Suvi Kansikas works as a research fellow at the Network for European Studies at the University of Helsinki. She researches the history of relations between Russia and the European Union from the Cold War until present day. She has especially focused on trade between East and West, Eastern Europe and cooperation between Russia and the EU.
“The role of history is emphasised because we cannot predict the future”, says Suvi and explains: “History shows us how we got here. It also helps us understand that our trajectories are not inevitable. History is full of coincidences and choices not taken”. Suvi emphasises the importance of historical knowledge in policy making. “Historians can help remember that there are in fact often more options than we think. When making decisions in the present, it is important to also remember the paths we didn’t take in the past”, she says.
Suvi sees the promoting of a better understanding of history as one of the key missions of our initiative. “We reflect our own personal history through a wider collective past”, she explains and continues: “It is important to communicate the knowledge historians produce to a wide audience. It can help people understand the variety and diversity of different viewpoints and experiences”. Suvi notes that history has emotional appeal and it can therefore be used as kindling in conflicts. “Behind every war and conflict there are unresolved disputes and past experiences of injustice”, she says.
The idea that Finland has managed to fully deal with its difficult past Suvi considers a myth. “Certain parts and periods of our history still evoke strong emotional responses. We still have taboos and traumas as well as issues we have not dealt with for one reason or another. A good example of this is the reconciliation process the government has started
with the Sami people in 2017”, she says. Suvi wants to develop a culture of dialogue and deliberation where different historical viewpoints have genuine interaction with one another.
In 2016 Suvi moderated a panel discussion on Turkish and Armenian history at our international conference The Use and Abuse of History in Conflicts. “It was an eye-opening experience”, she says and continues: “some people have a strong need to prove their viewpoint to be the only correct one and that the other parties are innately wrong”.
Suvi has been a member of HWB since the founding meeting in 2015. She was a board member from 2017 to 2019 and in 2018 she acted as vice-chair.