Even thought I have never been into traditional politics myself, in my youth I always considered myself a politically active person. Still when I try to think about the issues that were important in Mikkeli back then, I can only remember one issue that people were actually passionate about.
That is the Mannerheim statue.
Well the statue discussion had started long before I come to Mikkeli, and it will probably last as long as the statue.
It all started after we had victoriously lost in the second world war. Mikkeli wanted to cherish the memory of the great commander who had honored the town with his cheerful and frightening presence for such a long time.
At the time this must have seem quite difficult task. I do not this sort of projects were very popular in other war-losing countries. Project was started in the fifties, actual statue saw the light in the late sixties.
Political struggle about the issue was actually quite a boring one: right wing wanted the statue in the center, left wing wanted it somewhere more discreet. Left wing won, and the statue was erected away from the center.
During the soviet days the statue issue was kind of a tabu, many people wanted to move it back to the center, but the fear of Russians kept the public discussion quite low. After the soviet collapse 1991 the statue discussion really exploded. Finally everybody was free to say their opinions about the issue. And everybody really seemed to have an strong opinion about the issue.
I was 14 years old when soviet union collapsed. There were quite big issues in the air back then; Big recession had just started, soviet collapse had left both ideological and financial void difficult to fill, in foreign politics we had to think about issues like EU and/or NATO memberships and in music techno changed just to regress to eurodance in couple of years.
But in Mikkeli we were mostly focused on the issue whether to move or not to move the Mannerheim statue from one place to another. There is no other issue that would have been discussed as much in local papers, bars and at the market square (and later internet). I suppose all thinkable aspects of this issue were dealt over and over again.
I moved out in the late 90s. After that Mikkeli was merged with the surrounding countryside to form the "suurmikkeli", and because the people in the countryside vote for the center-party, in 2003 mikkeli was right-wing enough to finally move the statue to the market square.
So unfortunately I did not see the ridiculously expensive operation myself, but I did read about it in the papers. For me it was very strange, since this discussion about the statue was kind of dominating voice-over on top of the soundtrack of my youth. Still I never really believed that they would actually move the thing.
These days every time I go to Mikkeli I just have to go there to the market square and stare at the statue, and wonder about these strange political and physical forces that moved this huge piece of matter here, to the exact same spot where the Christmas tree always was when I was kid.
I was not born in Mikkeli, hopefully will not die in there. Still I did spend most of my childhood and youth there, and still moments like these kind of remind me how little I understand about the city and the people living there.
Well now it is 2009, checked the local paper to see what people in Mikkeli talk about these days.
They are building something under the market-square, so it will be a big hole for several years from now.
So right now they are arguing if they must move the Mannerheim in order to get the work done. Or should they.... or can they, or can they not, or must they, and what it will cost and who will pay, and I really hope that at some point "why on earth did we move it in here in the first place"?
- ▼ marraskuuta (10)