Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Shadows of Recession

The latest issue of Hiidenkivi, the cultural magazine published in Helsinki by SKS, the Finnish Literature Society, is focused on the theme of "The Long Shadows of Recession", with a look in words and pictures at three periods of economic crisis in Finland: the early 1930s, the early 1990s and the late 2000s. Articles examine social attitudes to unemployment and poverty through the decades, and there's also a survey of Depression and wartime cookbooks, and a sobering photograph of a Helsinki leipäjono (literally "breadline") or soup kitchen in 2006. Jouni Jäppinen contributes an interesting study of the tiny Baltic-Karelian island of  Tytärsaari, whose Finnish inhabitants traded with local Estonians from the 14th century onwards until the Second  World War, when the island was lost to the USSR (it's still in Leningrad Oblast). And Taru Kolehmainen ponders the history of the Finnish Literature Society's language committee, which was founded in 1928 and modelled to some extent on Germany's Der Allgemeine Deutsche Sprachverein, which in the Nazi period attempted to rid the German language of foreign - particularly French - loanwords. It's somewhat eerie and even rather disturbing to note some details of the Sprachverein's experiments, such as its aspiration to replace the names of the months of the year with "Germanic" equivalents like Herbstmond (September) and Julmond (December) - for some of these creations seem to have been borrowed from equivalent formations in Finnish (syyskuu, joulukuu). In Finland, the struggle was against Swedish influence, however, and probably represented a natural historical development more or less untainted by ideology.


Lev said...

This article about recession in Finland isn't available in English, is it? Thank you (once again!) for these illuminations of Finnish culture.

David McDuff said...

Unfortunately there's no English version of the articles (there are several). Hiidenkivi only appears in Finnish. In general, the magazine gives a much less "official" view of Finland than publications like Books from Finland, and tends to explore forgotten and/or controversial aspects of Finnish history and society - particularly in relation to subjects like Karelia, the 1930s and World War 2 and its aftermath.