The sauna is seen as a powerful tool of diplomacy because it allows for the creation of a relaxed atmosphere, which can be beneficial for bridging gaps and finding common ground between countries.
Saunas have long been a part of Finnish culture, but it is only recently that their potential as a tool of diplomacy has been realiSed. Finnish embassies and consulates come equipped with a sauna and Finnish diplomats have arranged their own Diplomatic Sauna Society circuits in Berlin, Brussels, London, and Tokyo. Additionally, Finnish peacekeepers have built saunas for their mission in the Golan Heights.
Overall, the power of the sauna in diplomacy is an interesting phenomenon that has been used to great effect in diplomatic negotiations and has opened channels of communication between countries. It is a powerful tool of diplomacy that can be used to cultivate ties and foster a relaxed atmosphere, and its potential should not be underestimated.
Successful examples of sauna diplomacy:
In Namibia’s independence negotiations in the 1980s, Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president, used the sauna to cultivate ties with Namibian freedom fighters.
In the sauna, Urho Kekkonen, Finland’s longest-serving president, persuaded Soviet president Nikita Khruscheve that Finland joining the European Free Trade Association won’t affect Finnish neutrality.
Pertti Torstila, a senior Finnish diplomat at the time, summed it up nicely in his 2010 speech to the 15th annual International Sauna Congress in Tokyo.
‘In the sauna all are equals,’ Torstila said. ‘There are no superpowers or mini powers in a sauna, no superiors or servants. You don’t keep your politics up your sleeve when you are not wearing sleeves. If you discuss and agree on something when you are all naked, it’s difficult afterwards not to keep your word. … Networking in the nude is an absolutely moral good’.
Source: Foreign policy https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/04/04/finland-diplomatic-sauna-society-soft-power/