Riitta Mäkinen, Balto-Scandinavian Civic Pursuits during the Interwar Years.
By the end of the First World War various ideas for state alliances were presented in the Baltic
area, especially in Estonia. None were realized as such but some traces are later perceptible. One
of these was the concept of Balto-Scandia, promoted in 1928 by the Swedish geographer Sten de
Geer and later by his Lithuanian colleague Kazys Pakstas.
Given my interest in multinational pan-identities reflected in the international exchange of
Finnish voluntary associations also Fenno-Baltic and Balto-Scandinavian pursuits figure in my
forthcoming dissertation. There were some Fenno-Baltic organisations, the most significant
of which was the Student Union SELL (Suomi, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania). Finnish-Estonian
contacts were likewise frequent.
In the mid-30s leading Finnish politicians promoted a trend known as the Scandinavian
orientation. Besides a declaration in Parliament 1935, increasing contacts between Finnish and
Scandinavian voluntary associations were encouraged. The associations were indeed eager
to forge new ties or strengthen their old ones. This happened in spite of certain old tensions
between nationally-minded (Finnish-speaking) Finns and Scandinavians, especially the Swedes.
I argue that one of the reasons of the change of minds were new Swedish theories of race. They
no longer perceived Finns and Swedes as distinct races, nor indeed the Balts. Thus a mental
obstacle to cooperation was removed.
At the same time the Latvians and especially Estonians were also interested in orientating
towards Scandinavia. On the political level they met hardly any response but some activities
took place on the level of civil society.