Popular Culture in Finland

Time: Saturday, 9 May 1998, 10am-4pm
        Venue: Finnish Institute
        Cost: £13 (£10 concs.), including light lunch

        Finnish Cinema
        by Peter Cowie

Peter Cowie's talk will focus on the developments that have occurred during the history of Finnish cinema, showing how the popular films have not always been those regarded highly outside the country. He will cover the work of the most popular directors, from Risto Orko to Rauni Mollberg and Spede Pasanen, as well as the genres (bucolic films, political films, war films) that have marked the progress of Finnish cinema. There will be extracts from several films on video, and Mr Cowie will analyse the technique as well as the content of these passages.

Peter Cowie has spent most of his life writing and publishing books on film. Author of some twenty volumes under his own name (including histories of the cinema in Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands), he spent much of his life in Helsinki during the 1980s. He is now International Publishing Direcor at Variety Inc.

        Popular Music in Finland
        by Ilpo Hakasalo        

The Finnish record industry's ten-year silence was broken after the mid-20s. That was also the time of the first national radio broadcasts. These two events were the springboard for the rapid spread of popular songs to the wider public.

At the same time traditional, folk-based dance music was finally joined by the new rhythms that had conquered the world, such as the foxtrot and the tango. The Finnish word iskelmä was invented to express the same thing as hit melody in English and Schlager in German.

Many popular songs, above all German and British songs, received the Finnish treatment in the 1930s; this was less true, at that stage, of American tunes. Finnish popular music has from its very beginnings been coloured by strong national characteristics. Influences arriving from the West have been combined with Slavonic melancholy.

In the 1950s and 1960s, there were Finnish versions of practically every foreign pop song going, however remote its success. But it is interesting to note that home-grown popular music accounts for  a greater share of record sales in Finland than in most European countries.

The music of younger song-writers shows influences from many kinds of popular music from other countries, including world music and of course rock music. However, one genre of dance and popular music, which has also found its way abroad in its Finnish form, retains its strong position: the tango.

Ilpo Hakasalo is presenter of Iskelmäradio (Hit Melody Radio), one of the most popular programmes of the Finnish Broadcasting Company. The programme makes 800,000 Finns (out of a population of five million) switch on their radios on Sunday mornings.

Minorities in Finland

Time: Saturday, 13 June 1998, 10am-4pm
        Venue: Finnish Institute
        Cost: £13 (£10 concs.), including light lunch

     The Language Situation in Finland
        by Kenneth McRae

Finland's contemporary language situation has been shaped by key events in the country's history: the separation from Sweden in 1809; Tsar Alexander's decree of 1863 recognising the Finnish language; the Diet reform of 1906; the Constitution of 1919 and the Language Law of 1922.

It has also been influenced by population changes: internal migration to the cities; linguistic intermarriage; emigration to North America and Sweden; differential birth rates, and wars and Karelian resettlement.

To deal with these factors Finland developed a detailed language policy in the turbulent years after 1917 that provided equal treatment for its two main language groups – Finnish speakers and Swedish speakers – across all secotrs of Finland's public life.

After eight decades, the essentials of this language policy are largely intact, though adjustments are being made for an evolving populations and a changing international context.

In comparative context, Finland's recent language experience has emphasised peaceful adjustment to linguistic change over fixed language territories.

Kenneth McRae is professor emeritus of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He has written on language and politics in several countries, including Conflict and Compromise in Multilingual Societies, volume 3, Finland, 1997.


Ethnic Minorities and Immigration in Finland in the 1990s
by Liisa Kosonen

In the 1990s Finland has suddenly become a multicultural country. This fundamental social change has been a rapid one. For centuries Finland has had small minorities of Sámis, Romany people and Tatars, but in the 1990s the number of actual foreign citizens has more than tripled to about 80,500 or about 1.5% of the total population.

The average Finnish citizen and the government at local and national level have been fairly unprepared for this change. We have seen a meeting of new cultures and languages, an influx of highly trained foreigners from all over the world to international companies in Finland as well as poorly educated, even illiterate adults onto the job market. There are the newly arrived adolescents, too, in the school system with no former education and unaccompanied refugee children who will stay in Finland for years before being reunited with their families. We have also seen signs of a brighter future in the bilingual young adults who successfully combine in their professions a background in two cultures with newly learned skills and training in Finland to the benefit of Finland and sometimes even their former home country.

Since about one half of the new minorities live in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, this change in the face of the population can be seen in the city streets, in suburbs with low-rental housing, in day care centres and the schools. In 1997 there were newspaper headlines about skinhead attacks on minority members and questions about hidden racism among the police. The polls have also detected a general increase in racism and negative attitudes toward foreigners. It is less often that we can read success stories about newcomers, such as the Iraqi woman refugee shop owner who was named "Refugee Woman of the Year" by the Refugee Council in February; or Lola Odusoga, Finnish-Nigerian Miss Finland of 1996; or the public stand made by the Lutheran priests of the Helsinki Synod in March this year on the steps of the Helsinki Cathedral, welcoming the "New Finns" in our midst.

Unfortunately, minority members are not seen that often in the workplace, as unemployment among ethnic minorities averages around 50% and rises to over 80% in certain groups. These include the the Somali, who are the fourth largest minority group in Finland after Russians, Estonians and Swedes.

Traditionally Finland has had a high-status minority of Swedish-speaking people, now numbering about 6% of the population, who have been a well-educated and politically powerful part of society. Finland is a bilingual country, with Finnish and Swedish as the official languages – or trilingual, in that Sámi is now an official language in certain Sámi-majority municipalities in the North of Lapland. Finland has a Swedish-language education system from day care centres to universities, as well as newspapers, theatres and other cultural institutions in Swedish. However, Swedish-speakers have also been on the receiving end of negative attitudes in the general increase of negativism toward minorities among majority Finns. A proposal has been made to enlarge the current Office of the National Ombudsman for Foreigners to include officers and a system for the  monitoring of racist incidents discrimination.

On the national level the Council of State approved a Programme for Immigration and Refugee Policy in October 1997. This "Integration Programme" will be debated in Parliament in early April in 1998 and should be enacted into law as of January 1999. This new proposal calls for each municipality to draw up its own concrete integration plan for newly arrived immigrants, entailing close co-operation and multiprofessional networking between local and state official and immigrant groups. Each immigrant family will have its own three-year integration plan covering training, education and preparation for employment.

Liisa Kosonen is Consulting School Psychologist and Co-ordinator of Bilingual Education, City of Espoo. She's also a researcher and lecturer. Her most recent publication, in press (co-author with Karmela Liebkind) is "Acculturation and Adaptation. A Case of Vietnamese Children and Youths in Finland" in Adolescents, Cultures, and Conflicts. Growing Up in Contemporary Europe, edited by Jan-Erik Nurmi. Michigan State University Series on Children, Youth and Families.

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