Images of war

5 May 2015 | This 'n' that

harmonikka

A soldier playing his accordion. Photo: SA-kuva

Between 1939 and 1944 Finland fought not one, but three separate wars – the Winter War (1939-45), the Continuation War (1941-44) and the Lapland War (1944-45).

We have become used to black-and-white images of the conflict, with their distancing effect. Among the 160,000 images in the Finnish Wartime Photograph Archive, however, are some 800 rare colour photographs from the Continuation War, which bring the realities of fighting much closer. The events pictured leap out of history and into the present.

The large numbers of photographs of guns and aircraft will be of primary interest to military historians, professional and amateur; but among them are images which bring home the political realities – the victory parade for the short-lived recapture of Viipuri in 1941, for example, or a photograph of Field Marshall Mannerheim, the Finnish leader, shaking hands with Adolf Hitler on a visit to Germany in 1942, marking Finland’s co-operation with German forces in the fight against the Soviet Union during the Continuation War.

Inevitably, however, some of the most affecting images are not of fighting but of the ordinary life that continued through the conflict. Warming a sauna; soldiers’ washing hung out to dry in an eastern forest; a private on the front reading a letter from home: Russian women chopping firewood; army pack-reindeer in their saddles; and a soldier, little more than a boy, far from home, playing his accordion.

viipuri

The victory parade for the short-lived recapture of Viipuri in 1941. Photo: SA-kuva

pyykki

Soldiers’ washing hung out to dry in an eastern forest. Photo: SA-kuva

polttopuut

Russian women chopping firewood. Photo: SA-kuva

Lottia

Members of the women’s defence corps  pause for coffee by the lakeside. Photo: SA-kuva

lepo

Off-duty. Photo: SA-kuva

Letter

A private on the front reading a letter from home. Photo: SA-kuva

Photo shoot

A woman air defence officer photographed on the Lahdenpohja air surveillance tower. Photo: SA-kuva

sauna

Warming a sauna. Photo: SA-kuva

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