How the cultural Cold War was fought in Finland and through Finland?

Mission Finland project studies foreign cultural diplomacy in Finland during the Cold War. It examines a range of cultural and informational activities – such as cultural events, art exhibitions and the distribution of media content – organized by the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and their allies in Finland. In addition to the operations, the project pays attention to the domestic and international cultural organizations and the individuals who turned the political objectives defined by the governments into everyday experiences for ordinary Finns.

Mission Finland provides a major contribution to scholarly discussion and methodology in four areas. First, it introduces a new approach for the study of cultural diplomacy by focusing on several foreign states’ cultural operations in single country at the same time. Second, the project contributes to the field of Cold War research by bringing Finland’s central position as a cultural battlefield of superpower competition into the international domain. Third, it brings clarity to the somewhat incoherent conceptual landscape that has been characteristic for studies on state actors’ influence on foreign populations through cultural diplomacy.

Finally, the project aims at widening the discussion on Cold War cultural diplomacy towards the current phenomenon of hybrid and information warfare. By producing new information and interpretations about the long-term methods used to influence foreign populations, the state-run mechanisms behind them and the changes they went through over time, the project seeks to provide research-based tools for the deeper understanding of the current state-run soft power and information warfare.

Research Questions

What kinds of cultural activities did the Soviet Union, the USA, the UK, and their allies conduct in Finland and how did they change during 1945–1991?

How were the foreign cultural activities received by Finns and the Finnish society?

What are the legacies of Cold War cultural diplomacy and propaganda in the current information warfare?

By organizing open lectures and seminars in cooperation with national and local historical associations and journalists, the project aims at sparking discussion and critical attitude towards the role of soft power in the past and today. In the longer run, the project aims at transferring the way the general public views and discusses the Cold War period.

The project draws on historical qualitative methods and utilizes the archival records of the national and state archives of the US, the UK, the Russian federation and Finland, contemporary media materials, oral history interviews conducted by the project researchers as well as visual materials, such as art works, exhibition catalogues and photographs.