You are warmly welcome to the Mission Finland blog. In this blog, we will introduce our research, team members’ case studies, theoretical and methodological choices, as well as those intriguing stories of the past that for some reason or another did not fit into any publication. In addition to our team members, we invite our collaborators and other specialists in cultural diplomacy to contribute to our blog.

The idea of the Mission Finland project dates back to the international conference on Arts and Cultural Diplomacy at the University of Jyväskylä held in February 2017. A PhD candidate’s presentation on foreign art exhibitions in Helsinki in the 1950s made me realise how much actually happened in Finland in terms of cultural diplomacy in the Cold War years, and how little we still knew about it. Some specific topics had been covered by political historians, however, the big picture of how the so called cultural Cold War was fought in Finland and through Finland was yet to be written.

At the conference, I started to talk with a colleague Timo Vilén and we quickly found a common understanding that something ought to be done. Over the years, we applied several grants from numerous public and private foundations. We started as a book project, but the hunger grew the more we studied the topic. After numerous disappointments, we finally succeeded: our first application to the Academy of Finland in 2019 brought us four year funding. By then, Timo had found a job elsewhere and therefore, is now our unofficial collaborator. Still, I have not forgotten Timo’s role in developing the project and want to thank him for his hard work from the bottom of my heart. This would be a very different research project without his great effort.

The grand idea of Mission Finland is to put one country in the focus and examine how the Cold War super powers, the USA and the Soviet Union, operated in the same target area. We examine how the USA, the Soviet Union and their allies utilised culture and arts to influence Finns, the Finnish society, and the political establishment throughout the Cold War period.

Focusing on one single target country creates sort of a research laboratory, which allows us to compare the methods and forms the super powers employed in their cultural diplomacy. Furthermore, this laboratory makes it possible to study the reactions of the super powers to each other’s operations thus enabling us to go deeper in the research of cultural Cold War. Finally, this research setting gives us a chance to investigate the concepts and discourses that cultural diplomats used about their activity. Did they talk about cultural relations, winning hearts and minds, propaganda, or something else?

I have been lucky to find a fantastic research team to study these issues. Needless to say that the doctoral student whose conference inspired me to develop this project four years ago, art historian Maija Koskinen, now PhD, is part of the team. Other team members are Marek Fields, who is specialised in the US and the British cultural diplomacy in Finland, Simo Mikkonen, the leading expert on Soviet-Finnish cultural relations, Louis Clerc, a specialist on Finland’s cultural diplomacy and the French-Finnish relations, Kimmo Elo, an expert on the history and the politics of the GDR as well as Matthieu Gillabert, a Swiss historian of the cultural Cold War, bringing the example of the influence of a neutral country in Finland.

We also have a superb advisory board consisting of the leading experts in cultural diplomacy Professor Giles Scott-Smith, Leiden University, Professor Rósa Magnúsdóttir, Aarhus University, Professor Oksana Nagornaya, South-Ural State University, and Professor emeritus Geoffrey Roberts, the University of Cork.

Next, I invite the team members to tell about their angles to the project and our collaborators to widen our horizons beyond Finland-oriented cultural diplomacy. I hope you enjoy our blog and feel free to contact us, if you have any comments, questions or you have an idea of cooperation.

Pia Koivunen