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Voices of Europe Milton Mayer American author and lecturer broadcaster and professor of social research from the University of Frankfurt has been traveling throughout many of the countries of Europe recording the voices of Europeans who are alive and sensitive to the conditions that surround them in Helsinki the capital of Finland. He interviews professorial Lowery postie professor of linguistics in Helsinki University professor Postini who are the fans. Where did they come from and why of all things do they speak Finnish. These these vowels of yours these w rs and double A. They seem to make finnish a very beautiful language. Indeed I would say it sounds very much like Italian to an american each year. But on the other hand I find that what little German and French I know
do not help me to understand a single word of your language. And this this avowal business I have never encountered so many evolves and in a language. Makes me think of a German friend of mine who said as you lose your liberties you gain more consonants. But the Finns are quite free and they have a language full of vowels. Well you will be so very good professorial to explain all of this to me. Well I think I could not possibly explain all of it but I'll try to say something about the origin of the Finns and all the Finnish language. The Finnish language is as perhaps many of you know has indeed not very many relationships in Euro.
Hunger Arion is the only major European language which is related to the Finnish language and this relationship indeed is so distant that you cannot immediately discover it. They both the sander from a common language called the proto of Greek language which was spoken. At least 2000 years B.C. in some calabash somewhere are the two people as the fans and the Hungary and separate tribes or separate branches of the same racial family or ethnic family who moved west in the Europe one of them going south and one north. Well of course as far as the racial composition of the pool peoples is concerned that we cannot say with a certainty how much there is of common origin that has
been odd or cause racial admixture during the past centuries. And the only thing that we know is inherited from the common ancestors is the language which will cause has changed very much during all these long time. How can can fans and hunger Ariens understand each other. Not at all not at all it is quite impossible. The difference is you know as you may know English and Russian are related to the relationship between Finnish and Hungary and it is almost as close as let us say between English and Russian. Aha. I would think that the geographical position of phenol and what related language certainly to Russian since you are right next door to Russia. And quite probably also to Sweden since Finland
has been a part of Sweden while universally enough their Finnish language is not related to r r from or to Swedish. There are occasional long words of course but as such their languages are entirely seperate units and. Does this separateness of the Finnish language indicate a resistance both to the Russian cultural influence and the Swedish cultural influence. Well to a certain extent it may do a soul. On the other hand we'll also have to take into account the vast area of Finland and the the one that the population has lived are very much scattered. And therefore there.
Has been able to preserve its language better than very well as a say in a very densely populated territory I should say that the Finnish language has a remand very much closer to the original state than for instance the present day English language has if those of you who know all the English and Middle English will know that there are much more hours and the words are much longer. And that's the Finnish language that is so say more or less in this original state. As far as the wallows are concerned. And is this a consequence of of its own lation geographical or salacious. Or is there
something in the Finnish character which has resisted the corruption of the language. Well the Finns are perhaps rather conservative in habits and and also in speaking habits. But you are Scandinavians are you not. Well we're certainly belong to the Scandinavian cults and all's fair. And this is due to a long common history to. Two common idea was and two common social institutions. Are you Racial they are biologically Scandinavian that is. I don't see in Finland quite the same blond us that I do in Scandinavia and especially in your nearest neighbor Sweden.
Yes that's true to some extent. The scientists think that there is some Scandinavian admixture in their racial composition of the Finnish nation. Most of it in the western part of the country. But of course there are some differences. And then well our racially sense the fans like the Hungary and originated in Russia. Are you closer to the Slavs racially. Well there are certain features maybe that are common to us and to the Finns the scientists call this race the eastern Baltic race. And the great part of the Russian people belong to this
same race as far as race is concerned. Yes. Prefer sorry pos the the. In Sweden then and in Denmark and in Norway in the other Scandinavian countries. I find that the Finns are very definitely regarded as Scandinavians Is this a matter simply of of cultural and political history rather than racial and linguistic connection. Well of course do have a Swedish speaking population in Finland too which amounts to about 10 percent of the entire population so as far as this population is concerned we can speak of close initial and linguistic bonds to bat as far as the Finns proper are concerned. Because the main factor in my
opinion is the. Common or cultural background the common civilization common ideals on their way to the shores of the Baltic. The ancestors of the fin as it. Encountered Germany. People are already perhaps a century B.C. and already and then they became acquainted with the Western type of civilization. If we may term it so at that time. And then during several centuries Finland was united with Sweden to a common state and. Oh cause this is. Where the major part of this. Common cultural inheritance.
There are many auld loan words which are. Retained in the new conservative Finnish language in almost our original proto Germanic forms. We can indeed say that the Germany clone words in Finnish are the all this. Monuments on Germany tongue that exists. Is there any historic connection between your political institutions as such resulting from your contact with the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon world in your beginnings. Well I think there is at least linguistic evidence points to that direction. The words work for Dean for instance School in us. He's in Finnish is borrowed from Germanic. And so are many other similar words. So I think. At
a very early period of the history of the ancestors of the Finns got acquainted with this type of Western civilization. And do your political institutions as such reflect this acquaintance. Well our political institutions of course are. As they are now they reflect the a many centuries that we live together with Sweden and during all the Russian period from eighteen hundred and nine onward. All these political institutions and all the laws and constitutional rights of Finnish people were preserved unchanged. So that in this respect that was although Finland as a grant actually belonged to the Russian empire there was a great difference between Finland and
Russia as far as their political system is concerned. We were we did have a much more democratic liberties in Finland in Russia. There still was service. We never had service in Finland at all proper sorry postie. I'd like to know if you think I'll say personally and not as an expert. If you think that there is been any peculiar effect on the Finnish character or perhaps a reflection of the Finnish character. In this extreme separateness. Of your language. Well I think that is something in it. I think there is a separateness that has many good friends independent. They have had to Arenal and rely
only on their own help and they have perhaps. Got a certain toughness in in the constant struggle against a Baron saw oil and lost forests. And now Professor sorry postie the last question. Let's take the fans with their language almost unintelligible to the American and the Americans with their language almost unintelligible to the Chinese. We are all to be together is language is the difference in language. A really hopeless barrier between us all. Well in my opinion not in my opinion it would always be possible to in each case to find a common language
who which would be understandable to both parties and in many cases I think the English language who would be the most suitable for such a purpose. Thank you very much proper sorry posti. The word for Miss in Finnish is 90 90 or may Levy UTI is information director of the leather and shoe industry of Finland. But it isn't leather and shoes that Milton Mayer discusses with her today. Instead they talk about the Finnish sauna for she is an expert on that subject. Her father a teacher wrote the definitive book about the sauna a book which has been translated into many languages including English. Here is Milton Mayer Navy Harry Henri wherever I have gone in Finland. Everybody has told me that in order to understand Finland I must go to the
sound. When I ask how the Finns produce such great runners as powerful a normie. The people say well you must go to the sound not to understand this. When I ask how they produce such great composers as yon see bail us they say oh well you must go to the sound to understand this. When I ask why the Finns are such great foresters in the northern part of my own country the same answer Oh if you go to the sound you will understand when I say why do the Finns pay their war debts and why aren't the Finns afraid of the Russians. Everybody says well when you go to the sound you will understand this and I'm glad you got this. I went to the sound. I let me tap and tell you. Well it was the worst thing that ever happened to me and I am a man who has suffered many terrible things. Navy Harry already I have drunk English coffee I have listened to German
speeches. I have tried to sleep in a Yugoslavian bed but the sound was the worst. First of all I was told to under arrest. Well that was not so bad. And then I was told to go through a very heavy door made of birch and I noticed that the handle of the door was only on the outside. When I went through the door there was no handle on the inside so there was no way to get out. And then I saw I was in a room which was made and tiredly out of a small room which was made entirely out of birch logs and somebody said there were cracks between the logs so that the heat could get out but I couldn't find any cracks between the logs at least the heat did not get out. The heat was terrible and then I was told to climb up to a long wooden
platform and to lie down and my feet were put into a into a pan of cold water. My knees were up in the air and I had my hands behind my head with my elbows up in the air. And then the heat really started to become terrible. After the door was closed I saw that in this room there was a a fire and of and and on the oven was a great big kettle and this kettle was filled with stones. And from the Stones was coming steam and not all the time. No no no. But the heat was terrible. I mean you didn't see this thing. No I couldn't see the steam I could sort of smell the steam. And my knees began to burn and then my elbows were burning. And then worst of all when I breathed or tried to breathe
the cartilage between my nostrils became so hot that I could hardly breathe I tried to breathe through my mouth. And that didn't help either. And then I thought perhaps if I turned over from my back and to my front that the heat would not be so bad but I was wrong because the heat was coming up from under the platform to the heat was every where. And then I began to do what nice Americans would call perspire but which plane Americans call sweat. And this was awful because you know people are mostly skin and bones and water. And here was all the water going out of me and I was only skin and bones. And I got weaker and weaker and then the door open. This door which had a handle only on the outside and a woman
came in from the lady office found the lady of the sound oh well now you have to understand Nady that I am a respectable family man and I am not accustomed to this kind of thing. And this this woman came in and and I suppose I blushed but I think I was so red all over anyway like a lobster that you couldn't tell if I was blushing are not. And she at least she didn't pay any attention to me and I was so shocked to see a woman and of her age who she was an elderly woman like my own mother and she even looked like my mother. But she didn't treat me like a mother. She took a bunch of birch twigs a sort of a long whisk broom made out of birch twigs and started beating me all over. And this was I thought almost too much this was sort of like adding injury to insult. And then
between beating me she would pour more water over the hot stones and of course this made the heat worse. And then. She opened the door and made me get up off the platform and come down and go into another room and lie on my back and she started scraping me with a cloth. I think this cloth must have been made out of iron filings. Was it what it felt like it was made of iron. And with a great deal of soap and she scraped me from from head to toe including my toes. And then she turned me over and I was too weak to protest. She turned me over on my stomach and started scraping my back off of me and I could feel the back coming off of me. And of course I didn't realize until afterwards that it wasn't my back that was coming off it was just the layers of dirt. You see navy here you already no American
has ever had his back washed because you can't wash your back yourself and you can't get anybody else to wash your back for you. And so I think probably from the time our republic was established in 1776 no American has ever had his back washed. And that now you then now live. I have had my back washed and you can imagine what a what a terrible experience it was. Then she made me get up and put me under a shower. And I think this shower what was coming through the shower was crushed ice. It looked like water but it was too cold to be water. I think it was crushed ice coming through the shower. And then. I was trying to fall down I was trying to collapse but she wouldn't let me fall down she took me by the arm and she said sounda and pointed to that terrible room again and I wanted to say Thank You know
some other time perhaps but I didn't know how to say this in Finnish. And so she pushed me back in the room close the dark and the last thing I saw you know I think this was the next to the last thing I saw was a gauge on the wall and the arrow on this gauge pointed to one hundred twenty I think or maybe it was I think Mawr maybe. I mean at 70 I don't know maybe it was 220 or 320 I could hardly see anymore. And then I'm up because the last thing I saw was that she turned the lever before she went out of the door. And then the arrow begin to go up on the gauge. And. It got hotter and the only thing I knew I don't know what happened except that I felt I had to get out of there and I couldn't. And then finally the door opened again and she came in and started beating me again. And then I crawled out off the platform and followed her out of
the room and I called out to her. I will say anything I will confess anything I will promise anything. If only this torture will stop. Well apparently she couldn't or she wouldn't understand my English because she pushed me under the shower again and started running this crushed ice threw on me and then then she wrapped me up in a some kind of a rowboat and put me down on another platform and started beating me with her hands. Well by this time I was too weak to say anything or think anything. And then she said bye bye in English. And then she left and I think I fainted and I don't know how many days later it was several days later it seemed. I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was this same woman and she said bye bye again. And I looked at my watch and it was only about half an hour had
passed and I felt like a very weak very very weak man. But like a new man. How did you like that. Well I don't know I felt knew I felt right. That's a newborn but I wonder if I'm not a little too old for that. What I really want to know all theory is what happened to me WHY DID THEY DO THIS TO ME. I think after taking this you will understand the feelings better. Have you ever heard about that they would see through for example see so yes I have heard in Finland this word Caesar and other big S in fit and finish see saw and found there. And it says all means that if you bear so I can bear some impossible and make it
possible. Then you have Cecil. I think you had Cecil then you have now been in the south. And finally you did like that. And. Does every fan do the fins like this too. Yes because we really are happy when we land a sound that you know that in Finland we have 400000 sound us in the country and. In a country which has only 4 million inhabitants it's rather much isn't it. And. Every farmer they have their own town US and the country where the people they have no movies theaters they have this soundtrack. So then you know what that sound now means for the films. It's not only that we go to the sound of therefore we want to be claim that mental influence is very B.
And where does it come from. And we don't know quite exactly that that had have been sound as even in other places in Europe that and I mean middle and age. It was forbidden in other countries but it stayed only in Finland. It is many maybe many thousand years. All our sound that. Well no why was the sound that is this is public bath the steam bath. Why was it forbidden at the end. Centuries ago in western Europe when it was so famous already I think in Rome and in Greece and in Egypt what happened to the sound. And why did it go on in Finland. I think they didn't take the sound I mean the natural way like we do that here. So it wasn't I think that was the morrow which made that it was for me.
Aha yeah I didn't take that very natural. The sound is still infinite. Why had the public bath which became so immoral in Western Europe why did it remain the way it was in Finland. I don't quite exactly bet may be that you know that that through the holy places and that the first one is the church and the other is selling that. So you know even when you lend a sound that you have to speak in a quiet voice we have always kept their eyes and see the psalm as a holy place and no navy Harry or any that I have been to the sound I do I understand Finland. Would you like to go once again to the site. Indeed I would. So I then I think you have finances so that I understand things better. Thank you very much Navy Harry.
Voices of Europe
Lauri Posti and Irmeli Viherjuuri
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Milton Mayer interviews Professor Lauri Posti and Irmeli Viherjuuri. Topics discussed include the Finnish language and the Finnish tradition of saunas.
Other Description
Interviews with noted Europeans on a variety of subjects, conducted by Milton Mayer, American author and broadcaster, lecturer and professor in the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University.
Broadcast Date
Global Affairs
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Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Interviewee: Posti, Lauri
Interviewee: Viherjuuri, Irmeli
Interviewer: Mayer, Milton, 1908-1986
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-37-33 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:10
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Chicago: “Voices of Europe; Lauri Posti and Irmeli Viherjuuri,” 1953-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 24, 2021,
MLA: “Voices of Europe; Lauri Posti and Irmeli Viherjuuri.” 1953-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 24, 2021. <>.
APA: Voices of Europe; Lauri Posti and Irmeli Viherjuuri. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from