heroes –including my father-in-law who just passed away, who was severely wounded at Tali-Ihantala— is very long, and through their own personal sacrifices, Finland was not over run by the Red Army, and thus spared the misery of Soviet totalitarianism.
Finland celebrates its Day of Independence on December 6th, with this year seeing the Finnish democracy achieving its 91st birthday. The country is well aware of when it achieved its independence from Russia, back in 1917, but more importance is placed on Finland’s stubborn tenacity in maintaining that independence in its war with the Soviet Union during WW II.
I believe that it’s the same pride in being Finnish, living in a Finnish state, as well as having succeeded in holding the Soviets to a stalemate, that keeps Finns well aware of their own cultural identity. In all honesty, they’re are damn proud of who they are.
As I write this post, in the background I can hear Väinö Linna’s epic story of the “The Unknown Soldier“, (in Finnish “Tuntematon Sotilas”) on TV.
“The novel has no single central character (it both begins and ends with an ironic play on the narrator’s omniscience), and its focus is on different responses to the experience of war. It tells the story of a machine gun platoon in the war from mobilisation to armistice. A picture of the whole nation in microcosm, the men come from all over the country (a result of Linna’s unusual patchwork regiment – units were normally made up of men from the same region.)
The men have widely varying social backgrounds and political attitudes, and they all have their own ways of coping, but the general picture is one of a quite relaxingly businesslike attitude, and the men’s disrespect for formalities and discipline is a source of frustration for some of the officers. They are all there just to get the job done, and official propaganda, both their own and that of the enemy, is to them a source of amusement or outright offensive.
Linna’s own description of the men in the novel’s final sentence is “aika velikultia” — something like “good old boys”. The main officer characters are three lieutenants who embody different attitudes: one strict and aloof, one relaxed and fraternal, one idealistic and later disillusioned but brave and loyal to his men.
The movie has become a classic in Finland and a mainstay for its Independence day celebrations. I would like to wish all of the Tundra Tabloids’ Finnish readers a very Happy Independence Day, and that Finland would continue to remain steadfast and true to its own cultural identity and heritage. We have a lot to be proud of. KGS