Language is an instrument that can be put to various ends, and the way this instrument is used changes over time. It may be that certain terms become politically incorrect. For example, many racist terms are no longer in general use. With the passage of time, nations have held varying degrees of control over what kind of language we use and we should remember that language forms our reality, it creates it. Therefore, the kind of language and linguistic expressions we use helps to form our values, and indicates what is acceptable and what is not.
The Soviet Union was skilled in creating verbal realities; Russia remains so. In the case of the Soviet Union, the printed word was to create an alternative, fictional reality. Authors creating that reality were regularly supplied with updated vocabulary lists. These lists stipulated which phrases were permitted to be used. “Soviet Union” could only be used in combination with positive adjectives, “Republic of Estonia” and “United States” could, of course, only be used in combination with negative ones.
In recent years, Russia has waged a similar war of words against the Baltic countries and against Ukraine, thus creating the imaginary enemies that the current Russian administration needs in order to prop it up. One goal of this war is to weaken the enemy. If we know that the Russian government wants its citizens to hate us, then this has a lasting effect. In the same way, the long-term work of Finlandization ate away at our ability to take a stand against Russia. For decades, Finnish editors, publishers, policy-makers, politicians and journalists had to consider which expressions might annoy the Soviet Union; we are still on that path. The language of that time seemed to hail from a toothless mouth with no tongue. The Soviet Union trained Finland to become a country in which we obediently dodge inappropriate expressions towards Russia; this approach is now wedged in our subconscious. There has been no public process, no comprehensive attempt to move on to another kind of language. We have not studied enough the long-term consequences of this practice. Therefore, Finlandization still generates our reality.
Our public discourse is still disfigured. Our literature isn’t like that, and never has been, which is precisely why this literature is so important. If the external reality and the country’s official position do not match with one’s own experience, one tends to distrust one’s own experience. This makes people weak. In Finland, our literature was a tool against that.