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The New York Times, July 11, 1880, p.5:|
IN NORTHERN LATITUDES......THE OLD FINNISH CAPITAL—NATIONAL PECULIARITIES—
A MOSQUITO'S EXPERIENCE.
...Onward, ever onward, past jagged rocks and bushy hillsides, and wide reaches of sunlit sand; past Viborg [Vyborg, now in Russia], with its trim little harbor and stern old castle, which scowls at the passing steamer like barbarism watching the advance of civilization; past Frederickshamn [Hamina, Fredrikshamn], one of those quaint little wooden towns with a big green church dome in the middle, which meet one at every turn of the Finnish coast from Lachta to Haparanda; past endless clusters of rocky islets, some wooded almost to the water's edge, others bare and craggy as Sinai itself.
Upon the monotonous smoothness of this waveless sea, with this warm, dreamy, cloudless sky overhead, it is hard to realize that we are actually in 60° north latitude, in the region of darkness and storm. After a day or two of such dog-trot voyaging, one really begins to sympathize with the English sailor who, returning to England in the thick of a Channel fog after a twelve months cruise in the Mediterranean, rubbed his sinewy hands and growled ecstatically, "Ah, this is what I calls weather; none of your cursed blue skies here!"
And so, in all the scorching splendor of a magnificent June morning, we glide into the long, straggling, battery-guarded inlet, behind which lies Helsingfors [Helsinki], the political and commercial centre of Finland.
Little trade now remains in the trim and well-built city of its tragic experience on that grim Autumn night in 1854 when these clustering houses and spacious dock-yards were all one red, roaring blaze, under which every point and rock along the shore stood out with ghastly vividness, while the bursting of shells and the crash of falling buildings answered the boom of English cannon from the outer darkness.
But if Helsingfors itself bears few scars of conflict, there are plenty to be seen upon the surrounding islands. At every turn we pass the crumbling ruins of some fort, shattered by the guns of [Admiral Charles John] Napier's squadron, at sight of which the Russian officers on our quarter-deck shrug their shoulders meaningly, and puff at their cigarettes with redoubled vigor.
The broken and hilly outline of the country, the names of the streets, written in Finnish and Swedish as well as in Russ, the mingling of tall, fresh-colored Swedes, sallow, beetle-browed Russians, and heavy, big-boned men from the Baltic Provinces, with the squat, gnome-like Finns, whose round puffy faces and thick yellow hair suggest an over-boiled apple-dumpling, are of themselves sufficient to show into what new region we have penetrated.
The city itself, however, is simply the Russian provincial town over again in all its details. A huge white church, surmounted by staring green cupolas like unripe pears set on end; a butter-colored town-hall, stuck all over with pillars, flanking a vast desolate square; a disorderly patch of thicket, transformed by the magic prescence of two or three benches into a "public garden," and inclosing a dirty beer-colored pond, politely called an "artificial lake;" several straight, wide, dusty streets, almost as flat and empty as a fashionable novel; a few minor churches of glaring red brick, roofed with tarred planking, the whole suggesting an allegorical representation of the scarlet-fever overhung by the shadow of death—such is the capital of Finland.
About 2:30 on the second morning of our voyage—if, indeed, there be any morning in this region of eternal daylight—we anchor off a quaint little Finnish town, perched on the end of a long, low, thickly-wooded promontory, which curves outward into the smooth, bright sea like the blade of a scythe. A quieter, drowsier, more peaceful little nook could hardly be found in the northern seas, yet it has had fame enough in its day, though of a kind few would envy.
On this very spot, 26 years ago, an English boat's crew, landing under a flag of truce from Admiral Napier's squadron, were shot down in cold blood by the express command of a Russian officer. That one act of cowardice has made the name of Hangs Head a byword throughout the civilized world, and nowhere more fully so than among the brave men who so staunchly upheld the honor of the Russian flag at Sebastopol.
Last of all the Finnish ports comes Abo [Turku], (pronounced Obo,) the approach to which is really magnificent. The huge gray mass of the citadel, planted on the bold ridge, where, 800 years ago, the first Swedish settlers palisaded their block-house in the teeth of skin-clad savages; the craggy headlands, green with waving woods; the smooth inlets, glittering in the midday sun; the great round rocks, rising lazily through the clear water like slumbering leviathans; the quaint old church, in whose shadowy nave lies the bones of forgotten Kings, and, far up the creek, the red-roofed houses of the city clustering along the grassy hillside like a poppy-field, mingled with green leaves and gray rocks.
The town itself, however, is a dreary sight. Even the jaunty trimness of the waterside boulevards, flanked by the showy four-storied mansions of hewn stone, cannot relieve its overwhelming desolation. Huge wide streets with nothing in them, a few dingy shops without a sign of life, two or three casual wayfarers flitting by like spectres, a vast untenanted market-place; such is Abo since the destroying fire of 1829 and the growth of its great rival, Helsingfors, sucked away its life.
One might almost fancy the spirit of ancient Finland hovering unseen above the desolate old town, to catch the sound of the familiar Swedish tongue still spoken in West Finland, unchanged after 71 years of Russian domination. Aged men still linger here who can remember how they once paid homage to the King of Sweden instead of the Czar, and the heart of the nation is still with her ancient rulers, though the fortune of war has parted her from them forever. Among such a race naturalization advances slowly, and the indulgent policy lately adopted by the Russian Government toward the Finns is far more prudent than its former attempts to Russianize them and to extirpate their ancient language.
With many of the virtues of barbarism, they have not a few of its vices. They are undeniably honest, industrious, and intensely susceptible of kindness, but their vindictive and ungovernable temper make them extremely difficult to deal with.
A St. Petersburg friend lately observed to me, an allusion to having changed his servant, "Yes, I had to do it; I had rather be robbed by a Russian than bullied by a Finn." Only the other day a Finnish trader, being struck by a Russian officer, returned the blow with such energy as to fell his opponent senseless to the ground.
The rude native tradition which contrasts the fierce and stubborn Finn with the easy, phlegmatic German is certainly no exaggeration:
A fly once met a mosquito by the wayside, and asked him what he was waiting for.|
'To find a man to feast on,' replied he.
'Well, here comes a German; have at him!'
The mosquito did so, but soon returned, saying indignantly, 'It's no use biting that hog; his blood is just like treacle, and won't flow at all!'
Just then a Finn passed, and the mosquito sallied forth again, but came flying back the next moment in a very confused way.
'Well, what luck?' asked the fly.
'May the saints destroy that hound,' gasped the other; 'his blood's so quick and fiery that one drop has made me drunk!'
[unsigned, but clearly written by DAVID KER.]
The first part of the above article, which deals with Stockholm, can be found on the Sweden News page
The New York Times, May 23, 1921:|
LITTLE FINLAND A MODEL COUNTRY
Is Markedly and Progressively Western
With Few Illiterates Within Her Borders.
PULSING WITH ENTERPRISE
Helsingfors, the Capital, Is Found Cleaner
Than Any American City of Its Size.
RED REFUGEES A PROBLEM
7,000 Interned Rebels Who Fled
From Kronstadt Fortress Perplex the Government.
By John H. Finley
Special Correspondence of The New York Times
HELSINGFORS [Helsinki], Finland, May 3.—It is only a little river that separates Russia from Western Europe for a short stretch of the way north of Petrograd [St. Petersburg].
For the rest of the way, to the frigid sea at the north, the boundary line passes straight through a great lake, fords the head waters of innumerable little streams and then tortuously penetrates forests, as if following the path of a woodsman, who going around insuperable obstacles, comes back always to the direction of his goal; for the boundary line finally reaches the sight of the northern sea on the very meridian of longitude with which it travels for a mile or two in company with this slender half Russian and half Finnish river, whose name, the Siestarjoke [Sestra River, Rajajoki, Siestarjoki, Systerbäck], means the "Sister Little River," fourteen miles out of Petrograd.
...Doubtless many on either side of the border do not know that the Czar's head no longer rests uneasily beneath a crown.
Russia, like a certain order of creatures, seems to multiply or procreate politically by fission. The political progeny has, however, not developed according to type. This is true of the Baltic States, of which I have written in an earlier dispatch. It is markedly true of Finland, which is more like a northwestern section of America than it is like a northwestern section of Russia, as Finland was politically and geographically until 1918. At any rate, I can say that Finland is far more like a part of America than is any other State I have seen in Europe; and it seems much less like what I assume Russia to be, from all what I have seen and heard from across the border...
see also: Norway News - Sweden News - Denmark News - Russia News|
All of Finland is at Eastern European time, GMT+2, with DST from late Mar to late Oct.
Finland was a province and then a grand duchy under Sweden from the 12th to the 19th centuries and an autonomous grand duchy of Russia after 1809. It won its complete independence in 1917.
During World War II, it was able to successfully defend its freedom and resist invasions by the Soviet Union - albeit with some loss of territory.
In the subsequent half century, the Finns made a remarkable transformation from a farm/forest economy to a diversified modern industrial economy; per capita income is now on par with Western Europe. As a member of the European Union, Finland was the only Nordic state to join the euro system at its initiation in January 1999.
In the 21st century, the key features of Finland's modern welfare state are a high standard of education, equality promotion, and national social security system; currently challenged by an aging population and the fluctuations of an export-driven economy.
CIA World Factbook: Finland
Area of Finland:
338,145 sq km
slightly smaller than Montana
Population of Finland:
July 2010 estimate
Languages of Finland:
Finnish 93.4%, Swedish 5.9% both official
Sami, Russian small minorities
Free Books on Finland (.pdfs)
Finland and the Finns Reade 1919
Finland, the Land of a Thousand Lakes Young 1912
Finland as it Is Windt 1910
Finland and the Tsars, 1809-1899 Fisher 1899
Through Finland in Carts Alec-Tweedie 1898
The land of the midnight sun v1 Du Chaillu 1882
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