Finnish Exceptionalism – Sisu

American exceptionalism is no myth. The 19th century saw some of the greatest minds produce a vastly modern civilization out of a wilderness. Since then we have been in intellectual decline – we have consistent party purges of anyone who doesn’t toe the party line in all areas of life from academia to the military, and narrow ideological constructs such as political correctness have rendered the 1st amendment a relic and a sideshow.

How about our performance in the Second World War? The greatest fighter pilot was a German, the greatest tank ace was a German, and the greatest sniper was a Finn.

The greatest military performance of all time took place in Finland, as well. Historians must acknowledge the organic national character of the Finns to reason with how they gutted the largest military in the world and made them sue for peace after 105 days of conflict.

Americans have their grit, and the Western Europeans have their sangfroid, but the Finns have something that defies translation. Sisu is an organic concept born from the frozen tundra of the North.

This concept defies the idea of universal equality among cultures. It helps us understand not only why Finns were capable of military prowess that puts the rest of us to shame, but also why a barren, rocky arctic nation could turn into the leader of educational and technological excellence after the war.

Finns are not ideologues, nor chauvinists. They are a people who learned to survive in an isolated, sub-zero wilderness and how to apply a can-do attitude to everything in life. Sisu is not only a kind of fatalistic amor fati, but also a simple method of troubleshooting. Life is expected to be brutal, frustrating and people are expected to try to drain us of our energy and resources. It is how we face these obstacles that define our character and our reputation.

Sisu represents not the final goal, but taking a deep breath as you walk the plank. Sisu defies the inner cries for peace as well as the external. Sisu is an inner battle that manifests itself outwardly in feats such as holding the Mannerheim Line, while brandishing relic rifles from 1905 against the largest army in the world.

The world can look to this nation and truly say “I have something to learn from you.” The world can say “I am humbled to admit that your mental training is superior to mine.”

Among all the battle performances in the world, the Finns of the Winter War are among the world’s greatest, right up there with Leonidas and Alexander the Great.

One reason for their amazing performance was the trust and camaraderie that they showed to each other. The Finns fought in a synchronized fashion, where every man’s effort was appreciated, even if it didn’t translate into Rambo-like kill counts of the Bolsheviks. Love, on the line, combined with intense hatred for the invader created a force that to this day can make a reader’s jaws drop.

For the rest of us scouts, we should sit at the feet of these people, and try to absorb what we can.

  • Patrick Shrier

    The Winter War was the greatest military performance of all time? I would not call it so. What the Finns achieved against the Russians was amazing but not unparalleled. You ,must remember that Stalin did not deploy his entire strength against the Finns and if he had the Red Army would have crushed them because the Russians could absorb 10-1 casualties if they had to in order to win.