Finland’s leading daily newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, published an online poll last week, asking readers to suggest and vote on derogatory nicknames for Estonians.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves tweeted “I am speechless” on Saturday, as other prominent Estonians and Finns expressed their dismay with the controversial poll. Helsingin Sanomat removed the poll over the weekend acknowledging that some of “the selected names represented bad taste.”
I am speechless. http://t.co/PA9IDrjXzZ
— toomas hendrik ilves (@IlvesToomas) April 4, 2015
Finnish media has been used to brew discontent among the Finno-Ugric Baltic Sea neighbours before.
In February, the Finnish national broadcaster’s Estonia bureau chief, Risto Vuorinen was identified as promoting a derogatory article published by an anti-Estonian Finnish language blog, Todellinen Tallinna. The piece accuses Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonian Ambassador to Finland, Margus Laidre and former Presidential advisor, Iivi Anna Masso of being CIA agents. In an earlier piece for YLE the writer, Risto Vuorinen, produced a radio piece which stated that Estonian school children were so poor that they were forced to eat leaves off of trees in order to survive.
The viciously anti-Estonian Finnish blog, Todellinen Tallinna, is ostensibly edited by a Finnish writer named Sami Lotila, whose work is primarily aimed at degrading Estonians in both the Finnish and Estonian media. In a 2010 piece for an Estonian daily, Lotila claims that Estonia is a “paradise for parasites” and that the country is full of “idiots” who “like in the first period of independence, voluntarily joined the Soviet Union.”
The roots of the Finnish anti-Estonian campaign can be traced back to 2008, when controversial University of Helsinki part-time teacher and writer, Johan Bäckman, published a series of books and articles, denying the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states including the mass deportations of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to Soviet Gulags. Many Finnish and Estonian commentators have suggested that the publication of the books was financed by Kremlin proxies.
The Helsingin Sanomat piece is the latest in a string of Finnish controversies that have caused some awkward challenges for the Finnish-Estonian relationship over the past year.