Sinikka Wunsch, The New York Times’ Images of Finland and the Baltic Countries, 1939 – 1940.
This article discusses the differences and similarities in the images of Finland and the Baltic
States in the New York Times, mainly in the autumn of 1939 and during the so-called Interim
Peace in the summer of 1940. During the first period the politic situation in Europe was advancing
towards a war, which then broke out on 3, September. During the second period the Great War
was in progress and Finland had been at war with the Soviet Union in the winter of 1939–40. All
the Baltic States were occupied by the Soviet Union in June, 1940.
During late summer in 1939 the politic situation in Europe grew more acute day by day, and
the New York Times become more and more interested in the politic situation around the Baltic
Sea, especially after the outbreak of the war in the beginning of September.
Real interest in the situation emerged in the newspaper in the end of September, 1939. In
the spring of 1939 the foreign minister of the Soviet Union, Vjatšeslav Molotov, had insisted on
the Soviet Union’s right to guarantee the safety of the three Baltic States. Now the Soviet Union
called the representatives of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to Moscow for negotiations. As a
result, all three states accepted the agreement the Soviet Union demanded, including permission
for the Soviet Union to establish military bases in their territory. The reason for the content was
the weakness of these tiny republics, evaluated the New York Times.
The next in line to be asked to Moscow was Finland. A real sensation arose in the New York
Times when it become clear that, unlike the Baltic States, Finland was not going to accept the
agreement insisted on by the Soviet Union.
The more Finland resisted the exigencies of the Soviet Union, the more the image of Finland
turned positive in the newspaper. Finland was described as a stable democracy that would not
capitulate under any dictatorial pressure, as all three Baltic States had done. Finland was now
described as one of the Scandinavian states and not one of the Baltic states.
During the Interim Peace, times of crisis still continued in the summer of 1940. Events in
the Baltic were much more dramatic than a year before. The Soviet Union occupied Estonia,
Latvia and Lithuania from June 14 to June 17. The tone of discussion in the New York Times
concerning the acts of the Soviet Union was very critical in the summer of 1940. The newspaper
drew a parallel between the two dictators, Stalin and Hitler, and their aggressive politics.
The Baltic States were seen as helpless victims of a dictator. Finland, on the contrary, was
seen as a heroic little republic that had struggled hard against the attacker during the previous
winter and maintained her independence.