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12. Land of farmers, culture of cities

In 1929, the Finnish Broadcasting Company – which had been founded three years earlier – made a survey of its listener’s preferences. Most of them wanted to hear comic songs, accordion playing, brass bands, folk song, radio plays and cosy chats. Solo female singing, opera and operetta, language instruction, symphony music and jazz were abhorred. Listeners wanted practical information but set little store by philosophy or art.

The wireless was one of the main propagators of Finnish unity after the divisive civil war. The modern appliance disseminated the values of a new, technological world and loosened up the traditional high-mindedness of popular education. Entertainment had come to stay.

The depression of the Nineteen thirties was followed by an economic boom. Finland revived. Social conflicts were no longer quite so pointed, although “in Finland liberals, radicals, radical literary movements, pacifism, psychoanalysis, the League of Nations, modern literature and the Scandinavian orientation are all counted semi-communists”, as a radical reeled off in the Pidot Tornissa symposium book in 1937.

Finland liked to compare itself with the Scandinavian countries, sometimes forgetting that it was a much more predominantly agricultural society than its neighbours. The Scandinavian orientation became official foreign policy in 1935, a sign that Finland wished to reject national socialism and remain democratic. Nevertheless, German culture was prevalent. Academic Bookshop in Helsinki ranked fifth among all European bookshops in sales of German literature.

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