When Mikko Hautala was 13 years old, he stepped into the Seinäjoki City Library and searched the shelf for Selection Guides for various universities.
Reading them, he stopped at the Faculty of Political Science.
- I was really interested in the fact that this is the case.
That was by no means an obvious thing in that environment, Hautala recalls.
The Hautala family did encourage studying, but there were no political scientists in the family.
There were not even students.
The father was a master builder, the mother a close caregiver, living the ordinary life of a small town in the 1980s.
However, Hautala decided that he would become a diplomat.
- It was a bit in those circles as if I had announced that I would become an astronaut.
No one really knew people like that and no one really had an idea what that was.
It was the same in those circles as if I had announced that I would become an astronaut.
No one really knew people like that.
This autumn, Hautala, 48, started as Finland's ambassador to Washington.
Prior to that, he was four years as ambassador to Moscow.
It is precisely this position that a diplomat cannot gain in the service of the Finnish state.
This is exactly the kind of story that Finland wants to tell about itself in the world.
Hautala's career is about high-quality basic education and equality of opportunity, but it also says a lot about his own determination.
Mikko Hautala has headed the Finnish Embassy in Washington for almost six months.
She has a long background as an Eastern European expert. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein
Hautala chose a long Russian in high school, although at that time young people were more interested in Europe than in the Soviet Union.
The group was barely assembled, even though Seinäjoki High School was the largest in Finland at the time.
When Hautala then began his studies at the University of Helsinki, he happened to end up in the city on his first night around the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
- I had never been there and I didn't even know where it was, but I had seen the profile of Merikasarmi in a magazine photo.
That's when I decided I should get there, here's the thing.
Then a lot of work was done.
In addition to Russian, Hautala studied Polish, Czech and Ukrainian at the university.
He wanted Finland to become a leading expert in Eastern Europe.
In his first internship at the Embassy in Kiev, Hautala worked nine to five jobs at the embassy, then slept an hour’s afternoon sleep at home and wrote a guide on the Ukrainian market for Finnish companies until the early hours of the morning.
The will and skills of the young man were rewarded.
Hautala was hired in 1998 to the embassy in Kiev, first as a visa officer and then as an administrative manager.
- That's the way I am now.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shook hands with Mikko Hautala in March 2016. In the same year, Hautala became Ambassador to Moscow. Photo: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva
Mikko Hautala has worked for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs since 1998.Photo: Evelyn Hockstein
The Finnish Embassy in Washington is located in the diplomatic area of the northwestern part of the city, on the edge of a small park.
Inside the modernist building, completed in 1994, there are airy representations.
In them, it is safe to conduct an interview even if a coronavirus pandemic is rampant in the United States.
Hautala admits that the pandemic has slowed the start of a new wash.
Major events are on hiatus for the time being.
- It makes extensive networking important, especially in the early stages, impossible, he says.
- However, work is still being done.
The people of the Finnish embassy have so far been spared from infections.
The embassy is constantly occupied by about 50 percent, the rest doing telecommuting.
Small, few-person events are still held.
In one of them, Hautala experienced a fun surprise.
- I went to see the Polish Ambassador, Piotr Wilczek.
He looked at me, and asked me where I learned Polish.
I said that at the summer university in Katowice.
He said “moment,” and asked me in.
It was revealed that Wilczek was one of Hautala's old teachers.
- He just emailed me a picture and asked if I was here.
Well, I was on that bench in the student cup with a beer mug in hand.
In addition to the pandemic, Washington is now in turmoil with a change of power.
Donald Trump, who has been president for one season, has refused to admit his loss to Joe Biden.
Hautala followed the election campaign closely and noted its harshness.
Earlier conventions flew into the rubbish bin.
- Political customs seem to have changed, at least for the time being.
That is quite clear, Hautala says.
- The two main parties see things fundamentally differently.
The disagreement goes so deep that I do not think that any immediate conclusions should be drawn from this election about the future of American democracy.
- I would rather see that the pressure situation has been going on for quite some time, and it started already in the Obama term.
Hautala says he has made it clear that the democratic institutions of the United States will endure the election and its aftermath.
He sees no end to the stark confrontation.
- What it means for time is a big, closely monitored question in the next few years.
Mikko Hautala wants to help Finnish companies return strongly to the US market when travel restrictions ease. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein
According to experts, relations between Finland and the United States are currently at a record good.
President Sauli Niinistö has met Trump several times, and relations at the ministerial level have also been close.
Hautala doesn't think Biden's rise to the White House will change that.
According to the ambassador, Finland has strengths that the Biden administration may be interested in.
He cites environmental and climate issues and scientific research as examples.
- If you look at some of the emphases of Biden's future administration, I would see that Finland and the other Nordic countries are the absolute best Group A in them.
We are talking about democracy, equality, climate, Hautala says.
- I believe that there is quite a lot of demand for us and the other Nordic countries from the future administration as a kind of reference group in world affairs.
However, the most urgent priority for Hautala is clear: the exports affected by the pandemic must be pulled back again and quickly.
He wants to help Finnish companies return strongly to the US market as the global economy recovers and travel restrictions between countries ease again.
- However, this is such a big partner for us, and the significance of this trade is so massive for us that we have a big job to get our company moving with a tough commercial story, Hautala says.
- The basis of our well-being is in exports and international trade.
Perhaps my biggest single concern is how quickly we can get up to speed on this.
Mikko Hautala enjoys reading in his free time.
She is also planned and regular in her reading hobby: books support work tasks. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein
Mikko Hautala ended his studies at an early age and chose his future employer even before starting his studies.
So it’s no wonder that plannedness extends to his spare time as well.
Hautala mentions reading as his only hobby.
That, too, he does according to plan.
- I'm 20 years have been reading plan.
It starts from what works the current task requires.
Then it looks to the future: what shortcomings I myself have.
And then there are always some general education books and always some fiction.
At the time of the interview, Hautala had two works in progress.
Journalist Anne Applebaum’s Twilight of Democracy talks about the rise of right-wing populism in Poland, Britain and the United States.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's On China discusses China's foreign policy developments.
Before the turn of the year, he was going to read about the serenity of the Greek philosopher Plutarch's classic Mind, as translated by Juhana Tork.
- Of course, there is never time for the father of small children, it is in the evenings when the children are put to sleep.
Usually I sit with my wife, and that’s what I read.
Hautala spends his holiday in his grandparents' old house in Teuva.
There he fortifies a rocking chair, which his wife Heli Hautala calls the Russian “command point” or “command point”.
- I don't have any expensive or extreme hobbies.
A bowl of coffee, a book and a moment of peace, it's the best.