Desktop post on national symbols

Monday was the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s attack on Finland which precicipated the hugely significant Winter War. In honour of it we are getting Mannerheim tat – in shops, from chuggers, all over the media. Here’s a photo of the war hero. He was born into a Swedish speaking family, became an officer in the Tsar’s army and, in the impressive list of his linguistic competencies, Finnish came very low indeed.

At the time of the Winter War Helsinki wasn’t the capital of a Nokia-land and it didn’t have an NIS (National Innovation System). It was a Forest State under the presidentship of Kyösti Kallio, an agrarian liberal centrist (as I understand). Finland was a rural country then, Helsinki was small, but the Forest Building (Unioninkatu 40 B) was large. In those days it was definitely not painted white.

Since we cannot bring ourselves to photograph the shop displays groaning under blue and white tat in anticipation of Independence Day (people would think I was being a snob doing that), here’s a shot of another way of showing you’re a patriot.

The thing in relation to planning and architecture is that it matters what kind of political regime the city is built by. Helsinki reflects a history that’s quite easy to live with. A few images of cities, past and present, come to mind that are in stark contrast to Helsinki: mad townscapes built either by totalitarian regimes or out-of-control numbers of hopeful land-grabbers. Symbolic that too.

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