Putin is following me

No, Vladimir Putin is not a follower of my blog, although his bots may be. Putin is, however, definitely following in my footsteps.

A few weeks ago my partner in life and I set out to discover Eastern Finland and enjoy an unforgettable opera evening in the medieval Olavinlinna castle.

The castle is the venue of the Savonlinna Opera Festival and the pride and joy of the city of Savonlinna.

Putin is to meet up with Finland’s President Niinistö and enjoy opera in the Olavinlinna castle too, if things go as planned this week.

This made me take a closer look at relationships. To my partners relief, I will focus on geopolitical ones.

By the way, I use the expression “partner in life” above on purpose. Life expectancy, life sentence, life partner –  somehow they all sound like you’re just sitting there, alone or with someone, waiting for something to happen. Partner in crime, partner in life – these to me are terms that reflect active participation.

It’s 50 years since our partnership began. It still feels like yesterday. But our relationship was not the topic today.

Finland terminated its reluctant partnership with Russia in 1917 when the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland declared its independency.

It was only 100 years ago. Yet it feels like forever.

Now Putin is on his way to Savonlinna to commemorate this significant milestone, among other things. The 100 years, not our 50. Although both are significant.

What a memorable summer it looks to be with Putin visiting and the Chinese navy venturing into the Baltic sea at Putin’s request.

The Chinese warships are here for some fun and games with the Russians. They call them military exercises.

Luckily the Chinese navy has no plans to visit Eastern Finland as far as I know. Three would be a crowd.

Savonlinna may be looking to attract as many as possible of the millions of Chinese tourists that are said to visit St. Petersburg (Russia not Florida), but this is not the way to go about it.

Putin likes to stir things up and make everyone sit back and wonder. Something the Chinese have always been good at too. Who is playing who and what is the name of the game? My guess would be “Muscle Flex”, but what do I know.

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Finland, and especially Eastern Finland, has seen its fair share of Russians before Putin. Sweden gave up its long-term relationship with Finland with a shrug in 1809. Russia picked up the pieces. As far as the Finns were concerned, this was a forced rebound relationship; never meant to last.

The Russians had made forays into Finland and picked up pieces before. We were reminded of this when we overnighted in Lappeenranta on our way to Savonlinna.

Lappeenranta is a Finnish city well worth mentioning. Not only is it charming, it has much experience with Russians. Both positive and negative.

Things became messy in Lappeenranta in the summer of 1741. The city was raided and burned by the Russians.

Sweden is said to have provoked the incident, and its defense of Eastern Finland was sloppy at best. We learned our lesson the hard way. Never trust others to come to your defense whole-heartedly when needed.

The monument (below) commemorating this unhappy event is as politically correct as you can be. It tells the sad story of the battle of 1741, and reminds us that the spirits of our forefathers call on us to, “Vigilantly guard this land of ours that has been drenched in the sweat and blood of bygone generations.”

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No mention is made of the fact that the aggressor was Russia, or the fact that Sweden surrendered a big chunk of Eastern Finland, Lappeenranta and Savonlinna included, to the Russians in the peace treaty of 1743.

Finns are really good at not mentioning things. It doesn’t mean that they ignore them. They just don’t mention them. No one wants to make “waves”. Lappeenranta now styles itself as a gateway between East and West. They know how to focus on the positive.

But back to Putin. He will soon be enjoying the sights of Eastern Finland, just as we did a few weeks ago.

There is much to enjoy. We hope to keep it that way. So please feel free to visit, Putin, but don’t plan on an extended stay.

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The city of Savonlinna, with its beautiful Olavinlinna castle, is as excited as it can be to have you. Which is understandable; the Savonlinna Opera Festival and tourism make up a sizeable part of the city’s revenues.

The rest of us are a little wary. This should not come as a surprise to you, with all the mischief you have been stirring up around the world. The Chinese warships are great attention grabbers, I grant you that, but all those troops, airplanes, and ships are just too close for comfort.

My partner in life and I saw the opera Rigoletto when we visited Savonlinna. The setting was wonderful, and the performance was riveting.

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Heroes and heroines seldom fare well in Verdi’s operas. This is true for Rigoletto too. The totally corrupt and evil Duke of Mantua survives unscathed, while the besotted heroine dies willingly in his stead, and the heroine’s father (Rigoletto) is left to bemoan how things could go so awry.

Reminded of Finland’s history as a Grand Duchy, first under the Swedes and then for a short time under the Russians, I congratulated myself on the fact that Putin will be seeing Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, a lyric opera with a happy ending.

There is no need to remind the man of dukes or duchies in any form. Bygones are bygones.

As for you, my readers, Lappeenranta and Savonlinna (and its opera festival) are well worth visiting. You might want to wait until Putin has left though.

If you are wondering how my blogs can go from pondering democracy to traveling in Eastern Finland, wonder no more.

This was an in-depth analysis of Finland’s geopolitical situation – in traditional Finnish style. No need to spell things out, we all know where we stand.

Finns are not talkers, we are doers. We have the tunnels to prove it, if the Wall Street Journal is to be believed. No one messes with Finland and walks away scot-free.

By the way, Sweden is a beautiful country well worth visiting too…