Studia Historica Septentrionalia 58


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.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 58