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CanKiwi2
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A Sense of History and a Spirit of Sacrifice

Post by CanKiwi2 » 29 Mar 2011 19:36

A Sense of History and a Spirit of Sacrifice

A vast array of storys and pictures in Suomen Sotilas were intent on conveying a sense of national history and military traditions to the readers. The magazine abounded with histories of Finnish military units and tales of battles and campaigns where Finns had fought, all the way from the times of the national epic Kalevala and the Iron Age up until the Liberation War and the Heimosodat (Kinship Wars) of 1918–1922. The stories of the hakkapeliitta Finnish cavalrymen of Gustavus II, the Finnish soldiers of Charles XII, the soldiers and officers of the Finnish War 1808–1809 as portrayed by Runeberg, and the Jägers and other heroes of 1918 were tirelessly retold. This national military heritage was iterated through different genres, both as factual military history and as fictional adventure stories. The recurrent theme was that Finns had always been good soldiers; strong, unyielding and fearless, who did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives for their military honour or their freedom.

According to Heikki Nurmio, who was a central figure both within military education and military historiography in the 1920’s, it was important to make the conscripts aware of these historical traditions since they were sources of “national military spirit and soldier virtues” for the young army. However, he balanced the glorification of Finnish soldierhood by pointing out that they illustrated both the strengths and the weaknesses of Finnish men as soldiers. In the same spirit, Olavi Uoma wrote that the 17th century hakkapeliitta cavalrymen had understood that the Finns’ many defeats in the border clashes with neighbouring peoples had derived from a spirit of passivity and defensiveness. For that reason the hakkapeliittas had assumed a “spirit of the offensive”, which they had left as an “invaluable heritage” to their descendants. “The smaller our number, the more ruthlessly we have to attack, if we want to pull through”, enjoined Uoma of the readers, obviously trying to prepare them for confronting a Soviet attack.

Recurring references to the Finnish “forefathers” upheld a historical myth where these anonymous forefathers for hundreds of years had not only fought Swedes and Russians, but also striven for an independent state. One typical such story from 1929 put conscription in the constory of Finnish men fighting and prevailing over superior forces throughout the centuries. It related the words of a grandfather, explaining to his grandson about how the men of their home village resisted the Russian Cossacks in the past. The old man urges the boy to remember that their village has been burnt dozens of times by the Eastern enemies, “… and you can count by many hundreds the men of your tribe who over the centuries have sacrificed their lives to drive out the oppressors from this neck of the woods. The land we call our own was bought with the heart-blood of our fathers. A Finnish man will not bear a foreign yoke and nothing but death breaks his perseverance. (…) You too, my boy, will grow up to be a man and then you should know what you are obliged to by the deeds of the fathers of your tribe. Foreign feet must not trample the land that for centuries has drunk the blood of men defending their freedom.”

One can also see references to the “fore-fathers” in a number of patriotic songs of the period. A good example is Lippulaulu (The Flag Song), where the words for one of the verses are:
Fathers and brothers with their blood
inaugurated you as a banner for free country.
With joy we follow you
on roads traveled by our fathers




Finnish:
Siniristilippumme,
sulle käsin vannomme, sydämin:
sinun puolestas elää ja kuolla
on halumme korkehin.

Kuin taivas ja hanki Suomen
ovat värisi puhtahat.
Sinä hulmullas mielemme nostat
ja kotimme korotat.

Isät, veljet verellään
vihki sinut viiriksi vapaan maan.
Ilomiellä sun jäljessäs käymme
teit' isäin astumaan.

Sun on kunnias kunniamme,
sinun voimasi voimamme on.
Sinun kanssasi onnemme jaamme
ja iskut kohtalon.

Siniristilippumme,
sulle valan vannomme kallihin:
sinun puolestas elää ja kuolla
on halumme korkehin.


English:
Our blue-crossed flag,
for You we swear the oath:
To live and die for You
is our greatest wish.

Like the sky and snows of Finland
your colors are pure.
With your streaming you rouse our minds
and strengthens our homes.

Fathers and brothers with their blood
inaugurated you as the banner of our free country.
With joy we follow you
on the road traveled by our fathers.

Your glory is our honor,
your strenght is ours.
With you we share our happines
and the blows of destiny.

Our blue-crossed flag,
for You we swear the oath:
To live and die for You
is our greatest wish.


Ardent Finnish nationalists in the interwar period thought Finland had now regained an independence lost in the dark Middle Ages to conquering Swedes and later Russians. For many zealots, “the political situation emerging in 1917–1918 was a return to an ancient, ethnic truth”. Although the idea of a Great National Past lost some of the heated intellectual topicality it had had during the decades before independence, it reached new levels of popularisation during the interwar period. Historical novels were a vogue in the 1930’s, accompanied by a multitude of new publications for boys presenting adventures in prehistorical and medieval Finland. The military aspects of the ancient Finns were made “a veritable trade mark of the republic” after independence. Warlikeness was made a predominant feature of ancient Finnish society in stories and visual representations in novels, magazines and even public monuments. The distant national past became “a fully militarised mirror of contemporary society” as the ancient Finns were portrayed as fighting the same battles that modern Finns were told to prepare themselves for. Incidentally, the magazine of the Lotta Svärd organisation contained similar representations of female heroes in the past (Seija-Leena Nevala, Lotta Svärd-aikakauslehti isänmaallisille naisille vuosina 1929–1939, Unpublished Master’s thesis).

Using history to challenge and encourage Conscripts

The militarised portrayal of the nation’s past was used to put the magazine’s readers under a moral obligation to honour their forefathers’ sacrifices by continuing their heroic struggle. Making a rather liberal interpretation of historical facts, Heikki Nurmio in 1924 portrayed the fight for national freedom as a historical mission, which had to be made clear to the conscripts through historical education: “With the roar of thunder, these [historical memories] speak immense volumes to us about Finland’s centuries-long struggle towards freedom and national independence, a struggle for which generation after generation, towns and countryside, noblemen, clergymen, peasants and the poorest tenant farmers and workmen of the backwoods in ancient times have uncompromisingly sacrificed everything they had. Those passed-away generations demand the same of the present generation and knowledge of their destiny is the best way of making clear the historical mission of the Finnish people.”

In the pages of Suomen Sotilas, this mission was naturally centred on the duty of conscripts to do their military service without complaint and prepare to go to war if needed. There was a “tax to be paid”, in the form of military service, to the fore-fathers who had toiled and suffered to make the barren land fruitful and prepare a way for Finland’s freedom. The debt to the men of the past could, however, also be used for other moral appeals, such as calling for national unity after the divisive events of 1918. The memory of the deaths of the heroes of 1918 “binds each and every one of us to take care that their sacrifice is not allowed to go to waste”, claimed an article in 1921 bearing the headline “The Memory of the Heroes of Liberty” – “The memories of the freedom fight are the most sacred memories our people have; they have to be cherished and left as our heritage to coming generations, who have to be taught their holy obligation to likewise sacrifice all their strength for preserving Finland’s independence and freedom.”

These articles in effect presented an implicit challenge to conscripts. In order to step into the timeless chain of Finnish history, they had to do what their fore-fathers had done, dare what they had dared, sacrifice what they had sacrificed. “Is the present military service really such a heavy burden that the present youth, parading its sports activities, cannot bear it upright, or were our fore-fathers after all of hardier stock in spite of the lack of sports?” scorned an “Uncle” in 1931. Through the portrayal of the forefathers as indomitable warriors, defending the land that they had cleared and tilled through tireless labour, a standard for “real” Finnish soldiers was set and the conscripts were challenged to demonstrate that they met this standard: “We read stories about men, who have died smiling knowing that they have done a service to the country they love. Conscripts! We don’t want to be inferior to them, because this land and this people are dear to us too. We do as our forefathers have done, like all real men in the world have done and always will do, we fight for the country and the people when it is in peril.

This standard was even sometimes given a name: “the spirit of the fathers”. A 1920 short story by Jäger Captain Kaarle Massinen told about an old man who gave a real scolding to the Red Guards confiscating his land during the Civil War. The old man called the guardsmen “sluggards” and stated that they never would have bothered to work those fields the way he had done. “The spirit of the fathers, the Finnish farmer who had always lived free from serfdom, had erupted like a volcano”, Massinen declared and suddenly turned to address the reader: “Finland’s soldier, you, who labour in the barracks, sometimes at your rifle, sometimes over a book, does the spirit of the fathers live in you?” Many of the stories about the forefathers’ valour and the spirit of the fathers also encouraged conscripts, assuring them that they did have what it took to be a warrior. The story quoted above, calling out to conscripts “we don’t want to be inferior to them”, actually continued by urging the reader to “let your best inner voice speak to you, let your natural, inherited instincts affect you”. Then, claims the author, you will “assuredly” find the courage and willingness to defend this country. The “spirit of the fathers” was thus portrayed as not only a model and example for present generations, but as somehow inherent in Finnish men.

We see this also reflected in music from the period, another good example being a song originating from the Civil Wat era, “Vapaussoturin Valloituslaulu” (Conquest song of a Civil War Freedom Fighter), written about the southern Ostrobothnia Jaeger legend and veteran of seven wars Antti Isotalo (1895-1964), and his reputation as a soldier and warriot. Isotalo served as a Jäger volunteer in the First World War on the German eastern front in 1916, fought in the Finnish Civil War of 1918, the Olonets Expedition in 1919, the Porajärven suojelusjoukoissa 1919-1920, Viena Karelia, 1921-1922, and the Winter and the Continuation War. His audacious military exploits were well known to all Finns.



Finnish
Kauvan on kärsitty ryssien valtaa
Suomen kansan vapautta suojellessa.
Ylös pojat Pohjanmaan!
Urhot kalliin Karjalan!
Jäämit ja Savon miehet rintamahan!

Sotahan nyt marssimme kotikulta jääköön
Jääkäriveri tässä velvoittaa.
Ylös veljet valkoiset!
Alas ryssät punaiset!
Ei auta vihamiestä armahtaa!

Voittoja väkeviä saatu jo monta
Meillä on Valkoisessa Suomessa:
Oulu olkoon omamme!
Vaasa varsin varmamme!
Viipuria vastahan nyt vierimme!

Veriset on taistelut takanamme käyty
Kuka heitä kaikkia muistaakaan
Vaskivesi, Varkaus!
Mäntyharjun harppaus!
Karjalan kaikkivoipa varjelemus!

Hannilan harjuilla pommit ne paukkuu!
Raudussa shrapnellit räiskähtelee!
Ahvola se ankarin!
Suninmäki sankarin!
Pullilankin punikit viel' rangaistaan!

Tulkohon ryssiä tuhannen tuhatta!
Karjalan armeija kestää sen.
Aika on jo ahdistaa!
Punakaartit puhdistaa!
Venäläisen verikoiran karkoittaa!

Kuolema korkea - sankarin palkka!
Urhojen haudoilla hurratahan.
Ruumis saakoon haavan vaan!
Kuulat käykööt kulkuaan!
Sielu jääpi perinnöksi syntymämaan.

Viaporin linnahan leijonalippu
Jukoliste, poijat, me nostetahan!
Suomen voimat näytetään!
Keinot karskit käytetään!
Jääkäriveri tässä velvoittaa!


English
We have long suffered Russkie rule
Protecting the freedom of the Finnish people.
Rise Ostrobothnian boys!
Heroes of dear Karelia!
Jäämis and men of Savo join the front!
(note: Jäämi was an ancient Finnish tribe)

We are marching to war leaving our dear home
Our Jaeger blood obliges us.
Rise White brothers!
Down Red Russkies!
No mercy to the enemy!

We have already gained many costly victories
In our White Finland:
Oulu is ours!
Vaasa is ours for sure!
Against Vyborg we are now rolling!

Bloody battles are behind us
Who will remember them all
Vaskivesi, Varkaus!
Leap of Mäntyharju!
Allmighty guardian of Karelia!

On Hannila’s ridges bombs are banging!
In Rautu shrapnel’s crackling!
Ahvola is most severe!
Suninmäki most heroic!
Pullila Reds will be punished!

Russkies may come in the thousand thousands!
The Karelian Army can take it.
It is time to pursue!
Clean out the Red Guards!
Expell Russian blood hounds!

High death - hero´s pay!
The heroes´graves will be remembered.
A body may just be wounded!
Bullets may fly their way!
Their soul will stay as a heritage of the motherland.

Over Suomenlinna’s fortress the Lion Flag
Goddamn, boys, we will hoist it!
Finland´s forces we are!
We use harsh means!
Our Jaeger blood obliges us!


Image
Antti Isotalo

An anonymous “Jäger”, writing an editorial for Suomen Sotilas in 1935, claimed that the “spirit of the fathers” had aroused the “mighty White Army” in 1918 and restored order, safety, legality and freedom to the country. He described this spirit as both “solemn and binding” and a “firm and lasting heritage”, descending all the way from the battles of the Thirty-Years War and the Great Nordic War, indeed from the distant battles of “the age of sagas”. Yet this spirit, he explained, was not only a military spirit, but also the spirit of the peaceful work that had built the country. “That work has asked for fitness and skill, manliness and grandness just as much as defending the country.” Again, we that the very same spirit that had made the forefathers such formidable warriors had allegedly also been their driving force as they cleared and built the land. The success of Finnish athletes on international sports arenas during the 1920’s and 1930’s were used in Suomen Sotilas in the same way as the feats of the mythic forefathers; to convey a sense of a national community characterised by the physical and psychic qualities demonstrated by these sports heroes. Niilo Sigell wrote that the Finnish athletes who won several medals in the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920 were expressions of “the toughness, endurance, strength and vigour of our tribe” and “the force and power of character that has transformed the grim wildernesses of the north into abodes of human cultivation and endured hard times of war, hunger and pestilence”. In these athletes, Sigell found the same national character that had manifested itself in the heroes of the Thirty Years War or the Liberation War.

A story about the Finnish achievements in the Olympics in 1924 pointed to the “healthy life in the countryside” where most Finns still resided and referred to the Finns as a people that had “toiled in woodlands and skied through wildernesses”. Connecting the Finnish nature, landscape and climate with the national character, sports achievements and military virtues, these writings evidently aimed at infusing the readers with pride and confidence in the inherent strength of their people, implying the Finns could fend off a quantitatively superior enemy by virtue of their superior quality as soldiers. Writer and historian Jalmari Finne even explained the extraordinary bravery of Finnish men in battle, throughout the centuries, as deriving from the tranquil life of a nation of farmers. The sedate life and taciturnity of the Finns, he explained, built up a storage of strength and energy waiting for a discharge. “An opportunity to fight has been like a relief. … Battle is the place where a Finn feels all his inner strength blossoming, a moment of rejoicing. … Bravery, the highest and most beautiful expression of manliness, is in the Finn’s blood and only needs an opportunity [to emerge] and then it seems to astonish other [peoples].”

When historian Einar Juvelius introduced a new series of articles on Finnish history in 1920, he expressed his hope that the commencing series would encourage young soldiers to acquaint themselves with their forefathers’ “unwavering readiness and irrepressible faith in the future – the same readiness and faith that the Fatherland now awaits from its every son.” And we have already seen the how the “spirit of the fathers”, “awakening” in 1918, was declared to be the same spirit that motivated the Finnish fore-fathers in ages long past. “Our military service is like children’s play compared to what the Jägers had to endure”, a conscripted probationary officer wrote in a letter to the magazine in 1931, “– although both are motivated by the same purpose, the same feeling, the same trend of ideas, the same call.”

Self-restraint and the terrible moral dangers of military life

Less than a year and a half had passed since the end of his campaigns as a Jäger, when second lieutenant and theology graduate Hannes Anttila published an article in Suomen Sotilas in the early autumn of 1919. The story, entitled “The enemy lurking in the dark”, opened with an eerie story about a soldier volunteering for night reconnaissance into enemy territory. It is his first patrol service, and as the soldiers move into the dark night, the protagonist is struck by terror. After a short struggle with himself, he manages to overcome his fear. “… I dare not go back now. I am a soldier, a Finnish soldier. Come injury, come death! Forward I will go, until the mission is accomplished! (…) And you went. And you returned, returned as a man in the eyes of your relatives and your fatherland. You did not shun the danger, even if it terrified you. You fulfilled your duty, even if it felt heavy. And that is why you did a man’s work.” At this point, Anttila’s story makes a sudden jump to an evening leave in a garrison town in peacetime. There too, we are told, an enemy is lurking in the dark: “the sin of immorality” and its consequences, venereal disease. Even if the incautious soldier would be lucky enough to not catch an infection, he will certainly “desecrate his soul” if he does not turn back in time.

If you commit this sin, Anttila asks the reader, can you then look your mother, your sister, your wife or your fiancée in the eye with the same honesty as before? Anttila’s final appeal is written in the second person singular, addressing the reader like a priest in the pulpit addresses his congregation: “Are you, my reader, really so weak that you cannot restrain your own lusts? … Should you one day become the father of a family? Think what miserable creatures your children will be if you splurge the holy creative powers of your youth in the whirls of licentiousness … Mother Finland needs the stout arms of her every son to help her at this moment. Are you, my reader, a support and security to your fatherland or are you a burden and dead encumbrance? If you stray the city streets at nightfall with filthy thoughts in your mind, turn back, because that turning back is no shame to you but an honour! For he who conquers himself has won the greatest victory.” “The enemy lurking in the dark” wove together a religiously conservative view of what was moral behavior together with a number of different images: the courageous warrior, the son, the brother, the husband, the father and the patriotic citizen. An analogy was made between the warrior overcoming his fear before battle and the young man struggling to overcome his carnal desires. Honour and manliness demanded facing the two kinds of danger with equal courage, overcoming one’s instincts and emotions through willpower and a sense of duty.

Hannes Anttila and other “moralist” writers in Suomen Sotilas used a rhetorical technique associating unwanted behaviour with weakness and unmanliness, while the wished-for behaviour in conscripts was associated with image of the courageous warrior. They evidently did not think it would make a sufficient impression on the conscripts to tell them to behave in a certain manner because it was the “Christian” or “moral” thing to do. Instead, they tried to draw on the readers’ notions of manliness. They obviously thought that the threat of being labelled as weak in the eyes of their comrades would have a stronger effect on the rakes and lechers among the soldiers than just being branded as debauched. Perhaps they thought that “well-behaved” conscripts were best helped in the rough military environment if they were told that doing the morally right thing was also the mark of a true warrior. Such explicitly moralising storys, often but not always written by military priests, formed a significant subspecies among the rich variety of storys in Suomen Sotilas, especially during its first half-decade. Although these writings seldom referred explicitly to Christianity and religious decrees, they can nevertheless be associated with the trend of ‘muscular Christianity’ that arose towards the end of the nineteenth century in countries with an important cultural influence on Finland, such as England, Germany and Sweden. Muscular Christianity associated Christian morality was with strength and other stereotypical characteristics. This kind of rhetoric was also used by for example moral reformists in Finland opposing prostitution around the turn of the nineteenth century.

As we have seen, there were widespread moral concerns about the new military system in Finland, even in circles far removed from socialist antimilitarism. Drinking and sexual contacts with women in the garrison towns, behaviours which from a strictly military point of view were health hazards rather than anything else, were more profoundly worrying from a religious perspective, as were the rude language and indecent marching songs favoured not only by the rank-and-file but many officers as well. In Great Britain, Germany and Sweden, Christian revivalists founded recreation centres for soldiers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, an era of expanding mass armies and international armaments race, not least out of concern over the sinfulness spreading in the military training centres. The “old” Finnish Army’s magazine for soldiers in the Russian era, the bilingual Lukemisia Suomen Sotamiehille/Läsning för den Finske Soldaten (Readings for the Finnish Soldier, 1888–1902) contained writings depicting the barracks of the Finnish conscripted troops as places where innocent conscripts from the countryside were introduced to all kinds of vices. These moral concerns resurfaced when conscription was reintroduced in 1918-1919. For example, the dean of the military priests received a letter in 1921from the vicar of a rural congregation where worried parents had held a meeting to discuss the immoral influence of army life on their boys. Swearing, drinking, prostitutes roaming the garrison areas, and “the great dangers of immorality and the corruption of morals in bodily and spiritual respect” were mentioned in the letter.

The military priests, responsible for both the moral and civic education of the conscripts, shared the popular view of military life as potentially debauching conscripts. According to Regiment Pastor Verneri Louhivuori, ”that roughness which is characteristic to men” was multiplied in military life due to the absence of softening “counter-forces”. The military environment, he wrote, could become an ordeal for those who did not want to be brutalised. Jäger officer and theology student Kalervo Groundstroem warned of the “dangers of barracks life” in 1919. The military comradeship, which he himself in the previous article had celebrated as “a good educator”, could also be a breeding ground of “all things base and infamous”, Groundstroem wrote, hinting at soldiers’ contacts with prostitutes. The recruit, new to these surroundings, was especially susceptible to bad influences. These moralists evidently espoused the contemporary middle-class notions of morality.

The year spent in all-male company during the military service was supposed to make men out of boys and teach them to function as part of a group. Yet even in the army’s own magazine, the single-sex environment was at the same time seen as potentially detrimental to conscripts’s moral and ultimately their physical health – especially in a largely still rural country where country boys for the first time moved to live in a larger city, with all its temptations. In the voew of the “moralists,” the celebrated military comradeship could suddenly be seen in terms of a worrying tendency of conscripts to go with the crowd – a moral weakness that was contrasted to the lonely but champions of righteousness among the soldiers.
Last edited by CanKiwi2 on 29 Mar 2011 19:44, edited 3 times in total.
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CanKiwi2
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The Virtue of Self-Restraint

Post by CanKiwi2 » 29 Mar 2011 19:37

The Virtue of Self-Restraint

Towards the early 1930’s, the number of explicitly moralising writings diminished in Suomen Sotilas. Such storys were usually no longer published as editorials, but appeared in less prominent sections of the magazine, such as the Letters to the Editor pages. This could be an indication of sentiments calming down, as the conscript army slowly became established. Alternately, it could indicate a rhetorical shift where the older and somewhat condescending moral exhortations came to be understood as old-fashioned or counterproductive. What did not change in the “moral” agenda of Suomen Sotilas throughout the period, however, was the focus on the allegedly virtue of self-restraint. The emphasis on self-control is familiar from nineteenth century western bourgeois moralising. In Swedish nineteenth century self-improvement books for bourgeois youngsters and autobiographies by old bourgeois men, building astrong character was offered as the proper road towards manliness and the only way for a young man to avoid the pitfalls of his passions. Character, a vague term equivalent to moral principles in general, was in these moralizing works seen as a hidden potentiality in all men; part of the true individual and the effect of hard, enduring work. The “moralists” claimed that conscripts must withstand the passions and temptations of youth and build a strong character in order to become successful.

In the moral teachings of Suomen Sotilas, however, character, or the idea of having or striving for a permanent strength of will and morals, was not a central concept. Instead, morality and self-restraint were mostly discussed in terms of a continuous fight and struggle, a battle that a man must ceaselessly wage against immorality, both in the society around him and within himself. There does not seem to be a notion of this struggle having a terminus in a strong character achieved once and for all. The moral struggle is rather portrayed as a life-long condition. A useful citizen had to live his whole life fighting against “viciousness, drunkenness and the bestiality hidden in human nature”; without continuous moral struggle “the core of national life” would eventually be corrupted by immorality. The reason for this might be the strong connection of Suomen Sotilas to Christian theology. If Suomen Sotilas is compared with its nineteenth century predecessor, Lukemisia Suomen Sotamiehille, one can certainly see that Christian ideals such as submissiveness, humility and repentance, predominant in the older magazine, are played down. In the interwar period, moral virtue is recast in terms of will-power and self-restraint, reflecting an ideal soldier who is also an enfranchised citizen and thus more “adult” and autonomous in comparison to the ideal humble imperial subject of the nineteenth century. God and religion as the foundations of moral behaviour in the nineteenth century magazine are largely replaced with appeals to the readers’ patriotism in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Nevertheless, through the prominence of military priests among the magazine’s writers, Christian religion still runs like a thin but everpresent thread through Suomen Sotilas. Religion intertwines with patriotism as the basis of the Finnish citizen-soldier’s morality and virtue. It is a defining difference between the righteous Finnish nation-in-arms and its adversary, the godless Bolsheviks. This strong presence of Christian ideals and influences is also one reason why the ideal images of Finnish soldiers in Suomen Sotilas almost never become aggressive, but retain a “softness” almost surprising for a military magazine from the heydays of Finnish nationalism. Throughout the period the images of soldering in Suomen Sotilas and its portrayal of the military retain an aura of moral purity and noble-mindedness that certainly served to camouflage the ugly realities of militarisation, military life and modern warfare. At the same time, these images and ideology were strikingly different from the contemporary fascist movements in Europe.

The Military as “Protectors of the Finnish Nation”

Military educators writing in Suomen Sotilas tried to construct an ideal image of the military centred on a sense of duty, a spirit of sacrifice, and self-restraint. An important element in all these constructions, hidden in expressions such as “every decent man” or “like our fathers before us”, was an imagined sameness and community among all Finns, who did “what a man had to do” and valorously defended their country. To the extent that this brotherhood-in-arms was made up of a special category of people, united around and through their shared membership of the military, the citizen-soldiers’ conceptualized themselves as a group within the Finnish people, the “Protectors of the Finnish Nation.” This conceptualization was a central piece of the military’s self-image. Firstly, a great part of the Finnish nation was deemed incapable of bearing arms and therefore in need of the soldiers’ protection: women, the old and the young. Secondly, there were those who threatened the Finnish nation from outside, namely the Russians and Bolsheviks. Thirdly, a heterogeneous group of Finnish men was deemed capable of bearing arms, yet for varying reasons failed to fulfil this duty and therefore threatened the nation from the inside.

The relationship between the conscript and those he was to protect was usually depicted in terms of the obligations of a good son towards his parents, sisters and younger siblings, not in terms of a father and husband protecting the members of his household. This was perhaps natural, as the intended readership, the conscripts, were only 20–22 years old. However, it gives a particular flavour to the relationship between the citizen-soldier and those it was his duty to protect and die for. In storys about the “fathers” and “fore-fathers” in Suomen Sotilas it is the mature man, master of his house and household, who goes to war. In storys directly addressing the readers as conscripts, however, they are spoken to as sons of either their physical parents or the abstract nation – “the Fatherland” or “Mother Finland” – who only pass over the threshold to real manhood by preparing to go to war. In relation to those incapable of bearing arms, the conscripted soldier does not fight and die to defend his property and his own patriarchal position, but to serve his family and his society. He is motivated but also bound by filial obedience, love and gratitude. He essentially sets out to defend a power structure that is not dominated by him and his comrades but by their fathers. In those rather few instances where individual fathers appear in the magazine, they are often stern, rebuking or commanding figures, such as the “father” quoted above writing an open letter to his “discontented son” in military service, telling him he must develop a sense of duty to become a man. This is a father figure in front of which the young conscripted man is supposed to be ashamed to show himself “soft”, complaining about treatment in the army and of withdrawing from his civic duty.

The images of mothers in Suomen Sotilas, however, are more ambiguous. Mothers are always depicted as loving their sons immensely. Mostly, this love is depicted as good, selfless and beautiful. The iconic mother is a moral educator and the ideal soldier is bound to her by love, gratitude and filial duty. He wants to protect her and he wants her to be proud of him. Drawing on this particular mother-son relationship, Finland as a nation is sometimes referred to as Suomi-äiti, Mother Finland, signalling that the relationship of the soldier to the nation should be that of a loving son to his mother. In some other instances, however, mothers are criticised for spoiling their sons by being too pampering or too dominant. Being a “mother’s boy” was presented as shameful for a man, and a great deal of the blame was directed at the mother. The border line was thus subtle and sometimes blurred between the good mother, who educated and motivated the citizen-soldier, and the bad mother, who detained her son in infancy, prevents him from stepping into manhood and thus reverses the relationship between protector and protected.

Women as girlfriends, fiancées or wives of soldiers rarely appear in Suomen Sotilas. The writers apparently did not expect the 21–22 year-old conscript to have a girlfriend, fiancée or wife waiting at home. Neither did they want him to think much about how soldiering related to his future relationships with women. In some fictional short stories a woman as a potential future lover and wife appears a motivating force for the soldier, spurring the hesitant soldier into battle, giving him a reason to resist the vices of garrison towns, or punishing the coward or traitor by refusing him her love. In general, however, the absence of female characters in the magazine’s pages is remarkable. It seems to underline the moral and religious beliefs of the writers for Suomen Sotilas, with the absence and exclusion of women from the writers perception of everyday life of conscripted soldiers in the garrisons reflecting what they wanted to believe, rather than what was more likely the reality of garrison life (soldiers being soldiers….).

Other than as mothers, women mostly appear in Suomen Sotilas as Lotta Svärd volunteers, working hard, bravely and patriotically for the common task of national defence with women’s chores: cooking, nursing and clothing the soldiers. These women were on the one hand active agents, but on the other hand confined to the feminine sphere of admiring and taking care of the military heroes. The image of female volunteers within the military system was certainly always positive; they were needed and useful and could be portrayed as courageous, even heroic in their own manner. Yet the division of labour was immovable, and the portrayal of women in Suomen Sotilas, as mothers, lovers or Lottas all conveyed the implicit message that armed defence and the fighting itself was the preserve of men. When there had been some letters to the editor of a Finnish newspaper in 1930 concerning conscription and military training for women, the editors of Suomen Sotilas only observed that the idea had been refuted by “many valid arguments”. They chose to comment on it themselves in the form of a photograph showing female members of the Russian Red Army among their male comrades, all looking relaxed and cheerful. “A repulsive sight”, the editors curtly noted.

Russians as Countertypes to Finns

“Countertypes” as a contrast to the Finnish ideal are a theme that runs through Suomen Sotilas through the 1920’s and 1930’s. Early countertypes were social outsiders such as Jews, Gypsies, vagrants, habitual criminals and the insane, all characterised by ugliness, restlessness, and a lack of self-control. A rather different kind of countertype emerges in nineteenth century self-help books for conscripts. There, un-men were not clearly demarcated social groups completely outside “normal” society, but gamblers and drunkards, ordinary men who had failed, made the wrong choices and therefore “fallen” into vice. These countertypes had a different functionality from “permanent outsiders”. The young man could not find easy self-assurance in feeling superior to the countertype, but was threatened by the possibility that he might become one of them if he did not heed the moralists’ advice. “Because men could fall, any middle-class man ran the risk of becoming that Other.”

The countertypes more commonly seen in Suomen Sotilas are the images of Russians, especially Russian Bolsheviks. In those instances where Russians were described in more detail it is obvious that they serve as a foil to Finnishness. A portrayal of Russian revolutionary soldiers stationed in Finland in 1917–1918 illustrates this: “Those loitering good-for-nothings slouching around in their down at heel boots and their stinking, dirty and shabby uniforms called themselves soldiers! Well, it certainly was the time of svaboda [freedom] – who would then care about such trivial things as washing his face or mending his trousers! (…) The outer appearance of those Russian squaddies was an excellent image of the confusion of their mental life (…).” These countertypes indirectly underline the importance of a Finnish soldier being clean and tidy, his outer appearance expressing a rational and virtuous mind; otherwise, he is no true Finnish soldier. Bolsheviks were portrayed as lazy and thievish people who shunned work and preferred confiscating goods from good thrifty people – marking the importance of honesty and industry in Finnish national character.

Two longer storys on the national character of the Russian people in 1932 explained that due to centuries of oppression by the Orthodox Church and the tsars, and in the absence of both individual freedom and religious and moral education, the Russians had developed into purely emotional beings, governed by impulses and temporary moods. A Russian could therefore at anytime contradict his own actions. He was unreliable, deceitful, completely unconcerned about lying and thieving, and lacked a sense of justice. Because he was a fatalist and did not think he could influence his own destiny or wellbeing, he lacked diligence and a sense of responsibility. He preferred talking to acting. He did not care about punctuality or efficiency. He treated a woman more like beast of draught than as his wife. As soldiers, Russians were intrepid but mentally slow, lacking in independence and perseverance. Finally, the author pointed to the eradication of the educated classes and the prohibition against religious education as the main obstacles for societal progress in Russia; “Without religion nothing lasting can be achieved!”

A Finnish soldier, one can derive from this description of the enemy, should be rational and always preserve his sang-froid; be principled and honest, treat women with respect, work hard and be the architect of his own fortune. He should also appreciate his individual freedom as well as the importance of Lutheran religious education and the leadership of the educated classes for Finland’s progress and prosperity. Due to the Russian’s weaknesses as soldiers, the Finnish Army could be victorious if its soldiers were quick-minded, self-propelled and persistent. On the whole, however, Russians were seldom described as individuals or as a people with certain characteristics. Russians in general and Russian Bolsheviks in particular were mostly referred to as an almost dehumanized force of evil, chaos and destruction, a threat against everything valuable in Finnish society and everything specific for the Finnish nation. Russia was “Asianness” threatening to destroy the entire Western culture. Russia meant “hunger for land, bestiality and deceit” and Bolshevism meant slavery as opposed to Finnish freedom. Russia was the Enemy, in an almost absolute sense.

Finnish Countertypes: the Dissolute and the Politically Deluded

Those Finnish men who were considered outsiders to the community of soldiers, consisted of the morally dissolute, the politically deluded, and the simpletons. Of these, only the morally dissolute can easily be labelled as countertypes. As we have seen, dissolute men were depicted as weak since they were incapable of self-restraint, e.g. in relation to alcohol, and lived “at the command of the whims, lusts and desires of the moment”. They were not free, but slaves to their passions and served to underline the virtues of moral purity, abstinence and self-control. Both physically and morally weakened by their vices, the morally dissolute as countertypes displayed how immorality destroyed the soldier’s fitness to fight and how true patriotism therefore demanded continence and clean living. On the whole, however, these countertypes are not very prominent in Suomen Sotilas, and where they appear they are seldom described in any graphic detail. If there was any concern over Finnish men degenerating into unmanliness and effeminacy through over-civilisation, similar to concerns in the large industrial nations before the Great War, it does not show in the pages of Suomen Sotilas. Given the very low degree of urbanisation and industrialisation in interwar Finland it is perhaps not surprising that military educators were not less concerned over the enfeeblement of their conscripts as over the relative strength and vigour of conscripts with the “wrong” political outlook.

Finnish socialists and pacifists who resisted conscription or even worked at undermining the Finnish armed forces were depicted as more threatening to the military nation than the morally dissolute and the temptations of vice. These politically “deluded” men had a kind of borderline status as both outsiders and insiders to the community of Finnish men. They were not usually depicted as weak or cowardly men, although they deliberately refused or resisted the duty of fighting for the nation. They presented a real and tangible political opposition and challenge to the political establishment and military system. They certainly were contrasted to “proper”, patriotic conscripts in Suomen Sotilas. However, military educators could not just comfortably single them out as social outcasts, contraposing them to the deal military conscript and be assured of the readers’ sympathy. Socialists, according to the magazine, failed to put the fatherland and the nation above all else, and instead promoted either their selfish class-interest and party ambitions or the “fantasy of internationalism, so manifestly indicating [mental] morbidity”. In 1924, an editorial warned of the dangers of socialist teachings and the “irresponsible” work of communist “moles” and infiltrators in the armed forces, “agents of the Russians selected and bought among the most morally spineless elements”, trying to incite
conscripts into treason to their country. Communists were people who wanted to “deprive us of our freedom and put Russian slavery in its stead, in order to ensure the wellbeing of a few traitors”. Understood as countertypes, socialists were used to emboss the difference between driving special interests and putting the common good of the whole nation above all else; between unscrupulous people allying themselves with hostile forces abroad, to achieve their own goals, and selfless people who understood that when the country was threatened from the outside, all internal strife must be set aside. This contrast associated patriotism with unselfishness, loyalty and solidarity.

Pacifists were the objects of several articles especially around the turn of the decade 1930. The attention given in the magazine to refuting pacifism was due, among other things, to two anti-militaristic books that attracted much attention in Finland around this time; Erik Maria Remarque's internationally acclaimed Im Westen Nichts Neues [All Quiet on the Western Front] (1929) and Pentti Haanpää's Kenttä ja kasarmi [Fields and Barracks] (1928). There was also the cause célèbre of Arndt Pekurinen, a Finnish unconditional conscientious objector who was imprisoned several times between 1929–1932. The editors of Suomen Sotilas underlined that they loved peace just as the whole of the Finnish people did. Since the Finnish armed forces were purely defensive, the Finnish pacifists were barking up the wrong tree: the Bolsheviks were the ones threatening the peace, not the Finnish Army. Jäger General Major Aarne Sihvo, then Commander of the Armed Forces, complained in the Christmas issue of Suomen Sotilas 1929 that any attempts at strengthening nationalism and patriotism were met by a “war-cry in the name of pacifism swinging the flags of international brotherhood”. Sihvo wondered whether the pacifists obstructed nationalism out of true internationalism, thoughtlessness or indifference, or if they intentionally wanted to weaken and cause disunion in the country.

In association with the case of Arndt Pekurinen, the editors of Suomen Sotilas stated that they agreed completely with him in that war was cruel and brutal. It should be eradicated from the face of the earth since it caused such suffering. They claimed to have depicted all the afflictions of war in their magazine and warned against talking lightly about war. They expressed their sympathy towards all strivings for peace. However, “we cannot make such a stupid and ill-advised conclusion from this conviction as Pekurinen and his kindred spirits.” In the present international situation and with the Soviet Union agitating world revolution, “one must be stupid and blind at the same time to not understand, to one’s regret, that we constantly live in the midst of the dangers of war.” Pacifists were thus naive idealists, as opposed to the sober realism of those receiving military training. The editors claimed that “all of us” – a ‘we’ obviously encompassing the reader – despised killing, but that we could not “passively watch and helplessly wait for the final blow, like Pekurinen the day the oppressor attacks our country. “We, who love peace and despise war, will fight to our last drop of blood on the fateful day for our homes, parents, sisters, brothers, and our whole people and its freedom.” There is an
unmistakable hint that Pekurinen was no normal, decent man, as he was willing to passively let himself be butchered and everything that he should love and protect be destroyed.

Image
Arndt Juho Pekurinen (August 29, 1905 in Juva, Finland – November 5, 1941 in Suomussalmi, Finland) was a Finnish pacifist and conscientious objector.

In 1926, Pekurinen repeatedly refused mandatory conscription, leading to his imprisonment between 1929 and 1931. He refused to either wear a uniform or take arms. While Pekurinen was deeply religious, his motives were not based on his faith. While his contemporaries suggested he was Communist, he was not interested in politics. Because of his pacifist conviction, in the atmosphere of the Militaristic thirties he was deemed as guilty of high treason, and the Lapua movement harassed him relentlessly. In 1930, an international petition on his behalf was sent to the Finnish defense minister Juho Niukkanen, which included the signatures of sixty British MPs and notables such as Albert Einstein, Henri Barbusse and H. G. Wells. On April 14, 1931, the Lex Pekurinen, Finland's first alternative to military service, was passed. However, its provisions extended only as far as peacetime. When the Winter War broke out in 1939, therefore, Pekurinen once again found himself imprisoned. At the onset of the Continuation War in autumn 1941, he was sent to the front, with orders to make sure he did wear the uniform, and bear and use a weapon. At the front he still refused to wear a uniform or bear arms. Following an order issued by Captain Pentti Valkonen, he was executed without trial. The first two soldiers (Sergeant Kivelä and Private Kinnunen) ordered to execute him refused; only the third, Corporal Asikainen, obeyed Valkonen's direct order. After the war, an investigation of Pekurinen's death was begun but never completed. He remained effectively forgotten for over fifty years, until the publication in 1998 of the book Courage: The life and execution of Arndt Pekurinen by Erno Paasilinna. The city of Helsinki named a park Arndt Pekurisen Puisto (The park of Arndt Pekurinen) in his memory.

Simpletons as ambiguous others

Possibly the most intriguing and ambiguous other to the military nation was, finally, the simpleton. Various descriptions of funny oafs arriving to do their military service, and of all their hardships as they tried to get through recruit training, was a popular theme of humorous short stories in Suomen Sotilas. Several of these made explicit reference to the poem ‘Sven Dufva’ by J. L. Runeberg, included in the Tales of Ensign Stål cycle (1848). Runeberg’s Sven Dufva was a half-witted but good-natured and above all brave-hearted young soldier in the Finnish War of 1808–1809, who did everything the wrong way around. In a tight spot, he turned out to be the only one staying his ground to heroically fight off the Russians, defending a narrow bridge all by himself. In Suomen Sotilas, the common denominator in these kind of stories was that the protagonist was kind and dutiful yet somehow considered an “impossible” soldier on arrival for military training. He was too stupid to learn close-order drill or saluting superiors correctly, physically clumsy or slow, made fun of by the other soldiers, and brought the training officers to despair. Yet at the end of these stories, the Sven Dufva character always turned out to be either unusually brave in battle or skilled at something particular such as skiing, sharpshooting, making shoes or taking care of horses. The most obvious message in these stories would seem to be that the army has a use for every man (who is physically fit enough to pass the medical exam), no matter how simple or uneducated he is. Courage, obedience and good will compensate for insufficient intelligence or proficiency.

The Sven Dufva stories always end by the protagonist becoming an accepted member of the community. Sven Dufva represents an inferior archtype, yet in these particular narratives even his limited skills and virtues are acknowledged. As a soldier, he acquires a certain social recognition in the military system that he might not get elsewhere in society – as long as he partakes to his best ability in the common duty of all men. His admission to the military community is, however, no matter of course. It is open to doubt until he demonstrates his valour or usefulness through some dramatic episode, such as refusing to abandon his watch in a burning building until his officer arrives to give the order; or getting the best score in the company in the first shooting exercises. Yet the Sven Dufva character does not seem to have been intended mainly as a positive model for unintelligent readers to identify with. As the authors half-benevolently, half-condescendingly invite the reader to laugh along with them at the funny Sven Dufvas, they rather incite the “normal” readers to tolerate these characters and accept them as comrades. In a sense, Sven Dufva is a countertype to the “normal” conscript, who is supposed to be smart, nimble and quick to learn, work well with the group and not stand out as odd and different. The popularity of the Sven Dufva character probably to some extent reflect the amusement with which Finnish officers from the educated classes sometimes regarded soldiers from “uncultured” rustic areas. In some cases, however, pretending to be a fool can have been a form of popular resistance against the social arrogance of these officers. As a cultural image, however, the Sven Dufva character can also be seen as a projection of many men’s fear of becoming the laughing stock of other men in the military world. Laughing at the stories about Sven Dufva in Suomen Sotilas would then mainly be a laughter of relief: thank God I am not like that.

Conclusion: The Military Image

In many ways, the images of soldiering and the objects of identification offered to conscripts in Suomen Sotilas correspond to the “new” military agenda outlined by the young nationalist officers who envisioned a “new” kind of self-disciplined soldier. This should be no surprise, as the people drafting that agenda were also important writers for the magazine. This particular military image, centred on a sense of duty, a spirit of sacrifice and self-restraint, was offered to the conscripts with a promise of reward. The dutiful national warrior would not only serve the nation as a useful citizen in both war and peace, but also enjoy ensured individual success and prestige in peacetime society. This part of the “civic education” in Suomen Sotilas is remarkably similar to nineteenth-century Prussian military propaganda described by Ute Frevert. Prussian military authorities, Frevert writes, were intent on counteracting socialism among the conscripts and educating them into a what was seen as the “correct” conscript image – emphasizing physical fitness, courage, self-assurance, loyalty, obedience, comradeship, anti-individualism, discipline and belief in the authorities. Prussian conscription was legitimised by claims that only military training brought youths into full manhood. Military service, it was said, prepared the soldier not only for war, but also for life as a civilian. The army claimed to be a “school of manhood” bringing forth patriotic “sons of the fatherland”, industrious and steady men, stern fathers who took their civic duties seriously and were prepared to sacrifice themselves for king and country.

It seems evident that the German models inspired those Finnish military educators with cultural and professional connections to Germany. However, Prussian military propagandists in the nineteenth century had to motivate conscripts to fight for a monarchy under which they had only limited political rights. The Finnish military educationalists writing in Suomen Sotilas could in theory have taken full advantage of the fact that Finland was a democratic republic. However, it is striking how Suomen Sotilas practically never places military service in connection with universal suffrage or the democratic nature of the new Finnish state. Citizenship was usually referred to in terms of the individual’s duty to be a useful member of society, prepared to sacrifice himself for the larger whole, and not in terms of political rights and freedoms worth defending. This could possibly be attributed to storyual models from the German empire, but it might also betray a certain lack of enthusiasm about parliamentary democracy among the magazine’s editors and contributors. Nonetheless, the Finnish interwar military propaganda appears less authoritarian in spirit than its German predecessors as described by Frevert. Against the background of the insurgency and civil war of 1918, it is actually surprising that submission and discipline were not emphasised more in Suomen Sotilas. Its nineteenth century predecessor, the magazine for soldiers in the “old” Finnish conscript army, tended to cast the relationship between soldiers and officers in paternalist terms of love, trust and obedience, reminiscent of the relationship of plucky boy scouts to their senior leaders.

In comparison, Suomen Sotilas has remarkably little to say about the relationship between soldier and officer. The magazine’s articles centre on the image of an autonomous citizen-soldier, in the sense that this soldier must be morally self-disciplined, self-propelled and self-controlled. The humility and obedience emphasised in the nineteenth century soldiers’ magazine give place to an emphasis on will-power and a sense of duty. In spite of the many condescending and admonitory passages quoted above, the images of the citizen-soldier in Suomen Sotilas are actually more austere and adult compared to corresponding images before national independence. This is in keeping with the pedagogic agenda of educating a “new” kind of self-propelled soldier. It might also, after all, reflect an awareness that the reader to be addressed no longer the humble and obedient subject of the Russian emperor but the free citizen of a democratic Finnish republic. The conscripts would soon be entitled to vote at age 24. Countering the widespread scepticism against the cadre army system, the authors seem to have been intent on displaying the citizen-soldier submitting to the army discipline out of his own free will and going to war for his own, his families and people’s sake – not for his officers or political leaders.

In general, it is striking how little was written in the magazine about groups outside the community of men in arms. Women and civilians certainly played an implicit role as one reason why men had to be soldiers, but they were not given much attention and were seldom mentioned. Soldiering was defined and depicted within a male military community. The focus was on the conscripts’s development and maturing in the company and under the guidance of other soldiers and with other soldiers as their models. Not even the countertypes of the military image among Finnish men were particularly salient. The magazine was more intent on displaying positive instances of the military than on using the threat of countertypes to make the readers step in line. Nevertheless, rhetoric explicitly drawing on the military duties of citizenship seems to have been most forcefully used where military educators sensed the strongest challenges against their views. It was forcefully used to justify military training in a cadre army in the early 1920’s, when parties of the left and centre called into question the whole justification of such a training.

The image of the valorous citizen-soldier protecting his country was an image that the military educators thought every man would like to identify with, no matter which political opinions he held. They thus hoped soldiering would work as a cement holding men and through them society together, coating the fissures and conflict lines in the social fabric. The storys of Suomen Sotilas offered identities and recognition in exchange for submitting to certain duties and obligations. However, the archived volumes of the magazines themselves still tell us as little about how they were read and received. Did the readers accept the call and submit their destinies to the nation, in order to be recognised as virtuous citizens? Were they attracted by the offering of guidance towards status and prestige in return for obedience and selfdiscipline? Did they refuse the call – or simply ignore it? Those with military service will certainly have some idea of how “official” military papers and magazines are viewed, and as a result and given the distance in time, the real effects and impact on the readers are difficult to estimate and should probably not be exaggerated.

How a story will be read and what meanings it will carry for different readers is by no means fixed or limited by the author’s intentions. Yet from a historical point of view, these magazines probably tell us more about the people who wrote them than the people who read them. The people who toiled, often in their spare time, to fill issue after issue of Suomen Sotilas with articles obviously did have motives and purposes for their work. It remains interesting and relevant to ask why they wrote at all, and why they wrote the way they did. Some of the writers, especially the military priests among them, had obvious intentions to exercise a moral authority. They wanted to reshape the values and behaviour of the conscripts, make them submit to military discipline, motivate them to exercise self-discipline, and infuse them with Christian-patriotic morality. Others, such as the authors of adventure stories, possibly only wanted to support national defence by entertaining the conscripts and keeping them in a good humour – although even the most entertaining pieces in the magazine often had a rather obtrusive sens moral and a conspicuous eagerness to show military life in a positive light. Few of the authors would have agreed or admitted that the storys they wrote were intended at portraying the authors themselves as legitimate holders of power and influence – yet that is often what they did. Suomen Sotilas can be read in the same way as nineteenth century handbooks for conscripts; as a way for middle-class and middle-age authors to legitimate their own power and authority in society. The men writing for Suomen Sotilas wielded – or at least tried hard to wield – a certain authority and power in relation to their readers, who were placed in the position of the disciple, the young man who is to be guided by older, wiser and more experienced men on the path towards adult citizenship. However, we should not see the men writing for Suomen Sotilas as somehow above or outside the ideologies and power structures they supported or advocated. They themselves lived in the ideological reality that they wanted their readers to enter; in a sense, they were its products. It is important to take these men seriously and understand how they were passionate about the Finnish nation and protecting its independence. Partly as an extension of their nationalism, it is evident that many of them had a true and deep-felt concern for conscripts and their development. Their storys should certainly be read with an acute sense for the power mechanisms at work, but also for the genuine hopes and desires, fears and anxieties they express.

To illuminate this concluding point, the writers of Suomen Sotilas regularly espouse the expression “spirit of the fathers”, which some of them were so fond of. It originated in J.L. Runeberg’s poem ‘The Veteran’ from the aforementioned Tales of Ensign Stål (1848). This poem tells the story of an old veteran living in great poverty who one day dons his old uniform and walks down to the church green to watch a battle between Finnish and Russian troops during the Finnish War of 1808–1809. He longs to “hear the clashing/ of sword-blades yet once more”, recall the memories of the strength and courage of his youth and see the new generation of fighters, “the courage of its blood”. Calmly, he sits through the raging battle, in the midst of bullets whizzing by and soldiers falling next to him, his countenance beaming “as if transfigured”. Late in the day, the Finnish troops are victorious. As the last Finnish detachment is about to leave the battlefield, the veteran stands up and calls out to them:

“Ye sons of our own country,
So youthful and so bold,
Is there one here who values
The words of warrior old?
“Great thanks to you he renders
For this illustrious day;
For no more glorious combat
Did e’er his eye survey.
To God be praise and glory
We triumph yet again;
Still lives our father’s spirit,
And still our land has men!”

Did the writers of Suomen Sotilas think this was excellent propaganda and a superb toolkit for the manipulation of unsuspecting conscripts? Or were they, rather, deeply touched by the poem themselves? If the latter was the case, exactly what in the poem was so touching to them? Was it the image evoked of a community of Finnish men down through the ages, of oneself belonging to a national brotherhood-in-arms, united over the abyss of temporal distance through the same destiny to be warriors, the same continued fight? Was it the way it struck a chord in their personal experience of fighting the “Liberation War” – or rather, a chord in how they wanted to remember that experience – as a way of gaining recognition from their fathers, or forefathers, or the entire world; recognition as men and members of a nation, not the browbeaten lapdogs of foreign masters? These are speculative questions, but the possibility is compelling that the talk about the forefathers, citizenship and morality in Suomen Sotilas should be understood not only as disciplinary power mechanisms, but also as an attempt on part of the authors to convey something positive to the readers. An attempt to let them feel the gratification of being hailed and recognised through the ideology of nationalism, of being able to triumphantly answer to the call, “You, young valiant son of our native soil!” – “Yes! Yes, that is me, that is who I am!”
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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In a case of life imitating art.....

Post by CanKiwi2 » 07 Apr 2011 13:14

You may remember an earlier post where I wrote about the development of the KKT martial arts training in the Suojeluskuntas and Maavoimat in the 1930's - well, I just ran into this bit of info on the Finnish Army's Utin Jaakarirykmentti (Utti Jaeger Regiment) which made me chuckle as I had no inkling of this when I did my KKT writeup....

"Since 1996 the Parachutist school has developed it´s own version of close combat fighting. It´s basically "Finnish Krav Maga". The goal is to give soldiers that have not any experiene of martial arts a simple way to knock down an enemy threat. The hand to hand-exercises are also supposed to build up confidence."
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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Memories from the 1920s - Conscript Training

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 Apr 2011 13:35

Stories and Memories of Conscript Soldiering in the 1920’s

At the age of 61, Lauri Mattila wrote down his memories of military training in a garrison in Helsinki forty years earlier. Mattila, a farmer from a rural municipality in Western Finland, was evidently carried away by his reminiscences, since he wrote almost 200 pages. The resulting narrative is a fascinating depiction of both the dark and the bright sides of military service in interwar Finland.1 Recalling his service in 1931–1932 from the vantage point of the early 1970’s, Mattila underlined that he had a positive attitude to the army as a young man and reported for duty “full of the eagerness of youth and military spirit”. In his memories, he marked his loyalty with “white” Finland. However, the conditions of military training he described are in many places shocking to read. He remembered recruit training as characterised not least by the insulting language of superiors: “The training style of the squad leaders was to bawl, accuse and shame the recruit. A conscripted corporal could give instructions like the following when he instructed a recruit [in close-order drill]. Lift your head, here you don’t dangle your head like an old nag. You have a stomach like a pregnant hag, pull it in. Now there I’ve got a man, who doesn’t know what is left and what is right. Tomorrow you will get yourself some litter to put in your right pocket – and hay from the stables to put in your left pocket, then you can be commanded to turn towards the litter or turn towards hay. Maybe then you will understand the commands.”

The recruits’ carefully made beds were ruined daily, “blown up” by inspecting officers, and Mattila had all the meticulously arranged equipment in his locker heaved out onto the floor because his spoon was lying “in the wrong direction.” As he moved on from recruit training to NCO training, he and the other NCO pupils were virtually persecuted by squad leaders who punished them at every step they took, incessantly making them drop to a prone position, crawl, get up again, run around the lavatories, clean the rifles, polish the squad leaders’ boots etc. The squad leaders cut the buttons of their tunics off almost daily and the pupils had to spend their evenings sewing them back on. The squad leaders could humiliate soldiers by making them kneel before them. In one instance a soldier was forced to lick a squad leader’s boot. According to Mattila, all this passed with the silent consent of the NCO school’s sadistic director, a Jäger Major. Yet Mattila also remembered training officers who were excellent educators, especially one lieutenant who always had surprises in his training programme, trained the men’s power of observation and always rewarded good achievements. The sergeant major of Mattila’s recruit training unit who had terrified the recruits on their first days of duty is later in the narrative described as a basically kind-hearted man, bellowing at the soldiers “always tongue in cheek”.

Mattila recalled his platoon’s ambition of always being the best unit in the company with apparent pride, as well as his regiment’s self-understanding of being an elite corps superior to other military units in the area. He wrote about how he acquired new acquaintances and friends during his service and how he would sit around with them in the service club, discussing “religion, patriotism, theatre, opera, we sometimes visited them (…) and yes we talked about women and it can be added that we visited them too.” After his NCO training, Mattila was assigned to be a squad leader in the main guard. He lyrically depicted the daily changing of the guard, the military band playing and the sidewalks filled with townspeople never growing tired of watching the spectacle. “Whoever has marched in that parade, will remember it with nostalgia for the rest of his life”, he wrote. As he reached the end of his long account, Lauri Mattila summed up what the military training had meant for him: “I was willing to go to [the military] and in spite of all the bullying I did not experience the army as a disagreeable compulsion, but as a duty set by the fatherland, a duty that was meaningful to fulfil. Moreover, it was a matter of honour for a Finnish man. My opinion about the mission of the armed forces and their educational significance has not changed. For this reason, I do not understand this present direction that the soldiers’ position becomes ever more civilian-like and that it becomes unclear who is in command, the soldier or the officer. The barracks must not become a resting home spoiling the inmates.”

The memories of this farmer in his old-age recount a unique individual experience. Yet they also contain many elements typical of reminiscences of military training in the interwar period: the shock of arrival in an entirely different social world; the harshness of recruit training; the complex relationships between soldiers and their superiors; the comradeship between soldiers and the perceived adventurousness of any contacts with women of their own age; the slowly ameliorating conditions as disbandment day grew closer; and the final assessment of military training as a necessary duty and its hardships as a wholesome experience for conscripts. In a sense, this Post moves on from the rhetoric of politics, hero myths and army propaganda into the “real world” of garrisons, barracks and training fields, as that world was described by “ordinary” conscripts – not only educated, middle-class politicians, officers or educationalists, but also
men of the lower classes. This however, is not to investigate what “actually happened” in military training, or what the conscripts “really experienced”, but to study the images of conscript soldiering that arose from story-telling about military training. The post studies stories about the social reality of interwar military training, both as written in the period and as memories written down decades later.

The civic education and “enlightenment” propaganda, analysed in the previous posts, powerfully propagated the notion that it was in the environment of military service that a boy or youngster was transformed and somehow reached full and real adult citizenship. The army was “a school for men” or “the place where men were made”. It was never stated in military rhetoric of the era that learning the technical use of weapons or elementary combat tactics was in itself what made men into boys. Instead, this transformation was, by implication, brought about by the shared experience of living in the military environment and coping with the demands put on the conscripts by their superiors and by the collective of military comrades. On the other hand, there was also, as we have seen, vivid and outspoken political criticism of military training within the confinements of a cadre army, as well as loud-spoken moral concerns that this same environment would damage conscripts. In this critical debate, the relationships both to superiors and to “comrades” debased the young man, the former through brutalising him and the latter through morally corrupting him. The conscripts were all exposed to the army’s “enlightenment” efforts, but it cannot be taken for granted that they subscribed to their contents any more than it can be assumed that men from a working class background espoused socialist anti-militarism. Whether they embraced or rejected the idea of military training as a place “where men were made”, it is significant in how they depicted the social relationships among men in the military and how they saw the military as changing them through the shared experience that all conscripts wnt through.

To the extent that soldiering became a crucial part of Finnish society in the interwar period, stories about what military service was“really like” conveyed messages to its audiences – and to the narrators themselves – about what it meant to be a Finn. How did army stories depict what happened as conscripts arrived for their military training? How did they describe the experience of entering the military world, with its social relationships, practices and ideological environment? How did different stories about personal experiences of military training relate to contemporary notions of soldiering? This Post emphasises how many men talked about the hardships, harshness and even brutality of military training – images of soldiering largely contradicting the pro-defence debate studied in the two previous posts. The proportion of stories about the austerity and severity of military discipline and of abuses and bullying does not prove whether this was a defining feature of Finnish military training at any particular point in time – in some conscript’s experience it was, in others’ it was not. Many men certainly had largely positive memories, emphasising good relationships with superiors, tolerable conditions and supportive comradeship. Yet even these narrators appear conscious of the powerful presence in popular culture of a “dark side” to the practices of military training that they were anxious
to refute.

Perhaps one reason why the narrators – including some of those who underline that they got on well in the military and even enjoyed themselves – chose to narrate and highlight stories about forced subordination and bullying was because these stories referred to a contradiction between the actual experience of life as a conscript and the public image of the military. This derived from the tensions between relationships in the military, where the conscripts experienced the contradiction between the idea of equal citizenship inherent in a modern “citizens’ army” vs the conflicting military logic of absolute obedience. The complete and unquestioning obedience demanded in the interwar Finnish conscript army, and the oftentimes humiliating methods used to bring it about, meant a loss of control for the conscript. He was defencelessly exposed to potential abuse. This contradicted the concept of soldiers as warriors and the army as a place “where boys become men” or “where men are made”. It also contradicted the contemporary nationalist defence rhetoric of self-restraint, a sense of duty and a spirit of sacrifice, since the bullied conscript was under external compulsion, forced forward not by internal motivation but by force of violence and the threat of even worse punishments. Moreover, the relationships among the rank-and-file conscripts were run through with informal hierarchies actively upheld by the soldiers themselves. The authors Pentti Haanpää and Mika Waltari addressed this major contradiction in the army books they published around 1930 – each in his fashion.

The historicity of Experiences and Memories

Here, we will go on to analyse two groups of sources depicting experiences of military service in the interwar period; Pentti Haanpää’s Fields and Barracks (1928) and Mika Waltari’s Where Men Are Made (1931) on the one hand, and a collection of autobiographical reminiscences on the other.
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Pentti Haanpää (October 14, 1905, Pulkkila - September 30, 1955 Pyhäntä) was a Finnish novelist and a masterful short story writer whose father, Mikko Haanpää, and grandfather, Juho Haanpää, who was a senator, were also published authors. They were both socially and politically active in their home region.His mother, Maria Susanna (Keckman) Haanpää, was born in Haapavesi and came from a farming family. At school in Leskelä, Haanpää was a good student. After finishing elementary school, he began to contribute from 1921 on to the magazine Pääskynen, At the same time, he was also very active in sports. In 1923 Haanpää joined the literary association Nuoren Voiman Liitto and continued to write for its magazine Nuori Voima. Haanpää's first book, MAANTIETÄ PITKIN (1925), appeared when he was 20. It was well received by critics, who made special note of Haanpää's skillful use of language. A few years later the story was translated into Swedish under the title “Hemfolk och Strykare”. After this successful debut, Haanpää decided to devote himself entirely to writing.

He served in the army from 1925-26 and in 1927 published TUULI KÄY HEIDÄN YLITSEEN, a collection of short stories. It was followed by KENTTÄ JA KASARMI (1928), which portrayed the army as a closed system, working under its own rules. In the promilitary atmosphere of the time, the book generated heated discussion. Among the critics was Olavi Paavolainen, the spiritual leader of the new generation of writers, who had reviewed Haanpää's earlier debut novel positively, and praised his straightforward and self-assured expression. Kenttä Ja Kasarmi was the first work in which Haanpää drew on his own unpleasant experiences in the army. Unable to adjust himself to military life, he felt that he had wasted a year of his life in "the straitjacket of a soldier." Haanpää's description of the brutal training methods and ugliness of the authoritarian military system upset patriotic reviewers so that for the next seven years no publisher would touch Haanpää's manuscripts.

Haanpää became best known for two controversial books that he wrote during this period of enforced silence. The first of these was the socialistically orientated “Noitaympyr” (1931) in which he examined the conflict between a misfit and his unbearable surroundings. At the end of the story Pate Teikka, the protagonist, chooses Communism instead of Western democracy and leaves Finland for an unknown future – he walks over the border into the Soviet Union. The second was “Vääpeli Sadon Tapaus” (1935), a bitter criticism of army life and brutality, dealing with the sadism of petty authority. The central characters are Simo Kärnä, a recruit and later corporal, and the psychopathic sergeant-major Sato, the embodiment of sadistic militarism. After repeated humiliations, Kärnä uses his intelligence and Sato's wife to gain his revenge, but eventually realizes that he has been as brutal as his enemy. Haanpää's other published works from the 1930s include ISÄNNÄT JA ISÄNTIEN VARJOT (1935), TAIVALVAARAN NÄYTTELJÄ (1938), and IHMISELON KARVAS IHANUUS (1939). Isännät ja isäntien varjot was published by Kirjailijain Kustannusliike, founded by Erkki Vala. The company was closely associated with the literary group Kiila (Wedge), whose members favored radical free verse and were more or less Marxists. Haanpää was among Kiila's best-known writers, along with such names as Arvo Turtiainen, Katri Vala, Viljo Kajava, and Elvi Sinervo. Suffice it to say that his anti-militarism and Marxist leanings in the 1920s and 1930s were not received with enthusiasm by right wing critics. Haanpää created his literary reputation chiefly with his short stories, of which he published twelve collections.

During the Winter War (1939-40), Haanpää served in the army. He was in the front line in Lapland. In 1940 while on leave he married Aili Karjalainen, a dairymaid whom he had met in the late 1930s. Haanpää utilized his war experiences in the story 'Sallimuksen Sormi', in which an exhausted infantry company, quartered in a church, is attacked by enemy aircraft. In the Continuation War (1941-44) Haanpää served in the service troops in the Kiestinki and Untua area. Haanpää's war novel KORPISOTAA (1940) was translated into French under the title Guerre Dans le Désert Blanc by M. Aurelien Sauvageot. The Austrian publishing company Karl H. Bischoff Verlag also planned to translate the work; one of Haanpää's short stories, 'Siipirikko', had already appeared in the German magazine Das Reich. However, German publishers did not consider Korpisotaa positive enough for the war effort. NYKYAIKAA (1942), a collection of short stories, reflected Haanpää's bitterness and disillusionment.

After the wars Haanpää wrote some of his best works, among them YHDEKSÄN MIEHEN SAAPPAAT (1945), a war novel, in which the same pair of boots passes from one trooper to another, and JAUHOT (1949), based on a historical event when peasants seized a government granary during the great famine of 1867-68. Haanpää's journey in 1953 to China with a delegation of Finnish writers inspired KIINALAISET JUTUT (1954). Although Haanpää had earlier condemned restrictions on free speech in the Soviet Union, he kept silent on this matter in his book on China, expressing an admiration for the spirit of change which had seized the country. "Kiinanmaassa tuoksahti joku merkillinen muuttumisen, uudistumisen ja kasvamisen ihme. Se oli jotakin ainutlaatuista ja muukalainen ei hevillä saane siitä täyttä käsitystä. Aavisteli, että kiinalaiset itse ällistelivät muuttuvaa maataan ja muuttuvaa elämäänsä ja kutsuivat siitä syystä ihmisiä maapallon toiselta puolelta näkemään, mitä heille tapahtui..." (from Kiinalaiset jutut). ATOMINTUTKIJA (1950) received good reviews by the right-wing columnist and critic Kauko Kare in the journal Suomalainen Suomi. Haanpää drowned on a fishing trip on September 30, 1955, two weeks before his 50th birthday. His last novel, PUUT, a story of a socialist who becomes a non-socialist, was left unfinished. Haanpää's collected works appeared in 1956 (10 vols.), and then in 1976 (8 vols.). Haanpää's notes from 1925 to 1939 were published in 1976 under the title MUISTIINMERKINTÖJÄ. Taivalvaaran näyttelijä was reprinted in 1997. 'Haanpää monument' (1996), made by the sculptor Tapio Junno, is situated in Leskelä, Piippola.


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Mika Waltari (1908 – 1979), Finnish author

Mika Waltari (1908 – 1979) was born in Helsinki and lost his father, a Lutheran pastor, at the age of five. As a boy, he witnessed the Finnish Civil War in Helsinki. Later he enrolled in the University of Helsinki as a theology student, following his mother's wishes, but soon abandoned theology in favour of philosophy, aesthetics and literature, graduating in 1929. While studying, he contributed to various magazines, wrote poetry and stories and had his first book published in 1925 (at the age of 17). In 1927 he went to Paris where he wrote his first major novel Suuri Illusioni ('The Grand Illusion'), a story of bohemian life. Waltari also was, for a while, a member of the liberal literary movement Tulenkantajat, though his political and social views later turned conservative. He was married in 1931 and had a daughter, Satu, who also became a writer.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Waltari worked as a journalist and critic, writing for a number of newspapers and magazines and travelling widely in Europe. He was Editor for the magazine Suomen Kuvalehti. At the same time, he kept writing books in many genres, moving easily from one literary field to another. He participated, and often succeeded, in literary competitions to prove the quality of his work to critics. One of these competitions gave rise to one of his most popular characters, Inspector Palmu, a gruff detective of the Helsinki police department, who starred in three mystery novels, all of which were filmed (a fourth one was made without Waltari involved). Waltari also scripted the popular cartoon Kieku ja Kaiku and wrote Aiotko Kirjailijaksi, a guidebook for aspiring writers that influenced many younger writers such as Kalle Päätalo.

During the Winter War (1939–1940) and the Continuation War (1941–1944), Waltari worked in the government information center, placing his literary skills at the service of the government to produce political propaganda. 1945 saw the publication of Waltari's first and most successful historical novel, The Egyptian. The book became an international bestseller, serving as the basis of the 1954 Hollywood movie of the same name. Waltari wrote seven more historical novels, placed in various ancient cultures, among others The Dark Angel, set during the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Waltari was one of the most prolific Finnish writers. He wrote at least 29 novels, 15 novellas, 6 collections of stories or fairy-tales, 6 collections of poetry and 26 plays, as well as screenplays, radioplays, non-fiction, translations, and hundreds of reviews and articles. Internationally he is probably the best-known Finnish writer, with his works translated into more than 40 languages.


Haanpää and Waltari wrote their army books during or immediately after they went through military training, whereas the autobiographical stories were written down much later, in response to an ethnological collection of memories of military training carried out in 1972–1973. The two books are the testimonies of only two single individuals, but immediately reached large national audiences and thus made the images they conveyed available for others to re-use, confirm or criticise. The collections of reminiscences, on the other hand, contains the stories of hundreds of former soldiers, most of whom probably never published a story or took part in public debate. These sources are compared and contrasted in this Post in order to bring out both their similarities and differences and to discuss how the narrators’ class, age, and political outlook informed depictions of the actual experience of interwar military training. Both the literary works and the reminiscences are, however, highly complicated historical sources in terms of what they actually carry information about. When, how, and why they were written is essential for what stories they tell and for how they craft experiences and memories into stories. They are shaped by cultural notions, political issues, and the historically changing contents of individual and collective commemoration. It is therefore necessary to discuss the circumstances in which these sources were created, and the problems of source criticism associated with them, before entering their narrative world.

Two Authors, Two Worlds

Pentti Haanpää’s collection of short stories, Kenttä Ja Kasarmi: Kertomuksia Tasavallan Armeijasta (Fields and Barracks: Tales from the Republic’s Army, 1928), and Mika Waltari’s Siellä Missä Miehiä Tehdään (Where Men Are Made, 1931) are the best-known and most widely read literary works of the interwar period depicting the life of conscripts’ doing their military service. In addition to these two books, only a few short stories and causerie-like military farces on the subject were published in the period. Three motion pictures about the conscript army were also produced 1929–1934. These films were made in close cooperation between the film company and the armed forces. The images of soldiering they conveyed was of a similar kind to those in military propaganda materials such as Suomen Sotilas. The films became a success with the public and were followed by no less than four military farces, premiering in cinemas in 1938–1939. The first feature film about the conscript army, ‘Our Boys’ (Meidän Poikamme, 1929), was released in the wake of Fields and Barracks. The film was first advertised as both more objective and truthful, and later as more patriotic in its supportive attitude to the armed forces and a strong national defence than Fields and Barracks – which demonstrates the impact of Haanpää’s work.

Pentti Haanpää (1905–1955) was born into a family of “educated peasants” in rural Northern Finland. His grandfather had been a representative of the peasantry (rural smallholders) in the Finnish Diet in the nineteenth century and was the author of books of moral tales. His father and two uncles were also both politically active in their local community and amateur writers. Yet Haanpää did not go through any higher education as a young man. He took occasional employment in farming and forestry and went on living on his family’s farm far into adult age. When he made his literary debut in 1925, the cultural establishment in Helsinki greeted him as a ‘man of nature’; a lumberjack and log rafter from the deep forests; a narrator brought forth from the depths of the true Finnish folk soul. His three first books received enthusiastic reviews in 1925–1927 and critics labelled him the new hope of national literature. All this only made the shock the greater for the nationalist and bourgeois-minded cultural establishment when Haanpää published Fields and Barracks in November 1928.

Haanpää had done his military service in the “wilderness garrison” of Kivimäki on the Karelian Isthmus, close to the Russian border, in 1925-1926. Since he lacked formal academic education, he served in the rank-and-file. During his time in the Kivimäki garrison, he developed a deeply felt indignation towards the army’s educational methods. He wrote the short stories of Fields and Barracks during the year after his completion of conscript service. They were fictional stories, but set in the contemporary Finnish conscript army and written in a style combining expressionism with psychological realism. They depicted military life as a time of gruesome hardships, sadism and violence that appeared meaningless to the conscripts and frustrated officers to the point of desperation. Haanpää’s regular publishers considered some sections portraying the soldiers’ uninhibited joking and partying so indecent that they wanted them to be left out. Haanpää refused to make even minor omissions and took his manuscript to a small socialist publishing house, which published it unaltered. The book aroused great controversy in Finland in the autumn of 1928 because of its hostility to both the military training system and the official pro-defence rhetoric. It was discussed in editorials as well as book reviews. There were demands for all copies to be confiscated and many bookshops did not dare put the book openly at display. The book was nevertheless a small commercial success – four new editions were swiftly printed. Yet Haanpää became an outcast in the mainstream cultural scene for several years.

Mika Waltari (1908–1979) was born into a family of priests and public servants. According to his memoirs, a Christian, bourgeois and patriotic “white” spirit permeated his childhood home. He attended an elite school for the sons of the Finnish-nationalist bourgeoisie, the Finnish Lyceum ‘Norssi’ in Helsinki, and was a member of the YMCA and the Christian Students’ Association. He emerged as a prolific author from age 17 and published several novels and collections of short stories and poems between 1926–1930. Entering the University of Helsinki as a student of theology, he switched to the science of religion and literary studies after three terms. He socialised in young artists’ circles, most importantly the famous ‘Torch Bearers’ (Tulenkantajat) group that combined Finnish nationalism with internationalism and optimistic modernism. The great success of his bestselling first novel, ‘The Great Illusion’ (Suuri Illusiooni) in 1928 helped him take the leap of giving up his plans to become a priest and committing himself to a writer’s career.

Waltari partly wrote Where Men Are Made, which is almost in the form of a diary, during his military service. In the book, he actually depicted how he managed to get access to the company office’s typewriter and an allowance to write on his manuscripts during his recruit training. Where Men Are Made is literary reportage, written from Waltari’s first person perspective, describing his everyday life as a conscript in a very positive tenor. Published only two years after the scandal surrounding Haanpää’s work, Waltari’s army book was received and read as a response to Fields and the Barracks. It is nonetheless important to keep in mind that Haanpää’s was not the only negative depiction of army life in circulation after the fierce anti-militarist campaigns of 1917. Waltari’s book probably would have been written even if Haanpää had never published his. The press reactions it received were, however, muted in comparison to the furore around Fields and Barracks; it was greeted with satisfaction by some of Haanpää’s critics, but not celebrated as a major literary work.

Both Haanpää and Waltari obviously wanted to have an impact on how the Finnish public conceived of the conscript army. Yet Fields and Barracks and Where Men Are Made are also works of art, intended to convey aesthetic impressions, ideological messages, and and understanding of human feelings and motives. One might ask to what extent they may be said to mirror the attitudes and understandings of larger groups rather than only the original and imaginative vision of two artistic individuals. All that aside, Haanpää’s and Waltari’s army depictions are valuable sources to the cultural imagery surrounding conscription in the interwar period. In their books there are echoes of contemporary opinion and views about class, conscription, military training and the cadre army, which are familiar from the materials examined in previous Posts. Although Haanpää and Waltari were talented writers, they also had to make sense of what they experienced in the military through relating it to previous cultural knowledge. Their works were products of the creative imagination, yet no doubt were influenced by the forms and contents of stories about army life and political debates over conscription they had themselves heard and read. Their stories, in turn, provided frames of reference for their readers’ subsequent stories about military training; models for emplotment and evaluation to either embrace or reject.

Memories of Military Training

The collection of autobiographical reminiscences, which is studied in this Post parallel with Haanpää’s and Waltari’s literary depictions, resulted from a writing competition arranged by the Ethnology Department at the University of Turku in 1972–1973. Conscripts into the armed forces of independent Finland were asked to write down and send in their memories of military training in the peacetime army. In addition to using the department’s network of regular informants, the competition was advertised in a brochure about voluntary defence work that was distributed to every household in Finland in the autumn of 1972. The 10 best contributions would be rewarded and the first prize was an award of 500 marks (equivalent to about 500 Euros at present). Those who entered their names for the collection were sent a very detailed questionnaire by mail. The response was unusually strong for an inquiry of this kind. The Ethnology Department received almost 700 answers, which altogether comprised almost 30 000 pages (A5), both handwritten and typed. Many men who had served in the Army evidently felt a great desire to recount their army memories.

However, the accounts of military training they wrote probably tell us more about how old men in the 1970’s made sense of experiences in their youth than about how they might have articulated those experiences at the time. As historians using interviews with contemporary witnesses have increasingly stressed since the late 1970’s, oral testimony – what people tell an interviewer about their memories, or equally what they write down from memory in response to a questionnaire – cannot be read as direct evidence of factual events or even the “original” subjective experiences of those events. Experiences and memories are marked by historicity: they are dynamic and changing. Memories are fleeting and fragmentary and only take solid form as mental images or articulated stories in a specific act of recollection that always takes place in the present. What an individual considers it relevant to remember, in the sense of telling others about his or her past, changes over time. How an individual experiences military training when he is in the midst of it, how he talks about it when just returned to civilian life, and how he remembers it as an old man, can produce three very different stories. More than a source of history, these reminiscences are a kind of history writing in themselves, where contemporary witnesses become their own historians, constructing and narrating their own version of history.

Academic oral history since the 1980’s, writes Ronald J. Grele, has been “predicated upon the proposition that oral history, while it does tell us about how people lived in the past, also, and maybe more importantly, tells us about how the past lives on into and informs the present”. The author’s original reason for using the collection of reminiscences from the 1970’s was a desire to grasp what “ordinary” men without higher education told friends and family about their own experiences of conscripted soldiering. He wanted to contrast the images of soldiering in the political sphere, military propaganda, and the “high culture” of literary works by esteemed authors to the “low culture” of popular oral culture. However, this oral culture has not been recorded in contemporary sources. It can be very faintly discerned in press reports and parliamentary debates on the scandalous treatment of conscripts outlined in an earlier Post. Some of its elements can be guessed at from criticisms of “old-fashioned” training methods in storys on military philosophy, the rhetoric of civic education directed at soldiers, or the literary imagery produced by Mika Waltari and Pentti Haanpää. As such, however, the auhor estimated that no other available corpus of sources bears witness to it more closely than the 1972–1973 collection of memories, which is very comprehensive and multifaceted. It contains the stories of hundreds of men from the lower classes, whose voices are not present in the written historical sources from the interwar period. Almost 300 of the answers entered for the writing competition depicted military training in the interwar period. The author of these thesis (Anders Ahlack) used a sample of 56 stories, comprising 4213 pages, including a random sample as well as all the stories exceeding 100 pages, because of their relative richness of detail. The sample was made only among those men who had served in the infantry, since this was by far the largest branch of the armed forces and overwhelmingly dominated the public image of “the army”. Among the authors in the sample are twelve farmers, nine workers in industry, crafts and forestry (three carpenters, two masons, an engine-man, a sheet metal worker, a sawmill worker and a lumberjack), and four men who worked or had worked in the service sector (two office clerks, a policeman and an engine driver). Five men obviously had had a higher education, although this was not asked in the questionnaire, as they stated folk school teacher (2), agronomist (2) or bank manager to be their occupation. Five further men were or had been in managerial positions that did not necessarily require higher education: a district headman at a sawmill, a head of a department (unspecified), a shop manager and a stores manager. Four had been regular officers or non-commissioned officers. Twelve men did not state their occupation.

Researchers of memory knowledge within folklore studies and oral history greatly emphasise the specific situation where experiences and memories are articulated into stories. The Finnish folklorist Jyrki Pöysä points out that a “collection” of reminiscences never actually consists in gathering something pre-existing that is “out there”, waiting for the researcher to come and collect it. Instead, it is a creative activity, where memories, stories and folklore are produced in cooperation between the informants and the scholars. The questions asked, and how they are put, make the informant intuitively feel that certain stories are expected of him and he thus may recall only certain things in memory and not others. The 1972-73 collection of memories of military training was executed in a manner that signalled approval and appreciation of conscription and the Finnish armed forces. The brochure that was the main advertising channel for the writing competition propagated voluntary civic work for supporting national defence. The ingress of the questionnaire connected the history of universal conscription and the national armed forces with “over fifty years of Finnish independence”. It further claimed that “every Finnish man has learnt the art of defending the country” in those forces, thus recycling old phrases from nationalist defence rhetoric. It was also pointed out in the first section that the collection of reminiscences was realised in “collaboration with the General Staff”. All this might have influenced who participated in the collection and who shunned it, as well as the informants’ notions of what kind of narration was expected of them.

Juha Mälkki, who has worked with all the answers from the interwar period surmises that the informants might represent mainly those with positive attitudes to the army. It is impossible to know which voices might be missing, yet in the author’s opinion the collected material offers a broad spectrum of experiences and attitudes, including significant numbers of very negative images of military service. The questionnaire, worked out by the ethnologists at the University of Turku, contained almost 230 different questions, grouped under 40 numbered topics, ranging from material culture, such as clothing, food and buildings, to military folklore, in the form of jokes and marching songs, and to the relationships between men and officers and among the soldiers themselves. The meticulous list of questions was evidently based on a very detailed and specific pre-understanding of the social ”morphology” of military life; notions of how military life is organised and structured and what social and cultural phenomena are specific to it. For example, regarding leaves of absence the questionnaire asked: “What false reasons were used when applying for leaves, or what stories were told about such attempts? Was it difficult to actually obtain leave when there was a real need, or were there suspicions that the reasons were falsified? What kinds of men were the most skilled in getting leave?” The questions asked were ways of helping the informants remember, but directed their recollections towards certain topics, excluding others. Many informants wrote at length about the first questions in the questionnaire, but further on answered more briefly and started skipping questions, apparently exhausted by the long list of questions and the cumbersomeness of writing. On the other hand, several informants chose to tell “their story”, largely ignoring the questions asked.

The ensuing stories have to be read with sensitivity as to how they are written in response to specific questions, at particular stages in their authors’ lives, and in a particular historical situation. The Finnish men writing for the collection in 1972–1973 were born into, grew up, and did their military service in the same mental and political landscape as Mika Waltari and Pentti Haanpää. Yet by the time they wrote down their memories of military training they had also experienced a world war and Finland’s military defeat in 1944, which against all odds secured Finland’s survival as an independent nation. They had heard the resurgent Finnish communists criticise the interwar period as one of Finnish militarism and characterize the Finnish war efforts as aggression. They had witnessed the official pact of “friendship and mutual assistance” between Finland and their former foe, the Soviet Union. They had recently observed the emergence of a youth revolt in the 1960’s with its anti-authoritarianism and critical stance towards the nationalist and moral values of previous generations. All of this was present in their “space of experience”, illuminating and giving new meanings to their own experiences of military training as conscripts. Individual memories overlap and connect with other people’s memories and images of the past, shared by larger collectives, such as generations or nations. This can provide social support for individual memories, increasing their coherence and credibility through linguistic interaction with other people. It can also, however, result in people confusing their own personal memories with things that happened to other people that they have only heard or read about. Historian Christof Dejung points out how the informants he interviewed about their memories of the Second World War in Switzerland had re-interpreted, re-shaped and rearticulated their memories since the war under the influence of political debates on Swiss history, stories they had been told, books about the war years they had read, and films they had seen. Individual memories, Dejung summarises, are parts of collective patterns of interpretation that originate both in the past and the present.

The oral historian Alistair Thomson stresses the psychological motives at work in the process where memories are constructed and articulated. People compose or construct memories using the public languages and meanings of their culture, but they do it in such a way as to help them feel relatively comfortable with their lives and identities. In Thomson’s words, we want to remember the past in a way that gives us “a feeling of composure” and ensures that our memories fit with what is publicly acceptable. When we remember, we seek the affirmation and recognition of others for our memories and our personal identities. Still, the thesis’ author finds that a radical scepticism regarding memories as evidence of the past would be an erroneous conclusion. As many oral historians have pointed out, distortions due to distance from events, class bias and ideology, as well as uncertainty regarding the absolute accuracy of factual evidence are not unique to oral evidence or reminiscences, but characteristic of many historical sources. For example, court records are based on oral testimony that has often been re-articulated and summarised by the recording clerks. Newspaper reports are usually based on the oral testimony of interviewed people that has been evaluated, condensed and re-narrated by journalists. The historian always has to make a critical assessment of his sources in the light of other sources as well as theories and assumptions about human motives and behaviour. In this respect, memories are not different in kind from most other historical source materials. The literary historian Alessandro Portelli, famous for his oral history work, writes that oral sources tell us less about events than about their meaning, about how events were understood and experienced and what role they came to play in the informant’s life. Still, he underlines that the reminiscences told by people in oral history interviews often reveal unknown events or unknown aspects of known events. They always cast light on the everyday life of the lower, “non-hegemonic” social classes that have left few traces in public archives. Oral sources might compensate chronological distance with much closer personal involvement. Portelli claims that in his experience, narrators are often capable of reconstructing their past attitudes even when they no longer coincide with present ones. They are able to make a distinction between past and present self and to objectify the past self as other than the present one.

Neither can memories be held as the product of the interview situation alone. The oral historian Luisa Passerini points out that when someone is asked for his or her life-story, this person’s memory draws on pre-existing storylines and ways of telling stories, even if these are in part modified by the circumstances. According to the oral historian Paul Thompson, the encapsulation of earlier attitudes in a story is a protection, which makes them less likely to represent a recent reformulation. Recurrent story telling can thus preserve memories, but if there is a strong “public memory” of the events in question, it can also distort personal recollections. In interviews with Australian veterans from the First World War, conducted in the 1980’s, Alistair Thomson found that memories of the post-war period, that had rarely been the focus of conversation and storytelling, seemed more fresh and less influenced by public accounts than the stories about the war years. Thomson connects this with the powerful presence in Australian culture of an “official”, nationalist commemoration of the Australian war experience. He describes a process where the diverse and even contradictory experiences of Australians at war were narrated through a public war legend, a compelling narrative that smoothed the sharp edges of individual experiences and constructed a homogenous veteran identity defined in terms of national ideals. Nonetheless, Thomson found that oral testimony collected in the 1980’s still indicated the variety of the Australian veterans’ experiences. Many of the veterans Thomson interviewed had preserved a distance from the nationalist myths about the war experience. The influence of the public legend depended on each veteran’s original experience of the war, on the ways he had previously composed his war remembering, and on the social and emotional constory of old age. In the case of the Swiss commeration of the Second World War, Christof Dejung points out that in spite of strong national myths about the defence of Switzerland, the political left, women, and the Jewish community have maintained diverging memory cultures that were ignored in official commemoration until recently. In the final analysis, Alistair Thomson concludes from his study that there is plentiful evidence in oral testimony to make for histories representing the range and complexity of Australian experiences of war. The use of soldier’s testimony should, however, be sensitive to the ways in which such testimony is articulated in relation to public stories and personal identities.

I think we can assume that certain parts of the memories of militarytraining in the Finnish conscript army were formed and influenced by decades of the informants telling and listening to army stories together with other men. Many of their elements have probably been told and retold many times since the interwar period. An informant might be prone to include a story that has been successful with his previous audiences – comrades, colleagues, and family members – in his answer to the writing competition. Just as Haanpää and Waltari were using and commenting on contemporary popular traditions and political debates, the men composing their memories in the 1970’s certainly borrowed elements and narrative forms from literary and oral traditions in depicting military life. However, comparisons with the critical press reports and parliamentary debates on the treatment of conscripts as well as with Pentti Haanpää’s and Mika Waltari’s army books, reveal that essential narrative elements in their reminiscences were already in public circulation in the interwar period. In comparison to the cultural images of the Finnish front-line experience in the Second World War, there was by far no such equally powerful “official” commemoration or nationalist legend about interwar military training in post-war society, prescribing how one was supposed to remember it. However, historian Juha Mälkki assumes that the experiences of fighting the Second World War were formative for how pre-war military training was remembered and narrated. Mälkki has used the 1972–1973 collection for a study of the emergence of the particular military culture making possible Finland’s relatively successful defence against the Soviet Union in 1939–1940. He reckons that the informants’ notions of which military skills and modes of functioning turned out useful or even life-saving in the Winter War informed their evaluation of their peacetime military training, which was in retrospect seen essentially as a preparation for the war experience.

This is an important observation. However, we must not presume that the informants’ war experiences had a uniform impact on all of them. The thesis’ author finds significant and wants to stress not only the similarities, but also the differences among the different voices and stories in the collection. The ways experiences are articulated are never completely determined by culture, public memory or even personal history. There are always different and mutually contradictory models of interpretation circulating in a culture. Despite their elements of collective tradition, the variation among the memories display how conscripts were influenced by their varying sociocultural backgrounds and political stances, both in how they experienced military training in their youth and in how they reproduced or re-assessed their experiences during their later lives. It also bears witness to how not only self-reflection, but also factors as difficult to capture as what we call personality, temperament and genuine innovativeness make human experience richer and more unpredictable than any social theory can fully fathom.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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CanKiwi2
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Memories from the 1920s - Conscript Training 2

Post by CanKiwi2 » 10 Apr 2011 13:44

Functionalism versus Meaning in an understanding of Bullying

To some extent, sociological interpretations of military bullying as ‘breaking down and re-building’ the soldier can be applied to the Finnish interwar case. Recruit training, with its emphasis on close-order drill and indoor duties, was evidently aimed at drilling the soldiers into instinctive, unquestioning and instantaneous obedience. According to Juha Mälkki, Finnish military thinking in the 1920’s understood military discipline as the exact and mechanical fulfilment of given orders. Inspections by high ranking officers focused on inspecting the soldiers marching past in close-order and the neatness of garrisons and camps. The outer appearance of the troops was taken as evidence of how disciplined they were, which in turn was understood as a direct indicator of how well they would perform in combat, i.e. how well they would execute given orders. However, the incessant inspections, where nothing was ever good enough, perfectly made beds were “blasted” and laboriously cleaned rifles “burnt”, also seem to have been intended to instil the soldiers with a sense that not even their utmost efforts were ever enough to fulfil military requirements. Not only should the soldiers feel that they were constantly supervised and that even the slightest infringements of regulations – a lump of sugar in the drinking cup, the spoon lying in the wrong direction – would be detected and punished by their superiors. They should also feel they were good-for-nothings who only by subjecting themselves to thorough and prolonged training by their superiors might one day reach the status of real soldiers.

In the Finnish case, there does not seem to have been any centrally controlled system or articulated plan behind this particular way of socializing the conscripts into a specific military behaviour and attitude, nor behind its extreme forms, the bullying by superiors. Rather, abuses and bullying occurred where superior officers turned a blind eye, and was easily weeded out where commanding officers wanted to stop it. The hierarchical relationships therefore varied from company to company. The rather poorly organised armed forces of the early 1920’s had to manage with NCOs and training officers without proper military education. There was a lack in the supervision of how conscripts were treated. Many officers certainly also seem to have harboured a mindset, perhaps shaped by old European military traditions, according to which scaring, humiliating and bullying the soldiers into fearful obedience was a natural and necessary part of shaping a civilian into a soldier. In addition to the military imperative of producing obedient and efficient soldiers, many officers embraced the political project of rebuilding the conscript into “a citizen conscious of his patriotic duties”. The reminiscences do not, however, reveal much of how this was undertaken, other than by draconian discipline. The ‘enlightenment lectures’ given by the military priests are hardly mentioned. A few men bring up that officers delivered patriotic speeches on festive occasions such as when the soldiers gave their oath of allegiance or were disbanded. Traces of the political re-education project mainly become visible in recollections of the ban on socialist newspapers and other leftist publications in the garrison areas, permanently reminding conscripts from a “red” background that their citizenship was seen as questionable.

Certain cafés and restaurants in the garrison towns that were associated with the workers’ movement were also out of bounds for conscripts on evening leaves. Some informants write about how conscripts were anxious to conceal their family association with the red rebellion or the workers’ movement from the officers in fear of harassment. Many informants mention that certain conscripts’ advancement to NCO or officer training was blocked because of their or their families’ association with the political left – a view confirmed by recent historical research. Some of the officers might very well have had rational and articulate ideas about the functionality of harsh and humiliating methods. However, as described above, many Finnish military educationalists in the 1920’s already viewed this traditional military pedagogy as counter-productive to the needs of a national Finnish army whose effectiveness in combat had to be based on patriotic motivation and not on numbers or ‘machine-like obedience’. Neither did the men who personally experienced interwar military training later choose to present the bullying as somehow productive of anything positive, be it discipline, group cohesion, or a new military identity.

Physical Training in Military Service

Conscription dislocated young men from family and working life into garrisons and training fields, packed them into dormitories of 20 to 50 men, robbed them of personal privacy, infringed on their integrity, and demanded they performed extreme physical tasks. It toughened men through gymnastics, drill, sports and field exercises. It trained men into particular postures and ways of moving as well as an attitude marked by a recklessness towards vulnerability. Yet physical vulnerability did put limits to what the men could be put through. And conscripts faked or inflicted illness and injuries upon themselves to evade training.
Image
Yrjö Norta (b Turku 1904, d Helsinki 1988, Finnish filmmaker)recording soldiers doing Drill for a promotional film (1927)

Physical Inspection and Assessment

The first concrete contact with conscription and military service for a young man was actually the call-up inspection. The colloquial term often used in Finnish for the call-up, syyni, refers to viewing or gazing – to the conscript being seen and inspected by the call-up board. As most men remembered the call-up, the youngsters had to undress in the presence of the others called up and step up stark naked in front of the examination board. Juha Mälkki characterises this practice as part of the “inspection mentality” of the era. It was evidently an embarrassing or at least peculiar experience for many conscripts, since it often needed to be treated with humour in narration, giving rise to a large number of anecdotes. One of these stories demonstrates how joking was used at the call-up itself as a means of defusing the tense situation of scores of young naked men being inspected by older men behind a table. Albert Lahti remembered that a young man at his callup tried to cover his genitals with his hands as he stepped up on the scales to be weighed. A local district court judge corrected him tongue-in-cheek: “Come, come, young man, don't cover anything and don’t lessen the load. Step down and take your hands off your balls and then step up on the scales once more so we can see your real weight. – You don’t get away as a crown wreck that shamelessly!” The boy did as he was told and steps back upon the scales with his hands at the sides and is greeted by the judge: “All right, what did I tell you, four kilogrammes more weight straight away as you don’t support those balls”. Laughter rolled around the room where a ”court room atmosphere” had reigned the moment before. The joke was on the boy on the scales – according to the end of the story he afterwards asked his comrades in round-eyed wonder whether his balls could really be that heavy. For that, he got the nickname ”Lead Balls”.

At the call-up, conscripts were sorted into those fit and those unfit for military service. As such, there was nothing very particular about the criteria applied. In the military, just as in the civil sphere, it was considered superior for a man to be strong, not weak, tall rather than short, have good eyesight and hearing, well-shaped limbs and no serious or chronic diseases. Yet hardly anywhere else at this time was such a systematic examination and comparison of conscripts’s made, accompanied by a categorical sorting strongly associated with masculine pride or shame over one’s own body. The physical examination at the call-up often stands out in the memories of military service and appears to have left behind strong images in memory. Even if few men probably were looking forward to their military service, being categorised as fit for service was still a matter of honour, whereas being exempted on the grounds of being physically unfit carried a strong stigma. The colloquial term for those discarded, ruununraakki, literally translates as “crown wreck”, somebody whose body was such a wreck that it was not good enough for the crown, for serving the country as a soldier. According to many informants, the ‘crown wrecks’ were shown contempt in the interwar years, also by young women who would not accept their courtships. Historian Kenneth Lundin has noted that in 1930’s feature films set in the conscript army, the ‘crown wrecks’ were always depicted as lazy, fat malingerers. Urpo Sallanko (b. 1908) recounted in his memories that he was very nervous at the call-up because he was of small stature. Both his older brothers had been categorised as ’crown wrecks’ and discarded. Hearing about his brothers, a neighbour woman had told the other women in his home village that ”she would be ashamed to give birth to kids who are not good enough to be men of war. This naturally reached my mothers ears,” Urpo wrote, “and made her weep”. Lauri Mattila’s friend Janne was sent home “to eat more porridge” because of his weak constitution and “was so ashamed of his fate that he never told anyone about what happened to him at the call-up”.

This notion of ’crown wrecks’ seems to have been a tradition from the days of the ’old’ Finnish conscript army in the 1880’s and 1890’s. At that time, roughly one tenth of each age cohort was called up for active service and about a third for a brief reserve training. The military authorities could thus be very selective at the call-up examinations, only choosing the physically “best” developed for the drawing of lots that determined who had to do three years of active service and who was put in the reserve. According to Heikki Kolehmainen (b. 1897), this tradition was alive and well in the countryside when he entered service in 1919. “You would often hear old men tell about the drawing of lots, about their service in the reserve or the active forces, and like a red thread through those conversations ran a positive, even boastful attitude of having been classed fit for conscription in those days. We [youngsters] accordingly thought of those who had served for three years as real he-men, of those who had served in the reserve as men, and of the crown wrecks as useless cripples.” Nevertheless, the ’crown wrecks’ were a group of considerable size. In the days of the “old” conscript army, at the end of the nineteenth century, around half of each age cohort was exempted.

Being in higher education or being a sole provider were valid grounds for exemption, but a weak physique was the most usual reason. In the 1920’s, about one third of each male age class never entered service on these grounds, and towards the end of the 1930’s roughly one man in six was still discarded. Claims that politically “untrustworthy” men would have been rejected under the guise of medical reasons have, however, been convincingly refuted by historical research. Historian Juha Mälkki claims that the number of men who received military training precisely met the manpower needs of the planned wartime army organisation and that the number discarded would thus have been governed by operative considerations in interwar Finland. Nevertheless, the high rejection rates caused public concern over the state of public health. Somewhat surprisingly, these numbers were not kept secret, but discussed openly in the press. Being a “crown wreck” was thus not an existence on the margin of society, but rather usual. Although being fit for service was probably associated with toughness by most contemporaries, the stigmatisation of being discarded might be exaggerated in both the collected reminiscences and interwar popular culture.

Toughening and Hardening the Conscripts

The army stories emphasise the toughness and hardships of military service, but also depict a military culture where the individual soldier was trained to physically merge with his unit and become indifferent to nakedness, pains or vulnerabilities. He became part of a collective. The initial physical inspection at the call-up can be interpreted as a stripping of the youngsters’ old, civilian identities, as a symbolic initiation that was repeated and completed months later, when the recruit arrived at his garrison and had to hand in his civilian clothes and don the uniform clothing of the army. In the light of the reminiscences, it seems that stripping naked was rather an introduction to a military culture where there should be nothing private about one’s body. Once the recruits entered service they had virtually no privacy. They spent their days and nights in a group of other men; sleeping, washing, and easing nature in full visibility of a score of other youngsters. The scarcity of toilets, causing long queues, and going to the latrine at camp in close formation with one’s whole unit stand out strongly in some men’s memories. Even more colourful are descriptions of the so-called “willie inspection” as the men stood in naked in line to be very intrusively inspected for symptoms of gonorrhea and other venereal diseases. Janne Kuusinen still remembered fifty years later that some men were ashamed the first time they had to undergo this and would not take off all clothes, that some men caught a cold as they were made to stand naked for over an hour, and that one man was diagnosed with tight foreskin and sent to surgery the next day. This ruthlessness concerning the conscripts’ privacy can be understood as either sheer brutality or as a part of training intended to do away with any feeling of physical individuality. A soldier should neither be shy nor self-conscious.

Army stories display the pride men felt over having been found fit for military service at the call-up. However, in many stories conscripts were greeted as too soft and immature upon reporting for duty, as mere “raw material” or “a shapeless mass of meat” that completely lacked the strength, toughness, skills and comportment required in a soldier. At every turn, the recruits were reminded that they were not yet physically fit for war, but needed ruthless training and hardening. Their status as complete greenhorns was in many units manifested through physical manifestations. Their hair was cut or even completely shaved off, in some units this was administered by the older soldiers as part of a “hazing” ritual. They were allotted the shabbiest and most worn-out uniforms and equipment. “Dreams of soldier life in handsome uniforms were roughly scrapped on the very first day”, commented Eero Tuominen, who ten months later became a storekeeper sergeant himself, and remembered as the greatest benefit of this new position that for the first time he could get a uniform tidy enough to visit a theatre. Valtteri Aaltonen realised that the Finnish soldiers on home leave in neat uniforms with the insignia that he had seen in his home district were “an idealised image”, as he entered the garrison, saw the soldiers in their everyday clothes and got his own kit. Jorma Kiiski claims one recruit in his unit was given a shirt that had 52 patchs. The stories about torn and unsightly uniforms mainly date from the early to mid–1920’s, but informants serving in later years also remember that the storekeeper sergeants were demonstratively rude to the new recruits and seemed to make a point of handing out boots and uniforms in impossible sizes to each of them.”

In official debates on military education, physical training of Conscripts centred on gymnastics, sports and athletics. The official Sports Regulations for the armed forces, approved by the Minister of Defence in 1924, underlined how modern athletics derived their origins from ancient combat exercises.
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Artillery General Vilho Nenonen, Minister of Defence between 1923 and 1924

Vilho Petter Nenonen (March 6, 1883, Kuopio - February 17, 1960) received his military education in the Hamina Cadet School 1896-1901, in the Mihailov Artillery School in St Petersburg 1901-1903, and in St Petersburg Artillery Academy 1906-1909. He served in the Russian army during World War I. When the Finnish Civil War began he moved to Finland and was given the job of creating the artillery of General Mannerheim's White Army. After the war he also served as the Minister of Defence between 1923 and 1924. During the Continuation War he was a part of Mannerheim's inner circle. He was promoted to the rank of General of the Artillery in 1941. Nenonen developed the Finnish Army's artillery and tactics that proved decisive in the defensive victory in the Battle of Tali-Ihantala. The trajectory calculation formulas he developed are still in use today by all modern artillery. He received the Mannerheim Cross in 1945.


Sports, it was stated, especially team games, developed the soldiers’ mental as well as physical fitness for modern warfare. The regulations gave detailed instructions for baseball, football, skiing, swimming, and a number of branches of athletics. However, according to historian Erkki Vasara, the regular army never received sufficient funding for sports grounds and equipment during the interwar years. In this area, the Suojeluskuntas (Civil Guards) were much more advanced than the regular army. Sports and athletics in the army focussed on competitions between different units and therefore mainly engaged the most skilled sportsmen among the conscripts.

For most conscripts, physical education meant morning gymnastics, close-order drill, marching and field exercises. The physicality of military training was remembered by some in terms of stiffness, strain and pain. Military training especially in the 1920’s emphasised a “military” rigidity in comportment and body language. Instructors gave meticulous guidelines for standing at attention: protrude your breast, pull in your stomach, set your feet at an angle of 60 degrees to each other, keep your elbows slightly pushed forward, and keep your middle finger at the seam of your trousers, etc. Paavo Vuorinen (b. 1908) remembered one sergeant major who made every formation in line into an agonising experience: “I guarantee that a [very small] ten penny coin would have stayed securely in place between one’s buttocks without falling down, as we stood there at attention, as if each one of us had swallowed an iron bar, and still [the sergeant major] had the gall to squeak with a voice like sour beer: ”No bearing whatsoever in this drove, not even crushed bones, just gruel, gruel ... Incessant, impertinent barking all the time, utter insolence really. Finnish military education in the interwar period followed the general European military tradition, originating in the new emphasis on military drill in the seventeenth century, where recruits had to learn new “soldierly” ways of moving, even how to stand still. The soldier was robbed of control over his own posture, even the direction of his eyes. Jorma Kiiski (b. 1903) understood this training in a carriage as a dimension of the pompous theatricality of the ”Prussian discipline”. “There was a lot of unnecessary self-importance, muscle tension to the level of painfulness, attention, closing the ranks, turnings, salute, yes sir, certainly sir, no matter how obscure the orders.”

Stories about the harshness and brutality of military training entail strong images of how the Conscripts were put under extreme physical strain. An important element in the stories is the ruthlessness shown by superiors as they pushed the conscripts beyond their physical limits. Kustaa Liikkanen relates how his unit was on a heavy ski march in full marching kit. Two conscripts arrived exhausted at the resting-place a good while later than the rest. The sergeant-major started bellowing about where they had been, making them repeatedly hit the ground, barking, “I’ll damned well teach you about lagging behind the troops. Up! Down! Don’t you think I know what a man can take! Up! Down!” To ”harden” the soldiers and simulate wartime conditions, or sometimes only as a form of punishment, Officers made their men march until some fainted. Eino Sallila took part in a field manoeuvre lasting several days. On the march back to the garrison, he claims, many conscripts were so exhausted that they fainted and fell down along the road. One fainting soldier in Sallila’s group rolled down into a ditch filled with water, but when Sallila ran to pick him up, an officer roared at him to let the man lie. Back at camp, a higher-ranking officer praised the men for their efforts, adding that in order to understand the exertions they had been put through, “you have to be aware of the purpose of the exercise – we are exercising for war.” Sallila sourly commented in his memories that had the enemy attacked on the next day, the whole regiment would have been completely disabled.

The army stories portray some officers as unflinching in their view that smarting and bleeding sores were something a soldier must learn to doggedly endure. Kalle Leppälä had constantly bad chafes on his feet during the recruit period, due to badly fitting boots. “Sometimes I bled so much in my boots that I had to let the blood drop out along the bootlegs in the evening. I never complained about the sores, but took the pain clenching my teeth. It was pointless complaining about trifles, that I gradually learned during my time in the army; I did not want to become known as a shirker.” Viljo Vuori (b. 1907) had so bad sores during a march that the medical officer told him to put his pack in the baggage, but when his company commander found out about this, he was ordered to fetch the pack and continue marching. The next day, Vuori was unable to walk and the foot was in a bad condition for a long time. Both the medical officer and the company commander probably foresaw this physical effect of marching on with the heavy pack, but where the physician found it necessary to stop at this physical limit, the other commander thought the conscript must learn to press himself through the pain, even if it would disable him for weeks. Pentti Haanpää portrayed the physical “hardening” of conscripts in a short story about a recruit who tells his second lieutenant he is ill and cannot take part in a marching exercise, but is dismissed; “A soldier must take no notice if he is feeling a bit sick. You must hold on until you fall. Preferably stay standing until you drop dead. Get back in line.” The sick conscript marches ready to faint and vomits at the resting place. An older soldier hushes him away from the spew, making him believe he will be in even greater trouble if the second-lieutenant finds out, only to then pretend to the passing officer that he himself has been sick. The “old” soldier gets a seat in a horse carriage and the sick recruit learns his lesson. In the army, a man must learn to endure hardships, but above all acquire the audacity and skilfulness to shirk duty and minimise the strain.

The military discipline regulated many areas of the conscripts’ life yet at the same time military culture had a quality of brisk outdoor life that in some stories is portrayed as invigorating or even liberating. In Haanpää’s stories, the physical training appears to be strenuous work that produces no results, at least none that the soldiers comprehend. The Finnish conscript depicted by Haanpää enjoys disbandment not least as a physical release from the straitjacket of the strictly disciplined military comportment, relaxing his body and putting his hands deep down into his pockets. Mika Waltari and his comrades, on the contrary, experience some elements of military life in terms of freedom from the physical constraints of school discipline and urban middle-class family life. Waltari’s initial impressions of life at summer camp are marked by physical sensuousness and the cultured town-dwellers romanticisation of rough and masculine outdoor life. “We enjoy that our hands are always dirty. We can mess and eat our food out of the mess-kit just as we like. We do not have to care at all about our clothes. We can flop down on the ground anywhere we like and roll and lounge.”

Pride in Endurance

Pressing one’s body to extreme physical performances could also be a positive experience and a matter of honour and pride. Many informants highlight the experience of their heaviest marches in full pack, by foot or on ski, lasting several days. Kustaa Liikkanen mentions with marked pride how he pulled through a seven-day skiing march with 18 kilograms of pack plus his rifle and 100 cartridges of live ammunition. Lauri Mattila remembered an extremely heavy 32-hour march, including a combat exercise, in sweltering summer heat with full pack. The boots and pack chaffed the soldiers’ skin on the feet, thighs and shoulders. Dozens of soldiers fainted along the way. They were driven by ambulance a few kilometres forward and then had to resume marching. Nonetheless, Mattila recalled the march as a kind of trial that none of the men wanted to fail. “It was a march where everything you can get out of a man by marching him was truly taken out. It was a matter of honour for every man to remain on his feet and march for as long as the others could march and making the utmost effort ….if they fainted and fell they would be trampled underfoot by those behind”. Mika Waltari actually describes the painful experience of a heavy marching exercise in more detail than Haanpää; the scorching summer sun, the sweat, the thirst, the weight of the pack, straps and boots chafing and cutting into the skin, hands going numb and eyes smarting from sweat and dust, the mounting pain in every limb and the increasing exhaustion. “In my mind there is only blackness, despairing submission, silent curses rolling over and over.” Yet as soon as Waltari and his comrades are back at camp they start bickering and cracking jokes about how they could have walked much further now they had been warmed up, and they proudly compare their sores and blisters. They happily tell each other that the major has praised their detachment. Once they have been for a swim and bought doughnuts from the canteen, Waltari describes their state of mind and body as virtually blissful: “We are proud and satisfied beyond imagination. It only does you good, comrades! Who the heck would like to be a civilian now? Nowhere else can you reach such a perfect physical feeling of happiness.”

In Waltari’s eyes, the army fosters ”healthy bodies accustomed to the heaviest strains, more and more hardened men than in civilian circumstances.” Waltari himself appears to have been eager to demonstrate his fitness, to prove that in spite of being an intellectual, artist and town-dweller he could cope with the military and even enjoy his training. He really lives the part and seems to regard his toughness as proven and recognised by the physical hardships he has endured. Just as in Lauri Mattila’s narrative, it is a matter of honour to Waltari and his comrades to “take it like a man” and cope with whatever the others manage. Even if many army stories signalled disapproval of the physical treatment of conscripts, the narrative tradition conveyed a cultural knowledge about what a healthy conscript had to take and what he should endure. Enduring physical strain and pain without complaint and without breaking down was not so much idealised as portrayed as a grim necessity.

Conscript Resistance

Physical Training was a central arena for the power struggle that often raged between the soldiers and their superiors, where Officers and NCOs tried to enforce subordination through punishments directed at the connscripts in the form of strain, exhaustion and pain. Conscripts resisted this treatment through injuries and illness, real or faked. During the first years after the Civil War, as many conscripts were undernourished, the exercises and punishments could be dangerously exhausting. “The exercises were tough, get up and hit the ground until the boys were completely exhausted and the weakest fell ill and at times the hospital was full of patients. Throughout the 1920’s, however, the press reported on how men returning from military service gave an appalling picture of poor sanitary conditions and deficient medical services. One non-socialist daily local newspaper wrote in 1925, “Ask the gentleman, whose son has performed military service, ask the peasant or the worker, and the answer shall very often be that the youngsters have been badly neglected, overstrained, been treated according to all too Prussian methods. […] There’s talk of lifethreatening illnesses contracted in the military service, talk of deaths, of overstrain due to unacceptable punishment methods, of venereal disease due to shabby clothing handed out to the young soldiers, of tuberculosis contracted through transmission from sick soldiers. […] A father whose healthy son has returned ruined by illness will become an irremediable anti-militarist and strongly influence his environment, and a father whose son has been conscripted in spite of sickness and returned with ruined health can be counted to the same category.”

This image of the conscript army as an unhealthy and even dangerous place for conscripts was largely confirmed by the chief medical officer of the Finnish Army, V.F. Lindén in an interview for the press agency of the social democratic newspapers in 1928. Lindén brought his concerns over the bad general state of health among conscripts to public attention. The mortality among Finnish conscripts aged 20–21 was about twice as high as it had been before the introduction of conscription, stated Lindén. More than 1200 conscripts had died in service over a period of eight years – 250 out of them due to accidents or physical violence and 95 through suicide. However, Lindén thought that the main reasons for the high mortality rates were too heavy exercises in the first weeks and months of recruit training, lack of sanitary personnel, and deficient knowledge of personal hygiene and prevention among the conscripts. The alarming press reports on the conscripts’ state of health cease around 1930. Evidently, the sanitary conditions and medical treatment of conscripts improved. Juha Mälkki has also pointed to the possible significance of a new law on compensations for casualties, injuries and ill-health contracted during military service, passed in 1926. Because of the law, the military authorities were faced with new economic incentives to better monitor the health of individual conscripts and counteract mistreatment and over-straining exercises.

Illness could, however, be both welcome and unwelcome among the conscripts. For some, malingering became the only available method of resisting the military system and shirking duty. For others, the military service became twice as arduous because of fevers, sores and other injuries. The memories of military training are full of stories about how mercilessly the medical officers declared fit for duty any conscripts reporting sick. In some units, conscripts were afraid to report sick even if they really were unwell. They thought that the distrustful medical officers would not put them on the sick-list anyway and they knew that soldiers reporting sick but declared fit were punished with extra duty upon returning to their company. Stories about how one could sham illness or inflict injuries upon oneself abound in the reminiscences, from the case of a boy who cut off his finger with an axe to escape the misery of military service to less dramatic mischief such as rubbing one’s throat with a toothbrush to make it look sore, eating tea leaves or cigar butts, or just feigning various pains. According to Pentti Haanpää, the men in line envied and loathed those on the sick-list who just loafed around in the dormitory all day, and the soldier fit for service “cursed himself who cannot get sick since the body is so damned healthy”. Yet it is evident that even if the malingerers’ cunning could be admired and their pleasant life envied, malingering was not quite honourable. Some informants mention that malingerers were unpopular among the other conscripts since they could incur punishments such as suspension of leave for the whole unit if detected. Stories about malingering are often told as humorous anecdotes, but none of the informants admits to having malingered themselves.

The Silence around Learning to Kill

One central aspect of military training is virtually never touched upon in the army memories and stories: what it was like to learn to kill other people. Combat training and especially close quarter combat exercises are usually mentioned only in passing and there are no comments on whether it felt awkward or only natural to learn, e.g., the right moves to swiftly gore your adversary in a bayonet fight. According to the guidebook for bayonet fighting by Jäger Major Efraim Kemppainen, “the whole energy of the learner must be directed at beating the antagonist as quickly as possible. In serious action the rule must be: kill or get killed.” In the guidebook for close quarter combat, presumably mirroring the content of lectures and practical training in the army, it was pointed out how not only the rifle with bayonet and hand grenade, but also the soldiers field axe, pick, and spade were excellent striking weapons. Did lessons such as these make no memorable impression on young Finnish men in the 1920’s and 1930’s? Was it too selfevident to them twenty years after the Second World War that soldiering is about killing, or was this an aspect of soldiering too painful to articulate, or put under a too strong cultural taboo?

Somewhat surprisingly, it is Mika Waltari and not Pentti Haanpää who writes explicitly on how combat training made him reflect on the horrors of a real war and on what it would be like to kill and risk one’s own life in battle. Yet Waltari turns the passage in question into a rejection of pacifism, as “a dream that enfolds weak hearts and mediocre intelligences”. Hesitation to kill in war, he states, is only an expression of selfishness and lack of patriotism. “Suddenly I sense the happiness and love of this lovely brown earth, our country that foreign boots must never trample. I feel that I could pierce the bodies of strangers, human beings like me, in cold consideration, fear sending shivers down my spine.” … “And I am not selfconceited enough to hesitate to die for [this country] if destiny should one day call.” Many of the 1972–1973 informants might have felt like Waltari in this respect, but shunned the unavoidable loftiness in these extreme articulations of patriotism. They had shown their position in action, not in words. Being concrete about one’s approval of killing in defence of the nation might have felt especially awkward in the period when they were writing, marked by the pronounced friendship between Finland and the Soviet Union on the official level and the anti-authoritarian cultural movements of the 1960’s and 70’s. Yet they were possibly also reproducing views they had learnt in their youth.

The moral and practical education given to Finnish conscripts corresponds to Joshua S. Sanborn’s analysis of how Russian soldiers were trained for the Great War. The Russian conscripts in military training were desensitized to performing violence, since it was reduced to a set of rules and a system of procedures that made war seem orderly and rational. Military training, Sanborn states, took place above the act of violence, in references to grand symbols such as the Emperor, the Fatherland/Nation or the Faith; below the act in the mechanics of movement that produce violent results; before it in the preparation for death in battle; after it in terms of the glory that accrues to the victorious soldier; and during it in terms of and military virtue. The act of violence itself, however, was absent and not talked about. The reason for this discretion, Sanborn argues, was that that the army had been given the task of training men who would commit extreme violence in certain circumscribed situations, but who could also one day reintegrate back into civilian life.

Not only within military training, but throughout the cultural arenas in interwar Finland where soldiering was depicted and debated, the “technical” objective of military training – learning a range of techniques to efficiently kill people and destroy infrastructure – was almost never mentioned. Conscription forged a tight symbolic link between manhood and the execution of lethal violence in war, but any debate over this link in itself stopped after the Civil War. Eventually, all parties came to take for granted that men were authorized and duty bound by the nation-state to kill when needed, to protect the country and all its inhabitants. Yet in Finland as in other European countries, conscripted men were usually only talked about as victims of violence – sacrificing their life in battle, enduring the violent harassments of brutal superiors – and never as the performers of violence. An obvious example is the imagery of Suomen Sotilas, where much was said about a sense of duty and a spirit of self-sacrifice, but nothing about how one prepares mentally for killing the enemy. There was an obvious cultural unease around “the license to kill” given to every fit citizen-soldier, and so it was wrapped in a cloak of silence. That unease and the lack of words to describe it still show in the reminiscences written in the early 1970’s.

Comradeship: Unity and Violent Tensions

When military service was thought of as a formative experience for young men, the horizontal relationship among them, the famous military “comradeship”, was at least as important as vertical relationships between the soldiers and their superiors and educators. How this comradeship was depicted carried messages not only about what soldiering was like in practice, but about what conscripts were like and what influence they had on each other, in the absence of parents, siblings, wives or girlfriends. In Finnish stories about their military training, there are hints at a particular kind of affinity among men, but also images of a social collective run through by hierarchies, conflict lines and social tensions. Not only were the soldiers often depicted as being in conflict with their superiors. Social life among the conscripts was also demarcated by boundaries and informal hierarchies erected and upheld by the soldiers themselves. One must remember that the soldiers’ life together was not based on any voluntary choice or preference, but forced upon them by the military system. As Ute Frevert points out in her study of conscription in the German Kaiserreich, military “comradeship” should not be confused with civilian friendship. Unlike friendship, military comradeship did not require any personal sympathy between the men. It did not have to be sought and tried, but came included as the conscripts were assigned to different squads and groups. It was more or less a necessity for the soldiers to try getting by with the group he was placed in. Intellectual fellowship was superfluous. According to Frevert, comradeship was a given fact in the military, more practical, regularised, firm and unequivocal than friendship in the civilian sphere.

Frevert has also made the interesting suggestion that conscription strengthened men’s identification with other men on the basis of gender, overriding social division lines among men to a higher degree than in previous times. In her own study of conscription in nineteenth century Germany, she found that in spite of the official ideology of equality and comradeship among all conscripts, socio-economic hierarchies and division lines from civilian society were often reproduced within the army. Nonetheless, she underlines that the army was an institution where regional differences and the opposition between cities and countryside lost importance, since all recruits shared more or less the same experiences there, regardless of their geographic origin. It was also the only institution in German society that brought burghers and workers, farmhands, sales clerks and students in close contact with each other. At least in retrospective, in the memoirs of German middle class men military service was described as a place where men learnt to understand themselves as part of a bigger whole.

Genuine Comradeship

Cultural models for describing military comradeship as central to the experience of military training were certainly available in interwar Finland, as displayed by Mika Waltari’s 1931 description of his own military service. Waltari depicted military comradeship with an intensity and warmth that is exceptional, but matched the contemporary celebration of military comradeship e.g. in German associations for veterans from the Great War, as studied by Thomas Kühne. Waltari actually made the relationships among the conscripted soldiers the key theme of Where Men Are Made. His first impressions of army life, as described in the book, are dominated not by barking officers and horrible wake-up calls, but by the friendliness and support of the other soldiers upon his arrival at his regiment in Helsinki. He is delighted to describe the atmosphere on his first night in the barracks, when the lights have just been switched off, stealthily smoked cigarettes glow in the dark, a small jug of smuggled vodka mixed with water goes around, and the conscripts whisper stories to each other. When he is transferred to NCO school a few days later, he joins a group of conscripts sharing his own social background. Half the men in his tent at summer camp were university students and several alumni of the Norssi lyceum, the same elite school in Helsinki Waltari himself had attended. “It is almost like coming home”, he writes.

A 22-year old Bachelor of Arts at the time, Waltari described his recruit training in terms reminiscent of a boy scout camp; a time of boyish eagerness, playfulness and comradeship in midst of the lyrically described Finnish summer nature. He gives the reader to understand that he had yearned for belonging and attachment to a larger whole in the cosmopolitan artist circles where he had spent the previous years and now immensely enjoyed the warm, close comradeship he found among his old school friends and soldier comrades. He depicts long rainy Sundays spent in the warmth and security of the tent at summer camp, the “strangely homely and lovely twilight feel”, some soldiers playing cards, others smoking (although it is prohibited), someone writing a letter and Waltari and his friends in a serious mood, thinking about the future: “We are still boys, who only know life from a very narrow sphere, from home, school, some small experiences, and sports achievements. Now we all have more serious eyes than usually. We feel the binding and demanding beckoning of real life in the distance. Until Muusio again takes to teasing Lahtikarhu…” Whereas playing war games was meaningless and contrary to the dignity of the men Haanpää depicted, Waltari and his middle-class comrades enjoy recruit training at the summer camp as a last sheltered haven, a relapse into the carelessness of boyhood, before adult life with its responsibilities and worries. “Actually everything is very much a game for us. (…) We are only boys. It is wonderful to leave all thinking, forget about historical dates and biographies and scientific research methods.”

Waltari enjoys sharing joy and sadness with his comrades, the lazy hours at the service club, the “growing manhood, melancholy and longing” of autumn nights at the barracks. He feels “the magical unity of the troop” as they march singing through camp. One night towards the end of recruit training, when Waltari is awake as assistant duty officer, he walks along the tents full of sleeping conscripts and reflects on the weeks spent at summer camp: “I already know that my purest and manliest memories will be associated with this summer. In my mind, I pass through the beautiful, hot days, – all the fatigue, depression and euphoria. The boys talk in their sleep. One thing at last I have found. The beautiful, genuine rejoicing of comradeship, the community of downheartedness and gladness. Every single boy is my friend, every single gray blouse arouses a warm quiver of comradeship within me.” How could the young Waltari express such a certainty that these would be the “purest and manliest” experiences of his life? Here, the cultural notions and narrative models informing Waltari’s story-telling strongly shine through.

The Difficulty of Describing Comradeship

Surely, Waltari was not the only man in interwar Finland who experienced and enjoyed warmth, closeness and support among his soldier comrades. Yet either the Finnish men writing down their army stories in the 1970’s did not experience the close military comradeship described by Mika Waltari, or they were unable or unwilling to explicate what comradeship or friendship with other men had meant to them during their military service. A whole set of the questions in the 1972–1973 ethnological questionnaire referred to the conscripts’ activities among themselves. For example, the ethnologists asked, “What did you do in evenings or other off-duty hours when you were not permitted leave? What games were played, what songs were sung and what was talked about? Was alcohol ever brought to the barracks? What about women? Was there betting? How was the time spent in the service club?” Some of all these questions would easily have accommodated even sentimental narration about comradeship, for example, “What kind of esprit de corps or feeling of togetherness reigned among the men in your dormitory, squad, platoon, company, military unit or service branch?”

Yet on this matter most answers were shortish, in the vein of “the group spirit was good”. The informants’ stories about comradeship tended, just like the questions asked by the ethnologists, to concentrate on the soldiers’ off-duty activities together, not their emotions for each other. They mention things such as singing, playing cards (although this was not permitted), discussing and telling each other stories, going for walks, wrestling or dancing to the accordion or violin of some fellow conscript. Some men were assiduous letter writers, others spent much time talking, playing games or reading books and newspapers in the service club, some only sat around in the squad room deep in their own thoughts.
Image
Recruit reading the paper while drinking a coffee during leisure-time in the garrison of Kontioranta

A couple of informants mention a “strong feeling of togetherness”, but the general impression is that the soldiers were mainly bored in their eventless and confined off-duty hours. One informant who wrote ten full pages A4 about his military training gave this answer to the question about what the soldiers did off duty: “nder this question I seriously tried to recall how that scarce spare time was spent, but I could not find any point of reference, there hardly was anything special.” Some fragments in the reminiscences hint at, if not intimacy, then at least a relaxedness among the conscripts regarding certain forms of intimacy and sentimentality that in later periods might have been considered ridiculous for a 21-year old man. One example is the habit of dancing in härkäpari [~oxen couple] – two men dancing together for the lack of female partners. In today’s world this would give rise to jests and allusions to homosexuality, yet to working men in the 1920’s and 1930’s, often used to living for periods in all-male environments such as work camps for mobile teams of workmen in forestry, rafting, road and railroad construction etc, it perhaps was quite natural. The soldiers’ autograph albums, where the soldiers wrote down song storys, jokes and poems and illustrated them with drawings, provide another clue. One informant recalled that the contents of the song-book storys were so indecent that they could not be taken back home upon disbandment. He failed to mention, however, that significant elements in the contents of these notebooks were highly sentimental love poems, often written down by comrades in each other’s albums, elaborating on the theme of unrequited love or being left by a lover. Although love in these poems is heterosexual, the popularity of this shared folklore among the soldiers hints at an emotional openness among the conscripts that the informants did not usually remember or wish to highlight half a century later.

The men participating in the 1972–1973 collection, aged circa 55 to 75, were perhaps simply not inclined to speak openly. To feel or even write about the kind of enchantment expressed by Waltari would possibly have seemed strange to them. Even if some of them would have been willing to describe it, they might have lacked a language and narrative form to do so. Army stories as an oral narrative genre tend to focus on anecdotes about memorable incidents, not on descriptions of psychological states or social relationships. On the other hand, the silences on this account should perhaps be taken at face value, as indications that the bonds formed between men in military training often were not deeply personal. The questionnaire asked informants whether they later stayed in touch with their comrades from military training, and they usually answered in the negative.

The roughness of military comradeship

In Pentti Haanpää’s army stories, there are hardly any traces of the warm comradeship of the kind that Mika Waltari was so enchanted with. The conscripts Haanpää describes band together mainly in opposition to their superiors, in wild partying or in bursts of black humour, easing the mental pressure of living under the officers’ oppression. The laughter of military humour, as described by Haanpää, could be directed not only against the superiors as a vehicle for symbolic resistance. He was keen to show his readers that the joke among soldiers was often at a comrade. In one of his stories, a group of soldiers being transported by train in a cattle wagon without a toilet grab hold of their comrade who is relieving himself through the open door and hold him fast, trousers down and bare-bottomed, as the train passes a station filled with people. The others are splitting their sides with laughter, but the victim is enraged and the joke results in a fistfight. – This was the section that Haanpää’s regular publishers above all wanted removed, but the author fiercely resisted omitting these particular elements of comradeship from his depiction of soldiering. (Nigel’s comment: sounds exactly like the type of thing we did in the NZ Army – military humour at it’s lowest – I remember a trip we did where one of the guys was pissing out of the side of the old Bedford RL as we rocketed down the highway – overtook a car and he kept pissing along the side of the car and onto the windscreen as we went past – the look on the old couples faces in the car as we went past had the rest of us pissing ourselves laughing….the NCO's or officers would have had us for breakfast if they'd caught on.....)

In the last story of Fields and Barracks, some conscripts celebrate their approaching discharge by organising a “love party”, bringing prostitutes to the barracks at night. Haanpää hardly intended this story as a sympathetic depiction of military comradeship, but rather as an image of soldiers giving way to pent-up pressures in a crude and orgiastic manner. The commotion of the “partying” keeps awake those conscripts who would only want to sleep. The medic, “a tall and religious boy” is woken up and persuaded to provide his partying “comrades” with protection against venereal disease, in spite of his shock and revulsion with the whole business. A few days later, on their very last night in military service, the soldiers bring smuggled liquor to the barracks and have a noisy drinking-bout, “vomit and pieces of lockers and stools littering the floor”. (Nigel’s comment: again, sounds more realistic to me: as one of my old NCO’s when I was a young guy on my first overseas exercise and partying up in Singapore at the end of the exercise said to us “A soldier who won’t fuck, won’t fight"…and the party we had at the end of Basic Training was something else - to this day I still remember the pain the next morning - one of the worst hangovers of my life.....).

Only the second to last paragraph of Haanpää’s book indicates some kind of positive solidarity among the soldiers, as they bid farewell to their comrades. Together, they had lived a year under the same roof, …endured hardships and shared joys, dragged heavy boots in the dust of summer roads or so often hit the wet ground of the fatherland. Together they had sung a song, laughed and cursed, maybe enjoyed comfort from the pleasures of this world from the same bottle or the same woman. Now they parted possibly never to share the same road again. There is a hint of nostalgia here, yet Fields and Barracks as a whole conveys a feeling of slight distaste for the form that even the non-hierarchical relationships among the soldiers take on in the corruptive world that was Pentti Haanpää’s picture of the conscript army.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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Re: What If - Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 Apr 2011 13:05

Tensions and Divisions among Conscripts

The memories of Albert Lahti (b. 1907) illustrate an entire set of division lines among the conscripts that also recur in other stories. Lahti was a politically “white” young man who had been a member of the civil guards and was intent on fulfilling his service in an exemplary manner. This, however, repeatedly brought him into conflicts with his “comrades” where political differences were mixed with different attitudes taken to military discipline. In 1927–1928, as Lahti did his military service in the garrison town of Kuopio in Eastern Finland, Finnish society was still highly polarised. The efforts of army officers to screen off their conscripts from leftist agitation and educate them into a proper “patriotic” non-revolutionary mindset had the unintentional side-effect of deepening the political rifts among the soldiers. Similar to many other units throughout the period, recruits in the Kuopio regiment who had military experience from the civil guards were given two weeks leave from recruit training. This practice stirred up much resentment, partly because a membership of the Guards was still a source of animosity to many working class conscripts in the 1920’s, and in part because this special treatment caused envy among the other recruits. Albert Lahti applied for and got extra leave for having received basic military training in the Guards, but later regretted ever applying. He felt he “got into deep shit” because of his special leave. He especially remembered a corporal who for this reason took to the habit of always giving him the most repulsive tasks, saying, “Since you have been on leave for special competence, you surely can perform this assignment too.”

Neither did Lahti’s eagerness to comply with military regulations and demand the same of others go down well with his comrades. He was labeled “war crazy” and made fun of by his comrades. As explained by another informant in the collection: “A real soldier tries to shirk always and everywhere even as a recruit, which means that nothing is ever done without orders, since the chief is always right according to regulations. There are always some “war crazy” people in the crowd, but they were rather frozen out from the group, you did not talk much with them etc., they attempted to take revenge for this when they returned from [NCO] school, by bullying and such.” Albert Lahti remembered with obvious bitterness an incident from his time as a conscript NCO where one of his “comrades” fastened a so-called “hunger cord” on his collar without his noticing. The ‘hunger cord’ was the badge of rank marking a regular NCO. When the other soldiers noticed Lahti’s cord, they started to roar with laughter at him. He rushed away from the group highly offended. “My life was disgusting and sickening then and quite a while afterwards.” This episode brings out the feeling of contempt for the regulars and the ridicule of conscripts taking the “war games” of military training seriously, familiar from Pentti Haanpää’s short stories – with the important exception that Lahti did not himself share this attitude. He was hardly the only one taking military service seriously. In many units, life was thus more complex than in the literary worlds of Pentti Haanpää and Mika Waltari, as soldiers with quite different stances on military service had to live closely together and somehow get along with each other.

Lahti’s zeal to follow regulations brings the regional and social tensions between conscripts to light as well. He was irritated with the conscripts in the older age class who were natives of Kuopio, since they took French leave much more impudently than the country boys. They knew the routes into the city and had places to go. This, he writes, caused disputes within the group and envy towards the town boys. When Lahti was in charge of the guard patrol, he was draconian in controlling permits and “scorched”, i.e. reported, even conscript NCOs who were on unlawful errands, increasing his reputation as “war crazy” and “regular NCO”. In general, however, regional tensions are not mentioned as often in the 1972–1973 collection as political and social divisions among the soldiers. Juha Mälkki has observed tensions between conscripts from urban and rural areas in the memory stories, but concluded that these tensions eased once the men got to know each other better. Conscripts from different parts were strange to each other in the beginning, but mostly soon settled in together as they got used to each other. Class differences seem to have been harder to ignore. In the memories of some men who came to military training from very poor homes the awareness of one’s own underprivilege still resounds. In Albert Lahti’s case, class differences emerge in association with the ‘hunger cord’ incident. It turned out that the “perpetrator” was one of his best comrades, who was envious because Lahti had been appointed vice platoon leader instead of him. According to Lahti, this corporal V. “thought himself to be vastly superior to a poor country cottage boy like me, since he was ‘big and handsome like a gypsy’s horse’ and of very wealthy parents.”

Albert Lahti’s 121 pages of army memories furthermore broach the tensions between the soldier collective and aberrant individuals. There were, as many informants recall, two fundamental unwritten rules among the soldiers; not to steal from each other and never to inform on another soldier. Some add a third rule, which was that such shirking that affected the other soldiers negatively was uncomradely. Lahti recalled that a clerk in NCO school was considered an informer by the other soldiers and castigated by being ridiculed. His comrades each night put a baby’s feeding bottle under his pillow. The clerk twice moved to other squad rooms to escape this harassment, but was treated in the same way by his new “comrades”. When he finally made a complaint and the sergeant-major made an inquiry into the matter, the other soldiers explained that the clerk “is such a big baby that he snitches on the slightest prank, so we try to make him a man”.

Group Pressure and Group Cohesion

Christof Dejung has pointed out that “military comradeship” had a double nature among the Swiss soldiers in the emergency service during the Second World War he studied. On the one hand, the “ideology of comradeship” constituted an attempt by the military authorities to weld the soldiers together with emotional bonds into a cohesive and supportive unit. It was supposed to create group pressure, forcing the individual conscript to comply with the military collective. On the other hand, the comradeship between soldiers could develop a dynamic of its own and result in mutual solidarity among the soldiers directed against their superiors. A military sub-culture emerged among the soldiers, diverging from rules and regulations and difficult for the officers to control. This duality between group pressure emphasizing conformity within the group and group solidarity outwards is clearly visible in the Finnish stories surrounding the institution of the remmiapelli [belt call]. This was the most institutionalised, famous and violent form of “comrade discipline”, where a soldier who broke the unwritten rules of comradeship and offended the group solidarity was subjected to physical punishment. In the belt call, the victim was held fast on a table and a group of other soldiers thrashed him with their belts. In different variations the victim could be stripped naked, wrapped in a wet bed sheet or forced to run the gauntlet. Vilppu Eskelinen (b. 1897) who served in Hamina in 1919 commented, “they were hard punishments to be sure, to make you remember that you had committed an offence, there would have been no discipline without it although it truly was a rough game, some got so much that they fainted.“ According to some informants, the belt call could cause grievous bodily harm, confining the victim to his bed next day or even causing fractures and internal injuries. However, it was impossible for the victims to formally report the abuse because of the “law” against informing. The “belt call” was mostly administered without the officers’ knowledge, but was evidently tolerated or even approved of by the officers. In spite of the often visible traces, nobody recalls it ever having been investigated and punished by superiors. (Nigel’s comment: we had something similar in the NZ Army and there was no real term for it as such, but “grievous bodily harm” was out – I recall our Officer and one of the NCO’s walking in on one such session in Basic Training and calling a halt to it because it was getting a bit out of hand, but nobody was ever disciplined for these…. They must have kept an eye on what was happening because this was the only time I recall things going a bit too far, and it was also the only time they intervened. Nobody who was subject to “group discipline” ever complained about it either).

As historian Thomas Sörensen has pointed out in his study of enlisted hussars in Sweden around 1900, the informal rules of solidarity among soldiers could serve to conceal and perpetuate severe abuses among the soldiers. Describing how Prussian training officers delegated disciplinary measures against “maladjusted” soldiers to their “comrades”, Ute Frevert concludes that this was a way of implicating the soldiers in a “collective of perpetrators” that ensured collective silence. (Nigel’s comment: To which I would say “rubbish,” as any grunt would tell you, it’s the unit’s way of making sure they don’t suffer because of someone not pulling their weight or complying with the rules in a way that adversely affects everyone else…). Just as in the Swiss army as studied by Christof Dejung, the Finnish officers tried to harness group pressure among the soldiers for their own disciplinary purposes. In the 1920’s especially, in the heydays of the “Prussian discipline”, collective punishments for the infringements of individual soldiers were widely in use. This put enormous pressure in the form of the comrades’ anger on conscripts who did not swiftly conform to the group – whether out of defiance or inability. In many cases of comrade discipline, the men punished had drawn down suspension of leaves over their comrades by taking French leave or other breaches of regulations. In some cases, the officers more or less candidly encouraged the conscripts to exercise ”comrade discipline” on especially troublesome individuals. If the victim was unpopular among the other soldiers they might be happy to comply, but invitations to comrade discipline from above could also spark off resistance among the conscripts and weld them together against their superiors.

Former soldiers bring up group solidarity mainly in connection with their squad’s, company’s or regiment’s relationship to military and civilian outsiders. Many mention that they regarded their own regiment or unit as an elite corps or superior to neighbouring units. The officers encouraged the conscripts to feel pride in their own unit. This building of group identity and cohesion through symbolic hierarchies was manifested in forms that ranged all the way from scuffles between the inhabitants of different squad rooms in the barracks and good-hearted exchanges of insults with neighbouring units to huge gang fights and bloodshed between soldiers from different regiments, during evening leaves in the garrison towns. (Nigel’s comment: typical of any Army – read some of the accounts of fights between British Army units – esp. the Para’s  or say, regiments with a good number of Glaswegians. We had the same thing in the NZ Army, in my day usually involving the Territorials doing Basic Training and the Regular Force Cadets. All good fun….). Kalle Arola who served in Helsinki in 1928–1929 remembered that there were such street fights between soldiers from the different regiments stationed in Helsinki. Since the honour of one’s regiment was at stake, there was an unconditional rule that one had to join in if one’s comrades became involved in a fight. The soldiers in Arola’s regiment took weapons along for this purpose when they left the garrison for any evening leave – even bayonets, hidden down a bootleg. In garrison towns where no other units were present, there was always the possibility of soldiers and local civilian conscripts picking fights with each other. In those cases, the same rule of solidarity with one’s unit applied.

“Oldies” and “Catfish” - the Age Hierarchy among Conscripts

Finally, the memories of Albert Lahti describe one more axis of tension of great significance among the soldiers, namely the informal hierarchy between the “oldies” and the “catfish”. Because there always had to be a certain number of trained soldiers in military preparedness, there was an overlapping system for the call-ups. At least one age class of “old” soldiers were always in service during the months it took to give the new recruits, the “catfish”, basic military training. These older and younger soldiers formed two distinct soldier groups, with the previous arrivals extremely keen on maintaining and demonstrating a hierarchical difference. In Lahti’s unit, this started before the new recruits had even stepped off the train that brought them to Kuopio, as some older soldiers boarded the train and ran through it shouting at the new arrivals, in an imitation or parody of their officers: “Bugs, get out in the yard – you should have been out already!” From that day, the older soldiers were the “bane and bullies” of Lahti and his fellow recruits. In his unit, it was not the superiors in the formal hierarchy, but the oldies who “blasted” beds or tied the bed clothing together into tight knots when the recruits were out on duty. The catfish could buy “protection” against this by buying their seniors tea, buns and cakes. This blackmailing was especially directed at the most timid boys among the recruits who were terrorised into getting the “oldies” buns all the time from a nearby bakery. Recruits in most interwar military units were insulted by the “oldies” as “mackerels”, “catfish”, “bugs”, “bloodyheads” (referring to the recruits’ new-shaved scalps), “pisshead-catfish” and many other imaginative invectives. “When you met a recruit you always showed them a gesture with the hand as if sawing off the neck. In other words, you had better cut your throat! Seeing a recruit coming towards you in town you felt he certainly is such an idiot! A recruit, a pisshead catfish.” The recruits were also often told to go hang themselves; they might as well kill themselves, because unlike the oldies who were soon to be disbanded the catfish would, they were told, never get out of the army.

The older soldiers arranged various “welcomes” for the recruits, such as putting bricks, barbed wire, logs of wood etcetera in their straw mattresses; or treating them to a “piss alarm call” which meant waking them up in the middle of the night with some hellish noise, having them fall in a formation and taking them to the lavatories – sometimes repeatedly. The “oldies” seized parts of the younger soldiers’ food, such as the pieces of meat in the soup, leaving only the broth to the “mackerels”. They tried to trick recruits to buy all kinds of army equipment or simply stole their equipment forcing them to buy it back, and so on. The bullying of recruits by their conscript squad leaders could be seen as a part of this hazing of the younger soldiers by the previous age class, although with one significant difference: the squad leaders could use or abuse the absolute power of command they had over the recruits and disguise hazing as training or disciplinary measures. Those who did their military service towards the end of the interwar period remembered the conscripted squad leaders as the worst tormentors of the younger conscripts, not the regular NCOs, officers, or the older private soldiers. Arvo Virtanen who was called up in 1933 wrote, “The [conscripted] corporals’ power was total – one corporal had a recruit wash the gaps between his toes with the recruit’s own toothbrush. Making someone dance with a broom or closeorder drill with empty boots were amusements of the corporals, together with many other forms of bullying.”

The hazing rituals in the Finnish conscript army have been extensively studied by ethnologist Pekka Leimu (1985). He observes that hazing by the “oldies” in most units mainly took the form of “welcome ceremonies”. The older soldiers wanted to immediately establish a firm informal hierarchy between them and the younger soldiers. Once that was taken care of there was no need for theatrical rituals, apart from verbal abuse. Normally, material hazing was repeated or prolonged only if the younger soldiers somehow resisted or challenged the informal hierarchical order. However, in some branches of the armed forces, especially the field artillery and cavalry, hazing was especially ingrained and often took on brutal forms. Leimu explains the differences in cultures of hazing between different service branches with the fact that officers educated in imperial Russia dominated the cavalry and artillery and somehow disseminated old hazing traditions from Russian military academies among their conscripts. The infantry, on the other hand, dominated by Jäger officers educated in Germany, was relatively free from hazing until its forms slowly spread there too, due to officer circulation and an emergent culture of hazing at the new national cadet school in Helsinki. Increasing measures were taken to stamp out hazing, such as lodging recruits and older soldiers in different corridors or buildings. However, Leimu thinks many officers probably tolerated the older soldiers’ hazing of the recruits because they thought it was a necessary and beneficial form of initiation and socialisation into military life. However, as Leimu points out, military hazing was not a true initiation rite, since the recruits were never taken up into the older soldiers’ community and never accepted as their equals. The hierarchical relationship between oldies and catfish prevailed until the oldies were disbanded.

In the words of Albert Lahti, “only then [the catfish] were admitted to be human beings”, meaning that only then could they move up the ladder to become oldies themselves – and manifest their position by oppressing the new recruits in their turn. Leimu interprets this progression as a reflection of the fact that the conscripts in the peacetime army organisation were never allowed to pass the borderline running between conscripts and regulars. In a kind of imitation, the soldiers therefore constructed a borderline and hierarchy among themselves, at least allowing the conscripts to feel a sense of advancement and superiority in relation to the recruits. To phrase it slightly differently, I would say the oldies could lessen their own sense of being subjugated, and ease the tension between their sense of masculinity and soldiering, by erecting a relationship of masculine domination and superiority in relationship to the “un” catfish. In the final analysis, it is not possible to draw definite conclusions from these materials about how Finnish men in military training related to and felt about their comrade soldiers and whether some deeper and more coherent solidarity among them emerged from the barracks. What we can observe, however, is how men used or refrained from using particular images of comradeship in their story-telling. On that account, it is striking how the memories collected in 1972–1973 do not celebrate military comradeship in any way even remotely reminiscent of Mika Waltari’s depictions. It seems plausible that comradeship is not as important to narration about peacetime military training as it is to telling stories about war experiences. In his study of comradeship among German soldiers and war veterans during the twentieth century, Thomas Kühne suggests that the celebration of military comradeship is a way of directing attention away from the destruction, killing, and atrocities committed by men in war and conjure a deeply human image of soldiering. Since no killing takes place in peacetime military education, that at least constitutes no reason to emphasise comradeship in army stories. The soldiers in stories about peacetime military training always appear as victims of bullying and other hardships, not as perpetrators.

Mika Waltari and Pentti Haanpää harnessed depictions of the nature of comradeship to obvious political purposes. Waltari wanted to defend the military system and the spirit of collectivism inherent in “white” nationalism and found use for images of close, warm and happy military comradeship. Haanpää was intent on criticising the system and its corrupting impact on conscripts and therefore painted a less rosy picture of comradeship. All this said, it is evident that Waltari’s and Haanpää’s depictions also reflect real differences in their personal experiences of military comradeship, in part owing to the different socio-cultural composition of their units. Their active participation in the interwar politics of conscription nevertheless amplified these differences and made them significant for their story-telling. The men writing down their memories of military training in the 1970’s wrote in a different temporal period where the political heat around the issue of how to organise military training had abated a long time ago. Enthusiastic images of military comradeship were not necessary for the stories they wanted to tell, not the way Waltari needed it for his defence of the existing cadre-army system. Yet neither were their stories Haanpää-like dystopias of how they had been morally corrupted or abused by this particular way of organising military training. None of the 1972–1973 narrators seem to have been intent on criticising the cadre army’s very foundations the way Haanpää did. As will be discussed further in the next section, an important guiding principle for their story-telling was rather to tell something about themselves, about the hardships they had endured and their own strategies for coping with the paradoxes and challenges of military training. They certainly wanted to convey a true picture to posterity about what military training had really been like in their times, but to many of them, army stories were essentially a part of their own life stories. Theirs were essentially individualistic stories about one man finding self-confidence and strength to be independent from others. In those stories about soldiering and manhood, close comradeship could not be the most central element.

Submission or Resistance: Coping with Military Service

How did Finnish conscripts respond to the challenges facing them in the military? What strategies of coping did they choose? Here, the different strands of this thesis become interwoven. There are connections between how conscripts described the comradeship among the soldiers, how they depicted the soldiers’ reactions to military discipline, and how they attempted to solve the paradoxical demands of military service.

One strategy of dealing with the humiliating experiences of being forced into subordination was to use the available space for resistance – and tell stories about that resistance for years after. This strategy is found in many of the 1970’s memory stories. The memories abound with stories about how the conscripts managed to shirk duties, fool the officers, leave without permission, give smart repartees to dumbstruck officers or even physically fight back. Although some informants proudly describe how they themselves stood up to abusive officers, most tell the stories of “resistance heroes” observed and remembered with fascination – although not always undivided admiration – by the other, more cautious soldiers. One typical such story of resistance is Karl Rosenberg’s (b. 1901) recollections of how three ”merry rogues” were to be punished for drunkenness. They were lined up in the front of the rest of their company with full backpacks for santsi, extra duty, but they had fooled the officers by filling their backpacks with tin washbasins and other lightweight objects. When the sergeant started commanding them to run, hit the ground, etcetera, they obeyed orders, but did it in slow-motion “like a slowed-down sports film”, making the whole company roar with laughter. The captain was furious, “jumping up and down fists clenched in front of those boys screaming they were going to jail every one of them”. Rosenberg commented, “The Jäger captain had hardly seen anything like it on his journey to Germany, it was something only Finnish humour could bring by.”

Memories of how the soldiers could strike back against some particularly disliked superior by group solidarity were cherished in the narrative tradition. For example, in Kiviniemi in 1932, a loathed sergeant major in Vilho Lepola’s unit had just been transferred to another unit, but had to pass by the barracks of his previous subordinates on his way to the office. The first morning he walked past, the conscripts gathered by the window and hurled insults over him, telling him to “climb that tree, arse foremost, and without using your hands!” In spite of the sergeant major’s threats of reporting them, the shouting only intensified. The next morning, the same spectacle was repeated, after which the sergeant major started taking another route to his office. Comradeship in the reminiscences thus displays elements of both pressure on individuals to submit to army discipline and a solidarity making resistance possible. It is akin to Pentti Haanpää’s muddled depiction of a coarse and individualistic comradeship between soldiers, ambiguously both supportive and corruptive; a bond that was not in itself the cause of the soldiers’ resistance and recalcitrance, but still incited them to defiance.

Among Pentti Haanpää’s soldier comrades, the obvious response to being forced into submission was to attempt resistance in any form possible. The conscripts he portrayed have no personal motivation for a military service that appears meaningless to them and offers them nothing in return. Therefore, they try to reclaim at least some of their personal autonomy, or just make their existence a little bit more comfortable, by lying, cheating, shirking and malingering. As the conscripts are prevented from doing “honest” work, they find more dignity in doing nothing at all than in fooling around in the exercise fields playing war games. They brag to each other about how they have fooled and cheated the officers. They compete over who is most skilled in shirking duty without being caught. Behaviour such as sleeping while on guard duty becomes a matter of refusing complete subordination and regaining some control over one’s own life and affairs. As a narrator, Haanpää was obviously fascinated by those characters among the soldiers who dare strike back against the officers, be it only by putting itching powder in a hated lieutenant’s clothes without being caught. (Nigel’s comment: we did similar things in the NZ Army: with one young Officer who was a complete asshole, we went to a great deal of trouble on an exercise to track down the platoon he was in command of, find the latrine area and wire it with trip-flares and thunderflashes (practice grenades for exercise which I’m sure you’re familiar with) and then have a couple of guys there to command detonate them when he came out for a crap – he did and it was spectacular – talk about the shit hitting the fan …. . A lot of official time was spent trying to track down the perpatrators of that one but funnily enough, no-one had any idea, not even the guys in his platoon who saw the perps doing a runner immediately afterwards. One of those things that exists in every army without a doubt).

Several of the individual conscripts he describes are soldiers serving extra time because of repeated breaches of regulations. They have ceased to care about their ever renewed punishments and prolonged military service. Their sole remaining purpose in life is to demonstrate their defiance, unyieldingness, willpower and individualism to the officers and the other soldiers. In one story, one of these sotavanhus [~old man of war] characters commits suicide in order to take his revenge on a hated officer, blowing them up together with dynamite. In another, a sotavanhus spends his third Christmas Eve in the army, serving extra time and freezing in a cold and lice-infested prison cell. Yet he is still filled with pride when he overhears the younger soldiers on guard talking about him with admiration mingled with terror, calling him one of the wildest men ever known. These characters are die-hard individualists. Their resistance against military discipline and abusive superiors is not based in the group solidarity among comrades. They wage their private wars against the system, only occasionally bonding together with their comrades in collective actions of defiance. The prestige as tough guys that they enjoy in other men’s eyes probably spurns them on, although they certainly are not model men. Their destinies are more frightening than attractive to the “ordinary” conscript.

The most common forms of resistance described in the 1972–1973 collection were, however, passive ones: shirking duty, pretending to be stupid in class, saluting slowly and half-heartedly, leaving without permission and trying to return unnoticed. According to the informants, these strategies were specifically aimed at especially disliked officers and NCOs. Thus, they are not presented as an all-pervasive attitude to soldiering among the conscripts like in Pentti Haanpää’s tableaux of military life. Even if the informants liked to celebrate isolated instances of resistance in their storytelling, an all-out story based on how they had shirked their way through the entire pre-war military training was probably not an image of themselves they could be comfortable with after the wars they had fought in 1939–1944.

Adjusting to Military Service

Resistance was not the only way of preserving one’s dignity in face of the military system. There was an opposite way, making adjustment and submission into a achievement in itself, as illustrated by Mika Waltari’s army book. Among his comrades, conscripts from the educated, urban upper middle classes, submitting to army discipline was evidently not at all as problematic as for Pentti Haanpää’s lumberjacks and farmhands. The reasons had much to do with class and social background. Waltari and his comrades were well adapted to benefit from the military system they had entered. They had been brought up and trained within a social environment and a school system that largely put the same demands on them as the army – a sense of duty, self-restraint, obedience and discipline. Just like the families that brought them up and the schools that educated them, the army motivated these conscripts by the promised reward of elite membership. The army confirmed their sense of being predestined for future leading positions by automatically picking them out for leadership training. It stimulated their sense of competition – a central element for middle-class boys and young men since the nineteenth century – by putting the prestigious reserve officer training within reach for those with the best performance. When Waltari has reached the stage of reserve officer training, he describes how their superiors now treat the cadets like young gentlemen. “We feel proud to be part of the elite among Finnish youth. It strengthens our self-respect and stifles presumption and boasting. We must really become men, who are able to fulfil the task we have been given.” That task is both to hold the reins in society and public life and to lead the troops, to “die among the first, be an example to others.”

According to historian Veli-Matti Syrjö, students from bourgeois families in interwar Finland coveted the status of reserve officer, since it was evidence of both personal ability and proficiency and a patriotic sense of duty – shouldering the responsibility going with being a member of the elite. The boyish “games in the sun” that Waltari and his comrades play during recruit training therefore have a competitive edge. Although these conscripts certainly revel in small breaches of regulations and shirking minor chores, such as cleaning or potato peeling, peer group pressure among them is directed towards showing that they are fit to pass any test, “making it where the others do”, always keeping up with the others and preferably even outperforming them. Exhausted by tough marches and exercises, the pupils of NCO school jokingly shout to each other: “Se tekee vain terää!”, a Finnish saying meaning “It only does you good!” but that also could be understood as alluding to sharpness, the sting of a blade or the maturing of crops. Mika Waltari resolved the issue of subordination by presenting the conscripts as boys on the threshold of real manhood and cast submission not as passive, oppressive and forbidding, but as active and productive of a more mature and disciplined citizenship. Contrary to the strong individualism among Haanpää’s rural workers, Waltari’s notions of maturity were connected with a collectivist view of society. He contrasted the immature selfishness of youth with adult responsibility which is about conquering oneself, adjusting to the demands of real life in a society with others, and “learning the hardest and greatest skill of all” – submitting oneself to another’s will, for the sake of the common good. The military, he claimed, furthers this development, by “grinding away the defiance of false self-respect and immature individualism”.

He thinks back at the follies of his youth, such as showing off on the dance floors of Paris jazz clubs, thinking, “thank God that is all past now. I have entered a new, manlier life. My individual foolishness and troubles do not mean anything anymore. I am only a small, insignificant part of a powerful whole.” This “powerful whole” is for Waltari in some instances the nation, country or fatherland, but first and foremost the community of soldier comrades. Manhood is achieved through taking part in the world of the military and coping with its demands. In this respect, there is an anxiousness in Waltari to prove something to himself and to other men and demonstrate that he can pass the test of soldiering. “(…) I am secretly proud of myself. Proud that I can make it where the others do. That I have been able to submit even in the tightest spots. I have conquered myself, – I am proud that I am taking part, here, where men are made.” The comradeship and community of conscripts fulfilling the tasks and duties set by the military seems to constitute the “making of men” that Waltari marks as the central topic of his book in its very title. Just as in the rhetoric of the Suomen Sotilas magazine, he claims that men leave the army with more vigour, strength and courage. “A new sense of self-confidence and responsibility has slowly grown within us, a consciousness that after these days life opens up before us in its entirety and freedom with its own commitments. And if we have coped here, why should we not cope in the larger world.”

Subverting the notion of a “school for men”

Pentti Haanpää made ruthless satire of that very same notion of the army as a ‘school for men’ that Waltari happily used. The men in Haanpää’s stories certainly change during their military service, yet not the way idealistic army propaganda such as the storys in Suomen Sotilas would have it. In Haanpää’s army stories, military training produces defiance, underhandedness, cynicism and programmatic indolence. A recruit in one of Haanpää’s stories who witnesses the cunning of an older soldier malingering realizes that “this is how things are done in this firm. “(…) A real man prevails and a real man helps himself.” His squad leader tells him, “Tricks are what works in the army! No use yearning or moaning here. To be sure, a man will be trained and taught here. Everyone is a catfish [tenderfoot] at first, but here at last an ordinary man learns, becomes overly learned, knows his tricks, knows how to arrange things for himself...” The recruit learns his lesson; you cannot get by in the army without lying and cheating; “you will not live long if you try to follow all the regulations and all the bosses’ fancies”. In spite of this, the recruit stubbornly tells his squad leader that he still believes that the army is “a good school for a man: your reason develops and your nature is hardened.”

For Haanpää’s conscripts, who had apparently been doing adult men’s work and supporting themselves for years before the call-up, manhood was not something the army could confer on them, but rather something it could offend, diminish or take away through the humiliation of exaggerated subordination. For the middle-class town boy Waltari, manhood evidently still had to be reached or at least proven to a sceptical world – parents, teachers, peers, and not least men from the lower classes. For the artist and intellectual, the army provided a valuable opportunity to increase his social prestige. The soldiers portrayed by Haanpää, however, did not see military training in the same light. Being men from the working classes, with elementary education at the most, the prestige of officer training was out of their reach. To them, the obvious answer to the contradiction between submission and their own independence was to resist submission to the military order, at least to some degree. Pentti Haanpää did not attempt to find a solution to the paradox between autonomy and military submission within the military system. The only solution he offered consisted in leaving this corrupting world. The Jäger sergeant-major in the opening story of Fields and Barracks manages to turn his life around for the better in the end – by resigning from the army and going home to take over his family’s farm after his father’s death.

In spite of everything, Haanpää never criticises the principle that men should bear arms and defend their country when needed. Rather, his train of thought bears remarkable similarity to the Finnish Agrarian Party’s criticism of the cadre army system and its arguments in favour of a militia army. To the Agrarians’ thinking – and obviously Haanpää’s as well – a sound Finnish citizen-soldier should not be isolated from society in barracks and garrisons, but live in civilian society, doing his proper work to support himself and his family. He only now and then should be trained in the use of weapons together with his fellow men, for a day or two, or perhaps a few weeks each year. Thus, he should stay within a man’s true place in peacetime, instead of entering the abnormal and corruptive social world of the cadre army, with its militaristic ideology and aristocratic heritage from Russia and Prussia.

The attractive story of growing through hardships

There are many indications that entering the interwar army was a shocking and painful experience for many men. According to Albert Lahti, a visible transformation of the conscripts took place over the course of their military service. The starting point, a recruit with his head shaven and the regiment’s worst and most worn-out equipment, was a sorry sight: No wonder that the poor recruit’s face was fearful like a hare in the field and thus easily recognisable as a catfish with [hundreds of days] left. Then when you had started to grow up in age and wisdom and become a man in the second oldest contingent, you could exchange your clothes for better ones, your hair could start to grow a little bit (…) and your step grew more secure, and then even your face started showing “signs of life”. Lahti further remembered that as a conscripted NCO you could be very demanding with the recruits. Yet ”when it came to a man who dared yell out ”only a few more days”, which you could see anyway by his longer hair, the angle of the cap, the relaxed and carefree behaviour etc., he would not [salute you], and many conscripted corporal or sergeant (…) did not bother or – to be honest – dare to demand it.”

Lahti’s formulation that a recruit’s “frightened” face only started “showing signs of life” roughly halfway through military training was perhaps articulated tongue-in-cheek. The humorous, a bit causerie-like style Lahti uses here runs through large parts of many men’s military stories. In his study of folklore concerning Finnish lumberjacks, Jyrki Pöysä writes that humour within folklore is often a way of protecting oneself and the audience when difficult things are touched upon. Within the military and other primarily-male groups, humour can also be a way of marking affinity without forgoing the personal distance required among men. Humour in army stories can thus be a method of providing emotional distance from memories and experiences that were truly hurtful at the time, but also a way of masking the positive emotional significance of closeness to other men during military service. Eero Tuominen, who journeyed to his regiment under dark skies in April 1919 and who felt like he was in jail two weeks into his service, serves as another rather explicit example of this. Tuominen writes that started feeling better about his military service when summer came, recruit training ended and he was ordered to NCO school. The alumnus of a rural folk high school, he enjoyed the company of the other pupils, “a select body, more developed”. He made friends among other sportsmen at NCO school, “even some townsfolk” who introduced him to the sights of Turku. As autumn fell, he still felt depressed and especially Sunday afternoons at the barracks were “hopelessly dreary”. In October he was promoted to corporal. “I was quite a boss in the recruits’ eyes. (…).” However, I never got used to that bowing to me, it felt repulsive.” In February, he was put in charge of the regiment’s equipment stores. He got his own room, which he turned into a meetingpoint for conscripts from his home district and sportsmen from different units.

Then, finally, disbandment day arrived. Tuominen remembered he felt that this was the happiest in his life so far: “As I looked back on my almost one and a half year long military service, which took up two beautiful summers and one winter of my best youth, I noticed, that even if it was a mentally very difficult time for me, I eventually took to it like a duck to water. I noticed that I got along and succeeded in whatever I was confronted with. I felt my self/confidence grow. I noticed how well I got along with all kinds of people. (…) Freedom gone, homesickness, longing and bitterness all made that life so repulsive. But little boys were made into men there. That must be admitted. Although not everybody became a conscript NCO and few ever had their own room, the narrative of slowly improving conditions throughout military service is typical for the whole body of army memories. Recruit training was often remembered and described as the hardest and toughest time, not only in terms of everything being new and unfamiliar, but also because the focus of the military curriculum in this time period was on disciplining the recruits by means of close-order drill and indoor duties. To make things worse, the hazing of recruits by older soldiers mainly occurred in the first weeks of service. Throughout the first months of training, the soldiers’ squad leaders were conscripts from the older contingent, intent on paying back through their juniors what they themselves had suffered as recruits. As the older contingent was disbanded and the conscripts were led by squad leaders from their own contingent who could not boss them about in the same manner, many of the hierarchical tensions in the soldiers’ everyday life eased. Moving on from the close-order drill of recruit training to field training, NCO school or different special assignments were usually described as a great improvement – although NCO school could also mean even harsher discipline and “being a recruit all over again”. According to Juha Mälkki, a “mechanical barracks discipline” was replaced by freedom from routines and group-discipline during field exercises. Evidently, the regulars were also in general somewhat laxer in disciplinary matters when dealing with older soldiers.

The informal hierarchy between older and younger soldiers provided rich materials for articulating the experience and crafting the narrative of conscripted soldiering as a story of development and growth. The disparagement of the younger soldiers served to make the “catfish” a kind of counter image, a foil against which the “oldies” could stand out as mature and magnificent. The closer disbandment day grew, the stronger did the “oldies” manifest that they had served their apprenticeship and were now skilled warriors. On disbandment day, the process had reached its terminus. Valtteri Aaltonen’s company commander – just like his officer colleagues writing in Suomen Sotilas – encouraged this thinking as he delivered a farewell speech to Aaltonen and his comrades, telling them they certainly were “handsome men” upon leaving. As Eino Sallila and his comrades returned to the train station in their village and stood on the platform saying goodbye, they felt “we were now fully men”. Remembering how they had departed from that very station one year earlier, they laughed at their own childishness back then. Other men as well embraced the notion that what they had been through had given them self-confidence and made them men. “That time was not wasted. There during one year a shy and timid country boy grew into a man who held his ground in the struggle of life.” “Afterwards my military service has shimmered in my mind as one of the memory-richest times of youth. Sometimes I have recalled it as the time when I was raised to be a man. I have heard many who have been to the army say: ‘Only when he has done his military service does a little boy become a man”.

Overall, however, only nine informants out of the 56 analysed here explicitly mention and co-opt some version of the maxim about the army as a “school for men”. These nine are not obviously different from the average in terms of age, education, profession or whether they got leadership training or not. It is impossible to say, whether the large majority who did not write about the connection between military service and manhood repudiated the notion. Some of them just never made it to the end of the two hundred questions where the ethnologists finally asked what attitude they had taken to their military service afterwards. However, Jorma Kiiski (b. 1903) was actually the only informant in my sample to summarise his memories in a decidedly negative tenor, obviously embittered by the bullying, “Prussian discipline” and misappropriation of the soldiers’ rations and pay that occurred in his unit; “I feel that the service and practices in my time were rather a failure. Pointless pomposity without end, pointless demands and showing-off to the point of brutality that I am the one who commands here and who knows everything. (…) When you are on a common mission, learning to defend the fatherland, there should be some humanity on both sides, also on part of the superiors towards their subordinates. Too much harshness and contemptuous arrogance only fosters anger and bitterness.” Kiiski might be voicing the opinion of many who did not participate in the writing competition or did not bother to speak their mind. Yet even if most men did not explicitly write that it “made them men”, a general impression of reading the stories, is that most informants had a positive attitude to their military service as old men despite their tough experiences at the time. To sum up their memories, they used expressions such as “I have looked back with gratefulness”, “a trouble-free time of my life”, “a fascinating time (…) new exciting things happening every day”, “rich with memories” or “I proudly remember…”

There is a pattern in the army stories of initially emphasising the toughness, even brutality of military training and discipline and still end the narration on a positive note. Several informants comment on the same mechanism of memory that Mika Waltari described: one remembers the positive things; time heals all wounds. Emil Lehtoranta (b.1900) wrote, “My diary gives an even much more austere picture of that form of life than in these memories, time has levelled out one’s opinions.” Eino Kuitunen (b. 1915) reflected, “Even if there was a ‘sting in your breast’ and you were disgruntled over meaningless hammerings [~punishment exercises] in the army (this was called the recruit’s disease), on the whole and now with hindsight it was not at all too bad and the years 1939–1945 demonstrated beyond dispute the necessity of being in the army.” As indicated by Waltari, this process of re-evaluation already started during the military service and speeded up as the men were disbanded. Yrjö Härkälä (b.1912) wrote that in spite of all the soldiers’ fantasies about taking revenge on beastly superiors after disbandment, nobody ever did; “Those small extra exercises, already in the past [on disbandment day] were part of a young man’s life, they only made him a man, and once he had become a man he would not remember them in anger.”

Many narrators obviously took pride in having been “under the roller” and endured a military training that they actually made an effort to portray as extremely tough. Heikki Kolehmainen wrote that during the time of his service, in 1919–1920, the conditions and treatment of soldiers felt horrible, but with time he had come to see that the reasons lay in the primitiveness of the newborn army. The hard exercises hardened those who coped with them, wrote Kolehmainen, who claimed he could still, as a 75 year-old, sense their positive physical effects. Johannes Lindberg (b. 1900), one of the most critical voices in the collection, described very harsh superiors and resentment among the soldiers in the Karelia Guards Regiment in Viipuri, commenting, “to our mind such a hard training was not likely to foster a patriotic spirit”. Yet “it did not leave behind any lasting bitterness (…) it was strange to hear how [former soldiers] later mentioned with a kind of pride that they had served in the Karelia regiment.” Once the “hammering”, the rough treatment, had been endured and was bygone, it could be used to support a narrative identity of oneself as one who could cope with the hardest demands of manhood. Some mention it as a way of marking that their own military training was superior to military training in the 1970’s. “They certainly made a youngster into a man, according to the discipline in those days, nowadays it is inadequate, they go home every week (…) it is easy nowadays and a short time and bad discipline compared to the old days.” “Nowadays the [soldier] material is weak, long hair, hairnets to keep their hair together. Back then they often shaved the head bald using a razor.” Even Jorma Kiiski, who was uncompromisingly bitter and negative over what he had experienced, wrote at the end of his account that in spite of everything he had never tried to frighten boys about military service, “on the contrary I have thought it to be necessary and even useful [for them]. Now it is completely different there [in the army]. Now it is as far as I know needlessly easy and comfortable in every way.”

There are striking similarities between these stories and the understandings of military service advocated by interwar military rhetoric, such as pioneer Kellomäki’s speech about growing in self-confidence and maturity through hardships and submission, published in Suomen Sotilas in 1922. “You have been forced to rely on your own strengths and abilities and thereby your will has been fortified and your self-reliance has grown. (…) You leave here both physically hardened and spiritually strengthened.” (See p. 154 above.) Yet the former conscripts did not just imitate official propaganda from the interwar years. They used some of it elements, but put them into the much bleaker constory of their personal experiences. Unlike Mika Waltari’s path, their route led through the “dark stories” of hardships, conflicts and bullying, which drew both on their own memories and a popular tradition of understanding military service as oppressive of men from the lower classes. The key motive of their stories was not, like in Pentti Haanpää’s army critique, to bring out the inhumanity of the military training system, although they seem to display the same rather individualist notions of masculinity as Haanpää did. They demonstrate how they prevailed, not primarily by force of the support of a tightly knit homosocial collective, but by force of their own growing strength and hardiness. The stories of their hardships are, above all, the epic story of their own coping.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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CanKiwi2
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Re: What If - Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 Apr 2011 13:06

Conscript soldiers and women

Up to this point we have studied Finnish conscript soldiers with reference only to military hierarchies and comradeships, the disciplinary methods and strategies of resistance or submission and their army experiences, with almost no reference made to women. This reflects how most men chose to recollect their military service. Their social relationships to women who were important in their lives at the time – mothers, sisters, female friends, girlfriends or wives – are largely left out of the narrative. However, this exclusion is not complete. In brief passages, even mere sentences or subordinate clauses, women are glimpsed now and again. In the 1972–1973 collection, some men mention in passing that they had a girlfriend or a wife either in their home district or in the garrison town. E.g. Kalle Leppälä (b.1913) had a girlfriend and even became engaged to her during his year in military training. He only mentions her existence as if by accident when accounting for the number of leaves of absence he obtained during his service. In his 357 pages of army memories, the longest story in the material examined by the author of this thesis, he writes nothing at all about what the forced separation from his partner felt like, how he coped with it or how they stayed in touch. Eero Tuominen, whose narrative is extraordinary in its emotional openness and articulateness, is an absolute exception, as he describes the longing for his girlfriend after reporting for service, the bliss of spending time with her on his one precious home leave, the anxiousness that she should find someone else while he was gone, and his sorrow and bitterness as her letters grew increasingly infrequent and their contact eventually flagged.

In Mika Waltari’s otherwise so open-hearted army book, the author only mentions the existence of his own girlfriend on page 91. According to Waltari’s autobiography, he met and fell in love with the woman who later became his wife one month before he reported for military service. In Where Men Are Made, however, he never tells the reader anything about her more than that she has blue eyes and a blue hat. It is not clear whether this was to guard his privacy or because he felt she did not really have a place in a book about his military service. Nevertheless, Waltari effectively omits the woman he chose to share his life with, although she evidently was an extremely important element in his life during his military training. He only hints at the happiness of four days on home leave having something to do with being in love, but he is rapturous in describing his return to camp after “a short sad goodbye” from his fiancée. It is ambiguous whether his happiness that night, back at camp, is due to being in love with his girlfriend or with the return to his groupd of soldier-comrades: “I undress in the dark, in the midst of sleeping boys breathing, the familiar smell of foot cloths and boots. Oh, everything, everything is beautiful.”

Seducers, beaux and innocents

An important part of the military culture reigning in interwar Finnish Army barracks seems to have been the repertoire of “naughty” marching songs. These songs ranged in content from raw pornographic and sometimes misogynist imagery to joyful celebration of the mutual pleasures for both man and woman of sexual intercourse. In all of them, however, a self-image of soldiers was cultivated – sometimes soldiers in general, sometimes the soldiers of one’s own unit in particular – as irresistible seducers of women, always on the move towards the next conquest. The soldier’s relationship to women in these songs, sung on heavy marches to cheer up the mood and copied in the soldiers’ autograph albums, was that of a classic Don Juan. This was also the image of soldiers’ relationships to women in popular Finnish films of the 1930’s. Advertisements for military farces alluded to the power of attraction military uniforms had for women. Using military metaphors for soldiers “conquering” women was usual in the screenplays. Recounting their own time as conscript soldiers, however, men gave a much more diverse picture of the conscripts’ force of attraction on women than in the wish-fulfilling fantasies of indecent songs. Some did not mention the soldiers having had any contact with women during their year of Service – apart from the “Sisters” at the service club, who were usually older than the soldiers, extremely highly respected and regarded as sexually out-of-bounds – whereas others mention that dating local women was common among the soldiers.

In these army memories, men do not brag about having been successful among women as they were soldiers. Some point out that it was hard to find female company in a large garrison town, with a considerable surplus of conscripts. An ordinary penniless infantry man had great difficulty competing with conscripts in the artillery, cavalry and navy who had fancier uniforms – not to mention the NCOs and officers with their well-fitted uniforms and golden insignia of rank. The class barriers in interwar society reoccur in some stories about how girls in finer clothes had to be “left to the officers” at a large ball at the theatre of Kuopio in 1929, or how ordinary soldiers from the countryside mainly dated country girls who worked as housemaids in the town houses of Oulu in 1925–1926. Many conscripts seem to have been rather sexually innocent at 21, as mention often is made of “experienced” or “more experienced” comrades, “womanisers”, who told their comrades wild stories about their sexual adventures or were observed with obvious fascination by their comrades. Contacts between soldiers and prostitutes are mentioned in a small number of stories – although none of the informants admit having paid for sex themselves – but they were evidently extensive enough to worry the military authorities, because of the spread of venereal disease. In this regard, the military system sent the conscripts a double message; the military priests demanded self-restraint and abstinence, lecturing the soldiers on the irresponsibility, filthiness and devastating effects on future marital happiness of contacts with prostitutes. The army medical service, however, took a more pragmatic approach, instructing conscripts who had sexual intercourse during leaves to visit the hospital when they returned for preventive treatment. Concealing venereal disease was punishable.

Mika Waltari, who was the most enthusiastic describer of warm and close comradeship among male soldiers in the author’s material, is also the only one to write at length about the significance of women within the military. His soldiers talk and dream about women when they are in camp and they eagerly date girls when they are back at their town barracks in Helsinki. However, women appear as distant and exotic in this world of men. To some they are creatures to be pursued, seduced and conquered, big game to brag to one’s friends about. Yet to Waltari and his close friends, who are middle-class and with a “good upbringing”, they are above all associated with a vision of the future, of marriage, of emotional satisfaction and security in a stable partnership. One night in camp, Waltari and his comrades lie around talking shyly about these things. “Of course we could talk and brag about the most incredible erotic adventures we have had, which are more or less fantasy. In fact most of us are very innocent, in the dangerous borderlands of manhood. Now that we are healthy and a new strength is growing in our limbs, we all feel distaste for brute erotic looseness. A dark night in some bushes or naked hostel room would be a heavy fall for us. Now that we have something to give, we want to keep ourselves pure – that same word that made such an irritating and banal impression in Christian morality lectures. Now we want to some day, when our true moment has come, give our whole strong youth. Get engaged and married when that time comes. In all of us glitters the beautiful illusory dream of a home of our own. Without our knowing, we are growing closer to society. Free, unfettered youth and the social system are always each other’s enemies. But here, through submitting, a deeper and greater solidarity has unconsciously been impressed upon us.”

In the depiction of this scene, Waltari reproduces an image, familiar from the storys by middle-class men writing in Suomen Sotilas, of conscripts as “pure” young men, living a stage of their lives centred on the community of conscripts, predestined although not yet ready for marrying and heading a household. This image was actually a vital precondition for the notion that the army was the place ‘where men were made’. If the recruits were already living in mature relationships, they would already have been real men and military training could not have been legitimised by claiming it brought them into this state of being. Waltari also makes an association here between submission, military service, becoming a loyal, responsible and useful male citizen, and getting married. Soldiering and fatherhood – in the sense of being responsible for a family of one’s own – thus join each other as two significant currents taking the young man towards adult, mature manhood and patriotic useful citizenship. The silence around marriage and serious partnerships in the other sources does not mean that they were not an important among the lower classes as well. In Pentti Haanpää’s army book, this is only hinted at through a few clues in his stories, yet in analysis it emerges as a key factor behind Haanpää’s criticism of military life. The Jäger sergeant major in his opening story not only goes home to take over his family’s little farm, as previously cited. He “fetches” a girl from the garrison town to live and form a family with her. She is not mentioned before the third to last sentence of the whole story although the Jäger evidently has had a lasting relationship with her. Haanpää lets the reader understand that the Jäger eventually finds a fulfilment that army life can never give him in a classic rural Finnish lifestyle based on marriage, fatherhood, land ownership and productive work. Twice he uses the word “barren” to describe the gritty military training fields, implicitly contrasting them to the proper place of a Finnish man, a field of corn or a timber forest where his labour bears fruit.

One explanation for the omission of girlfriends and wives in army stories and memories might be the habit of “undercommunicating” one’s marital status that ethnologist Ella Johansson has noted in the barracks and working camp culture of Swedish mobile workers in the early twentieth century. Being married and thus head of a family was strongly a part of the ideal for adult men. Yet this was played down among the workers, together with social and economic differences, in order to create a conflictfree atmosphere (one might say an illusion) of equality between men. This would seem to apply to both army barracks culture and the narrative tradition stemming from it. Sexual adventure with women was over-emphasised in army stories, whereas serious commitment with women was under-emphasised.

Finally, the silence of most men on what it was like being separated from one’s mother, sisters and possible female partners – sometimes for a whole year without a single home leave – should probably also be understood as informed by the narrative tradition of commemorating military service. This tradition was reflected and reproduced by the ethnologists organising the 1972–1973 collection. Among the more than two hundred questions they asked their informants, the only one touching upon the existence of women in the conscripts’ lives was a subquestion’s subquestion, under the topic of how evenings off-duty were spent in the barracks: “Was alcohol ever brought into the barracks? What about women?” The otherwise exhaustive questionnaire omitted any references to how the soldiers’ families related to their departure; if and how the conscripts stayed in touch with their families during the service; how they took care of possible problems arising at home due to their absence; or what home-coming was like. These subjects evidently did not belong to the story of a military experience shared by all conscripts. In a sense, leaving out women from the story of Finnish soldiering had a similar effect of strengthening the taken-for-granted notion that women and military matters had nothing to do with each other.

Conclusions: Class, Age and Power in Conscript Stories

Memories and stories about military training in the 1920’s show that popular images and notions varied and partly contradicted the pro-defence viewpoint. Many depictions of the disciplinary practices in use lie closer to the critique of the cadre army delivered by Social Democrats and Agrarians in the period, although men who recounted their own experiences of military training did not subscribe to the notions of its morally corruptive effects on conscripts. Class and age affected how men’s army experiences were formulated. Comparing Pentti Haanpää’s and Mika Waltari’s army books, the contemporary class divisions and politics of conscription serve as an explanatory pattern for the differences between them. From the vantage point of the 1970’s and old age, other men mixed the polarized interpretations of the interwar period into a kind of synthesis that did not serve the purpose of defending or criticising the cadre army, but of crafting a part of their own life-history.

Through his description of military comradeship, Mika Waltari conveyed an image of Finnish conscripts as boyish youngsters, blue-eyed boy scouts on the threshold of manhood and adult life. This was a prerequisite for the notion that military training could project them on a path to a higher level of being, to mature citizenship. That effect gave a positive meaning to the hardships they had to endure along that path. Through forming a community of comrades, a brotherhood-in-arms, Waltari’s citizen-soldiers supported and spurred on each other to learn and train for the task of men, defending the country. At the same time they were taught the self-control and unselfishness needed to submit. This experience, Waltari claimed, endowed conscripts with the self-confidence to face adult manhood with its responsibilities. The effect of Waltari’s narrative – whether it was his intention or not – was to defend the cadre army system by offering an attractive solution to the paradox between adulthood and submission, and claiming that it only changed men for the better.

Pentti Haanpää, on the contrary, suggested an image of Finnish conscripts who were no compliant young boys when they arrived for military service, but rough-hewn adult workmen. Military training had no personal value for them, and without a war to fight the hardships and humiliations involved appeared to them as meaningless sadism and oppression. Haanpää’s soldiers felt offended by military discipline and reacted by resistance and recalcitrance in any form available – shirking, cheating and lying. Haanpää had no use for the sedative notion of supportive comradeship that lessened the strain of life in a cadre army. In his portrayal, comradeship was more about an inflicted life together. He did not attempt to idealise military comradeship or even describe the conscripts’ ways of being men as particularly sympathetic. The message emerging from his stories was rather that this was what common Finnish men are like, like it or not, and if the cadre army system stood in contradiction to it, the military system had to change. To Haanpää’s workmen, the army was an oppressive interruption robbing them of autonomy and dignity, but to Waltari’s middle-class students it offered an opportunity to boost their white-collar self-image with the prestige of being not only warriors, but also the military leaders of their generation. Waltari wrote in the “white” tradition, describing an affinity between men in military service, united across all other differences by gender, nationality and soldiering. Haanpää’s images of soldiering were closely aligned with the political critique of the standing cadre army as an institution corrupting men, both through the oppressive violence of a detached officer caste and through the roughness of comradeship in the “unnatural” circumstances of men living isolated from society in an all-male military hierarchy.

These differences are interestingly congruent with those between the ‘modern’ middle class and traditional rural and working class views. Industrialisation and urbanisation, it has been argued in previous research, robbed the middle-class of its traditional stable foundations: landownership or autonomy as a self-employed artisan. In the emerging modernity, every middle-class man had to prove and demonstrate through “making himself” in the fierce competition of the marketplace. This notion of a need to demonstrate an ability that was not inherited as a social position from one’s father is strikingly similar to Mika Waltari’s eagerness to demonstrate that “he can make it where the others do”. Pentti Haanpää’s conscripts, on the other hand, navigate within a largely rural value system where great value is put on the autonomy based on controlling one’s own labour. The soldiers depicted by Haanpää try to claim a degree of self-determination by using strategies of obstinacy and wilfulness, similar to the contemporary culture in teams of male workmen, for example in forestry or railroad construction, as described by Ella Johansson.

The culture of shirking and malingering could also be conceptualized as Eigensinn, a term that Alf Lüdtke has used to describe how contemporary industry workers on the continent temporarily distanced themselves from the hierarchies and demands of the workplace, refusing co-operation and gaining some sensation of pleasure through teasing fellow workers, walking around, talking to people, taking unauthorized breaks or just daydreaming; anything one was not supposed to do during working hours. Eigensinn or wilfulness, as outlined by Lüdtke, is thus not a form of resistance against the system, but rather attempts by individuals to temporarily ignore or evade the system, to create moments and places of independence from and disregard of the surrounding social order, insisting on time and space of one’s own. Conscripts displaying Eigensinn thus did not necessarily want to challenge or change the military system. Rather, they needed some space to breath within it. In spite of the variations and differences across the 1972–1973 reminiscences, and the evident development towards better treatment of conscripts over the course of the interwar period, the collection as a whole reflects many experiences of military discipline, especially during recruit training, as containing elements of meaningless harassment reminiscent of Haanpää’s imagery. The explanations offered for superiors’ bullying, in terms of NCOs and officers taking out their personal frustrations and aggressions on their subordinates, are also in line with Haanpää. Yet none of the men who wrote about their military training after the Second World War really attacked the pre-war cadre army system in the same wholesale fashion as Haanpää. The cadre army had proven its worth in the war, and even if some men expressed bitterness over how they had been treated and wanted to expose the power abuses that had occurred, the general tenor in 1972–1973 was that interwar military training in its very hardness was necessary and useful.

Since it was not necessary any more to either attack or defend the institution itself, the stories written down in the 1970’s are actually less black-and-white than the interwar literary depictions. They needed neither the demonising story about an officer corps rotten throughout, nor the idealised myth of conscript soldiers’ unreserved solidarity and comradeship. Accounts of bullying and sadistic superiors could be accommodated in the same narrative with very appreciative descriptions of well-liked officers. Good comradeship and group spirit were mentioned in the same breath as violent conflicts among the conscripts were revealed. In the final analysis, many former soldiers evidently adopted the notion of military service as “a school for men”, a place where conscripts grow, harden and develop self-confidence through the very hardships they suffer, in order to invest a largely disagreeable or partially even degrading experience with a positive meaning. However, they did not idealise submission in itself nor the collectivist fusion with the group as Waltari did; theirs were individualist stories of their ability to cope.

Historian Thomas Rohkrämer has found the same pattern of a “growth narrative” surrounding nineteenth century German military service. The training, Rohkrämer claims, was intentionally laid out with an extremely hard and even humiliating recruit training in the beginning followed by slowly ameliorating circumstances. Once the soldier had adjusted to army discipline and taken on the behaviour his superiors wanted, he could enjoy certain rewards; a high social status in relation to civilians, an economically carefree existence, and a boosted attractiveness with women due to the “military bearing” and the gaudy uniforms of the epoch. Rohkrämer asks why so many men rallied round the cult of the military in the Kaiserreich and offers the explanation that military service was understood as an initiation that was accepted and celebrated afterwards. Once the hardships of military training had been endured they could reap the benefits from public notions of men with military education as characterised by energy, vigour and resolution.

From the early 1930’s on, a political consensus over the military system gradually emerged. As we have seen, the conscript army of independent Finland started out with severe image problems. Some of these were inherited from the standing armies of the authoritarian monarchies that served as organisational models for the Finnish cadre army. Other problems burdening the Finnish Army derived from the fact that it had been created in the midst of a civil war where its main task was to crush an internal socialist revolution. This initial ballast was further exacerbated through reports of the bad conditions that conscript soldiers were exposed to throughout much of the 1920’s. The pro-defence debate in interwar Finland must largely be understood against the background of widespread negative images of the existing military system. While pro-defence advocates made great efforts to disseminate positive images of military service, they had to compete with popular notions of the conscript army as a morally and physically unhealthy place for conscripts, as well as a culture of story-telling about personal experiences of military training that often highlighted the brutal treatment and outright bullying of conscripts.

Military service was described as strongly formative of conscripts’s physical and moral development, both by the critics and by the supporters of the existing military system. As the military system became a part of cultural normality, as the worst conditions were corrected, and as people grew accustomed to conscription and increasingly came to accept it – although not necessarily to like it – there was less need to talk about its impact. However, this was more the case in the political arena and the ideological propaganda of “civic education” than in the popular culture of telling stories about individual experiences of military training. Even if the notorious bullying of conscripts obviously diminished over the period, men still found personal use for the claim that going through a harsh and demanding training had made a positive difference to their personal life history.

Analysis of the parliamentary debates over the conscription system shows a prolonged scepticism and reluctance within civilian society towards the conscription system created by professional officers during the Civil War. There was a swift transition during the Civil War from widespread pacifism and doubtfulness over the expediency of any national armed forces towards a broad acceptance of the general principle of conscription. The need for maintaining a Finnish army was no longer disputed. However, peacetime military service within a standing cadre army was initially criticised by the parties of the political left and centre. They drew on a long international tradition of republican, liberal and socialist critiques of standing armies. The liberal and conservative MPs, on the other hand, were conspicuously restrained as they presented the existing military system as a grim necessity. They largely refrained from celebrating any character building effects of military service. In spite of their glorification of the feats of the White Army in the “Liberation War” of 1918, politicians at the centre and right were wary of expressing any opinions that could be labelled as militarist. They were susceptible to public concerns over bad conditions in the garrisons and the maltreatment of conscripts and throughout the 1920’s resisted the military’s requests for more money and increased conscripted manpower.

Those politicians who wanted a people’s militia centred their critique of the cadre army on its alleged moral dangers for conscripts and the threat to democracy of a closed caste of professional officers. However, their reasons for doing so evidently had much to do with other issues of a political and economic nature; namely, the control over the armed forces in society, the enormous costs of creating and maintaining national armed forces, and the importance of conscripts in the workforce of a poor and largely agrarian society. In their rhetoric can be identified references to both idealised images of the Finnish national character and visions of egalitarian citizenship in the new democratic republic. The Agrarians alluded to a stereotype of Finns as autonomous freeholders, with a natural patriotic instinct to defend their property and families, yet averse to authorities and submissiveness. The Social Democrats expressed a more anxious notion of working-class men as susceptible to indoctrination and political corruption through military service. Nonetheless, they simultaneously tried to describe young workers as class-conscious, strongwilled men who would fight only for the good of the people and not the for the bourgeoisie.

Over the course of time, the parliamentary debates demonstrate a slow movement from strong scepticism towards acceptance of a conscripted standing cadre army; from strong notions that such an army could form a threat to democracy towards embracing it as a safeguard of the democratic republic; and from intense concerns that army life would corrupt conscripts towards confidence that it would at least do them no harm. One objective of the interwar commemoration of the “Liberation War” was to portray a view of the recent past that supported interwar patriotic mobilisation and military preparedness and counteracted the scepticism and reluctance surrounding the conscript army.

The heroic stories about the Jägers conveyed images of the Finnish nation as ready for action, notions that national freedom and prosperity were based on military force and valorous heroism, and a message of the invincible strength of passionate, self-sacrificing patriotism. According to the heroic stories, the Jägers were zealous young warriors, driven by flaming patriotism and antithetical to old-school aristocratic officers, such as the older and more experienced Finnish officers who had served in the Russian army before the war. In the campaign to oust “Russian” officers from leading positions in the armed forces, it was claimed that the Jägers represented a new kind of officer, capable of motivating and filling conscripted soldiers with enthusiasm for military service and patriotic sacrifice. The Jägers of heroic stories were living examples of a Finnish military readiness that was now demanded of every young conscript in order to secure national independence. The national-warrior attitude to soldiering incarnated by the Jägers was made the objective of the military education of conscripts – with Jägers as models, planners, executors and leaders. Military thinkers within and associated to the Jäger movement claimed that Finland’s military and political situation demanded soldiers who had received a moral
education instead of being drilled into mechanical obedience. These “new” national soldiers had to be strong-willed soldiers, motivated by patriotism, self-discipline, a sense of duty and a spirit of sacrifice. Moreover, they had to be led by officers embodying these same virtues to the highest degree; officers like the Jägers themselves.

The project of idealistic officers and educators to morally train a “new” kind of Finnish citizen-soldier was put into concrete form with the project of giving the conscripts a “civic education”. The magazine for soldiers, Suomen Sotilas, used the rhetorical technique of associating the wished-for, well-disciplined citizen-soldier with strength and courage in an attempt to influence the readers’ self-understanding and behaviour. The magazine offered its readers images of military training as a process where conscripts matured into adult citizens marked by vigour, a sense of duty and self-restraint. Acquiring the skills and virtues of a good soldier, the young man would simultaneously develop into a useful and successful citizen. The hardships he had to endure would be meaningful and rewarding in the end, both for the nation and himself as an individual.

The magazine wrote abundantly on Finnish military history, challenging the readers to honour their forebears’ sacrifices and meet the standards set by previous generations, but also reassuring present-day conscripts by conjuring a sense of sameness, affinity and a shared national character, marked by hardy, valorous and unyielding character among Finnish men in both the past and present. However, the notion that army life could be corrupting of conscripts’s morals was also surprisingly conspicuous in the magazine, mainly in storys written by clergymen. These “moralist” writers obviously regarded “false” notions among the young conscripts as a great challenge to their educational project and attempted to push their own definitions of true character, centred on self-restraint and dutifulness.

Finally, this study has contrasted the official rhetoric surrounding conscription with the stories that conscripted men told about their personal experiences of military service. The analysis of Pentti Haanpää’s and Mika Waltari’s accounts of military service connected the stark differences between them to both contemporary political disagreements over conscription and the class background and social prospects of the men they served with. As demonstrated by Haanpää,
Waltari, and the collection of reminiscences written in 1972–1973, the social practices of military service in the 1920s were often divisive as they confirmed the class hierarchies and political conflict lines in civilian society. Educated young men such as Mika Waltari were confirmed in their consciousness of belonging to the nation’s elite. They were given an opportunity to prove their physical fitness and leadership qualities. Men from working-class environments, on the other hand, could find that disciplinary methods perceived as bullying and harassment confirmed their understandings of the “white” army and capitalist state as oppressive of lower-class men. Most men did not find much use for the trope of military comradeship in their army stories. It was important to Mika Waltari in his construction of military service as a development process within a tightly knit collective, but not to either Pentti Haanpää who attacked the military system by portraying it as corrupting human relationships, or the men writing down their memories of the army in the 1970’s, who essentially wanted to tell a story of their individual ability to cope and their personal development.

As this analysis has shown, the images of soldiering in oral popular culture largely contradicted the loftiness of military propaganda. These popular images underscored the hardships and abuses that conscripts had to endure. Superiors’ incessant shouting, formal and distant relationships between officers and men, exaggerated emphasis on close-order drills, and indoor duties such as making beds and cleaning rifles, gratuitous punishments and widespread bullying of subordinates – these were all central elements of a “dark story” about soldiering especially in the 1920’s. Even those with positive personal memories indicated an acute awareness of these negative popular images. It was usual to ascribe seemingly meaningless harassment to “Prussian” military customs unsuitable in Finland and ineffective on Finnish men. Individual superiors prone to bullying could be disparaged as weak in character and lacking real leadership qualities. Another strategy was to belittle and play down the harassments as only “proper” to military life and something a man could take with good humour.

The dominant narrative form in the army reminiscences was, however, to construct the story about soldiering as a process of personal growth, through hardships and even humiliating experiences, towards selfconfidence, independence and adult citizenship. Here, the rhetoric of military propaganda and popular stories met. Although the origin of this narrative model is uncertain, military educators and army authorities undoubtedly worked hard to repeat and reinforce it in official military ideology. Yet to the extent that men accepted this offering of prestige and recognition in exchange for their allegiance, they put it into the much bleaker constory of their own experiences of hardships, conflicts and bullying. Thereby, they maintained a counter-narrative to official images of soldiering. The fact that politicians and military educators abstained from playing on language nationalism in their rhetoric on conscripting conscripts is more intriguing. In a sense it is natural that national defence would be a constory where national unity was emphasised and internal differences in domestic matters were downplayed. Yet as we have seen, internal class differences did push their way into debates on conscription and even military propaganda. In this particular constory, the class divide was evidently deeper and more poisoned by mutual distrust than the language divide. In the wake of the Civil War, it was perhaps easier to imagine a national community of “white” Finnish- and Swedish-speaking soldiers once more defending the country against the Bolsheviks than to imagine the workers and the bourgeoisie as brothers-in-arms united in valorous patriotism.

Modernity and tradition

The mass parties of the political left and centre at first associated the standing conscript army with authoritarian, warlike monarchies of the past, an insular aristocratic officer caste and oppressive treatment of the rank-and-file. The Social Democrats and Agrarians saw the cadre army as an obstacle to democratisation and antithetical to a new era of equality, social progress and societal reforms - the kind of modernisation they themselves envisioned. In the Agrarian’s arguments for a militia, no need to change or modernise Finnish men was expressed. On the contrary, they argued against the cadre army by celebrating a timeless masculine national character, an inherent aptitude for warfare in Finnish men, which they claimed had been proven once again in the Civil War of 1918. The Finn’s love of freedom and fighting spirit would only be stifled and corrupted if he was incarcerated in barracks and drilled into mechanical obedience by upper-class officers. In a people’s militia, on the other hand, soldiers would remain inseparable parts of civilian society, mainly occupied with productive labour and impossible to corrupt morally or politically. In their own vision of social progress, the Social Democrats hoped that conscripts would form part of a politically self-conscious workers’ movement that would force through a modernity marked by social justice. The cadre army system threatened to put a check on that movement by defending capitalist interests and drilling young workers into compliant tools of the propertied classes.

The war hero cult surrounding the Jägers, as well as the military propaganda aimed at giving the conscripts a “civic education”, included powerful images of the “Liberation War”, marking the dawn of a new era of Finnish military. The heroic stories about the Jägers supported notions of the brand new national armed forces as representing something new and progressive in Finnish society. They powerfully associated the “liberation” of Finland from Russia with a national “coming of age” manifested in military action. Military reformers wrote about a “new” age of warfare that needed strong-willed, self-propelled and self-disciplined soldiers who fought for their nation out of their own free will and patriotic conviction. In nationalist propaganda, the Jäger officers were constructed as a “new” kind of youthful and modern military leader who could fulfil the moral and technical requirements of a new era. The military propaganda directed towards conscripts in training strongly connected this “new” military image with citizenship. Military training was supposed to educate the conscripts for modern citizenship. This not only included preparing for defending the new nation and enduring the horrors of modern warfare. It also meant acquiring the energy, discipline and precision that characterised a member of an industrialised civilised nation. The army was ‘a school for men’ – the kind of men that the new Finland needed.
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The stories of men who did their military service in the 1920’s testify that the “corporal spirit” criticised as old-fashioned and dysfunctional by contemporary military educators was alive and well in the Finnish armed forces. The “dark stories” about tyrannical superiors browbeating the conscripts resonated with critical claims about the questionable ideological and moral impact of this particular military training on conscripts. Their persistence through much of the 1920’s was highly problematic for those who wanted to represent the cadre army as part of national modernity and progress. The literary scandal surrounding the publication of Pentti Haanpää’s Fields and Barracks in 1928 provides an ample illustration of the frictions between those in Finnish society who hoped the army would change Finnish men and those who thought the army itself was the problem, not the solution. The press reviews deserve some attention, since they present us with a condensed picture of how conscription was connected with conflicting visions of modernity.

The socialist press lauded the book as a truthful and realistic depiction of army life from the perspective of ordinary soldiers. The non-socialist press, on the other hand, greeted the book with dismay. The magazine of the Civil Guards, Hakkapeliitta, accused Haanpää of downright lying, “poisoning young souls” with mendacious and coarse rubbish. The reaction it evoked in the pro-defence establishment was summarised in the headline of an editorial in Suomen Sotilas: “A desecration of the army”. Yet many book reviews and commentaries in the centrist and conservative civilian press also admitted that there was some truth to Haanpää’s stories. There were nuanced comments made, for example by the military philosophy teacher Hannes Anttila, about undeniable deficiencies in the conscripts’ conditions and the need for officers to read Haanpää to understand some of their conscripts better. Still, the non-socialist press claimed that Haanpää had limited his description to only the bleakest and gloomiest aspects of military life. It was said that he lacked self-criticism, “true education” and the analytical capability of putting his observations into a larger constory. Professor V.A. Koskenniemi, one of the greatest literary authorities of the era, dismissed the book as “sketch-like minor art” and noted that Haanpää’s laudable prose was tainted by the cheap trick of “boyishly defiant exaggeration”.

To many non-socialist reviewers, the types of men Haanpää portrayed seem to have been a greater concern than his images of the bad treatment of conscripts. The conservative newspaper Uusi Suomi criticised him for having identified himself with “the worst and most immature sections of the conscripts”. An editorial in Suomen Sotilas claimed that there was a minority among the conscripts who lacked “a clear understanding that military service is not meant for pampering and enjoyment, but a severe and difficult school preparing for war”. These elements among the soldiers, wrote the editors, were “morally often quite underdeveloped, unpatriotic, even criminal”. A columnist in the agrarian Ilkka newspaper branded Haanpää’s book as mostly expressing “hatred of lords and masters” and its author as “one of those men still serving in the army who are impossible to educate because they do not comprehend what it means to be under somebody else’s command”. The critic Lauri Viljanen wrote, “In accordance with his nature as a writer [Haanpää] feels the greatest sympathy for those individuals who find it the hardest thing in the world to grow accustomed to any form of societal discipline.” These reviews implied that beyond some fine adjustments, it was not the military system that needed fundamental change. Haanpää’s obstinate conscripts were the ones that really needed to be thoroughly reformed. They were seen as remnants of a primitive Finnish society of isolated villages, characterised by wilfulness and a smouldering hatred of any authority, unable to adjust to a new and changed society and citizenship.

On this point, the young modernist author and critic Olavi Paavolainen was the most outspoken, as he reviewed Fields and Barracks for Tulenkantajat (The Torchbearers), a cultural magazine and mouthpiece of young artists oriented towards Western European culture and modernity. Paavolainen had done his own military service at about the same time as Haanpää. He found Field and Barracks “disgusting” because its author never rose above “the same low and unintelligent level of thinking and feeling” inhabited by the human types he depicted. Since Haanpää was no town dweller, but “the disciple of untamed conditions” – i.e., underdeveloped rural regions – he lacked “the intellectual and theoretical passion to solve problems”. Nevertheless, Paavolainen asserted that “anybody who has served in the army can testify that the majority of conscripts think and feel like Private Haanpää”. Yet he continued, “How one learns to hate [the Finnish] people during military service! Not because it is supine, incapable and slow, which qualities are offset by its honesty, tenaciousness and toughness – but because it has an insurmountable dread of any order, regulation and – without exception – any commands. It holds resisting any instructions as a matter of honour. (…) This desire for recalcitrance expresses a basic trait in the Finnish national character.”

Paavolainen thus actually agreed with Haanpää’s description of Finnish men and their reactions to military discipline, but saw the reason for their mentality not in some deep-rooted folk culture, but in nineteenth century nationalist agitation by the educated classes. The Finns, he wrote, had always been told in speeches and historical works that their hallmark was not to obey orders and not to accept the yoke of any masters – because these masters had always been foreign. The notion that every command and all lords and masters were bad things had been impressed upon the Finns by both national romanticism and socialism, claimed Paavolainen. It was time for Finnish men to liberate themselves from “the idealisation of a nation of virginal people living in the wilderness and a national culture of lumberjacks”, replicated by Haanpää. Paavolainen saw the cure in modern military training: “Look at the boys who come home from the army: how differently they move, walk, talk, eat and think. Their brains, used to executing orders, work keenly, their bodies shaped by exercises and sports are lithe and obedient. In them is the stuff of a modern civilised nation. Military service has been a first-rate school. (…)”

For want of anything better, Paavolainen found military training to be an excellent instrument for implanting a notion of “a new rhythm of life” in the Finnish people. Life in the modern world, he wrote, with its “telephones, offices, newspapers, street traffic, universities, radios, sports, transatlantic liners, train timetables and stock exchange news” was impossible if people had no concepts of discipline, exactitude and timetables. In the wake of the traumatic events of 1918, optimistic and idealistic visions of the Finnish citizen shaped by military training held out the promise that such military training would defuse the threatening revolutionary potential in Finnish men from the lower classes and mould them into self-disciplined, dutiful, patriotic soldiers ready to sacrifice themselves for the nation. Their sense of comradeship with their fellow soldiers from all layers of society would ensure their loyalty to the existing social structure and direct their armed force outwards, towards a common enemy. The Jäger myth displayed how the dangerous passions of youth could be channelled and disciplined through nationalism and military training into a force that had a burning zeal, yet protected existing society against inner and outer foes instead of threatening it. The editors of Suomen Sotilas assured their readers that when the well-trained and self-disciplined citizen-soldier returned from the barracks to civilian society he was indelibly marked with characteristics that would support the nation’s progress towards modernity and prosperity without internal strife.

Yet a neat dichotomy cannot, after all, be made between a modernist middle class supporting a thorough re-education of Finnish men in the fields and barracks of the cadre army on the one hand, and recalcitrant peasants and workers resisting change on the other. The same circles that envisioned the military producing patriotic and useful male citizens often – whenever it suited their purposes – referred to the heroic national past, military traditions and an inherent unyielding bravery and coarse fighting skill in Finnish men. For example, the Jägers stood for the new nation and its ideal citizens, but in their strong and bold manliness also evoked memories of the Finnish forefathers, linking the modern nation to a mythical past. “The spirit of the forefathers” was presented as binding obligation on conscripts to show that they were not lesser men.

On the other hand, the political opposition and resistance to the cadre army and prolonged peacetime military service were not necessarily based on an opposition to modernity or modernisation as such – although Pentti Haanpää did idealise an archaic, agrarian way of life. Social Democrats and Agrarians also wanted progress into modernity, only they each had different visions of what kind of modernity was desirable for Finland. Neither of these parties really resisted the militarisation of Finnish manhood, although conscription would have looked very different if the militia army they proposed had been realised. The militia project expressed another view of the relationship between a man’s task as a soldier and his task as a productive peasant or worker, a son, a husband or a father, where only open war was reason enough to tear a man away from his proper and primary places as a man. In this sense, the militia model implied a weaker polarisation and separation of male and female citizenship than the cadre army model that was realised.

Cultural conflict and compromise

The scandal surrounding Fields and Barracks appears as the last great furore of the tensions surrounding conscripted soldiering in the early years of national independence. A gradual movement from an atmosphere marked by conflict towards political and cultural compromises can be discerned throughout the interwar period. In the political sphere, the politics of conscription slowly converged as first the Agrarians and then the Social Democrats gave up on the idea of a people’s militia and embraced the existing regular army, as the apparently most realistic protection against Bolshevik Russia and a safeguard of parliamentary democracy in the face of rising right-wing extremism. The professional military establishment met the Agrarians halfway by incorporating the Suojeluskuntas movement ever more firmly into the national armed forces.

A great deal of the officer corps obviously only realised very slowly how radically the conditions for the military training and the treatment of soldiers had changed after 1918, when universal male conscription was combined with national independence and parliamentary democracy. Incompetent NCOs were allowed to terrorise contingent after contingent of conscripts and severe hazing of younger soldiers was tolerated or even thought to serve the recruits’ adjustment to the military world. However, the material scarcity and shortage of officers and NCOs with adequate training that had plagued the army in the early 1920’s slowly eased. In the face of massive public criticism as well as the emergence of new ideas about military philosophy, the armed forces eventually seem to have responded and made some partial adjustments to how conscripts were trained and treated. As a result, the regular armed forces’ image in the public improved towards the end of the 1920’s and was mainly positive in the 1930’s. Conscription and military training became less controversial as the population became used to its existence and ever more men returned from their year in the army without having been noticeably corrupted.

Over the 1930’s, the public image of the Finnish conscript army improved, as it became associated with the protection of positive national values among ever broader layers of society. Men’s (and in the last half of the 1930’s, many young women’s) experiences of military service became ever more positive and surviving its hardships and challenges became a matter of pride. Society was undeniably militarised to some degree as ever more men and women thought of military service as “a natural part of every citizen’s duties” and “a matter of honour for a Finnish man or women”. However, the political compromises and easing tension around conscription did not mean that Finnish men from all layers of society suddenly and wholeheartedly embraced the army’s civic education curriculum. At least within military training, the antagonisms between young conscripts and the disciplinary projects of both moralist educators and drillmasters continued, albeit in gradually less harsh forms. Writers in Suomen Sotilas continued to complain about the “false ideals of manliness” among the soldiers. Conscripted men continued to report on experiences of abusive treatment or excessive disciplinary harshness.

The interwar period was a period of contest between different notions of the military. Yet to judge by the materials studied, there was no clear winning party in that contest, no unambiguous persuasion to consent, no evident hegemonisation” taking place. The proponents of the cadre army system and the particular form of a self-disciplined military associated with it certainly benefited from the factor of institutionalisation; military training in the cadre army was a fact throughout the period and most conscripts had to undergo its practices, whether they wanted to or not. However, the comprehensive picture of developments in the 1930’s is one of incomplete convergence and persistent lines of division. Army stories display how both conscripts and officers often reproduced the social and political demarcation lines of civilian society within the military sphere. Many men certainly enjoyed the training and comradeship in the military, but few wanted or were able to verbalise friendship and intimacy in their reminiscences. Instead, their stories highlighted how group solidarity often meant either violently establishing outward boundaries towards civilians, other contingents or other units, or “comrade discipline” within the group in the form of ritualised group beatings. When the fact is added that the military treated conscripts differently depending on their educational background and political outlook – barring suspected socialists from officer’s training – one must question to what extent military training in practice really served the cause of a greater national unity.

There was a recurrent notion that the Finnish common man was a brave soldier, but jealous of his self-determination, reluctant to conform to hierarchies and suspicious of “lords and masters”. This unyieldingness was sometimes criticised, but actually more often idealised as evidence of a particularly Finnish manliness. This becomes apparent in images of the civil guardsmen in the Civil War, in the political rhetoric of the Agrarians, as well as in Pentti Haanpää’s and many other men’s army stories. Men who were too eager to comply with the military educational objectives were derided as “war crazy” by their comrades in military training. According to the army stories, exaggerated expressions of dutifulness and patriotism were shunned among the conscripts. Sociologist Knut Pipping described a similar mindset among the soldiers in his own machine gun company during the Second World War in his 1947 dissertation. Heroism or bravery was appreciated only to the extent that it served the wellbeing and survival of the group, not as an end in itself. Historian Ville Kivimäki has analysed Pipping’s account as displaying how the soldiers used their own standards for evaluating each other, including heavy drinking and womanising, certainly not the ideals of the “conservative” military. The most iconic Finnish post-war Finnish war novel, Väinö Linna’s The Unknown Soldier (1954), depicted Finnish soldiers in the same vein as Pipping, brave and tough fighters, scornful of ostentatious discipline and lofty patriotic rhetoric. However, Kivimäki points out that even if Finnish soldiers in the Second World War openly rejected many of the values of the military, their own values took for granted that a man had to, and would, fight and defend the nation.

This concludes the Posts on Conscript Service in the 1920’s.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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The Suojeluskunta in the 1920's – the Finnish Civil Guard

Post by CanKiwi2 » 30 Apr 2011 13:23

I - Introduction

Earlier in this thread, we looked at the origins of the Suojeluskunta in the Finnish Civil War and the preceding unrest. In this post, we will go on to look at the Suojeluskunta and the associated Lotta Svard organisation for women in the 1920’s as a prelude to examining their changing roles and responsibilities through the 1930’s. At this point, I should state that the historical content in this Post is very largely based on the excellent English-language writeup on the history of the Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svard organizations written by Jarkko Vihavainen, to whom all credit goes for a very thorough presentation for organizations on which there isn’t that much available in English.

As mentioned in the earlier posts on the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard), this was an organisation of a type that is a little difficult for many in modern Western societies to grasp as the “Civil Guard” type organisation is somewhat alien a concept to our modern military organizations. That said, groups such as the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) are not all that uncommon in many areas of Europe and this types of volunteer military organization was widespread in the countries that liberated themselves during the the dismantlement of Tsarist Imperial Russian and indeed the Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svard organizations served as models for similar organizations that were setup in neighbouring countries in the Baltic and Scandanavia between the World Wars (and afterwards in some cases).

For example, the Latvian Aizsargu Organizācija ("Guards Organization") was a paramilitary militia that was created on March 30, 1919 by the Latvian provisional government as a self-defence force during the period of unrest and civil war that followed the Bolshevik Revolution. In 1921, the Aizsargi was reorganized to follow the example of the Finnish Suojeluskunta, with its own newspaper (Aizsargs - "Defender"/"Guard"), a women’s wing (the ("Aizsardzes") and a youth wing (the "Jaunsargi"). In January 1940, there were 31,766 aizsargi, 14,810 aizsardzes and 14,000 jaunsargu. The organisation was disbanded in June 1940 as a result of the Soviet occupation of Latvia but a similar organisation was reconstituted in 1991 (known as the Zemessardze, or National Home Guard) when Latvia once again became a free nation.
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Representatives of the Suojeluskunta visiting the Aizsargi organisation in Jelgava 1924. (Photo from Latvian War Museum)

In Estonia, a similar organisation existed from 1918 to 1940. This was named the Kaitseliit (National Defense Force), and again was in many regards very similar to the Finnish Civil Guard organization and system, having originally been formed as protection against the public disorder accompanying the Russian Revolution and then participating in the War of Independence. The attempted Communist coup in Estonia on December 1 1925 dispelled any doubts about the necessity for the Defence League Organisation and led to its strengthening. The Kaitseliit had its own newspaper, "Kaitse Kodu!" ("Defend Your Home!"), in 1927 the Women's Home Defence (Naiskodukaitse) auxilary was founded, in 1928 the boy scout organisation Young Eagles (Noored Kotkad) was invited to join the Defence League and finally in 1932, the Defence League’s Girls’ Corps (the Kodutütred) was established. These organisations were all abolished by the Soviet Union in 1940, but after Estonia regained independence, they were reconstituted in 1991. Today the Kaitseliit is three times larger than the standing Estonian Army and would act as a key component in meeting any threat to Estonian independance.
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Hiiumaa Kaitseliit

Note: A subsequent post will look at the Latvian Aizsargu Organizācija and the Estonian Kaitseliit as well as the relationship between Finland on one hand, and Estonia and Latvia on the other.

It should also be noted that in the early history of the United States there were a number of militia groups that bear a striking resemblance to the Finnish Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard), but over time these institutions have died away or have been swallowed into larger and more "orthodox" defense organizations such as the US National Guard. The Civil Guard in Finland has in fact been compared by many to the “modern” National Guard Units of the United States, but this is not accurate nor is this a good comparison. There are some similarities but the differences are also significant. While the principle behind the Civil Guard is not unique to Finland it is very different than what most in the West are accustomed to hence the confusion many have on the history and role of the Civil Guard.

II - Bitter Winners and Sore Losers - Reds and Whites in the 1920s

As the turmoil of the Great War and the Revolution in Russia finally calmed down along the Finnish borders in the early 1920s, many Conservatives had already begun to feel that the "War of Liberation" had ended too soon and in an inconclusive fashion. New critics joined in the public discussion by openly accusing the political leadership of wasting what some now saw as a unique opportunity for territorial expansion into the historic Finnish lands of Eastern Karelia by signing the Treaty of Tartu - some went even further, cursing the moderate politicians for their decision to stay out of the Russian Civil War, thus allowing the Bolsheviks to retain their hold on Petrograd and indirectly helping them to win. Back at home many felt there were still accounts to be settled with the radical left. The survival of the SDP as the strongest political force in the country was especially galling for many White veterans of the Civil War.

In the 1920s, the Akateeminen Karjala-Seura (the Academic Karelia Society or AKS) soon became the dominant group among Finnish university students after three volunteer veterans of the Heimosodat (Kinship Wars) had created the organisation in March 1922 (and in fact the AKS controlled the student union of the University of Helsinki from the mid-1920s right up to 1944, when, OTL, it was disbanded). Its members often retained their membership after their student days ended and the AKS therefore quickly expanded its influence among young civil servants, teachers, lawyers, physicians and clergymen as well as in the officer-class of the Army throughout the country during the 1920s. Most Lutheran clergymen had been strongly pro-White during the Civil War and the influence of the AKS further increased the nationalistic character of the Finnish Lutheran Church – and the Lutheran Church was one of the most influential organizations for the changing of public opinion in the country. The AKS and its propaganda focused on "uniting the oppressed tribe of Karelians with rest of Finland" strongly affecting the worldview of the entire first generation of educated Finns living in independent Finland, resulting in a common mood that was relentlessly anti-Soviet and expansionistic.
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AKS Poster

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The AKS’ 20 year anniversary book (1942): “Me Uskomme / We Believe”. OTL, the organization was banned in 1944 – after the Finnish government broke its alliance with Germany — as a “fascist” organization. One of the important goals of the AKS was to unite the Finno-Ugrian-speaking areas of Soviet Karelia which were traditionally Finnish into Greater Finland. Stalin sent many thousands of Karelian and Ingrian Finns to their deaths in Siberia and Central Asia both before and after the war, and brought in Russians to replace them. Today, in most of Soviet Karelia and Ingria only Russian is spoken - after 2.000 years of being the Finnish heartland, almost no Finnish peoples remain.

The political and philosophical ideology of the AKS had its main roots in the philosophy of the 19th century Finnish statesman Johan Vilhelm Snellman, who emphasized a strong national state and the need to bring the Finnish language into the forefront of Finnish cultural life, which was at that time dominated almost exclusively by the Swedish language. The nationalistic ideology of the AKS also stemmed from the common European discussion of national rights based on the 14 points of President Wilson. The experience of the Finnish Civil War bolstered a deep anti-socialist sentiment in Finnish nationalist circles of that time. One of the slogans the AKS used was "Pirua ja Ryssää Vastaan!" (“Against the Devil and the Ruskies!”) where the devil is a reference to the Society's main domestic enemies, the socialists and the communists. Despite holding views that might be seen as similar to those of the Fascist movement of Italy, there were no influences from abroad - the AKS was founded before the Fascist march on Rome and its origins were purely domestic. The group was founded by Elias Simojoki, Erkki Räikkönen and Reino Vähäkallio. The initiation ceremony involved among other things kissing the flag of the AKS, within which was sown the bullet that Bobi Siven had shot himself with (Sivén, a Finnish nationalist, had shot himself in protest when Finland relinquished control of the Repola and Porajärvi Parishes to the Soviet Union in accordance with the Treaty of Dorpat). All members taking the oath for the order kissed the flag and the bullet in the initiation ceremony.
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Akateeminen Karjala-Seura. Sällskapet odlade flitigt olika ritualer. I fanan som användes i sådana sammanhang hade man sytt in den kula som ändade martyren Bobi Sivéns liv. Här ett fackeltåg vid dennes grav på tioårsdagen av organisationens grundande 22/ 2 1932.

Many of the founders of the AKS were veterans of the Karelian wars and thus had first-hand knowledge of the plight of the Karelian-speaking population in Soviet Karelia. The Karelians were considered to be a part of the Finnish heimo (folk) and their fate was of the utmost importance for the AKS. The Academic Karelia Society's program was centered on their main demand: the liberation of Eastern Karelia from Soviet Russia and the freeing of the Karelian kinfolk. Working towards this goal was mainly done by propagandist efforts to keep the matter in the public eye. The AKS also organized aid to Finnic minorities in Soviet Russia and refugees from there and promoted cultural efforts to help the Finnish-speaking minorities of northern Sweden and Norway. They also tried to cultivate a closer friendship between the newly independent states of Finland and the Finno-Ugric states of Estonia (and to lesser degree Hungary).

Domestically the AKS was an emphatic proponent of a strengthened army and for strict restrictions against Socialists and Communists, although at the same time the AKS stressed the need for improving the lot of the working classes in the interests of the national community. It also promoted the Finnish language becoming the first language in the country, especially in the Universities and in the state bureaucracy. Initially the group was ambivalent towards democracy but under the chairmanship of Vilho Helanen it came to oppose the concept. As a result, in the 1930s, the AKS was an ally of the ultra-right Patriotic People's Movement party (IKL). The AKS also maintained close ties with a militant secret society called Vihan Veljet (literal translation from Finnish: "Brothers of Hate" - this was a militant clandestine group within the Akateeminen Karjala-Seura (AKS). Members swore a blood oath to foster and uphold hatred toward the Russian people. Some authors claim that Vihan Veljet was actually a group inside the AKS, not a separate organization, but there is not much evidence either way).

OTL, after the end of World War II, the organization was labeled "fascistic" and officially disbanded on the order of the Allied Control Commission, and the archives of AKS were hidden or destroyed. Prominent former members include many academics, bishops, business leaders, generals and politicians (e.g. president Urho Kekkonen). Many officers of the Finnish army during the wars of 1939–1940 and 1941–1944 were members of the Society.

Note: By way of further background, a subsequent post will give a brief overview of the historically Finnish lands within the Soviet Union, their history and their subsequent fate at the hands of the Russians both before and after WW2.

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This gives some idea of the areas that the Akateeminen Karjala-Seura rightly considered to be part of “Greater Finland” by virtue of being traditionally inhabited by Finno-Ugric speakers. In particular, the territories along the eastern border of Finland to the White Sea, which had for as long as history has been recorded been populated by Finnish Karelians were called Eastern Karelia in Finland. Most of the poems in the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, were collected from this area and as the ideas of Finnish nationalism gained ground at the end of the 19th century, supporters of a Great Finland hoped that the territory would be incorporated to Finland. The Finnish populations of theses territories were not at the time inspired by the same idea, most of them were members of the Russian Orthodox Church rather than Lutherans and preferred the traditional Russian administration, referring to the Finns from Finland as “Swedes”.

At the beginning of 1918, the supporters of “greater Finland” began to organize expeditions in order to persuade the Eastern Karelians to join Finland. The Senate and the Commander-in-Chief (Mannerheim) supported the projects. Mannerheim even went a step further and promised not to put his sword into the scabbard (the Order of the Day of the Sword Scabbard), until White Karelia and Aunus were liberated from Lenin’s “hooligans”. This led to fighting between the Allies and Allied-supported forces and the Finnish expeditionary forces in the region as the Allies sought to keep the Murmansk Railway in Russian hands so as to enable military supplies to continue to be transported to the Russian military as the Allies endeavoured to keep the Russians in the War against Germany. Perhaps unfortunately for the dreams of the Finnish nationalists, the Finnish alliance with Germany at the time firmly placed Finland in the enemy camp and meant that the Allies actively fought against them in 1918.

After Germany and Russia signed the Brest Peace Treaty on 3 March, 1918, the policy of the Finnish government became more cautious. In April and May 1918, preparations were made in Mannerheim’s headquarters for an operation in Aunus, in order to encourage “Finnish” thinking and to assist the Russian White forces in the liberation of St Petersburg from the Bolsheviks. The Senate, however, prevented this project from being carried out. Mannerheim believed that the White Russians would show their gratitude by ceding Eastern Karelia to Finland. The idea of incorporating Eastern Karelia into Finland became more intense during the Heimosodat (Kinship War) expeditions of 1918-1922, and afterwards when the members of the Akateeminen Karjala Seura (Academic Karelia Association), became rather more powerful and influential. After 1922 Mannerheim did not publicly give his support to these projects and in the 1930s they were overshadowed by other issues, but as we will see, the issue again came to the fore after the Winter War broke out.


A Note on leading members of the Akateeminen Karjala-Seura

Vilho Veikko Päiviö Helanen: (24 November 1899, Oulu - 8 June 1952, Frankfurt, West Germany). Vilho Helanen was a Finnish civil servant and politician. A student as the University of Helsinki he gained an MA in 1923 and completed his doctorate in 1940. From 1924 to 1926 he edited the student paper Ylioppilaslehti and around this time also joined the Academic Karelia Society. He served as chairman of the group from 1927-8, from 1934-5 and again from 1935-44, helping to turn the Society against democracy. Helanen visited Estonia in 1933 and was amazed at the high levels of popular support for the far right that he witnessed there, in contrast to Finland where it was a more marginal force. As a result he was involved in the coup attempt of the Vaps Movement in Estonia in 1935. Helanen was a major inspiration for the Patriotic People's Movement and a close friend of Elias Simojoki, although he did not join the group. He formed his own group, Nouseva Suomi, in 1940 which, despite his earlier radicalism, became associated with the mainstream National Progressive Party. Rising to be head of the civil service during the Second World War he was imprisoned after the war for treasonable offences. Following his release he worked for Suomi-Filmi and also wrote a series of detective novels.

Lauri Elias Simojoki (28 January 189, Rautio – 25 January 1940) was a Finnish clergyman who became a leading figure in the country's far right movement. Himself the son of a clergyman, as a youth he saw service in the struggle for Finnish independence and then with the Forest Guerrillas in East Karelia. A student in theology at the University of Helsinki, he became involved in the formation of Academic Karelia Society, serving as chairman from 1922-3 and secretary from 1923-4. He advocated the union of all Finnish people into a Greater Finland whilst in this post. Strongly influenced by Russophobia, the student Simojoki addressed a rally on 'Kalevala Day' in 1923 with the slogan "death to the Ruskis", after accusing Russia of dividing "the Kalevala race".
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Simojoki was ordained as a minister in 1925 and he held the chaplaincy at Kiuruvesi from 1929 until his death. He became involved with the Patriotic People's Movement and, in 1933, set up their youth movement, Sinimustat (The Blue-and-Blacks), which looked for inspiration to similar movements amongst fascist parties in Germany and Italy. The movement was banned in 1936 due to its involvement in revolutionary activity in Estonia, although Simojoki continued to serve as a leading member of the Patriotic People's Movement. He was a Member of Parliament from 1933-1939 and founded a second youth group, Mustapaidat (the Black Shirts), in 1937, although this proved less successful. When the Winter War broke out in 1939 Simojoki enlisted as a chaplain in the Finnish Army. He was shot on active duty, while putting down a wounded horse in no man's land, and died of his wounds on 25 January 1940.

Erkki Aleksanteri Räikkönen (August 13, 1900, St Petersburg - March 30, 1961) was a Finnish nationalist leader. He attended the University of Helsinki before taking part as a Volunteer in the ill-fated mission to secure independence for Karelia in 1921. Like most of those who took part in this action he joined the Academic Karelia Society (AKS), in his case helping to found the movement along with Elias Simojoki and Reino Vähäkallio. He quit the AKS in 1928 to join the Itsenäisyyden Liitto (Independence League), a group that had been formed by Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, Räikkönen's most admired political figure. Räikkönen took this decision in response to the banning of the Lapua Movement, a move that had left the far right in Finland without a wide organisational basis (groups like the AKS only having a small, elite membership). Along with Herman Gummerus and Vilho Annala, Räikkönen was the founder of the Patriotic People's Movement (IKL) in 1932. He would not stay a member long however as the group soon became purely Finnish (isolating the Swedish-speaking Räikkönen) and moved closer to Fascism, which he opposed. After leaving the movement he contented himself with editing the journal Suomen Vapaussota, whilst also becoming involved in the Gustav Vasa movement, a right wing organization for Finland's Swedish-speaking population. He ultimately emigrated to Sweden in 1945 and lived out his life there in retirement.

And on the other side of the political spectrum....

On the other side of the political spectrum, the Finnish Communists equally felt that the Civil War had been only the beginning of their struggle against their counter-revolutionary opponents. Openly backed by a steadily strengthening Soviet Union, the Communist Party of Finland, the SKP, trained new “Red” military forces in Soviet Karelia where radicalized former Social Democratic leaders and over 5000 refugees from the Red side of the Civil War were actually promoting virtually similar goals to their Conservative opponents – the unification of Eastern Karelia and Finland, except in their case, under the Communists. As a result of their work Finnish was the second official language in the new Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, and propaganda broadcasts from the Petroskoi (Петрозаво́дск) Radio openly threatened listeners in Finland that the day of reckoning would soon come. New cadres of Red Finnish officer cadets were trained annually in Leningrad, and after the failed uprisings of the 1920s the Red Army even organized a Karelian unit of their own in the form of the Karelian Jaeger Brigade (Каре́льская е́герская брига́да). Because of the fresh memories of the Heimosodat (Kinship Wars) and the postwar status of Eastern Karelia as a "Red Piedmonte" where Finnish revolutionaries were clearly preparing for revanche, the official relations between Helsinki and Moscow were thus understandably icy.
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1928. The Karelian Jäger Battalion on parade in Petrozavodsk

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March 12, 1930. The first company of the Karelian Jäger Battalion

After the suppression of the Karelian uprising of 1921-1922 the Central Committee of C.P.S.U.(B.) on March 5th 1922 decided to start Finnicising the Karelian Labour Commune. The leadership of the Karelian Labour Commune went to the so-called "Red Finns". The Finnish language became the official language in the Commune and was used as the main language in Karelian schools and as the language used for cultural and political work among Karelians. On July 25th 1925 the Karelian Labour Commune was transformed into the Autonomous Karelian Soviet Socialist Republic (AKSSR). From a political perspective the "Red Finns" saw the AKSSR as the outpost of the "world revolution" in the North of Europe. There objective was to expand the AKSSR into "The great Red Finland" and even "Red Scandinavia".

This policy also included the creating of a special national military unit within the AKSSR. On October 15th 1925 in Petrozavodsk the Karelian Jäger Battalion was established personally by the Chairman of the AKSSR Soviet People's Commissar Edvard Gylling. The battalion consisted of four companies, with the battalion quarters in Petrozavodsk, in the buildings of the former Orthodox theological seminary on Gogol Street. The first battalion commander was Eyolf Igneus-Mattson, holding the position till 1928. The first commissar was A.Mantere. In 1927 he was replaced by Urho Antikainen. In October 1931 "due to the aggressive external policy of Finland towards the USSR" and because of the high number of convicts in the territory of the AKSSR, the battalion was transformed into the Karelian Jäger Brigade. The Brigade formation was completed by December 25th 1931. The brigade commander, by recommendation of Edvard Gylling, was Eyolf Igneus-Mattson.
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Eyolf Igneus-Mattson: Igneous-Mattson was born to a well-to-do Swedish family on the Åland Islands (Finland) in 1897. He graduated from the Higher Technical School in Helsinki and participated in the Red revolt, after the defeat of which he escaped to Soviet Russia, where he finished military training at the Petrograd International Military School. From the summer 1919 he was the commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 164th Infantry Regiment (in August 1919 renamed the 2nd Finnish Regiment), he took part in the battle at Sulazhgora Heights and was decorated with the Order of the Red Banner. He graduated from the Military Academy of the Red Army. From 1925-1928 he was the commander of the detached Karelian Jäger Battalion, from 1931-1934 commander of the detached Karelian Jäger Brigade. In November 26th 1935 he was promoted to the rank of Kombrig (Brigade General). In 1936 became the head of the sub-faculty of general tactics in the M.Frunze Military Academy of the Red Army. In May 28th 1936 he was arrested. He was released in 1946, rehabilitated in 1957 and died on May 25th 1965.
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Early 1930's. The Red Army's Karelian Jäger Brigade on the march

The Karelian Jäger Brigade consisted of two Jäger Battalions (the Petrozavodsk and the Olonets), one artillery battalion, one field company and one communications company. The Brigade was a territorial military unit - the soldiers served their five-year terms near their homes by way of serving several 8 to 12 months musters. In the case of mobilization two more battalions would be formed (the Zaonezhsky and the Vepsky). In June 1932, when the Karelian registration and enlistment office was liquidated, the Brigade Headquarters was supplemented with enlistment and quartermaster departments. The territorial formation of military units was usual for the Red Army at the time, but the name "Jäger" was unique within the Red Army. It was proposed by the leadership of the AKSSR as an analog of the Finnish jäger units. Another big difference was that all commanding posts it the Brigade were held by Finns and Karelians.

The Karelian Jäger Brigade was the only military unit on the territory of the AKSSR. In the case of war with Finland the Brigade operational plans were to cover Petrozavodsk from a Finnish invasion. The last stand, as in 1919, was planned to be the Sulashgora Heights. As an alternative there were plans to move the Brigade to the Kola Peninsula to repel any British landing forces. The activities of the "Red Finns" were carried on to a background of increasing political repression. In the spring of 1930 the OGPU arrested a group of "Red Finns" holding commanding positions in the detached Karelian Jäger Battalion. A second wave of arrests began in 1932 and involved mainly the officers of the 2nd (Olonets) Battalion of the detached Karelian Jäger Brigade. 20 men were shot as a result of the investigation for "counterrevolusionary rebel organisation".

In 1933 the OGPU "disclosed" the so called "plot of the Finnish General Headqurters". Some of the commanding officers of the detached Karelian Jäger Brigade were subjected to arrest and removed from their positons. From January 1934 a Josef Kalvan was appointed as brigade commander (known as “The Latvian”, Kalvan was born in January 25th, 1896 to a peasant family. He was decorated with the three Orders of the Red Banner. In November 26th 1935 he was conferred the rank of Kombrig (Brigade General). He was arrested on December 2nd 1937 and executed on September 12nd, 1938) and in 1935 the "Red Finns" were removed from the all leadership positions in Karelia and the detached Karelian Jäger Brigade was disbanded. At the end of 1935 the 18th Yaroslavl Infantry Division was stationed on the territory of AKSSR, with some units of the Karelian brigade now incuded within this Division. The majority of the Officers, NCO’s and Soldiers of the Karelian Jäger Brigade were killed during the mass political repressions of the later 1930’s.

The Karelian ASSR NKVD “… found and destroyed a counterrevolutionary rebel organisation. This organisation emerged in 1920 with the coming to Karelia of the group of bourgeois nationalists: Gylling, Mäki and Forsten, that held leadership positions on the Karelian Revolutionary Committee. By spreading their counterrevolutionary activity and including into it Finnish and Swedish political emigrants, former members of Finnish Social-Democratic Party Rovio, Matson⁸, Vilmi, Usenius, Saksman, Jarvimäki and others this counter-revolutionary group seized the main Party and Soviets posts in Karelia. The activities of this counterrevolutionary organisation were directed towards the intervention and capture of Soviet Karelia by Finland…Holding the main commanding posts in Karelia this nationalist organisation organised … preparation of armed uprising by the means of … creating of the infantry jäger brigade, staffed by national commanding and political officers. In this brigade they spread their counterrevolutionary propaganda and used it as a base for creating rebel organisations on the all territories of the Republic, this activity was performed in close junction with the "rights", working in Karelia…"

The draft of the "unreliable" Finns and Karelians into Red Army was stopped by 1938. By the end of summer 1939 the few remaining Finnish officers were called from the reserve and in the middle of November there was a mass draft of Finns and Karelians. At the time in Petrosavodsk was formed the 1st Infantry Corps of the so called "Finnish People's Army"… “(The Corps commander and Minister of Defence in the government of the puppet Finnish Democratic Republic was Komdiv (Division General) Aksel Anttila - former Karelian Jäger Brigade Headquarters Deputy Chief).

An interesting Case Study: Edvard Gylling, Chairman of the AKSSR Soviet People's Commissar and “Karelian Fever”.

Edvard Otto Vilhelm Gylling (30 November 1881, Kuopio – 14 June 1938) was a prominent Social Democratic politician in Finland and later the leader of Soviet Karelia. He was a member of the Finnish Parliament for the Social Democratic Party of Finland from 1908–1917 and was active during the Finnish Civil War as the Commissar of Finance for the revolutionary "red" Finnish government. On 1 March 1918, when a Treaty between the socialist governments of Russia and Finland was signed in St Petersburg, the Treaty was signed by Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin from the Russian side and by Council of the Peoples Representatives of Finland Edvard Gylling and Oskari Tokoi. After the Reds lost the war, Gylling fled to Sweden but later moved to the Soviet Union. He became one of the main leaders of the Karelo-Finnish ASSR as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Karelo-Finnish SSR from 1920–1935. He was accused of nationalism, removed in 1935 and arrested in 1937. There are some contradictions concerning Gyllings death. According to earlier Soviet sources, Gylling died in August 1944, but according to other sources he was actually executed earlier, 1940 or 1938. According to the most recent information, the most likely date of his execution was 14 June 1938.

Gylling more than anyone else was responsible for what has become known as Karelian Fever. Karelian Fever struck in the United States and Canada in the early 1930s, affecting mainly, but not exclusively, first generation Finnish-Americans. Finnish immigrants to North America were divided roughly into two categories: the Church Finns and the Hall Finns; the latter tended to lean to the left politically and some were active Communists. When recruiters went to the Halls to extol the virtues of the Russian Soviet way of life, many were tempted to leave America. The Depression was making life very difficult for farmers, miners, woods workers and small business owners; they were "experiencing the ruthless exploitation of capitalism." At the time, an interesting situation prevailed in Karelia, the Russian province located near the southwestern border of Finland. Dr. Edvard Gylling, a brilliant Finnish Communist, had become the prime minister of the province and hoped to make it a mainly Finnish-speaking area. In the first Russian Five-Year-Plan strategists assigned production quotas for Karelia which Gylling knew could not be met without financial help and skilled workers from other countries, specifically the United States and Canada. So the call went out for Finnish-speaking construction workers, loggers and fishermen to come to the “workers' paradise” and bring money and equipment with them.

Inasmuch as the first generation of American Finns could read English only with difficulty, they got a very slanted picture of conditions in Russia from the Finnish Communist papers, the Tymies and Eteenpain. According to Mayme Sevander who has done serious research on the topic, as of 1996 she had identified 5,596 people who responded to the call, selling their belongings in North America and taking the money to Karelia. Boatloads of several hundred sailed together to the strains of the Internationale and the waving of red flags. They were an idealistic people, willing to work hard to establish a new society. The largest groups left in 1930-31, but by 1934 the size of the groups had diminished to as low as eight or ten. Of the almost 6,000 who emigrated, only 1,346 returned. Seven-hundred-ninety men and sixty-three women are known to have been executed during Stalins purges; many others died in labor camps of starvation during the Finnish-Russian War and during World War II. Some still live in Karelia. (See “From Soviet Bondage” by Sevander, 1996).

If you’d like to read more on this subject, try the following books:
• The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia by Tim Tzouliadis
• They Took My Father: Finnish Americans in Stalin's Russia by Mayme Sevander
• Karelia – a Finnish-American Couple in Stalin’s Russia by Anita Middleton
• Soviet Karelia: Politics, Planning and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1920-1939 by Nick Baron

Returning now to Edvard Gylling any explanation of Karelian Fever must begin with the life and career of Edvard Gylling, whose life can be divided into two halves. He was born in Kuopio, Finland in 1881 and up to June 1918 he resided in Finland. He grew up in a prosperous middle class family and became steeped in Finnish patriotism and Finnish cultural identity early in life. Gylling grew up in a family of women, his mother and sisters raised him as his father was often away on assignment for the Finnish state railway. On the family estate he learned his love for the countryside and became aware of the poverty that then afflicted so many in rural Finland. Gylling entered the University.of Helsinki in 1900 at the height of Russification under the hated Russian Governor General Bobrikov. He joined the Old Finn Party, believing, like other members of that party that conciliation toward the Russian authorities would encourage Bobrikov to mitigate his policies. Gylling won a scholarship to study in Germany for 6 months in 1904. He returned to Finland to find his homeland, the Grand Duchy of Finland, in a state of revolution. Gyliing had been exposed to socialist ideas in Germany and on his return he quickly joined the Finnish Social Democratic Party.
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Edvard Gylling

Starting from 1905, Gylling became prominent in the Finnish Social Democratic Party. He entered Parliament and became the party's expert on agrarian matters. He also continued his academic career, writing his doctoral dissertation in 1909 and joining the faculty of the University of Helsinki in 1911. Gylling became a pioneer in the application of statistical methods to historical research and also became the official demographer of the city of Helsinki, conducting a census for the capital and for Finland as a whole. Such works are still widely consulted. Gylling's publications in the first decade of the 20th century concerned the sorry plight of the Finnish crofters who were emigrating to the U.S. in large numbers. He also wrote about the exploited state of the Finnish peasantry when Finland had been a Swedish province. Gylling addressed the Finnish Crofter's Association and drafted the Agrarian Program for the Finnish Social Democratic Party. His work on agrarian issues and his statistical research made him acutely aware of how serious were Finland's demographic losses, primarily to the U.S., in the period 1894-1914.

Sosialistinen Aikalislehti was Finland's first Social Democratic journal, for which Gylling served as editor in chief from 1906-1908. He was a prominent member of the SD party but also decidedly a moderate and a non-Marxist who wanted to work in parliament via coalitions with bourgois parties. With the Russian revolution of 1917, Gylling sought first and foremost autonomy for Finland if not outright independence. The Provisional Government in Russia refused to grant Finland independence but the Bolsheviks did in December 1917. Despite Gylling's efforts at mediation between his own countrymen, civil war broke out between radical socialists and members of the working class opposing the large landowners and the middle class. Gylling deplored the conflict, seeing that it would only compound the demographic losses already incurred from emigration. In whatever he did Gylling found a unifying principle in Finnish nationalism. He deplored the emigration from Finland of the early 20th century just as he deplored the Finnish civil war. Both phenomena undermined the demographic stability of Finland. In politics Gylling was committed to compromise and negotiation and believed that even the most contradictory principles could be reconciled. He very reluctantly accepted the appointment as Member of the Revolutionary Government and Minister Plenipteniary for Finances and was the last high-ranking member of the Red government to leave Finland, doing so in May 1918. The victorious White government refused his offer to negotiate, and put a price on his head and as a result, Gylling, disguised as a woman, escaped to Stockholm where he spent the next two years of his life, from 1918-1920.
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In 1906 Gylling was engaged to Fanny Achren. Both had been raised in central Finland and had a strong love for rural Finland. Edvard and Fanny were married on June 14, 1906. Gylling would be executed on their 32nd wedding anniversary by the Soviet regime as a bourgeois nationalist. His wife's execution would follow shortly thereafter.

Gylling spent two years in Stockholm before receiving permission from Lenin himself to head the new Karelian Workers' Commune. In Stockholm Gylling had somewhat reluctantly joined the new Finnish Communist Party founded by his former school mate O.W. Kuusinen. Lenin wanted Soviet control over Karelia secured. Gylling wanted to create a Finnish homeland under the aegis of the new Bolshevik government. He negotiated from Lenin agreements on the use of the Finnish language and restrictions on the immigration of Russians to Kareliaand in the process transformed himself from a prominent Finnish Social Democrat to an important Soviet official as the Permanent Chairman of the Karelian Council of People's Commissars. In the Soviet Union Gylling quickly became the most important political figure in Karelia. By 1923 he was Permanent Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars.

The road to power in Karelia had not been direct, however. From Stockholm in 1918, he had written Lenin of a plan to make Karelia, in the far northwest corner the new Russian Republic, a place of refuge for Red Finns fleeing the victorious Whites after the Finnish Civil War. Lenin was not interested, but in 1920 when Lenin sought to secure Soviet control of Karelia before negotiations that fall which would determine the Soviet northwest border, Gylling's earlier proposal appeared useful. He invited Gylling to Moscow where the two conducted negotiations on Karelia's future status. Lenin promised that Karelia would retain a Finnish character, and Russian immigration would be kept to a minimum. Gylling acquired a measure of budgetary autonomy for Karelia and made Finnish equal to the Russian language in official transactions. In fact, in schools and in official business as well as in record keeping, Finnish replaced Russian as the language of Karelia.

Gylling wrote an article in 1925 on his plans for the future development of Karelia, revealing his concept of Karelia as a distinctive region of the Soviet Union, geographically, geologically and economically bound to the Finno-Scandinavian plateau of which it was an integral part. For Gylling, Karelia's proximity to Finland and its tradition as the place where the events of the Finnish national epoch, The Kalevala, had occurred were far more significant than Karelia's position as a constituent part of the Soviet Union. Gylling maintained the Finnish character of Karelia through the 1920's. With the imposition of Stalin's First Five Year Plan in 1929, Russian in-migration in the form of a large, new work force would surely change the ethnic character of Karelia and do so dramatically. Gylling decided to recruit an ethnically Finnish work force in North America. He had seen the North American Finnish diaspora form earlier in the century. Since the 1920's it had often sent aid to Karelia.

In late 1928 or early 1929, Gylling travelled to Moscow to argue for the continued ethnic and economic autonomy for Karelia despite pressures imposed by the First Five Year Plan calling for fast paced industrial development. Gylling feared that the high industrial targets would mean the recruitment of a Russian work force that would dilute the Finnish character of Karelia. K. Rovio, head of the Karelian Communist Party, also shared Gylling's commitment to a Finnish Karelia. In March 1931 Gylling and other prominent figures from Karelia again travelled toMoscow to make a special case for the right to recruit workers from abroad. Gylling drafted the petition requesting permission to invite lumberjacks and others skilled in the timber industry to come to Karelia and assist in the exploitation of Karelia's "green gold." At the Sixteenth Party Congress held the summer before, Molotov had called for inviting foreign workers and experts to contribute to the Soviet Union's industrial development as part of the First Five Year Plan. Gylling now built on Molotov's suggestion (which came direct from Stalin) to plead for a foreign, i.e. Finnish work force for Karelia. Gylling knew that such a work force existed in North America. He had calculated the demographic losses as a historian and statistician in Finland and now he hoped to recruit that work force for Karelia in order to maintain Karelia's Finnish character. He would conduct such recruitment under the protection of Molotov's recent directive. In effect, Gylling would recruit the Finnish North American diaspora to his Finnish homeland of Karelia.


However, by the end of the 1930's Gylling and the North American Finns whom he recruited to live and work in Soviet Karelia would come to share the same fate. Gylling's position in Karelia began to deteriorate in 1935. In early 1935 Gylling presented his production goals for Karelia in Moscow. He faced a hostile audience - Moscow was about to withdraw Karelia's budgetary independence – which had been negotiated by Gylling in the early 1920's. Important members of the Soviet government had begun to question the presence of so many North American Finns in Karelia, a border region next door to Finland, which was known to be hostile to the Soviet Union. In October 1935 he was forced to sign a denunciation of Finnish nationalism in Karelia, the very policy that he had earlier maintained with Moscow's support. The following month he was recalled to Moscow where he joined Rovio, who had been sent there in August. Both men were replaced by Russians. Some of the Finnish Americans believed that Gylling had been promoted, not understanding that their own security was now as precarious as his. 1938 saw a dramatic turn in the fortunes of Gylling and the North American Finns whom he had recruited to Karelia. Gylling was arrested and shot in June 1938. As of July 1 1938 the Finnish language was outlawed and in Karelia Finnish newspapers and the Finnish radio station were shut down and Finnish books were burned.
Finnish Americans were now caught up in the holocaust that had begun in late 1936 in the rest of the Soviet Union. Many of those Finnish Americans who had joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were arrested and executed. Most of the children were spared, that is anyone in the Finnish American community under age 21 by 1938. There were, however, tragic exceptions. A 16 year old Finnish American studying in the Petrozavodsk Conservatory was arrested and shot. The secret police as elsewhere had a quota of victims to meet. But in Karelia another element came in to play: circumstances had given those who envied the work ethic, prosperity, and higher standard of living of the Finnish Americans the opportunity to exact revenge. The newly appointed Russian administrators of Karelia now exacted a terrible toll on the North American Finns, who had worked so hard under Gyllings leadership.

Edvard Gylling was executed in June 1938. His wife, Fanny, was executed shortly thereafter. Of the almost 6,000 North American Finns who emigrated to Karelia, only 1,346 returned. Seven-hundred-ninety men and sixty-three women are known to have been executed during Stalins purges; many others died in labor camps of starvation during the Finnish-Russian War and during World War II. Some few escaped over the border to Finland or managed to return to North America by other means. Some still live in Karelia.

You can read some of the survivors stories here: http://www.d.umn.edu/~apogorel/karelia/ ... .html#ruth

Obviously, news and information trickled across the border, with refugees and escapers from the Soviet Union providing some information. It was not just a perceived threat that Finland faced. But from immediately after the end of the Civil War, with conflicts still endemic along the border and the Bolsheviks consolidating power, Finnish Conservatives responded by further improving their efforts to create a new and stable status quo within the country. Their program of creating a new Finland was predicated on the support of the paramilitary Suojeluskunta organization, the Civil Guards militia that soon became one of the key cornerstones of post-war Finnish society. "We must win the working class over to the side of our nation!" was one of the key propaganda slogans of the AKS (and the Army), and the chief aim of all civic activity in Finland during 1920s was indeed focused on improving the sense of Finnish national unity that had been tarnished by the Civil War. This was to be achieved by binding all segments of society together, "uprooting" Communism in the process. The Suojeluskunta and its associated female volunteer organization Lotta Svärd formed an umbrella group organizing various kinds of activity: training manuals, lectures, citizenship courses, national youth organizations (Sotilaspojat for boys and Pikkulotat for girls), sport clubs and actual military training and practices. The unifying theme in both organizations was the pessimistic worldview where an invasion from the East, from the Soviet Union, was not only probable, but imminent (a viewpoint that, given the activities on the Soviet side of the border and subsequent events, was certainly valid).
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II – The Suojeluskunta in the 1920’s

Post by CanKiwi2 » 03 May 2011 21:17

II – The Suojeluskunta in the 1920’s

At the same time, the end of the Civil War had brought the Suojeluskunta a challenge. The existing Suojeluskunta organizations had been originally organized as voluntary units for maintaining local security in the chaos of the collapse of the Tsarist Russian Empire, a situation which was no longer valid. With the ending of the Civil War and the White victory, Finland was now truly independent, but with the Soviet Union across the border, with Red Finns organizing and training in Soviet Karelia, and with a dissident working class, many of whom had actively fought for the Reds in the Civil War, Finland needed to safeguard itself against both interior and exterior enemies. The Finnish Army was still very small as we have seen, and as a “Cadre” Army could not have coped with any foreign attack on its own. Having an internal paramilitary organization which would guarantee the safeguarding of Finland against external and interior enemies was seen as important – in the event of external conflict, this organisation would provide trained reinforcements to the Army, and in the event of internal conflict, the organisation could be counted on to be politically reliable and support the Government in putting down any renewal of armed internal opposition.

The Suojeluskunta was seen as the organisation which would enable these security objectives to be met, but to do this the organisation needed to be redesigned and uniformly rebuilt nation wide. Redesigning and restructuring the new organization raised a number of critical questions, debate over which continued well into the 1920s. The more important of these questions included:
- Should Suojeluskunta membership be voluntary or obligatory?
- What should be the main missions of the Suojeluskunta?
- What relationship should the Suojeluskunta have to the Finnish Army, the Finnish political system, and local authorities?

On the 4th of July of 1918, representatives of 171 local Suojeluskuntas gathered in the town of Jyväskylä. The decisions and resolutions made in Jyväskylä had a profound impact on the future of the Suojeluskuntas and greatly influenced the first piece of legislation on the Suojeluskunta, which was a statute legislated by the Finnish Senate on 2 August 1918. The statute was short in text and rather vague on some matters, but it cleared up things considerably and put in place the legislative groundwork needed for creating the new organization. At the same time it recognized the status of the Suojeluskuntas on the part of the State. Matters covered in the legislation included:
- The Suojeluskunta was defined as a State-wide voluntary organization with local and district levels. Each local area would have a local Suojeluskunta;
- The country would be divided to Suojeluskunta districts, all of which would include several localities. Basic organizational structure was defined, with Local and District HQ’s and Chiefs, as well as how these should be created;
- The Suojeluskunta organization would not be part of the Army, but would be a separate entity having its own Commander-in-Chief;
- Membership eligibility requirements were set as being “trustworthy males of at least 17 years of age”. The process of selecting members was that they must be volunteers with a recommendation. Members could be active or passive;
- The Suojeluskunta oath was introduced for all Suojeluskunta;
- The Suojeluskunta were given rights to accept donations and to own property.

The Organizational and Command Structure of the Suojeluskunta

The statute also set out the organizational and command structure for the Suojeluskunta (usually abbreviated to Sk). Initially, there was no overall HQ, and in military matters the Suojeluskuntas were directly subordinate to the Defense Ministry. The statute made the leader of the Senate's Committee of Military Matters, Major-General Wilhelm Thesleff the first Commander-in-Chief of the Suojeluskuntas and gave the Suojeluskuntas their own representative in the Defense Ministry.
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Major-General Wilhelm Thesleff (July 27, 1880 in Vyborg - March 26, 1941 in Helsinki): as the first Minister of Defence of Finland and briefly the Commander in Chief of the Finnish army, Thesleff was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Suojeluskuntas. Thesleff began his military career in 1894 at the Hamina Cadet School from which he graduated in 1901. He continued his military studies in St Petersburg at the Nikolai General Staff Academy over the years 1904-1907 and the the Officers Cavalry School from 1910-1911. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, 12 June 1912. Thesleff fought in the first world war in the Russian army (1914-1917), until he was captured by the German's in Riga in September 1917. In October 1917 he was transferred due to a request from the Military Committee to serve as a liaison officer between the Finnish Jäger battalion fighting under German command and the Germans.

He deposed the unpopular Colonel Nikolai Mexmontan. He was the commander of the Finnish Jäger Battalion 27 from 6 November 1917 until 25 February 1918. In March 1918 he was appointed as a liaison officer with the German Baltic Division during the Finnish Civil War. After the Finnish Civil War Thesleff became the War Minister (from 27 May 1918 - 27 November 1918) in the first cabinet of Juho Kusti Paasikivi. He was promoted to the rank of Major General on 14 June 1918. After the resignation of Major General Wilkma, as War Minister, Thesleff became Commander in Chief of the Finnish military forces from 13 August 1918. The first Paasikivi Cabinet had leant towards Imperial Germany but after Germany was defeated in the First World War the cabinet resigned. This also meant the end of Thesleff's political career.


However, in 1919, the Suojeluskunta became an independent organization within the Finnish defense structure, with its own independent HQ (initially named the "Suojeluskunta Toimisto" but in April 1919 renamed "Suojeluskuntain Yliesikunta," commonly abbreviated to Sk.Y). Initially the HQ had only two sections, Military and Financial. Georg D. von Essen was elected as the first leader of the Suojeluskunta HQ and later (in 1919) to the position of Commander-in-Chief of the now independent Sk organization.
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Georg D. von Essen: Commander-in-Chief of the Sk organization:

The Command Structure of the Suojeluskunta:

• Suojeluskuntain Yliesikunta (Sk.Y = Sk General Headquarters): The high command of the Suojeluskunta, headed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Suojeluskunta. When the Sk.Y was first established in 1919 it had two departments, in less than a year the number had increased to seven.
• Suojeluskunta Piiri (Suojeluskunta Districts): Each District controlled a number of Local Suojeluskunta Areas (usually two to three). Each district had a small District HQ lead by the District Chief (Piiripäällikkö). Most of the time Sk District HQs had 4 members and 2 alternate members.
• Suojeluskunta Alue (Suojeluskunta Areas): Each Area contained one or more local Suojeluskunta Units and had a small Sk Area HQ.
• Local Suojeluskunta: The Suojeluskunta Unit for one municipality or town.

At the Local Unit Level, officers were generally ranked as follows, but ranks would vary with the size and structure of the actual Unit:
• Paikallispäällikkö = Local Chief
• Koulutuksen Valvoja (Kapteeni) = Training Supervisor (Captain)
• Osastonjohtaja (Ylikersantti) = Detachment Leader (Staff Sergeant)
• Osaston varajohtaja (Kersantti) = Deputy Detachment Leader (Sergeant)
• Poik.urheilujohtaja = Boy Sport Leader
• Joukkueenjohtaja = Platoon Leader
• Ryhmänjohtaja = Squad Leader
• Ryhmän varajohtaja = Deputy Squad Leader

By 1920 about 93 % of Finnish municipalities and towns had local Suojeluskunta Units. Local Units were generally identified by Arm Sleeve bands unique to each unit as per the example below:
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Arm sleeve from the 1920's from the local Suojeluskunta unit of the town of Forssan

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Arm sleeve from the 1920's from the local Suojeluskunta unit of the town of Turun

Suojeluskunta Districts

Each area of Finland was broken down into Suojeluskunta Districts. This section provides maps showing the location of the various districts and how these changed over time.
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Suojeluskunta District Map 1918-1926

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Civil Guard District Map 1930

Selection of Suojeluskunta officials:

The Finnish President selected and appointed the Commander-in-Chief of the Sk organization, but the Commander-in-Chief also had to be approved by Sk organization delegates before selection. Meetings of delegates consisted to 2 elected delegates from each Sk District and a Meeting could be called by the Suojeluskunta Chief-of-Staff or by five Sk Districts by written request.

The Suojeluskunta Commander-in-Chief appointed the Chief of each Sk District but before the District Chief was appointed, he also needed to be approved by the Sk District HQ of the Sk District he was about to lead. District HQ members were selected for a two year period and were elected by Representatives of Local Area Suojeluskuntas within each Sk District in annual meetings held in February. In these annual Sk District meetings each Local Area Sk within the Sk District had 1 - 3 representatives depending on the size of the local Suojeluskunta. Additional Sk District meetings could be called by the District Chief and by the Sk District HQ.

Each Local Area Suojeluskunta HQ was lead by the Local Chief (Paikallispäällikkö), who headed the local Suojeluskunta HQ, which had 4 members and 2 alternate members. Members of these Local Area HQs were elected for a period of one year in general annual meeting held in January.

Selection of Sk. Members:

Sk members were divided to two categories: Actual members and Supportive members. Supportive members paid the membership fee, but didn't have the right to vote in Suojeluskunta elections, had no right to wear Sk uniforms and had no responsibility for attending Suojeluskunta training.

The information below concerns only Actual members:

The conduct demanded from those willing to become Suojeluskunta members was quite clear: They had to be trustworthy Finnish males of at least 17 years of age (those willing to join but who were under 21 needed permission from their legal guardian). To be more precise, in this case being trustworthy meant not having a criminal past or the “wrong” kind of political ideals. Ex Red Guard members from the Civil War never had any chance of joining and neither did Communists (who were basically seen as the enemy). As a rule Social Democrats (the moderate left) were also unwanted until the previously mentioned reconciliation between the Social Democratic Party and the Suojeluskunta organization in 1930. The existing members (especially the Chief of the Local Suojeluskunta) decided who was considered trustworthy and who was not. If members of the Local Sk organisation weren’t familiar with the applicant, then written recommendations from two trustworthy persons were needed.

As mentioned in an earlier post, in 1930, in one of the more dramatic moments in Finland’s history, Marshal Mannerheim, working closely with Vaino Tanner, engineered a reconciliation between the Suojeluskunta organisation and the leading Finnish leftist political party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Together, in newspaper articles and in a number of joint speeches across Finland, they emphasized the need for a spirit of national unity and the dangers of the rising move towards totalitarianism in Europe. This affected opinions within both organizations and started a swing within the SDP towards a more positive opinion of Finland’s defense organisations and the need to increase military spending. Prior to this rapproachment, Sk members had not been welcome within the SDP, but after the “Reconciliation,” opinions on both sides had started to change.

Within the Suojeluskunta, the leadership encouraged members to take the first step in removing hostility between the SDP and the Sk-organization. A formal event welcoming both Social Democrats into the Suojeluskunta, and Sk-members into the SDP was held on the 15th of March 1930. The symbolic significance was large, but the actual results for members of both organizations were not immediately so. The symbolic significance was large, but the actual results for members of both organizations were not immediately large. By the 10th of April 1933, only about 1,000 Social Democrats had joined Sk organization. However, with Marshal Mannerheim, Vaino Tanner and other SDP politicians and party leaders working together to emphasis the need for Finland’s defences to be strengthened, and new financial incentives for Sk. training included within the State Budget from 1933 on, membership of the Sk began to grow significantly from 1934 on.
Suojeluskunta leaders and some (but by no means all) SDP leaders worked together to emphasis the need for Finland’s defences to be strengthened, and continually emphasized that the Suojeluskunta was a “Finnish” organisation, and not a “political” organisation. With SDP membership no longer being a bar to Suojeluskunta membership, and with the changes in military training that began to take place from 1931 on, membership of the Suojeluskunta began to grow significantly from 1931. An added encouragement was provided by the new financial incentives for Suojeluskunta training included within the State Budget from 1931 on, as well as the support offered by both state-owned and private businesses for Suojeluskunta membership. While there was still Union opposition, it became ever more muted over time as more and more Union members joined.

The growth in numbers of “Active” Suojeluskunta members from 1930 – 1939 was indicative of the success of the “Reconciliation”:
1931: 88,700
1932: 89,700
1933: 101,200
1934: 109,500
1935: 126,700
1936: 152,500
1937: 161,900
1938: 201,000
1939: 276,300

The large surge in membership in 1936 coincided with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War whilst the additional large membership surge in 1938 concided with the Munich Crisis and the now obviously looming threat of another European War. These were the active members capable of military service in the event of war. In addition, there were the “Veteran” members, those who were classified as too old for active military service or who worked in a wartime-critical job and who were refused permission to leave their jobs but who kept up their training and who were grouped into “Home Guard” units. There were some 55,000 men in this category, grouped into Battalion-strength units and organised under the Home Guard Command structure.

OTL/ATL Note: In reality, the reconciliation didn’t occur until 1940, after the Winter War, and while Sk. Membership in 1930 was the 88,700 given, in 1939 Sk. membership was 119,500 rather than the 276,300 given. This is significant as the Sk. Membership were the core of the Reservist Army, providing the bulk of the Reserve Officers and NCO’s as well as a substantial number of trained soldiers who carried out active training throughout the year. In this ATL scenario, the number of such soldiers has effectively more than doubled, and as we will see when we come to the changes in military training that took place through the 1930’s, there are further changes that result in a much larger number of non-Sk Reservists receiving annual “refresher” training. The end result, as we will see, is a larger, highly-trained and well-equipped Reserve Force available at the start of the Winter War.

After 1920, Suojeluskunta members who were at least 20 years old had one vote in the elections of his Local Suojeluskunta and until the statute of January 1934 could also be selected for a responsible position in his Suojeluskunta. After the Statute of January 1934, Suojeluskunta members got one vote in the Suojeluskunta elections after belonging to the Suojeluskunta for one year. As kind of a "old member bonus", they could also get another vote. This "old member bonus" vote was available to those who had belonged to Sk for 15 years, or were over 40 years of age and had belonged to the Sk for at least 10 years. The statute also required those selected for responsible positions to be at least 21 years of age.

Those wanting to join, but younger then 17 could join Boy Units (Poikayksikkö). In the 1920’s, these Suojeluskunta Boy Units didn't give military or weapons training, but instead concentrated on sports. The First Boy Units had been the so called "Squirrel Companies" organized soon after the Civil War for 13 - 16 year old boys wanting to join the Suojeluskunta . In that first try sports alone proved too little to maintain interest, but later in the 1920s interest reappeared and this time it proved more long lasting with a resurgent Suojeluskunta Boy Units ecoming active from 1928. Boy Units also worked to aid recruiting of new members to Sk. Once members of Suojeluskunta Boy Units reached the age of 17, they were transferred from Boy Units to the ordinary Suojeluskunta units. Sports and other activities of the Boy Units attracted many boys to join and about 70 % of them moved on to join the regular Suojeluskunta after reaching the required age. In 1939, the Boy Units had a membership of approxinmately 200,000, a substansive percentage of Finland’s teenage males under the age of 17.

The Suojeluskunta Oath

The Suojeluskunta Oath for active Sk-members before the Suojeluskunta Law of 1927:
“Minä N.N lupaan ja vakuutan kaiken sen kautta, mikä minulle on pyhää ja kallista, että tulen rehellisesti toimimaan Suojeluskuntien tarkoitusperien, Suomen puolustuksen ja laillisen yhteiskuntajärjestyksen turvaamisen edistämiseksi sekä ehdottomasti alistumaan esimiesteni määräyksiin sekä etten vastoin esikunnan suostumusta eroa Suojeluskunnasta, ennenkuin kuukausi on kulunut siitä, kun olen esikunnalle ilmoittanut haluavani Suojeluskunnasta erota.”

“I (first-name surname) will promise and declare by all that is holy and dear to me, that I will sincerely act to promote the goals of the Suojeluskunta, Finnish Defence and the securing of the legal social order and that I will absolutely submit to the orders of my superiors and that I will not resign from the Suojeluskunta without the permission of HQ, or until one month has passed from me informing HQ about my wish to resign.”


The Suojeluskunta-Oath for active Sk-members after the Suojeluskunta Law of 1927:
“Minä N.N lupaan ja vakuutan kaiken sen kautta, mikä minulle on pyhää ja kallista, että Suojeluskunnan varsinaisena jäsenenä rauhan ja sodan aikana rehellisesti toimin isänmaan ja laillisen yhteiskuntajärjestyksen puolustukseksi, alistun sotilaalliseen järjestykseen ja kuriin sekä täytän minulle kuuluvat velvollisuudet ja annetut tehtävät”.

“I (first name surname) promise and declare by all that is holy and dear to me, that during peace and war as an active member of the Suojeluskunta I will act sincerely for the defence of the fatherland and the legal social order, I will submit to regimentation and military dicipline and will fulfill the duties and tasks assigned to me.”


Main functions of the Suojeluskunta during peace:

The primary functions of the Suojeluskunta were defined as “Giving military training to its members” and “Assisting Finnish Armed Forces when needed.” In the 1920s local Suojeluskuntas in the border areas were also often used to assist with border patrol and protection duties as there were far too few Frontier Guard units to adequately patrol Finland’s lengthy borders with the Soviet Union.
Additional functions of the Suojeluskunta were defined as:
Supporting athletics and sports
Assisting authorities when asked (Police Officials & the Government in general)
Propaganda (Publicity)
Suojeluskuntas were very active in supporting athletics and sports,

Assisting authorities in a wide variety of situations where organized and armed troops might be included: This included missions like searching large areas, guard duty and assisting in the apprehension of dangerous criminals. The Finnish Prohibition from 1919 - 1932 resulted in many requests to provide assistance to the authorities as searching for illegal stills hidden in forests demanded a lot of manpower. Some Suojeluskuntas were enthusiastic about destroying illegal stills even without the authorities asking them, while other units were less inclined to provide assistance.

Propaganda: Publicity created by Sk organizations was typically quite subtle. Instead of derogatory and chauvinist speeches, Sk publicity favored organizing popular events using sports, choirs and orchestras as attractions and included some patriotic parts (music, poems etc.) in the programme. Suojeluskuntas also had their own their magazine: "Suojeluskuntalaisten Lehti" ("Magazine of Sk-Members") published by "Kustannusosakeyhtiö Suunta" ("Publishing-Ltd Suunta"), which was replaced with the Sk-organization published "Hakkapeliitta" in 1925. From 1926 on, “Hakkapeliitta” was a weekly color magazine with tens of thousands of subscribers. However, it wasn't the only such publication. "Suomen Sotilas" ("Finnish Soldier") was also a popular magazine and many Sk-Districts had their own magazines. The fact that the large majority of opinion leaders in Finland in the 1920s and 1930s such as teachers and priests, had a positive attitude towards the Sk-organization didn't do any harm either.
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Aikakauslehti Hakkapeliitta 49/1929, kansikuva. Kannen tekijä tuntematon

As we will see, from the early 1930’s on, the Sk-organisation worked increasingly closely with the military to produce short Films and “News” clips promoting the military and the Suojeluskuntas (from the mid-1930’s on, these were generally shown in Cinemas before the main feature and were rather well-done) as well as Training Movies and Training Pamphlets and advertising campaigns promoting various aspects of the military and the Suojeluskuntas. An excellent example of this was the campaign supporting the Government’s initiative in introducing School Dental Nurses which simultaneously extolled the role of the Army in bringing the need to the attention of the Government. Another such campaign was that supporting the introduction of “School Meals”, again both supporting the Government initiative, again extolling the role of the Army in bringing the need to the attention of the Government and praising the Lotta Svard organisation for their voluntary work in implementing and running the program for the benefit of all Finnish children. Such campaigns served to more and more create a favorable impression of the Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svard organizations across the entire poltical spectrum.

Suojeluskunta Finances:

The Sk organization and its units were financed from four main sources:
• Voluntary funding: These included donations, membership fees and money collected by Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svärd organizations as entrance fees to functions they had organized and so on. This was the largest source of funding for local Suojeluskuntas.
• Funding from the State Budget: This started when the Finnish State decided to pay the wages of some hired personnel of the Suojeluskunta organization. The sums increased as the Sk organization grew larger, but the Suojeluskunta always remained an inexpensive tool for helping to maintain the defense capability of the Finnish State. State Funding for the Sk at all times remained less than 2% of the yearly State Budget and less then 12% of overall defense spending.
• Funding from Municipalities, Towns and Cities: These typically financed local Suojeluskunta units (as long as left wing parties didn't have a majority on the local council). From 1930 on, almost all local Suojeluskunta units received Municipal / Town funding.
• Business profits from firms owned by Suojeluskunta: Three parts of the Suojeluskunta-organisation were organized as independent companies from early 1927 and also did business outside the Suojeluskunta-organization, functioning for all intents and purposes as commercial entities (which in fact they were). These organizations were:
o Suojeluskuntain Ase ja Konepaja Oy (SAKO = Weapons and Machine Factory of Suojeluskunta).
o Suojeluskuntain Kauppa Oy (SKOHA = Shop of Suojeluskunta).
o Suojeluskuntain Kustannus Oy (= Publishing House of Suojeluskunta).

With the ongoing reorganization and restructuring of the Finnish Armed Forces from 1931 on, the Suojeluskunta-organisation came to play an important role in various aspects of defence and was allocated either increased funding or direct support from the military as the organisation came to assume these roles. In addition, the Defence Ministry in some cases contracted direct to the Suojeluskunta businesses – for example, purchasing weapons from SAKO and contracting out the making of training films and pamphlets to Suojeluskuntain Kustannus Oy (something we will look at in more detail in a later Post). These activities all resulted in increased indirect funding for the Sk.

III – Suojeluskunta Training in the 1920’s

Training in the Suojeluskuntas did not start well. After the Civil War, the Armed Forces picked the best trained and most competent Officers and NCO’s. Meanwhile the Sk organizations had trouble hiring capable Officers and NCOs. The low quality and inexperience of the Sk Officials responsible for training manifested itself in low quality training throughout the whole Sk. organization. In December 1918 the leadership of the Suojeluskunta decided that the Sk. organization as a whole needed its own Officer School. The Officer School ("Päällystökoulu" aka "Sk.Pk") was established in 1919 in the town of Hämeenlinna and the first course for Sk Officers was held in there in October 1919. A few Sk Districts also organized their own courses for Sk Officers, and from 1921 some Sk Officers also started being trained at the Kadettikoulu (the Officer Cadet School of the Armed Forces), although the number of Sk officers trained through the Kadettikoulu proved minuscule compared to those trained by the Sk Officer Schools (some 1,100 Officer-trainees over the first three years).
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Hämeenlinna Päällystökoulu (Officers School)

Over the course of the 1920’s, several new buildings were added to the School and the training given progressively improved and diversified. One of the key factors in improving the situation through the 1920s was that starting from 1921, professional soldiers (primarily Officers from the Finnish Army) replaced the highly-motivated but less professionally-skilled nationalists and independence activists who made up the initial training cadre. Generally speaking, those Conscripts who were selected for Reserve Office Training received basic junior-level Officer Training while completing their conscript service. A very very small number of these Reserve Officers then went on to enter the Cadre Army as full-time Officers, where they went through the Kadettikoulu (the Officer Cadet School of the Armed Forces) training (touched on in an earlier post). Of the remaining Reserve Officers, many went on to join the Suojeluskunta – from 1931 on this was an expectation that was almost always fulfilled – and it was within the structure of the Suojeluskunta training program that these Reserve Officers received the bulk of their more advanced Officer Training.

And while the training through the last half of the 1920’s had been good, in the last half of the 1930’s it was excellent, (we will examine the training content for both the Suojeluskunta Officers and NCO’s and the Cadre Army Officers and NCO’s in detail in a later post). Suffice it to say at this stage that during the 1930s, some 319 Suojeluskunta Officers courses were held there with almost 15,000 participants. The average course length at the Sk Officer School was initially 8 months with about 800 hours of training but by 1935, this had reduced in length to 6 months but with approximately 1400 hours of training. From 1934 on, more specialized courses were also introduced, where advanced and specialized training was offered to selected Suojeluskunta Officers. It was the Sk Officer School that created the officer core of the Suojeluskunta. The high quality of training given to Sk Officers there in the 1930s was increasingly reflected in the training given at all levels of the Sk organization and improved the quality of training throughout the whole organization.

The Content of Sk Officer Training in the 1920’s:

The educational standard required of Sk Officers was confirmed in May of 1921. The level of education and basic training required for Sk Offices was set as being at least 5 years of secondary school or equivalent schooling, together with Sk Officer courses and passing the Sk Officers Exam. And having met these requirements didn't necessarily guarantee promotion. In 1923 the courses and studies for Sk-Officers were also standardized. The Course of Study included much theoretical and doctrinal knowledge, so reading and studying the listed books from the curriculum was an important part of preparation. The subjects studied by Sk Officers included:
• Military Forces doctrine
• Suojeluskunta doctrine
• Weapons doctrine
• Terrain doctrine
• Fortification doctrine
• Tactics
• Company tactics
• Machinegun tactics
• Artillery tactics
• Horse management

Subsequent to the Military Review of 1931 ordered by Mannerheim, a number of other subjects were progressively added to the curriculum over the course of the 1930’s. These included (among other subjects):
• Armour doctrine
• Close Air Support doctrine
• Anti-Aircraft doctrine
• Anti-Tank doctrine
• Inter-arms coordination

If mobilization had taken place in the 1920s, Sk Officers would have been ordered to fill the ranks within the Army for which they had received training when they had carried out their Conscript Service in the military. This was a clear organizational weakness and would have been a waste of resources – this was recognized in the Military Review of 1931 ordered by Mannerheim and was addressed in the subsequent military reforms of the early to mid 1930’s, as we will see.

In 1933, as one of the many reforms of the military being undertaken, the Suojeluskunta created a separate Sk NCO School. Prior to 1930, Sk NCO’s had generally received Junior NCO training during their Conscript Service and on joining the Sk, were generally assessed and appointed to NCO positions after having been a member for some time and having proved their worth within the organisation. The Sk NCO School was created to provide Sk NCO’s with both Senior NCO training (for Sergeants, CSM’s, Warrant Officers) and to provide NCO’s with the training to allow them to fill positions that would in the past have been held by Junior Officers. The objective was to ensure NCO’s were capable of stepping up in the event that Unit Officers were killed or incapacitated during combat.

Sk Member Training Requirements in the 1920’s:

Starting from 1921, active Sk members were required to participate in at least 12 days (about 100 hours) of training per year. The training would usually last one to several days at time and was organized as garrison/camp type training sessions. In theory the emphasis was on shooting and battle training. In reality however, early Sk training included lot of close order drill, while battle training was less common and shooting was a rare treat. It also proved to be a problem for the Suojeluskuntas to achieve the 12 days/year training levels for their active members. Only the very best of the Suojeluskuntas units managed to meet the yearly training requirement in the 1920s. There were also issues around the specialized Branches with their own demands for specialized training for members of their units (Pioneers, Signals, Artillery being examples).

Maneuvers were expected to play a large part in Sk training, but the first large maneuvers held by Sk organization didn’t take place until 1929 (with 283 officers and 3,841 NCOs and men near the town of Jyväskylä). Following the 1931 Military Review, this changed rapidly and by 1934, Annual Regimental exercises were being held, while by the late 1930’s it was not uncommon to hold multi-Divisional exercises involving tens of thousands of participants.

As the level of military skill expected from members of the Sk was standardized, its men were divided into two classes:
A class:
A1: Men fit for frontline service under 40-years old.
A2: Men fit only for guard duty or over 40-years old (only infantry).
B class: Those who had not passed Sk-private exams.

The Timetable for Sk-Private courses, (Includes the time for each training component, based on the Suojeluskunta Rule Book):

General military training – Total 13 Hours
Military forces doctrine, laws and regulations 9 hours
Routine duty 2 hours
Garrison duty 2 hours

Drill training – Total 20 Hours
Close order drill 12 hours
Open order drill 8 hours
B
attle training and field service – Total 64 Hours
Individual battle training 26 hours
Squad battle training 20 hours
Field Service 18 hours

Field works 4 hours
Anti chemical weapons training 10 hours
Equipment training 15 hours
Shooting training 15 hours
Sports education 8 hours
Maintenance 6 hours
Total 68 hours
GRAND TOTAL 155 Hours

Types of Sk Training:

Typically, City Suojeluskuntas had several companies, while the largest ones had Battalions and the Helsinki Suojeluskunta had Regiments. In the 1920s training in the rural Suojeluskuntas was typically exclusively for infantry. At that time only the Suojeluskuntas of the largest city units were trained in other branches of arms such as:
Artillery (few Suojeluskuntas Artillery units outside of the larger cities)
Cavalry (also few Suojeluskuntas Cavalry units outside of the larger cities)
Bicycle troops
Engineers (only in Helsinki and on a very small scale)
Signal units (starting in 1927)
Medical units (starting in 1919 but also with very few Suojeluskuntas Medical units outside of the larger cities)

Artillery training started within the Sk in 1919. The first artillery weapons used were the "75 VK 98" mountain guns, but starting in 1920 the Sk also received other guns. The Sk-Artillery Training Units were made up of 2 gun and 4 gun strong batteries called "Sk Batteries". These Sk Batteries were directly under the command of the Sk.Y. Between 1918 - 1921 the Sk also manned static batteries of 152-mm fortification guns located in the Suvanto-Vuoksi area to guard against the Bolshevik threat. Shooting with live-fire ammunition was quite limited as the older gun types were typically in rather poor shape and there was an ammunition shortage for modern guns.

Shooting as part of training:

Shooting was and is a vital part of the military skillset. The Suojeluskunta included practice shooting and shooting competitions into its activities from the start, but early on this wasn't easy. Hunting was popular among the Finns living in rural areas, but the usual hunting weapon had been a shotgun, not a rifle. After the Civil War the Finnish military dumped a mixed bag of captured rifles on the Suojeluskunta and even the more standard types like the Mosin-Nagant M/91 rifles that were received by the Suojeluskunta were often in very poor shape. Between 1918 and 1923 the Sk organization also found it difficult to find acceptable quality ammunition at reasonable prices. The basic necessities needed for shooter training were accurate rifles and good ammunition, so the rifles needed to be repaired and an adequate supply of ammunition organized.
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Erikoisaselajien koulutus jatkui koko talven ja kevään. Pistooammuntaharjoitukset on kuvannut Werner Mauritz Gestrin, Tampereen museoiden kuva-arkisto

Rules used in early Sk shooting competitions can sound odd to todays shooters. Hits were measured as centimeters from the center of the target, and sighting in shots or using rifle slings for support was forbidden. Some Sk members who had the money and wanted good shooting results bought new (usually 7mm x 57 caliber) Mauser rifles at their own expense. Because Japanese and Mosin-Nagant rifles of the Suojeluskunta and their ammunition were what they were, a special handicap system was introduced for them. Basically the handicap system worked like this: Shooters using Japanese rifles recieved 5% compensation and shooters using the Mosin-Nagant rifle recieved 10% compensation, those who used the new Mauser rifles didn't get any compensation. In a way the compensation system didn't always work as perceived. Many of the most successful shooters took trophies using self-loaded ammunition with Mosin-Nagant rifles. The Suojeluskunta soon had the best competition shooters in Finland.

In the 1920’s, the Sk-organization in principle emphasized military shooting (fast and precise shooting at various distances), but in reality the emphasis remained on sports shooting (shooting accurately from pre-known distance). The Suojeluskuntas also built hundreds of shooting ranges for their own use. The number of Suojeluskunta organized shooting competitions and their participants skyrocketed in the 1920s. One of the goals of Sk organization was to make shooting one of the main national sports and one could say it succeeded to a large extent. Shooting continued to be a central part of Suojeluskunta training through the 1930’s but following the 1931 Military Review, the emphasis really was placed on military style shooting – and in particular, fast and precise shooting at various distances and at moving or pop-up targets. Competition shooting still took place, but the Sk emphasized that practice for competitions was in the individuals own time.

Indeed, shooting training received a great deal of attention, with constant improvements being introduced. Initially, shooter training used standard bullseye or cutout targets (as in the photo above) but in the 1930’s, Combat Range Training with mechanically-controlled popup targets was introduced. These Combat Ranges became increasingly sophisticated over the decade of the 1930’s. Many of these ranges permitted Company-sized live-firing exercises to be conducted, giving units valuable tactical battle-skill training under more realistic conditions and there was one training area set up specifically to allow Regimental-sized live-firing exercises – this particular range was in constant use all-year round, by the late 1930’s, most Regiments carried out one 2-3 day exercise per year on this Range.
Despite the new weapons being introduced to the Army and the Suojeluskunta through the 1930’s, many still preferred the old Mosin-Nagant Rifles, particularly in shooting competitions – and good marksmanship was always emphasized – both the Finnish Army and the Suojeluskuntas emphasized in their training that “every Soldier is first and foremost a Rifleman. One Bullet, One Kill.”

As documented in the Suojeluskuntas Hakkapeliitta magazine, the 1937 World Shooting Championships were a real success for Finnish marksmen and for the M/28-30 Rifle, pride of the Suojeluskuntas even as late as 1937.
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"SAKO bullet is 'the old tenwalker'" (left), Olavi Elo - a double World Champion and sleeper of team Finland (right)

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The opening ceremony. From left to right: former President P. E. Svinhufvud (Ukko-Pekka), President Kyösti Kallio, Field Marshall C.G.E. Mannerheim and General Hugo Österman

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Ukko-Pekka preparing to fire (left).

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Some of the participating nations (20 in total).

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The Gold Medalists

And here’s some further illustrations of shooting competitions, targets and the Rifles used.
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The 1937 Mosin-Nagant M28/30 – popular in Shooting Competitions, but by the time of the Winter War replacement in front-line use by a combination of the Finnish Army’s new Semi-automatic Lahti-Saloranta 7.62mm SLR and the Suomi SMG was well underway.

When it came to repairing and building rifles "Asepaja" (Weapons Workshop, later known as SAKO) started in 1919 and proved very useful, but results of its hard work appeared slowly. A temporary solution to the ammunition shortage was loading ammunition with simple equipment in local Suojeluskuntas, and this continued until the ammunition shortage passed.

The Sk Navy

Another interesting part of the Sk-organization directly under the Sk.Y and having its own uniforms was the Sk-Navy. The idea for the Sk-Navy was based on the British Auxiliary Fleet and appeared in 1919, but it took until 1923 for the idea to materialize. Their training was closely related to coastal defence training, which was also one of the special branchs of the military for which the Suojeluskunta provided training for its members. Apparently there was a considerable amount of enthusiasm for the Civil Guard Navy, since the training spread quickly over much of Finland - by the late 1920's there were 76 local sea civil guard units (typically each municipality, town etc had its own local civil guard). These included not only local sea civil guards in the coastal areas around the Baltic Sea and Lake Laatokka/Ladoga, but also many which were located in inland lakes. The number of vessels used in the 1920’s was quite small (as were the boats used), but their number was large on a Finnish scale. Participants in the first Sk-Navy maneuvers included: About 200 boats, 14 tugboats, and about 650 men. In the 1920’s, their planned wartime use was supporting the coastal artillery with guard, communications and transport missions. Members of the Sk Navy had also received training in laying and clearing sea mines and were expected to become familiar with signaling, naval guns and torpedoes. The obligatory minimum amount of training for Sk Navy members was 6 days/year.
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Sk-Navy on exercise: Summer 1931

The number of local Civil Guard units providing this type of training increased in the 1930's. The Sea Civil Guard of Helsinki was from the start one of the best equipped units of the Sk-Navy) but in the early years they were short on boats and equipment. On establishment in 1928, they had no boats at all, the first boats acquired were two old open top whaling boats, which were bought by the unit itself in 1930. In 1931 the bough the SP 19 "Merikotka": this was an old sailing boat capable carrying 9 men. In 1932 the Lotta-Svärd organisation donated SP 20: an old motor boat 11-meters long.

As mentioned in an earlier Post, Motor Torpedo Boats and Fast Minelayers were an early component of the Finnish Naval Construction Plan of 1931. Production construction commenced in 1935, with Hietalahden Laivatelakka awarded a contract to build fifty of these boats over a five year period, delivering 10 per year from 1936 through to 1940. In addition, a number of smaller shipyards were awarded contracts to build a further fifty as a Fast Minelayer version over the same period. Later consideration was given to fitting out a third version as an Anti-Submarine Patrol Boat, primarily for service in the Gulf of Finland with the objective of restricting access to the Baltic for Soviet Submarines. A contract for this type was placed in late 1937, and around twenty five had entered service by the time the Winter War broke out. Crew generally consisted of 3 to 4 Officers and 19 Enlisted Ranks.

As an offshoot of the MTB Program the Navy had also decided to build a large number of small Coastal Fast Torpedo Boats on the basis that they wouldn’t cost a lot and if the Soviet Baltic Fleet sortied, they could “swarm” the defences through sheer weight of numbers, with their small size and speed making them difficult to hit. As the threat of war loomed larger in the late 1930’s, more of theses boats were rapidly constructed and by the time the Winter War broke out, some 200 of these Coastal Fast Torpedo Boats were in service, also manned by Sk-Navy personnel. At the same time as the MTB’s were being constructed, a number of underground bases were tunneled into islands scattered around the Gulf of Finland coastline. These underground bases included docks, ramps for pulling the MTB’s and CFTB’s out of the water for routine maintenance and repair and for winter storage, spartan accommodation bays, engineering workshops and fuel and munitions storage. These were intended for wartime use only and were generally only maintained in peacetime by a small number of Naval Reserve (all Suojeluskunta Navy - the Sea Civil Guard) personnel. Locations of these bases were kept a closely guarded secret.

At the same time as the decision was made to purchase these Boats, the Navy decided that both the Boats and the Bases would be manned by Sk-Navy personnel, who while they would remain members of the Sk, would be integrated more closely into the Naval organisation. The decision to assign Suojeluskunta Navy personnel to crew these boats came as a welcome surprise to both the Sk and to the Sk-Navy personnel involved. Competition to get into the units became quite fierce in the late 1930's - and the units had no trouble at all ensuring that they were always fully manned. With approximately 4,500 Sk-Navy personnel manning the Boats, and a further 4,000 odd personnel manning and guarding the Bases, the Sk-Navy grew to a considerable size through the last half of the 1930’s.

The Sk Air Force

The Sk-Air Force was formed in 1935, specifically to augment the Ilmavoimat in the event that War broke out. The SK-Air Force will be covered in detail in the Posts covering the growth of the Air Force in the 1930’s.

The Suojeluskunta and Sports:

The reason why the Sk organization supported sports was quite simple: Fit people make better soldiers and, in general, wide spread sports which maintain fitness have positive effects on a community. Sports played an important part in the Suojeluskunta and the Sk organization also contributed to their development in Finland. Possibly the still most visible effect was introducing "pesäpallo" (basically a Finnish version of baseball, with the main developer of this sport being Sk-Officer Lauri "Tahko" Pihkala) in 1922 and it became so popular and widespread that it is still nowadays a Finnish national sports.
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Sk-Officer Lauri "Tahko" Pihkala

For the Sk organization popularizing pesäpallo had purposes beyond developing physical fitness and team spirit: Short spurts and dashes which ended by throwing a hand grenade sized ball were also useful skills for war. The most important sports for Suojeluskunta were skiing, running, gymnastics, and field & track sports. Of these, skiing slowly became the most important. In fact, the Sk-organization even developed a new kind of cross-country ski (which also become the Finnish military ski), which were handier in forests than traditional Finnish skis and winter-training increasingly emphasized tactical movement into and out of combat on skis, as well as ski-warfare tactics and winter-combat and survival training.
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Suojeluskunta Unit on a Winter Warfare Training Exercise, mid-1930’s

The Suojeluskunta also started rewarding its best shooters and its fittest members with fitness medals in 1921. The Suojeluskunta fitness medals were issued in three classes and naturally getting the 1st class medal demanded the most fitness. One could in a way say that the Sk-organization was the most important sports organization in Finland before WW2.

Members of the Suojeluskunta - Who and What Kind of Men They Were and what were there Political Views:

The Suojeluskunta wasn't a political organization on its own, but in the 1920’s at least, its members generally belonged to a specific side of the political spectrum when it came to political views. Generally speaking, the political views of Suojeluskunta members covered the spectrum from the center to the extreme right. The organization was at all times openly anti-communist and while in general it didn't really like moderate left-wingers either, even in the 1920’s it tolerated them better. However, the difference in political views between the average Sk member and the average Finnish citizen was not as large as one might expect, even after the Civil War. In the 1920s and 1930s Finnish political views in general were oriented more towards the right-wing than they are these days. In the 1920’s, there was some active participation by local SK organizations in elections, largely in support of political parties and local politicians who supported the Suojeluskuntas through municipal and government funding.

From 1919 on, expressing party political or anti-government opinions in public had been forbidden for Sk Officers, as had been using the organization for political purposes. The Sk organization wasn't a player in State-wide politics (the elections for Parliament and the President). Instead, starting from the early 1920s, the Sk leadership tried their best to keep the organization non-political, but it did have its own interests in mind in municipal level elections. To secure funding from municipalities and towns, local Suojeluskunta units needed political parties favorable to the Sk organization to have a majority on local municipal / town councils. As a result, local Suojeluskuntas did their best to get all their members and supporters to vote in local elections for parties which supported providing funding for the local Suojeluskunta units. Which party the SK members supported and how they voted didn't really matter as long as they voted for one that supported providing funding. The political parties that supported the Suojeluskuntas in the 1920s basically included all the non-Socialist ones. Post-reconciliation on (from 1930), the SDP also officially supported providing funding for the Suojeluskuntas and this resulted in almost all municipalities and towns providing funding, removing the motivation for the Sk organisation to participate even in local elections.
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The siege mentality of the first decade of Finnish independence was most strongly visible in political campaigns, as this election ad from the 1920’s shows. "The Civil Guards prepare to defend their country without expecting any praise or salary. Help them in their efforts. Vote National Coalition."

In the 1920’s, the Communists and Social Democrats were seen as natural political enemies by the Suojeluskunta. This was partly due to the inheritance of hate from the Civil War, but also partly because of very different political ideals. And the hate relationship with left-wingers wasn't all one sided. Both the Social Democrats and the Communists attacked the Sk organizations at several levels, trying to weaken or destroy them all together. The high level attacks that took place inside the parliamentary political system included demands for the abolishing of the Sk organization and concurrent demands for the stopping or cutting State funding to the Sk organization. At municipal/town levels, those councils with a left -wing majority could end funding to local Sk’s (and did), but they couldn’t do much else. The dirtier method used by the more extreme left-wingers was "työmaaterrori" (workplace terror) which included ridicule, and even physical assaults against their co-workers who were Sk-members and White Army veterans of the Civil War. The Left-wing press was also active against Sk organizations until the 1930 Reconciliation. However, it should also be kept in mind that through the 1920s and increasingly in the 1930s, Finland had several political groups which nowadays would be considered extreme right wing and there was nothing forbidding Sk-members from being members of these – and many were.

Until 1930, the Finnish Social Democratic Party strongly opposed defense spending and many members actually believed that further wars could be won by non-violent methods like general strikes. By contrast, some educational establishments and firms favored Sk members when accepting students and hiring personnel. From 1930 and “The Reconciliation” on, much changed. With the SDP no longer opposing defense spending or local funding for the Sk organisation, the politics around the Sk grew less controversial. The Communists still actively opposed the Sk, and vice-versa but it was between the Communists and the more extreme Right movements that the more overt political conflicts took place, as we will see in the next post.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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Re: What If - Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 05 May 2011 21:12

Made quite a few additions to the previous post and ran out of editing window so it's reposted.......

II – The Suojeluskunta in the 1920’s

At the same time, the end of the Civil War had brought the Suojeluskunta a challenge. The existing Suojeluskunta organizations had been originally organized as voluntary units for maintaining local security in the chaos of the collapse of the Tsarist Russian Empire, a situation which was no longer valid. With the ending of the Civil War and the White victory, Finland was now truly independent, but with the Soviet Union across the border, with Red Finns organizing and training in Soviet Karelia, and with a dissident working class, many of whom had actively fought for the Reds in the Civil War, Finland needed to safeguard itself against both interior and exterior enemies. The Finnish Army was still very small as we have seen, and as a “Cadre” Army could not have coped with any foreign attack on its own. Having an internal paramilitary organization which would guarantee the safeguarding of Finland against external and interior enemies was seen as important – in the event of external conflict, this organisation would provide trained reinforcements to the Army, and in the event of internal conflict, the organisation could be counted on to be politically reliable and support the Government in putting down any renewal of armed internal opposition.

The Suojeluskunta was seen as the organisation which would enable these security objectives to be met, but to do this the organisation needed to be redesigned and uniformly rebuilt nation wide. Redesigning and restructuring the new organization raised a number of critical questions, debate over which continued well into the 1920s. The more important of these questions included:
- Should Suojeluskunta membership be voluntary or obligatory?
- What should be the main missions of the Suojeluskunta?
- What relationship should the Suojeluskunta have to the Finnish Army, the Finnish political system, and local authorities?

On the 4th of July of 1918, representatives of 171 local Suojeluskuntas gathered in the town of Jyväskylä. The decisions and resolutions made in Jyväskylä had a profound impact on the future of the Suojeluskuntas and greatly influenced the first piece of legislation on the Suojeluskunta, which was a statute legislated by the Finnish Senate on 2 August 1918. The statute was short in text and rather vague on some matters, but it cleared up things considerably and put in place the legislative groundwork needed for creating the new organization. At the same time it recognized the status of the Suojeluskuntas on the part of the State. Matters covered in the legislation included:
- The Suojeluskunta was defined as a State-wide voluntary organization with local and district levels. Each local area would have a local Suojeluskunta;
- The country would be divided to Suojeluskunta districts, all of which would include several localities. Basic organizational structure was defined, with Local and District HQ’s and Chiefs, as well as how these should be created;
- The Suojeluskunta organization would not be part of the Army, but would be a separate entity having its own Commander-in-Chief;
- Membership eligibility requirements were set as being “trustworthy males of at least 17 years of age”. The process of selecting members was that they must be volunteers with a recommendation. Members could be active or passive;
- The Suojeluskunta oath was introduced for all Suojeluskunta;
- The Suojeluskunta were given rights to accept donations and to own property.

The Organizational and Command Structure of the Suojeluskunta

The statute also set out the organizational and command structure for the Suojeluskunta (usually abbreviated to Sk). Initially, there was no overall HQ, and in military matters the Suojeluskuntas were directly subordinate to the Defense Ministry. The statute made the leader of the Senate's Committee of Military Matters, Major-General Wilhelm Thesleff the first Commander-in-Chief of the Suojeluskuntas and gave the Suojeluskuntas their own representative in the Defense Ministry.
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Major-General Wilhelm Thesleff (July 27, 1880 in Vyborg - March 26, 1941 in Helsinki): as the first Minister of Defence of Finland and briefly the Commander in Chief of the Finnish army, Thesleff was the first Commander-in-Chief of the Suojeluskuntas. Thesleff began his military career in 1894 at the Hamina Cadet School from which he graduated in 1901. He continued his military studies in St Petersburg at the Nikolai General Staff Academy over the years 1904-1907 and the the Officers Cavalry School from 1910-1911. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, 12 June 1912. Thesleff fought in the first world war in the Russian army (1914-1917), until he was captured by the German's in Riga in September 1917. In October 1917 he was transferred due to a request from the Military Committee to serve as a liaison officer between the Finnish Jäger battalion fighting under German command and the Germans.

He deposed the unpopular Colonel Nikolai Mexmontan. He was the commander of the Finnish Jäger Battalion 27 from 6 November 1917 until 25 February 1918. In March 1918 he was appointed as a liaison officer with the German Baltic Division during the Finnish Civil War. After the Finnish Civil War Thesleff became the War Minister (from 27 May 1918 - 27 November 1918) in the first cabinet of Juho Kusti Paasikivi. He was promoted to the rank of Major General on 14 June 1918. After the resignation of Major General Wilkma, as War Minister, Thesleff became Commander in Chief of the Finnish military forces from 13 August 1918. The first Paasikivi Cabinet had leant towards Imperial Germany but after Germany was defeated in the First World War the cabinet resigned. This also meant the end of Thesleff's political career.


However, in 1919, the Suojeluskunta became an independent organization within the Finnish defense structure, with its own independent HQ (initially named the "Suojeluskunta Toimisto" but in April 1919 renamed "Suojeluskuntain Yliesikunta," commonly abbreviated to Sk.Y). Initially the HQ had only two sections, Military and Financial. Georg D. von Essen was elected as the first leader of the Suojeluskunta HQ and later (in 1919) to the position of Commander-in-Chief of the now independent Sk organization (a position he held until 1921, when General Kaarlo Malmberg took over).

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Georg D. von Essen: Commander-in-Chief of the Sk organization:

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From 1921 to the end of WW2, General Kaarlo Malmberg held the position of Commander-in-Chief of the now independent Sk organization.

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The Suojeluskunta Flag

The Command Structure of the Suojeluskunta:

• Suojeluskuntain Yliesikunta (Sk.Y = Sk General Headquarters): The high command of the Suojeluskunta, headed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Suojeluskunta. When the Sk.Y was first established in 1919 it had two departments, in less than a year the number had increased to seven.
• Suojeluskunta Piiri (Suojeluskunta Districts): Each District controlled a number of Local Suojeluskunta Areas (usually two to three). Each district had a small District HQ lead by the District Chief (Piiripäällikkö). Most of the time Sk District HQs had 4 members and 2 alternate members.
• Suojeluskunta Alue (Suojeluskunta Areas): Each Area contained one or more local Suojeluskunta Units and had a small Sk Area HQ.
• Local Suojeluskunta: The Suojeluskunta Unit for one municipality or town.

At the Local Unit Level, officers were generally ranked as follows, but ranks would vary with the size and structure of the actual Unit:
• Paikallispäällikkö = Local Chief
• Koulutuksen Valvoja (Kapteeni) = Training Supervisor (Captain)
• Osastonjohtaja (Ylikersantti) = Detachment Leader (Staff Sergeant)
• Osaston varajohtaja (Kersantti) = Deputy Detachment Leader (Sergeant)
• Poik.urheilujohtaja = Boy Sport Leader
• Joukkueenjohtaja = Platoon Leader
• Ryhmänjohtaja = Squad Leader
• Ryhmän varajohtaja = Deputy Squad Leader

In most cases, the district chiefs and most officers in the district headquarters were from the Regular Army. By 1920 about 93 % of Finnish municipalities and towns had local Suojeluskunta Units. Initially, members were required to buy their own equipment and rifle, with local chapters helping their members, if the chapters had funds for it. In the early 1930’s, as the financial situation improved and more money was made available for Defence spending, the Defence Department took over responsibility for the purchase of weapons for Suojeluskunta Units.

Local Units were generally identified by Arm Sleeve bands unique to each unit as per the examples below:

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Arm sleeve from the 1920's from the local Suojeluskunta unit of the town of Forssan

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Arm sleeve from the 1920's from the local Suojeluskunta unit of the town of Turun

Suojeluskunta Districts

Each area of Finland was broken down into Suojeluskunta Districts. This section provides maps showing the location of the various districts and how these changed over time.

Suojeluskunta District Map 1918-1926

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Civil Guard District Map 1930

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Selection of Suojeluskunta officials:

The Finnish President selected and appointed the Commander-in-Chief of the Sk organization, but the Commander-in-Chief also had to be approved by Sk organization delegates before selection. Meetings of delegates consisted to 2 elected delegates from each Sk District and a Meeting could be called by the Suojeluskunta Chief-of-Staff or by five Sk Districts by written request.

The Suojeluskunta Commander-in-Chief appointed the Chief of each Sk District but before the District Chief was appointed, he also needed to be approved by the Sk District HQ of the Sk District he was about to lead. District HQ members were selected for a two year period and were elected by Representatives of Local Area Suojeluskuntas within each Sk District in annual meetings held in February. In these annual Sk District meetings each Local Area Sk within the Sk District had 1 - 3 representatives depending on the size of the local Suojeluskunta. Additional Sk District meetings could be called by the District Chief and by the Sk District HQ.

Each Local Area Suojeluskunta HQ was lead by the Local Chief (Paikallispäällikkö), who headed the local Suojeluskunta HQ, which had 4 members and 2 alternate members. Members of these Local Area HQs were elected for a period of one year in general annual meeting held in January.

Selection of Sk. Members:

Sk members were divided to two categories: Actual members and Supportive members. Supportive members paid the membership fee, but didn't have the right to vote in Suojeluskunta elections, had no right to wear Sk uniforms and had no responsibility for attending Suojeluskunta training.

The information below concerns only Actual members:

The conduct demanded from those willing to become Suojeluskunta members was quite clear: They had to be trustworthy Finnish males of at least 17 years of age (those willing to join but who were under 21 needed permission from their legal guardian). To be more precise, in this case being trustworthy meant not having a criminal past or the “wrong” kind of political ideals. Ex Red Guard members from the Civil War never had any chance of joining and neither did Communists (who were basically seen as the enemy). As a rule Social Democrats (the moderate left) were also unwanted until the previously mentioned reconciliation between the Social Democratic Party and the Suojeluskunta organization in 1930. The existing members (especially the Chief of the Local Suojeluskunta) decided who was considered trustworthy and who was not. If members of the Local Sk organisation weren’t familiar with the applicant, then written recommendations from two trustworthy persons were needed.

As mentioned in an earlier post, in 1930, in one of the more dramatic moments in Finland’s history, Marshal Mannerheim, working closely with Vaino Tanner, engineered a reconciliation between the Suojeluskunta organisation and the leading Finnish leftist political party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Together, in newspaper articles and in a number of joint speeches across Finland, they emphasized the need for a spirit of national unity and the dangers of the rising move towards totalitarianism in Europe. This affected opinions within both organizations and started a swing within the SDP towards a more positive opinion of Finland’s defense organisations and the need to increase military spending. Prior to this rapproachment, Sk members had not been welcome within the SDP, but after the “Reconciliation,” opinions on both sides had started to change.

Within the Suojeluskunta, the leadership encouraged members to take the first step in removing hostility between the SDP and the Sk-organization. A formal event welcoming both Social Democrats into the Suojeluskunta, and Sk-members into the SDP was held on the 15th of March 1930. The symbolic significance was large, but the actual results for members of both organizations were not immediately so. The symbolic significance was large, but the actual results for members of both organizations were not immediately large. By the 10th of April 1933, only about 1,000 Social Democrats had joined Sk organization. However, with Marshal Mannerheim, Vaino Tanner and other SDP politicians and party leaders working together to emphasis the need for Finland’s defences to be strengthened, and new financial incentives for Sk. training included within the State Budget from 1933 on, membership of the Sk began to grow significantly from 1934 on. Suojeluskunta leaders and some (but by no means all) SDP leaders worked together to emphasis the need for Finland’s defences to be strengthened, and continually emphasized that the Suojeluskunta was a “Finnish” organisation, and not a “political” organisation. With SDP membership no longer being a bar to Suojeluskunta membership, and with the changes in military training that began to take place from 1931 on, membership of the Suojeluskunta began to grow significantly from 1931. An added encouragement was provided by the new financial incentives for Suojeluskunta training included within the State Budget from 1931 on, as well as the support offered by both state-owned and private businesses for Suojeluskunta membership. While there was still Union opposition, it became ever more muted over time as more and more Union members joined.

The growth in numbers of “Active” Suojeluskunta members from 1930 – 1939 was indicative of the success of the “Reconciliation”:
1931: 88,700
1932: 89,700
1933: 101,200
1934: 109,500
1935: 126,700
1936: 152,500
1937: 161,900
1938: 201,000
1939: 276,300

The large surge in membership in 1936 coincided with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War whilst the additional large membership surge in 1938 concided with the Munich Crisis and the now obviously looming threat of another European War. These were the active members capable of military service in the event of war. In addition, there were the “Veteran” members, those who were classified as too old for active military service or who worked in a wartime-critical job and who were refused permission to leave their jobs but who kept up their training and who were grouped into “Home Guard” units. There were some 55,000 men in this category, grouped into Battalion-strength units and organised under the Home Guard Command structure.

OTL/ATL Note: In reality, the reconciliation didn’t occur until 1940, after the Winter War, and while Sk. Membership in 1930 was the 88,700 given, in 1939 Sk. membership was 119,500 rather than the 276,300 given. This is significant as the Sk. Membership were the core of the Reservist Army, providing the bulk of the Reserve Officers and NCO’s as well as a substantial number of trained soldiers who carried out active training throughout the year. In this ATL scenario, the number of such soldiers has effectively more than doubled, and as we will see when we come to the changes in military training that took place through the 1930’s, there are further changes that result in a much larger number of non-Sk Reservists receiving annual “refresher” training. The end result, as we will see, is a larger, highly-trained and well-equipped Reserve Force available at the start of the Winter War.

After 1920, Suojeluskunta members who were at least 20 years old had one vote in the elections of his Local Suojeluskunta and until the statute of January 1934 could also be selected for a responsible position in his Suojeluskunta. After the Statute of January 1934, Suojeluskunta members got one vote in the Suojeluskunta elections after belonging to the Suojeluskunta for one year. As kind of a "old member bonus", they could also get another vote. This "old member bonus" vote was available to those who had belonged to Sk for 15 years, or were over 40 years of age and had belonged to the Sk for at least 10 years. The statute also required those selected for responsible positions to be at least 21 years of age.

Those wanting to join, but younger then 17 could join Boy Units (Poikayksikkö). In the 1920’s, these Suojeluskunta Boy Units didn't give military or weapons training, but instead concentrated on sports. The First Boy Units had been the so called "Squirrel Companies" organized soon after the Civil War for 13 - 16 year old boys wanting to join the Suojeluskunta . In that first try sports alone proved too little to maintain interest, but later in the 1920s interest reappeared and this time it proved more long lasting with a resurgent Suojeluskunta Boy Units ecoming active from 1928. Boy Units also worked to aid recruiting of new members to Sk. Once members of Suojeluskunta Boy Units reached the age of 17, they were transferred from Boy Units to the ordinary Suojeluskunta units. Sports and other activities of the Boy Units attracted many boys to join and about 70 % of them moved on to join the regular Suojeluskunta after reaching the required age. In 1939, the Boy Units had a membership of approximately 200,000, a substansive percentage of Finland’s teenage males under the age of 17.
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Suojeluskunta Boy Unit Member

The Suojeluskunta Oath

The Suojeluskunta Oath for active Sk-members before the Suojeluskunta Law of 1927:
“Minä N.N lupaan ja vakuutan kaiken sen kautta, mikä minulle on pyhää ja kallista, että tulen rehellisesti toimimaan Suojeluskuntien tarkoitusperien, Suomen puolustuksen ja laillisen yhteiskuntajärjestyksen turvaamisen edistämiseksi sekä ehdottomasti alistumaan esimiesteni määräyksiin sekä etten vastoin esikunnan suostumusta eroa Suojeluskunnasta, ennenkuin kuukausi on kulunut siitä, kun olen esikunnalle ilmoittanut haluavani Suojeluskunnasta erota.”

“I (first-name surname) will promise and declare by all that is holy and dear to me, that I will sincerely act to promote the goals of the Suojeluskunta, Finnish Defence and the securing of the legal social order and that I will absolutely submit to the orders of my superiors and that I will not resign from the Suojeluskunta without the permission of HQ, or until one month has passed from me informing HQ about my wish to resign.”

The Suojeluskunta-Oath for active Sk-members after the Suojeluskunta Law of 1927:
“Minä N.N lupaan ja vakuutan kaiken sen kautta, mikä minulle on pyhää ja kallista, että Suojeluskunnan varsinaisena jäsenenä rauhan ja sodan aikana rehellisesti toimin isänmaan ja laillisen yhteiskuntajärjestyksen puolustukseksi, alistun sotilaalliseen järjestykseen ja kuriin sekä täytän minulle kuuluvat velvollisuudet ja annetut tehtävät”.

“I (first name surname) promise and declare by all that is holy and dear to me, that during peace and war as an active member of the Suojeluskunta I will act sincerely for the defence of the fatherland and the legal social order, I will submit to regimentation and military dicipline and will fulfill the duties and tasks assigned to me.”


Main functions of the Suojeluskunta during peace:

The primary functions of the Suojeluskunta were defined as “Giving military training to its members” and “Assisting Finnish Armed Forces when needed.” In the 1920s local Suojeluskuntas in the border areas were also often used to assist with border patrol and protection duties as there were far too few Frontier Guard units to adequately patrol Finland’s lengthy borders with the Soviet Union.
Additional functions of the Suojeluskunta were defined as:
Supporting athletics and sports
Assisting authorities when asked (Police Officials & the Government in general)
Propaganda (Publicity)
Suojeluskuntas were very active in supporting athletics and sports,

Assisting authorities in a wide variety of situations where organized and armed troops might be included: This included missions like searching large areas, guard duty and assisting in the apprehension of dangerous criminals. The Finnish Prohibition from 1919 - 1932 resulted in many requests to provide assistance to the authorities as searching for illegal stills hidden in forests demanded a lot of manpower. Some Suojeluskuntas were enthusiastic about destroying illegal stills even without the authorities asking them, while other units were less inclined to provide assistance.

Propaganda: Publicity created by Sk organizations was typically quite subtle. Instead of derogatory and chauvinist speeches, Sk publicity favored organizing popular events using sports, choirs and orchestras as attractions and included some patriotic parts (music, poems etc.) in the programme. Suojeluskuntas also had their own their magazine: "Suojeluskuntalaisten Lehti" ("Magazine of Sk-Members") published by "Kustannusosakeyhtiö Suunta" ("Publishing-Ltd Suunta"), which was replaced with the Sk-organization published "Hakkapeliitta" in 1925. From 1926 on, “Hakkapeliitta” was a weekly color magazine with tens of thousands of subscribers. However, it wasn't the only such publication. "Suomen Sotilas" ("Finnish Soldier") was also a popular magazine and many Sk-Districts had their own magazines. The fact that the large majority of opinion leaders in Finland in the 1920s and 1930s such as teachers and priests, had a positive attitude towards the Sk-organization didn't do any harm either.
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Aikakauslehti Hakkapeliitta 49/1929, kansikuva. Kannen tekijä tuntematon

As we will see, from the early 1930’s on, the Sk-organisation worked increasingly closely with the military to produce short Films and “News” clips promoting the military and the Suojeluskuntas (from the mid-1930’s on, these were generally shown in Cinemas before the main feature and were rather well-done) as well as Training Movies and Training Pamphlets and advertising campaigns promoting various aspects of the military and the Suojeluskuntas. An excellent example of this was the campaign supporting the Government’s initiative in introducing School Dental Nurses which simultaneously extolled the role of the Army in bringing the need to the attention of the Government. Another such campaign was that supporting the introduction of “School Meals”, again both supporting the Government initiative, again extolling the role of the Army in bringing the need to the attention of the Government and praising the Lotta Svard organisation for their voluntary work in implementing and running the program for the benefit of all Finnish children. Such campaigns served to more and more create a favorable impression of the Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svard organizations across the entire poltical spectrum.

Suojeluskunta Finances:

The Sk organization and its units were financed from four main sources:
• Voluntary funding: These included donations, membership fees and money collected by Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svärd organizations as entrance fees to functions they had organized and so on. This was the largest source of funding for local Suojeluskuntas.
• Funding from the State Budget: This started when the Finnish State decided to pay the wages of some hired personnel of the Suojeluskunta organization. The sums increased as the Sk organization grew larger, but the Suojeluskunta always remained an inexpensive tool for helping to maintain the defense capability of the Finnish State. State Funding for the Sk at all times remained less than 2% of the yearly State Budget and less then 12% of overall defense spending.
• Funding from Municipalities, Towns and Cities: These typically financed local Suojeluskunta units (as long as left wing parties didn't have a majority on the local council). From 1930 on, almost all local Suojeluskunta units received Municipal / Town funding.
• Business profits from firms owned by Suojeluskunta: Three parts of the Suojeluskunta-organisation were organized as independent companies from early 1927 and also did business outside the Suojeluskunta-organization, functioning for all intents and purposes as commercial entities (which in fact they were). These organizations were:
o Suojeluskuntain Ase ja Konepaja Oy (SAKO = Weapons and Machine Factory of Suojeluskunta).
o Suojeluskuntain Kauppa Oy (SKOHA = Shop of Suojeluskunta).
o Suojeluskuntain Kustannus Oy (= Publishing House of Suojeluskunta).

For fundraising, the chapters organised numerous informal events and lotteries. It is estimated that about one fifth of all get-togethers in Finland in the 1920’s were organised by the Suojeluskunta and as many again by the Lotta Svärd – and by the end of the 1930’s, the figure was probably twice this, meaning the Suojeluskuntas / Lotta Svärd organizations were a key component within Finland’s social fabric. To this end, the Suojeluskunta chapters had several hundred choirs, orchestras, and theatre groups as well as numerous buildings that served a dual function as Armouries, Drill Halls and Social Venues (indeed, if you were a Suojeluskunta member, as often as not your wedding reception took place in a Suojeluskunta Hall).
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Suojelusjunta Choir

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Suojelusjunta Band

With the ongoing reorganization and restructuring of the Finnish Armed Forces from 1931 on, the Suojeluskunta-organisation came to play an important role in various aspects of defence and was allocated either increased funding or direct support from the military as the organisation came to assume these roles. In addition, the Defence Ministry in some cases contracted direct to the Suojeluskunta businesses – for example, purchasing weapons from SAKO and contracting out the making of training films and pamphlets to Suojeluskuntain Kustannus Oy (something we will look at in more detail in a later Post). These activities all resulted in increased indirect funding for the Sk. Overall, the financial costs of the Suojeluskunta were minimal when compared to the contribution the organisation made to Finland’s Defence. All the training carried out by Suojeluskunta members was voluntary, most local units built their own Unit Halls with voluntary labour and donated materials and into the 1930’s, members and local units paid the costs of weapons and ammunition.
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A typical Suojeluskunta Local Unit Hall

III – Suojeluskunta Training in the 1920’s

Training in the Suojeluskuntas did not start well. After the Civil War, the Armed Forces picked the best trained and most competent Officers and NCO’s. Meanwhile the Sk organizations had trouble hiring capable Officers and NCOs. The low quality and inexperience of the Sk Officials responsible for training manifested itself in low quality training throughout the whole Sk. organization. In December 1918 the leadership of the Suojeluskunta decided that the Sk. organization as a whole needed its own Officer School. The Officer School ("Päällystökoulu" aka "Sk.Pk") was established in 1919 in the town of Hämeenlinna and the first course for Sk Officers was held in there in October 1919. A few Sk Districts also organized their own courses for Sk Officers, and from 1921 some Sk Officers also started being trained at the Kadettikoulu (the Officer Cadet School of the Armed Forces), although the number of Sk officers trained through the Kadettikoulu proved minuscule compared to those trained by the Sk Officer Schools (some 1,100 Officer-trainees over the first three years).
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Hämeenlinna Päällystökoulu (Officers School)

Over the course of the 1920’s, several new buildings were added to the School and the training given progressively improved and diversified. One of the key factors in improving the situation through the 1920s was that starting from 1921, professional soldiers (primarily Officers from the Finnish Army) replaced the highly-motivated but less professionally-skilled nationalists and independence activists who made up the initial training cadre. Generally speaking, those Conscripts who were selected for Reserve Office Training received basic junior-level Officer Training while completing their conscript service. A very very small number of these Reserve Officers then went on to enter the Cadre Army as full-time Officers, where they went through the Kadettikoulu (the Officer Cadet School of the Armed Forces) training (touched on in an earlier post). Of the remaining Reserve Officers, many went on to join the Suojeluskunta – from 1931 on this was an expectation that was almost always fulfilled – and it was within the structure of the Suojeluskunta training program that these Reserve Officers received the bulk of their more advanced Officer Training. Junior Officer Training at this time (the 1930’s) was very tough and very professional, with the curriculum content constantly being updated and revised based on experience from exercises and from Officers attached to foreign armed forces from 1931 on (a program initiated by Marshal Mannerheim).
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Officer Candidates from the Suojeluskunta Officers School participating in a Field Exercise in June 1934.

And while the training through the last half of the 1920’s had been good, in the last half of the 1930’s it was excellent, (we will examine the training content for both the Suojeluskunta Officers and NCO’s and the Cadre Army Officers and NCO’s in detail in a later post). Suffice it to say at this stage that during the 1930s, some 319 Suojeluskunta Officers courses were held there with almost 15,000 participants. The average course length at the Sk Officer School was initially 8 months with about 800 hours of training but by 1935, this had reduced in length to 6 months but with approximately 1400 hours of training. From 1934 on, more specialized courses were also introduced, where advanced and specialized training was offered to selected Suojeluskunta Officers. It could well be said that the Suojeluskunta Officers School, graduates of whom filled almost all Junior and many Senior Officers positions in the Finnish Army of the 1939-1940 Winter War, trained the officer core for the Finnish Army in the Winter War. The high quality of training given to Suojeluskunta officers (and to NCO’s) in the 1930’s permeated outwards into the training given at all levels of the Suojeluskunta, immensely improving the quality of training through the whole organization.

The Content of Sk Officer Training in the 1920’s:

The educational standard required of Sk Officers was confirmed in May of 1921. The level of education and basic training required for Sk Offices was set as being at least 5 years of secondary school or equivalent schooling, together with Sk Officer courses and passing the Sk Officers Exam. And having met these requirements didn't necessarily guarantee promotion. In 1923 the courses and studies for Sk-Officers were also standardized. The Course of Study included much theoretical and doctrinal knowledge, so reading and studying the listed books from the curriculum was an important part of preparation. The subjects studied by Sk Officers included:
• Military Forces doctrine
• Suojeluskunta doctrine
• Weapons doctrine
• Terrain doctrine
• Fortification doctrine
• Tactics
• Company tactics
• Machinegun tactics
• Artillery tactics
• Horse management

Subsequent to the Military Review of 1931 ordered by Mannerheim, a number of other subjects were progressively added to the curriculum over the course of the 1930’s. These included (among other subjects):
• Armour doctrine
• Close Air Support doctrine
• Anti-Aircraft doctrine
• Anti-Tank doctrine
• Inter-arms coordination

If mobilization had taken place in the 1920s, Sk Officers would have been ordered to fill the ranks within the Army for which they had received training when they had carried out their Conscript Service in the military. This was a clear organizational weakness and would have been a waste of resources – this was recognized in the Military Review of 1931 ordered by Mannerheim and was addressed in the subsequent military reforms of the early to mid 1930’s, as we will see.

In 1933, as one of the many reforms of the military being undertaken, the Suojeluskunta created a separate Sk NCO School. Prior to 1930, Sk NCO’s had generally received Junior NCO training during their Conscript Service and on joining the Sk, were generally assessed and appointed to NCO positions after having been a member for some time and having proved their worth within the organisation. The Sk NCO School was created to provide Sk NCO’s with both Senior NCO training (for Sergeants, CSM’s, Warrant Officers) and to provide NCO’s with the training to allow them to fill positions that would in the past have been held by Junior Officers. The objective was to ensure NCO’s were capable of stepping up in the event that Unit Officers were killed or incapacitated during combat.

Sk Member Training Requirements in the 1920’s:

Starting from 1921, active Sk members were required to participate in at least 12 days (about 100 hours) of training per year. The training would usually last one to several days at time and was organized as garrison/camp type training sessions. In theory the emphasis was on shooting and battle training. In reality however, early Sk training included lot of close order drill, while battle training was less common and shooting was a rare treat. It also proved to be a problem for the Suojeluskuntas to achieve the 12 days/year training levels for their active members. Only the very best of the Suojeluskuntas units managed to meet the yearly training requirement in the 1920s. There were also issues around the specialized Branches with their own demands for specialized training for members of their units (Pioneers, Signals, Artillery being examples).
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Early Suojeluskunta Training Session in a Local Unit Hall

Maneuvers were expected to play a large part in Sk training, but the first large maneuvers held by Sk organization didn’t take place until 1929 (with 283 officers and 3,841 NCOs and men near the town of Jyväskylä). Following the 1931 Military Review, this changed rapidly and by 1934, Annual Regimental exercises were being held, while by the late 1930’s it was not uncommon to hold multi-Divisional exercises involving tens of thousands of participants.
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Local Suojeluskunta Unit conducting a route march exercise, 1920’s

As the level of military skill expected from members of the Sk was standardized, its men were divided into two classes:
A class:
A1: Men fit for frontline service under 40-years old.
A2: Men fit only for guard duty or over 40-years old (only infantry).
B class: Those who had not passed Sk-private exams.

The Timetable for Sk-Private courses, (Includes the time for each training component, based on the Suojeluskunta Rule Book):

General military training – Total 13 Hours
Military forces doctrine, laws and regulations 9 hours
Routine duty 2 hours
Garrison duty 2 hours

Drill training – Total 20 Hours
Close order drill 12 hours
Open order drill 8 hours
B
attle training and field service – Total 64 Hours
Individual battle training 26 hours
Squad battle training 20 hours
Field Service 18 hours

Field works 4 hours
Anti chemical weapons training 10 hours
Equipment training 15 hours
Shooting training 15 hours
Sports education 8 hours
Maintenance 6 hours
Total 68 hours
GRAND TOTAL 155 Hours

Types of Sk Training:

Typically, City Suojeluskuntas had several companies, while the largest ones had Battalions and the Helsinki Suojeluskunta had Regiments. In the 1920s training in the rural Suojeluskuntas was typically exclusively for infantry. At that time only the Suojeluskuntas of the largest city units were trained in other branches of arms such as:
Artillery (few Suojeluskuntas Artillery units outside of the larger cities)
Cavalry (also few Suojeluskuntas Cavalry units outside of the larger cities)
Bicycle troops
Engineers (only in Helsinki and on a very small scale)
Signal units (starting in 1927)
Medical units (starting in 1919 but also with very few Suojeluskuntas Medical units outside of the larger cities)
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Suojeluskunta Bicycle Troops on a training weekend, early 1930’s

Artillery training started within the Sk in 1919. The first artillery weapons used were the "75 VK 98" mountain guns, but starting in 1920 the Sk also received other guns. The Sk-Artillery Training Units were made up of 2 gun and 4 gun strong batteries called "Sk Batteries". These Sk Batteries were directly under the command of the Sk.Y. Between 1918 - 1921 the Sk also manned static batteries of 152-mm fortification guns located in the Suvanto-Vuoksi area to guard against the Bolshevik threat. Shooting with live-fire ammunition was quite limited as the older gun types were typically in rather poor shape and there was an ammunition shortage for modern guns.

Shooting as part of training:

Shooting was and is a vital part of the military skillset. The Suojeluskunta included practice shooting and shooting competitions into its activities from the start, but early on this wasn't easy. Hunting was popular among the Finns living in rural areas, but the usual hunting weapon had been a shotgun, not a rifle. After the Civil War the Finnish military dumped a mixed bag of captured rifles on the Suojeluskunta and even the more standard types like the Mosin-Nagant M/91 rifles that were received by the Suojeluskunta were often in very poor shape. Between 1918 and 1923 the Sk organization also found it difficult to find acceptable quality ammunition at reasonable prices. The basic necessities needed for shooter training were accurate rifles and good ammunition, so the rifles needed to be repaired and an adequate supply of ammunition organized.
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Erikoisaselajien koulutus jatkui koko talven ja kevään. Pistooammuntaharjoitukset on kuvannut Werner Mauritz Gestrin, Tampereen museoiden kuva-arkisto

Rules used in early Sk shooting competitions can sound odd to todays shooters. Hits were measured as centimeters from the center of the target, and sighting in shots or using rifle slings for support was forbidden. Some Sk members who had the money and wanted good shooting results bought new (usually 7mm x 57 caliber) Mauser rifles at their own expense. Because Japanese and Mosin-Nagant rifles of the Suojeluskunta and their ammunition were what they were, a special handicap system was introduced for them. Basically the handicap system worked like this: Shooters using Japanese rifles recieved 5% compensation and shooters using the Mosin-Nagant rifle recieved 10% compensation, those who used the new Mauser rifles didn't get any compensation. In a way the compensation system didn't always work as perceived. Many of the most successful shooters took trophies using self-loaded ammunition with Mosin-Nagant rifles. The Suojeluskunta soon had the best competition shooters in Finland.

In the 1920’s, the Sk-organization in principle emphasized military shooting (fast and precise shooting at various distances), but in reality the emphasis remained on sports shooting (shooting accurately from pre-known distance). The Suojeluskuntas also built hundreds of shooting ranges for their own use. The number of Suojeluskunta organized shooting competitions and their participants skyrocketed in the 1920s. One of the goals of Sk organization was to make shooting one of the main national sports and one could say it succeeded to a large extent. Shooting continued to be a central part of Suojeluskunta training through the 1930’s but following the 1931 Military Review, the emphasis really was placed on military style shooting – and in particular, fast and precise shooting at various distances and at moving or pop-up targets. Competition shooting still took place, but the Sk emphasized that practice for competitions was in the individuals own time. Indeed, shooting training received a great deal of attention, with constant improvements being introduced. Initially, shooter training used standard bullseye or cutout targets (as in the photo above) but in the 1930’s, Combat Range Training with mechanically-controlled popup targets was introduced. These Combat Ranges became increasingly sophisticated over the decade of the 1930’s.

In the later 1930’s, from around 1937 on, training in shooting was further and even more extensively revised based on Lindberg’s psychological studies. Measures taken included replacing all of the old “bulls-eye” targets with man-shaped pop up targets that fell when hit and repetitious “snap-shooting” range training against the same man-shaped pop-up targets, creating a reflexive reponse pattern that became ingrained after constant repitition (constant repitition was stressed as the key to success). Stimulus-response, stimulus-response, repeated hundreds of times as a training conditioner. The Suojeluskuntas began building new “snap-shooting” ranges which focused on developing combat-shooting, rather than target-shooting skills. With the work largely being done by voluntary labor, changes were quick to be made and by 1938, most Suojeluskunta shooting ranges were all of the “new model”, although old-fashioned target shooters tended to be somewhat resistant.

Many of these ranges permitted Company-sized live-firing exercises to be conducted, giving units valuable tactical battle-skill training under more realistic conditions and there was one training area set up specifically to allow Regimental-sized live-firing exercises – this particular range was in constant use all-year round, by the late 1930’s, most Regiments carried out one 2-3 day exercise per year on this Range. By the time the Winter War broke out, almost all Suojeluskunta members had gone through the new shooting training – and all those who had completed their compulsory military service in the 1938 and 1939 Intakes had certainly received this training. Also as part of incorporating the new shooter training, the Lindberg-developed techniques to train soldiers to consciously adjust their physiological responses had been carried out. This was largely through a combination of breathing exercises and “battle-conditioning” training under conditions of extreme stress and exertion simulating real combat as closely as possible – intense physical exercise followed by range snap-shooting accompanied by simulated grenades and artillery explosions in the main. Conscripts of course received far more intense training, with live bullets being fire overhead on top of everything else. All this moved the standard of shooting of the average Suojeluskuntas member to a very high standard.

Despite the new weapons being introduced to the Army and the Suojeluskunta through the 1930’s, many still preferred the old Mosin-Nagant Rifles, particularly in shooting competitions – and good marksmanship was always emphasized – both the Finnish Army and the Suojeluskuntas emphasized in their training that “every Soldier is first and foremost a Rifleman. One Bullet, One Kill.” As documented in the Suojeluskuntas Hakkapeliitta magazine, the 1937 World Shooting Championships were a real success for Finnish marksmen and for the M/28-30 Rifle, pride of the Suojeluskuntas even as late as 1937.
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"SAKO bullet is 'the old tenwalker'" (left), Olavi Elo - a double World Champion and sleeper of team Finland (right)

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The opening ceremony. From left to right: former President P. E. Svinhufvud (Ukko-Pekka), President Kyösti Kallio, Field Marshall C.G.E. Mannerheim and General Hugo Österman

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Ukko-Pekka preparing to fire (left).

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Some of the participating nations (20 in total).

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The Gold Medalists

And here’s some further illustrations of shooting competitions, targets and the Rifles used.

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The 1937 Mosin-Nagant M28/30 – popular in Shooting Competitions, but by the time of the Winter War replacement in front-line use by a combination of the Finnish Army’s new Semi-automatic Lahti-Saloranta 7.62mm SLR and the Suomi SMG was well underway.

When it came to repairing and building rifles "Asepaja" (Weapons Workshop, later known as SAKO) started in 1919 and proved very useful, but results of its hard work appeared slowly. A temporary solution to the ammunition shortage was loading ammunition with simple equipment in local Suojeluskuntas, and this continued until the ammunition shortage passed.

The Sk Navy

Another interesting part of the Sk-organization directly under the Sk.Y and having its own uniforms was the Sk-Navy. The idea for the Sk-Navy was based on the British Auxiliary Fleet and appeared in 1919, but it took until 1923 for the idea to materialize. Their training was closely related to coastal defence training, which was also one of the special branchs of the military for which the Suojeluskunta provided training for its members. Apparently there was a considerable amount of enthusiasm for the Civil Guard Navy, since the training spread quickly over much of Finland - by the late 1920's there were 76 local sea civil guard units (typically each municipality, town etc had its own local civil guard). These included not only local sea civil guards in the coastal areas around the Baltic Sea and Lake Laatokka/Ladoga, but also many which were located in inland lakes. The number of vessels used in the 1920’s was quite small (as were the boats used), but their number was large on a Finnish scale. Participants in the first Sk-Navy maneuvers included: About 200 boats, 14 tugboats, and about 650 men. In the 1920’s, their planned wartime use was supporting the coastal artillery with guard, communications and transport missions. Members of the Sk Navy had also received training in laying and clearing sea mines and were expected to become familiar with signaling, naval guns and torpedoes. The obligatory minimum amount of training for Sk Navy members was 6 days/year.
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Sk-Navy on exercise: Summer 1931

The number of local Civil Guard units providing this type of training increased in the 1930's. The Sea Civil Guard of Helsinki was from the start one of the best equipped units of the Sk-Navy) but in the early years they were short on boats and equipment. On establishment in 1928, they had no boats at all, the first boats acquired were two old open top whaling boats, which were bought by the unit itself in 1930. In 1931 the bough the SP 19 "Merikotka": this was an old sailing boat capable carrying 9 men. In 1932 the Lotta-Svärd organisation donated SP 20: an old motor boat 11-meters long.

As mentioned in an earlier Post, Motor Torpedo Boats and Fast Minelayers were an early component of the Finnish Naval Construction Plan of 1931. Production construction commenced in 1935, with Hietalahden Laivatelakka awarded a contract to build fifty of these boats over a five year period, delivering 10 per year from 1936 through to 1940. In addition, a number of smaller shipyards were awarded contracts to build a further fifty as a Fast Minelayer version over the same period. Later consideration was given to fitting out a third version as an Anti-Submarine Patrol Boat, primarily for service in the Gulf of Finland with the objective of restricting access to the Baltic for Soviet Submarines. A contract for this type was placed in late 1937, and around twenty five had entered service by the time the Winter War broke out. Crew generally consisted of 3 to 4 Officers and 19 Enlisted Ranks.

As an offshoot of the MTB Program the Navy had also decided to build a large number of small Coastal Fast Torpedo Boats on the basis that they wouldn’t cost a lot and if the Soviet Baltic Fleet sortied, they could “swarm” the defences through sheer weight of numbers, with their small size and speed making them difficult to hit. As the threat of war loomed larger in the late 1930’s, more of theses boats were rapidly constructed and by the time the Winter War broke out, some 200 of these Coastal Fast Torpedo Boats were in service, also manned by Sk-Navy personnel. At the same time as the MTB’s were being constructed, a number of underground bases were tunneled into islands scattered around the Gulf of Finland coastline. These underground bases included docks, ramps for pulling the MTB’s and CFTB’s out of the water for routine maintenance and repair and for winter storage, spartan accommodation bays, engineering workshops and fuel and munitions storage. These were intended for wartime use only and were generally only maintained in peacetime by a small number of Naval Reserve (all Suojeluskunta Navy - the Sea Civil Guard) personnel. Locations of these bases were kept a closely guarded secret.

At the same time as the decision was made to purchase these Boats, the Navy decided that both the Boats and the Bases would be manned by Sk-Navy personnel, who while they would remain members of the Sk, would be integrated more closely into the Naval organisation. The decision to assign Suojeluskunta Navy personnel to crew these boats came as a welcome surprise to both the Sk and to the Sk-Navy personnel involved. Competition to get into the units became quite fierce in the late 1930's - and the units had no trouble at all ensuring that they were always fully manned. With approximately 4,500 Sk-Navy personnel manning the Boats, and a further 4,000 odd personnel manning and guarding the Bases, the Sk-Navy grew to a considerable size through the last half of the 1930’s.

The Sk Air Force

The Sk-Air Force was formed in 1935, specifically to augment the Ilmavoimat in the event that War broke out. The SK-Air Force will be covered in detail in the Posts covering the growth of the Air Force in the 1930’s.

The Suojeluskunta and Sports:

The reason why the Sk organization supported sports was quite simple: Fit people make better soldiers and, in general, wide spread sports which maintain fitness have positive effects on a community. Sports played an important part in the Suojeluskunta and the Sk organization also contributed to their development in Finland. Possibly the still most visible effect was introducing "pesäpallo" (basically a Finnish version of baseball, with the main developer of this sport being Sk-Officer Lauri "Tahko" Pihkala) in 1922 and it became so popular and widespread that it is still nowadays a Finnish national sports.
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Sk-Officer Lauri "Tahko" Pihkala

For the Sk organization popularizing pesäpallo had purposes beyond developing physical fitness and team spirit: Short spurts and dashes which ended by throwing a hand grenade sized ball were also useful skills for war. The most important sports for Suojeluskunta were skiing, running, gymnastics, and field & track sports. Of these, skiing slowly became the most important. In fact, the Sk-organization even developed a new kind of cross-country ski (which also become the Finnish military ski), which were handier in forests than traditional Finnish skis and winter-training increasingly emphasized tactical movement into and out of combat on skis, as well as ski-warfare tactics and winter-combat and survival training.
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Suojeluskunta Unit on a Winter Warfare Training Exercise, mid-1930’s

As mentioned earlier, the Suojeluskuntas was also responsible for the introduction of the "KäsiKähmäTaistelu” fighting technique from 1930 on, first into the Suojeluskuntas units in and around Tampere where, despite the reconciliation between the SDP and the Sk, street-fights between the Lahtarit (“the Butchers”) and the Punikit (“the Reddies") continued well into the decade. "KäsiKähmäTaistelu”, or KKT as it was usually referred to, could loosely be classified as a sport, although in reality it was an eclectic, efficient and extremely brutal form of combat incorporating techniques from wrestling, grappling, striking and kicking, with many elements borrowed from the Japanese and Korean Martial Arts Lindberg had studied. In military usage, KKT incorporated physical endurance training, psychological techniques, the practical usage of cold steel weapons (knives, machetes, entrenching tools, bayonets and rifles), knife and stick fighting techniques and aspects of close quarter combat such as sentry removal.

From 1934 on Lindberg was Chief Instructor of Physical Training and Unarmed Combat for the Finnish Army and also for the Suojeluskuntas, a position which he utilized to ensure the rapid expansion of KKT training throughout the Finnish Army, the Suojeluskuntas and into High Schools through the new (from 1934 on) Military Cadet organisation that replaced the Suojeluskuntas Boy Soldiers and the Lotta Svard’s Girl-Lotta organizations. Partially as a result of the rising level of expertise in KKT, the street-brawls between the Lahtarit and the Punikit began to fade away – for one thing, the results were becoming a little lop-sided, but there were other reasons for this as well (largely economic, with rising standards of living all-round). By 1938, most Suojeluskunta units conducted weekly (usually on a weeknight) KKT training sessions.

The Suojeluskunta had started rewarding its best shooters and its fittest members with fitness medals in 1921. The Suojeluskunta fitness medals were issued in three classes and naturally getting the 1st class medal demanded the most fitness. In the late 1930’s, KKT was included, with regular gradings, inter-unit competitions and medals. One could in a way say that the Sk-organization was the most important sports organization in Finland before WW2.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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The Lotta Svärd Yhdistys (Organisation)

Post by CanKiwi2 » 06 May 2011 22:44

The Lotta Svärd Yhdistys (Organisation)

Finnish women first began to take part in patriotic activities during the turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries, a period of attempted Russian domination of Finnish nation-building which came to be known as the "years of oppression.” They founded their own women’s unit to help the Kagal, a Finnish secret society that opposed the oppressive government of Governor General Nikolai Bobrikov. The work of the Women’s Kagal consisted mainly of relaying the Kagal’s secret messages and collecting funds. The women also took part in supporting the Jaegers, the Finnish volunteers secretly sent to Germany during World War I to be trained as elite light infantry in preparation for a war against Russia. After the Jaegers returned to Finland, a large number of them took part in the Finnish wars as high-ranking officers. The Finnish women aided the Jaeger movement by supporting the Jaeger volunteers on their way to Germany. This patriotic activity among the women was widespread, but partly unorganized.

Lotta Svärd was a Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organisation for women, inarguably the most important voluntary organisation for women in Finnish history and was the worlds largest women’s national defence organisation. As with the Suojeluskunta, is a little difficult to describe correctly as there was no similar organisation in the USA, Britain of other Western European countries (again, as with the Suojeluskunta, similar organisations existed in the Baltic States and Scandanavia, but they were modeled on the Finnish organisation). While the USA had women in the military, as well as volunteer womens groups, and the British had women in the military (the Womans Land Army, the Womens Voluntary Service, the Auxilary Territorial Service, the Womens Auxilary Air Force being British examples) there is no easy direct comparison to the Lotta Svärd, which was very much an all-encompassing women’s organisation which was directly connected to the day to day needs of both the Finnish nation and the Finnish military. Members of the Lotta Svärd had a supreme sense of duty to the service of the Finnish nation and the pride in this overriding duty had always been a factor in the internal doctrine of the organization. The ideals of dedication, service, and pride in one’s nation were all important beliefs to Lotta members.

The origins of the Lotta Svärd lay in the Finnish Civil War and were rooted rooted in a long standing Finnish tradition of unofficial female groups that supported various civil organizations. As Finland prepared for independence, these organizations were a public service, providing food to volunteer fire departments and local governments. As the civil war approached, Finnish women activist organizations became more closely associated with the Suojeluskunta (the Finnish Civil Guard) organization. Under the umbrella of the Suojeluskunta, unofficial women’s organizations developed that provided food, clothing, and organized fund raising activities for the organization and their local community. As the Finnish Civil War erupted, the efforts of the Suojeluskunta were directed to support the Finnish White Army and the main purpose of the womens groups was initially to assist the Suojeluskunta with medical services and logistics. As the Civil War went on, activities for these women branched out to include additional tasks such as creating army equipment, cooking for soldiers in camps, and acting as telephone operators. In some areas, female volunteers were messengers and even acted as guards.

In the Civil War, some women on both sides wanted to take part in active combat. Throughout the areas controlled by the Reds, women’s guard units sprang up, comprising in all about 2000 armed women fighters. On the “white” side there were evidently also some women who desired do more that assist with medical services and logistics. An incipient debate on the matter in the Agrarian Party’s Ilkka newspaper in March 1918 was cut short by a prohibition against “White” female fighting units issued by the White commander-in-chief, General C.G.E. Mannerheim (1867–1951). Mannerheim wrote in an open letter “I expect help from Finland’s women in meeting the many urgent needs of the army, such as caring for the sick and wounded, manufacturing clothing, caring for the home and comforting those who have lost their loved ones. Fighting the war on the front, meanwhile, I hold to be the exclusive right and duty of the male.” Fifteen years later, Mannerheim would adjust this stance, as we will see.
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Finnish Red Guard Women, 1918

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Finnish Red Guard Women - 1918

The Red leaders also tried to prevent women from joining armed units, the main difference between the white and red leadership in this regard was that the Red leadership could not control what happened on the ground in their local communities. For example, in the city of Tampere, the local Social Democratic Women’s Association had nothing to do with the formation of local women’s Red Guards in March-April 1918 and probably even opposed them. According to historian Tuomas Hoppu, the women’s Red Guard in Tampere was not the result of any desire on part of the Red Guards to recruit women as reinforcements. The women’s guards were formed by independently acting women enthused by the revolution and inspired by the examples of women’s guards in revolutionary Russia as well as their own male relatives’ activities as guardsmen. Women were also attracted to the women’s guard by the relatively good pay in what was a time of high unemployment and scarcity.
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Vartija ja vankeja Fellmanin pellolla Lahdessa. Guards and prisoners at Felman field. You can see rows of people who had been arrested and brought to this field in Lahde. 20,000 reds were collected here in April and May of 1918. Most of the women and children were sent home while the men were sent to various prison camps. Here too in Lahde was where many women were executed

That there was a strong cultural taboo against women taking up arms is evident, and it was a taboo that was expressed in executions and the intense vilification of the female red guardsmen as “bitch wolves” by the victorious Whites in 1918. In face of this taboo, it is remarkable how many women of the working classes evidently found the idea of female soldiering perfectly intelligible. On the white side, however, women obediently stayed within the sphere of action assigned to them by the military – although it is also significant that Mannerheim felt he had to order them to do so. The spontaneity and scope of the White women’s auxiliary activities in the combat zones show that the “white” women did not regard the war as only men’s business, in which they had no part or share, but as a joint venture where men and women had different tasks to fulfil but in which women actively participated.
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Verna Erikson, a young student, was a Helsinki White Guard. This image became a popular iconic photo, a sexualizing of female resistance. The photo was originally published on the front cover of the Suomen Kuva Lehti (Finnish Photo Magazine) in June 1918, just shortly after the civil war ended. Although there are photos of white women of the civil war time, they were not the ones collected. Rather, because Mannerheim frowned on women carrying guns, images of mother or grandmother in active resistance were put in the bottom of the drawer. Except for this photo of Verna. It has lived on, although she apparently died of cancer shortly after posing for this photo.

After the end of the Civil War, the Lotta Svärd emerged as a separate organisation. The name comes from a poem by Johan Ludvig Runeberg, part of a large and famous Finnish book written in poetic form, “Vänrikki Stoolin Tarinat” (The Tales of Ensign Stål), the poem described a fictional woman named Lotta Svärd. According to the poem, a Finnish soldier, Private Svärd, went to fight in the Finnish War and took his wife, Lotta, along with him where she sold the soldiers drinks and boosted their morale. Private Svärd was killed in battle, but his wife remained on the battlefield, taking care of wounded soldiers.
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Private Svärd went to fight in the Finnish War and took his wife, Lotta, along with him

The name was first brought up by Marshal Mannerheim in a speech given on May 16, 1918 and in August of 1919, von Essen, the Commander-in-Chief of the Suojeluskunta at the time, used the term “Lotta Svärd” to describe the various womens volunteer organizations in his writings. This term caught on with the different organizations and soon many carried the name Lotta Svärd, with the first known organisation to use the name Lotta Svärd being the Lotta Svärd of Riihimäki, founded on November 11, 1918 (although another source states November 19, 1918).
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Lotta Svärd of Riihimäki

On January 23, 1919 the Lotta-Svärd Chapter Nr. 1 (Lotta Svärd – Osasto N:o 1 / Lotta Svärd: Division 1) was founded in Helsinki. This was a Swedish-speaking chapter and its rules served as a model when more chapters were founded in other parts of the country. The name Lotta Svärd started turning up more frequently in the associations’ names, and inquiries about the rules and founding proceedings were sent to the leaders of the Suojeluskuntas. The commander of the Suojeluskunta, Lieutenant Colonel Georg Didrik von Essen, issued an order on August 29 1919 that Lotta-Svärd Chapters should be founded in conjunction with Suojeluskunta Chapters and this also happened over the period 1919-20. By the end of 1919 there were over 200 independent, more or less organized Lotta-Svärd chapters in Finland. However, without common rules cooperation was difficult and caused confusion. As the number of the Lotta Svärd associations and the workload caused by it in the Suojeluskuntas Headquarters quickly grew, it became apparent that some sort of central management had to be established to take care of the things concerning Lotta Svärd. The decision to establish a national Lotta Svärd organization was finally made by the Sk.Y on May 11, 1920. As a consequence the national Lotta-Svärd organisation was founded in May 1920 and, while the date of the Lotta Svärd Association's (Lotta Svärd Yhdistys) establishment is unclear, it was added to the official registry on 9 September 1920. At the founding meeting common rules were presented and approved. The rules had been made by a committee chaired by Helmi Arneberg-Pentti and also approved by the von Essen as Commander-in-Chief of the Suojeluskunta.

Greta Krohn was appointed as the first national head of the Lotta Svärd Yhdistys on Jan 20, 1921. The first members of the board of management were Dagmar von Essen, Ruth Serlacius, Maja Ahlberg, Suoma af Hällström, Siiri Bäckström and Lolan Vasström. Substitutes were Greta Silvenius and Karin Herliz. Mrs Krohn was however relieved of her duties by von Essen early on as apparently she was making too many decisions on her own. On October 10 1921 the new Suojeluskunta Commander-in-Chief Lauri Malmberg appointed Helmi Arneberg-Pentti as the new leader of the Lotta Svärd Yhdistys, she however resigned in 1922 and was replaced by Dagmar von Essen. Dagmar von Essen was followed in 1924 by Tyyne Söderström who held the post until 1929, when Suojeluskunta Commander-in-Chief Malmberg appointed Fanni Luukkonen (a teacher) who would lead the organisation until the end of WW2.
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Lottakenraali Fanny Luukkonen (1882-1947), chairwoman of the organization from 1929 to 1944

In the founding charter, the Mission of the Lotta Svärd Yhdistys was stated as “The Mission of the Lotta Svärd organisation is to awaken and strengthen the Suojeluskunta-idea and advise the Suojeluskunta-organisation to protect creed, home and fatherland. The Lotta Svärd organisation will implement this by:
• Acting to increase the nations will to defend and to uplift the moral condition of the Suojeluskuntas;
• Assisting with the medical functions of the Suojeluskuntas
• Assisting with the provisioning of the Suojeluskuntas
• Assisting with fund-raising for the Suojeluskuntas
• Assisting with office functions for the Suojeluskuntas and gathering funds for financing its own activities and for the use of the Suojeluskunta-organisation.

Apart from assisting the Suojeluskunta, the Lotta Svärd Yhdistys role expanded in the 1920’s to include helping civilians through charity work. As national defence planning became more thoroughly organized and integrated through the 1930’s, the Lotta Svärd Yhdistys took on additional roles and responsibilities, as we will see later in this Post. Suffice it to say at this stage that the Lottas were key in altering the viewpoint of a very male-dominated society as the members of the Lotta Svärd proved that a woman’s role was important to the survival of the Finnish nation. The members of the Lotta Svärd served the Finnish nation as they felt it was their calling, and with pride they took on the duties that needed to be done for Finland to survive. There were many Finnish soldiers who called the members of the Lotta Svärd angels and these angels shone when their nation called on them in the hour of greatest need.

Lotta Svärd unit organisation

Structurally, the Lotta Svärd Yhdistys was organized similarly to the Suojeluskunta, with a Central Board, District Boards, Local Units and Village Sections, largely paralleling the Suojeluskunta organisation. Within this overall structure, the organisation was strictly divided into branches that were defined by the type of work done by the volunteers and in which new Lottas were placed according to their skills and education. This guaranteed an efficient way of working in both war and peace. At first various names were given to the branches but eventually they were called Medical, Catering and Supplies. As the organisation grew and new tasks were received, and as the situation changed during the wars, the division into branches and their tasks was modified to better fit their purposes.

The Lotta Svärd organization was closely connected to the operations of the Suojeluskuntas on all levels. This benefited both parties. The Suojeluskuntas needed the help and support of the Lotta Svärd organization in the areas which were best suited towards women and which most required workers. Similarly, the Lotta Svärd organization was often able to operate only because of the settings provided by the Suojeluskuntas s: office space and a supply of raw materials for the work of the provisioning and equipment divisions.

Before the founding of the national Lotta Svärd organization the standard requirements for new members were minimal. The only requirements in some local divisions were that the applicants be women over the age of eighteen who had “a good reputation”. Later, when the national organization was founded in 1920 and new rules were set, the requirements for new recruits were defined more closely. According to these new requirements all new applicants were accepted as long as they had a good reputation and their loyalty towards the legal social order could be trusted. The requirements did not set an age limit, but applicants under the age of eighteen needed to have permission from their guardians. Another regulation added the requirement that acting members who had committed themselves needed the permission of their husbands to be able to join the acting group. These requirements were later specified further in the rules made in 1921.
According to these rules, the local districts could accept any woman who was loyal to the Finnish Government, and who had the recommendation of two well-known and trustworthy people. In the 1930s the organization started putting new applicants on probation for a period of 3-12 months before they could be accepted as members. During the probation new applicants were educated in the work of the members and the principles of the organization. At the end of the probation period the applicants were given a test; those who passed it were accepted as new members. These requirements were followed until 1943, when the growing need for new recruits forced the management to start accepting new members on lesser grounds.

Lottas chose to take part in the organization’s work out of their own will. Their only motivation was their sense of duty and the fact that they wanted to do their own part in order to help their country survive the trials of war. Their work was both voluntary and largely unpaid; it was not until December 1939 that the Ministry of Defense decided to start supplying the acting Lottas with a small daily allowance.

Membership Categories were initially:
• Acting Lotta: Women were now trained to perform additional tasks beyond nursing and provisions, including air surveillance and signaling. This group was divided into categories according to where they were located.
• Supplies Lotta: Other active members of Lotta Svärd who worked in their assigned sections.
• Supporting members: They paid the membership fee, but didn't actively work in Lotta Svärd Association. They also didn't have the right to vote or be candidates in its elections (unlike other members).
In 1937, these categories were expanded.
• Acting Lotta: They were now divided into sub-categories, depending on whether they served in their home area or outside it.
• Reserve Lotta: They had similar training as Acting Lottas, but they had no orders for serving in any specific place. They functioned as reserves, and could be called upon to reinforce or replace Acting Lottas. They were also divided into sub-categories, which were determined by whether they served in their home area or outside of it.
• Supplies Lotta A: In mobilization, they would be called to serve in a task or profession that they had been trained for.
• Supplies Lotta B: All other Lottas not defined in the categories above.

To become a member of the Lotta Svärd, applicants needed two well-known and trustworthy persons to recommend them. The board of the local unit evaluated the applications and accepted new members. Upon acceptance, members took a pledge to the organization.

The Lotta-pledge -1921
"I [first name surname] pledge with my word of honor, that I will honestly and according to my conscience assist the Suojeluskunta in defending creed, home and fatherland. And I promise that I won't give up working in the Lotta Svärd Association, until one month has passed from me verifiably informing the Local Board of my desire to resign from the Association. "
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Lottas giving their Lotta Promise in a church in Turku

Etiquette and Behavior

Lottas were expected to act in a virtuous way and avoid causing disapproval in any way. During wartime the clothing and etiquette rules were slackened somewhat. In warm weather, Lottas were allowed to open the two top buttons of their shirt and roll up their sleeves (which then could be attached to shoulder buttons). During wartime, critics within the organization claimed that many of the newer members who had joined in the last half of the 1930s lacked the high ideological standards of the earlier members. In a way the critics were correct, the organization received huge number of new members in a short time, and many of the newer members, coming as they did from families with SDP backgrounds, did not share the same beliefs as those members from “White” families.

According to the rules, the purpose of the Lotta Svärd organization was to invoke and strengthen the ideology of the Suojeluskuntas and to aid the Suojeluskuntas in protecting religion, home and country. The organization carried out its purpose by attempting to raise the people’s morale and will for national defense and also by working for national defense in various fields of activity. At the same time the organization aimed to raise Finnish women to be model citizens. A Finnish woman was supposed to be patriotic, self-sacrificing, brave, enduring, responsible and skilled. The organization’s ideology was based on Christianity, morality and patriotism, which was also engraved in the organization’s Golden Words, which were an essential part in the crystallization of the “Lotta spirit”. The Golden Words were as follows:
1. May the fear of God be the greatest strength in your life!
2. Learn to love your country and your people!
3. Value your Lotta ideals. Only when you are righteous, pure and sober can you be a true Lotta!
4. Always demand the most from yourself!
5. Be good!
6. Be loyal even in the smallest things!
7. When you encounter misfortune, remember the greatness of our goal!
8. Respect your Lotta sisters and aid them in their work, thus you can strengthen the feeling of unity!
9. Remember the work of the past generations. Respect your elders, for they have done more than us!
10. Be modest in the way you behave and dress!
11. Submit to self-discipline in order to raise the discipline of the organization!
12. Lotta, remember that you represent a great, patriotic organization. Be wary of doing anything that may hurt it or damage its reputation!

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The Golden Words

The Lotta Svärd disciplinary regulations and the Golden Words obliged every Lotta to remember that they represented the whole organization. The discipline was absolute concerning the use of alcohol and tobacco: the organization forbade Lottas from using alcohol while on duty and while wearing the Lotta uniform, and smoking was not allowed in public. Lottas were also not allowed to use make-up while wearing their uniforms, and the use of jewelry was restricted so that only wristwatches and wedding and engagement rings could be used. Improper behavior could result in disciplinary measures or in the worst case expulsion from the organization. Although the rules were usually strictly followed, some problems did emerge. The tense wartime atmosphere gave rise to all sorts of negative rumors about the behavior of Lottas on the front lines. There were of course some actual cases of rule-breaking, for example drinking or smoking in public, but in most cases the rumors proved to be baseless. Additionally, most of the rule-breakers were young women who had only recently been accepted into the organization during a time of great need for new recruits, and who had not had time to adopt the organization’s ideals. All in all, only 346 Lottas, comprising only 0.38% of the 232,000 members, were ever expelled from the organization for breaking the code of behavior.

The typical punishments that Lotta Svärd used for members that broke the rules were transfer or being sent back home. The most severe punishment was sending the member back home to her own Lotta Svärd local unit, which could issue an official warning, or suggest the member resign. During the Winter War some 130,000 Field Lottas served, and only 346 received suggestions to resign, or were suspended.
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But despite everything, romance flourished. Boys will be boys and Girls will be girls….

The Lotta Svärd Branchs

Lotta Svärd Medical Branch

At first the tasks given to the Medical Branch were basically the same as during the Civil war, i.e. first aid and assisting the Suojeluskuntas. New orders in 1922 however said that every Suojeluskunta chapter, company and division should have a certain number of Medical Lottas to perform duties at the front (treating and transporting wounded and sick soldiers, arranging first aid stations) as well as on the home front with similar and other medical tasks. The greatest undertaking of the Medical Branch was however the establishment, equipping and staffing of fully equipped 250 bed Mobile Field Hospitals, of which there were eight by 1933 and some ninety by 1939, fully staffed by Lotta Svärd-trained Nurses, Medical Assistants plus ancillary personnel (cleaners, cooks, laundry personnel, administrative, etc). All the equipment for these Mobile Field Hospitals was funded by Lotta Svärd fund-raising through the 1930’s and it was a gargantuan national undertaking by the organisation that went on year after year – in fact, it was the organizations largest effort - but the end result was that when the Winter War broke out, almost every Regimental Combat Group in the Suomen Maavoimat was equipped with a Mobile Field Hospital. At the same time it was also the first measure of support which was primarily meant to help the National Defense and not the Suojeluskuntas, which the Lotta Svärd organization had been firmly supporting up to that point.

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Lottas on a Medical Training Course

While the Field Hospitals were created and largely staffed by the Lotta Svärd, they were placed under Maavoimat Command from 1935 on, as the Lotta Svärd Yhdistys became more closely integrated into the overall defence organisation. Lotta Svärd Medical Branch personnel were assigned Maavoimat ranks and, on mobilization, became part of the Maavoimat. Annual Regimental exercises from 1936 on included Lotta Svärd Medical Branch personnel and the Mobile Field Hospitals. On the outbreak of the Winter War, the Lotta Svärd Medical Branch followed their mobilization plans and moved out with their assigned Regiments, staffing Field Hospitals, Hospital Trains and front-line First Aid Posts.
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Front-line Lotta Medic – Winter War – taking a break at a frontline First Aid Post

In the early years of the Lotta Svärd Organization, members were not formally trained very well. The first courses started in the summer of 1922. Nursing training was in high demand, though teachers were scarce. Short medical courses, concentrating on gathering bandage material and medicines, were organized by doctors in the area. Until 1929, medical Lottas were trained at regional training centers on two-week-long basic courses or, if they were unable to attend these courses, they could receive the same training by taking evening classes for a longer period of time. Of course, such a short training was not enough to prepare the Lottas for actual medical care. Although they wanted to operate near the frontlines, the Suojeluskunta gave the impression that they would never be able to do so. However, in a presentation given in 1925 by Professor Hjalmar von Bonsdorff it was proposed that medical Lottas could work in field hospitals as nurses or their assistants if a war broke out. It also proposed that the training periods for medical Lottas should be lengthened to correspond to these tasks.

These guidelines were soon followed when a committee set up by the central board planned and organized six-month-long training periods for nursing assistants. These started in 1928 and proved to be highly effective. Numerous 6-month nursing courses were organized and by 1938 about 65 percent of Lottas belonging to the nursing section had participated in these courses. Even with the preparation that had gone on, there were not enough trained medical personnel and perhaps the single most important task of the Lotta Svärd Medical Branch was to train additional Lottas for duties at hospitals, helping the regular nurses, and also for duties in the hospital trains and front-line First Aid Posts. There was certainly no shortage of new volunteers for these tasks. The Lottas also took medical care of evacuees. Not all Lottas in the Medical Branch were available to serve in these militarized units for various reasons – but many of these personnel could and did carry out voluntary supportive work such as the manufacturing of bandages and other similar equipment.
Other duties included by Medical Branch Lotta’s included the washing and mending of the clothes of wounded soldiers - their aim was that when someone left the hospital he would always have clean, neat, whole clothes. Not only humans were looked after by the Lottas, animals also needed caring for. Especially in the countryside animals were left without veterinary care during the War and it was left to the Lottas to look after them. Horses in particular had a hard time and received special care from trained Lottas. The war brought some surprises, as the Medical Branch Lottas also had to perform some unexpected tasks such as writing letters home for soldiers that were not able to do it themselves, and be good listeners when someone wanted to talk to someone about their difficult experiences at the front (these tasks were often performed by the “Small-Lotta’s” (more on this Girl-Lotta organisation later). Lottas also delivered information regarding evacuees to their relatives in the army. Libraries were set up at hospitals, and entertainment arranged. The Medical Branch Lottas also took care of the canteens at hospitals. Some of the Lottas in the Medical division were called Blood Lottas, because they were responsible for transporting donated blood. Perhaps the toughest job was performed by the Lottas at the KEK centres were dead soldiers were washed, dressed and put in coffins before being sent home to their relatives.

Lotta Svärd Catering Branch

The Catering Branch was the biggest in the Lotta-Svärd Yhdistys (organisation), and it took care of food supply during Suojeluskunta manoeuvres, parades and during other public events – one that deserves mentioning is the 1938 celebration of the 20 year Anniversary of the end of the Civil War - some 900 Lottas and 120 field kitchens were involved in the festivities. The Catering Branch also assisted during large Army and Suojeluskunta manoeuvres. Over the years the activities of the Catering Branch became quite diverse, partly thanks to the book “Muonuttajien Ohjeet” published in 1926 and later additions to it. The “bible” for the Catering Branch was the Catering Lottas’ Handbook (Lotta-Svärd publication Nr 10) written by Elli Malmgren. Lotta-cafés were organized by the Catering Branch and held all over the country, with the income from the cafés being used to buy more equipment.

As we will see in a later Post looking at the construction of the fortifications on the Karelian Isthmus through the last half of the 1930’s, the Lotta-Svärd Catering Branch was responsible for the food supply to the volunteers working in Karelia building fortifications. From 1935 on, Catering Branch Units from all over Finland travelled to the Karelian Isthmus on a regular basis every summer to support the construction volunteers, with thousands of Lottas taking part. On the outbreak of the Winter War, Lotta-Svärd Catering Branch personnel staffed Field Kitchens for almost every unit in the Maavoimat down to the Company level and as with Medical Branch personnel, were integrated into the Maavoimat, assigned Maavoimat ranks and operated as part of the military units they were attached to. Many Lotta Catering Branch personnel operated Company Field Kitchens close to the front lines and, like all Lotta personnel operating as part of combat units, were armed with individual firearms. Many were involved in combat at the height of the Winter War, a not inconsiderable number died in action.
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President Svinhufvud inspecting a Lotta Field Kitchen

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Lotta Field Kitchen in operation

One Lotta Catering Branch Field Kitchen Unit attached to an Infantry Battalion was even awarded the Mannerheim Cross (tragically, this was posthumous. Attacking Russian units in overwhelming strength had broken through the Finnish defence line in a surprise flanking move and were penetrating the Finnish rear area. The girls of the Field Kitchen Unit were all that stood between the attacking Russian regiment and a key crossroads. Caught by surprise, rather than running, the unit of young Lottas immediately counter-attacked, catching the Russians by surprise and decimating the initial attackers with well-aimed fire from their Suomi SMG’s before going to ground and holding the Russians off until a scratch Finnish unit of REMF’s from the Battalion HQ arrived to contain the breakthrough. Unfortunately, the three Lotta’s of the unit that survived the initial attack later died from their wounds. The attacking Russian unit was wiped out to a man. “The Last Stand of Field Kitchen Unit #1239” will be covered in a much later Post when we get to the actual fighting).

At the start of the Winter War the Lotta Catering Branch baked 200,000 kg of bread every day for the troops, this enormous task was organized through special Baking Units and local chapters worked shifts to maintain the supply. Commercial Bakeries, School and large farm kitchens were all used. Food was also organized for evacuees and other civilians affected by the war, and for Field and Army hospitals and hospital trains. It was a mammoth undertaking, and with the Lottas carrying out this work, large numbers of men were thereby available for front-line combat.

Lotta Svärd Supplies Branch.

The roots of this branch can also be found in the 1918 Civil War. When the priest in Siikajoki, O.A. Salminen and his wife Maija learned about the outbreak of the Civil War, they organized knitting meetings for the women, and the response was good. Wool was collected and converted to mittens, socks and other winter clothing to be sent to the front. In the first years of the Lotta-Svärd organisation, the activities were similar; knitting, sewing and mending, mainly equipment and clothing for the Suojeluskunta and for the Lottas themselves. New gear was also acquired and some stored for (war)time use. All uniforms, armbands and patches were made by the Lottas. Naturally they also took part in bookkeeping and other tasks related to Suojeluskunta equipment.

In the 1920’s, members who belonged to the Supplies Branch received on-the-job training. In the 1930’s, training became more formalized as the Supplies Branch took on more and more responsibilities and became organized in a more military fashion. Training pamphlets were written, formal Courses were held and annual exercises were held in conjunction with the Suojeluskunta. The equipment section arranged courses on gathering materials and on creating supplies, uniforms and equipment such as webbing, magazine pouches and camoflauge suits, in some cases professional tailors or military tailors taught these courses.
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A Lotta Svärd Supplies Branch units at work

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Snowsuits being sewed at a Repair Workshop

As part of the military restructuring of the 1930’s, the Lotta Svärd Supplies Branch took over all responsibility for the making of Uniforms and clothing for both the Suojeluskunta and the Army. Starting in the early 1930’s, they began making snow camouflage suits for the army and many more were made during the war. Being outside the strictly military chain of command prior to the Winter War, the Lotta’s were also more open to unconventional ideas and approaches and were also more interested in their menfolk’s comfort and well-being. This resulted in some unusual innovations, such as the mottled brown and green summer camouflage uniforms that were introduced in the late 1930’s and which proved highly effective in the months of summer combat in 1940. The the Lotta Svärd Supplies Branch was also responsible for the design and manufacture of the boots worn by Finnish soldiers – and the new 1937 issue boots proved far more comfortable and durable than the previous Army-issue boots.

The Lotta Svärd Supplies Branch was also responsible for all military laundries, with Mobile Field Laundry Units established and railroad cars converted into mobile laundry facilities that could be moved closer to the front.
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Laundry was mainly washed by hand.

The Suomen Maavoimat also used large numbers of horses for logistics and large numbers of personnel were needed for horse handling and care. As the Maavoimat was reorganized, wherever possible Lotta Svärd Supplies Branch were assigned to positions necessary for horse handling and care, again freeing up many thousands of men for combat roles. Likewise, in 1937, the bulk of rear-area Quartermaster positions were reassigned to Lotta Svärd Supplies Branch. And as more trucks became available through the 1930’s in the event of a Mobilization, plans called for Lotta Svärd Supplies Branch to supply the Drivers for these (as well as drivers for all remaining public transport – primarily trams and buses). In the 1920’s, this Branch consisted mainly of elder Lottas, who carried out their Lotta duties by doing handiwork; and it also had the smallest number of members. However, as the Branch took on added responsibilities, it acquired more and younger members.
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Lotta with Horse (the Finnish Army relied on thousands of horses for transport, these tied up a great number of personnel, by 1939 most of whom were Lottas)

Lotta Svärd Fundraising Branch

This branch collected funds and supplies for supporting the Lotta-Svärd and Suojeluskunta organisations. This was done through lotteries, soirees, different festivities and by selling magazines and badges. “Office” was added to the Branch’s name in 1925 in connection with updating of the organisation’s rules. The first courses on activities such as chemical warfare protection and mobilisation manoeuvres were organised in 1927. In 1932, the Branch was split into two, with the Lotta Svärd Fundraising Branch continuing to be responsible for all fund-raising, materials and social activities, the Office and Administration Branch taking responsibility for all administration-type activities and in 1937 the newly formed Lotta Svärd Guards Branch taking responsibility for more directly military-related activities.

Lotta Svärd Office and Administration Branch

From 1932 on, the Lotta Svärd Office and Administration Branch took responsibility for all administration-type activities. This Branch took care of Field Post Offices within the military, Communications (which included both telephone switch board operators, telegraph operators and radio operators), administration and office/typist jobs in the Suojeluskunta, Maavoimat, Ilmavoimat and Merivoimat as well as their own offices (freeing “manpower” for the front).

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Lotta Radio Operator

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Lottas Censoring Soldiers Mail

Office and Administration Branch personnel also worked as translators, Metrological Lottas carried out weather observations and prepared weather reports, there was also a separate unit within the Branch that took over responsibility for Mobilization Management from 1935 on. This was a crucial task, and one that we will examine in detail when we look at Mobilization Planning and preparation shortly.

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Meterological Lottas at work

Lotta Svärd Guards Branch

Established in 1937, this was perhaps the most “combatant” of the Lotta Svärd Branches and was largely formed as a result of increasing pressure from young women who had completed their Military Cadet Training (more on this later) while at School, and who wanted to take a more “active” role in Finland’s defence than the traditional roles of the Lotta Svärd permitted. This pressure combined with the needs of the military for more manpower in front-line units and led directly to the formation of the Lotta Svärd Guards Branch. Units were created and personnel were assigned for Searchlight Batteries, Rear-area Anti-Aircraft Gun Batteries, Chemical Warfare Protection, Intelligence, conducted Air Surveillance, worked as Air Raid Wardens and Civil Defence personnel and conducted Sea Surveillance. Air surveillance courses and mobilization exercises started in 1932. Further courses were added in the late 1930s which included anti-chemical weapons training in 1936 and signal training in 1937.

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Lottas practicing sound ranging

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Lotta Searchlight Unit in action

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Lotta Searchlight Unit posing for Foreign Photographers

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Lotta Searchlight Units before the Winter War

Lotta Sea Surveillance groups were formed in coastal areas, where they worked closely with the Suojeluskunta and with the Coastal Artillery, Coastal Jaegers and the Merivoimat (Navy). Sea Surveillance Lotta’s were trained in observation techniques, radio operating and artillery fire control. In the Winter War, it was the Air Surveillance Lottas who became the most well-known abroad. They were photogenic and easily spotted by foreign reporters, who were largely Helsinki based (with their movements outside Helsinki strictly limited and closely monitored due to well-founded fears of reporters also being Soviet spies). Beginning in early 1939, the Maavoimat also began to assign Lotta Svärd Guards Branch personnel, along with Boy and Girl Military Cadets of the 15-16 year old Class to the TJ-R150-24 (Taisteluajoneuvo 24x150mm Raketti) Rocket Launcher Battalions that were rapidly being formed. These units were leavened by a sprinkling of above-age soldiers, together with above-age NCO’s and Officers to provide command experience. All Lotta Svärd Guards Branch personnel were trained in the use of weapons and were armed for personal defence.

From 1936 on, the Ilmavoimat had there own Lotta Svärd Branch, which we will look at in detail along with the Ilmavoimat in the 1930’s. Suffice it to say at this stage that Ilmavoimat Lotta’s took on many roles within the Ilmavoimat.
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Lotta Svärd Ilmavoimat Auxilary – Lotta Pilot ferrying newly-acquired aircraft from Britain to Finland

The history of the Small Lottas

Activities for girls were discussed was as early as in 1921 in a local meeting in the Mikkeli Lotta Svärd unit. Katri Langenkoski and Betty Tiusanen suggested that separate groups for 10-15 year old girls should be founded within the Lotta-Svärd organisation but received no response. When Langenkoski became a member of the central board in 1929, she again began working to promote this idea. The plan was presented by chairwoman Fanni Luukkonen at the annual meeting in 1931 where she suggested that the idea of Girl Lottas should be tested, a proposal which wone the board’s approval.

It is almost certain that the existence of the Soldier-Boy groups within the Suojeluskunta had inspired the Lottas. That same year the first rules for the Girl Lottas were approved, and leaders for the Girl Lotta work were also selected by the central board. Fanny Munck, head of the Supplies Branch, was given the task of designing a badge for the Small Lottas. Their uniform was basically the same as the normal Lotta dress. As an alternative to the normal cap, a blue beret with the local chapter’s insignia was agreed on. In 1933 an armband was approved as part of the uniform. Applicants were to be approved by the local chapter, girls between the age of eight and 16 and with their parents’ approval could apply. When the girls turned 17, they could (with the approval of the local Small Lotta leader) apply to be a “real” Lotta. The term “Small Lottas” was used up to 1943 when it was officially changed to “Girl Lottas”.
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Small-Lottas - 1930

Activities

The activities of the Small Lottas were to learn to love their home, their parents, their faith, their fatherland and to respect their elders. To facilitate activities, the girls were divided into two separate age groups; 8-13 and 14-16 years old. On the schedule was singing, gymnastics, games, sports and useful skills such as sewing, cooking and first aid. In the Small Lotta Guide Book of 1938, it was emphasized that the younger girls should not take part in the older girls’ activities and that too much stress should not be put on anyone. Courses for Girl Lotta leaders were held at Tuusula with approximately 50 participants on every course. Trips and camps where the girls could meet friends of the same age from other parts of the country were very popular. Programmes at the camps consisted of both playing and games as well as activities such as orienteering. Competitions against the Boy-Soldiers were also arranged.
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Small-Lottas at Summer Camp

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Small-Lottas on a navigation exercise

With the formation of the school-based Military Cadet organisation in 1932 (something we will cover later in this Post), the Small-Lotta organisation expanded to include the Girl-Cadets. As part of this move, in increasing emphasis was put on military-style training for the older girls. This included Military Drill, Physical Fitness, Rifle, Pistol and Machinegun shooting, Marksmanship, Small Unit Tactical Drills, a large dose of Outdoor Activity and Orienteering (both summer and winter) and, from about 1933-34 on, training in the new hand-to-hand combat technique of KäsiKähmä Taistelu" (or KKT as it was more widely referred to).

At the time, the decision to teach both Boy and Girl Cadets the same skills was somewhat controversial – the more conservatively minded wished to perpetuate the Lotta Svärd role in providing support to the military. This however conflicted with the ever-increasing demands on manpower of the Armed Forces as they expanded their capabilities through the 1930’s. Nationalism and the needs of the military conflicted with more traditional concepts of female roles, and it was the needs of the military that won out, as we will see. The roles that women filled in the “mobilized” military continually expanded, and while they received more or less the same basic military training as men but at a less physically demanding level, women were never permitted to participate in front-line combat units. However, Girl-Cadet Training was the first step in preparing women for a greater role in the military and it was greeted with remarkable enthusiasm by many of the female students (but, it must be admitted, not by all….).

Cadet Training itself generally consisted of a half day per week, but for Secondary School Students, every second Saturday was generally also a Cadet Training Day, and from about 1935 on, Summer Camp Training for both Boy and Girl Cadets under the auspices of the military and the Suojeluskunta/ Lotta-Svärd organisations became more and more common. As we will see in a later post looking at the construction of defensive positons on the Karelian Isthmus, extended Summer Camps were also introduced from 1935 whereby Boy and Girl Cadet Volunteers who chose to could spend a major part of their summer holidays working on the preparation of the Karelian Isthmus Defences and receiving further military training at the same time.

Small-Lottas during the Winter War

The role of the Amall-Lottas’ during the Winter War was generally to work as reliable and eager helpers. The older (14-16) girls were very useful in assisting their older “sisters” in the following areas:

Medical Branch: In the hospitals, the Small-Lottas worked in canteens, kitchens, laundries, worked as waitresses, helped feed wounded soldiers who were unable to feed themselves, acted as messengers, worked on switch boards, sat and talked to wounded soldiers, wrote letters for them, helped with sewing and ironing and manufactured bandages.

Catering Branch: The girls worked in canteens, cafeterias and military shops as well as working as dishwashers, cleaners and waiters, and assisted in baking and distributing bread and other food supplies for the army.
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Small-Lottas assisting the Catering Branch – washing dishes

Supplies Branch: During the wars the girls manufactured a considerable amount of clothing and gear for the soldiers. E.g. gloves, socks, knee pads, helmet covers, ammo belts…The small Lottas also helped in mending and repairing clothes and gear.
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Small-Lotta’s sewing for the Soldiers

Fundraising Branch: The Small-Lottas helped in fund raising, collected radio license fees, food, books bottles, scrap metal, wool and rags for use at the home- and real front. They arranged entertainment and soirees for evacuees and children.

Office Branch: The Small-Lottas helped in offices, switch boards and post offices. During the evacuation of civilians from front-line areas, the Small-Lotta’s filled a key role in the evacuation management, organizing billets for evacuees, escorting evacuees to their billets and acting as guides and liasions for evacuees. They also took a leading role in making flower arrangements for funerals and helped with the caring of grave yards. The older girl lottas also looked after the younger children.
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Small-Lottas operating a Telephone Switchboard

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Lotta Funeral

Guards Branch: Older girl lottas (15-16 years class) participated in air and sea surveillance, crewed Searchlight Batteries and rear-area Anti-Aircraft Gun Batteries together with their older sisters and formed a major percentage of the personnel in the TJ-R150-24 (Taisteluajoneuvo 24x150mm Raketti) Rocket Launcher Battalions that were being established as an emergency measure from early 1939 on (a period when personnel shortages were acute as the Finnish military prepared against the ever-increasing threat of war from the Soviet Union).
Last edited by CanKiwi2 on 07 May 2011 05:29, edited 2 times in total.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

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Lotta Svard continuec

Post by CanKiwi2 » 06 May 2011 22:45

Growth in Lotta Svärd Membership

In 1930, the Lotta Svärd organisation had 63,794 members. As with the Suojeluskunta, the reconciliation between the Social Democrats and the Sk-organisation in the early 1930’s also had its effect on the Lotta Svärd. Unlike the Sk-organisation where growth was almost non-existent in the period immediately after the reconciliation, the effects showed almost immediately with a substantial increase in the number of Lotta Svärd members as large numbers of women from Social Democratic families started to join. The growth in numbers of Lotta Svärd members from 1930 – 1939 was as follows:
1930: 63,794
1932: 74,842
1934: 86,022
1935: 122,344
1936: 165,623
1938: 172,755
1939: 242.045

By 1939, with 242,000 volunteers, the Lotta Svärd was the largest womens voluntary defense organisation in the world, while the total population of Finland was less than four million. And by 1939 there were in addition 79,000 members in Lotta Svard girl-units (the Small-Lottas) and 42,000 suppporting members. Lotta units and personnel were allocated a variety of roles and responsibilities when the country was moved to a war footing. The real importance of the Lotta Svärd organisation during wartime was in the ability for its active members to free equal numbers of men from work, the homefront or in rear-area military support positions, making them available for front-line military use. Approximately 100,000 Lottas and some 30,000 older girl-Lottas were assigned to take over jobs from men, who were thereby freed up for military service. The numbers of men that were made available to the Finnish Field Army this way was comparable several additional divisions. In addition, those Lottas and older Small-Lottas in the Guards Branch effectively filled a large number of rear-area combatant positions that would otherwise have needed men, freeing up even more men for front-line service.

As funding for the military increased along with economic growth through the 1930’s, and the size of the mobilized Armed Forces grew, manpower shortages were more and more evident. To cope with this, an ever-increasing role was allocated to women. Initially, the Lotta Svärd organisation was asked to perform some supporting work within Military Hospitals, Catering, Supplies and Administration. In 1934, with the Armed Forces Reorganisation legislation, a far wider range of rear area positions within the Army, Air Force and Navy were opened up to Lottas aged 18 and over. And once the door was opened, it proved impossible to close. Women became more and more indispensable to fill gaps in the military’s strength. And where there were personnel-availability gaps, it became more and more expedient to fill these with Lottas.

By the late 1930’s, Lottas were filling many rear-area combatant positions – and the formation in 1937 of that most “combatant” of the Lotta Svärd Branches, the Lotta Svärd Guards Branch, merely formalized what was already more a less a fait accompli. In 1937, this was legislatively systemized, with the military mobilization system being extended to include the Lottas, with approximately 130,000 Lotta and Small-Lotta members (almost half the Lottas overall strength) allocated to roles within the military where they manned supply and base depots, drove vehicles, filled rear area maintenance, office, signals and intelligence positions, served as ground crew in the airforce and filled base positions in the Navy, Air Force and Army. In addition, Lottas, Small-Lottas, Boy-Soldiers and overage Home Guard members manned rear-area anti-aircraft and searchlight batteries as well as air-raid warning posts. The partial (and it was an emergency measure) manning of the TJ-R150-24 (Taisteluajoneuvo 24x150mm Raketti) Rocket Launcher Battalions with Lottas was probably the peak of the militarisation of the Lottas. All Lotta personnel assigned to active service positions within the military were assigned weapons, as were many assigned to Home Front units, and by 1939 almost all younger Lottas had completed a short period (3 months) of military basic training.
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Lotta Air Surveillance Post

But the most significant contribution made by the Lottas was the filling of a large number of medical positions within the Defence Forces. This was a war-time role that had been anticipated, planned and actively trained for. The Medical Branch of the Lotta Svärd trained large number of Assistant Nurses and Medical Assistants. Training of assistant nurses was started in the 1920's with two-week long courses. In 1929 the training program was made more effective and practical by lengthening the course to three weeks and adding a six month long practical training period in military hospitals. From 1932 on, these “3 weeks + 6 months” courses were ongoing in Viipuri, Tampere, Turku and Helsinki. The medical branch of Lotta Svärd also gathered medical equipment: By the autumn of 1939 they had equipment for 90 well equipped 250-bed Field Hospitals with 22,500 beds ready for use, as well as having gathered equipment for numerous Battalion First Aid Posts and Casualty Clearing Stations. During the Winter War, approximately 60,000 Lotta Svard Nurses, Assistant Nurses, Medics and Medical Branch personnel worked in Army Field Hospitals, Military Hospitals and Hospital Trains, making up most of the rear-area medical strength.
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Lottas undergoing Medical Training

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Lotta Medic on the front-line treating a casualty - Spring 1940

The Lotta Svard organisation was also assigned responsibilty for handling food supplies for evacuated civilians and homefront troops, looking after families of reservists serving at the front and caring for evacuated civilians. Evacuation Management Sub-units were created from the mid-1930’s on for these purposes, with plans drawn up and training exercises carried out.

Lotta-Svärd Equipment

The Lotta Uniform

The first Lotta Svärd clothing regulations were issued in 1921 and comprised of a grey jacket, belt and skirt made from the same coarse fabric that the Suojeluskunta (the Finnish Civil Guard) used for their uniforms. This clothing, too warm and constrictive, was replaced two years later. In 1922 the Lotta dress code was approved nation-wide at the annual meeting. The dress was grey wool or cotton cloth, with loose white cotton collar and cuffs. The dress could not be shorter than 25cm from the ground (this was changed to 30 cm during the war). Together with the dress, the Lotta-Svärd badge was worn on the collar. The badge was normally silver but later versions were only silvered. Winter trench coats retained the coarse cloth from the old uniforms, but the summer version was similar to a raincoat. Many items, such as the summer field caps were similar to those used by Suojeluskunta. Sports clothing (such as ski clothing) was not as formal and often included trousers instead of a skirt.

On the left arm, a cloth badge and band showed which branch the Lotta belonged to. On festive occasions, a band showing the district was also worn on the left arm. The Lotta cap was the same model as the Suojeluskunta cap and was made of a similar cloth to the dress. A cockade in the cap showed the colours of the Suojeluskunta District that the Lotta belonged to but later on the blue and white Army cockade was used. A white cotton apron was often used, especially by Catering and Medical Lottas. Other badges worn (on the left breast pocket) were the course star, badges received for 10 or 20 years in service, and different sport badges. Awards and medals were allowed to be worn on special occasions, and Medical Lottas with nurse training were allowed to wear the nurse’s badge of their organisation.

The rules for wearing Lotta clothing were quite strict:
• The only medals and insignias allowed with it were badges of honor plus of course the merit- and fitness-badges of the Lotta Svärd.
• No makeup was allowed and hair had to be kept inside the hat.
• Wedding rings and a watch were the only jewelry allowed.
• Drinking alcohol, smoking and immoral behavior were strictly forbidden while wearing Lotta clothing.
• Going to the frontline without permission was forbidden during combat.

Probably the most important, and at times controversial, insignia for the organization was Lotta-pin designed by Eric Vasstrom and introduced in 1922. The main motif of the pin was blue "hakaristi" (Finnish variation of swastika) and with a heraldic rose in every corner. The probability of confusion increased greatly after national-socialists got into power in Germany. The grey uniform-like clothing with a pin that had a swastika-like symbol caused foreigners to sometimes mistakenly think Lottas were connected with the German nazi-party.
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The blue Lotta "hakaristi" with a heraldic rose in every corner

Officially Lottas were also supposed to salute soldiers and each other with their own salute, in which the right hand was placed over the breast so its fingers extended all the way to point of left armpit. However, this salute was rarely used.

Lotta Dish Sets

Right from the start, the Lottas played an important role in catering at big public occasions and for parties, so large-scale porcelain services were needed. These were manufactured by Arabia between 1920 and 1944. Early services differ from later ones by being standard restaurant versions with the Lotta-Svärd logo added; these early versions are quite scarce today. At first, services were quite small but as the organisation grew in the 1930’s more and more types were added. (OTL, as the organisation was disbanded after WW2, the porcelain often came to a poor end. Services were donated to other organisations or split between members. Some were hidden in attics and other places to wait for better times. In the worst cases, everything was destroyed as happened in most of the bigger cities. Hence porcelain from smaller districts is more commonly found than those marked as being from city units. A lot of enamelled dishes, pans and pots were also manufactured and used, as they were cheap and sturdy in field use. These were also marked with the Lotta logo. Very few have survived since they were simply worn out and thrown away).
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Lotta Cup and Saucer

Lotta-Publications

The Lotta-Svärd organisation published a lot of printed material, most between the years 1930 and 1944. Three main groups of material are the Lotta Organisation’s magazines, public magazines and other material such as a Helsinki City Map.

Christmas Lotta

The earliest publication was the Jul-Lotta Christmas magazine from 1922, this was in Swedish and made by Lolan Vasström of the Western Uusimaa district to raise funds. The following Christmas both Finnish and Swedish versions were published and all the funds earned were directed to the Lotta-Svärd central board to be used as they saw fit. The sales exceeded all expectations and the profit was over 72,000 finn marks. In 1922 Lolan Vasström transferred all publishing rights to the central board, the Magazine continued to be an excellent money maker and the profit was shared between the districts and local chapters. In 1930 and 1931 a childrens Christmas magazine named Lotan Joululahja was published but never gained much popularity.
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1934 Lotta Christmas Magazine

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1943 Lotta Christmas Magazine

Lotta-Svärd magazine

The publishing of its own magazine was raised at the 1923 annual meeting but it did not happen until 1928 when Hilja Riipinen brought it up in a speech at the Vaasa Lotta. At this stage it was felt to be very important and the board was convinced, that same year the first issue was published. Hilja Riipinen was the editor of the magazine until 1936 when she was suceeded by Fanni Luukkonen. The magazine contained general information and stories written by the editors as well as pieces sent in by Lottas. From 1942 there was also a version in Swedish, and it was not just a translation but contained unique material in addition to material sourced from the Finnish version. The Swedish version is easily recognized by the yellow front page. Both versions of the magazine were published until the Lotta-Svärd organisation was disbanded.

Other publications

Not much written material was produced in the 1920’s, apart from the Christmas-Lotta Magazine – what was produced were mainly instructions and handbooks e.g for catering and medical Lottas. The handbook for catering was written by Elli Malmgren while the medical handbook was the result of teamwork. The most important Lotta book of the 1920’s was “The White Book” which contained stories of women’s roles in the Civil War. This was targeted at the general public and was the idea of Hilja Riipinen. The Suojeluskunta Song Book was another wide-spread publication.
In the 1930’s considerably more material was published. “The Golden Words of Lotta-Svärd” were the rules that every Lotta should obey, this was written by Luukkonen and Riipinen and given their graphical form by the artist Furuhjelm.The idea came from the “Commandments of the Fatherland” as published in the Porvoo community. Later the same kind of rules were written for the Small or Girl Lottas. More song booklets were published, pictorials showing the work of the Lotta organisation and later on a book on the subject of the Lottas in the WinterWwar. This book was also translated to Swedish and Hungarian (in 1942). A numbered print was also available. The next large work was a collection of frontline soldiers’ letters home. The book was titled “Unknown Finnish Soldier” and teacher Elsa Kaarlila had over 4000 letters to choose from. The profits from the book went to the care of war invalids and others suffering from the war.

In 1942 a book on Field Marshal Mannerheim was published, titled “Lottas and the History of our Fatherland 1: Mannerheim and my Fatherland” The book was later used for educational purposes. Another similar book was written for the Small Lottas - both books were written by Katri Laine. Other books aimed at the general public were “The Promise of the Young” “Women and the Mothers of Heroes” “The Direction and the Road”. Instruction books were published for the Office, Communications, Meteorological and Air Surveillance Lottas. Several song books were published in the 1940’s. In 1941 the magazine “The Field Lotta” first appeared, in that year with three issues and the following years eight issues. The magazine was intended for Lottas stationed away from home and contained greetings, messages and general organisational info and was distributed by the Lotta districts and border offices.

Small Lotta publications

As with the “real” Lottas, the Small Lottas also had their own magazine, this was first called Pikkulotta and later renamed Lottatyttö in 1943. First published in 1938, the aim was to produce a high quality, appealing but easily understandable magazine for the young. Puzzles, competitions and different stories were part of the content, together with poems and pictorials. A very popular reoccurring story was the one of the little girl Aune Orvokki, whose life the readers got to follow. Aune was the youngest daughter of a family in Kainuu whose father had recently died. Aune’s mother kept the readers informed of Aune’s life in letters, and the PikkuLottas sent Aune letters back with their greetings. Other publications were song books and handbooks, books on handicrafts and hobbies. In 1943 and 1944 a magazine for Girl-Lotta Leaders was published in both Finnish and Swedish.
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Pikkulotta (Small-Lotta) Magazine

OTL Note: The Abolition of Lotta Svärd and the Years That Followed

OTL, the Continuation War ended on September 19th, 1944, when Finland signed an interim peace treaty with the Soviet Union. The 21st article of the treaty required Finland to abolish all “Hitler-minded (fascistic) political, military and military-oriented organizations as well as other organizations which practiced propaganda against the United Nations and especially the Soviet Union.” Although the Finnish government and the leaders of the defensive forces felt that the Civil Guards could not be considered to be a “Hitler-minded” organization, the treaty’s reference to military organizations gave reason to assume that the article’s main purpose was the abolition of the Civil Guards. As the Lotta Svärd organization was closely connected with the Civil Guards in its operations, the Lottas could also feel the same foreboding. At that point, the main concern of the organization’s management was the future of its members who had suffered because of the war. In addition, the management worried about the families of the war invalids and the war orphans whom the organization was committed to aid. In order to make sure that this welfare work would continue, even if the organization was abolished, the management set up Suomen Naisten Huoltosäätiö [the Foundation of Finnish Women] to which it donated a large part of the organization’s properties and funds (Lukkarinen 303). This foundation still exists to this day, though its name was changed in 2004 to Lotta Svärd Säätiö [the Lotta Svärd Foundation].
Under the terms of the interim peace treaty, the Civil Guards organization was abolished on November 7, 1944. Soon afterwards, on November 23 of the same year, the Lotta Svärd organization was also abolished. At the time of the abolition, the Lotta Svärd organization consisted of 232,000 members, of whom 150,000 were active members, 30,000 were supporting members and 52,000 were Little Lottas. Approximately 300 Lottas had been killed in the line of duty during the years the organization had operated.

The establishment of the peace treaty drastically changed the atmosphere in Finland. Thousands of organizations were abolished in accordance with the 21st article of the treaty, and the ideals the members had lived by were labeled as “criminal” by many politicians who wanted to avoid further conflict with the Soviet Union. Many former members of these abolished organizations had to either deny or keep quiet about their pasts for many decades. As a result of this, the Lotta Svärd organization was hardly even discussed for almost 50 years. Although the 1980s saw a national restoration which returned its honor to Lotta Svärd, the restoration could not fully erase the negative images that the peace treaty and its interpretations had left behind. This situation finally improved in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, which changed the operating environment of Finland’s foreign policy, and thus also influenced the Finns’ interpretation of their own recent history. On September 13, 1991, a committee led by the Minister for Defense organized an event in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Lotta Svärd organization. The purpose of this event was to give Lottas official recognition from the State for their work during the war years for the first time since 1944. The Finns’ attitude towards the Lotta Svärd organization had been getting steadily more respectful since the 1980s, but it was this event which encouraged former Lottas to start talking in public about their experiences as members of the organization. Since then, many associations which aim to uphold the memory and spiritual heritage of the Lotta Svärd organization have been set up all over Finland. Additionally, in recent years researchers have become more interested in the Lotta Svärd organization, and this has led to many research papers and memoirs being written. After almost 50 years of silence, the Lotta Svärd organization is finally gaining the attention it deserves.

While a large part of the above Post on the Lotta Svärd organization has history that has been “tweaked”, much it contains is historically accurate. The Lotta Svärd organization played an important role in supporting Finland’s national defense both materially and spiritually during the war years. Besides supporting the troops, the Lottas helped free soldiers for the front lines or other national defense duties by taking on tasks that would otherwise have belonged to men. One of the organization’s most important achievements during the war years was creating and upholding the nation’s will for national defense. The sheer number of members in the organization made it possible for the organization to influence both homes and the whole society by simply setting an example. Thus, it is greatly thanks to Lotta Svärd that Finland’s home front managed to mentally endure the war years so well. Although Finland had suffered greatly in the Winter War and the Continuation War, the results of the war could have been much more devastating for Finland without Lotta Svärd’s help. One can only speculate whether the Finland today would still exist as it is now if Lotta Svärd had never existed. They are an organisation whose members deserve to be remembered with respect and honour.
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

Mark V
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Re: What If - Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by Mark V » 08 May 2011 00:25

You have done an great and exhaustive job here. Thanks for great read.

For sure Finnish politicians screwed up massively in 30s with pasifism feelings alive in time when it was not approriate, and keeping the purse strings tight, unnecessary so, especially in latter part of decade.

Even with quite small enhancements, the Winter War would had turned from the embarrassment, and serious blood letting of Red Army to wholesale bloodbath. The information that Soviet intelligence produced was so politically screwed that smallish changes to Finnish armament would with all propability caused little or no change to Soviet preparations for occupation of Finland. Finns missed during Winter War countless opportunities to cause significant losses to Soviets, mainly because lack of ammo for artillery.

- Ammunition stocks of artillery and mortars to realistic levels.
- Around 300 pieces of L/-39 20mm AT-rifles in service by fall-1939, and same number of 37mm Bofors AT-guns.
- around 150 or so Bofors 40mm AA-guns in service by fall 1939.
- Around 20 or so more Fokker D-XXIs for second full strenght fighter squadron, lisence built or bought from Netherlands, and the buy of fighters from Italy bit previously, all 35 Fiat G.50s in the country by fall-1939 (for third fighter squadron).
- In late 30s, 1936-1939, intensified training of reserves, especially calling to (short duration - 2-4 months or so) military service those healthy men from age groups of 1905-1915 that had been disqualified in their normal draft years by exceedingly tight qualification demands (budget restrictions being the real reason). 14 Divisions should be the aim for mobilization.
- Corresponding purchases of infantry and support weapons, and other equipment for those additional divisions.
- Suomi SMG purchases increased by 3-fold from historical during the previous decade.
- Bit more attention to winter camouflage clothing, clothing in general, and other misc equipment for field army.
- Good batch of reliable field-grade radio equipment.
- Equipment, even if WW1-era old guns, for extra half dozen heavy (6-inch or so) howitzer batallions, with corresponding ammo supplies. Used as High Command Artillery reserve in points of main thrust of enemy.
- 150 or so Finnish 120mm mortar in service by fall-1939, with corresponding ammo supplies.

...and there would not had been Moscow peace like historically.

Soviets would had got an opportunity to start from totally anew the training/equipping of their armies (much more than critique of Winter War historically). Maybe advantage to Hitler, maybe not.


Regards

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CanKiwi2
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Re: What If - Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by CanKiwi2 » 08 May 2011 02:41

Hey Mark

Glad you are enjoying it so far.... it sure is interesting doing all the reading. I thought I had the background pretty much worked out when I started this but the more I write, the more digging I end up doing and all sorts of interesting things come out of the woodwork.

Agree with you on all those points you made - I will be getting there ... slowly ... but probably with a few more guns ... and other things.

Cheers............Nigel
ex Ngāti Tumatauenga ("Tribe of the Maori War God") aka the New Zealand Army

Mark V
Financial supporter
Posts: 3925
Joined: 22 May 2002 09:41
Location: Suomi Finland

Re: What If - Finland had been prepared for the Winter War?

Post by Mark V » 10 May 2011 18:07

CanKiwi2 wrote:H... but probably with a few more guns ... and other things.
Hi. Keep on the great work.

I just listed the barest minimum for decently (not well, not plentifull) equipped army of democratic country of our size, in geopolitical situation we were. The level that politicians should had allowed if they were up to their job. Totally within the economy we had historically, without going to war economy, without losing any significant liberties and benefits of civilians.

Schools would still be built...

Your goal is much higher, i see that.

Regards
Last edited by Mark V on 10 May 2011 18:26, edited 1 time in total.

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