Aapo writes about Culture Minister Stefan Wallin professing ignorance of author and translator Matti Rossi's past as an informant. Ben Zyskowicz, an influential National Coalition Party MP who has been fighting the good fight against domestic communists since the 1970s, has taken issue (fi) with Rossi receiving a state literary prize for translators because Rossi had reported Hungarian author Dénes Kiss's low opinion of communism to the Hungarian authorities in 1975.
(As terrible as Rossi's act was, I have to disagree with Zyskowicz. Rossi got the prize for, among other works, translating Shakespeare into Finnish. Even state literary prizes should be about literary merit, not whether a prospective recipient did something disgusting in the 1970s.)
Rossi's stunt reminded me of an anecdote that deserves repeating from Vaarallinen Suomi - Suomi Eestin Kommunistisen Puoleen ja Neuvosto-Viron KGB:n silmin ("Dangerous Finland - Finland in the Eyes of the Communist Party of Estonia and Soviet Estonia's KGB") by Mati Graf and Heikki Roiko-Jokela. In a memo to Soviet Union's and Soviet Estonia's foreign ministries, one P. Mozhajev of the Soviet Union's main consulate in Turku wrote:
R. Nummelin turned to the main consulate and said that the members of tourist group 5-46701, while staying in Tallinn from August 7th to August 10th 1984, were puzzled by the behaviour of Estonian guide Sirje (he couldn't remember the last name). According to Nummelin, the guide repeatedly criticized repeatedly the level of Russian culture, the quality of Soviet goods, she also presented single thoughts in favor of founding an 'independent bourgeois republic'. To Nummelin's and his wife's, who were both members of [the communist] Finnish People's Democratic League, attempts to make counterarguments and prove to the guide she was wrong, she answered pointedly.The authors found the guide, Sirje Rumvolt, who said that while discussing the differences between Estonian and Finnish squirrels, she had told a joke, "Question: what are lizards? Answer: crocodiles under socialism." She said to the Finnish tourists that maybe the squirrels have poor fur because of socialist conditions. "Later this answer probably turned into an argument for founding an independent Estonia."
I wonder if people like Rossi and Nummelin ever considered what their actions said about the regimes they supported. Imagine the reverse situation: A Finnish communist author travels to 1970s Hungary and makes comments disparaging capitalism. A Hungarian capitalist - just go with it - hears his comments and reports him to the Finnish consulate, expecting them to... do what? That difference should have given pause even to a committed communist.