Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in Finland Wednesday to begin a two-day state visit to his country's closest and most trusted Western friend.
Gorbachev's official welcome at Helsinki's Vantaa airport by Finnish President Mauno Kovisto and his wife, Tellervo, was to be followed by official talks at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.Expectations for the visit in Finland were high, in particular with hopes that Gorbachev would clarify where Finland and its Nordic neighbors figure in his oft-cited vision of a "common European home."
A former autonomous grand duchy of the Russian czars, Finland received its independence from the Soviet Union Dec. 30, 1917, when Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, signed the country's unilateral declaration of independence.
Finland is the only state ever to secede from the Soviet Union. Finnish troops fought Soviet forces to a standstill in two bloody wars, but the country lost its easternmost province of Karelia in reparation.
Since then, Finland has since adopted a pragmatic approach to the Soviet Union in what has become known as "Finlandization."
Seen as a derogatory term by the Finns, Finlandization has come to denote an independent country that adapts its foreign and defense policies in deference to a stronger neighbor.
The Soviet leader was to be accompanied on the visit by his wife, Raisa, Estonian Communist Party General Secretary Vaino Valjas, Leningrad Communist Party chief Boris Gidaspov and Soviet Politburo secretary Aleksandr Jakolev.
First Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoli Kovaljov and Economic Relations Minister Konstantin Katushev also were part of the Soviet delegation.
On Thursday, the Gorbachevs are scheduled to breakfast with conservative Prime Minister Harri Holkeri at the Soviet Embassy before seeing a trade presentation by the Central Federation of Finnish Industry.
Signing ceremonies were planned Thursday for some 20 Finno-Soviet agreements, including pacts on joint venture projects in the Kola Peninsula, environment and general trade agreements.
Most important of the bilateral trade agreements is the next in a series of five-year Finno-Soviet trade agreements, which for years have dictated balance in bilateral trade.