Heikki Ylikangas: Challenges Finnish national mythology

Historians in the News

This is not a man who is afraid of being right - or of being alone.

Last Tuesday, Heikki Ylikangas published the book Romahtaako rintama? ("Is the Front Collapsing?") whose basic thesis is that the Finns executed more of their own soldiers for desertion during the final phases of the continuation War than had been previously disclosed.

His book is not even the first time that Professor Ylikangas has caused a stir. Usually it follows the same pattern.

"People in Finland have imagined that even in a bad crisis, things have been dealt with at an ethically high level, as if the law were being followed. The more these things have been studied, the more frequently we have come to the conclusion that the actions taken in Finland have been the same as elsewhere, and that the difference is in our imagination, and not in reality", Ylikangas says.

Ylikangas's home in Kruunuhaka in the centre of Helsinki looks like one might imagine how the home of an academic of the old school would look. Chandeliers, rococo-style furniture, and no need to remove one's outdoor shoes when stepping into the salon.

In the hall Ylikangas proudly shows a chest, asking me to guess when it might have ben made. I venture that it was from the late 19th century.

"It is from 1695", is the right answer.

The chest, which is now full of firewood, has been passed on for centuries in the Ostrobothnian family. Although Ylikangas has lived in Helsinki for five decades, his 20 years in South Ostrobothnia have left their mark. His speech still sounds Ostrobothnian.

"My attitude toward the military and toward military action is perhaps not as powerfully positive as is typical over there. A strong local patriotic mentality is more alien to me."...
Read entire article at Helsingin Sanomat

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