Saturday, October 15, 2011

"No, not him": the new Tiitinen list.

Of course throughout the Cold War, Finland could never admit that there was a Cold War. That was something the nasty superpowers did; studiously ignored or denied up in the north where neutrality supposedly meant good relations with all. Those who were involved in the Finnish end of that conflict (or who looked on from the sidelines) are still very much with us. They fill the upper echelons of political, economic, media and cultural life in the country, and whilst things stay that way, stories around the Tiitinen list aren't going away.  Until the list is made public, or another generation or two retire and die, the story will hang around Helsinki political circles like a bad smell.

But this week saw the publication of Alpo Rusi's book about the list - the book being the result of his legal battle to refute the story that his name was on the list. Rusi announced that a former Finnish prime minister (now deceased), Kalevi Sorsa, was on the list. This was one of the first bits of political gossip I heard when I started working as a researcher, on the outer fringes of the Helsinki political life, a decade ago. I had always presumed that if a fresh-off-the-boat foreigner had heard such a thing it was one of those open secrets that most had heard but no media would publish. Now Tiitinen (previously the head of the Security Police, now Secretary General of the Parliament) has denied that the former-PM was on the list. This must be a great thing for Sorsa's friends and family - in effect exonerating him, but an odd way to go about things.

Can we expect journalists now to suggest names to the secretary general every time they corner him in the corridors of the Eduskunta (parliament) in order to collect his denials? Perhaps they should start with the President, every current government minister over the age 40, the heads of the ministries of state and perhaps the editors-in-chief of the biggest papers and TV channels. If Sec. Gen. Tiitinen denies that those people are on the list, the next journo can try the ministers and prime ministers of the last few governments.

Alternatively, they could just publish the list, end the rumours and let people make peace with the past.