Finland celebrates its 89th birthday today.
Finland, a stubborn little country nestled between Sweden and Russia – and formerly owned by each – today celebrates its 89th birthday. This is a big deal in my family because I am half Finnish (my mom is from Finland), my wife is 100% Finnish, and my kids are 75% Finnish.
Since the fall of 2001, we have been speaking Finnish at dinnertime to keep the language alive in our family. Finnish is a wonderfully complex language, one that is not related to any of the Scandinavian languages. It is part of the Finno-Ugric language group and is distantly related to Hungarian. Finnish is a phonetic language, so there are no spelling bees. Verbs are conjugated but there is no future tense. Nouns are declined and there are 16 cases. I have often described Finnish as like Latin factorial.
Our family is quite proud of our genealogical connection to Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, who was the Commander-in-Chief of Finland’s Defense Forces and the sixth President of Finland (1944–1946). We just looked at our genealogy papers last night, and I think I’ve got this figured out. My great great great great great grandfather and Mannerheim’s great great grandfather are the same person.
I have been to Finland ten times: 1971, 1977, 1978, 1984, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1999, 2005 for a total duration of about a year. My longest visit was four months in 1988, when I lived in Raahe and worked as a computer programmer for Rautaruukki (at Europe’s largest steel mill) following my graduation from MIT and while I was waiting to be called to active duty in the Air Force. But for the weddings of my friends back home (Peter and Hollie, Dave and Joan) that fall, I might have stayed longer. That summer, I started teaching myself Finnish, swam in the Arctic Ocean, and traveled to the Leningrad (while it was still part of the Soviet Union; it is now called Saint Petersburg and is part of Russia). I also met Pirjo, who is now my wife. So it was a pretty good summer, to say the least.
While I was in law school, I discovered that I was born a dual citizen and never knew it. Under Finnish nationality law, if you are a child of a Finnish citizen, then you are a citizen. I may still be able to reestablish my claim as a Finnish citizen, since Finland passed a new dual-citizenship law in 2003.
Also while in law school, I wrote a paper about whether or not Russia’s war on Finland during World War II was legal under international law at the time. Thirteen years after I wrote it, my Finland, WW2, And International Law paper is still one of the most popular pages on this website.
In February 1999, I registered the finnweb.com domain name with the idea of creating an online community for and about Finns and Finnish-Americans. Two years later, in February 2001, I launched the Finnweb website <http://www.finnweb.com/>. I think it’s safe to say that my idea of a Finnish social networking site was about five years ahead of its time. I later took the website down so that I could focus on other projects, but I’d gladly start it up again – or sell/license the domain name to someone who is interested in picking up the project – if there is sufficient interest.
For those interest in all things Finnish on the web (Finnish blogs, Finland blogs, Finnish social networking, Finland social networking), see Finland For Thought.
As we jokingly say in our family, the Finns celebrate the 4th of July on December 6th. Happy independence day Finland!