Valtakunnallisen humanistisen verkko-opetuksen tarjoamat verkkokurssit

Finland, the world economy, and the Cold War

The Cold War between the socialist and capitalist blocs had an impact on practically every field of human activity. After all, the conflict was not only a military or a diplomatic confrontation but at least as much a battle for “hearts and minds” and for economic superiority. On a global scale, both sides of the Cold War tried to promote the expansion of their economic systems, but they also used economic methods to support and recruit allies and to coerce opponents. In practice, in the world of nuclear-armed great powers, foreign trade and financial policies were often as much instruments of foreign policy as methods of promoting a country’s economic interests. As Alan Milward, a well-known British historian, has written: “It is not surprising that economic warfare played so prominent a role in the Cold War. Its most persistently appealing attribute has always been that it is a way of striking at an enemy against whom it is inherently too risky to embark on a prolonged period of armed combat or too dangerous to risk the escalation of an existing state of combat.”

Finland was a neutral country located in the “grey area” of Europe. Although the Finns had no desire to be involved in the Cold War, the country became, in practice, one of the frontlines in this confrontation. Despite two wars against the Soviets (1939–1940 and 1941–1944), and the threat of communist takeover, Finland had surprisingly survived as an independent democratic country with a market economy. However, many Western governments and observes feared that the Soviets would not accept this situation in the long run and that since military methods had not been successful, more indirect methods would be used. Finnish-Soviet trade links, which the Soviets were anxious to expand, seemed to be one of the most obvious methods.

If the economic methods seemed a useful way to promote Soviet aims, they were also extremely useful to the United States and its allies in promoting Western aims. One of the key concerns of US foreign economic policy in Finland and in the Cold War world generally, was to uphold a free and prospering market economy as an obstacle to the expansion of communism. The US government should therefore support the reconstruction and development of the Finnish economy, which would curb the possibilities for growing support to communism in Finland and the need to expand Finnish-Soviet trade.

In the course we will consider what impact the Cold War had on the Finnish foreign trade and on the economic development of the country. How did the superpowers and their allies try to use economic tools to promote political goals? What impact did these actions have on Finland? How did the Finnish government and the Finnish companies try to defend their interests in the Cold War world?

Course Outline:

1) Economy & Cold War: an overview
2) Finland in the Cold War world
3) Finnish-Soviet trade
4) Western foreign economic policy towards Finland
5) Finland, Cold War and the European integration
6) The end of the Cold War

Mode of teaching

Method of study: Each week students will be asked to read a short introductory text written by a teacher as well as two scholarly articles or book chapters. They will then be given five or six questions, of which they can freely choose two. The answers (15–25 lines) will be written on a discussion forum of that particular week. In order to foster an extensive discussion on various opinions and views expressed by the authors of texts or by the students and teachers, the students are also asked to comment each other’s views.


Professor Markku Kuisma, Professor Niklas Jensen-Eriksen
Elina Kuorelahti


Cross-Border University/University of Helsinki