Now that borders and their control are a burning issue in Europe, it is more important than ever to try to see across them – not just to lands afar, but also to neighbours just round the corner. This FMQ looks both east and south, to see how music in its manifold genres has, at different times in the past, been a factor in moulding Finland’s relationship with Russia and Estonia.
Finnish-Russian relations are coloured by a long and complex collective history. The significance of Russia is widely recognised in Finland, and at the moment, particularly, its everyday culture seems to be interesting Finns more than ever. Amid the political and economic tensions, however, it is not always easy to remember that times change, and that a parallel, complex reality packed with potential exists alongside the official cultural policy.
Finland also has a long, shared history with Estonia. The ties were already close in centuries past, and since Estonia became independent, our mutual relationship might be described as a close kinship with all the accompanying ups and downs. But as Managing Director of the Estonian PLMF association Leelo Lehtla put it, blinded by the need for something exotic, we often forget that there are a lot of interesting things going on right across the border.
It is, however, good to reflect on not only geographical borders but also the nature of borders in general, and to spot them even when they appear to be invisible obstacles or unspoken prejudices. How much do we know about the culture or music of our various minorities? And how about music education, which should be available to all in Finland? Does it also apply to people in the margins of society?
Whatever the geopolitical or economic situation, music remains one of the best tools for fostering understanding between peoples. It is the first step across all manner of borders – to the alien, the other. This issue of the FMQ offers some examples, in articles about music and ambassadors who are all, in their own fantastic way, reaching across.
Translation: Susan Sinisalo