Location, political and cultural history
Finland (“Suomi” in the Finnish language) is today a peaceful and prosperous nation, despite its troubled past. Wholly absorbed into Sweden in medieval times, it was invaded by Czarist Russian forces in 1714 and again in 1742. A third Russian invasion in 1809 resulted in Finland becoming an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire, a situation that continued until 1917. The rise of the Bolsheviks and their threatened take-over of Finland precipitated a civil war between ‘Whites’, supported by Imperial Germany and the ‘Reds’, supported by Bolshevist Russia. The victory of the Whites led to subsequent poor relations with the Soviet Union.
The complexity of Finland’s relationships within Europe increased during the Second World War; at different times they fought against both sides. In all, about 93,000 Finnish soldiers were killed; by proportion this was the third-highest national loss rate in World War Two. Finnish troops allied with Germans during the siege of Leningrad, subsequently fighting to a standstill a Russian attempt to invade Finland in the summer of 1944. But Finland also faced invasion by Germany, who towards the end of the Second World War attempted to invade Finland through Lappland. Fortunately for small children everywhere, both Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - traditional occupants of Lappland - survived.
War reparations cost Finland dearly; they were obliged to cede ten percent of their land area and, in consequence, twenty percent of their industrial capacity, to Russia. The most notable loss was Finnish Karelia, the province immortalised by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) in The Karelia Suite, Op. 11. The civilian population deserted the ceded lands en masse, in many instances leaving the Russians to occupy ghost towns. This was one of the great under-reported migrations following the Second World War (another being East Prussia), occurring whilst the eyes of the world were turned towards the newly-formed state of Israel.
Despite all, and without the benefit of aid through the Marshall Plan, by the late 1980s Finland had built a robust economy and one of the world’s most extensive welfare systems, guaranteeing decent living conditions for all Finns. Since then social security has been cut back somewhat, but the system remains one of the most comprehensive in the world.
The map above shows Finland in relation to other
member states of the European Union. Finland joined the EU in January 1995 and the Euro Currency Zone in 2002.
The map to the right shows the boundaries of Finland itself.
Neither their medieval Swedish masters nor the Czarist Russians brought with them to Finland cultures that embraced circumcision. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the Finns habitually are a non-circumcising people.
Legal issues in Finland
In 2008 the Supreme Court of Finland delivered a judgement that makes it abundantly clear that male circumcision, including child circumcision on parental initiative, is wholly legal in Finland provided that it is properly done. According to the judgement, banning all circumcisions would violate the constitutional guarantee of privacy in family life and freedom of religion. That constitutional guarantee derives from Finland’s membership of the Council of Europe and consequent adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgement therefore has the makings of a precedent applicable in all 47 member countries.
The Finnish broadcaster YLE reported the case as follows:
Finland’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a Muslim mother did not commit a crime when she had her son circumcised.
The Court said that the circumcision, carried out for religious and social reasons and in a medical manner, did not have the earmarks of a criminal offence. It pointed out in its ruling that the circumcision of Muslim boys is an established tradition and a integral part of the identity of Muslim men.
The Turku Appeals Court had previously ruled that the mother charged in the case was not guilty of assault. The Tampere District Court had ruled that the mother had broken the law, but dismissed the charges. - YLE
A further case has been reported by YLE, relating to the circumcision in 2008 of a Jewish infant. On that occasion, hospitalisation was needed on account of excessive bleeding. Why such bleeding occurred is unreported.
The Helsinki Court of Appeal on Wednesday [30.Mar.2011] dismissed charges in a case involving the circumcision of a male infant that led to medical complications requiring hospitalization. A lower court had convicted the child’s parents of incitement to assault and battery.
The Court of Appeal struck down the lower court ruling and the fine that has been imposed on the child’s parents. Also, following the decision, they are not required to pay compensation to their son for pain and discomfort, as ordered by the District Court.
According to Wednesday’s decision, it has been difficult for the parents to perceive their behaviour as assault and battery or incitement because circumcisions have been long permitted, and their legal status has been unclear.
Finland has no legislation on male circumcision. The Helsinki Court of Appeal noted that at the time of the events under review, there was not even a precedent concerning legal proceedings concerning circumcision. Circumcisions have had a sort of approval by customary law as a long established tradition.
In this case, the circumcision was performed on the premises of Helsinki’s Jewish congregation in the spring of 2008 by an English rabbi who was not a licensed medical practitioner in Finland. The week-old infant was hospitalized for treatment of excessive bleeding following the procedure.
This was apparently the first time that charges of assault and battery were filed in Finland in regard to the circumcision of a Jewish boy.
The Helsinki District Court’s verdict was that the hallmarks of assault and battery had been fulfilled since no pain relief was used during the procedure. The actions of the parents were classed as incitement as they did not carry out the procedure themselves.
In the autumn of 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that a medically performed circumcision carried out for religious or social reasons is not a crime. In the case that led to that ruling, the procedure had been performed by a medical doctor and an anaesthetic was administered before the operation - YLE
CIRCLIST Member experiences
Circumcised at age 42
Hello I am a man from the Åland Islands, an archipeligo between Finland and Sweden that belongs to Finland. I had my circumcision done 2 years ago at the age of 42 years. I had been thinking about it for some years. It is not usual that men are circumcised here in the North. It will only be done for medical reasons. But I wanted that because I think its looks much better without the foreskin , and I have never regretted it. The only thing is that the circumcision was quite loosely done so I am thinking about having it redone, tight with no loose foreskin at all. The circumcision was made at the local hospital; I said that I have had some problems with tight foreskin and some irritating skinbreaks and there was no problem to get the circumcision done. I went to the hospital in the morning and went home in the afternoon. The operation was done using self-dissolving sutures and after a week some has disappeared but some were still left so I cut them away by myself; the healing went much faster once the sutures were gone. I can only say that my cut penis looks much better now after the circumcision then it did with the foreskin, it feels so right for me so I can highly recommend it for all guys who are considering it. Above all, hygiene is much easier and there is no smegma any more.
I live in Finland, where circumcision is a rarity. No more than one percent of guys get clipped here, most of them for medical reasons. In the gay community and also in Helsinki (the capital) where I live now, the percent may be a bit higher, but the fact remains that a circumcised male is a curiosity in Finland.
So why did I get interested in all this? When I was fifteen, I used to hang out with a guy that soon became my best friend. He was really well hung and that is the other reason why I fell in love with him. Unfortunately, the feeling was not mutual, he was straight as hell. After loving him secretly for a half year, I finally told him about my feelings and identity. He didn’t care about my sexuality, as long as I didn’t bring the subject up. Somehow I managed to cool my feelings down towards him, knowing that there would be no response.
Anyway, next summer (he was 16 by then) we both attended a congregation youth camp. The summer was hot, the lake water was warm, and we used to go swimming and sauna-bathing every day. It was in that sauna dressing room where I saw that something had happened to this well-endowed friend of mine. He had been circumcised!
It was my first encounter with a circumcised member. The operation had been done only a few weeks ago, probably in the beginning of the school summer break. The glans was so totally and beautifully exposed. It still had its thin, tender, purplish skin that was soon to be thickened. The circumcision scar was fresh and dark, almost black, and very visible. And the whole beauty was hanging in the end of that long shaft that I had so often dreamed about. It was the sexiest and most exciting moment of my life!
At the age of 23, I went to see a student doctor, who was convinced about my "phimosis" (which I didn’t have, quite the opposite, in fact) that he sent me to a hospital to get things fixed. Unfortunately, the surgeon didn’t remove more than was medically necessary, so I still have half of my foreskin left. That is why I am considering a recirc - and this time I want it done properly: no loose skin allowed!
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