Baltic Sea Youth Dialogue 2017opening day: a report from Helsinki

On November 20th, IVY volunteer Domenico Misurelli took part in the opening session of the Baltic Sea Youth Dialogue 2017 in Helsinki. Organized jointly by the Aleksanteri Institute (Finland), the Council of the Baltic Sea States and NORDEN Association (Russia), the event is designed as a one-week long series of lectures and workshops, taking place in Helsinki and St. Petersburg.

Launched in 2014, for the first two years it was designed as a joint programme of the CBSS and Körber Foundation Germany which gathered young Europeans from their respective networks, who are interested in the history of the Baltic Sea Region. Organising programmes in border areas of the region, the young participants get to know each other’s cultures, in order to reflect, discuss and explore their shared identity. This year, the Baltic Sea Youth Dialogue is focused on two main topics: Finland’s 100 years of independence and the cultural-historical relations and roots in the Baltic Sea Region

After having received a warm welcome by the organizers, Anna Enmark on behalf of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and Dr. Ira Jänis-Isokangas for the Aleksanteri Insitute, participants – representing 7 countries: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Belarus, Germany, Italy – had the chance to listen to Dr. Sirkka Ahonen’s lecture entitled “The use and misuse of history – Finland and the global contexts. Part of Historians without borders’ network, Dr. Ahonen analysed the idea of myths, intended as a representation of the past, as a commodity to sell the public. In this regard, in the context of Finland’s history, she came to debunk national myths such as the concept of nation-state as a destiny as well as the idea of Finland as a nation of warriors. In fact, according to Dr Ahonen, those narratives are historically inaccurate aiming rather at building a national identity and a system of common values.

In the second part of the meeting, participants were split into three groups in order to start a discussion over the future of the Baltic Sea Region, its identity, its role in the context of current geopolitical West-Russia tensions. Indeed, the discussion is intended as an ongoing process which, eventually, will lead to a final presentation on Saturday 25th in St. Petersburg. Then, an excursion brought participants through the streets of Helsinki to discover its main monuments – the Evangelical Cathedral, the World Peace statue, the Mannerheim statue – to learn more about the role of Finland in the context of the Cold War.