Finns Don’t Wish ‘Finlandization’ on Ukraine (or Anyone)

In the Helsinki Central Library Oodi, where students edited film clips on free computers, women embroidered jackets with sewing machines, and hipsters socialized at cafes, Matti Hjerppe, 69, looked across the snowy field at the Parliament building, and said the return of the word Finlandization “makes me laugh.”

“It keeps coming up,” he said. “The same things always happen,” referring to Russia’s impulse to extend its influence in the lands along its borders.

In fact, the term, originally coined in the 1960s by the Germans (Finnlandisierung), last surfaced in 2014, during the Russian invasion of Crimea, when old Cold Warriors proposed it as a possible solution then, too. (“They should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland,” Henry Kissinger wrote in the Washington Post, while Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote “the Finnish model is ideal for Ukraine.”)

But Finns said that model rewarded politicians who did Russia’s bidding, ostracized those who balked at Russian influence, and introduced a crop of Soviet secret operatives in the country who worked closely with the Finnish elite.

Mr. Hjerppe, a retired librarian, said the term also made him ‘‘a little bit afraid,” explaining how during the Cold War, self-censorship extended from the corridors of power to the family living room.

As a young man, Mr. Hjerppe recalled, he harbored negative feelings toward Russia but kept them to himself. Many young people may have preferred English classes over Russian, and American jeans over the Soviet standard-issue, but overt criticism of Russia, while not illegal, was taboo.

Only in the 1960s during the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia Republic, where his family vacationed and he attended a summer camp, did Mr. Hjerppe realize that his father — visibly worried, though he was a Communist minister in the Finnish government — shared similar feelings. “I realized my parents didn’t like the Soviet Union,” he said.