What comes to mind when the name "Finland" is mentioned? Maybe Nokia, the timber company turned world-dominating maker of mobile phones? Perhaps an exemplary tradition of democracy and respect for human rights? Boreal forests and saunas on the shores of icy-cold lakes? The courage and discipline of the Finnish army? Smooth running Nordic simplicity and efficiency?
Yes, all of the above combine to make Finland one of the world's most successful countries, a model to be emulated by smaller countries the world over.
And yet it wasn't always like that. Finland was almost totally destroyed by the second world war, laid waste by a Russian army seeking vengeance for Finland's decision to side with Nazi Germany. In the late forties and early fifties it was a sorry place with almost no industry and tremendous poverty.
Out of the mess a populist communist party emerged with Soviet backing. In the 1944 election it secured around 35% of the vote and 50 seats, becoming the dominant force in Parliament. In the 1948 elections it was expected to secure a majority which would allow the establishment of a USSR-style political and economic system in Finland.
It wasn't to be, however. The people of Finland opted instead for moderate and democratic parties of the centre-left and centre-right, leaving the communists with just 22%. They never again had the opportunity to challenge for power.
Think of what Finland would have looked like today had the communists won. Possibly a lot like Moldova. Would you still be chatting with your girlfriend on a Nokia, or would you be sending food-aid to the starving masses in Helsinki? Would Finns be the world's top rally drivers or taxi drivers?
Moldova faces a similar, epoch-defining choice on July 29th. Vote communist and spend decades in totalitarianism and poverty. Vote liberal and get a chance for a brighter future. Who knows - maybe one day 'La Placinte' will be a world famous space tourism company from Chisinau...