Tag: war

Antero Holmila & Simo Mikkonen: Suomi sodan jälkeen. Pelon, katkeruuden ja toivon vuodet 1944-1949. [Finland after the war, 1944-1949. Years of fear, bitterness and hope.]

16 June 2015 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Finland after warAntero Holmila – Simo Mikkonen
Suomi sodan jälkeen. Pelon, katkeruuden ja toivon vuodet 1944-1949. [Finland after the war, 1944-1949. Years of fear, bitterness and hope.]
Helsinki: Atena, 2015. 2650., ill.
ISBN 978-952-300-112-1
€34, hardback

Finland lost the Winter War and the Continuation War that followed, to the Soviet Union, and was then forced to engage in the short Lapland War to expel its former allies, the Germans. The return to peace was not easy, as the historians Antero Holmila and Simo Mikkonen demonstrate in this highly readable book. Loss of territory meant finding homes for more than 400,000 evacuees elsewhere in Finland, and this was not achieved without difficulty. Soldiers were demobilised and had to redomicile themselves in ordinary life and work; there was a shortage of housing; and heavy war reparations were to be paid to the Soviet Union. Leading politicians accused of appeasing the Soviet Union during the war received prison sentences, which many people considered wrong. The work highlights the aspirations of the Communists and the internal fighting on the political left. The Communist party, which had been banned, returned to the political stage and was successful in the 1945 elections. The majority of the nation was fearful of the growth of influence of the Communists and, through them, the Soviet Union. However, the Social Democrats, competing with the Communists for workers’ votes, succeeded in gaining considerably more votes than the Communists as early as 1948. Although strikes and conflicts occurred, conditions settled down gradually towards the end of the 1940s and the nation began to get back on its feet.

Images of war

5 May 2015 | This 'n' that


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. More…

The day peace came…

18 March 2015 | This 'n' that


Flags fly at half-mast in Helsinki. Photo: SA-Kuva

Seventy-five years ago, in the period known as the Phony War, while the rest of the world was preparing to fight, it looked as if hostilities were over for one country.

In the preamble to the Second World War, Soviet Union had attacked Finland on 30 November 1939, demanding substantial border territories for the protection of Leningrad. Germany had invaded Poland, and France and Great Britain had declared war; but the Nazi invasions of Norway and Denmark, Italy’s entry into the war, the Battle of Britain, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and all the other horrors of the Second World War were yet to come.

As the world watched, ‘plucky little Finland’, massively outnumbered in terms of both men and equipment but superior in morale, organisation and knowledge of the terrain, managed to keep the Red Army at bay for months – far longer than anyone had expected. Eventually, however, the Russians overcame Finnish border defences and the war ended on 13 March 1940. Now generally regarded by Finns as a defensive victory – Finland was not occupied by the Soviet Union – the peace treaty nevertheless imposed a heavy burden on Finland, which lost extensive territories in Karelia to the south and Salla to the north.

In the event, the war was far from over for Finland, which still had the Continuation War (1941-44) and the Lapland War (1944-45) to fight. But for the moment, the country was once more at peace.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper has published a selection of photographs of the day peace came.


Soldiers of the 69th infantry regiment are able to eat in peace at last. Photo: SA-Kuva

A tree

A tree felled across a road provides a makeshift border point. Photo: SA-Kuva


Soldiers in their white winter camouflage rest in Viipuri after peace is declared. Photo: SA-Kuva

Soldiers in Kuhmo

Soldiers in Kuhmo, north-eastern Finland, inspect the new border line. Photo: SA-Kuva

The last wounded soldiers

The last wounded soldiers are brought back by horse and cart from Saunajärvi. Photo: SA-Kuva

New from the archives

5 February 2015 | This 'n' that

Eeva Kilpi

Eeva Kilpi. Kuva: Veikko Somerpuro

When we first published this piece, evacuation in Europe was a distant memory. The violent events that were to take place in what was then still Yugoslavia – Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Kosovo – were still to come.

Reading Kilpi’s description of her departure from eastern Karelia as an 11-year-old girl in 1939 with these more recent events in mind makes her evocation of the as-yet-unshattered familiarity of everyday life, the fragility of her prayers that everything will be all right, all the more poignant.

Kilpi (born 1927) is a poet, short-story writer and novelist who shot to international fame with her experimental, erotic novel Tamara (1972; English translation Tamara). She won the Runeberg Prize in 1990 for Talvisodan aika (‘The time of the winter war’), from which this extract is taken.


The digitisation of Books from Finland continues apace, with a total of 355 articles and book extracts made available online so far. Each week, we bring a newly digitised text to your attention.

Ville Kivimäki: Murtuneet mielet. Taistelu suomalaissotilaiden hermoista 1939–1945 [Broken minds. The battle for the nerves of the Finnish soldiers 1939–1945]

28 November 2013 | Mini reviews, Reviews

murtuneetmieletMurtuneet mielet. Taistelu suomalaissotilaiden hermoista 1939–1945
[Broken minds. The battle for the nerves of the Finnish soldiers 1939–1945]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2013. 475 pp., ill.
ISBN 978-951-0-37466-5
€37, paperback

Ville Kivimäki bases this work on his dissertation. His research concentrates on how mentally wounded soldiers of the Winter War and the Continuation war (1939–1945), were treated and what sort of conclusions can be made as regards to their age and social background. Eighteen thousand men received, or were forced to undergo, psychiatric treatment; no doubt the number of those who remained untreated and those who suffered symptoms after the war was large. Cases increased not just during combat but also during the long periods of trench warfare. Mental problems were considered shameful, and often even the psychiatrists had moralising attitudes. Those who became ill were regarded as physically and mentally weaker material, trying to benefit from their illness. Treatment relied on German methods, mainly appropriate, even though unappropriate examples exist. The goal was to return the patient to the front, to useful work or home. Kivimäki also takes a look at those who did not fall sick and describes the community of the soldiers at the front and their ways of coping. Remains of wartime attitudes were, surprisingly, seen in doctor’s views as late as the 1990s, when remunerations were discussed. The book won the Finlandia Prize for Non-fiction in 2013.

Mothers and sons

Issue 1/2008 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from Helvi Hämäläinen’s novel Raakileet (‘Unripe’, 1950. WSOY, 2007)

In front of the house grew a large old elm and a maple. The crown of the elm had been destroyed in the bombing and there was a large split in the trunk, revealing the grey, rotting wood. But every spring strong, verdant foliage sprouted from the thick trunk and branches; the tree lived its own powerful life. Its roots penetrated under the cement of the grey pavement and found rich soil; they wound their way under the pavement like strong, dark brown forearms. Cars rumbled over them, people walked, children played. On the cement of the pavement the brightly coloured litter of sweet papers, cigarette stubs and apple cores played; in the gutter or even in the street a pale rubber prophylactic might flourish, thrown from some window or dropped by some careless passer-by.

The sky arched blue over the six-and seven-storey buildings; in the evenings a glimmer could be seen at its edges, the reflection of the lights of the city. A group of large stone buildings, streets filled with vehicles, a small area filled with four hundred thousand people, an area in which they were born, died, owned something, earned their daily bread: the city – it lived, breathed….

Six springs had passed since the war…. Ilmari’s eyes gleamed yellow as a snake’s back, he took a dance step or two and bent over Kauko, pretending to stab him with a knife. More…

No country for young men

Issue 1/2008 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

When men go off to war, women must do their best to take their place at home. Lauri Sihvonen examines two fictional accounts – written in 1950 and 2007 – of women in the Second World War and its aftermath

When the Continuation War broke out in June 1941, Finland was in dire need of strength to fight the Soviet Union. Field Marshal and commanderin-chief of the armed forces Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim wrote to the Finns in an order of the day as follows:

‘I call upon you to embark with me upon a holy war against the enemy of our nation. The fallen heroes [of the Winter War, 1939–1940] will rise again from beneath the summer hillocks to stand beside us this day, as we set out on this crusade against our enemies, firm in our purpose to ensure the future of Finland, with the glorious military might of Germany at our side and as our brothers in arms.’

Sirpa Kähkönen (born in Kuopio in 1964) has taken this wild bit of zombie fiction as the basis for her new novel; Mannerheim gets exactly what he ordered.

Lakanasiivet (‘Linen wings’, Otava), the fourth independent instalment in Kähkönen’s novel series, tells of Kuopio on 1 July 1941. This was the only day on which this largest city in northern Savo, 400 kilometres northeast of Helsinki, was bombed during the Continuation War (1941–1944). More…

Between good and evil

Issue 2/2004 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

There are some wounds which take far longer than three generations to heal. In 1918 the great grandfathers of today’s Finns fought a bloody war, and touching the scars that conflict left behind still hurts.

The Finnish Civil War erupted in the aftermath of the Russian revolution. The reasons for the war were nonetheless deeply embedded in Finland’s internal problems, issues of land ownership and the weak position of the working classes. The workers formed the Red Guard and their opponents the White Guard, resulting ultimately in 30,000 deaths, mostly on the side of the Reds, who lost the war.

Amongst the Whites there served a group of officers called Jägers, who had been trained in Germany. They had been smuggled out of the country in order that they would one day return to lead Finnish troops in the struggle for independence against the tsar’s army. When they returned, however, the tsar had been overthrown and Finland had gained independence. Thus the Jägers ended up fighting their own compatriots, the insurgents of the workers’ uprising. The heroic Jägers have become one of the many myths surrounding the Civil War, but so have the Red Guard women who fought like beasts, Leena Lander (born 1955) explores these myths in her novel Käsky (‘Command’). More…


Issue 2/2004 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Käsky (‘Command’, WSOY, 2003). Introduction by Jarmo Papinniemi

Only once he had led the woman into the boat and sat down in the rowing seat did it occur to Aaro that it might have been advisable to tie the woman’s hands throughout the journey. He dismissed the thought, as it would have seemed ridiculous to ask the prisoner to climb back up on to the shore whilst he went off to find a rope.

It was a mistake.

After sitting up all night, being constantly on his guard was difficult. Sitting in silence did not help matters either, but they had very few things to talk about. More…

Pleasures of war

Issue 3/2001 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s novel Marsipansoldaten (‘The marzipan soldier’, Söderström & Co., 2001) charts the lives of a family of Swedish-speaking Finns thrown into the vortex of Finland’s Second World War struggle against the Soviet Union. Maria Antas talks to the author about the strange normality of war – and her characters’ obsession with food

It comes as something of a surprise when Ulla-Lena Lundberg suddenly says, despite its subject, that her war novel is probably the most light-hearted book she has written.

Lundberg (born 1947) made her literary debut as a teenager as early as 1962, and has since written successfully in many genres: travel and cultural writing about Japan, the USA, the Kalahari Desert and Siberia. A wide-ranging trilogy about seafaring on the Åland islands from the mid-19th century to the 1990s has been her biggest success, and began with the novel Leo. The starting-point for Marsipansoldaten is a collection of letters Lundberg has owned since she was sixteen. The letters of her own father and her uncles from the front to their families at home have lived with her and have, as it were, been waiting to be rewritten as a story. More…

A life at the front

Issue 3/2001 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Marsipansoldaten (‘The marzipan soldier’, Söderström & Co., 2001). Introduction by Maria Antas

[Autumn 1939]

Göran goes off to the war as a volunteer and gives the Russians one on the jaw. Well, then. First there is training, of course.

Riihimäki town. Recruit Göran Kummel billeted with 145 others in Southern elementary school. 29 men in his dormitory. A good tiled stove, tolerably warm. Tea with bread and butter for breakfast, substantial lunch with potatoes and pork gravy or porridge and milk, soup with crispbread for dinner. After three days Göran still has more or less all his things in his possession. And it is nice to be able to strut up and down in the Civil Guard tunic and warm cloak and military boots while many others are still trudging about in the things they marched in wearing. The truly privileged ones are probably attired in military fur-lined overcoats and fur caps from home, but the majority go about in civilian shirts and jackets and trousers, the most unfortunate in the same blue fine-cut suits in which they arrived, trusting that they would soon be changing into uniform. More…

Looking back on a dark winter

Issue 4/1989 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the autobiographical novel Talvisodan aika (‘The time of the Winter War’), the childhood memoirs of Eeva Kilpi. During the winter of 1939–40 she was an 11-year old-schoolgirl in Karelia when it was ceded to the Soviet Union and the population evacuated

Time is the most valuable thing
we can give each other

War’s coming.

One day my father comes out with the familiar words in a totally unfamiliar way, while we’re sitting round the kitchen table eating, or just starting to eat.

He says to mother, as if we simply aren’t there, as if we don’t need to bother, or as if listening means not understanding. Or perhaps they’ve simply no other chance to speak to each other, as father’s always got to be off hunting, or on his way to the station, and mother’s always cooking. More…

Master of Satire

Issue 1/1981 | Archives online, Authors

Henrik Tikkanen

Henrik Tikkanen. Photo: Schildts & Söderströms

Henrik Tikkanen (born 1924) comes of a cultured Swedish-speaking family: his father was an architect, his grandfather an eminent art historian. But it is not only linguistically that Tikkanen belongs to a minority: in a land famous for epic he expresses himself in epigram and satire; in a land of lakes and forests he is an unashamed city-lover; in a land addicted to military virtues he stands out as a pacifist; in a land of books he writes for the newspapers. And in one of his autobiographical novels he confesses that he lacks the sentimental streak that motivates everything that is ever done in Finland.

For a Finnish author, Tikkanen has an exceptionally close relationship with the daily press. He earned his living as a working journalist, initially with Hufvudstadsbladet, the leading Finnish newspaper in Swedish, and later with Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest of the Finnish papers. After serving in the war it became his ambition to be Finland’s ‘best and only’ newspaper artist: he certainly achieved it. As a columnist and documentary feature writer who is at the same time a brilliant wit and coiner of epigrams, and who illustrates his own text, he still has no equal; indeed it would be hard to think of anyone who could even rank as a competitor. More…

Juhani Niemi on Väinö Linna

Issue 4/1980 | Archives online, Authors

Väinö Linna

Väinö Linna. Photo: WSOY

Väinö Linna fits squarely into one of the dominant patterns of twentieth century literary development in Scandinavia. Like many writers of the period, Linna came from a working class background and struggled to free himself from that environment through self-education. He had no special interest in politics but his natural leanings were moderately left-wing. He isn’t a ‘political’ writer as such, and it would be simplistic to apply labels to his views. His central interests, which directly affect his style, are a concentration on firstly, acute social observation and, secondly, social analysis. Through novels in this genre – and Linna is without doubt a master – the reader finds a world and all its influences, from the personal to the historical and economic dissected, the casings laid back, the true juxtapositions revealed.

The process can be powerful and effective and Linna’s major works Tuntematon Sotilas (‘The Unknown Soldier’, 1954, English translation 1957) and the trilogy Täällä Pohjantähden alla (‘Here beneath the North Star’, 1960-62) have struck deep into the Finnish national consciousness radically influencing the way events in recent Finnish history have been viewed by a wide audience of readers. Both works have been enormously popular: the characters have so accurately caught the Finnish personality that they have become part of the nation’s mythology. More…

The strike

Issue 4/1980 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from Täällä Pohjantähden alla (‘Here beneath the North Star’), chapter 3, volume II. Introduction by Juhani Niemi

With banners held aloft, the procession of strikers moved towards the Manor. It was known that the strikebreakers had arrived early and that the district constable was with them. Just before reaching the field the marchers struck up a song, and they went on singing after they had halted at the edge of the field. The men at work in the field went on with their tasks, casting occasional furtive glances at the strikers. Nearest to the road stood the Baron and the constable. Uolevi Yllö’s head was bandaged: someone had attacked him with a bicycle chain as he left the field at dusk the evening before. Arvo Töyry was in the field too, the landowners having agreed that those who had got their own harrowing and sowing done should lend the others a hand. Not all the men in the field were known to the strikers. The son of the district doctor was there they noticed, and the sons of several of the village gentry, as well as the men from the smallholdings. More…