Reimag and Kantine

A little one to emphasize a new research project funded by the Academy of Finland: “Reimag“, for Reimagining Futures in the European North at the End of the Cold War. The goal of the project is to explore the systemic transformation of international politics and economics at the end of the Cold War as it was experienced in Finland and its external geopolitical environment in Northern Europe. The whole enterprise is based on the fact that archives concerning the late 1980s are slowly opening in Finland, giving the possibility to look at events unfolding between 1989 and 1992.

My contribution to the project aimed at looking at the way Finland’s trade promoters, cultural diplomats and public diplomats did conceive of the changes happening in and around Finland. A part of this project concentrated on studying Kantine, a public diplomacy committee that gathered between 1987 and 1990. The article mostly makes use of Kantine’s archives, and tries to replace this committee in the developments of Finland’s national image management during the Cold War. The article has now been published by the Hague Journal of Diplomacy, over there.

A little extract, trying to look at how the committee was justified – of course, because foreigners looked down on Finland:

In late 1989, a collection of memorandums gathering foreign impressions about Soviet Premier Gorbachev’s visit to Helsinki reinforced this notion among Kantine’s members. Foreigners appeared generally hesitant to qualify Finland as ‘Scandinavian’, decried Helsinki’s unfriendly service, run-down accommodation and high prices, and criticized Finland’s hostility to foreigners and self-centred, unworldly cultural life. Finnish ambassadors emphasized that Finnish companies abroad did not use Finland’s image, which did not stand out for anything in particular.

In this context, and as the world was changing around Finland, Kantine exhibited a new range of concerns and intentions regarding Finland’s foreign relations. As such, it went beyond the concrete organization of efficient trade promotion campaign, into policy-related advise as to how to change Finland to make it “look” better.

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