Looking back to think forward: Finland, Northern Europe, Eurasia

The recent crises have made people to look at the event of the past, to see how and why societies have reacted rather differently to them. The reasons for present day reactions and solutions are often rooted in the past.

For example, while most European countries have outsourced their security of supply after the cold war era, Finnish National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA) still maintains large permanent reserves of standby emergency supplies. According to NESA, Finland has geographical characteristics that cause difficulties to the organisers of crisis preparedness and necessitates the upholding of permanent reserves.These include cold weather, long distances, remoteness from international centres of trade, and dependence on maritime transport.

This approach has a long history. The roots of Finnish national crisis preparedness can be traced past Finland’s independence, to its joint history with the Russian Empire and the Swedish Realm, and the basics have stayed the same for three hundred years. The security of supply aimed for the benefit of Finnish people has always been a combination of state-controlled reserves and cooperation with the private sector to encourage voluntary storing.

During the early modern centuries, the European states were primarily concerned with procuring and storing supplies for their armies. Furthermore, in most countries, both the maintenance of armies and the attempts to organize emergency supply for civilians were outsourced to merchants and other private entrepreneurs In Europe’s Nordic periphery, where winters were harsh, distances were long, population was scarce, and merchants had small resources, complete outsourcing of military and civilian supply was an impossibility, and government-regulated public granaries were a necessity.

Think Forward studies the ways in which the resilience of the present day society is connected to the past, highlighting the need to understand the processes that have enhanced confidence or that have failed to do so. The history of Northern crisis preparedness and security of supply is a theme with both national importance and connections to current international debates in the field of history, but which we know scarcely little about. We welcome new members and initiatives related to the topic – from the point of view of resilience, preparedness, maintenance, private life, gender, politics, diplomacy, security, &c.

This blog text is based on a project plan written by Juha-Matti Granqvist, Sampsa Hatakka and Anu Lahtinen, as well as on a presentation given by Anu Lahtinen in the online conference Geopolitics of the New Reality: Kazakhstani and Eurasian Experience, organized by The International Information Technologies University (IITU, www.iitu.kz), Department of Media Communications and History of Kazakhstan, on 7 December 2022.

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