There are many crazy conspiracy theories circling the web, everything from the Earth being flat and the moon being fake to a race of underground lizard people secretly controlling the world. One particularly weird theory going around right now is that the country of Finland doesn’t really exist, having been made up by Japan and the Soviet Union. How could people really believe that an entire country is an elaborate hoax?
In the Cold War era, Japan and the Soviet Union supposedly shared a secret about a stretch of the Baltic Sea between the Soviet Union and Sweden. Around the mid-20th century, the two nations collectively spread the idea that there was a landmass known as Finland on the stretch of ocean, to keep the good fishing between themselves. The Japanese were free to fish as much as they liked there without worrying about international laws, so long as they give a share to Russia.
As insane as it sounds, conspiracy theorists have come up with a significant amount of evidence to back it up. Finland isn’t a ‘popular’ country that many people visit, so not many can say that they have seen it for themselves.
They claim that the Trans-Siberian railway was built to transport the catch from the Baltic Sea to Japan under the guise of Nokia hardware, which explains why Japan is the biggest importer of the brand’s products despite the fact that very few people in the country actually use them. Another claim is that social democrats are using Finland as an idealised model for how a liberal social democracy should be. Even the name ‘Finland’ proves the theory, they claim, as it comes from the fin of a fish, ignoring the fact that in Finnish, the country is called ‘Suomi’.
But what about the 5.5 million Finnish people themselves, and the thousands who emigrate to or visit Finland? The conspirators have thought of an answer to that too. Their claim is that the Finnish people, while believing that they live in Finland, are actually residing in small towns throughout Sweden, Estonia, and Russia, in remote forested areas. This is where people travelling to Finland are actually flown to.
However, just like any conspiracy theory, there is strong evidence against it as well. For one thing, it is easy to see Finland from an airplane, space craft, or satellite image. Theorists claim that the images are altered, but it would take a lot of time and resources to change every single one. They would also need to bribe every airline and pilot who flies to Finland to keep the secret.
Finland being invented during the 20th century doesn’t factor in the centuries of Finnish history, language, culture, arts, and the Finnish people still alive today who were born before the supposed fake Finland was invented. It would be impossible to trick an entire nation of people into believing that they are from a fake country.
Most sources say the first appearance of the conspiracy was in a Reddit post in 2015 by an anonymous user going under the username Raregans. In a thread discussing weird things taught by parents, he posted an elaborate story about how his parents told him the theory in all seriousness. The post went viral and spread around other social media sites such as Tumblr and 4Chan.
Despite its meme status, the Finland theory is still mostly played only for satirical purposes, and has even brought more attention to an often-overlooked nation. The Finland Conspiracy sub-Reddit is filled with posts praising Finland and its accomplishments.
Yet there are still a small section of people who buy into the theory. It can be difficult to tell when people online are being sarcastic and when they are being serious. The user who posted the original theory says that he doesn’t believe it himself and that his parents burst out laughing when he brought it up again. He has reportedly received many angry messages from Finns, one even offering to fly him out to Finland to prove that it really exists. Yet he also claims to be proud of creating the viral sensation as it has taught him a lot about Finnish people and their culture and given him a new-found respect for the country.
This article is part of Culture Trip’s Finland 100 campaign, celebrating everything Finnish on the country’s centenary.