Tag Archives: Finland

Finnish Fridays

You really don’t see journalism like this in the American press…Can you imagine a major news outlet describing an uncomfortable aspect of American history this way?

…the Continuation War of 1941-44 is like oral herpes, which stubbornly appears as cold sores on the lip, however much one smothers it with magical antiviral creams and ointments.

Or this article describing Finnish soldiers in Afghanistan:

One dead Finnish serviceman would lead to national mourning and calls for the withdrawal of our ISAF troops. If five were to die, there is a chance the calls would be heard.

This just seems a bit weird.

The armoured vehicle convoy sets off at 7 a.m. Slowly, very slowly.  After only a couple of hundred metres the vehicle comes to a halt. The soldiers step out and begin looking for roadside bombs.  None are found.  Back in the APC, another one hundred metres. Another stop. The men dismount again.

The rate of progress is approximately two kilometres an hour.

If you’re going to go that slow anyway, why not just walk?  It’s not like you’re going to be safer climbing in and out of an APC every couple of hundred meters.

Those Finns might be tough but they’ve gotta do something about getting the appropriate soundtrack to their patrols:

The vehicle’s stereo blasts out the theme tune from the ’80s American TV-series Knight Rider.  And then Stayin’ Alive by the BeeGees, from Saturday Night Fever.

I mean…W…T…F???

 

Finnish Friday

Redditt has a great thread about people’s ‘favorite culturally untranslatable phrases’.  I suspect this is a well I’ll return to multiple times but today I’d like to highlight our friends the Finns and their colorful language.  And a note to my mother-in-law if she’s reading this:  I can’t believe you never told me about these.

  • Suksi vittun (Suomi- Finnish, I suppose) Literally, “ski into a cunt.” Extraordinarily vulgar form of “go fuck yourself.”
  • “juosten kustu”. It means that something is done half-assed, but it translates roughly like something is like someone tried to pee while running.
  • “Kyrpä otsassa” is a vulgar way to say you’re incredibly annoyed. It means that you have a dick in your forehead (should be visualized as hanging forward, rather than actually in your forehead, for some reason).
  • “Perse edellä puuhun” – To climb a tree with your ass up. Said when something is being done in very inefficient fashion.
  • “pilkunnussija”, meaning “a comma fucker”. Used about someone who corrects little or meaningless things.
  • “satanaan vittu” which means to literally call someone Satan’s Vagina.

Itsenäisyyspäivä!

This post is dedicated to my Mother-in-law, perhaps the most patriotic Finn out there.  Therefore the post will be in Finnish first (thanks Google Translate!) followed by English.

Tänään on Suomen itsenäisyyspäivä. Takaisin vuonna 1917, kun Venäjän keisarikunta oli hajoamassa ja ensimmäinen maailmansota oli syvällä kolmas vuosi, suomalaiset julistautui itsenäisiksi ja nopeasti vaipui sisällissotaan. Jotenkin he onnistuivat luomaan järjestystä, luoda demokratia ja säilyttää itsenäisyytensä.

From kanssa wikipedia artikkeli:

Se on perinteistä paljon suomalaisia perheitä esiin kaksi kynttilää kussakin ikkunassa kotimaan illalla. Tämä tapa päivämäärät 1920, mutta jo sitä ennen, kynttilöitä oli sijoitettu ikkunoiden syntymäpäivänä runoilija Johan Ludvig Runeberg kuin hiljaisen protestin koettu Venäjän sorron. Suosittu legenda kertoo, että kaksi kynttilää käytettiin merkkinä tiedottaa nuoria miehiä matkalla Ruotsiin ja Saksaan tulee jääkärien käsivarret jäntevät kantaa, että talo oli valmis tarjoamaan suojaa ja pitää ne piilossa venäläiset

Hei Paula,

Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää!  Klikkaa kuvaa alla nähdä elokuvan.

Today is Finland’s independence day.  Back in 1917 while the Russian Empire was falling apart and the First World War was deep in its third year, the Finns declared their independence and quickly sank into civil war. Somehow they managed to establish order, create a democracy and maintain their independence.

From with wikipedia article:

It is traditional for many Finnish families to light two candles in each window of their home in the evening. This custom dates to the 1920s, but even earlier, candles had been placed in windows on the birthday of poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg as a silent protest against perceived Russian oppression. A popular legend has it that two candles were used as a sign to inform young men on their way to Sweden and Germany to become jägers that the house was ready to offer shelter and keep them hidden from the Russians

 

Finnish Fridays

Ever hear of the Aviation Museum of Central Finland?  Sounds like a bore, right?  Well, it also serves as the Finnish Air Force museum and they’ve got some pretty cool panorama displays of their collection.

Those long, dark winters encourage the Finns to invent some pretty strange hobbies.  Take wife carrying, for example.  Not willing to let the men folk monopolize the reputation for being tough, there’s also husband carrying.


And now, for something completely different.  Wolverines to the smooth sound of new age guitar playing.

Finnish Fridays

I recently finished Mannerheim: President, Soldier, Spy by Jonathan Clements a recent biography of the father or modern Finland.

Mannerheim is one of those people they just don’t seem to make anymore.  A man who not only found himself in a number of key events during the early 20th century but was able to shape many of those events.

The book focuses primarily on Mannerheim’s life up to the establishment of the Finnish state around 1920.  It spends a little bit of time on the last 20 years of his life, but that time is probably the most well known and the easiest to find information on.

And what a life it was.  Concerned his military career was going nowhere he volunteered for service in the Far East for the Russo-Japanese war.  While the war didn’t go well for the Russians it proved very fortuitous for Mannerheim.  After the war he was sent on an extended spying mission throughout China to assess the threat it posed to Russia.  He then cooled his heels for a couple of years and served in the Russian army during the First World War and when the Bolsheviks took over made a hair raising escape to Finland where he oversaw Finlands secession from the Russian Empire and  resistance to it’s own red revolution.

Then, at the age of 70 (!) he became Finland’s Commander in Chief as the Soviet Union invaded Finland and he spent the next five years fighting alternately Soviets and then the Germans.

Clements description of the Winter War has a different tone than the rest of the book, and it’s clear there’s a bit of hero worship here.  Still, the Winter War was one of those historical events that generates amazingly impressive stories of determination and heroism.  In the homeland of sisu, those crazy Finns kicked it up to 11.  Indulge me for a moment with some quotes.

Upon hearing that the Soviets had invaded Finland, one Finn said:

We are so few, and they are so many…Where will we find the room to bury them all?

And later:

In one infamous incident, a lone Finn was seen calmly standing in the path of a lumbering tank, carefully sighting a pistol in between the viewing-slits on the front of the tank.

According to the footnote:

Lieutenant Virkki is the only man in history to have defeated a tank with a pistol…

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why you never mess with the Finns.

Mannerheim’s story is really an incredible one that would really be at home in a Bernard Cornwell novel.  Check it out and you won’t  be disappointed.

 

The Nordics in Afghanistan

The major Swedish political parties have reached consensus on their military commitment to ISAF and Afghanistan within the past few days.

According to Reinfeldt, Sweden aims to pull its combat troops out of Afghanistan between 2012 and 2014 and will maintain a largely civilian support presence after that.

“Our ambition is that Sweden’s presence in Afghanistan should shift from a combative role to a more supportive role,” he told reporters in Stockholm as he presented a nine-point plan for the pull-out.

“This change to a completely supportive role should be in place by 2014 at the latest.

This (I think) is a shift from the position of the center-right alliance (which is in power) and more closely resembles the position of the Social Democrats and Greens who recently suffered their second consecutive defeat in parliamentary elections..  The Red-Green coalition wanted everyone out by 2013 with a withdrawal starting in 2011, but that was really to keep the Left (former Communist) party happy who wanted an immediate withdrawal.

Karl Bildt’s (the Foreign Minister) position as of May this year was:

“Exit dates are first wrong and second dangerous and I don’t want to send the message to the Afghan people that we are going to abandon them at one point in time,” Bildt, who had just returned from a three-day trip to Afghanistan, told reporters in Stockholm.

“That is not going to be finished in the next few years,” Bildt said.

I’m no expert in Swedish politics but this might have been a deal the center-right was hoping to make.  Their policy up till now has been pretty close to the U.S. policy, if not a bit more ‘hawkish’, refusing to discuss withdrawal dates and having an apparently open ended commitment.  The policy was increasingly unpopular among the Swedish people but (like here) there seemed little way out without appearing to be a ‘flip-flopper’ and after stating how important the mission way numerous times, it’s hard to walk that back.

But now, the center-right alliance can appear to be willing to compromise, gets out of (or at least gains co-conspirators in) the existing Afghanistan mission and manages to do that while still refusing to work with the far right wing Sweden Democrats who achieved just enough seats in the parliament to prevent everyone from gaining a majority.

Finland, who is operating jointly with the Swedes, appears to have to a similar policy.  In part that’s because the two countries are so enmeshed in their mission that the Finns (195 soldiers in country) would have difficulty continuing without the Swedes (500 soldiers in country).

So, it looks like whatever ISAF is planning to do regarding COIN in Afghanistan it better do it quick as everyone is going to be heading for the doors in about 3 years.

And while it may not be Nordic, Saidman raises an interesting point about Canada’s decision to end their combat mission in Afghanistan in July of next year.

…leaving in July 2011 is just an abysmal choice.  That is going to be the high point of fighting season.  It would have been nice to leave in winter, either this one or the next one, so that the folks filling in the hole that the Canadian departure will create would have time to settle in and prepare.  Instead, the Canadians will be focused on leaving in the spring of 2011, just as things get busy again…

 

Finnish Fridays

Worried about climate change?  Well, you might want to think about buying a little place in Finland which is reported to be one of the nations least affected by climate change.  Even more than that:

In fact, northern European countries are initially set to gain from climate change due to longer crop growing seasons.

Hmmm…I smell the origins of a conspiracy theory.

The Finns are a patriotic bunch.  Here’s a clip from the YouTube vault in which Conan O’Brien is given a lesson about insulting the Finns.

And finally, the Finnish band ‘Leningrad Cowboys‘ singing Sweet Home Alabama with the Red Army Choir (or, as Fox News would describe it:  Obama’s secret vision for subverting our sacred musical tradition and brainwashing our young).