C – Mobilities, migrations, and transnational actors

Overcoming exclusion: Plans, help and means for the refugees and exiles

Event Details

  • Date

    Friday, 26 June - 14:00 – 16:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    C – Mobilities, migrations, and transnational actors
Convenor
  • Henry Oinas-Kukkonen (University of Oulu)
Chair
  • Kasper Braskén (Åbo Akademi University)
Commentator
  • Kasper Braskén (Åbo Akademi University)
Panelists
  • Henry Oinas-Kukkonen (University of Oulu)
  • Chiharu Inaba (Meijo University)
  • Pasi Tuunainen (University of Eastern Finland)

Papers

  • Henry Oinas-Kukkonen
    The Finnish Exiles’ Plans for a Minority Colony in Alaska

    The Finnish Exiles’ Plans for a Minority Colony in Alaska

    In the early 20th century there were Finns exiled from the Grand Dutchy of Finland. Some of them considered it better to establish a colony of ethnic minority life in Alaska than end up deported in Siberia, Russia. Yet, both areas challenged their population. After the American purchase of the Alaskan territory in 1867, many skeptics in the United States long believed that the purchase of “Russian America” was a waste of money, and that the Arctic Alaska was just a wilderness wasteland, too, an “American Siberia.” Americans were not keen to move there. However, influential promoters, businessmen and optimistic officials in Washington, D.C. believed that underpopulated Alaska just needed development and settlers from abroad. At the same time, many Americans had anti-immigration attitudes and suspicion concerning the newcomers. This paper discusses how the exiles from the Grand Duchy of Finland planned a colony of ethnic minority in the Alaskan wilderness and began to build it, while the skeptical Alaskan majority followed the progress of their project.
  • Chiharu Inaba
    A Re-Examination of ‘Visas for Life’: Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara’s Rescue Story on Jewish Refugees in Lithuania in Summer, 1940

    A Re-Examination of ‘Visas for Life’: Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara’s Rescue Story on Jewish Refugees in Lithuania in Summer, 1940

    Since the beginning of the 1990s, it has been well-known that Chiune Sugihara, Japanese Consul in Kaunas, issued Japanese transit visas for Jewish refugees in Lithuania in summer 1940 against the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s order, and rescued 6,000 lives from the Holocaust. When he returned from Europe after the Second World War, he was fired by the ministry in 1947. In 1984, the State of Israel honored him as Righteous among the Nations, who were non-Jews and risked their lives to save Jews from the extermination by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The Foreign Ministry mounted a plaque in honor of Sugihara at the Diplomatic Record Office in Tokyo in October, 2000, and made recover his reputation. Today his virtue is introduced in the Japanese secondary school textbooks.There have been some doubts in the above story. The Holocaust had not been happened in Lithuania in summer 1940 yet. The Nazis and its corroborators started the extermination of Jews all over Lithuania after the outbreak of the Eastern Front in June 1941. Even Joseph V. Stalin did not foresee the German attack at that time, how did Sugihara know the extermination eleven months before the war? Jews living in Poland ran away as refugees to Lithuania, which was an independent republic and declared neutrality after the German and the Soviet assault on Poland in September 1939. A new Lithuanian research shows a result that most of Jewish refugees had escaped to Lithuania from the Eastern part of Poland since the area was occupied by the Red Army. Not so many Jews took refuge from the German occupied Poland to Lithuania. When the Soviet annexation of Lithuania was becoming known to the public in July 1940, a lot of Jews asked Sugihara to issue the Japanese visas. In this presentation, I would like to re-examine the story of Visas for Life by Sugihara, and to show a new interpretation of his humanitarianism.
  • Pasi Tuunainen
    Inclusion of the Marttinen’s Men – The Finnish Exile Minority Group in the US Army in 1947

    Inclusion of the Marttinen’s Men – The Finnish Exile Minority Group in the US Army in 1947

    Militaries want to learn from others’ experiences and make use of foreign military knowledge. This can be done by recruiting soldiers with first-hand war experiences. The American history scholars working on the developments in the aftermath of the Second World War have tended to focus more on the civilian aspects, such as bringing German rocket scientists to the United States, than on the recruitment of foreign military personnel from Europe. The Finnish Army had been fighting the Red Army in World War II, also on the German side. The country had lost the war but not capitulated. The Finns possessed highly relevant know-how about the Red Army and about winter warfare. The Finnish Army had made secret preparations to mobilize guerilla units if the Red Army aimed at occupying its tiny neighbor. These acts of the “weapons cache case” constituted a violation of interim peace agreement. As facing criminal prosecution in 1945 a group of Finnish officers fled first to Sweden and later to the United States. The phenomenon is not widely known. This paper examines the difficulties of those Finns’ entry to military service in the US. The process is analyzed in the context of the outbreak of the Cold War. The Finnish officers, led by Colonel Alpo K. Marttinen, encountered problems pertaining to immigration issues and security classification. Yet by being persistent and receiving strong backing from influential American politicians and high-ranking officers, the Finns were eventually allowed to enlist and pursue new military careers in exile. After proving their utility to US military authorities, the Marttinen’s Men made successful careers in their new home country. As sources I utilize archival records, personal collections and oral history transcripts.

Abstract

The panel discusses how the refugees and exiles have overcome and planned to overcome exclusion which they have faced. We have three cases that are presented. A country of origin or departure in these three cases was located in the Baltic Sea Area but the destination was faraway, in distant parts of the world, where the refugees and exiles were definitely a minority. The destinations were in the Americas but the transit of the refugees and exiles could mean exhausting travelling through Europe, Asia and America. These exiles and refugees were in the marginal both in their country of origin as well as in the country of their destination. They could feel they were not wanted by the majority but faced suspicion and discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, language, capabilities and background. They functioned outside the mainstream and were marginalized and excluded. On their way to the destination and in the destination, they met anti-immigration laws and attitudes. This meant complex entanglements between states, peoples, communities and individual human beings. The challenges involved in each case researched demand a close attention to the necessary planning, the work towards achieving the goal, the efforts made and the help received for overcoming the exclusion and getting into and inside a new community and its social and cultural life in general and presume new careers.