This is the first in a series of articles featuring independent nations of a similar size to Scotland.
The 6th December is a national public holiday, and a flag flying day to celebrate Finland’s declaration of independence from the Russian Empire when the Finns took over the running of their own country in late 1917 and the Finns left the Russian Empire.
Finland is a prosperous country whose population of 5,561,134 people is not that dissimilar in size from Scotland but Finland is independent and a member of the European Community, the United Nations and a variety of other key country groupings across the globe.
Finns celebrate their independence day with a range of traditions and emotions and Independence Day is the combination of solemnity and enjoyment. For example, on the serious side, you have patriotic speeches, visits to cemeteries, tributes at war memorials and special church services. Wearing their traditional white caps and carrying torches, students in Helsinki start at Hietaniemi Cemetery and walk to Senate Square, where they listen to speeches and music. The President awards medals and decorations to several thousand Finnish people for outstanding achievements.
On a lighter note, people use their national flag’s colours of a blue cross on a white background (featured above) and place blue and white candles in their windows. Bakeries sell blue and white pastries, shops are adorned with blue and white decorations and there are blue and white flags on display everywhere. On TV, you can hear patriotic music, listen to lively discussions and watch the legendary film The Unknown Soldier (the vintage version), an emotional story based on Väinö Linna’s eponymous novel about the Second World War. More important than anything though is that everyone’s in a good mood!
As an aside, one might wonder why the Vikings never invaded and/or settled in Finland in the same way as they did in many other parts of Scandinavia? Well, although the thought of heroic early Finns defending their country against a Viking invasion is a pleasant and/or interesting one, the real reason is more likely to be the fact that Finland at the time was too poor and too cold to interest the Vikings enough to take Finland over. Furs were abundant in Finland, but otherwise the area offered little in the way of natural resources and/or booty to entice the Vikings.
Today it is quite different and Finnish companies such as Nokia (mobile phone technology), Marimekko (fashion company) and many others are well known and respected worldwide. All of the above, and more, has made for a prosperous and forward looking country which fills Finns with pride.