The obvious meaning of Finlandization
is "to become Finland
You might be excused for thinking that this is a remarkably useless
word -- after all, how often do we speak of, say, Icelandization
? -- but during the Cold War
the term was
in heavy use, even though people could never quite agree on what it
The first recorded use of the word was in its German form
Finlandisierung, in a 1966 paper written by Richard Löwenthal,
a professor of political science at the University of Berlin.
By the term, Löwenthal referred to Finland's precarious political
position, where it was constrained in its foreign policy decisions by its
powerful neighbor the Soviet Union, and Löwenthal feared that
West Germany (and more specifically Berlin) might end up in
the same position. As preventing Western Europe from falling under
the Soviet umbrella was one of the major aims of the United States
during the entire Cold War, the term quickly became popular.
Now, it was an article of faith in Finnish foreign policy that
Finland was 100% independent and sovereign, an illusion the
Soviets themselves wanted to preserve, so needless to say they
weren't particularly happy about this usage of the word.
Imported into Finnish, the word underwent a small but significant
change: instead of the original suomettaminen, a transitive noun
for "being turned into Finland (from the outside)", the Finnish
media started to use suomettuminen, "turning into Finland
(from within)". (This is roughly analogous to the difference between
the English suffixes -fication and -zation.)
Perhaps more importantly, Finland worked to cast the term in a positive
light: the other sacred cow of Finnish policy was neutrality, so
thus "Finlandization" came to mean "the policy of neutrality by
non-Communist countries under the influence of the Soviet Union", to
quote the American Heritage Dictionary's definition. With time,
this came to be the dominant meaning of the word.
But no other country ever actually became Finlandized, at least in the
original "insidious Commie takeover" sense; the Iron Curtain stayed
put until the day it finally came tumbling down. These days, the AHD
inserts the word "former" before "policy", and "Finlandization" has been
relegated to the dusty filing cabinets of history.