Courtesy Reuters

Substance and Appearance: Finland

As history is written by the victors, so is the agenda of world politics dictated by the powerful. The themes and priorities of the international debate are set by a handful of politicians, officials, editors and scholars in half a dozen capitals: a form of cultural imperialism which is not rendered any less effective by its being unintended. The view of the world underlying influential analyses of international relations reflects primarily the interests and aspirations of the great powers. Smaller nations are treated as objects of policy, statistical units in categories of states classified in terms of their relationship to their respective protectors or oppressors, as ours and theirs-pawns to be gained or lost in the conflicts or deals between the great powers.

In the case of my own country, Finland, the difficulty of gaining recognition and understanding on her own terms, as an autonomous actor rather than a function of the policies of others, is compounded by the language curtain that conceals the innermost life of the Finnish people from outsiders. Few foreign diplomats, journalists or scholars know Finnish, and only a fraction of the texts needed for a comprehensive understanding of the past and present of the Finnish people is available in other languages. Much of the information about Finland available to foreigners is secondhand and second-rate. Since Finland on the whole has been successful in her efforts to keep out of the quarrels between the great powers, there has been no incentive for those who make policy or influence opinion in the leading capitals of the world to follow Finnish affairs; their knowledge about the country tends to be superficial and fragmentary.

As a result, Finland is forever at the mercy of the itinerant columnist who after lunch and cocktails in Helsinki is ready to pronounce himself upon the fate of the Finnish people. A person visiting, say, London for the first time, who does not know English and has only a vague notion of the significance of

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