Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme ruffled many feathers with his recent statements about the Finnish government dominated by women in their 30s.
In a radio interview with the Estonian Broadcasting Company ERR, Helme expressed strong doubts about Finland's new government led by Social Democrat Sanna Marin, who is currently the world's youngest at only 34.
Helme even recalled the Civil War of 1917, still a very painful topic in Finland, drawing parallels between the Red Guards and the current left-of-centre government, questioning its ability to defend the country's interests.
“Now we can see to some extent the revenge of the red on the whites, in that the Reds who wanted to liquidate Finland have come to power and are now trying to make Finland some kind of European province, which may have the name Suomi or Finland”, Helme said as quoted by the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet.
Furthermore, Helme also expressed doubts about Sanna Marin's experience and ability and even quoted Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution.
“I remember that Vladimir Ulyanov/Lenin is quoted as staying that every kitchen maid could become a minister, or whatever it was. Now we see that a cashier girl has become prime minister and at the same time some other street activists and illiterate people have become members of the government”, Helme said, predicting a rise to power for the right-wing Finns party.
As the news of Helme's verbal attack broke in Finland, many Finns rushed to social media to vent their anger.
“Dear Minister Mart Helme! I am proud to live in a country where 'any kitchen maid can become a minister'. I’m even more proud that Finland was the first country where a maid became a minister 92 years ago, when Miina Sillanpää received the portfolio of the minister of social security”, a user tweeted.
Hyvä sisäministeri @Mart_Helme ! Olen ylpeä, että voin asua maassa, jossa "jokaisesta kyökkipiiasta voi tulla ministeri". Vielä ylpeämpi olen siitä, että ensimmäisen kerran Suomessa piiasta tuli ministeri jo 92 vuotta sitten, kun Miina Sillanpää valittiin sosiaaliministeriksi.— Marjaana Lumme (@LummeMarjaana) 15 декабря 2019 г.
“Looks like envy. I remember the Estonian economy based on the sale of t-shirts and socks barely 30 years ago”, another one scoffed.
Kateudesta on varmasti kyse. Muistelen, että Viron kansantalous perustui vielä 30 vuotta sitten t-paitojen ja sukkahousujen myyntiin toisilleen. Vaikuttaa tuon ajana kaverilta.— Mika Tammiruusu ♉️ (@dikson60) 15 декабря 2019 г.
“Mart Helme is talking nonsense. All ministers should have experience working at the checkout counter, in the field of cleaning, caring for other people, or something like that. I believe such experience does well”, another one mused.
Mart Helme puhui pehmeitä. Kaikilla ministereillä pitäisi olla pakollinen kokemus kassalta, hoitotyöstä, siivousalalta yms. jostakin vastaavasta. #SannaMarin omaa kokemuksen jostakin tavallisesta ja se on hyvä asia.— Rogetzu (@Rogetzu) 16 декабря 2019 г.
Still others called Helme “an idiot”, “a populist windbag”, and even compared him to the Iranian clergy.
"Through his statement, Estonian cabinet minister Mart Helme significantly damaged Estonia’s relations with one of our most important friends Finland. It is a shame that the government behaves towards Finland in this way. The minister of the interior should be dismissed immediately", Estonia's former Foreign Minister Urmas Paet tweeted.
Viron hallituksen jäsen Mart Helme on vahingoittanut vakavasti Viron suhteita yhteen lähimmistä ystävistämme Suomesta tänään antamissaan lausunnoissa.— Urmas Paet (@Urmaspaet) 15 декабря 2019 г.
On häpeä, että hallitus käyttäytyy tällä tavalla Suomea kohtaan. Sisäministeri on vapautettava nopeasti. https://t.co/drf8V82d9E
Sanna Marin herself, who became prime minister following the resignation of her senior party colleague Antti Rinne, retorted that she was proud of Finland, a country where even a cashier can become prime minister.
“I am incredibly proud of Finland. Here a child from a poor family can get a good education and achieve a lot in life. Even a cashier can become prime minister. Finland would not have survived without workers”, she tweeted, adding that she appreciates the work of each and every employee.
Olen tavattoman ylpeä Suomesta. Täällä köyhän perheen lapsi voi kouluttautua pitkälle ja yltää elämässään moneen. Kaupan kassasta voi tulla vaikka pääministeri. Ilman duunareita ei Suomi selviäisi. Arvostan jokaisen työntekijän, ammatinharjoittajan ja yrittäjän työtä korkealle!— Sanna Marin (@MarinSanna) 15 декабря 2019 г.
Helme later declared that his statements about the Finnish prime minister are his own and don't represent the attitude of the Estonian government. At the same time, he stressed that he doesn't question the cooperation, friendship, and warm feelings between Finland and Estonia, which he called “brothers”, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.
Marin previously won a lot of praise from Finnish and international media for being a woman raised by a single mother, who later entered a same-sex relationship, as well as her working-class background.
However, she is not the youngest even within the five-party coalition she currently heads, which is comprised of the the Social Democrats, the Centre Party, the Greens, the Left Alliance, and the Swedish People's Party.