Arts & Entertainment

Inventors of the Molotov Cocktail

New York Review of Books

“Polls over the last decade indicated that no more than a quarter of Finns supported NATO membership,” writes Gordon F. Sander in the Review’s March 9 issue. One month after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, however, public opinion had shifted, and “a poll by Finland’s leading newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, showed 48 percent of the Finnish public supporting joining the alliance.”

To get a sense for what this reversal of decades of proud neutrality means to the Finnish people—and their future—Sander, “a veteran Fennophile,” met with Helsinki businessmen and journalists; the novelist and playwright Sofi Oksanen; and the president, Sauli Niinistö, and foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto. There has always been, Sander observes, “a strain of the Finnish character that liked being at once part of Europe and apart from it, while acting as Russia’s broker with the West.” But, Oksanen reminds him, “I guess you know that Finns invented the Molotov cocktail.”

Below, alongside Sander’s essay, we’ve collected a selection of articles from our archives about Finland.

Gordon F. Sander
Finland’s Turn to the West

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has abruptly ended the Finns’ reservations about joining NATO.

Alison Lurie
Undiscovered Country

“Some authors cannot forget their characters even after a book is finished. Perhaps this is how Tove Jansson came to feel in the years when she tried to turn to adult fiction, but found herself instead writing her two final, brilliant Moominland tales.”

Martin Filler
Giant in the Woods

“To have the International Style applied with conspicuous success in a subarctic region for a wide range of functions—including a sanatorium, a library, an apartment block, and a newspaper office and printing plant, all of which Aalto designed in his homeland before 1930—gave a tremendous boost to Corbusier’s argument that the new architecture could thrive throughout the world.”

Masha Gessen
Why the Finns Were Lucky!

“Sofi Oksanen is probably Finland’s best-known writer and certainly one of the stars of the European literary scene—and she wants to warn her readers that, with Russia run by a KGB operative, history is poised to repeat itself.”

Diane Ravitch
Schools We Can Envy

“The Finnish nine-year comprehensive school is a ‘standardized testing-free zone,’ where children are encouraged ‘to know, to create, and to sustain natural curiosity.’”

Geoffrey O’Brien
‘Magic Sayings by the Thousands’

At the heart of the Finnish epic poem Kalevala is the shamanistic power of words to transform, lead astray, destroy, create, or bring back to life.

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