And yet it is almost never mentioned that a not
terribly dissimilar frontier exists within Europe: the
833 mile border between Finland (which has a higher per
capita income than
Britain) and corrupt and dysfunctional Russia—the
Mexico of Europe.
While America`s per capita GDP is 4.1 times Mexico`s,
Finland`s is 2.7 times Russia`s. So the difference is
Even though Finland has the kind of
Nordic welfare state that attracts immigrants (for
12 percent of neighboring
Sweden`s population is
foreign-born), it still has one of the lowest
percentages of immigrants of any Western European
two percent of its 5.2 million residents.
And a substantial fraction of Finland`s immigrants
consist of spouses of Finns, Finnish-speaking citizens
of Russia (there are pockets of Finnish-speakers
throughout the forests of northern Russia), Estonians,
Uralic language is closest to Finnish, and
Swedes (Swedish is the second official language).
Third World immigrants make up less than one percent
of the population.
This hasn`t exactly hurt Finland. The
World Economic Forum`s poll of 11,000 global
business leaders ranks Finland as possessing the
second-most competitive economy in the world. (The U.S.
In 2005, the
Washington Post sent two reporters to Finland
for several weeks to find out why Finland has "the
world`s best educational system, produces such talented
musicians and architects, and has more
cell phones per capita than
Sitting here in my pajamas in California, I could have saved
the Washington Post all the expense. The most
important reason why Finland is so Finlandy is
because it is full of Finns.
CIA World Factbook, the population is 93.4 percent
Finnish. The biggest minority group at 5.7 percent is
… Swedes. Then come Russians at 0.4 percent and
Estonians at 0.2 percent. Roma (Gypsies) make up 0.2
percent and the Sami (Laplanders) are 0.1 percent.
Finland maintains its borders and thus it can maintain a
governmental and social system well suited to its unique
Finns appear to be an interesting
hybrid of Europeans and North Central Eurasians.
Their Uralic language is believed to have originated in
the Northern Ural Mountains dividing Europe from
Siberia. Above 60 degrees latitude, the world is
considerably less distant around than at lower
latitudes, so there has been more intermingling of
Europeans and Asians. (The reindeer-herding Lapps of
Finland`s far north are even more Asian.)
their origins in the prehistoric past, however, the
Finns became quite homogenous over the centuries they
spent as poor farmers and fishermen. They`ve developed a
distinctive national personality: tough nerds.
Paavo Nurmi, the "Flying Finn" who won nine
Olympic gold medals in 1920-1928. His scientific
approach to training and running (he always raced with a
stopwatch in his hand) revolutionized distance running.
side of Finland has become more visible in recent years.
Linus Torvalds created the
Linux computer operating system that`s challenging
Microsoft Windows. Finland`s
Nokia sold $53 billion dollars worth of cell phones
last year. (One Finnish idiosyncrasy is that traffic
fines are proportional to income, so a Nokia director
was handed a
$103,600 speeding ticket in 2002.)
toughest nerd of them all was
Simo Häyhä, the greatest sniper ever. The terrified
soldiers of the invading Red Army called him
"the White Death" because he shot 505 Soviet
troops during 100 days of the 1939-1940 Winter War, or
almost one per hour of daylight. Häyhä personally killed
more enemy soldiers than Saddam`s entire Iraqi Army did
during the 1991 Gulf War.
just want to be left alone. That they escaped (although
only barely) the crushing embrace of the Russian bear
without getting too close to the German wolf is one of
happier stories of the 20th Century.
almost nobody in America knows his name, Baron Carl
Mannerheim was one of the great
heroes of the first half of the last century, a
patriot who did as much good for his county as any man.
George Washington of Finland came from its
Swedish-speaking elite that had long been the most
sophisticated element in a rural culture. Mannerheim was
a general in the Imperial Russian army during WWI
(Russia had ruled Finland since obtaining it from Sweden
If there had
been more Finns in the Russian high command in Petrograd
in 1917, the world might have been spared
75 years of Communism. Mannerheim pointed out to his
fellow generals that there were more Imperial officers
than revolutionaries in the capital city, so all they
had to do to end the uprising was send their lieutenants
to shoot them. But, the other Imperial generals had
fallen into a characteristically Russian funk of despair
and did nothing.
Mannerheim went home and helped pull Finland out of
Russia before it descended into the maw of madness. He
won the nasty but short Finnish civil war against the
Finnish Reds. He avoided getting too friendly with the
Germans, which helped Finland`s independence be
confirmed by the victors at the Versailles conference.
He then lost Finland`s Presidential election and retired
to running charities.
was recalled to military command, and electrified the
world by his defeat of the first Soviet attack in late
1939, before being overwhelmed by weight of numbers and
having to give up a modest amount of territory in 1940.
Stalin`s ultimate victory in 1945, the Finns, having
given the Soviets all they could handle, escaped the
fate of other
Eastern European countries. Finland`s foreign policy
was Finlandized—forced into a neutrality leaning toward
the Soviet Union. But the Soviets left Finland`s
internal affairs alone. So Finland pursued capitalism,
democracy, and the welfare state, turning itself first
into an industrial power, then into a high-tech one.
So how does Finland do what supposedly can`t be done—keep
out unwanted immigrants?
Answer: the Finns simply make the effort required.
Finland is a well-ordered country. The Finns believe
that having a well-ordered immigration system is crucial
to keeping it that way. Therefore the Finns diligently
execute the basic blocking and tackling of immigration
It`s very hard to get a job, an apartment, or welfare
benefits without a valid ID showing you have the legal
right to be in Finland. The frontier continues to be
guarded seriously (although border-crossers don`t have
the White Death to worry about—he died peacefully in
2002 at age 96!)
Of course, with mass immigration having proven a
disaster elsewhere on the continent, the rest of Europe
is trying to bully Finland into making the same mistake
they have all made.
In the sacred name of diversity, every country must
become alike …
As the great Russian Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in
Nobel Prize lecture:
"… the disappearance of
nations would have impoverished us no less than if all
men had become alike, with one personality and one face.
Nations are the wealth of mankind, its collective
personalities; the very least of them wears its own
special colours and bears within itself a special facet
of divine intention."
But Finland apparently does not intend to