I hadn't realized to just what extent Finland came under the Soviet Union's spell, but this Helsingin Sanomat article portrays a picture of a satrapy enjoying autonomy only at the sufferance of Moscow.
The influence of the Soviet Union was personified by Soviet Ambassador Vladimir Stepanov and the strengthening of his influence over Finnish decision-making.
According to the diaries, Stepanov interfered directly in the president’s actions, government appointments, aspects of Finland’s official foreign policy, and the internal affairs of Finland’s political parties. He also sought to control Finland’s trade with the Soviet Union.
A couple of months before the Helsingin Sanomat poll, Stepanov encouraged Marshal Dimitri Ustinov to suggest a joint Finnish-Soviet military exercise.
The diary states that the Kremlin also backed the ambassador in this project, and appealed to Kekkonen by letter. Kekkonen rejected Ustinov’s suggestion and many other proposals, but not all proposals.
I see very little here to set Finland apart from East Germany or Poland. There too the leadership could reject some of the most outrageous proposals from Moscow, but that didn't mean they were in any sense independent.
An even more telling indicator of the extent of Soviet control of Finnish affairs is the following excerpt:
A familiar man returned to the Soviet Embassy in Helsinki: KGB general Viktor Vladimirov, who had greatly helped Kekkonen in the Presidential election of 1956.
Vladimirov calmed the situation down: there was no need to fear a revolution, or to hold joint military exercises. The definitions of neutrality remained unchanged.
Of course Vladimirov meddled in Finnish affairs, but he was tactful. Finns were quite used to it. [emphasis added]
An example of this is was the replacement of Centre Party chairman Johannes Virolainen by Paavo Väyrynen in 1980.
About half a year before the party conference Kekkonen wrote about an agreement reached with Vladimirov.
“We agreed on four things: 1) Virolainen’s removal from the chairman’s spot. 2) Väyrynen to replace Virolainen.�?
The two remaining issues were the selection of vice chairs and the party secretary, which were not resolved during the conversation.
When the decision had been made, Väyrynen received support for his campaign from both the Soviet Embassy and the President’s office – and he was chosen.
Ye gods! A KGB general "suggesting" who should head a major Finnish party, and the Finnish president, who was first elected through the agency of said KGB operative, willingly acceding to it? I feel as if I were getting to peer behind the facade presented by a Potemkin village.
Native Finnlanders will of course argue that they were making the best of a set of bad options, and I'm not going to argue with them on that score, seeing as it did work, but I do think this historical episode is worth keeping in mind, not just because it illustrates how aggressive a beast the Soviet Union really was, but also as a warning against taking anything Putin has to say about events in Ukraine at face value: he grew up in a culture where KGB men from Moscow could boss presidents of "sovereign" countries about like bus-boys, and to a Chekist like him it must seem only natural that this should continue to be the case.