Sinikka Wunsch, Provincial Newspapers in the Winter War – Ideology, Set of Values, Beliefs and Ideas defined the Enemy Image
In both my Master’s thesis and my Licentiate thesis I examined the enemy image of the Soviet Union created in the Finnish newspapers during the Winter War. Both studies included 18 newspapers in all: the leading newspapers of the country, the chief organs of all the political parties and the most important provincial newspapers.
This article focuses on the editorials and political causeries of four provincial newspapers: the National Coalition Party’s Vaasa, the Progressive Party’s Kaleva, the Agrarian Union’s Kainuun Sanomat and the Social Democrat Party’s Pohjolan Työ. All the newspapers are typical representatives of each party.
The study addresses the properties of the enemy in terms of six variables, which are archenemy, military power, society and Communism, political leaders, Russian people, the threat of Communism to the whole world and aid for Finland.
The most important finding was the multidimensional content of the enemy image. The spirit of the Winter War, which refers to the complete unanimity of all the Finns, has grown into mythical dimensions in Finland. On this account it was surprising that every newspaper described the enemy through its own ideology, set of values, beliefs and ideas. For example, the enemy of the working class was different from that of the rightist. For the working class the enemy threatened the achievements of the labour movement; for the rightist, culture and religion.
The Social Democratic Pohjolan Työ did not consider the Russians an archenemy and did not look back to the earlier conflicts between Finland and Russia. For the three bourgeois newspapers, the above-mentioned events were the essential content of the enemy image. The Soviet Union was seen as a successor of imperialistic Russia, the archenemy and an eternal threat to Finland in the past and the future.
The main difference between the leading and provincial newspapers appeared just before the war broke out. The leading newspapers followed the line of the government and assured the people that the Soviet Union was not planning a military offensive on Finland. The four above-mentioned provincial newspapers, and provincial newspapers in general, wrote that the Soviet Union would attack Finland. Their opinion was correct.