From universal suffrage to the universal basic income, Finland is a European country that pioneered egalitarian policies and technological innovation alike
Finland celebrates its 100th anniversary as an independent country on Wednesday. From the chaos of the unfolding Russian revolution this small nation state emerged, already the first in Europe to give equal voting rights to men and women, to allow female candidates to stand and, in 1917, to elect a social democratic prime minister. Famously resilient in the face of historical and geographical odds, memories of the winter war after Soviet forces attacked in 1939 still shape a steadily moderate but clear-eyed outlook towards their large neighbour to the east. Survival under extreme conditions may lie behind a national readiness to innovate. Nokia was a timber pulping company that turned to computing and then mobile phones and put “made in Finland” on the global map. The country’s version of the “Nordic model” makes it one of the fairest societies in the world, with high ratings for gender equality and eco-friendliness; it is currently running an experiment with a universal basic income. And this year, the most distant member of the EU demonstrated that although xenophobic nationalists can lurk, they can just as easily be thrown out of government. From Sibelius to the novelist Arto Paasilinna, Finns weave a unique course through the tapestry of Europe. Happy anniversary, Finland.