Historian: Despite Finlandization, Northern Neighbor Helped Bankroll Independence Movement ({{commentsTotal}})

Mauno Koivisto in 1987, during his first term in office.
Mauno Koivisto in 1987, during his first term in office. Source: (RIA Novosti/Scanpix)

A dissertation argues that Finland played a more sizable role in Estonia's return to independence than previously thought.

The paper states that Finland spent over 100 million markka (24 million euros) of state funds in 1988-1991 through foreign policy channels - lower levels of state institutions, companies and organizations - Uusi Suomi reported, and that the economic support had the blessing of political leaders, all the way up to President Mauno Koivisto.

Heikki Rausmaa, the historian defending the doctoral dissertation at the University of Helsinki on November 2, wrote: "For foreign policy reasons, the money was sent using a circuitous route, as Koivisto did not want to jeopardize Finland's relations with the Soviet Union."

Rausmaa said the amount had grown from the equivalent of 2.5 million euros in 1989 to about 24 million euros in 1991.

The money - distributed as culture and education funding - was used to establish Estonian government institutions. Finland also donated office equipment and vehicles.

"When Estonia became re-independent in 1991, the country had an estimated 400 million markaa circulating." In comparison, Rausmaa said the amount backing Estonia's national currency when it was introduced in 1992 was about the same.

In historiography, Koivisto is usually seen as lukewarm at best on restoration of Estonian independence. But, Rausmaa argues, "Koivisto was very skeptical and thought re-independence years away. Still, he felt it was his moral duty to support re-independence."