Review of Lost Ground from Kirkus

Kirkus Reviews’ review of Lost Ground.kirkusrecommendations

Could Russia fall apart from the inside out?

The article below is fascinating and maybe not all that far-fetched. “Russia” is an empire, and the Soviet Union was the same empire with a different ideology. Now, the numerous regions/ethnic enclaves contained within this amalgam are building their own identities. Without the tsar’s tyranny or Stalin’s reign of terror to keep it in check, regionalism is making headway, even (interestingly) in the St. Petersburg region which is now apparently openly using the name Ingria, familiar to Finns and Swedes. At the very end of the article, Finland is used as the prototype for this process. Interesting times.


“Sw BalticProv en” by Thomas Blomberg – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

How far Russia will still go to rewrite the history of Karelia

Ever since Peter the Great built his city–St Petersburg/Leningrad-on a swampy piece of land where the Neva flows into the Gulf of FInland, where in his words “only a few Finnish peasants were living”, the Russians, tsarist and communist alike, have been trying to rewrite the history of the area. During the Stalinist era many of the native Karelian Finns/East Karelians/Ingrians were killed, deported, sent to gulags, worked to death. The Karelian movement for independence and the movement to join ethnically kindred Finns have been systematically and brutally suppressed.  Can’t believe they’re still at it with this outlandish flag controversy, calling the regional flag the Karelians wish to adopt as an Irish forgery. The Karelians and the Irish have nothing to do with each other. The Otava constellation symbol comes straight from Finnish/Karelian mythology, the world-famous epic poem, Kalevala.  It is as Karelian as can be.EastKarelianflag

Deja-vu all over again in the Baltic

This is 1939 all over again. Putin turns his gaze northward just as Stalin did, and tries to intimidate the neutral countries of Finland and Sweden. The same sort of warning has been given to the Finns. Will it be only a matter of time before Russia uses its ‘defending St. Petersburg’ (aka Leningrad) excuse to make demands for territory and concessions from its neighbours to the northwest? Is military action far behind?

On Being Finnish

While trying to promote my book, Lost Ground, I’ve come to realize just how Finnish I am. Finns are notoriously bad at promotion–that’s why much of the world believes the sauna is a Swedish invention!–and especially at self-promotion, or anything that smacks of self-praise. “Oma kehu haisee,” we were told– “bragging about yourself smells bad.” This does not make for good salesmanship, even if you are selling something of the finest quality. On a serious note, it enables phenomena like the post-World War II era known as Finlandization, when Finns deliberately downplayed anything that might offend their Russian neighbour. I recall hearing in ’70’s Finland: ‘yes, we cherish our independence, we just don’t make noise about it.’

I’m not sure where this distaste for self-promotion comes from, whether it’s hard-wired into Finnish DNA, or the cultural product of centuries of being squeezed between the Swedes and the Russians and having to keep a low profile. Having grown up next door to the U.S.A., I know what you should do to promote yourself and your efforts, but to a Finn–and a Canadian to boot–it’s like pulling teeth without freezing.

I’m not sure what studies have been done on this subject, if any.