Finland is a hostage of its history

I gästkolumnen skriver Alexis Kouros, chefredaktör för Helsinki Times, om sin egen erfarenhet av krig och om Finlands roll i historien:

"I have been in a war and I want to share with you the two most important things I learned form it. One: Wars are unfortunate mistakes and primitive acts of violence. Two: There are no winners in any war.

Finland, as a young nation, has had its share of conflicts. While the people have been able to forgive and forget the brutal civil war to a great extent, memories of the two wars with Russia have been kept alive with painstaking effort.

When a few years ago Ilta-Sanomat published a special "Winter War" supplement, the whole first edition of the magazine was sold out in just a few days. Additional prints also sold out swiftly. The 68-page supplement, among other heroic tales of war, told the touching story of a seven-year-old girl who became the symbol of the child victims of the Winter War- 70 years ago! Later the newspaper published a second supplement about the "Continuation War" with similar success. Every year new books and reports are published about the two Finnish wars fought more than half a century ago. They all sell very well.

Listening to the radio on my way to work, I heard a broadcast about a project to erect a monument in memory of the Finnish Winter War against Russia. At first, I thought I was listening to one of those "This Day, 50 Years Ago" archival broadcasts, until I heard that the €1.7 m monument, to be placed in Kasarmintori, is to be inaugurated in 2015 and is protected by no less than former President Ahtisaari.

Why would a Nobel peace prize winner want to be the guardian angel of a war memorial? And why would Finland, in 2015, want to erect yet another monument in memory of a war fought 75 years ago? This is certainly one of the important dilemmas in Finland today; that of attitude and direction. The conflict between looking back and moving forward.

At a time when war monuments are being uprooted to museums and graveyards, we are erecting yet another one in a central square. Why can't we build a monument in celebration of the 75 years of peace and friendship that has existed between Russia and Finland? Why can't we celebrate the huge amount of benefit our neighbour is bringing us in the form of business co-operations and tourism.

Today, Russia is the main trade partner of Finland and every year record number of Russians visit Finland, spending millions of Euros in shopping and services. Yet according to a Russian documentary, the Finnish media is the most anti-Russian press in the world. All we hear about Russia is negative news. There is even a word for Russian (ryssä) is considered an insult in the Finnish language.

The ability to forget is probably more important to individuals and societies than the ability to remember. Fixation on the past is as disabling a disease as dementia.

In fact, fixation on the past is one of the main symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS); an ailment common in soldiers back from the battlefield. Seeing threats where there are non, is another symptom of this disease.

Getting rid of our pathological social disabilities is the key to a healthy future. El pacto de olvido (agreement to forget) was a fundamental cornerstone around which the democratic future of Spain after the civil war was built. What we need today is a global pacto de olvido. In fact many of the countries which fought against each other in the second world war, such as France, Italy, Germany and Britain, are now in excellent terms with each other.

The war I participated in, where my birth country Iran defended herself agianst the aggression of Saddam Husein's Iraq, lasted eight years. This is twice as long as the Second World War. Casualties were also plenty, up to a million people for each side. Today, just over 20 years later, the two countries and people are in excellent terms. People think of Saddam as the cause of the war, not the Iraqi nation. We can almost certainly agree, that it was also up to Stalin to start a war against Finland and the soldiers fighting it had probably no animosity against Finns per se.

Of course we must learn the lessons of war. Let me also make it clear that I respect and value the sacrifices given to keep Finland independent, but at the same time, fixation on events which happened more than 70 years ago, are harmful to that independence and blur our clear thinking today.

We had a fight with our neighbour more than 70 years ago, so what? Lets get over it!"