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Sinkkonen, J. (2013). The Land of Sauna, Sisu, and Sibelius - An Attempt at a Psychological Portrait of Finland. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 10(1):49-52.

(2013). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 10(1):49-52

International News

The Land of Sauna, Sisu, and Sibelius - An Attempt at a Psychological Portrait of Finland

Jari Sinkkonen

Finland's identity as a nation is still very young. It appears that we did not exist at all before the year 1150 when we became part of Sweden. Perhaps we were quite happy hunting and fishing in the vast wilderness without any kings or other rulers. Much later, in 1809, Sweden lost a war to Russia, and Finland became a grand duchy of Russia until 1917. Thus, we celebrated 95th anniversary of our independence in December 2012. “We are not Swedes, we do not want to become Russians - let us be Finns” is a saying attributed to a writer and politician named A.I. Arwidsson almost 200 years ago, i.e. long before Finland's independence.

The phrase still describes somehow our awkward position between those two neighbors. Sweden is some kind of a “big brother”, a rich and happy-go-lucky Scandinavian country which has enjoyed a lengthy period of peace (because of our protection?), and which has cultivated somewhat paternalistic attitudes toward us (or that is at least what we think). They seem to succeed in everything, be it ice hockey or the Eurovision Song Contest. They won it for the fifth time this year, and one of the past winners was Abba. It is simply not fair!

Our relations with Russia - and, especially, the former Soviet Union - have been and still are burdened with the Winter War 1939-1940 and the Continuation War 1941-1944, where we ran the risk of being swallowed by Stalin's troops. We remained independent, but we lost large parts of Carelia in eastern Finland, extremely rich copper mines in Petsamo (Lapland), some strategically important isles and, of course, tens of thousands of lives.

The Winter War was preceded by a civil war by only two decades. We cherish the idea that an outer threat coming from the Soviet Union helped to unify the divided population and healed the wounds caused by the civil war. Anyway, our short history as a nation is filled with traumatic events, losses, and bloodshed. We have learned to swallow our tears and to show a more or less serene facade. In terms of attachment theory, most Finns of the older generation would probably be classified as “avoidant”.

The Finnish word “sisu” is very dear for us. It is untranslatable, but it means approximately strength of will, determination, and perseverance.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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