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Sisu is an ancient Finnish word that has no exact counterpart in other languages. Sisu has preserved the Finns as a race through thousands of years, through primitive life, through occupation of their country, and through their long struggle into independence and nationhood. This trait is not acquired by chance; it is a product of inheritance and environment. The Finns, so stubborn through the centuries in resisting attempts to change or destroy them, live on a rock foundation of the oldest stone in the world. It's as though something of this stubborn, everlasting granite had permeated the soul of the Finn.

Unlike the Latin people, Finns dislike bloodshed and death in their sports. They also dislike contests which entail the contact of human bodies such as football, boxing and wrestling. Force and stamina are two qualities most admired - running is the act that most clearly brings out sisu (a solid-rock-like obstinacy).

Their language contains at least 20 words to express the action of running and 1 out of every 8 Finns belongs to an athletic club. There are more than 500 competition grounds in the country. There are no professional athletes, and few of her champions and olympaids had university education. They practice after working hours, or their own time and at their own cost.

Their second sport, after racing, is skiing, although they have no mountains. They learn to ski as they learn to walk.

The Finns called the Swedish people 'ruotsi' which means 'rowing men'. And even today Ruotsi is the Finnish word for Sweden.

The Finns love cleanliness with a passion. It is part of the charm of the country to see no trash, no litter and no signs are necessary to remind her people not to drop things around.

This is a quiet land, almost a silent land; the Finns are not noisy at work or at play and they go about their jobs seriously. The fields are fenceless, the soil is light, but it is all so flat that there is no erosion. Shallow irrigation ditches divide the land, closely and evenly so that from above it looks like green or brown corduroy. All farms grow large crops of potatoes, for that is the country's staple vegetable, and they may be served four different ways at a meal. They are also excellent winter fodder for the animals. In the endless summer sunlight they grow well north of the Arctic Circle, and since Lapland is weedless, require no cultivation after planting.

Small villages dot the countryside. Often they are very small, a mere sprinkling of houses. A good example is the village of Pelo with its small cluster of houses along the bank of the river.

Midsummer's Eve is one of the best Finnish country festivals, and is celebrated with dances and bonfires from one end of the land to the other. It is only at these country festivals, and usually only among the older folk, that one sees the old national costumes. It is a pity they are not revived. Finland is almost overanxious to be "modern". The costumes varied widely from province to province, but the bright clear colors, red, blue and yellow, were general and gay with embroidery.

Don't expect to pick up a meal at odd hours. Finland is too systematic and methodical for that, and the drugstores don't have a lunch counter. Breakfast is served until 10 a.m.; lunch from 12 to 2. Dinner is served until 7 p.m.

The world still remembers how the Finnish army, with 9 divisions, managed to halt the 45 divisions of the Russian army for 105 days in 1940 during one of the coldest winters in 100 years. America sent some money for civilian supplies and Sweden sent arms, but refused to allow troops to enter the country to aid Finland.

Looking back it is easy to see that the Allies were playing into the hands of Russia by allowing Finland to be punished for allowing German troops into the country to fight Russia. But at that time Russia was our ally, and Finland was considered a traitor. We are now paying for our shortsightedness in abandoning Finland. By terms forced on her by Russia, Finland can't make any treaties for trade or protection. They cannot accept Marshall Aid or join the UN or NATO. Other ex-enemies may become our friends, but never Finland, because Russia so decrees.

At the end of the war Finland still owed a debt to the U.S. for food sent in 1919 during their civil war. They had paid promptly for 30 years. In 1949 Americans wanted to cancel the debt. But Finland wanted no favors. So in 1949 Congress and Finland agreed that a certain sum of money be used for scholarships for young Finns to study in the U.S. and for young Americans to teach and study in Finland. Under this exchange program more than 100 students come to the U.S. each year to study. And they spread understanding of Finland and the Finnish way of life among the Americans.

There are four names that are famous in Finland and throughout the world. The first is Paavo Nurmi, called the Flying Finn, who won four events in the 1924 Olympics and who, 30 years later, carried the torch for the 1952 Olympic Games held in Finland.

The architecture of the Saarinens, Eliel and Eero, father and son, is known everywhere. Eliel's innovations revolutionized skyscraper architecture in the U.S. And his son Eero was more famous - he created the TWA terminal at Idlewild Airport in New York and the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit.

Johan (Jean) Sibelius was considered a genius. He was a Swedo-Finn, one of the great composers of the 20th century. His tone poem "Finlandia", written in 1899, is a national classic.

The fourth hero was Baron Gustav Mannerheim, a Swedo-Finn, who was called upon three times to rally the Finns to face hopeless odds and throw back the overwhelming enemy. He is the greatest hero of Finland. Without him there would be no Finland.

(June Pelo) 1982

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