C – Mobilities, migrations, and transnational actors
Transnational minority lives: Experiencing socialism and minoritisation in the 20th century
Thursday, 25 June - 15:30 – 17:30
Friday, 26 June - 9:00 – 11:00
- ThemeC – Mobilities, migrations, and transnational actors
- Aleksi Huhta (Åbo Akademi University)
- Mats Wickström (Åbo Akademi University)
- Anna Sundelin (Åbo Akademi University)
- Matias Kaihovirta (University of Helsinki)
- Liisa Lalu (University of Turku)
- Aleksi Huhta (Åbo Akademi University)
- Ana Moledo (Leipzig University)
Provincial Radicals in a Global Metropolis: Swedish Ostrobothnian Communism in Depression-Era New York
Provincial Radicals in a Global Metropolis: Swedish Ostrobothnian Communism in Depression-Era New YorkThe paper explores how New York as an urban, globalized space shaped the thinking and practice of young immigrant radicals from provincial Swedish-speaking Finland during the Great Depression. Finnish immigrants to the United States and Canada were among the most radical immigrant groups in North America, but the vast scholarship on Finnish immigrant radicalism has tended to ignore the Swedish-speaking part of the immigrant population. The present paper examines the Swedish-speaking immigrants’ radicalism in the context of New York during the Great Depression. In the 1930s, New York had a sizable immigrant population from Swedish-speaking parts of Finland, mostly from the rural Ostrobothnia province and the autonomous Åland Islands. In 1929, a group of young Ostrobothnian immigrants established in the Bronx the Finnish Youth Federation (Finländska Ungdomsförening), a radical youth society that co-operated closely with the Communist party of the United States and its many affiliate organizations. The paper examines how activists in this organization navigated between regional, national and class identities in their activism. His analysis foregrounds two activists in this organization, Aili Holm (later Backlund, 1910–1998) and Georg Backlund (1905–2002), who later married and became after their return to Finland leading figures in the Swedish-language organizations of the Communist Party of Finland. The paper examines how Holm, whose mother tongue was Finnish, and the Swedish-speaking Backlund negotiated complex questions of class, language and nationality in their activism and personal relations. The paper draws on documents of the Finnish Youth Federation, press material and the personal correspondence between Holm and Backlund between 1932 and 1936.
Experiences, Connections and Minority Identification in the Life-Story of Allan Wallenius (1890–1938)
Experiences, Connections and Minority Identification in the Life-Story of Allan Wallenius (1890–1938)Matias Kaihovirta’s panel paper explores interlinked questions of transnational communism, minority identity, and political exile by focusing on the case study of Allan Wallenius (1890–1938), a librarian, journalist, and Finland-Swedish exile communist. Wallenius was one of the most influential Swedish-speaking Finnish socialists during the Civil War in Finland in 1918. In his paper Kaihovirta analyses Wallenius’ experiences after the Civil War, his connections to communism in Sweden, USA and Soviet Union in the 1920’s and 30’s. He concentrates especially on the role of a Finland-Swedish minority identification in the life-story and political activism of the communist exile migrant Wallenius.
“Young Girl in a Blue Shirt.” Belonging and Gender in the Radical Youth Communist Movement in 1970s Finland
“Young Girl in a Blue Shirt.” Belonging and Gender in the Radical Youth Communist Movement in 1970s FinlandThis paper examines the experiences of young radical communist girls and women in 1970s Finland. They participated in a Marxist-Leninist student and cultural movement, connected to an interior, pro-soviet opposition of the Finnish Communist Party. This radical communist movement attracted a lot of youths, students, and artists at the beginning of the 1970s, and together these conservative minority communists, revolutionary youth and cultural radicals created a phenomenon still dominating the image of the whole decade in Finland. This movement is commonly seen as dangerous, dogmatic and naïve, but the reminiscence of participants is often full of nostalgia and longing: a longing for belonging. This paper focuses on the concept and process of belonging through life narratives of former youth communist women. These narratives often begin with the joy of finding like-minded people and the strong sense of belonging – but also experiences of exclusion, minoritisation, and separation are described. The paper analyses these experiences and processes of belonging and not belonging, and how these processes are connected to gender. I ask, how it was to be a young Marxist-Leninist woman – a young girl in a blue shirt of Marxist-Leninist youth and student organizations – and how, why and where it ended.
The Transnational Minority life of a Communist Finland-Swedish Family: The Nordgrens and the Struggle for Socialism from New York to the Åland Islands and Helsinki
The Transnational Minority life of a Communist Finland-Swedish Family: The Nordgrens and the Struggle for Socialism from New York to the Åland Islands and HelsinkiAnna Sundelin’s and Mats Wickström’s paper explores the intertwined experience of global communism and local minoritisation in the life of the Nordgren family from the early 1930s to Khrushchev's secret speech in 1956. The Åland Islander Aili Salminen and the Ostrobothian Runar Nordgren met and married in New York during the Great Depression, where they, together with their friends Aili and Georg Backlund, became radicalized. Upon returning to Finland, Aili and Runar Nordgren had four children and settled on the Swedish-speaking Åland Islands. Aili debuted as a proletarian author in 1940. She would later become the first Finland-Swedish author to be published in translation in the Soviet Union. Aili and Runar became members of the legalized Communist Party of Finland in 1945. They were tasked to establish the party on the very conservative and anti-communist Åland Islands, taking up leading positions in an ideological minority on the Islands and proudly upholding a red home. In 1947, the family moved to Helsinki, where Runar became the secretary of the Swedish section of the Finnish People's Democratic League and Aili the Swedish secretary of the Finland-Soviet Union Society. In the bilingual capital of Finland, the family, especially the children, experienced minoritisation in two ways. As communists, they were an oddity among the Finland-Swedes of Helsinki and as Finland-Swedes they were a rarity in communist circles. At the same time, the family were part of a powerful and progressive worldwide movement, a belief in which not even Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin could destroy.