What does nationalism look like?

As narrow-minded, chauvinistic nationalism is rising in Europe, those who value an international world with freedoms and opportunities should probably start to worry a bit – and channel it into action.


The 6th of December 2016, during the Finnish Independence Day, a crowd was marching on the streets of Helsinki. The group is known by name Nordic Resistance Movement: an openly fascist and national socialist faction founded in Sweden. The television cameras followed the march and the counter demonstration during most of the afternoon. I felt surreal.

I was two years old when the Berlin Wall fell. In my childhood, there were still some maps with Soviet Union and DDR written on them, but I remember well, how I did not really understand what it meant. I also remember that somewhere in the 1990’s I saw a television program in which some American businessmen said that they were worried about Finland, because Russia was our neighbouring country. I thought they were real silly. I mean, hello, Russia is not a threat to Europe! That’s like some old people’s stuff!

“OUR TIME IS THE DULLEST and the most worrying time in my lifetime”, says a nonfiction writer and a well-known Finnish journalist Heikki Aittokoski in the article The Era of Nausea.

The sudden change in the political atmosphere in Europe has appeared very strange a phenomenon to a person like me. I grew up during the optimism of the European integration. Most of my life I have been part of the European Union, and I’ve used the common currency Euro, since I was a teenager. I’m also an Erasmus alumna with an identity more of a European than just Finnish.

But I think it is legitimate to say that I haven’t been alone in the dark. The popularity of some of these the movements has taken many of us by surprise: the polls didn’t see much of it coming and neither did many journalists.

ELM DECEMBER THEME ISSUE is all about understanding nationalism and what is happening to Europe in the 2010’s.

In the longest article, mentioned above, we trace the past, present and the possible futures of the European nationalist and right-wing populist movements with Heikki Aittokoski and researcher Juhana Aunesluoma.

The two phenomena that were met with deepest surprise ware the so-called Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump in the US Presidential Elections. In an article, about Brexit, a leading British adult educator Alan Tuckett says that adult education can support Britain in preparing for leaving the European Union even though it failed to stop the “Leave” vote winning. The possible consequences of Trump’s Presidency are tackled by a Finnish former foreign correspondent Rauli Virtanen writes about in his column.

Another columnist Katarina Popović takes us to the Balkans. The region’s turbulent history is marked by wars and even ethnic cleansings fueled by nationalism as late as in the 1990s. She asks in her column, whether adult education was an innocent accompanist of the past events or a powerful instrument, used for good and for bad? In Greece, where the Golden Dawn is getting more and more popular, the education system should be blamed, writes our third columnist Angeliki Giannakopouloou.

We also interviewed Sociologist Cristina Roldão about her research whose results reveal significant differences between the white and black students the Portuguese school system.

Last but not least, we hear from some positive movements. Michael Voss reports from Copenhagen where the youth from both sides of the German-Danish border tour to tell fellow youth about living together and being Both/And instead of Either/Or.

IF THE NATIONALIST FORCES will continue to grow, the threat is that we enter an era of nausea. This was also said by Heikki Aittokoski in the interview, but I couldn’t agree more.

Nevertheless, circulating fears and speculations do not take us anywhere. Development towards this or any direction is not inevitable, as in democracies we do have a say.

But if we value an international world with freedoms and opportunities, we should probably start to worry a bit – and channel it into action. We need to start asking ourselves: could there be some ideas or some courses of action that we could start offering as alternatives to narrow-minded nationalism in these turbulent times of many uncertainties?

And even if we did wish to turn back the clock and dismantle the international bodies, we are all responsible for practicing some critical thinking when choosing whom to vote for. That is, for thinking through whether the choices our candidate is offering to us are at all realistic in taking us where they promise.

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