Happy Independence Day!

Last year the foreign students living in Tampere were asked to define what independence meant to them. Most of them answered that independence was freedom, liberty, personal choices etc. For them independence was individuality. Hardly anyone referred to the statehood of Finland, though they realised why the question was made.

To make a foreigner understand the seriousness of our Independence Day, one has to explain that Finns have a difficult history with numerous wars. Otherwise the nation would not even exist! Well, that is perhaps the case, one may ask. But you have lost all your wars and still exist? And because you have survived, why don’t you be happy and show it? And compared to other nations, you have not suffered more than they have, perhaps the opposite? Today Finland is one of the best places in the world to live, but you keep on complaining about the past hardships and the coming difficulties?

When the Finnish nation and nationality were invented in the 19th century, it was a project filled with high hopes of prosperity and equality. When looking back now, those goals were met better than anyone could expect. Finland became a nation state and an example of the benefits of wide education. Another aspect was that we were educated to be honest and modest and always remember that we were a small nation. We were taught to feel inferior, which became a ”national complex”. In Luxembourg and Denmark people don’t realise that they should feel small.

How should we see the independence of Finland in the future world? Let us look at history: Our nationality, prosperity and civilization were not created in distant forests and on silent lakes, but in contacts to other people, in other words, in a global context. In fact Finns have always benefited from others. So, the only lesson for the future is: independence is not achieved by drawing borders but crossing them. Perhaps it is time to accept the ”missunderstanding” of our foreign students. Each individual has the right to feel to be independent, a Finn or something else. Enjoy responsibly!

Pertti Haapala

Ps. I am sorry to be a little late with my writing. I became inspired only today, December 6th, by three independent factors: the Independence Day military parade, Lou Reed’s song Independence Day, and Prinz von Hessen sparkling wine.


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