FINLAND MADE GLOBAL HEADLINES THIS WEEK following the release of a report from the National Archives that concluded it was “highly likely” that Finnish volunteers participated in the large-scale killing of Jews during the Holocaust. National newspapers and public figures in the US, UK, and Israel commented on the revelations that Finnish volunteers working for the Nazi SS participated in mass murder, while praising the decision of the National Archives to publish the findings.
A senior Holocaust historian at Israel’s Simon Wiesenthal Centre called the decision “an example of unique and exemplary civic courage” at a time when other European countries are actively engaging in revisionism and denial.
In other news, outlets have been paying close attention to Finland’s press freedom laws this week. A regional court in Finland recently handed down sentences to individuals charged with the online harassment of journalists, a world first that activists hope will set a positive precedent in the future.
Extensive coverage was also afforded to Finland’s annual “lawnmower race” in Lavia, also known as the “Lawnmower Le Mans”. The New York Times also ran an extensive piece on Finland’s domination within American Hockey Leagues, while a popular technology magazine ran a long read detailing Finland’s ambitions to become an “AI powerhouse”.
‘Very likely’ Finnish volunteers helped kill Jews in World War II: report
An Israeli Holocaust historian praised authorities in Finland on Sunday for publishing a report that concluded Finnish volunteers serving with Nazi Germany’s Waffen-SS “very likely” took part in World War II atrocities, including the mass murder of Jews.
Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center lauded the determination of the National Archives of Finland to release the findings even if doing so was “painful and uncomfortable” for Finland.
Zuroff called the decision an “example of unique and exemplary civic courage.”
“It is very likely that they (Finnish volunteers) participated in the killing of Jews, other civilians and prisoners of war as part of the German SS troops,” said Jussi Nuorteva, director general of the National Archives.
A significant part of the study was based on diaries kept by 76 of the Finnish SS volunteers. Eight of the Finnish SS volunteers are still alive, Nuorteva said.
Finland was invaded by Moscow in November 1939. The fighting in what became known as the Finnish-Soviet Winter War lasted until March 1940, when an overwhelmed and outnumbered Finland agreed to a bitter peace treaty. The small Nordic country lost several territories but maintained its independence.
Finnish SS volunteers with the SS Wiking division operated on the eastern front until 1943, entering deep into Ukraine.
The leading Finnish military historians who undertook the study of the country’s wartime role wrote that the Finnish SS volunteers likely took part in killing Jews and other civilians, as well as witnessed atrocities committed by the Germans.
Original article was published in Time on 10/02/19 and can be found here.
Finland sets precedent in sentencing journalists’ harassers
Despite working in a country that routinely tops press freedom rankings, Finnish journalists increasingly face a new threat to press freedom: online harassment. And until recently in the country, harassment campaigns against journalists had largely gone unpunished.
The year 2018, however, saw a positive shift, with courts handing down convictions for abusive online attacks and campaigns against journalists. Observers say the decisions set a new precedent in Finland and could be an example for the rest of Europe.
The latest ruling came in October when a Finnish regional court convicted the instigators of an online harassment campaign against Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro of stalking, aggravated defamation and incitement to aggravated defamation following years of sustained attacks on Aro through various channels. Aro is known for her award-winning investigative reports on Russian online trolls.
The ruling was praised by the Finnish journalist community.
Original article was published in IFEX on 09/02/19 and can be found here.
Ready, set, mow! Lawnmower racing scares grass in Finland
New Straits Times
In a country like Finland, where the grass is covered in snow for months of the year, what do you do with your lawnmower? For some, the answer is to race it around a frozen lake – battling sleet, slush and icy fingers in a 12-hour test of endurance.
On a recent sleeting Feb day, 39 teams of lawnmower racing devotees – bearing names such as “Mowe for It” and “Pain in the Grass” – descended on the remote Finnish village of Lavia to compete in the “Lawnmower Le Mans.”
In the Nordic nation famed for making sporting competitions out of anything from air guitar to wife-carrying, to sitting naked on anthills, onlookers might be forgiven for thinking lawnmower racing is all a bit silly.
Not so, say the sport’s devotees, who point out that speeding around a track at up to 100kph on a souped-up grass cutter can take a heavy toll.
“In 2017 I came off in a sprint race,” Les Pantry, a British aircraft engineer who assembled a group of 18 teams to travel to Finland from the UK, told AFP.
“Unluckily I smashed eight ribs, broke a collarbone and broke my neck in two places – I’m out here again racing again,” Pantry said.
Original article was published in New Straits Times on 12/02/19 and can be found here.
In the NHL, Finland is now here, there, and everywhere
The New York Times
When the Winnipeg Jets play host to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, the meeting will be more than a showcase of the Central Division leader against the league’s top-scoring line. It will be a glimpse of a decade-long transformation of Finnish hockey.
Patrik Laine of Winnipeg, 20, and Mikko Rantanen of Colorado, 22, have spent much of their young N.H.L. careers among the league leaders in scoring, gaining a spotlight for a golden generation from Finland, one of the smallest, and most successful, hockey-playing nations.
“That age group in Finland, there must be something in the water or they’re feeding them the right things up there,” said the Winnipeg captain, Blake Wheeler.
Seven players from Finland, a country of 5.5 million, have been top 10 draft picks since 2013, and nearly all of them are playing significant roles on their N.H.L. teams.
“The Finnish player type used to be the very reliable, solid, two-way player who had a very successful career, maybe on lower lines,” said Rinne, who won the Vezina Trophy last season. “Now we have these individuals coming up with amazing skill, and I feel like there’s something to that exposure and kids being able to see, copy and try on their own.”
Original article was published in The New York Times on 13/02/19 and can be found here
Inside Finland’s plans to become an artificial intelligence powerhouse
Finland knows it doesn’t have the resources to compete with China or the United States for artificial intelligence supremacy, so it’s trying to outsmart them.
“People are comparing this to electricity – it touches every single sector of human life,” says Nokia chairman Risto Siilasmaa. From its foundations as a pulp mill 153 years ago, Nokia is now one of the companies helping to drive a very quiet, very Finnish AI revolution.
Last May, the small Scandinavian country announced the launch of Elements of AI, a first-of-its-kind online course that forms part of an ambitious plan to turn Finland into an AI powerhouse. To date, more than 130,000 people have completed the course. “It’s a pretty unique thing in Finland,” says Siilasmaa, who had an advisory role in the development of the online course. But it isn’t just Finns who are benefitting from the grand AI plan.
A few months after the course launched, developer Teemu Roos found himself chatting online to a Nigerian plumber who wanted to learn more about artificial intelligence. It was then that Roos, and his colleagues at the University of Helsinki who helped develop Elements of AI, knew their work could have a massive impact – not just in Finland, but across the world.
Original article was published in Wired on 15/02/19 and can be found here.
Adam Oliver Smith - HT (@adamoliversmith)
Image Credit: Lehtikuva