Friday, July 9, 2010

Karelian Fever--Did it spread to New Hampshire?

Now that I am home in New Hampshire I want to explore the stories of the Finnish immigrants to the Granite State.

One part of the story of the Finnish immigration to the United States and Canada is linked to the history of the quest for a workers' utopia.

A European struggle for workers' rights was born in the early twentieth century. You only need to read about World War I and its aftermath to realize that the excesses of the aristocracy and the brutality of the senseless "war to end all wars" led to labor unrest in many countries. Only England, with its comparatively weak royal family, retained a monarch. King George's cousins, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas were not so fortunate. Kaiser Wilhelm ended his life in exile in the Netherlands and Tsar Nicholas, along with his family, was brutally murdered by the new Soviet state. (If, like me, you are fascinated with the fact that Georgie, Nicky, and Willy were cousins you should read: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm by Miranda Carter.

Tsar Nicholas was hated in Finland. His policy in Finland was in stark contrast to that of his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II. Tsar Nicholas' representative in Finland was Governor General Nikolay Bobrikov. Bobrikov was assassinated in Helsinki on Bloom's Day, no less. Perhaps because of the harsh regime of Bobrikov, Finland harbored Lenin as he plotted the Russian revolution. Indeed, it was Lenin who gave Finland freedom once the imperial regime fell.

The Soviet state was the long awaited workers' paradise. After the bitter Finnish revolution many "red Finns" came to North America. They established both communist and socialist parties in the United States and Canada. When the call came to settle in the newly autonomous, Finnish speaking Karelian Workers Commune many North American Finns eagerly departed for Karelia. The 48 minute documentary embedded below tells the fascinating and sad story of one Canadian's move to Karelia. It is an interesting window into Karelia fever. Letters from Karelia by Kelly Saxberg.

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