A Tale of Two Unions

I don’t feel the same way about the EU referendum as I did about the Scottish independence referendum. I shall vote to remain in the EU. But, whereas I would have been heart-broken had Scotland decided to break up the United Kingdom on 18 September 2014, the prospect of leaving the European Union does not […]



Yle, Liettua, Venäjä ja kritiikin puute

Yle haastatteli Liettuan presidentti Dalia Grybauskaitesn. Tuloksena on laaja kirjoitus. Artikkelin sävy on varsin positiivinen. Presidentti Grybauskaite on “peloton”, tai, aikaisemman otsikon mukaan, “nainen, joka työntää Venäjää pois Baltiasta”. Tämä oli sen takia, että viime vuonna maa otti vastaan kelluvan LNG-terminaalin, jonka avulla Liettua pystyy ostamaan kaasua mistä tahansa, ei pelkkä Venäjältä.

Ylen toimittaja Marjo Näkki olisi voinut kirjoittaa hieman kriittisemmin. Jutun mukaan Grybauskaiten “isä oli autonkuljettaja ja sähkömies”. Ei ole mitään mainintaa siitä, että isä, Polikarpas Grybauskas, työskenteli näiden asiakirjojen mukaan NKVD:n palveluksessa. Tämä oli minun mielestäni yleisessä tiedossa.

Grybauskaiten työnuran alkuvaiheita kuvataan hyvin yksityiskohtaisesti, mm. miltä hän vaikutti tehdastöissä Leningradissa. Miksi ei mainita siitä, että Grybauskaite oli Kommunistisen puolueen jäsen ja myös opetti puoluekoulussa Liettuassa 1980-luvulla?

En epäile, että Liettuan presidentti haluaa eroon Venäjän kaasusta, enkä myös kiista, että idea on hyvin järkevä. Maan ei pidä riippua yhdestä energialähteestä. Mutta samaan aikaan Yleisradion ei täydy tarjota meille, Yleisradioveron maksaville, yksinkertaisia satuja pelottomasta Baltian rautarouvasta joka “työntää Venäjää pois Baltiasta”, varsinkin silloin, kun ko. rautarouva on tehnyt uransa Neuvostoliiton voimarakenteiden ansiosta – ainakin rakentavalta osalta.

Venäjä-keskustelu on Suomessa hyvin hankala. Osalla väestöstä on jo paljon ennakkoluuloja. Baltialla on selkeä rooli tässä keskustelussa, joten toivon, että jatkossa Ylen toimittajat voisivat soveltaa myös sieltä tuleviin reportaaseihin yleiset journalismin pelisäännöt, mm. kritiikin käyttö.

“I do not like” (“Я не люблю”), Vladimir Vysotsky

A collaborative translation.

lingua fennica


A collaboration with Ian Mac Eochagáin. We paid especial attention to accuracy, scansion and register.

Vysotsky was a hugely popular actor, singer-songwriter and poet, especially famed for the gravelly quality of his voice. He died during the 1980 Moscow Olympics. An enormous crowd gathered on Tagan’skaya Square, which uncomfortably placed the spotlight on the regime when the world was watching.

Here is Vysotsky singing this song.

I do not like unhappy mortal ending,
I’m not the sort who weary grows of life.
The seasons with each other all are blending
Unless guitar is playing merry strife

I do not like cold cynical beholder,
I don’t believe in idle rapture too,
I hate it when a person over shoulder
Stands reading letters meant for only you.

I do not like unfinished conversations,
Or when a person interrupts my flow.
A shot in back is cause of reservations,
And bullets in…

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lingua fennica


The leap has stalled.
The chapel now
a cultural centre,
hipster-staffed and closed.
The streets are drab,
the women hijab-clad,
ignorant of the one who lies within.
Leaf-strewn claggy soil
holds him coldly –
a secular embrace
stifles passionate call
to leap into the unknown.
The unknowing leapers now
strafe cafés and bat mitzvahs.
And we don’t understand.

Rupert Moreton

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Op-ed: The world is unfair to Russia

A rare example of the perspective that international reporting on Russia is unjust appeared in Sunday’s Helsingin Sanomat. The writer makes the point that China has not paid any diplomatic or economic price for its stance on human rights and the rule of law – most glaringly exemplified in Tienanmen Square, 1989. Nor, similarly, has the US suffered, in terms of strength of diplomatic connections, from its illegal war in Iraq. Russia has looked at the other big states and thought that it could do what it liked because it was also big, the writer surmises. Original op-ed by Pekka Mykkänen in Finnish here.

Points that are admittedly not the hardest to make, but for me personally this column was a great cause for joy. This is because the Finnish press in general, and HS par excellence, is dominated by coverage and analysis of Russia which is simplistic and appeals to base Finnish fears of the Big Bad Eastern Neighbour. Note Monday morning’s headline in HS (at least online – my just-arrived print copy has a different one!): “Russia-aided protests feared in Moldova elections” (Pekka Hakala and Sami Kero). Whenever Russia is reported, the word “fear” is often mentioned.

Sunday’s paper also carried an article (“The Winter War is distant for Russian youths”, Anneli Ahonen) on the teaching of the history of the Soviet-Finnish War (or, to the Finns, the Winter War (Talvisota) and Continuation War (Jatkosota)), which began exactly 75 years ago yesterday. One caption caught my eye: “Upper secondary-school student Liza Isupova, 17, knows that Finland was not part of the USSR.” This is a frankly maddening example of the lazy insinuating journalism I wish HS would just stop. I don’t know about Liza personally, but most St Petersburgers have visited Finland and know the basic facts of its recent history. To write a caption like that is to create in the reader’s mind the doubt that Russians just might be so spectacularly ignorant as to think Finland was a Soviet state. I can’t be sure this was the writer’s intention, but as a personal impression, that should set off alarm bells in a sub-editor’s head when reading it – unless, of course, that’s the intended effect.

Leviathan: A twisted homage to Putin’s Russia

Sinéad Walsh is a master of prose in film reviews, too!

Gender, Peace and Protest

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan is being billed by cinemas as the tale of a provincial car mechanic who takes on a corrupt mayor to save his family home. Critics have called the film a “a beautiful, bleak satire for Putin’s must-see list” (Independent), “a savagely powerful portrait of Putin’s Russia” (FT), and “a scathing indictment of Russia under Putin” (NYT Arts Beat). Multiple reviews in TheGuardian suggest that this “Putin-bashing film” has somehow “slipped under the authorities’ totalitarian radar”.

Reading some of the reviews, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the film was inspired by the biblical tale of David and Goliath – not the Book of Job. Here is the thing you need to know about Leviathan: it doesn’t end happily. Yes, critics will get excited about the oblique references to Putin and to Pussy Riot. However, the film that I saw…

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Ending the tragifarce of Ireland’s anti-abortion legislation

“Through its insistence that women are incapable of deciding what’s best for themselves, through its refusal to trust to women’s “instincts” about their own physical and mental capabilities, the state forces women into an abject position, denying them control over their own bodies, in some cases driving them to suicidality. In other words, the law is not an impartial arbiter. The law turns out to be the instigator of the very circumstances it then claims to regulate.”

Gender, Peace and Protest

The latest fiasco in the long-running saga of Ireland’s denial of abortion rights to women is tragic for regrettably obvious reasons. This time, the main protagonist is a teenage asylum seeker, pregnant as a result of rape, and with uncertain immigration status, who became suicidal, went on hunger strike and was forcibly rehydrated before finally being compelled to undergo a Caesarean section at 23-25 weeks gestation. Her compounded social vulnerabilities prevented her from doing what thousands of other women in Ireland do every year – take a plane to the UK in order to receive the medical attention she required.

But if you step away from the horror and tragedy of it, this story is also farcical, because Ireland has, again and again and again, been called to liberalise its abortion legislation, and again and again and again, Ireland has repeated that it has the best interests of both mother…

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