How Finland Prepared for the Worst-Case Scenario
Safety, functionality and smart urban development in underground Helsinki.
I was listening to Rachel Maddow’s show in podcast format the other day (podcasts are an excellent way to get your American news when you live somewhere else, and Maddow is a major girl crush) and was surprised by the introduction.
It was about rising NATO interest in Finland, my home, the place where I was born and spent the first 21 years of my life.
Now, us Finns love it when someone mentions Finland on TV outside of Scandinavia. It makes us feel like we matter.
Except when you talk about Finlandization. We don’t appreciate that one.
Anyway, that Rachel Maddow intro was about how, since WWII, Finland has prepared for the repetition of our worst-case scenario: a Russian invasion. We take it very seriously, never forgetting our shared history and the realities of having a much more powerful and much less democratic neighbor.
This preparation includes things like stockpiles of medicine, grains and energy supplies to provide for the basic necessities of the people in case we find ourselves in the situation Ukraine is currently in. Finland also has a system of obligatory male conscription to maintain a reserve with a high level of training.
But one of the most interesting aspects of Finnish military preparation just might be the underground city below Helsinki.
I’m from a town called Lahti, about 100km (62 miles) northeast from Helsinki. It’s a relatively small town, so when I was about 15 and began traveling with my friends to the capital, it felt like a different world.
What’s always been the most alien thing about Helsinki for me are the tunnels built underneath the central part of the city.
The ones you’ll become most acquainted with when you visit Helsinki as a tourist connect the railway station to the subway system and the bus station that’s a couple of blocks away. They’ll also take you to the main shopping malls in the city center. This makes my souvenir purchases a lot easier when I go visit Finland in the middle of winter.