Welcome to Finland turns 40
From info package to lavishly-illustrated magazine
The world has changed profoundly in the past four decades. Welcome to Finland has been able to keep its readers posted on the transformation that Finnish industry has undergone in those years, providing them first with interesting examples of the development of the shipbuilding, forest products and mechanical engineering sectors, and then telling them about the spectacular growth of the electronics industry.
The information that the magazine provided in the 1960s was strictly confined to the kinds of things visitors needed to know about Finland; lists of hotels with the services they offered, food vocabulary, currency units and exchange rates, and so on. Information like that can nowadays be found more conveniently and up-to-date on the Internet. Finland was presented as the land of thousands of lakes, the tranquillity of Lapland, and as a place where design products were a part of people's everyday lives. On the industrial side, a lot of attention was focused on the various sectors of wood processing. The metallurgical and mechanical engineering segments were also highlighted, and even so relatively long ago we already had our eye on electronics.
In 1961 John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the USA, Yuri Gagarin became the first person to travel into space and the GDR began building the Berlin Wall. In a world divided by the Iron Curtain Finland was trying to build an image of herself as a neutral Western democracy, even though she had a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with the Soviet Union.
Welcome to Finland came into being 40 years ago to give the world correct information about the Finnish way of life, our aims and achievements. Our target group consisted initially of Finnair passengers and the success of the first issue, which was distributed free in the company's aircraft, was encouraging. Now anyone on any continent who is interested in Finnish affairs has access to our magazine, either the print version or through our Internet site.
That the Ministry for Foreign Affairs has for years been distributing Welcome to Finland through its own channels testifies to the trust we have earned. For that we are grateful and proud, as we are for the friendly greeting that the President of Finland addresses to our readers in this anniversary issue. We thank also our faithful readers and advertisers, many of whom have been with us since the beginning.
Finland and the surrounding world have changed in a way that no one could have predicted when our magazine was founded. The Soviet Union has ceased to exist, the Baltic States have regained their independence, Germany is reunited and Finland is a member of the European Union. Amid all this upheaval, Welcome to Finland's goal has remained unwavering: we still want to be an interesting and reliable window on this country.
Tuovi and Markus Similä Editors of WTF
The Soviet border and the fascination surrounding it added to Finland's exoticism in those days. Not taking its name too literally, Welcome to Finland ran articles presenting Moscow and Leningrad, which has now reverted to its old name St. Petersburg, in the early 1960s. There was a clear reason for those "forays across the frontier": Welcome to Finland was Finnair's in-flight magazine and the airline operated regular services to both cities. In the decades since then the magazine has been entirely devoted to describing the many faces of Finland and her people.
World's first in-flight magazine
Welcome to Finland's founder, the Danish publisher Anders Nyborg, made his first visit to Finland in 1958. He says he immediately fell for both the country and its people, but also found the publishing scene there very interesting.
Nyborg had accumulated considerable expertise in relation to various kinds of magazines aimed at tourists, and now came up with an idea that no one had ever thought of before: a magazine for businesspeople travelling by air. He developed the idea and sold it to Finnair. On 10 December 1961, by which time Finnair's brand-new Caravelle jets were in service, passengers were handed what we believe to be the world's first in-flight magazine, Welcome to Finland. Our cooperation with Finnair has continued to this day, although the airline launched an in-flight magazine of its own twenty years ago.
"Welcome to Finland quickly became well-known and its format was better than most other magazines in those days. In the early years it was produced entirely outside Finland. The editorial work and printing were done in Denmark and the paper used was made in Germany. Since Finnair is state-owned, a dim view was taken of this `foreignness', and production was gradually transferred to Finland," Anders Nyborg recalls.
Nyborg's ties to Finland remain strong. Thanks to Welcome to Finland, he met the Finnish woman who later became his wife. He gave up the magazine when he reached 50 and did what he had wanted to do since he was a young man: become a full-time artist. He now sells his paintings and sculptures in the flourishing art gallery that he runs on the Danish island of Bornholm.
Business, culture, phenomena
When Welcome to Finland changed owners in 1983 it remained in Nordic hands, belonging to Finn Greve Isdahl from Norway. Isdahl had spent several years in New York working for American publishing companies and obtained an MBA from the Wharton Business School in 1972. His work had involved a good deal of travel in Finland and he had often read Welcome to Finland in hotel rooms. He found the magazine interesting.
The most conspicuous change that the new owner brought was to the magazine's cover. Every since the first issue published under his stewardship (in 1985), the cover has featured a work by the artist of the year, who is presented in a separate article.
"I am interested in art and I believe this has been a good way of making Finnish artists better-known abroad. Our first artist was the northern naïve painter Andreas Alariesto," Isdahl says.
"Welcome to Finland is a leading Finnish export publication, which keeps readers informed - in an up-to-date and comprehensive way - about Finnish industry and business, culture and people. Many of our readers have kept their old issues as collector's items. In fact, that is one of the reasons why the magazine has the same kind of binding as a book; it's designed to be read several times without falling apart.
"Our aim is to give our readers the best service possible. As part of our efforts to achieve that, we have had an online version, where much of the material published in earlier issues can be found, for several years now. We would like to receive more direct feedback from our readers to help us make our magazine even more enjoyable reading and improve the service we give them," says Isdahl.