Welcome to the nerve-wracking reality of being Finland

HarpersWeb-Postcard-Finland-fullMasha Gessen at Harper's Magazine:

A year ago, Sofi Oksanen, Finland’s preeminent contemporary writer, took the podium at the PEN World Voices Festival in New York City. “Good evening, everyone,” she said, failing to smile. “I bring greetings from the bordering countries to Russia.” She paused to let the gravity of her nation’s geographic location sink in. She would devote the rest of her allotted seven minutes to a single, grim topic: the danger Russia poses to Western civilization. Other writers speaking that evening at Cooper Union’s Great Hall addressed societal and personal ills, some of staggering dimensions. But only Oksanen sounded genuinely scared. Indeed, she sounded like someone bringing a message from a country at war.

Three weeks later, Alexander Dugin, a once marginal philosopher whose ideas now seem to form the core of Putin’s politics, addressed a large crowd in Helsinki. He spoke of the threat that Western civilization poses to humanity and argued that Finland had a choice to make. It could stay with the West, which would increasingly pressure it to accept what he called a “posthuman,” and “postgender” reality, or it could side with Russia, which alone among the world’s powers was working to protect the traditional way of life. Dugin, whose long gray beard and dome-shaped forehead suggest a Russian Orthodox priest in civvies, stressed repeatedly that the choice would be Finland’s to make. “I am not advocating the annexation of Finland,” he said over and over again. “If I were, I would tell you.” If such a reassurance has ever calmed anyone, this was not the occasion.

more here.