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Loldiers of Odin, a group of activists dressed as clowns to parody the far-right vigilante patrol Soldiers of Odin, pranced around the streets of Tampere on 16 January 2016.
Loldiers of Odin, a group of activists dressed as clowns to parody the far-right vigilante patrol Soldiers of Odin, pranced around the streets of Tampere on 16 January 2016.

 

Most Finns expect extremist groups to gain or at least not lose influence in Finland, finds a survey commissioned by Alma Media.

Almost a half (46%) of respondents to the survey predicted that extremist groups will gain influence and 40 per cent that extremist groups will remain as influential as today in the near future. Only six per cent of respondents contrastively viewed that extremist groups will lose influence in the coming years, according to the media company.

Alma Media highlights that the responses vary noticeably based on the place of residence, but not so much based on the age, gender or income class of respondents. For example, the share of respondents who expected extremist groups to gain power stood at 51 per cent in Savo Karelia but only at 38 per cent in Greater Helsinki.

Tommi Kotonen, a researcher of far-right extremism at the University of Jyväskylä, says he is surprised at the large share of respondents who expect extremist groups to reinforce their position in Finland.

He estimates that the views probably reflect the recent media coverage of extremism but points out that far-right activity, for example, has actually decreased in recent years.

“Forty-six per cent is a relatively high number. Far-right activity, for example, has in reality decreased in recent years. There are currently no spontaneous, demonstrative far-right groups in Finland, even though that may be the impression of the public,” explains Kotonen.

The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) has stated that extremist groups in the country can typically be divided into three sub-categories: far-right groups, far-left groups and radical single-issue groups such as animal rights groups. It has also estimated that a few hundred people are involved in domestic extremism and that their activities are mostly limited to demonstrations.

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Another recent survey by Alma Media found that a quarter of the public believe immigration poses a threat to the future of Finland.

Kotonen estimates that such views may correlate with the tendency to predict that extremist groups will gain power in the near future. The latest wave of far-right activity, he reminds, was closely associated with immigration and the migrant crisis witnessed in the second half of 2015.

“There were major changes in the number of immigrants arriving in Finland, which was one of the factors contributing to the mobilisation. I personally believe the position of extremist groups will stay unchanged barring any great changes in immigration or the unemployment situation,” he elaborates.

Far-right groups have previously reared their heads during the depression of the 1990s, for example.

Kotonen also tells that far-left activism tends to be associated with less organised networks rather than clear-cut organisations.

“A large share of far-left activity is antifascist activity. Far-right and far-left activities typically reflect one another: if far-right activity increases, far-left activity will usually rise to oppose [the far-right],” he explains.

The survey was conducted between 18 May and 4 June by Tietoykkönen. 

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Handout / Loldiers of Odin
Source: Uusi Suomi

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