March 19, 2012

Finland’s cold-cut warrior, RIP

Filed under: Economics, Europe, History, Media, Russia — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:13

The most unusual cold war hero died recently. Eero Iloniemi tells the story of Finland’s Väinö Purje and how his TV commercials featured in the Cold War in the Baltic:

While Purje is virtually unknown in the West his exploits are legendary in the Baltic States, especially in Estonia. Alo Lohmus of Estonia’s leading daily Postimees referred to Purje’s contribution to the Cold War as part of a ‘spiritual nuclear bomb’ that blew apart a corrupt system.

High praise, indeed, for a modest tradesman. That a butcher could gain such a position in a global conflict is one of the most curious chapters of Cold War history.

Due to its proximity to the Baltic Soviet republics, Finnish television broadcasts penetrated the Iron Curtain, into Estonia and on occasion Latvia. Purje, who was the star of Finnish retail chain Kesko’s food adverts, became a cult figure in Estonia. From 1974 to 1981 he featured in more than 100 television spots showcasing sausages and cutlets, all virtually unknown in the then Soviet republics.

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