Bathhouse blog

Finnish bath diplomacy

In the country with the cleanest air and unique landscapes, which is the birthplace of Santa Claus - Finland - bath diplomacy emerged during the Cold War. The role of sauna in Finnish life cannot be overestimated: there are three million saunas for every five and a half million inhabitants. Almost every Finn first enters a steam room at the age of no more than two years. A steam room in Finland is a place of relaxation, a place for making deals, discussing important political issues. Government meetings are held there, and politicians even give interviews. All 98 Finnish diplomatic missions in different countries have traditional saunas. In short, the sauna has become an integral part of Finnish diplomacy and politics.

One of the first politicians to experience the effects of hot Finnish steam was Nikita Khrushchev. In 1960 Finnish President Urho Kekkonen invited the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to the embassy sauna in Moscow. The five-hour session made it possible to reach an agreement on the smooth integration of Finland into the European free trade community.

18 years later, the effect of sauna diplomacy was experienced by the USSR Minister of Defense Dmitry Ustinov. And here the bathhouse tactics proved their worth: the negotiations between the defense ministers of the two countries took place in a steam room, after which the question of Finland's involvement in a military alliance with the Soviet Union was never raised again.

When the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Finland and the USSR celebrated its 30th anniversary in 1978, a political decision was made to mark the anniversary by making a joint movie based on the book "Behind the Matches" by Finnish classicist Maiju Lassila. In the story the main character after three days of crazy adventures returns home and in the happy ending together with his wife steams in the sauna...
It was a rare case when the decision to shoot an eccentric comedy was made at such a high political level. To fulfill the state task was entrusted to director Leonid Gaidai, the main role played by Evgeny Leonov.
Filming was conducted under close supervision of the relevant authorities. Especially the Soviet leadership was concerned about the scene of the finale: in it, after much discord, the couple in a home sauna finally comes to reconciliation. To show such a thing in a Soviet movie in 1979 was unthinkable. But at the same time it was impossible to offend the Finnish friends, who enthusiastically accepted the idea of the movie and eagerly awaited the premiere. For them, for a husband and wife to go to the sauna together is something completely natural. The Finnish producer, who provided the financing, insisted on this scene.

A truly straw decision was made: the movie filmed two versions of the finale. One in the sauna - for Finland, the other - for unconscious Soviet viewers.