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Is Finland too goody-goody to be believable?
“The children at the school we are filming at are almost too good to be true, blonde hair in neat plaits, full of energy but not too boisterous, amazingly well-behaved. Sometimes it seems the whole of Finland is like that - just too goody-goody to be believable“. This writes BBC’s Europe Editor, Mark Mardell, in a recent report from the Finnish capital Helsinki.
Can a country really be so good that it becomes almost unbelievable? This is what we wanted to find out when we meet with Mr Raimo Haapamaki, the General Manager of TietoEnator in Lithuania. Other Finns had told us that Raimo was the Finn in Lithuania who could best comment on the ‘Finnish wonder’.
“Yes, the success of Nokia has really meant a lot for our country. In the world, Nokia is today probably better known than Finland itself, and we are proud of it. Nokia has also opened many doors for other Finnish companies and contributed very much to the now well-known Finnish IT-miracle.”
This is Raimo’s answer when asked about the impact Nokia has had on the Finns. Nokia is a very unusual company that just 28 years ago was a traditional paper and rubber boot producer, he told us, in a small Finnish town called Nokia, today producing more than one third of all mobile telephones and employing 60,000 people worldwide.
Absolute Finnish!
One of the few Finnish words known to the rest of the world. A Finnish institution and of almost religious significance to its people. The sauna is a hot room for sweating, cleaning and bathing. In the old days people were born, lived and eventually died in the sauna. Nowadays it is a recreational room in a house or flat, frequently used to relax and recharge. There are public saunas as well because the Finns simply can‘t live without them. Even the Finnish parliament goes to a sauna once a week, and it is said that all political problems are solved there.
Tove Jansson 1914 – 2001
Tove Marika Jansson, artist, children’s book writer and illustrator, became famous for her Moomin characters in 1953, when her comic strip was published in The London Evening News. She studied art in Stockholm, the Finnish Art Society, and in Paris.
Later her children’s books about life in Moomin Valley achieved a huge readership of young and old fans all over the world. With a strange and often sophisticated form of humour, hidden under a cute and clean appearance, the world of Tove Jansson appeals to all people. In the 1980s the characters were transformed into a Japanese animated TV series and reached all over the world.
The Flying Finns
The term was used to describe the famous Finnish runners in the first half of last century, among them Paavo Nurmi, who won no less than nine gold and three silver medals. Between 1912 and 1936 long distance running made Finland, a newly independent nation, famous worldwide. In this period, the Flying Finns earned 44 Olympic medals in races from 1,500 metres to the marathon. The term is being used for other Finnish sports stars now including Formula 1 drivers Mika Häkkinen and Kimi Räikkönen.
Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto (1898 - 1976)
Alvar Aalto, architect and designer. His work was exceptionally broad in scope, ranging from buildings and town plans to furniture, glassware, jewellery and other forms of art.
His style has inspired designers all over the world and is still evident in new Scandinavian design. He worked to achieve an organic relationship between man, nature and buildings. It was Aalto’s ability to co-ordinate those three components that disclose the beauty of his work. Aalto spoke of his art - building art he called it - as a synthesis of life in materialised form.
Aki Kaurismäki (1957 -
Writer, editor, producer and director. It is written that this strange gentleman is: Eccentric, iconoclastic, admirably successful and, some would say, good.
He was Awarded the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002 for his film ‘The Man Without a Past’. He has a long line of obscure films behind him which are adored by film freaks all over the world. Had a commercial success with the documentary ‘Leningrad Cowboys go to America’.
The Kalevala
The Finnish national poem based on a collection of old verses from Finland and parts of Karelia (Russia), compiled by Elias Lönnrot, a native philologist and doctor. The first edition of the Kalevala appeared in 1835 and became the turning-point for Finnish-language culture. It brought the unknown people to the attention of other Europeans, and bolstered the Finns’ self-confidence and nationalism. So important is the Kalevala, that it is said to have played a major part leading up to Finnish independence in 1917.
1000 Lakes
Finland is known as the ‘Land of a thousand lakes’. The truth is somewhat different, because in fact there are some 187,888 lakes in Finland. When the glaciers melted some 10,000 years ago the water and erosion formed the land in its current shape. Water covers around 10% of the country’s surface area.
Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957)
Finland’s greatest composer. His output was broad and included 7 symphonies, some 100 songs and many smaller pieces. The emphasis in his works was on symphonic orchestral works.
His Kullervo Symphony, completed in 1892, started the period when most Finnish music was based on the legends of the national epic, The Kalevala. Later he turned to a more international style. His musical output was diverse and stylistically original.
The Flag
The Finnish flag features a blue cross on a white background, the blue of our lakes and the white snow of our winters, as one poet described these symbolic colours in 1870, was made official in a law enacted on 29 May 1918, less than six months after Finland achieved independence.
The Finns have a reputation for being heavy drinkers. The Finns are on top in the EU when it comes to cases of alcohol poisoning, but their alcohol consumption is the second lowest in the EU. Finnish specialities are Finlandia Vodka, Lakka (a sweet liqu€from cloudberries) and apple cider.
Urho Kaleva Kekkonen (1900–1986)
The longest serving president of Finland (1956–1981). He came from a family of farmers, he fought in the Finnish civil war in 1918 and worked as a policeman and journalist before entering politics. He served as Prime Minister of Finland (1950-1953 and 1954-1956) before becoming president. Kekkonen continued the ‘active neutrality’ policy of President Juho Kusti Paasikivi, which allowed Finland to live with both the nations of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Kekkonen was the longest-serving president of Finland.
  A love story between Lithuania and Finland
During Christmas Eve more than 400 years ago, Duke Juhana of Finland arrived at his castle in the Finnish city of Turku with his new wife, the Lithuanian-Polish princess Kotryna Jogailaite, after celebrating their wedding in Vilnius, Lithuania. The princess from Vilnius brought the glory of the renaissance to the medieval Turku.
Although the magnificent parties of Juhana and Kotryna in Finland lasted less than one year, ending in prison in Sweden when their marriage, the liaison between the Swedish ruling dynasty of Vasa and the Polish ruling dynasty of Jagellonica, would effect the politics and culture of northern and eastern Europe for 60 years to come.
The story of Juhana and Kotryna starts from being a story of people in the history of Lithuania and Finland and ends as a story of people in the history of Poland and Sweden. Duke Juhana is in English John, in Swedish Johan. Princess Kotryna Jogailaite is better known as Catherine Jagellonica in English, or Katerina Jagiello in Polish. But for this story, let them be simply Juhana, a boy from Turku, and Kotryna, a girl from Vilnius.
  We like to believe that we bring our ‘Finnishness’ into the Nordic identity
  Interview with Teppo Heiskanen, Director of the Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Lithuania
We met with Mr. Teppo Heiskanen, in his office on the Didžioji Street and asked him about the Council, regional co-operation, Nordic culture and what Finns think of Lithuania. Could you tell us what the Nordic Council of Ministers is?
The Nordic Council of Ministers was established in 1971 as an official forum for co-operation between the five Nordic states of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Its Secretariat is in Copenhagen, with some 100 employees. Nowadays, the Council has offices in all Nordic and Baltic countries and St. Petersburg. The Nordic countries share a strong historical connection. Nordic co-operation initially started with the Nordic Council designed as a forum for members of the five parliaments, and later the governments also joined in and created the Nordic Council of Ministers to further enhance regional co-operation. So in the 1970s, well before Schenghen, we already had a passport free zone.
  We are re-building our ties which were cut in the late 1930s
  Timo Lahelma, Finland’s Ambassador to Lithuania:
Relations between Finland and Lithuania were handled from Riga before World War I, but there was an exceptional honorary consul in Helsinki named Ragnar Öller, who was a Finn but was very active in promoting Lithuania and kept extensive notes of his work which continued until 1940 when of course the war intervened. He remained a staunch supporter of Lithuania but was limited in what he could do in those years and he died in the 1950s. His notes were found by his relatives in the 1990s and they contacted the Donelaitis Society which promotes cultural links between our countries and they published them just recently to show our historical links.
In 1818 – 1830 there was an uprising in Poland and 500 Finnish troops were sent to calm things down, and they went to Poland where they did very little fighting, but on the way home they stopped in Kaunas and were beset by an epidemic that killed 400 of them, and they are buried just outside of Kaunas. During the expedition only one officer and nine men were killed as a result of fighting, and the forces were decimated by the epidemic on the way home.
  Lithuania has benefited a lot from Finnish assistance
  Audrius Bruzga, Lithuania’s Ambassador to Finland
A Postcard from Finland? It must be Christmas and has to be the December edition of the magazine. No wonder, a white Christmas just seems to be so comfortably at home in Finland, the land of Santa Claus, or Joulupukki, as the old gentleman is known locally. But, this is not a postcard from him, rather an address from the Lithuanian ambassador in Finland.
Finland is so much closer to Lithuania than most of us think. It is a neighbouring country sharing the border of the Baltic Sea. However, those waters do not separate us. On the contrary, they bring our two countries together for a close and meaningful, but above all, beneficial co-operation. We share regional identity and membership in the European community. Our tastes differ, but values are the same. Even the two languages, Lithuanian and Finnish, otherwise worlds apart, have a number of common words: in both languages a ‘kirvis’ – is a ‘kirves’ (an axe) and a ‘laivas’ – is a ‘laiva’ (a ship).