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.