Revue d’Histoire Nordique, issue 15, and Michael J. Carley’s review of my work

I haven’t had time to present the issue 15 of the Revue d’Histoire Nordique, which came out at the beginning of the year. The theme of the issue is the beginning of World War I in the Baltic Area and Scandinavia.

The issue is a robust reminder of the way Scandinavia kept itself outside the war, but was nonetheless dragged into the European confrontation from the first years on. In English, Patrick Salmon’s contribution is particularly interesting.

This main theme is completed by articles on the Baltic through European eyes in the 19th century (Jean-Francois Berdah), on 19th century political debates in Norway (Kaj Ostberg), and on Paris seen through the eyes of Finnish writers (Kristina Ranki). The volume ends on an interview with a Finnish historian, professor Matti Klinge – or should I say “The” Finnish historian… Klinge has acquired such clout as to become the ideal-type of the History professor in Finland. A reputation entirely well-diserved, based on a body of work that speaks for itself.

Then one will find, like usually, book reviews and news, with a presentation of the website War Victims in Finland, 1914-1922.

Amongst the book-reviews is a review of my PhD work on French policy in the Nordic Countries and Finland circa 1917-1940. This is a bit incestuous, since I am one of the review’s editors. But as everybody involved in these matters will know, this kind of things are difficult to avoid, especially in such small circles as French specialists of Northern European History.

I would like to plug another review of my PhD, by Canadian professor Michael J. Carley. This is especially interesting because I have used Michael Carley’s work and found it immensely useful. Professor Carley, however, mostly deals in his review with my treatment of French policy towards the USSR as a background to Franco-Finnish relations. The debate thus gets pulled towards a subject on which he has exposed his views several times before: the rabid anticommunism of French elites blinded them to the danger of Nazi Germany and made them, first contemplate intervention against the newly born bolshevik regime, then reject out of hand all Soviet offers of collaboration and alliances in the 1920s and 1930s. These alliances, meant in earnest by a Soviet leadership eager to secure the old Russian imperial border, and opposed by anticommunist ideologues and a bunch of semi-authoritarian, jingoistic Eastern European states, would have squeezed the German threat and saved Europe from war in 1939.

This interpretative scheme runs through most of professor Carley’s work. I do not endorse completely this vision, but his review of my book seems to use the Franco-Finnish relations I describe as a litmus test for this interpretation and for the state of Franco-Soviet relations in the interwar period. This, I think, neglects some important aspects of my research concerning the role of a small state and its capacity to influence its own international position. What I tried to emphasize in my book is the way, in a relation between small states and great powers, the attitude of the great power is determined through a dialogue between general structures (Franco-Soviet relations, economy and trade, paranoia over “German influence”, etc) and bilateral contacts with the representatives of the small state. These are things I would like to reassert in a future paper.

 

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