Monday, January 11, 2010

Bad history about Finland

Stupid never sleeps. Therefore, we must remain ever vigilant and never let down our guard. For if we do, stupid will slip into our world, unrecognized and unmocked. Sadly, I let my guard down last May (I think I was taking a nap that day) and the stupid escaped from its box. Luckily, Sadly, No! noticed something on Media Culpa that resurrected the stupid from the pages in MacLean's magazine. First some background.

The town of Tampere, Finland has a small museum dedicated to the life of Lenin (not Lennon, the Beatle, Lenin, the Commie). Lenin has a few connections with Tampere and Finland in general. During the failed 1905 revolution, Lenin stopped in Tampere on his way to Russia. In those days, Finland was ruled by the Russian tsar, but not considered part of Russia proper. He was met there by a group of Russian Communists, including Stalin. It was their first meeting and Lenin wasn't especially impressed. During the next revolution, March 1917, Lenin again passed through Tampere on his way to Russia. Once again that whole revolution thing didn't work out so well and Lenin returned to Finland, wearing a devilishly clever disguise, and hid out for a couple of weeks. The third time Lenin returned to Russia for a revolution, October 1917, it was a roaring success. Three weeks later, Lenin recognized Finland's independence from Russia. That's about it for Lenin's connections to Finland and Tampere.

Lenin's disguise, clean shaven and a wig

What brought the Lenin Museum to the attention of Susan Mohammad, the Maclean's reporter, was a minor brouhaha over public funding for the museum. Some local conservative political groups, who didn't like the results of Lenin's last revolution, want to make the museum an anti-Lenin museum and rename it the "Museum of the Victims of Totalitarianism." By "totalitarianism" they only mean Lenin's kind and not the kinds practiced by Hitler, Franco, various Latin American Caudillos, Ayatollah Khomeini, or the Plymouth Colony. In an attempt to demonstrate why some Finns would think Lenin was a bad man, Mohammad wrote the following sentence:
[A]bout 10 million Finns died under Lenin, almost half due to starvation.

Lenin ruled Finland for a little over three weeks in 1917, which is not enough time for most people to starve to death unless they're locked up indoors. The population of Finland during those three weeks was around three million, a number that is considerably smaller than ten million (but you already knew that). The collectivization famine, engineered by Stalin, five years after Lenin's death, did kill up to ten million people in Ukraine and South Russia. The only resemblance between that atrocity and what Susan Mohammad claims is that it both involved foreign people and both were the fault of a half Russian guy whose nickname ended in -in.

Despite having Mohammed's fantasy pointed out to them, the MacLean's editors have never issued a correction. The Finns had a good laugh over the article. One paper asked the questions "how [could] Lenin have pulled off the feat of exterminating us three times over, and ... who is living here now?" We should join in the fun, because it's never too late to point and laugh at stupid.

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