Ryti's war diaries

I recently read "Käymme omaa erillistä sotaamme - Risto Rytin päiväkirjat 1940-1945" ("We Fight Our Own Separate War - Risto Ryti's Diaries 1940-1945"), expertly edited by Ohto Manninen and Kauko Rumpunen. It's a rather informative look into Ryti's wartime career and thoughts, with Manninen and Rumpunen filling in the blanks left by Ryti, and other sources frequently quoted to see how they match with Ryti's writings.

As far as Ryti's basic approach to foreign policy is concerned, the diaries support the common analysis. Ryti's decisions stem from a cool-headed, usually accurate analysis of what is best for Finland. Only his fear of Bolshevism can rival his patriotism as a motivating factor. At the early stages of the Continuation War both tug him in the same direction, but when they come in conflict, ideological concerns once again yield to national interest.

In hindsight Ryti's analysis of the Western Allies is quite poor. He tells visitors that the United States, should the war continue, is in danger of experiencing social upheaval. He instructs British and German guests that Britain and Germany ought to make peace so they can combat the real danger to Europe, the Soviet Union. He doesn't seem to understand that the Western Allies see Nazism much like he sees Bolshevism - as a threat to civilization that should be combatted vigorously.

Several times Ryti defends democracy to German diplomats with an inventive argument. He describes the Finnish system as a "peasant democracy", the result of hundreds of years of historic development, which is peculiarly suited to Finland's needs. The Finnish people, Ryti notes with pride, have never experienced serfdom and thus cherish their traditional freedoms. I wonder what Nazis made of the argument that dictatorship is the right system for Germany because Germans used to be serfs and are thus servile.

Disturbing to a modern reader is the incident where Ryti spoke approvingly of eugenics. It was a common affliction of the era, of course, but it's still disappointing. This raises the question of who's the most enlightened World War II leader. Churchill's candidacy has certain problems. Roosevelt's civil rights record could be better. All the dictators are obviously right out of the question.

1 comment:

Ojalanpoika said...

Kirjoitin arvion Rytin päiväkirjoista: