Last year, writer Sofi Oksanen opened her talk at the PEN World Voices Festival with “I bring greetings from the bordering countries to Russia.” Her topic was the ever-present threat Russia poses to her country.
Welcome to the nerve-wracking reality of being Finland. To a casual visitor, it seems like yet another Western European country, a placid paradise with its abundance of bicycles, its obsession with its own mid-twentieth-century design, and stores that close punctually at six in the evening. The Finns feel otherwise. When they go to neighboring Sweden, they say they are “going to Europe.” As it happens, neither country is a member of NATO, but only Finland has a long land border with Russia—and a living memory of having been invaded by the Soviet Union.