Finland is not what you would call a major European nation. Tucked way up there in the upper right on the map, when Finland is thought of at all it’s usually in the reflected shine of its fellow Nordic countries, with whom it shares good clean air, progressive social policies and high taxes.
This time of year, though, not a lot shines in Finland. Sunlight last scarcely longer than a good ride across its frozen lakes. Perhaps that lends itself to Finland’s two well known -isms: stoicism and alcoholism. And this year its economy is being hammered by the western sanctions on Russia.
But Finland is plucky. For months the nation of just four million fought the mighty Russian war machine to a draw, alone, in the 1939 Winter War. With Europe’s longest border with Russia, some 800 kilometers, today Finland endures revanchist Russia’s air and sea probing without the NATO protection of its neighbors across the Baltic Sea, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Today is Finland’s 97th Independence Day. In the USA we mark each July 4th with fireworks and parades. Finns celebrate their independence from Russia with candles in their windows, in quiet hope, remembrance and with a great deal more self-awareness, I think, than we.