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

What If – Historically, Finland lost the Winter War in large part due to an ill-equipped military (who did amazingly well with what they had) and politicians who failed to see the writing on the wall and act. But what if Finland had been prepared. What if the Finnish armed forces had been equipped and prepared to fight a war with the USSR. Finnish soldiers fought hard with the equipment that they did have, they inflicted enormous casualties on the attacking Soviet forces, out of all proportion to their own losses. What could an adequately equipped and trained Finnish Army, Air Force and Navy have achieved?

I've been writing this over on the "What If" on the axishistory "What If" Forum and Marcus Becker asked if I could post it here as well, so one or two of you may have seen it there. I'm taking the opportunity to tidy a few things up as I go, so you may see a few changes if you read it there. This is really only just getting underway, but going forward I'll be posting on the axishistory What If forum first and then adding the post over here. I'm averaging one post a week on this, sometimes less as it's pretty darn complex and I'm doing a lot of background research as I go so it won't be moving fast....... All those disclaimers made, hope you enjoy.....

This is the first instalment in a rather long and involved “What If.”

Introduction - The Third Path

“In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace. The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected.” Sun Tzu. The Art of War.

The decade of the 1930’s was a time of growing tension for the smaller states of Eastern Europe, Finland among them. Since the end of the First World War they had enjoyed an independence which most of them had not known for centuries, but from the early 1930’s this independence was increasingly threatened by the growing power of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Instead of combining for self defence as they might have, the eastern european states were bitterly divided. The Munich crisis and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia showed how little reliance could be placed on the Western democracies, whose power to intervene militarily in Eastern Europe was negligible in any case. In effect this left the smaller East European states with little alternative but to become clients of either Nazi Germany or Russia. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 took away even this choice for Poland and a little later for the small Baltic States.

Over the 1920’s and 1930’s, newly independent countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia had built up respectable armed forces. In the end, this did neither country any good. In Czechoslovakia’s case, despite a sizable and well-equipped military, the population was divided and the government lacked the political will to fight when the country was isolated and abandoned by France and Britain. In the case of Poland, the country fought, but with an obsolete military doctrine and flawed strategy. Caught between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, they were defeated in detail. States such as Hungary and Romania ended up siding with Germany, while those states such as Yugoslavia and Greece that opposed the Germans were decisively defeated. Bulgaria remained neutral but in the end, was taken over by the Soviet Union in any case.

Finland consciously chose a third path. Finnish plans were the diametrical opposite of those states (such as Czechoslovakia) which emphasized the need to avoid provocation in a tense bilateral situation. Finnish planning called for an aggressive general mobilization in the face of any overt and substantial threat, after which the Armed Forces would be kept at full readiness until the crisis was resolved or fighting broke out. Finland would be defended to the end with no surrender contemplated or authorised. Indeed, Standing Orders for all military units were that in the event Finland was attacked, no surrender would be contemplated or ordered, and any communications purporting to be from the Government and ordering surrender should be ignored and the carriers of such purported orders were to be summarily executed.

However, the Government and the Military Command were also under no illusions about the enemy Finland faced. The only concievable threat to Finland was, despite the platitudes and maunderings of some on the Left, the Soviet Union. And Finland’s military commanders were well aware that in the face of a determined assault from the Soviet Union, they would be defeated by sheer weight of numbers. Finland did however have a number of defensive advantages, primarily the terrain. Finland was NOT Europe, and Finnish terrain was NOT the flat european plains that the Armies of Germany, France and the USSR were equipped and trained to fight on. Finland was a land of dense and featureless (to an outsider) forests, lakes, rivers and swamps with few railways, limited roads and many natural obstacles. Finnish defensive strategy evolved through the 1920’s and 1930’s to take advantage of these features.

From 1931 on, the Finnish Government placed an increasingly strong emphasis on Defense spending, and combined this with the good fortune to possess a military commander of true genius (Marshal Mannerheim, who ranks as one of perhaps a dozen of the greatest “defensive” military commanders of all time) and an innovative approach, born out of a strong desire to remain independent and free at all costs, applied to both military organisation, tactics and training as well as to the development of effective weapons and the creation of a small but inspired military-industrial complex. Much of this was made possible by a combination of the economic growth enjoyed by Finland throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, together with the willingness of all major political parties to ensure defence was adequately funded (even at the expense of reduced spending on social services and the taking out of large loans from the USA, France and Britain to finance the purchase of armaments) and the continued purchasing of Annual Defence Bonds from 1931 on by both the public at large and by Finnish businesses of all sizes.

The end result was that Finland entered the European Conflict of 1939-45 with a population that was socially highly cohesive and nationalist in outlook, an Army that was large in comparison to the small population of the country, effectively organised into small and highly mobile Infantry Divisions with a very high ratio of firepower to men and well-equipped with modern (and in some cases innovative) weapons and ammunition, a Navy that was both capable and equipped to fulfill it’s limited strategic objectives and an Air Force that, while small, was well-equipped and highly trained. Combined with this were very aggressive (and in many cases innovative) training, innovative tactics geared to the countries difficult terrain and climate, a command structure geared as much as possible to individual initiative, the preparation of numerous in-depth defensive positions throughout the Karelian Isthmus and elsewhere along the countries borders and a willingness to fight to the death in defence of their country.

Faced with increasing pressure from the Soviet Union in the late 1930’s, Finland responded with a dramatic increase in defence spending over 1938 and 1939 (reaching 30% of the State Budget in 1938 and 45% in 1939, in addition to a thirty million US Dollar loan from the United States in early 1939 – which followed an earlier loan for a lesser amount in late 1937 - and the equivalent of a fifteen million US dollar loan from France, all of which was used for the purchase of military equipment). In negotiations that took place prior to the Winter War, Finnish negotiaters pointedly assured the USSR that Finland could defend itself from external threats such as an attack by Germany and would not permit the USSR to be attacked through Finnish territory. Stalin, in his desire to best Hitler at his own game, ignored (indeed, laughed) at Finnish assurances and proceeded to threaten Finland with war if the requested territory was not ceded. The Finnish Government did not precisely take these threats lightly (defence spending reflected this) but many on the Left of the political spectrum believed that with Finland’s growing economic links and trade in oil and heavy industrial machinery (including merchant ships and locomotives) with the USSR, the Soviet position was largely verbal. The dismemberment of Poland between Germany and the USSR in September 1939 brought a dose of reality to many, but Stalin’s attack on Finland was still a shocking surprise to many of these politicians of the Finnish Left.

In attacking Finland, Stalin did not ignore the assessments of Soviet Intelligence, which were surprisingly accurate in terms of assessment of numbers of men and weapons. The size of the Soviet forces assembled to attack Finland were proof of that – one million soldiers, two thousand tanks, two thousand fighters and bombers. It was an overwhelming force. On paper. However, the Soviet assessment that Finnish workers would rise up and welcome the “Soviet Liberators” was surprisingly inaccurate. Stalin and the Soviet political leadership expected a result similar in many ways to their occupation of eastern Poland (or indeed, Germany’s invasion of Poland). Instead, the attack on Finland proved a military and political disaster for the Soviet Union, and one that would have major ramifications on the course of the Second World War.

At a strategic level, the war had a number of outcomes, among them the internal change in leadership within the USSR in August 1940 as a result of Stalin’s death and the rapidly concluded Truce and then Peace Treaty with Finland made by his successor, who also rapidly reorganised the Red Army. A further outcome was that Hitler discounted the ability of the Soviet Armed Forces and later launched Barbarossa. Later ramifications including Finland facing down Germany, permitting supplies across the border into Leningrad during the famous Siege.

There were other, secondary outcomes, but for Finland, the outcome of the Winter War was successful in that Finland remained independent and cede only very limited territory to the USSR (indeed, the USSR ceded parts of White Karelia to Finland and also transferred all Finnish-speaking peoples from Soviet Karelia and Ingria, included the estimated one hundred thousand Karelians and Ingrians who had been deported to Siberia, Khazakistan and the Caucasus in the Purges of the late late 1930’s). Victory was achieved at the cost of some forty five thousand Finnish dead and seventy thousand wounded – approximately 1 in 5 of the Finnish soldiers who fought in the Winter War, a tremendously high price from a country with a population of only three and a half million. But in the estimation of all Finns, the price of an independent and free Finland was worth the payment.

That the 1939-1940 Russo-Finnish War ended as a victory for Finland despite the overwhelming numerical and material odds faced by the Finns is a tribute both to Finland’s military leader through the Second World War (and first post-war President) and to Finland’s political leaders of the last half of the 1920’s and through the 1930’s. These leaders foresaw the threat that Finland faced and overcame many obstacles, both political and financial, to ensure that Finland’s military forces were equipped and trained for the conflict they hoped would not come. But come the conflict did, and Finland’s military were not found wanting. They triumphed over uncountable odds, won victories that stunned and amazed the entire world, then signed a Peace Treaty that gave back almost everything they had won in return for Peace.

Finland was involved in other theatres of the Second World War – the Finnish occupation of Northern Norway in response to the German invasion being an example, and for long maintained an uneasy neutrality, trading nickel from Petsamo to Germany via Sweden as well as leasing merchant ships to the British and providing access for supplies to besieged Leningrad. And then there were the events that brought a reluctant Finland into the Second World War as one of the Allies, fighting alongside the Russian Army, liberating Latvia, then Lithuania and driving into Poland in a race with the Russians. One of the better known battles involving Finnish forces in this later period was the famous airborne drop of the Finnish Airborne Jaeger Division, the British 1st Airborne Division under Major-General Roy Urquhart and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade under Brigadier General Stanisław Sosabowski, into Warsaw to fight alongside the Polish Home Army in the Warsaw Rising while the Finnish 21st Panzer Divison spearheaded the combined Finnish-Polish-Estonian-British Divisions struggling to breakthrough and relieve the siege.

How Finland achieved these successes (albeit at a high cost) is a long and involved story, starting in the mid 1920’s, shortly after Independence.
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Part 1-A - Finnish Economic and Industrial Growth

Finnish Economic and Industrial Growth Between 1920 and 1939

How and why did the Finnish government create an environment favorable to the growth of large industrial concerns which resulted in rapid ongoing economic growth through the 1920’s and the 1930’s? That they did, and that the economic and financial ramifications were many and varied, is now well known and an interesting case study. Less well known is the effects this growth had on Finland’s ability mount a strong defence against the USSR in 1939. As a prelimary to covering the strengthening of Finland’s defence forces, we will first look at Finland’s economic and industrial growth through the 1920’s and 30’s.

Although small in population, Finland rapidly developed into a modern European industrial state during the interwar period. This accomplishment was exceptional among the new nations that had gained sovereignty after World War I. Why did Finland succeed where others failed? Historians have long pointed out that Finland had already created independent legal and bureaucratic institutions by the 19th century. Finland was also able to build a relatively strong national identity under Russian rule and by the time of the Bolshevik Revolutiion, was politically, socially and culturally independent and ready to set herself free from the Russian empire.

Very briefly summarised, the Finnish government integrated private and state owned enterprises, as well as multinational enterprises, into a process that unified the nation and transformed Finland from an agricultural in to a modern industrial state.The core of this process was a public policy deeply influenced by nationalism. Hence, we will also argue that nationalism played a far greater role in the creation of modern Finland than previously thought. Finnish Nationalism encouraged the Government to create large state owned enterprises and to support and guide the growth of Finnish businesses, to allow foreign high technology enterprises to selectively invade Finnish markets, to find a new type of industrial entrepreneur, the “patriotic manager" and finally, Finnish Nationalism combined with ongoing economic growth gave Finland both the incentive and the means to develop the military strength to adequately defend herself.

Industrialization and Accelerating Growth 1800-1920

In the 1800’s, Finland was an agrarian country, despite climatic conditions that were not suited to efficient grain growing. Seventy percent of the population was engaged in agriculture and forestry, and half the country’s income came from these primary industries in 1900. Only in the nineteenth century did slash and burn cultivation give way to permanent farming, even in the eastern parts of the country. Where agriculture was praticed, it was generally based on large estates with a work force consisting of tenant farmers and itinerat farm workers, with a great deal of poverty (common across Europe in that period).

Industralization had begun as early as the seventeenth century when some small iron works were first founded in the southwestern part of the country to process Swedish iron ore. Significant tar burning, sawmilling and fur trading also brought cash with which to buy a few imported items such as salt, and some luxuries – coffee, sugar, wines and fine cloths. The small towns in the coastal areas flourished through the shipping of these items, although restrictive legislation in the eighteenth century required transport via Stockholm. The income from tar and timber shipping, Finland’s primary industries in the eighteenth century, served to accumulate capital for the first industrial plants.

The nineteenth century saw the modest beginnings of industrialization, far later than in Western Europe. The first modern cotton factories started up in the 1830s and 1840s, as did the first machine shops. The first steam machines were introduced in the cotton factories and the first rag paper machine in the 1840s. The first steam sawmills started only in 1860. The first railroad shortened the traveling time from some inland towns to the coast in 1862, and the first telegraphs came at around the same time. Some new inventions, such as electrical power and the telephone, came into use early in the 1880s, but generally the diffusion of new technology into everyday use took a long time.

The export of various industrial and artisan products to Russia from the 1840s on, as well as the opening up of British markets to Finnish sawmill products in the 1860s, were important triggers of further industrial development. From the 1870s on pulp and paper from wood fiber, delivered to Russia, became major export items, and before World War I one-third of the demand of the vast Russian empire was satisfied with Finnish paper. Finland became a very open economy after the 1860s and 1870s, with an export share equaling one-fifth of GDP and an import share of one-fourth. A happy coincidence was the considerable improvement in the terms of trade (export prices/import prices) from the late 1860s to 1900, when timber and other export prices improved in relation to the international prices of grain and industrial products.

Finland participated fully in the global economy of the first gold-standard era, importing much of its grain tariff-free and a lot of other foodstuffs. Half of the imports consisted of food, beverages and tobacco. Agriculture increasingly turned to dairy farming, as in Denmark, but with poorer results. The Finnish currency, the markka from 1865, was tied to gold in 1878 and the Finnish Senate borrowed money from Western banking houses in order to build railways and schools. GDP grew at a slightly accelerating average rate of 2.6 percent per annum, and GDP per capita rose 1.5 percent per year on average between 1860 and 1913. The population was also growing rapidly, and from two million in the 1860s it reached three million on the eve of World War I. Prior to WWI, only about ten percent of the population lived in towns. The investment rate was a little over 10 percent of GDP between the 1860s and 1913 and labor productivity was low compared to the leading nations. WW1 in particular was beneficial to the Finnish ecomony at first. Finns were not subject to conscription into the Russian military and Finnish exports to Russia boomed as a result of war spending.

The Collapse of the Market Structure

Finland industrialized during the last three decades of the 19th century. Lumbering in previously untouched forests and incipient development of hydro power made large scale production of timber, pulp and paper possible. The domination of Finland's export market by forest industries is illustrated by the fact that wood, paper and pulp comprised more than 90% of Finnish exports in 1920 and over 80% as late as 1938.

Table1: Main export goods in 1920 and 1938 ( %)
Timber and wood procucts 56.4 40.3
Pulp and paper 37.3 41.5
Forest products total: 93.7 81.8
Other export goods total: 6.3 18.2

The wealth created by forest industries was broadly dispersed in Finnish society. It is often argued that Finnish society and its cultural heritage have been built on forests. The dominance of forests in Finnish culture is derived from age-old traditions. Historically forest land had not been owned by private companies, but rather by farmers, peasants and the state. Therefore, forest industries became dependent on farmers and land-owners

The movement of capital from the industrial to the agricultural sector

The agricultural sector in turn, supplied forest industries with raw materials and skilled as well as unskilled labor. Finnish sawmills and tar producers established business relations with European ship-building and construction industries by the 17th and 18th centuries. These associations proved valuable in the 19th century when rapid urban development in England and Germany opened new markets for wood products. Finnish sawmills and lumber companies eagerly supplied these new markets. Just prior to World War I, Finland was estimated to be the third largest timber exporting country in Europe. A sizable proportion of Finnish pulp and paper products were sold on the Russian markets. An estimated 80% of the total production of paper in Finland was "exported" to Russia before World War I. The word "export" is slightly misleading because the Russian markets were in fact domestic markets for Finnish paper makers.

Finnish paper was very popular in the large printing houses of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Odessa and Minsk. Just before the war the Finns controlled about 30% of the Russian paper market. World War I, the October revolution and the Civil War in Russia changed the structure of the paper market entirely. In short, the Russian paper market closed when the Bolsheviks seized power. At the same time, World War I closed the export route of timber from Finland to European markets. The dramatic change in market structure is illustrated by the followingf igures: in 1910 about 27% of Finnish exports went to Russia and approximately the same share went to Great Britain; two decades later the tide had turned, Germany and Great Britain were the most important trading partners while only 0.5% of Finnish exports went to the Soviet Union.

The collapse of the Russian market was, of course, a terrible shock to the Finnish paper industry. Paper makers had to find business partners in western European markets. The loss of Russian markets also caused a decrease in the food supply in Finland. Russia had started to "export" inexpensive grain to Finlandi n the 19th century. Because of this, dairy-farming gradually replaced grain production, especially in the eastern part of Finland. By the dawn of this century, Finland was not self-sufficient in grain.When Lenin's government cut off the grain supply in 1917, starvation and hunger plagued Finland for the first time since the years of the great famine of 1867-68.

A Nation Divided

On December 6, 1917 the Finnish Senate declared Finland independent from the Russian Empire. The declaration of independence ended a century long relationship between the two nations. The decision to separate the Grand Duchy of Finland from Russia was made rapidly after Bolsheviks seized power in St. Petersburg. The quick declaration of independence alarmed Finnish Socialists and Communists, who declared their solidarity with fighting comrades in Russia. Conservatives parties however, were determined to secure independenc. As a result, political polarization escalated and a bloody and bitter civil war was fought during the spring of 1918.

As usually happens after a civil war, a nation is socially, politically and culturally divided. Finland proved to be no exception. Victorious Whites controlled society. Communists and socialists were imprisoned or forced into exile in Soviet Russia. This situation could not last long. The White government was very much aware of the fact that a divided nation was unable to resist the political and ideological pressures coming from the East. In addition, England, France and the United States delayed their recognition of Finnish independence as long as the political situation in the country remained unsettled.

New Economic And Political Policies

The White government took the first steps to unify the nation in the fall of 1918. Red prisoners were pardoned, concentration camps dissolved and moderate left-wing parties were granted political rights. Upheaval in the spring and summer of 1918 forced the government to take radical steps to improve the economic situation as best they could, but there was not much the government could do. Land reform was introduced which provided farming land to a politically unstable rural proletariat. Municipal governments were encouraged to start social housing projects and employers to improve working conditions in factories. But Russian paper markets were permanently dosed and the markets for timber exports remained closed as long as the war in Europe continued. The domestic situation was even worse. Many Factories had been partially demolished and a large number of workers had suffered from diseases and malnutrition in concentration camps. Deserted farms and uncultivated fields predicated more starvation and famine for the coming winter.

The Economy of the Interwar Years

The Russian Revolution of 1917 and Finland's subsequent independence cut off Russian trade and devastated Finland's economy. The food situation was particularly difficult as 60 percent of grain required had been imported from Russia. With Civil War in Russia, this source was no longer available and Finland was also largely cut off from trade with the rest of the world. The collapse of the Russian empire had however eliminated one of the largest producers of timber from the European market and Finnish sawmills were more than eager to take over the former Russian share. Also, the demand for paper was expected to increase after the war. Although Finnish paper was low in quality, there was a growing demand for brown wrapping paper and low quality newsprint in Europe.

As the war in Europe approached its conclusion, Finnish companies and the government hurried to make preparations for what they foresaw as the coming economic boom.A committee setup by private business associations in 1913 had provided comprehensive guidelines for future policies. The committee recommended first, that Finnish companies that exported goods should form cartels to minimize domestic competition, and second, that the government should take strict measures to protect domestic industries (iron and steel, textiles, foodstuffs) from foreign competition. In the midst of the political chaos, the Finnish government quickly introduced a new economic policy based on these two recommendations. The new government had also signed commercial treaties with Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1918. In the early 1920s, similar agreements were made with France, Estonia, the British Commonwealth and the United States.

In addition, Parliament passed laws prohibiting foreign enterprises from purchasing or owning land, forests, hydropower resources or mineral ore deposits. New tariff regulations and tax reductions were introduced which gave domestic industries almost total protection against foreign competition. Forest industries followed the recommendations by forming export cartels in 1918. FINNPAP, FINNBOARD and FINNCELL agreed upon prices and regulated production of paper, pulp, board and timber. After WW1 ended, postwar reconstruction in Europe and the consequent demand for timber soon put the Finnish economy on a swift growth path. Finnish sawmill products, pulp and paper found old and new markets in the Western world, including the American and South American markets.

Finnish Cartels also promoted the increase of exports by establishing broad networks of sales branches in major European, North and South American, and Asian cities. In addition, Finnish export cartels collaborated with other Scandinavian paper and timber Cartels, for instance with Scannews and Scankraft. Other growing industries included mining, basic metal industries and machine production, but they operated on the domestic market, protected by the customs barriers that were typical of Europe at that time. Textiles and metal products on the other hand found no markets in the West and had to compete hard with imports on the domestic market. In 1920, more than four-fifths of exports were still based on wood, and one-third of industrial production was in sawmilling, other wood products, pulp and paper.

The land reforms of 1918, among the first measures implemented by the new Government, had broken up the large estates and secured land for tenant farmers and farm workers. A large number of new, small farms were established. However, these were generally so small that they could only support families if they had extra income from forest work. The country itself continued to remain largely agrarian. Even on the eve of World War II, almost half of the labor force and one-third of the production were still in the primary industries of agriculture and forestry. Small-scale agriculture used horses and horse-drawn machines, lumberjacks went into the forest with axes and saws, and logs were transported from the forest by horses or by floating.

The new economic policies were highly successful. The volume of Finnish industrial production increased by almost 12% annually in the immediate post-WW1 years.This was faster than the average growth of world trade. The wealth created by the volume of exports and the very favorable trade balance was widely dispersed throughout society. The nation's standard of living improved rapidly, and for the first time, people had money to spend on fashionable clothes, new technological appliances, automobiles and entertainment. The rapid and steady economic development in Finland was exceptional relative to other small Eastern European states. Tariff protection and other policy measures had helped to raise the domestic grain production to 80–90 percent of consumption by 1939.

Finnish Nationalism as a Key to Economic Success

Although the new economic policy effectively protected Finnish industries, Finland could not dictate the rules in world markets.Rapid increases in exports and the standard of living created pressures to open domestic markets to foreign goods. As Finland modernized, the country became an attractive new market area for foreign investors. Large foreign enterprises were eager to procure rights to Finland's largely untouched natural resources. Sizable German companies in particular viewed Finland as a potential buyer of high technology goods and supplier of wood products and minerals.

It is difficul to estimate how seriously foreign enterprises planned to invest in Finland. A number of variables mitigated against permitting foreign investment, among them the close and unsecured border with the Soviet Union, as well as Finland's small population and long transportation routes. Yet, it is certain that harnessing the capacity of the Imatra Falls interested British and French electric power companies. We also know that Metallgeschellshaft tried to obtain rights to exploit the rich copper-ore deposits in Outokumpu. However, the protective barrier was strong. The only foreign companies that successfully penetrated the protective barriers were ZellstoffabrikWaldhof, which built a chemical pulp factory in Kexholm, near Lake Ladoga, and the International Nickel Corporation, which obtained rights to extract nickel ore in Petsamo.

For the Finnish government it did not matter how real or unreal foreign investment plans were. The government was determined to prevent the nation's resources from slipping in to the hands of foreign multinational enterprises. In 1918 the state accordingly purchased two foreign owned companies, W. Gutzeit & Co. and Tornator Ltd. These transactions amounted to more than 150 million markkas, or a little over 10% of public revenue in 1918. These two companies were chosen by the Finnish government on the basis of practical considerations. British and Norwegian families owned companies had acquired more than 500,000 hectares of forest before the Finnish Senate passed laws prohibiting lumber companies from buying forested land. The state fused W. Gutzeit& Co. and Tornatori nto a new company, Enso-Gutzeit Ltd., which inherited not only the forests, but also a number of sawmills as well as pulp and paper factories. The giant state-owned company became one of the largest paper, pulp and timber manufacturers in Finland and had buyers all over the world.

The state took its next step in 1921. Parliament turned down offers from foreign companies and asked Finnish electric power and construction companies to harness the Imatra Falls. This effort was intended to demonstrate the strength and technological skill of the new nation. It was not an accident that the government chose Imatra Falls to display determination and nationalistic enthusiasm. Imatra Falls had always had cultural and social value in Finland, similar to Niagara Falls in the United States. The gigantic task of building the Imatra power station took more than ten years to complete with the total cost exceeding 250 million markka.When the power station was finished, the state founded Imatran Voima Corporation which monopolized electric power distribution in Finland. Finally, in the early 1920s, the state purchased the rights to develop the Outokumpu copper deposit from a Norwegian-Finnish company. This transaction destroyed Metallgesellschaft's plans to transport copper ore from the Outokumpu mine to the company's new smelter in Hamburg. The government founded Outokumpu Mining Corporation in 1924. Soon after, the state built a production chain which linked the Outokumpu copper mines to electrolytic refineries and iron and steel works in Imatra and Pori.

These initiatives taken by the Finnish government had several important consequences. First, state owned enterprises eliminated foreign competition and concentrated the production of paper, pulp, timber and minerals in the hands of Finnish companies. Second, state owned enterprises supported private companies by investing heavily in technological and industrial infrastructure. In addition, state owned enterprises produced raw materials and semifinished goods and sold them to other industrial sectors. This decreased the need to import expensive goods from abroad. Third, state owned enterprises escalated industrialization through the use of large amounts of natural resources. New enterprises were often built in distant locations, where private companies hesitated to invest. This was especially true in the case of the Veitsiluoto sawmill. The new sawmill was located in the northern part of Finland close to the Arctic Circle where it used large state owned forest resources. Fourth, state owned enterprises strongly affected the unification of the nation. New factories increased the consumption of wood and other raw materials in the peripheral areas of the country. This provided extra income to farmers and land-owners. State owned enterprises increased employment opportunities, which in turn decreased the rate of unemployment and thus lessened social tensions.

In spite of the rapid industrialization, in 1925 the Finnish industrial sector was still extremely specialized. Paper, pulp, timber, and iron and steel industries produced only primary products such as timber, pulp, paper, plywood, iron and copper ore.Without high technology capability, Finnish industry depended on foreign high technology companies for such goods as telephones, electric appliances, chemicals and machine-tools. This dependence on foreign high technology goods and knowledge was a serious concern to the Finnish government. Although necessary, multinational enterprises represented alien interests which threatened to undermine the development of a strong national state. Once foreign investment had begun, it became difficult to prevent the incursion of foreign capital into primary production sectors. From this delicate position the government attempted to find ways to satisfy both foreign high technology enterprises and domestic companies.

To construct a safety net that would tie Finnish companies and foreign high technology enterprises neatly together, the government issued a statute in 1919 which required a foreigner to obtain a permit before establishing a business in Finland.Additionally, foreign investors could not own shares in Finnish liability companies. New laws and regulations supported these measures by stipulating that the general manager of a firm as well as a majority of members of the board of directors had to be Finnish citizens. In order to operate in Finland, foreign high technology enterprises were thus obliged to establish affiliate companies and recruit a large number of Finnish Managers, directors and engineers to operate and manage factories in Finland. This gave Finnish managers and engineers unique opportunities to obtain training and education in highly developed foreign enterprises.

The history of Finnish C hemicals provides an excellent early example of how the state successfully encouraged foreign high technology companies to support industrial development in Finland. Finnish Chemicals was founded in 1927 by three giant multinational enterprises: IGFarben, I CI and Solvay& Cie. The affiliate company, Finnish Chemicals, produced bleaching chemicals (chlorine and caustic soda) for the pulp and paper industries. These chemical substances were needed to produce the white news-print which was rapidly becoming the the trademark of the Finnish paper industry on the world market. Instead of supporting the development of domestic electrochemical industries, the government asked I G Farben, I CI and Solvay & Cie to build an electrochemical plant in Finland. To make the offer even more attractive, the government promised to partially finance the constructiom of the Aetsa plant. Because of the size and quality of the production in Aetsa, Finnish Chemicals soon gained control of the rapidly growing bleaching chemical markets in Finland.As the government had expected, foreign owners equipped the Aetsa plant with the latest production technology and trained the management in England.

As this example illustrates, the government selectively allowed foreign high technology enterprises to operate in Finland. Simultaneously, legislation carefully protected the primary production sector. Formation and implementation of industrial and public policy therefore resembled in many ways the post-WW2 Japanese policy making process. Thus, Finland followed a kind of intelligent follower's strategy by selectively allowing western influences while integrating business targets of foreign multinational enterprise with national development goals and projects.

“Patriotic Managers” and the development of Social Cohesion

In order to function effectively, the new economic policy required the support of the private business sector. In the late 19th century, a relatively strong managerial culture alreadye existed. The first generation of business managers however represented old Swedish families who had stayed in the country after Russia captured the province of Finland from Sweden during the Napoleonic wars. Legendary entrepreneurs such as G. Serlachius, Wilhelm Rosenlew and William Ruth penetrated inhabited forest areas in order to establish modern paper, pulp and timber industries in the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland. Because of the wealth and cultural background of these men, they comprised a small Swedish elite that held political as well as economic power in Finland during the Russian regime.

The situation changed however after Finland became independent. The newly founded independent state, now ruled by the Finnish-speaking middle class, regarded the Swedish-speaking business elite as disloyal and alien. Nationalistic slogans urged the government to take action against the Swedish and return Finland to the Finns. There was, however, very little the government could do to limit the economic power of the Swedish elite. The young nation of Finland couldn’t risk loosing capital, knowledge and managerial skills during the period of transition. In order to create a balance between the Finns and Swedish-speaking business elite, the government hired top level managers for large state owned enterprises from middle-class Finnish families. This decision proved to be highly successful. Both blue and white collar workers relied on new managers who spoke the same language and shared the same ethnic heritage. These managers in turn, spread the gospel of nationalism and national unity in isolated industrial towns and villages.

V A Kotilainen, the managing director of Enso-Gutzeit, serves as a good example of this class of manager. During the civil war, Kotilainen served in White headquarters, where he established a personal friendship with top level politicians and military leaders of the White army. Soon after the war, Kajana Wood Corporation hired Kotilainen to be its executive manager. At the time, Kajana Corporation was one of the largest pulp, paper and timber corporations in the country. What was more important, however, was that the devotedly nationalistic Paloheimo family owned the corporation. Kotilainen created an even stronger nationalistic image for the company than it already had. General Rudolf Walden, the distinguished head of the United Paper Mills and a close friend of General Mannerheim, strongly encouraged the government to hire Kotilainento be the new executive director for the state owned Enso-Gutzeit company in 1924. Walden's trust in Kotilainen came from the time the two men spent together at the White headquarters.


V A Kotilainen in Army uniform during the Winter War

Kotilainen managed Enso-Gutzeit from 1924 on. One of his first management acts was to ensure the image of the company became increasingly Finnish, moving the company headquarters to a new location, Enso, in the eastern part of the country. In addition, he introduced Finnish as the company's official language and strongly rejected Swedish which had been spoken in board meetings and business offices for more than two centuries. Finally Kotilainen changed the company's name by replacing an originally Norwegian name, W . Gutzeit & Co., with the Finnish Enso-Gutzeit, emphasizing the favored Finnish culture and ethnic heritage over the previously dominant Swedish culture

Nationalism continually shaped the social policy of Enso-Gutzeit. It was a dream of VA. Kotilainen to organize the work and life of the company's paper, pulp and timber factories so that blue and white collar workers and managers could live in proximity and harmony. The social policy of Enso-Gutzeit provided employees with modern medical care, primary education and vocational training free, or at minimal cost and from 1931 on actively encouraged employees at all levels to join the Suojeluskunta (the Finnish Civil Guard) or, if female, the Lotta Svard. Additionally, the company commissioned top Finnish architects (for instance Alvar Aalto) to design houses and buildings for workers and managers. Kotilainen also hired Martti Jukola, a leading Finnish journalist and powerful national agitator, as the editor-in-chief for the company’s weekly journal, which had a strongly nationalist agenda. In this, Enso-Gutzeit set a policy and standard which was followed by all other state-owned, and many private, companies.

Limitations on Development

However, the newfound economic sucesses of the first half of the 1920’s could not be maximised as well as they could have been due to two factors. The first was Nature. Finnish ports were blocked by ice for the winter months and with icebreakers only available for Hanko and Turku, only these ports could be kept (mostly) open throughout the long Nordic winter. This was not optimal for Finnish forestry industries as the primary export harbors for forestry products were Viipuri (connected via the Saimaa canal to Finland’s inland lakes) and Kotka. The Ports of Oulu and Kemi, situated at the mouth of the Oulujoki and the Kemijoki respectively, were needed to ship forestry products from the large wood reserves of their hinterland, but could not be exploited at all during winter months.

The second limiting factor was a man-made one. Finnish Shipping Companies were small and had difficulty servicing export markets. Due to their small size they experienced difficultues in being accepted into the cartel system operated by the large transoceanic shipping companies. For example, it was impossible for Finnish ships to carry cargoes of coffee from South America to Europe, meaning that while they could carry freight out, it was next to impossible to find freight to carry back, making voyages uneconomic. The dependence of Finnish exporters on foreign shipping companies resulted in lost transit time and worse access to foreign markets. Finnish products were often sold without any mention of their Finnish origins, which in practice meant an inability to create lasting trade relationships.

At the same time, the established Finnish ship-building industry was experiencing a marked decline. Up until 1917, Finnish shipbuilding had been largely sustained by a combination of the Russian merchant shipping and naval markets. Post WW1, the Russian market had evaporated and the penetration of new markets was difficult as a result of the post-WW1 abundance of merchant shipping. The longterm prospects for the Finnish shipbuilding industry seemed bleak. It was at this point, in the mid-1920’s, that a number of different economic and political factors came together with effects that had long term ramifications for both Finland, and, later, for Europe.

The first factor was the occurrence, on 4 October 1925, of the worst accident suffered by Finnish defence forces in peacetime, when the old Torpedoe Boat S2 sank outside Pori with the total loss of all 53 crew. The accident sparked widespread public outrage which was exploited by both naval and industrial circles. The Finnish Navy had been established in 1918 using a hodge-podge of Russian Czarist Navy ships left in Finland during the chaotic "Baltic Fleet ice cruise" which had occurred during the Finnish Civil War. The ships taken over by the Finnish Navy did not meet Finnish defence needs and were mostly obsolete while the officers and seamen of the new navy were not that skilled. This combination of causes had led to the loss of the S2. It was at this point that a new organization - Laivastoyhdistys or the Finnish Navy League - was established by naval and industrial circles to promote the need for the construction of new ships for the Finnish Navy.

The second factor was a combination of the abovementioned decline of the shipbuilding industry together with the difficulties being experienced by the forestry industry in exporting and the inability to penetrate markets of the small Finnish shipping companies. The third factor was political, and was largely the work of one man, Marshal Mannerheim, the leader of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War and the former Regent of Finland immediately after the Civil War. Mannerheim had retired after losing the race for the first Finnish Presidential elections, but continued to be highly influential in Finnish politics, almost despite himself, for he was not by any stretch of the imagination a politician.

Mannerheim’s concern, articulately and forcefully expressed, was that in order to maintain its continuing independence, Finland needed to ensure its Armed Forces were capable of defending itself without any reliance on foreign powers. And that defence would be against the Soviet Union, the only state that threatened the existence of Finland. That this was not a welcome message to many politicians of the Left was somewhat of an understatement. From independence until the mid-1920’s, Finland’s government had neglected the military, concentrating on social and economic reforms and almost willfully ignoring the Bolshevik Government that now ruled what had become the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Finnish military equipment was either semi-obsolete or non-existent. The Air Force and Navy could not provide any credible deterrent and the Army, while sizable in numbers when the Reserves and Civil Guard were mobilized, was basically an infantry force of 9 Divisions with little in the way of modern artillery, ammunition stockpiles or even uniforms.

As Mannerheim articulated it, in the event of a war with the Soviet Union, Finland would, with the exception of its border with Sweden, be geographically isolated. And relations with Sweden in the mid-1920’s were strained, largely over the Aland Islands issue. Any foreign aid would take time to arrive and would be beset by considerable logistical difficulties, not least of which would be the Soviet naval threat within the Baltic and the icing over of the Gulfs of Finland and Bothnia for a good part of the year. Mannerheim was also very much a realist with regard to both diplomatic and military assistance – it was unlikely that the League of Nations would do anything more constructive than condemn any attack, and while Finland could expect public sympathy in Europe and North America, this would be unlikely to translate into any substansive assistance. Nor could any decisive assistance be expected from Finland’s Nordic neighbours, Sweden and Norway.

Norway had a small and ill-equipped military and, politically, was unwilling to make any commitments. Sweden’s left-wing government was not a reliable defense partner and was unwilling to enter into defensive agreements with Finland, and would in all likeliehood give in to Soviet pressure not to intervene in any conflict. And there was also a major disagreement with Finland over the status of the Aland Islands. Mannerheim’s position was that while it was very much evident that the only real threat to Finland was the Soviet Union, the Finnish Armed Forces were not in a position to provide an effective defence and no help could be expected from other countries if Finland was attacked. It was this position that Mannerheim sought to correct and in this, he sought support from all sectors of Finnish society – with, as we know, surprising success, both for the Finnish economy and for the Finnish military.
Part 1-B - Building the Finnish Military-Industrial Complex

Building the Finnish Military-Industral Complex

Working behind the scenes, Mannerheim slowly built a coalition of support for his well-thought out proposals. Essentially, these were broken down into two broad areas. The first was specifically maritime. Bringing together Naval, Naval League, Shipping and Forestry interests, Mannerheim built a consenus that supported a “Naval and Merchant Shipping Act.” The Merchant Shipping component of the Act sought to establish a maritime infrastructure capable of making Finnish maritime trade a year-round affair and establishing state-owned companies capable of conducting Finnish trade with Finnish flagged ships to North and South America and elsewhere. The Naval component of this Act sought to provide a naval force capable of fulfilling the defense role envisaged: securing the demilitarized Åland Islands in the event of war, strengthening the Coastal Artillery to resist landing attempts and securing Finnish trade routes to Sweden and through the Baltic.

The Act initially sought the construction of Icebreakers, to operate under the existing Finnish Maritime Adminstration, while a new company, Merivienti Oy, was to be established as the state owned shipping company. The two existing Finnish steamship companies were to be allowed a large share in Merivienti Oy, which was also not to be allowed to compete with existing companies in the lucrative European trade. In order to ensure a steady flow of orders for the Finnish shipbuilding industry, the basic schedule to be followed was first build the Icebreakers necessary for ensuring year-round foreign trade, then build merchant ships to gain experience in building larger and more modern ships, whislt also embarking on a parallel program of continued naval construction on a limited scale.

The second area where Mannerheim successfully generated a consensus of support was in the further development of Finnish Industry. This was broken down into a number of areas: – support for the existing but limited Finnish metallurgical industry, the development of new manufacturing companies specializing in motor vehicles, aircraft and engines for both, , the establishment of an oil refinery and oil and fuel storage facilities, and the rapid expansion of Finland’s hydroelectric power production capabilities in order to supply electricity for these new industries and somewhat incidentally (except to Mannerheim) the development of a small internal armaments industry

After the initial groundwork had been laid, the necessary legislation was pushed through the Finnish legislature in 1926 with surprisingly ease. The Right-wing Kokoomus (National Coalition) Party was dead-set against socialism - but in Finnish political tradition state funding for business has never been seen as Socialism. Their support was unanimous for the legislation put forward. The left-wing SDP (Social Democratic Party) was opposed to the military components but supported the civilian components (and then the legislation in its entirety) due to the promise of more work for industrial workers. The Swedish People's Party (RKP) traditionally supported the interests of the merchant marine due to the interests of their supporters. The Agrarian Party was staunchly opposed to increases in the State Budget but was supportive of the expansion of the forestry industry (and the possible improved wood prices, important for small and large landowners alike) as well as the improvements in national defense.

The only party wholly in opposition to the arrangement was the Socialist Party of Workers and Smallholders (STP), a cover organization for Soviet-backed communists. Any increase in national defence capabilities was against Soviet interests as were improvements in Finnish industry – particularly as the Soviet Union was heavily dependant on the export of forestry products produced with slave labour in order to acquire much needed hard currency. The STP was a distinct minority, however, and all legislation was passed by the Finnish Parliament in April 1927, to be enacted from 1928 onwards. In practice numerous studies and planning exercises had been completed by the Finnish Navy, Finnish Maritime Adminstration, Finnish Army and Air Force and and Finnish industry associations over the preceding two years of negotiations and consensus building and orders were placed and work commenced almost immediately after legislation was passed.

Development of the Finnish Oil Refinery

The first new project to get underway was the construction of an Oil Refinery. In 1925, Finland had no oil refinery. The country was one of the few in Europe that imported all its oil and petroleum products from abroad and there had been no private industry interest in undertaking refining and bulk storage of petroleum products. Given the increasing strategic importance of oil and petroleum, as well as the Governments plans to boost motor vehicle manufacturing, the legislation specified that the Ministry of Trade and Industry was to establish a company which would construct an oil refinery with the capability for 700,000 tons crude oil capacity and that storage distribution of fuel and lubricant oils were to be placed under the control the same company. The new agency was to be headed Colonel Väinö Vartiainen. Dr. Albert Sundgren, Finland's only petrochemicals expert, was a senior staff member of (Sundgren had been a strong advocate of the establishment of an oil refinery in Finland from the start).

Neste Oy (Finnish=”Liquid”) was set up, with its first general meeting held on January 2, 1927. The state of Finland was registered as a shareholder with 207 shares, Oy Alkoholiliike Ab, the state-owned alcohol monopoly with 140 shares, Imatran Voima, the recently established state-owned power company, with three shares and the Ministry of Defence with 50 shares. In the articles of association of the company, it was stated that its purpose was to refine oil, own and rent storage for liquid fuels and lubricants, and to act as importer, refiner, transporter, and manufacturer of these products, as well as trading in them. Neste planned to store its fuel oil and lubricant supplies in caves in the granite rocks of Tupavuori, in the township of Naantali on Finland's southwestern coast. The storage caves in Naantali were named NKV, from the Finnish words for Naantali Central Storage. An area near the cave storage reservoirs was selected as the future site of the refinery. The harbor conditions at Tupavuori were considered to be excellent. The planning of the refinery was entrusted to a U.S. firm The Lummus Company, an early specialist in the field. The delivery of plant and equipment was entrusted jointly to the French company Compagnie de Five-Lille and Germany's Mannesmann. The civil engineering was carried out by Neste itself. Construction work started at Tupavuori in Naantali in October 1929, and the inauguration of the refinery was held on June 5, 1932.

The start-up of production in August 1934 had already shown that no technical problems existed. The guaranteed capacity of 700,000 tons was reached by the beginning of October, and soon it was apparent that the new refinery could reach a capacity of up to 1.2 million tons of crude oil per year. Neste had planned to refine crude oil from many sources, primarily from Western suppliers. As the company had no intention of forming a retail delivery system of its own, the marketing of products was based on cooperation with oil companies already operating in Finland. The most important of these were Shell, Esso, and Gulf. Shell and Gulf delivered crude oil of their own to be refined by Neste. All prices were tied to international market rates.

However, the Government saw an opportunity to expand trade links, which were almost non-existent, with the Soviet Union and in 1935 a trade agreement was signed whereby Finland obtained half the needed supply of Crude Oil from the USSR in return for the supply of heavy industrial items including merchant shipping and locomotives (this reciprocal trade with the Soviet Union is an area that will be addressed in more detailed later). Neste's strategy was to deliver all the motor petrol Finland needed and adjust the production of other derivatives of crude oil accordingly. Thus the company chose a technology that gave maximum petrol output. At the same time, the sourcing of crude oil from the Soviet Union led to an increase in Finnish exports in payments, as Finland preferred not to use their somewhat limited foreign currency where not necessary.

This led to increased exports, in particular for the Finnish manufacturing industry. In 1937, Neste purchased Sköldvik Manor, an area of 628 hectares near the town of Porvoo (east of Helsinki) with good access to deep water, as the site for the development of a heavy chemical industrial complex. Neste started detailed planning for this event, again with Lummus, but these plans had not been completed by the outbreak of the Winter War. In conjunction with other legislation being passed, it had been decided that Neste would import crude oil primarily in ships owned by the company. In the spring of 1930, Neste purchased an old oil tanker from Norway in order to gain experience with the shipping of oil products. At the same time, anticipating completion of the refinery in 1935, initial orders were placed with the Finnish shipbuilding industry for the construction of six crude oil tankers.

Soviet oil was imported from Black Sea ports, while crude oil was also imported from Persia. By the late 1930’s, Neste had 18 tankers (two modern tankers built in Finland, 16 older tankers purchased second-hand from the US and Britain) plus five tugs and carried much of the Oil imported into Sweden and the Baltic States as well as for Finland. Anticipating the outbreak of WW2, Neste had by 1939 built up large stockpiles of both crude oil and refined petroleum products in the storage cave reservoirs near Naantali, estimated to be enough to supply the entire country for six months. With strict rationing, these reserves proved to be sufficient for the duration of the Winter War of 1939-40.

Development of the Finnish Power Generation Industry

When Finland gained independence in 1917, despite being a leading timber exporter, much of the timber felled annually from its forests was used as firewood - annual fellings from its forests amounted to nearly 30 million cubic metres, of this over 20 million cubic metres was used as firewood. The firewood was sold as metre-long split billets, and neat stacks of them could still be seen throughout Finnish countryside and towns in the 1960s. Besides being used for heating buildings, wood was also used to fuel steam engines and boats. Despite this heavy reliance on wood for heating and energy, Finland was at the forefront of European electrification. The initial stage of the history of electricity dates back to the turn of the year 1877-78, when Finland carried out its first experiments with electric light. The first permanent power plant producing electric light, which was also one of the first in Europe, was erected at the Finlayson factory in Tampere in the spring of 1882. Within a year, electric light was coming on in Pori, Jyväskylä and Oulu. Helsinki received its first power plant in 1884, the same year as Berlin.

Firewood for Helsinki was stored on Hakaniementori square during both world wars.
Source: Helsinki City Museum

The first pioneers of Finnish electrification built power plants, acted as importers of electrical goods, and even manufactured the equipment and appliances needed to produce electric light. At first, all electrical goods were imported from abroad. In 1889, Gottfrid Strömberg set up a company in Helsinki bearing his own name, and this company became the mainstay of the Finnish electrical industry for almost the next one hundred years. At the turn of the last century, some small-scale hydroelectric power stations and other kinds of power plants were built in Finland, and these brought electrical power to factories and light to urban dwellings.

The First World War and the Civil War slowed the pace of Finland’s electrification, but after the war, a large number of electrical companies were established in Finland, and new factories were built, such as Suomen Kaapelitehdas (the Finnish Cable Factory), later to be called Nokia Cable, a forerunner to today’s Nokia. Old German companies also returned to the Finnish market, and a group of new companies was set up, including Osram of Germany, Philips of the Netherlands and L M Ericsson of Sweden. In the 1920’s, much national effort went into the construction of the power station at Imatra and the erection of a power line from Imatra all the way to Turku. Construction at Imatra started in 1922 and the power plant, the largest hydroelectric plant in Europe, was completed and electricity production started in 1929.

In addition to Imatra, in order to support the planned development of large scale heavy industry in the region, the building of a number of hydro-electric power plants in the Oulujoki and Kemijoki river catchment areas was planned, with work commencing immediately on completion of Imatra (this was largely done in OTL during the post-war decade using pre-war plans). The hydropower plants in these two rivers were intended to not only supply local industries but also to transfer power to more populous and industrial Southern Finland. While these plants were smaller than Imatra, they were more numerous, and with construction work on the first starting in 1928, these began generating ever increasing amounts of electrical power from 1931 on, with construction continuing unabated up until the outbreak of the Winter War in late 1939.

Development of the Finnish Motor Vehicle Industry

Prior to 1928, all motor vehicles used in Finland had been imported built-up from abroad. As part of the industrialisation program the Finnish Government established “Sisu Auto Oy” in 1928, with a truck and bus factory constructed Hämeenlinna, some 100 kilometres north of Helsinki. The first nine Sisu vehicles, a prototype series consisting of a bus and eight trucks, rolled off the production line in 1929. With the large and growing demand for heavy vehicles for both the forestry industry and for construction work, production was expanded until by 1935 some 1000 trucks and 200 buses (some being exported) were being produced annually. A third production line was added in 1932 to produce tractors for agricultural use. These were, incidentally, designed so that, in the event of war, they could be used to tow artillery. Construction was expanded further in 1938, with a fourth production line introduced and the work force being expanded to produce trucks for the military.

Sisu Logging Truck, circa 1935...


Sisu Logging Equipment, circa 1935

Sisu’s primary competition for the Finnish vehicle market came from the Ford Motor Vehicle Company of Finland, Oy Ford Ab. The Nyberg brothers from Nedevetil had been the first Ford Dealers in Finland, returning from America to open business in 1912. When Ford started production of his Model T, the three brothers Alexander, Fritjof and Tor Nyberg from Nedervetil were emigrants in Arizona. With their business sense they realized that the Model T Ford was something in which to invest. What followed was the introduction of the Ford automobile to Finland when the brothers imported the first Ford and built up a sales system. They went to the Ford sales office in New York and negotiated to establish a sales network in Finland which was still a part of Russia at that time. While Ford was producing and setting up sales of his automobile, he received assistance from pioneers in other countries. He revolutionized the way of life with the combustion engine’s triumphal march around the world. On the basis of the experience of the first five years, by 1908 he began production of the world famous Model T which brought a world-wide demand for the Ford cars. While Henry Ford was building his own enterprise without foreign financing, Ford’s first representatives were mostly "self-made men" — businessmen without other capital but with a lot of energy. Their first operation became a great adventure for them with shining results which they had never vizualized. The three brothers from Gamlakarleby were pioneers and adventurers whose foresight we can thank for the coming of age for Ford in Finland. They were happy to receive an affirmative reply from Ford’s New York office as to whether there was an opening for a Ford representative in Finland. During the hectic production schedule no one had time to give a thought to remote Finland as a place for a Ford sales office. After the Nyberg brothers received approval to their proposal they were urged to contact Ford’s chief agent for Europe who had his office in Paris. Light-heartedly Fritjof and Tor rushed back to Finland, while their oldest brother Alexander went to Paris. He used the "captain’s title" he had received as a mining foreman in America and reported to the European director, H. B. White. White, who had a hundred irons in the fire, tersely announced that he could give the Finlander only two minutes of his time. But Alexander, slow and thorough by nature, took his time and explained his proposition. When White heard what Alexander said he became interested and asked all about Finland and the two minutes stretched into two hours. Alexander left the office with an agreement in his pocket.

The brothers first had to take a test for a professional driver’s license. Their instructor was the known motor vehicle inspector and engineer Thornwald Tawast. Then they set up a sales office at Norra Magasingatan 6 and immediately began to cultivate business from their countrymen. The first Ford was expected to arrive in the country during late winter of 1912. Drivers were in the minority at this time. Consul Nikolajeff had begun to import automobiles to Finland in 1905, but no one would have dreamed the effect the Ford Model T would have when it came to the country. Automobiles were still a rarity on the roads and were considered a luxury item reserved for the rich. Three roads reached Helsingfors by 1912 which gave the brothers an opportunity to tour in their own auto around Finland. The first Model T was equipped with a brass hood, carbide lamps and a cloth top. For their first car the brothers had to pay a total of 2500 marks, including freight and customs. The Ford factory established a retail price of 4400 marks. The first test drive only went to Uleåborg and the car generated great excitement everywhere. For the first time people saw a vehicle that drove without a horse and they foresaw that wild reckless driving would lead to the speedy destruction of the world. Gallen-Kallela, who made the first auto posters was at the steering wheel. Despite old women rolling their eyes, the first Ford was a huge public success. People gathered to see with their own eyes a vehicle that went with its own power, and it was impossible to arrange for test drives for all who wanted to ride. Orders came thick and fast for the brothers who already received a hundred names during the first demonstration drive.

Between 1910 and the 1920’s, Ford had various dealers within Finland, in 1925 selling 3,661 vehicles (more than half the cars sold in Finland at that time were Fords). In 1926, Ford established the Ford Motor Company of Finland. By 1929, the company's shares made up 40% of the domestic share market. In 1938 the company was listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange, listed as Oy Ford Ab. While for Ford, the 1920s ended in the stock market crash of 1929 and economic stagnation, in Finland, due to the Governments economic policies and industralisation programs, business grew.


The T-Ford is making its entry into the countryside of Ostrobothnia near Sideby in 1927. Erik Storteir, 17 years of age, is sitting on the hood of his first T-Ford. Passengers were Dagny Lassfolk, Gerda Söderlund, Ingrid Hällback, Elin Lassfolk and Valter Norrback

In 1930, with government encouragement and financial incentives, construction work started on the Helsinki Hernesaari assembly line, which was completed in 1931 (together with a domestic engine plant which was later expanded to produce engines for Finnish-manufactured tanks and armored fighting vehicles), with the first domestic Ford vehicles being delivered off the construction line in early 1932. The initial assembly line produced cars (the Ford Model-A) and light trucks and sales were steady through until 1935, after which sales began a steady increase as economic conditions began to improve. Light Trucks found popularity largely in rural districts and were increasingly used by farmers and small rural businesses. Produced in a Panel Van version, they were also used increasingly within the cities and larger towns by organisations such as the Finnish Post Office. Sisu and Ford did not compete directly with each other - Ford produced no real competitors for the now established Sisu line of heavy vehicles and Sisi did not produce cars or light trucks. Import taxes restricted the importing of vehicles into Finland to a small number of luxury vehicles. Interestingly, a number of American engineers and skilled auto workers had moved to Finland to assist in establishing the Plant and its production lines, a number stayed on in Finland after initial work had been completed and many of these continued through the Second World War.

Hernesaari assembly line under Construction, 1931

By 1935, the Finnish motor vehicle industry was producing approximately 1,000 Sisu heavy trucks and around 10,000 Ford cars and light trucks annually, with all the components being manufactured within Finland. This had ramifications beyond the mere construction of motor vehicles – and a good example of some of the other ramifications of the rapid development of the Finnish motor vehicle industry can be seen by looking at the history of Imatra Steel Oy Ab. The origins of the Imatra Steel group could be traced back to the early years of the Finnish and Swedish iron and steel industries. The core of Imatra Steel stemmed from 1630, with the founding of the Antskog ironworks, one of the earliest in the Swedish kingdom, which included present-day Finland among its territorial holdings at the time. In the 1640s, the owner of the Antskog works expanded, founding a new ironworks in the town of Fiskars. By 1647, the Fiskars works had come into the possession of Peter Thorwöste, originally from Holland, and in 1649 Thorwöste began casting and forging. This laid the foundation for the Fiskars company.

Fiskars was to change ownership a number of times over the following century, and along the way had ceased iron production in favor of copper production. In 1822, however, the works was bought by pharmacist John Julin, who reoriented the company to iron production. In the early 1830s, Fiskars initiated fine forging operations, producing the cutlery and other utensils that were to make the company a brand name. Fiskars also became an early player in Finland's Industrial Revolution, inaugurating its own machine and engineering workshop in 1837. By the following year, the workshop had completed its first steamship engine. The development of machinery and equipment, the laying of the Finnish railroad system, as well as the construction of bridges, led Fiskar to continue to expand its production in the middle of the 19th century. In 1890, the company acquired a bankrupt steel mill at Aminnefors, which Fiskars then renovated, installing new furnaces. The development of the internal combustion engine resulted in the creation of new machinery types and new motorized vehicles; it also led to a need for new types of components, including springs. By the end of World War I, the Aminnefors site had begun producing its own spring-grade steel, leading Fiskars to establish a factory dedicated to the production of springs, particularly for the railroad industry, in 1921.

In the 1920s, Fiskars continued to expand its steel production operations, buying up iron and steel works across Finland, including the Billnäs Bruks works, which remained a key part of the group, which renamed itself Imatra Group in 1927. In 1929, the company began manufacturing the first springs for Sisu trucks. With the rapid development of the Finnish motor vehicle construction industry including the Sisu Auto Plant and the new Ford Plant constructed in Helsinki, Imatra Steel found a new, specialised and rapidly expanding market. Motor Transportation was expanding rapidly from the mid 1920’s due to a combination of the expansion of forestry industries and the growth in large scale construction and building projects. Large number of small transport companies operated heavy trucks (for their time) during winter in support of wood procurement and delivery and during summers on various construction projects. At the same time, the general population was benefiting from the growth in the economy and more and more people could afford cars while small businesses were increasingly utilising the small trucks and panel vans produced by Ford. The Finnish motor vehicle construction industry needed parts, and Imatra Steel worked to meet the demand, rapidly becoming THE specialist manufacturer of steel and steel components for the automotive and mechanical engineering industries within Finland.

The company's products expanded to include low-alloy engineering-grade steel bars, produced at the main Imatra steel works, as well as forged engine blocks and axles, crankshafts and camshafts, leaf springs and stabilizer bars, connecting rods, and components for steering columns for cars and heavy trucks. In addition, with the growth in shipping construction, Imatra Steel also became a supplier of steel and steel components for the shipping industry and also began to develop a sideline in components for the small Finnish aircraft manufacturing industry as well as a wide range of non-automotive steels and steel products including nails, chains, and wire rods. When the government joint venture with Tampella, Patria Oy, began, in the late 1930’s, producing tanks and then other armored fighting vehicles for the Finnish Army, Imatra became a major parts supplier. And Imatra Steel was only a single example. There were many more, both large, medium and small, spread acoss the entire spectrum of the Finnish economy.

The expansion of civilian motor transportation, particularly in heavy trucks, had implications for national defence. In early 1930's, a divisional organic light artillery regiment used 1164 horses for summer TO&E. Out of the manpower of some 2363 men in the artillery regiment, half were involved in keeping the horses operational. Together with planned and expected reinforcements, an infantry division employed 3200-7000 horses for a total planned wartime horse strength for the Army of 60,000 horses with a daily consumption of some 6000 tons of fodder - a far heavier burden for logistics than for example a daily ration supply for the troops. As a result of the rapid increase in trucks (Army mobilization plans called for the requisitioning of a large percentage of available heavy transport), in 1939 the new TO&E could replace most of the horses with motor transportation in the Army Field Infantry Divisions destined for the fairly well developed Karelian Isthmus. Troops destined for Northern Finland retained more horse transportation, although in many cases horses were supplemented with agricultural tractors. These changes liberated some 15% of the military from the care and maintenance of horses and allowed the Army to add three more Divisions to the Field Army. An even more important aspect was that as a result of the expansion of logistical assets, the operational mobility of the ground forces was significantly improved and the dependence on the rail network was lessened.
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Very detailed. I don't know enough about interwar Finland to comment further, but it does seem unlikely that Finland could hold off the Soviet Union for long enough to achieve a limited victory.

One possibly very bad butterfly of a longer-lasting Finland is that the Western Allies manage to intervene in the Winter War on the side of the Finns, which would be disastrous. They were only stopped OTL by the surrender of the Finns. I look forward to seeing how you deal with this.
Part 1-C - Initial Steps towards a Maritime Industrial Complex

(Note that parts of this are not original and were lifted from an earlier alternatehistory.com thread by Jukra - I've reused them as they fit my alternate scenario rather nicely).

Finnish Maritime Construction - Background

By the late 1920’s, there were three major firms involved in the shipbuilding industry in existence in Finland – Crichton-Vulcan and Hietalahden Laivatelakka were shipbuilders, while Wärtsilä, an iron, steel and construction company, was the major maufacturer of marine diesels. Following independence and the drying up of the Russian market, the shipbuilders lacked any major construction contracts, hence there was major pressure on the government to place major shipbuilding contracts in order that the companies remain in business. With the legislation passed in the late 1920’s, the Finnish maritime construction industry expanded steadily, at the same time becoming increasingly innovative. Not only the large companies benefited. Starting from 1934, smaller shipyards were awarded ongoing contracts for the construction of high speed wooden torpedo and gunboats as well as large numbers of small Coastal Motor Torpedo Boats.

I - The Crichton-Vulcan shipyard

Crichton-Vulcan was established in 1924 by the merger of AB Crichton Ab and Oy Vulcan Ab into Crichton-Vulcan Oy. The Crichton-Vulcan shipyard in Turku had been the cornerstone of the Finnish shipbuilding industry. The first shipyard in Turku was established in 1732 on the eastern bank of the Aura River. The first foundry and metal workshop was established in 1842. After the Crimean War the workshop was acquired by William Crichton. Crichton built a new shipyard near the mouth of Aura. Soon a joint-stock company, Wm Crichton & Co Ab was established, merging with a number of smaller shipyards. In 1913 Wm Crichton & Co Ab went bankrupt, and a new company AB Crichton was established in its place. During World War I, the shipyard served the Imperial Russian Navy. Åbo Mekaniska Verkstads Ab was founded in 1874 and later merged with another workshop that changed its name to Oy Vulcan Ab in 1899.
Crichton-Vulcan was one of two major beneficiaries of the Finnish Government’s support for the development of the Maritime Industry, constructing icebreakers, submarines, naval warships and merchant ships.

II - Hietalahden Laivatelakka shipyard

The Hietalahden Laivatelakka shipyard in Helsinki was in decline following independence but became the second major beneficiary of the Finnish Government’s support for the development of the Maritime Industry, constructing icebreakers, naval warships and merchant ships. Hietalahden Laivatelakka did not build submarines.

III - Wärtsilä

Founded in 1834, Wärtsilä was established when the governor of the county of Karelia approved the construction of a sawmill in the municipality of Tohmajärvi. In 1851, the Wärtsilä ironworks was constructed. In 1898, ownership of both the sawmill and the ironworks changed hands, being renamed Wärtsilä Ab, then becoming Ab Wärtsilä Oy in 1907. In 1908, the Saario rapids power station started operating and Wärtsilä became a modern smelting plant and steel mill running on electricity generated from the power station. Wärtsilä was a major beneficiary of the government’s economic policies. In the late 1920’s a galvanization factory manufacturing magnetically galvanized wire was completed. In 1929, Wärtsilä acquired a majority holding in Kone-ja Siltarakennus Oy (Machine and Bridge Construction Ltd), a company which manufactured machinery for the paper industry machinery. Wärtsilä's headquarters move from Karelia to Helsinki. In 1930, Wärtsilä acquired the Onkilahti engineering workshop in Vaasa and in 1931, the Pietarsaari workshop in Pietarsaari. In 1932, the Kone-ja Siltarakennus Oy group was merged into Wärtsilä, along with the just acquired Taalintehdas Steel Mill (est’d 1686) and the Turku, Pietarsaari and Vaasa subsidiaries.Wärtsilä-Yhtymä O/Y (Wärtsilä Group Ltd) was established under chief executive Wilhelm Wahlforss.

In 1927, Wärtsilä signed a licence agreement with Friedrich Krupp Germania Werft AG in Germany to manufacture diesel marine engines. The first Finnish-constructed marine diesel engine saw the light of day in Turku in November 1929. Wärtsilä went on to become the major manufacturer of marine diesel engines for the Finnish shipbuilding industry, supplying all the marine diesels used in the construction of the Finnish icebreakers, merchant marine and the Finnish naval construction programs.

Development of the Finnish Maritime Shipping Industry

I – The Icebreakers

In 1927, the Finnish icebreaker fleet was based on six icebreakers with a total power of 23 000 horsepower. The five older ships all were coal-fired and lacking range for continuous operations. The oldest, Murtaja, was of 1890 vintage and even lacked a keel propellor. The newest one, Jääkarhu, delivered by the Dutch firm of P.Smit&Co in 1926 was the darling of the fleet. With a breadth of 19.3 meters, 9200 horsepower and tilt tanks it was a powerful addition to the icebreaker fleet and could single-handedly aid ocean going liners and tankers in and out of Finnish winter ports. Her triple-expansion steam engines were oil-fired, providing far greater endurance than with the older generation of coal-fired icebreakers. Even though the Soviet icebreaker Krasin was even more powerful, Jääkarhu was clearly among the best icebreakers in the world.

However, in some respects the Jääkarhu was already obsolete. Diesel electric propulsion, to be introduced to the Finnish Navy in submarines, provided the capability to direct power easily to pumps, keel or stern propellors or whatever else was the need and also allowed for greater endurance and more economical operations and was clearly the way of the future. Bubble shrouding of the hull was also lacking. The Swedes were already considering diesel-electric propulsion for their "Statsisbrytaren II", to be named Ymer.

The Finnish Maritime Authority foresaw a need for two separate classes of ice-breakers. First would be an 8000 horsepower, 4000 ton class of 14 meters beam to be used to keep sealanes in the Gulf of Bothnia open for large transoceanic cargo ships. Projected performance was to be 15kts in open waters and 6-8kts in 50 centimeter ice with a maximum capability of 120cm of solid ice. The projected names for the class would be Karhu, Otso, Kontio and Mesikämmen, all synonyms for bear, the traditional "King of the Forest" in Finnish folk mythology. Ordered in 1928, the ships were scheduled to be delivered between 1930-1931. The second class would be even more ambitious. The Sisu class was to be of 6000 tons and 10,500 horsepower with 19.5 meters beam and was to be used to assist shipping for Kotka, Viipuri and Helsinki, keeping the routes open for large ocean-going tankers and liners. This ship was to be delivered in 1932.

Inspired by the use of icebreakers in the Civil War and the First World War, the new icebreaker classes were designed from the outset to be armed if deemed necessary. The armament for both the "Karhu" class and "Sisu" was to be four 4"/60 1911 pattern guns, four 40mm Bofors guns and depth charge racks.The projected wartime role for icebreakers in the summer season was to be convoy escorts. Additionally, the icebreaker "Karhu" was to be designed to be used as a tender for the Navy's submarines.

II - The establishment and initial operations of Merivienti Oy - 1928-1932

Maritime Shipping was to be organized under two business arms – the Finnish North American Line (SPAL) and the Finnish South American Line (SEAL). For SPAL operations, a hodge podge of ten pre-WW1 cargo ships were bought to startup the initial operation, operating once in a week service to North America, initially to Boston, New York and Baltimore.

For SEAL, there was a need for faster and larger ships and the decision was made to purchase a uniform class of twelve fast cargo ships. The ships decided on were Hog Islanders, constructed en masse to replace the Allied shipping losses during the First World War for the Emergency Fleet Corporation of the US Shipping Board. The ships operated a two weekly service between Finland, Brazil and Argentine. Hog Islanders were fast and, from the Finnish perspective, quite large ships. Although the ships were almost ten years old, their method of their construction was studied carefully by Finnish firms as the orders for a uniform class of ocean cargo ships was expected within a short timeframe. Hog Islanders proved expensive to operate as they used manpower intensive steam turbines which had the effect of further directing the Finnish marine engine development effort towards the use of diesel and diesel-electric propulsion.

Hog Islander "Finntrader" of SEAL approaching Kotka in April 1929. Hog Islanders were of 5000brt, 8000dwt and had an operating speed of 15kts. SEAL ships did not gain their white livery until the late 1930's - to promote cleanliness of Diesel propulsion

The initial operations of Merivienti were unprofitable for a number of reasons. Cargo operations started at the beginning of 1929, just as the Great Depression was about to shake Finnish export markets and seriously disrupt the whole international trade system. The Ships were purchased just before the international slump for what were high prices. The purchase of the expensive and expensive to operate Hog Islanders was heavily criticized, but in fact the goodwill gained was important later on when neutralization of the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs became essential. Another element was the hostility of cargo shipping cartels in which the established shipping lines shut out the new state-funded competitors until 1930, when the solidarity of shipping lines evaporated under the pressures of Great Depression. Finally, while Finnish forestry companies had operated the Finnpap export association to promote Finnish forestry products succesfully in United States and Britain since 1918, other Finnish industries did not follow suit very effectively until state funds were allocated and state guidance provided to address the issue.

The alleged corruption and seemingly overambitious plans gained political attention, especially from the far left and, somewhat surprisingly, from the far right. For the far left, as mentioned before, Finnish plans to strengthen export industries were a threat to similar Soviet efforts. Moreover, any measure strengthening capitalist Finland was seen as a threat to the Soviet Union. For the far right, the so called Lapua Movement (Lapuan Liike) also criticized the maritime infrastructure program. This was due to the implied threat of factories, ports and high technology to the traditional agrarian lifestyle that the Lapua Movement would have preferred for Finland.

Hostility towards business interests was one of the factors which resulted in the Lapua Movement losing popularity with the Finnish electorate and this resulted in the movement being outplayed in the political field even before it's total crash after the 1932 coup attempt. The coup attempt was not the beginning of a new era of political instability, but rather end of the instability. After threats from both the left and the right ends of the political spectrum had been effectively defeated, the unpredecented economic boom which ended the Finnish Great Depression earlier than in most countries (just as in OTL) was a powerful antidote to extremist idiocies which were gaining power all over the world. Unfortunately for Finland and other democratic countries the domestic threats for democracy were not the only threats, as was seen during the late 1930's.

III The Icebreaker Sisu in service between 1932-1939

While the initial plans for the "Sisu" were rather traditional, the new "Super-Icebreaker" created large-scale public interest and thus in addition to having the most modern technology incorporated, the ship was also to have sleek modern lines, as can be seen in the picture below. One might argue that the modern design was a symbol for Finnish modernization, creating a break from the past, just as various Finnish public buildings of the era were spectacular examples of functionalist architecture.

Icebreaker "Sisu" in a 1939 promotional picture. The antenna in the foremast is not a radar but an experimental direction-finding antenna

Public interest in the project created an another requirement: “Sisu” was already designed to be among the most powerful icebreakers in the world. As a result of public interest and in response to the nationalism that was inspired by the ship, the specifications were rewritten for "Sisu" to become the most powerful icebreaker in the world, ahead of Soviet "Krasin". Ultimately, in terms of engine power the "Sisu" was surpassed by the Soviet nuclear icebreaker "Lenin" in 1959. However the post-war Finnish, Swedish and Soviet icebreakers of the "Voima"-class were more powerful in terms of icebreaking capacity due to improvements in design. The diesel-electric machinery of "Sisu" was a challenge for Finnish industry, but it was a challenge the meeting of which proved to be useful as the demand for electrical machinery grew significantly in the 1930's for both domestic and export use.

Thus the final specifications of "Sisu" were as follows:
Displacement: 6100 tons GRT
Length: 90 meters
Beam: 20 meters
Draft: 7.6 meters
Propulsion: Diesel-electric with six generators, totalling 13 000 IHP.
Armament (wartime): 4x 105/50 DP guns, 2 40/40 Vickers AA-guns, DC racks
Other: Fitted with airplane hangar and crane

In addition to regular operations during winter, the ship was also used for state propaganda purposes during summers. Of these trips, the Greenland expedition during the summer of 1937 gained widespread publicity outside Finland. However, the best-known trip was the visit to the New York World's Fair in the summer of 1939, where she had a large number of visitors. "Sisu" was a rare sign of peaceful engineering during the period in which storm clouds were already gathering over Europe. Following the New York World’s Fair, “Sisu” continued on to Brazil and Argentine, carrying a Finnish export show designed for South American markets. In August 1939, with the danger of war with the Soviet Union looming ever larger on the horizon, orders were sent for "Sisu" to return immediately. However, due to a collision with a British vessel, “Sisu” had to be repaired in an Argentinian shipyard. Repairs were completed by late October 1939 and with war looming with the Soviet Union, “Sisu” was directed to proceed to Narvik.

IV Naval Construction between 1928-1933

Finland first obtained a navy of sorts during the Finnish Civil War of 1919, when a number of elderly gunboats and torpedo boats of the Russian Tsarist Navy fell into White Finnish hands. Almost all of these captures came in shipyards and harbors where the vessels had been laid up without crews, and not of active warships. By the early 1920s, these ships had become thoroughly worn out and most of them went to the scrapyard in Turku. The fleet’s first commander, Commodore Hjalmar von Bonsdorff, presented a plan in 1919 for a navy based around a division of armored coastal defense ships, with a squadron of large destroyers and 40 torpedo boats, plus submarines and minelayers. It went nowhere at the time, but the basic concept, heavy guns supported by submarines and torpedo craft, stayed with the next generation of Finnish naval planners.

In the mid-to-late 1920’s, the Finnish High Command saw two specific direct naval threats and a third, indirect threat, requiring naval forces: a possible Soviet landing around Helsinki, and another Swedish attempt to seize the Åland Islands (repeating their 1918 adventures in the Finnish archipelago, driven off by German threats). A third more indirect threat of lesser importance was from the Soviet Navy fleet based out of Murmansk which could threaten Petsamo, Finland’s only Arctic port or the alternative access through the Norwegian port of Narvik. As part of the strategic naval planning that went on in conjunction with the development of the “Naval and Merchant Shipping Act,” it was determined that the objective of the Finnish Navy was to protect the Finnish coast and Finnish shipping against the Soviet Baltic Fleet and any Soviet Naval Forces based at Murmansk, which provided the major conceivable naval threat. Although the Navy leadership initially preferred coastal monitors armed with 10" guns, (OTL Väinämöinen-class) the support for large naval ships had waned due to the Merchant Navy law which produced lucrative large civilian orders for the Finnish shipyard industry almost immediately. The order of large ships, construction of which would demand special techniques of little use in civilian shipbuilding was no longer considered necessary by the shipbuilding lobby.

Icebreakers were the initial government-funded "masterpieces" of the Finnish shipbuilding. Smaller ships, on the other hand, would allow government funded work to be spread out over more shipyards. And in this, the Finnish Navy made a number of strategically sound decisions. The 1927 Naval Construction Plan put the emphasis on fast submarines, a strong destroyer flotilla, mine warfare and a strong anti-submarine component with the tactical objective of both bottling up the Soviet Baltic Fleet in Krondstadt and neutralizing the Soviet submarine threat in the event of war. A secondary objective was to deal with any Soviet naval elements in Murmansk. The Finnish parliament finally approved the details of an ambitious naval construction program in September 1927 in the “Naval and Merchant Shipping Act." This program was later updated in 1934 as part of the overall ongoing restructuring and rebuilding of the Finnish Armed Forces to face a potential invasion from the Soviet Union (updates in 1934 saw the addition of large numbers of small wooden Motor Torpedo Boats, Motor Gunboats, Fast Minelayers, Anti-Submarine Patrol Boats and a large number of small Coastal Torpedo Boats).

In 1927, the Crichton-Vulcan yard in Turku began construction of the first three submarines of what was planned to eventually be a total Flotilla of nine Submarines. The first three, the Vetehinen, Vesihiisi and Iku-Turso, were 705-long-ton submarines designed by Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw, based on the German Type UC III .


The three Vetehinen class submarines side-by-side in the specially built construction shed


The Iku-Turso at sea on pre-war exercises, commanded by Lt-Cdr Pekkanen

The design work and the supervision of construction for the first three boats was done by Germans (the submarines incidentally served as a step in the design of the German Type VIIA submarines). The Vetehinen, the Vesihiisi and the Iku-Turso were commissioned in 1930 and 1931. With experience gained from the construction of these submarines, a subsequent order was placed for the remaining six submarines in 1930, with one submarine per year to be delivered through the period 1932 to 1937. Improvements were progressively added to the design, with the next two submatines, Vesikko and Saukko, being rather larger, with a more powerful engine and much larger fuel tanks, enabling offensive patrolling to be undertaken. The next two submarines, delivered in 1934 and 1935, were identical to the German Type VIIA Submarines (they were in fact prototypes for the German Type VIIA) were fitted with four bow and one stern torpedoe tubes and carried eleven torpedoes and were capable of 17.7 knots surfaced and 7.6 knots submerged. The remaining two submarines, delivered in 1937 and 1938, were similar to the German Type VIIB, with an additional 33 tons of fuel in external saddle tanks adding 2500 miles of range when surfaced and with two rudders for greater agility. They also carried fourteen torpedoes.


Type VIIB Submarine

The two Type VIIB’s were based out of Petsamo and, in the Winter War, took the Soviet Navy completely by surprise with their repeated torpedo attacks on Soviet transport ships carrying the infantry intended for the attack on Petsamo (indeed, some accounts therorize that the Soviets never even realized the submarines were there as the Ilmavoimat attacks from the air seemed to be the focus for their defensive efforts – in point of fact, it is unlikely that the truth will ever be determined as there were no survivors from the Soviet task force – those survivors from sinking ships that made it into boats were repeatedly attacked from the air by Ilmavoimat aircraft until all boats were sunk. Survivors in the water died within minutes from hypothermia).

V Construction of the Finnish Cargo Shipping Fleet - 1933-1939

After the built-up of modern ship-building facilities and experience gained in modern shipbuilding technologies through the construction of the Icebreaker Fleet and the first series of naval construction projects (including the building of submarines for Germany), SPAL and SEAL placed large scale-orders with the Finnish shipbuilding industry in 1933, with deliveries planned to begin in 1935. The long lead time had ensured that the cargo ships to be built would incorporate the latest technological advances. Due in large part to the state’s taking part, development risks were taken and the designs were very advanced for the period. The shipbuilders also took full advantage of the state funding provided to introduce new constructions technologies, such as welding, into commercial use. The promise of a series of orders had already motivated Wärtsilä Oy to purchase a license to produce Burmeister & Wain diesels in Finland.

Due to increased trade volumes, the plan was to order fifteen cargo ships for both the South American and North American traffic. These ships were to represent two different standard classes. For North-American traffic the choice of ship type was to be a 7300 DWT ship, capable of operating from most of the shallow ports of the Bay of Bothnia without significant additional investment in dredging and capable of being effectively supported by Karhu-class icebreakers. As required for Finnish conditions, the class was ice-reinforced to class 1A.

SPAL-class specifications:
Displacement: 4700 BRT / 7300 DWT
Length: 140 meters
Beam: 17.5 meters
Draft: 7.2 meters
Engine: One 7000 ihp Wärtsilä diesel
Operating speed: 16,5 kts


M/S Berny of SPAL in Mäntyluoto harbor during the summer of 1936. The livery color of SPAL was changed to white to mark the new shipping era. Berny was the second ship of the SPAL-class and did not have the electric cranes for which the SPAL and SEAL-classes became well known

The fifteen SPAL-class ships ordered were delivered between 1935-1937. From number three of the class forwards, the design was improved by the installation of new cargo space and loading arrangements to make full utilisation of the development of ports in both the USA and Finland. The introduction of electric cranes instead of derricks, and the use of steel cargo covers, all helped to optimize cargo handling significantly, thus reducing cargo costs. Electric cranes were installed on all newly constructed SEAL ships as well. The SEAL line was to be served with slightly larger and faster ships of circa 10 000 DWT class as the distance from Finland to South America was significantly longer. Following the Japanese fashion, the ships had a single shaft and sleek lines. They also had a white livery similar to SPAL ships. The fifteen ships ordered were delivered between 1937-1939.

SEAL-class specifications:

Displacement: BRT 6000 / DWT 10000
Length: 141 meters
Beam: 19.6 meters
Draft: 8.3 meters
Propulsion: Two Wärtsilä diesels on single shaft, 11 000 IHP
Service speed: 18kts


M/S Arica of SEAL just after trial runs. She reached a speed of 21kts in trials.

Both SPAL and SEAL class ships were equipped to take 12 passengers, as was usual for cargo ships of the time. Also in line with customary practice of the era, the ships were prepared for possible wartime use through the inclusion of armament: a 105/50 DP gun in stern and bow positions, and positions for four AA-machineguns, two on each side. The purchase of armament and the training for gunnery crews was funded by the respective shipping companies and arranged by the Navy.

In 1936, due to the success of the SEAL and SPAL Lines, a new state-subsidized line to the Far East was inaugurated (Suomen Kauko-Idän Linja, SKIL), mostly in order to carry the rapidly growing Finnish-Japanese trade. Initially the line was to operate with six cargo ships similar to the existing SEAL ships. Orders were placed for six ships in 1937, but due to a backlog of orders, construction could not begin until 1939 and indeed did not materialize before the start if the Winter War. SKIL began operations in 1936 using the Hog Islanders as they were released by SEAL and SPAL.
The skills acquired in the construction of icebreakers and large merchant ships also found use in the construction of smaller ships and in the construction of ore/bulk carriers used to carry iron ore from Finland and Sweden to Germany. While in general the Finnish shipping companies operating in European waters used smaller ships, often purchased second-hand and with low crewing costs due to the use of Finnish crews, the situation was changing by the late 1930's. First, as the demand for Finnish sailors and for worker in general increased as the Finnish economy grew, pay scales were on the rise, making the operation of older, smaller, crew-intensive ships not as attractive as previously. A second factor was that, by the late 1930's, shipping in general was a growth sector as governments around the world pumped money into heavy industries and the shipping sector grew increasingly competitive.

VI Soviet Interests - 1936-1939

From 1936 onwards, the expansion of the Finnish metallurgical and shipping construction industries attracted the interest of the Soviet Union. The Third Soviet Five Year plan was to be focused on the building up of armaments and a gigantic Soviet Navy – and it was planned to buy merchant shipping outside the Soviet Union to fulfill cargo shipping needs as Soviet shipyards were filled to capacity with military orders. Finnish shipbuilding, with its focus on ice-reinforced ships, naturally gained attention from Soviet economic planners. Before the the Bolshevik Revolution, the Finnish mining and metallurgical industries had in fact developed to fulfill Imperial Russian needs so the attention was not unsurprising. Still, it represented a drastic change in direction. Before the revolution, 30-40% of Finnish trade had been oriented towards Russia. In the early 1930's it was around one percent.

Unknown to Finns, the development of the Finnish industrial economy also made Finland a more important target for Soviet expansion in order to meet Soviet "security needs". This risk was seen by Finland, although more mildly. During the late 1920's as Finnish industrialization was planned, the risk was seen that Finnish industries might become dependant on Soviet markets and thus orders might be used in future to exert economic pressure against Finland. The risk was countered by the argument that Soviet markets could be used as a testing field for Finnish industrial products which, once established, might be sold more lucratively to the West after new industries were successfully established. Further factors influencing Finland towards closing trade deals with Soviet Union were the need to pay for the increasing amounts of oil being purchased from the Soviet Union and also the acquisition of cheap raw wood for Finnish forestry industries as well as raw materials for industry in general.

The only really negative impacts of these deals were felt only at a much later period. As the Soviets insisted upon old practices (for example, riveting hulls and the use of reciprocal steam engines rather than diesel-electric) the smaller Finnish shipyards which supplied the Soviets with cargo ships did not develop their productive technologies up to a level at which they could have entered the much more profitable Western markets from the 1950's onwards.

Heavy Industry and Development in North Finland

The new Karhu-Class of Finnish Icebreakers which came into service in 1932 were large and powerful enough to keep open sealanes large enough for transoceanic cargo ships to pass through. Prior to the introduction of these icebreakers, North Finland had had to rely on rail traffic (with expensive operating costs during the long cold winters). From 1932 on, Finnish icebreakers were capable of keeping the Finnish ports of Tornio, Oulu, Kemi, Oulu, Kokkola, Vaasa and Mäntyluoto open throughout the winter. This completely changed the economic landscape, offering the potential to expand wood-based exports not only in quantity but in quality. This resulted in increased demand for wood, which was available in abundance in Northern Finland but which had previously been uneconomical to transport. With year-round shipping now available, there was an increased demand for motorized transportation, which in turn led to further expansion of the Ford truck factory in Helsinki (utilizing knock-down kits imported from the USA) as well as a boost in sales for the Finnish SISU truck factory.

Together with the sealanes opened up by the Finnish icebreakers, the Swedish icebreakers Atle and Ymer were able to keep the Swedish port of Luleå open throughout the year. Thus the necessity for shipping Swedish iron ore through Narvik during winter disappeared, as most of the Gällivare iron ore mined by LKAB was destined for German markets. The combination of the modern Swedish port of Luleå and winter navigation in Bay of Bothnia being available opened up a new economic possibility – the establishment of a steel mill utilizing both low transportation costs and the projected hydro-electric power output of the Oulujoki and Kemijoki rivers. This combination was due to fact that the ships fetching iron ore from Luleå for transport to Germany lacked freight to be carried northwards and this offered the possibility of cheap transport of German coal on the return voyage into the Bay of Bothnia.

In Luleå itself the modern ore conveyor belts were reducing loading costs for iron ore, emphasizing transport costs instead of loading and unloading costs. At the same time the international demand for steel was rising and constructing a brand new steel plant from the ground up offered the opportunity to utilize the latest technical advances for high efficiency. Another factor was that Northern Finland was an important voting region for the centrist Agrarian Party which at the time held the primary position in the Finnish Cabinet. To create broad support for the North Finland steel mill project, the Agrarians created an unholy alliance. To the Social Democrats, the Agrarian Party stressed the importance of continuous industrial development and the jobs that would be available for industrial workers. For the National Coalition the importance of industrial strength for national defence was stressed. For the Swedish People's Party, the steel mill was to be a demonstration of Nordic co-operation, which indeed it was. In usual Finnish style, as private capital was lacking, the state provided capital for the venture.

After long and difficult political arm-wrestling it was decided to situate the new steel mill in the city of Tornio on the Swedish border. The location was to take advantage of the short iron ore transport route from Sweden, with a rail connection planned for a later stage and the possibility of using both the Finnish and Swedish electricity networks in the future. Construction was started on May 1931 and the first steel was shipped from the mill in August 1934. In addition to producing bulk-grade steel, mill expansion was already being planned to utilize domestic nickel, chromium, copper, zinc and cobolt mines fully in order to produce high quality special alloys. Chromium, zinc and cobolt were available nearby, copper could be shipped from domestic mines in Outokumpu and the nickel mine in the Petsamo area was being developed.

Strategically, a number of other options were also under consideration in preparation for the development of an even larger industrial complex in the Tornio area, of which the Steel Plant and Hyroelectric construction was seen as only the first phase. One option being considered was the the linking of the Finnish rail network to the Swedish line to Narvik. Strategically, this was seen as a way to ensure that in the event of a major European War breaking out, Finland would not be completely cutoff as had occurred in World War One after the Bolshevik Revolution. A second consideration was that the expansion of industrial facilities in Tornio and increased intertwining of industries and infrastructures with Sweden would give Sweden a much bigger interest in assisting Finland in the event of a war with the USSR. A third consideration was that with the development of the Petsamo Nickel Mine, the construction of a rail link between Rovaniemi and Petsamo would both enable year round transport of nickel ore to Tormio and would also provide Finland with yet another strategic outlet outside of the confines of the Baltic.

However, in the early 1930’s, Finland lacked any real capability for the defence of Petsamo and should an attack by the USSR eventuate, a rail line would mean a good access and supply route into Northern Finland. This, while construction was studied, planned and designed, a construction decision was deferred until the Finnish Defense possessed the ability to defend Northern Finland – this was not expected to be achieved until the mid 1940's. By contrast, the route through Narvik was seen as a safe option, and in 1935 the Finnish Government financed the linking of the Finnish rail system to the Swedish line to Narvik. This link was completed in 1938 and was this available to Finland when the Winter War broke out in 1939. It proved to be a link of immense strategic importance both for the shipment of armaments and of fuel (and for Finnish intervention in Norway when WW2 came unexpectedly to the Norwegians).

The building of the Tornio Steel Plant and the construction of the Oulujoki and Kemijoki hydro-electric power plants led to the establishment of a third major industrial project in the Tornio area. In 1931, the Finnish Government had formed and funded the establishment of “Patria Oy” as a jointly owned company with Tampella Iron and Steel, intending Patria Oy to produce specialised heavy caterpillar-tracked vehicles for the construction and forestry industries as well as tracked Armored Fighting Vehicles for the Finnish Defence Forces. Funding was provided from within the Industrial Development budget to establish a manufacturing plant to be built in Tornio, to take advantage of the close proximity of the Tornio Steel Plant and the hydro-electric power from Oulujoki and Kemijoki. Construction began in 1932 and the basic plant was completed in early 1934, with prototypes for the forestry industry being first produced in late 1934.
Part 1-D - The Finnish Naval Construction Program 1933-40

Naval Construction Between 1933 and 1940

Submarines were to be one arm of the Finnish Navy. Once submarine construction was firmly underway, the Naval Construction Plan made provision for further construction of a number of different classes of surface warships. The first of these were Motor Torpedo Boats / Fast Minelayers. (In the OTL, Finland ordered at least 23 motor torpedo boats from four countries in 1940. These included 3 Thornycroft boats from England (built but not delivered), 10 boats from France (not delivered, probably never built), 6 boats from the USA (1 Scott-Paine 81-foot, 5 Higgins 70-foot, advance payments were made but none of these boats were delivered), and 5 Baglietto boats from Italy ("Hurja" class boats, delivered in 1943).

Motor Torpedo Boats and Fast Minelayers

Motor Torpedo Boats and Fast Minelayers were an early component of the Finnish Naval Construction Plan of 1931, with a slow-paced ongoing construction program envisaged as continuing on a year-by-year basis, with improvements being progressively incorporated. With adequate air cover, good anti-aircraft armament and a high speed, a large number of this type of boat could provide a very high level of defense against any Soviet seaborne invasion attempt on the Finnish coastline outside of the winter months. In addition, the small size of the boats made them easy to conceal within the numerous islands along the Finnish coastline. Another (and major) impetus for building the MTB fleet was for both economic and material reasons. Ten wooden MTB’s could be built for the cost of one modest-sized corvette. Another reason was a shortage of naval-grade steel, which had to be conserved for building larger ships, armored vehicles and for weapons and munitions.

In 1931, Finland purchased “designs only” for a small range of motor torpedo boats from Thorneycroft, Vosper, Fairmile, Elco, Higgins and Scott-Paine. These designs were delivered in 1932 and formed the basis for an indigenous Finnish designed and built Motor Torpedo Boat / Fast Minelayer. The Finnish design was completed in early 1933 and a Prototype completed by the Hietalahden Laivatelakka yard in Helsinki late in the same year and trialed through the summer of 1934. 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. The design made provision for all the boats to be capable of being fitted up either with Torpedoes or as Minelayers, meaning operational roles could be quickly switched when necessary.

The MTB as designed and built for the Finnish was a completely wooden-hulled craft 80 feet long with a beam of 20 feet 8 inches and a draft of 5 feet displacing 40 tons empty and 56 tons fully loaded. They had strong wooden hulls of 2-inch (5 cm) planking that were designed using classic "planing-type" hull forms with a sharp V at the bow softening to a flat bottom at the stern – the design was inspired by the racing boats that dominated the world boat racing circuit and set water speed records between the wars. Damage to the wooden hulls of these boats could be easily repaired by base force personnel without recourse to shipyards. Crew consisted of 3 to 4 Officers and 19 Enlisted Ranks (all Reservists). The boats were powered by three aircraft engines (one per propeller shaft) built under license in Finland (originally for the Finnish Air Force but then, additionally, for the MTB’s) and capable of pushing the fully-loaded boats to a maximum speed, fully laden, of 40-45 knots. Range varied markedly depending on the speed at which operations were carried out, a normal patrol for these boats lasting a maximum of 12 hours.

By 1939, continuous improvements and additions to their armament had resulted in the Finnish MTBs carried more firepower per pound of boat than any other craft in the Finnish Navy and individual crews often added more weapons. Each of the Torpedo Boats was fitted with four 21-inch (53 cm) torpedo tubes containing German designed (but Finnish manufactured) torpedoes. They weighed about 2,000 lb (907 kg/approx. one ton) each, with 800 lb warheads, and gave the tiny boats a punch at least theoretically effective even against heavily armored battleships. Overall, the typical MTB was armed with an impressive array of weapons that included: a twin-barrelled 20mm Oerlikon cannon forward of the bridge superstructure, four twin 12.7mm machine guns - one pair mounted on each side of the open cockpit in open rotating turrets, one pair mounted on each side at the rear of the superstructure in open rotating turrets, a twin-barrelled 20mm Oerlikon cannon centre-mounted aft of the superstructure, a single Bofors 40mm cannon mounted at the stern, one 81mm mortar mounted on the superstructure aft of the cockpit and used for firing flares and a Smoke Generator on the transom as well as personal small arms. In addition, some Boats mounted two additional single-barrelled 12.7mm machine guns, one on each side, with the mount attached to the top of the forward Torpedo Tubes.


Early, lightly armed MTB’s patrolling the Gulf of Finland at speed – Summer, 1936

Because they were normally fueled with 145 octane aviation gasoline, it was recognized that a direct shell hit in a Torpedo Boat's engine compartment could result in a total loss of boat and crew, but on the other hand, the operational concept dictated that the Torpedo Boats would attack in concert with Submarines and supported by aircraft, which would reduce the risk somewhat. To strike at a target, the Torpedo boat would have to close to within 5 miles (9 km) for a shot (preferably a lot closer), well within the gun range of destroyers; at this distance, a target could easily maneuver to avoid being hit. The standard tactic that the Finns planned for was that the boats would approach masked by darkness, close to point-blank range, fire their torpedoes (which would give away their positions), and then flee behind a smoke screen. Retreat would likely be hampered by Soviet aircraft, so the boats would have to rely on their smaller size, speed, maneuverability and darkness to survive.


Later model MTB, note the far heavier armament

The Fast Minelayer was identical in construction but did not mount the rear Bofors 40mm and rather than four torpedoes, was configured to carry up to twenty four mines in four racks. The operational strategy for these boats was to lay up during the day along the Finnish coastline, and carry out high-speed mine-laying operations under cover of darkness. As with the torpedo boats, the wooden hull meant that construction was fast and cheap. By the start of the Winter War, the Finnish Navy had some forty Fast Minelayers and approximately forty Motor Torpedo Boats in service. In the event, these were highly effective as minelayers and contributed in a major way to the rapid laying of minefields which kept what was left of the Soviet Baltic Fleet bottled up in Krondtstadt. Theorectically, if the entire Minelayer flotilla operated together, they could lay approximately 950 mines in one night, a not inconsiderable number.

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. Rather than mines or torpedoes, these Boats were fitted with two depth charge throwers and were equipped to carry forty depth charges. To enable them to effectively combat Soviet submarines on the surface, they were equipped with a single-barrelled Bofors 40mm forward and a second Bofors 40mm aft, together with a twin-barrelled 20mm Oerlikon cannon on each side of the Bridge. Unless carrying out a high speed depth charge run, they generally operated on only the single centre engine at low speed, enabling them to listen for 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. They proved particularly effective in late 1939 before the Gulf froze over, and over the summer of 1940, in interdicting Soviet submarines within the Gulf of Finland, with a confirmed six Soviet submarines attempting to break out into the Baltic sunk.

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 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.

The Suojeluskunta General Headquarters had made a decision to create a "Civil Guard Navy" in 1923. This 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 local Civil Guard units providing this training increased in the 1930's. The Sea Civil Guard of Helsinki was from the start one of the best equipped units of the Civil Guard 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.

Thus, the decision by the Navy to buy MTB's and subsequently the Fast Minelayers, together with the Coastal Fast Torpedo Boats - and assign Suojeluskunta Navy personnel to crew these boats - came as a welcome surprise to the 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.

Design and building of Coastal Fast Torpedo Boats

An offshoot of the Motor Torpedo Boat program was the Coastal Fast Torpedo Boat. This had evolved as an even cheaper defensive alternative. The basic concept was taken from the success of the Fast Boats that had been used by the British Royal Navy to raid Krondstadt and successfully sink a small number of Soviet ships during the Russian Civil War. (In June 1919 a force of two CMBs attacked Kronstadt and sank the cruiser Oleg. Lt. Augustus Agar of the Royal Navy won a Victoria Cross in this operation. In August, a larger combined operation with aircraft managed to sink two battleships and a depot ship). The Finnish military was very much aware of the success of this operation and as an offshoot of the MTB Program, 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.

Small, built of wood, lightly armed with two torpedoes or a small number of mines (usually four to six) and with a small crew, they were inexpensive, easy and cheap to build and equip and in large numbers provided a deterrent of sorts to any surface vessel attack. Beginning in 1935, the Finnish Navy contracted out the construction of a large number of these boats to the numerous small boat-building yards that dotted Finland’s extensive coastline. As the threat of war loomed larger in the late 1930’s, more of theses boats were rapidly constructed and crews of Naval Reserve Volunteers trained so that, by the time the Winter War broke out, nearly 200 were in service. The design evolved as more operational experience was gained and by 1939, the typical CFTB had an average hull length of 55 feet, a hard chine and a planing hull, powered by two powerful inboard Merlin engines, they could reach speeds of around 45-50 knots (80-90kmh), carried two torpedoes and were armed with 3 x 12.7mm machineguns. The crews of these boats varied between five and seven men and they had considerable range, albeit with no crew facilities whatsover.


CFTB at Speed, Summer Exercises 1939


(Apologies - this was the best "concept" picture I could come up with and I know it's modern, but you get the idea.......)

A further variation, the Fast Assault Boat, was also designed and built starting in 1939. This version lacked the torpedoes, was virtually unarmoured but could carry a Marine Infantry section of 10-12 men with their personal equipment. The operational concept was that the FAB could be used to land and pick up raiding forces or Frogmen and it was consequently also armed with a greater number of machine guns to enable more powerful defensive fire to be put down in support of the evacuation of raiding parties. By late-1939, around 30 of these Fast Assault Boats were in service and attached to the Marine Jaegar Division’s “Raider” Battalion.

As a footnote, almost immediately on the start of the Winter War, Frogmen of the Marine Jaegar Division’s Raider Battalion operating from FAB’s boarded and captured a Soviet Destroyer that had sortied into the Baltic and shelled Turku in a nightime operation that proved the capabilities of the unit to stunning effect.

Design and building of Finnish Destroyers

The major surface component of the Finnish Navy’s build-up was the planned purchase or construction of eight destroyers. The Swedish Göteborg class was the Finnish Navy’s initial destroyer of choice, influenced by the design’s very high speed (40 knots or more). But the Finns wanted heavier armament, with the ability to outgun any single Soviet destroyer, as well as carrying a very heavy inventory of anti-aircraft weapons. Initially, the decision looked to be made in favor of the Göteborg class but it was discovered that Poland had a similar program in mind at roughly the same time and had started addressing this earlier, finalizing the design of what would become the ”Grom” class. These had the same high speed as the Swedish boats, but at 2,011 tons had almost twice the displacement and were equipped with seven Bofors 4.7 inch (120 mm) QF M34/36 guns in a (3x2,1x1) configuration against the three on Göteborg.

In negotiations with Poland, it proved possible for Finland to license the design from the Polish Government, an arrangement that suited both parties, although the Finnish Navy modified the design somewhat, reducing the number of 120mm guns from seven to six (in a 3x2 configuration) and increasing the anti-aircraft armament to eight twin-barrelled Bofors 40mm and twenty twin-barreled Oerlikon 20mm cannon together with a number of twin-barrelled 12.7mm machineguns (given the anticipated intensity of Soviet air attacks in the event of any war). Like the Göteborg, the Grom Class Destroyers had six torpedo tubes, together with Depth Charges for anti-submarine operations.

Displacement was 1,975t (2,183t full load), with a length of 114m, a beam of 11.3m and a draft of 3.3m. Propulsion was provided by two Wartsila-built marine diesel engines of 54,000 shaft horsepower (40,000 kW) altogether, with 2 shafts, giving the Grom-class a top speed of 39 knots (72 km/h/45 mph), faster than the contemporary designs like the U.S. Farragut and Porter classes, the British Tribal class, or the German Type 1934 class destroyers. The Destroyers had an effective range of 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km; 4,000 mi) at 15 knots (28 kmh/17 mph). As it was not clear whether the ships would be used to secure convoys only within the Baltic Sea (and also more simply due to reuse of the Polish design), the possible range was much larger than in the case of destroyers designed exclusively for the Baltic Sea. The selected design resulted in large and powerful ships that were widely acknowledged to be the finest destroyer design of the time, superior to German and Soviet destroyers of the time and and one of the most heavily-armed destroyers on the seas at the start of World War II - and at a cost that was less overall than the two large coastal monitors armed with 10" guns (OTL Väinämöinen -class) that had been proposed in the mid 1920's.


The Grom-class Destroyer “Jylhä” tied up at Helsinki for Visitors Day, July 1936

The Finnish Navy signed an initial contract with Crichton-Vulcan for two Destroyers in 1933. The destroyers Jylhä and Jyry were laid down in 1934 and commissioned in 1936 and 1937 respectively. Subsequently, in 1934, orders for a further six destroyers (Jymy, Jyske, Vasama, Vinha, Viima and Vihuri) were authorized and placed, three to be built by Crichton-Vulcan and three by Hietalahden Laivatelakka. Two were delivered in mid-1938, two in mid-1939 and with the threat of war looming large over the summer of 1939, the remaining two were launched in late-1939 after construction was pushed through at a breakneck pace. All eight ships were to prove highly successful in surface operations in the Baltic Sea both during the Winter War and in the latter part of World War II.

The early destroyers featured a large proportion of Swedish industrial components and equipment, in particular the Bofors 4.7 inch (120 mm) QF M34/36 main guns (although the turrets themselves were constructed by Crichton-Vulcan). Later destroyers were largely built with Finnish manufactered components.

As an aside, the Finnish Navy had also looked at the possibility of building the Norwegian Sleipner class destroyers. The design for these was considered advanced for its time, using aluminium in the construction of the bridge, the mast and the outer funnel. Extra strength special steel was used in the construction of the hull. Unlike the earlier Draug class the Sleipner class had comparatively good capabilities in both main guns, anti-aircraft artillery and anti-submarine weapons. The class was named after Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse of Odin.

The armament within the class varied slightly. Æger had the armament listed in the article info-box. Sleipner, the lead ship of the class, carried just two 10 cm guns and could not elevate them for use as anti-aircraft weapons. Gyller had two extra torpedo tubes, for a total of four. Odin had a 20 mm anti aircraft gun instead of a 40 mm. Balder and Tor had not been finished when the Germans attacked, and it's not known if any changes in armament were planned. Although classified by the Norwegians as destroyers they have been widely regarded as torpedo boats because of their displacement and armament.

Displacement: 735 tons [1]
Length: 74.30 metres (243.77 ft)
Beam: 7.80 metres (25.59 ft)
Draught: 4.15 metres (13.62 ft)
Propulsion: 12,500 shp (9.3 MW) De Laval oil fuelled steam turbines
Speed: 32 knots (59.26 km/h)
Complement: 75 (? officers and ? ratings)
Armament: 3 x 10 cm guns
1 x 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun
2 x 12.7 mm Colt anti-aircraft machine guns
2 x 53.3 cm torpedo tubes
4 x depth charge throwers


Norwegian Sleipner class destroyer Æger at sea before the Second World War.

They were a little smaller than the Swedish Goteborg class and slower, but 32 knots wasn't bad. They were certainly cheaper to build but were rejected for the same reasons that the Goteborg-class design was rejected. However, they were then looked at as a substitute for the Goteborg-class ASW Corvettes (with a reduced # of main guns and increased # of AA guns). However, a decision was made to go with using the Goteborg-class, buying design from Sweden as this increased defence-related ties between the two countries somewhat and Finland was ever-hopeful that a Defence Treaty with Sweden might eventuate.

Design and building of ASW Escort Corvettes

The Finnish Navy Plan of 1931 also included provision for the construction of a new class of warship, the Anti-Submarine Escort Corvette. Conceptually, it was thought that if Submarines, Torpedo Boats, Coastal Torpedo Boats, Mines and the Air Force could be used to sucessfully bottle up the surface fleet of the Soviet Navy in Krondstadt, the primary threat in the Baltic Sea would then be from Soviet Submarines and with large numbers of these in service with the Soviet Baltic Fleet, these could pose a considerable threat to Finland and to communications and shipping links with Sweden in particular. The counter to this threat was to be the Anti-Submarine Escort Corvette. This was conceived as a small, relatively cheap and easily built warship based on mercantile rather than naval construction standards and with limited armament, lending itself to construction in smaller yards unused to naval work (of which there were a number in Finland). It would also be more lightly armed, with the overall cost being far less than for a Destroyer.

The Swedish Göteborg class, while it had been the Finnish Navy’s first destroyer of choice due to its speed, was not heavily enough armed to be the final selection for the Destroyer Class. However, when the Finnish Navy turned to considering Corvette design and construction, it was decided that this class might well serve, if simplified and “down-scaled” in terms of naval architecture, as the basis for an effective anti-submarine Corvette. The design for the first Corvette was completed and approved in early 1936 and construction began in the summer of the same year. They were designed first and foremost as an anti-submarine escort with the emphasis being on a combination of anti-submarine and anti-aircraft defence. They were not expected to take on combat of other surface vessels, this would be left to the submarines, destroyers and torpedo boats, but they were intended to be fast, seaworthy and highly maneuverable. The design was optimized with this in mind, and with cost constraints and ease and simplicity of construction in mind, very little provision was made for crew accommodation and living quarters – which would be appalling for long periods of time but were expected to be acceptable when operating within the confines of the Baltic Sea. As an example, the head (or sanitary toilet) was drained by a straight pipe to the ocean - a reverse flow of the icy Baltic would more often that not effectively cleanse the backside of those using it during rough weather.

They were powered by three Penhoet boilers, had a heavily-flared bow and a length of 200 feet, a beam of 33 feet, a draught of 11.5 feet, a displacement of around 1,000 tons and a maximum top speed of 40 knots. Range at 12 knots was 3,500 nautical miles (6,482 km) giving them a considerable operational radius within the confines of the Baltic Sea. Crew was between 80-90 officers and men. Armament varied, but generally, the Corvettes were equipped with one Swedish Bofors 4.7 inch (120 mm) QF M34/36 on the bow, four torpedo tubes (giving them a potential surface combat role in an emergency such as an attempted Soviet seaborne invasion of the Finnish coast), a twin-barreled Bofors 40mm on a "bandstand" over the engine room, two twin-barreled Oerlikon 20 mm cannons fitted on the bridge wings and an additional six twin-barreled Oerlikon 20 mm’s mounted three per side on the engine room roof aft. In addition, there were usually four twin-barreled 12.7mm machineguns mounted on the bridge roof. This gave them considerable anti-aircraft capability.


In general, they were equipped with 4 depth charge throwers, 2 depth charge rails and 60 depth charges as well as heavy minesweeping gear. Later modifications as more experience was gained resulted in the addition of extra depth-charge storage racks fitted at the stern and additional depth charge storage built along walkways, enabling them to be fitted with up to 100 depth charges. Corvettes were all part of the Finnish Naval Reserve force. With officers and crew coming from the Naval Reserve they in general had captains and officers drawn from Finnish coastal trading ships, all of whom had long experience of operating in the waters of the Baltic. While they were seaworthy ships, they were not comfortable - men at action stations were drenched with spray and water entered living spaces through hatches opened to access ammunition magazines. Interior decks were constantly wet and condensation dripped from the overheads. Accommodation was spartan, with the men hot-bunking or sleeping on lockers or tabletops or in any dark place that offered a little warmth.

With construction starting in 1936 in a number of smaller shipyards around the Finnish Coastline, the Finnish Navy started to bring these into service from 1937 on. Two entered service with the Navy in 1937 (Turunmaa and Karjala), two in 1938 (Uusimaa and Hämeenmaa) and an additional three were brought into operation in early 1939 with sufficient time to become operational before the war broke out. Thus, the Finnish Navy could (and did) put 7 of these Corvettes into action at the start of the Winter War. They successfully escorted a number of small convoys south through the Baltic as far as Denmark, and were also successful in sinking three Soviet submarines and foiling a considerable number of submarine attacks. A number of attacking aircraft were claimed as “probables.” None were sunk in action, although one Corvette sank as a result of an “own goal” – the early detonation of a depth charge.

Tactically, a typical action by a Corvette during convoy escort duties should she encounter a surfaced Soviet submarine was to run directly at the submarine while blazing away with every gun that would bear to force it to dive (thus limiting the submarines speed and manoueverability). The corvette would then keep the submarine down and pre-occupied with avoiding depth charge attacks long enough to allow the convey to safely pass. If sufficient Corvettes were available, one or two would remain to keep the submarine pinned down and attempt to destroy it while the convoy continued. The high speed of the Corvettes would make effective pursuit of a surfaced submarine possible. It would also make rejoining a convoy relatively easy.

Design and building of Minesweepers – post 1931

As part of the Finnish Navy’s construction program, it was anticpated that there would be a need for minesweepers to clear mines laid by Soviet Naval ships or submarines and to ensure regular clearance of shipping lanes into and out of Finnish ports. To this end, a decision was made to construct a limited number of small Minesweepers. These were to be of wooden construction and lightly armed, primarily with anti-aircraft guns, as it was not envisaged that they would be used in either surface combat or anti-submarine actions. Once the ship design was finalised in late 1932, contracts were placed with two Finnish shipyards for the construction of 12 minesweepers, delivery to be taken over the period 1934-39 (2 per year). Of wooden construction, powered by a single marine diesel engine with a top speed of 12 knots, the ships were armed with three twin barrelled Oerlikon 20mm guns (one forward, two midships, a Depth Charge Launcher and two 12.7mm twin-barrelled machineguns on the bridge wings.

Wooden Minsweeper under construction


Minsweepers exercising in the Gulf of Finland: Summer 1938

Finnish Coastal Artillery and Defence Cooperation with Estonia

Finnish coastal artillery was well equipped from the major Russian fortification effort completed between 1905-1918, with a series of coastal gun emplacements stretching from the Karelian Isthmus down the length of the Gulf of Finland. As per the OTL, the fortifications and guns were updated for slightly better performance. Beginning in 1930, Finland and Estonia started a practical military dialogue on defence cooperation, one aspect of which was preventing access through the Gulf to Helsinki and Tallinn using a combination of mines, coastal artillery and submarines. As a result, Finland redeveloped its heavy coastal artilleries and fortresses, developing new 305 mm shells which allowed greater range and offered complete coverage between Mäkiluoto in Finland and Naissaar in Estonia. As part of the coastal artillery cooperation the countries had a common fire control plan and were linked by an undersea telecommunications cable. The first joint military exercise was held in 1936 and yearly thereafter.

Joint Finnish-Estonian Coastal Artillery Planning

Also starting in 1936, the Finnish Defence Forces began transferring surplus Moisin-Nagant Rifles and sufficient Finnish-built 81mm Mortars and ammunition to assist the Estonian Defence Forces in building up to a strength of 5 Infantry Divisions. In addition, the Finns diverted part of their production of Anti-Tank guns, 105mm Artillery and Finnish-built Oerlikon 20mm AA guns to the Estonian Armed Forces as well as a number of semi-obsolete Fokker DXXI fighter aircraft. In addition, some Estonian conscripts began, in 1936, to complete their training in Finland under the auspices of the Finnish Army and Finnish engineers assisted their Estonian counterparts in preparing defences along the border with the USSR and Latvia as well as last-ditch redoubt positions around Tallinn and on the Baltic Islands (this aspect of Finnish Defence activity will be covered in more detail elsewhere).

Submarine cooperation between Finland and Estonia was another key component of the Finnish-Estonian agreement. The Estonian submarine program was expensive for the country, and the Estonian Navy had to sell two destroyers in 1933 to be able to finance the two new submarines, which were brought into service in 1937. Estonian submarines used the same kind of torpedoes and mines as Finnish submarines. Also, Estonian navy officers were initially trained in Finnish submarines (Incidentally, Estonia also bought a squadron of Hurricane fighers from the UK, together with a squadron of Fokker G1 fighters from the Netherlands, giving their Air Force a much needed boost in numbers).


The Estonian submarines Kalev and Lembit were manufactured in the United Kingdom, entering service in Spring 1937

The only major new initiative undertaken for the Finnish Coastal Artillery was the purchase in late 1936 of dozen Obukhovskii 12-inch (305 mm) Pattern 1907 52-calibre naval guns and eighteen 130-millimeter (5.1 in) B7 Pattern 1913 55-calibre naval guns from the French. These had been stored in Tunisia and were Russian guns from the battleship Imperator Aleksander III which had ended up interned in Bizerte after the Russian Civil War and which was scrapped in 1936, when the Finns purchased them, financed from a part of an early loan from the French Government. (OTL, seven guns were purchased by Finland in the Autumn of 1939 but the delivery was delayed through various bureaucratic complications and did not take place until after the Winter War.) Initially, there had been some reluctance from the French to sell these guns to Finland, but the taking out of a large loan from France to finance the purchase of military equipment from French companies (and being conditional on these guns being included) expedited the French decision making process (France was notoriously corrupt at this time and significant amounts from such loans tended to stick to the fingers of the elected and unelected officials “expediting” the loans).

Delivery of these guns from Bizerta took place in 1937. In addition to the 12 Bizerta guns, Finland also had nine 12" barrels left by the Russians to Finland in 1918 in storage through the 1920’s. Beginning in 1938, these nine 12" ex-Russian barrels, the twelve 12" and eighteen 5.1" barrels from Bizerta were installed in a number of prepared emplacements, significantly strengthening Finland’s coastal artillery positions in the Gulf of Finland. The 12" guns had a Rate of fire of 2-3 rounds per minute with a designed barrel life of 400 rounds, a Shell weight of 446 kg (984 lb), an initial velocity of the shell: of 853 meters/second (2800 feet/second) and a Range of 29,340 meters (32,080 yards, or 18 miles).

Last-Minute Purchases by the Finnish Navy

With the threat of war with the Soviet Union looming ever closer on the horizon, the Finnish Government attempted over the summer of 1939 to purchase any military equipment that might be useful, not quire regardless of the costs, but close. It proved impossible to buy any additional warships or submarines, until at the last minutes the close ties that had been established with Italy as a result of the Finnish Volunteer Divison serving under Italian command on the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War, together with Finland’s ongoing purchases of aircraft from Italy (and the winter-warfare training program established in 1937 for Italian Alpini troops) resulted in Mussolini responding favorably to urgent Finnish requests to buy warships. The initial Italian response was that four MAS motor torpedo boats built by Cantieri Baglietto in Genoa were shipped to Finland and entered service on 5 May 1939. The MAS boats had a speed of 45 knots, two torpedoe tubes and one machine gun. They turned out to be notably inferior to the Finnish built MTB’s and, after delivery and evaluation, were primarily used for Harbour Patrol duties before being converted to Anti-submarine duties in 1940.

Kptl Herlevi, commander of the Finnish crews taking over the new MAS boats, Helsinki, May 1939


Finnish crews, led by Kptl Herlevi, boarding the new MAS boats, Helsinki, May 1939


Suomen Merivoimat (Finnish Navy) MAS Torpedo Boat going out on trials following delivery

In addition, two Sella Class Destroyers, the Bettino Ricasoli and Giovanni Nicotera, were sold to Finland and transferred in July 1939 (OTL, these were sold to Sweden). The Sella Class ships wre commissioned in 1926/27, displaced 1,500 tonnes with a length of 293 feet, a beam of 28 feet and a draught of 9 feet. They were powered by 2 shaft Parsons type geared turbins with s boilers and could reach 35 knots, with a range of 1,800 nautical miles. As delivered, they were armed with a twin-barrelled 4.7 inch (120mm) gun, four torpedo tubes, 2 40mm guns and 2 13.2mm guns. The Sella Class ships formed the basis for most subsequent destroyers built by the Italians, but were disappointing in service with unreliable machinery. The Sella’s sold to Finland turned out to be old, unreliable, badly designed, lightly armed, unstable – but at this stage Finland needed anything and everything they could get their hands on and took them anyhow, albiet they did get the price they paid knocked down.


Sella Class Destroyer Bettino Ricasoli in the Mediterranean en-route to Finland, July 1939

Following delivery, both ships were extensively reworked and repaired in the Crichton-Vulcan yards in Turku, with new engines being supplied by Wartsila and all weaponry being replaced. The ships were substantially rearmed with a 2 x twin Bofors 4.7inch (120mm) main gun, 2x40mm Bofors AA guns, 4 x20mm Oerlikon AA guns and Depth Charge Launchers. They failed to see service in 1939 but were in action over Summer 1940 and served through the remainder of WW2 before being scrapped in 1947.

Italy also offered to sell to Finland two light cruisers, the Alberico Da Barbiano and the Alberto di Giussano (OTL, Italy offered to sell these to Sweden). These were Condottiero Class light cruisers, with di Giussano launched in April 1930 and De Barbiano launched in August 1930. They were built for speed, with virtually no armour and a large power plant. Displacement was 11,735 tonnes fully loaded, with a length of 555 feet, beam of 51 feet, draught of 17 feet and a theoretical speed of 34 knots (maintainable for approximaterly 30 minutes), powered by 2 Belluzo geared turbines and 6 Yarrow-Ansaldo boilers and with a range of 3,800 miles. A crew of 507 was needed. Armament as delivered consisted of 8x152mm guns in 4 twin mountings, 6x100mm guns in 3 twin mountings, 4 torpedo tubes, 8x37mm machineguns and 8x13.2mm machineguns. They were also capable of carrying two seaplanes.


The Cruiser Alberico Da Barbiano in Venice prior to sale to Finland

Finland purchased the two cruisers on very favorable terms in August 1939 and transferred crews to Italy to take delivery immediately, after which the ships were renamed Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen respectively. The ships were at port in Lisbon (Portugal), en-route to Finland in September 1939 with Finnish crews and Italian personnel attached for instruction and training when Germany attacked Poland. After negotiations with Britain, the two cruisers were ordered to make for Narvik, where they arrived in November 1939. They were ordered to proceed to assist in the defence of Petsamo when the Soviet Union attacked Finland but arrived too late to participate in the destruction of the Soviet invasion force from Murmansk. There most famous combat role during the war was in the Spring 1940 “Helsinki Convoy” (covered later).
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Sidebar - Finnish Army ATL - Combat Training

Straying away from logistics, economics and infrastructure briefly, there were other reasons why the Finnish Army emerged triumphant from the 1939-1940 Winter War. One of these was the emergence of a new doctrine placing an increased emphasis on hand-to-hand combat and on training soldiers in effective shoot-to-kill techniques.

The Army and the Suojeluskunta in particular encouraged its men (and women) to maximize their physical capabilities - Finland was also one of the very few countries in the world in the 1930’s whose Army encouraged the learning of unarmed and armed martial arts combat techniques. From the early 1930’s on, a synthesis of techniques from Savate, Judo, Ju-Jitsu and Karate together with knife and bayonet fighting techniques were taught within the Armed Forces. Conscripts got this in full measure. Combined with a backwoods penchant for savage brawling and knife-fighting, the Finnish soldier wasn’t somebody you wanted to meet on a dark night in the woods. Or any night for that matter.

Hand to Hand Combat and the Pyschology of Killing

The introduction of formal Hand to Hand Combat Training into the Finnish Armed Forces first occurred in the early 1930’s thanks to Gustaf Johannes Lindbergh (1888 – 1970), a Finn of Swedish origin from Turku. Lindbergh had spent almost all of the 1920’s living in Japan where he worked for a Shipping Company, learnt Japanese and became a student of the Japanese Martial Arts. A successful student of wrestling and boxing in Finland in his school days, where he had often represented his School and local City Teams in competitions, in Japan he primarily studied Karate, Judo and Ju-Jitsu, but he also studied Aikido in it’s early from, Aiki-Jujutsu, under Morihei Ueshiba. An eclectic student and a quick learner, he seems also to have studied Tae-Kwan-Do under a Korean Sifu living in Japan, as well as various Sword and Weapon Fighting Techniques.

Lindberg returned to Finland in late 1929 and, having found work in Tampere, established his own Gym. A conservative, he found himself involved in factory politics in a city where many of the Workers belonged to the militant left-wing. Very quickly, he began to teach hand-to-hand combat techniques to fellow Conservatives and members of the Tampere Civil Guard who were often involved, despite the political rapproachment between the SDP and the Civil Guard, in street brawls and bar-fights with left-wingers. No tee-totaler himself, Lindberg very quickly realized that the formalised wrestling, boxing and Japanese/Korean martial arts techniques he had studied had very little in common with real combat. As a result, working with some of his Gym members, he began developing a system of combat techniques for practical self-defense and offense in life threatening situations. On the streets, he continued to acquire hard won experience in a brutal school where losing meant a severe beating. This rapidly led him to a crucial understanding of the differences between sports fighting and street fighting.

Over the next couple of years, he developed his fundamental hand-to-hand combat principles: 'use natural movements and reactions' for defense, combined with an immediate and decisive counterattack. From this evolved the more refined theory of 'simultaneous defense and attack' while 'never occupying two hands in the same defensive movement.' The fighting technique he developed was certainly eclectic, incorporating techniques of wrestling, grappling, striking and kicking, with many elements borrowed from the Japanese and Korean Martial Arts he had studied. He rapidly became known for his schools extremely efficient and brutal counter-attacks.

Due to his Gym having a large number of Civil Guards as members, in particular many Officers (who could afford the membership fees), Lindberg was invited in 1931 to become the Hand-to-Hand Combat Instructor and Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness for the Tampere Civil Guard units. In this capacity, between 1931 and 1933, he continued to develop and refine his hand-to-hand combat methods, and also began including 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. By 1933 this had evolved into a system for military closequarters combat, which he named, with a certain lack of originality, KäsiKähmä Taistelu, or KKT for short.

Following a demonstration for Marshal Mannerheim and Senior Officers of the Army in late 1933, organised by the Senior Officers of the Tampere Civil Guard, Mannerheim worked to ensure the promotion of Lindberg to Chief Instructor of Physical Training and Unarmed Combat for the Finnish Army. Lindberg moved into this position in mid-1934 and drove the rapid expansion of KKT training throughout the Finnish Army and into High Schools through the Military Cadet organisation. At the same time, he continued to work on the evolution of fighting techniques as well as the psychological aspects of hand-ro-hand combat training, emphasising physical endurance and the ability to take physical punishment in combat without being unduly perturbed, elevating and strengthening the spirit, emphasizing threat neutralization, simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers and developing an always aggressive mindset.

Under his leadership, KKT became an essential part of training for all members of the Armed Forces, women included. KKT fostered an aggressive mindset and the training, paricularly in the Army during the Basic and Advanced Training periods, was intense (and intensely phsyical). Many recruits later spoke of it as one of the highlights of their training and the occasional foreign observer found the displays they were given by skilled practitioners during the Winter War itself verging on the terrifying, particularly those involving fighting with the Finnish Army’s Combat Issue Machetes and also with Entrenching Tools, each of which were more than capable of taking off a man’s head or a limb.

Picture: Finnish Army Para Jaegers (note the Para Jaeger badge at top right) training in KäsiKähmä Taistelu techniques, Summer 1939

From 1934 to1936, Lindberg had also devoted considerable time, in conjunction with two psychologists who he had met through his gym, to the psychological aspects of combat. In his hand-to-hand combat training, Lindberg had placed a great deal of emphasis on overcoming what he had seen initially as a reluctance to fight effectively. He had later come to see this as a generic phobic-level aversion to violence which he then trained his students to overcome. He theorised that this might also apply to soldiers and their willingness to kill and began, in conjunction with the two psychologists, a systematic study into the improvement of the effectiveness of soldiers in combat.

The involvement of Finnish volunteers in the Spanish Civil War gave Lindberg a practical theatre for his studies and for two years, he and the pyschologists were attached for long periods to the Finnish Volunteer Division fighting with the Nationalists. During these studies, they determined that for many soldiers, despite having volunteered for combat, there was a deep seated aversion to actually killing the enemy, with only 20-25% of individual riflemen actually deliberately aiming at the enemy before firing (with non-Finns, it was generally around 15-20% - Lindberg theorised that perhaps the difference was that many Finns were outdoorsmen who hunted recreationally). While they were willing to die, they were not willing to kill. They also identified that there was no such problem with long distance weapons, where the enemy was out of sight and therefore de-personalised. Specialized weapons, such as a flame-thrower, usually were fired. Crew-served weapons, such as a machine gun, almost always were fired. And firing would increase greatly if a nearby leader demanded that the soldier fire. But when left to their own devices, the great majority of individual combatants appeared unable or unwilling to deliberately kill.

In addition, they identified a number of physiological responses to combat involving vasoconstruction, tunnel vision and hyperventilating as well as “fight or flight” stress responses to the stimulus of combat. Studies Lindberg carried out identified that this process was so intense that soldiers often suffered stress diarrhea with loss of control of urination and defecation being common. Lindbergs surveys identified a quarter of combat veterans admitted that they urinated in their pants in combat, and a quarter admitted that they defecated in their pants in combat. He also identified that there was a parasympathetic backlash that occured as soon as the danger and the excitement of combat was over, taking the form of an incredibly powerful weariness and sleepiness on the part of the soldier. This seemed to occur as soon as the momentum of the attack was halted and the soldier briefly believed himself to be safe. During this period of vulnerability a counterattack by fresh troops could have an effect completely out of proportion to the number of troops attacking.

These were revolutionary insights into human nature and into a military problem – a 15-20% aiming and firing rate among riflemen is like a 15-20% literacy rate among librarians. Step by step through this period, Lindberg worked from a military perspective to correct these problems as they were identified. And correct them he did. In the Winter War, the “deliberate aiming and firing” rate among riflemen in the Finnish Army was over 90 percent and there was no appreciable reluctance to kill enemy soldiers. Measures taken included replacing 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 proved to be a successful conditioner. After this training, when soldiers so-trained were in combat and somebody popped up with a gun, reflexively they shot and shot to kill without conscious volition ("..they shoot like automatons..." a foreign journalist wrote at the time, "...with unbelievable accuracy, aiming and killing with no visible emotion.....").





Suojeluskunta Targets of the 1920's

He also worked to understand the physiological responses to close-range interpersonal aggression. Tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, the loss of fine and complex motor control, irrational behavior, and the inability to think clearly were all observed as byproducts of combat stress. A key conclusion was that in many ways soldiers in combat were actually less capable than normal and conditioning was needed to overcome these physiological responses. Again, Lindberg developed techniques to do just this, training soldiers to consciously adjust their physiological responses, 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.

By early 1938, he had proved his training and conditioning techniques to his and the Army’s satisfaction and these were rolled out in general and refresher training through 1938. With actual war looming in 1939, most soldiers received at least an abbreviated form of this training as part of mobilization referesher training in the Autumn of 1939. It was training that served the Army well in the Winter War, with the Finns achieving unprecedented effectiveness in the willingness of Finnish soldiers to aim to kill, shooting with an accuracy and effectiveness that was not reached in other Armed Forces until decades later. In this of course they were also aided by the outstanding individual firearms brought into service through the late 1930’s by the Finnish Armed Forces.

Those very very few foreign military observers who were permitted access to the front during the Winter War were in awe of the Finnish soldier’s military prowess. As one such observer was quoted as saying by a foreign (american) journalist “I don’t know if they terrify the Russians, but they sure do terrify me.” This particular observer had just witnessed an encounter engagement where an advancing Finnish Infantry Company of less than 100 men had wiped out a counter-attacking Russian Infantry unit of somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 men in an engagement that lasted less than 5 minutes. ("In addition to the effective use of accompanying support weapons, the individual Finnish Soldiers immediately went to ground, making effective use of available cover and fired aimed shots at approximately 10 second intervals with oustanding accuracy," he wrote in his report, "almost every shot seemed to find a target, the attacking Russian unit was wiped out to the last man. The Finns suffered 1 casualty, a light wound. They then resumed their advance.")

A great deal of the credit for this must go to Lindberg, the revolutionary insights into human nature that he came up with and the training techniques he devised to overcome these. Lindberg continued as the Army’s Chief Instructor of Physical Training and Unarmed Combat until 1948, when he retired from the military, though he continued to supervise the instruction of KKT in both Finnish military and law-enforcement contexts, and in addition, worked indefatigably to refine, improve and adapt KKT to meet civilian needs.
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Part 2 - More on Finnish Economic Growth thru the 1930's

The Development of the Finnish Mining Industry

The nickel mine at Petsamo in the far north of Finland has already been noted in passing. Given the growing importance of mining to the Finnish economy through the entire decade of the 1930’s, the entire mining sector is worthy of further examination, following which we will in the next section look at other areas of the economy that grw together with the financial and social ramifications of the rapid growth and industrialization of Finland’s economy – particularly on state income from taxation and from state-owned companies – and the flow-on effects for the defence budget.

Nickel was an important strategic resource, potentially of great importance for production of munitions, tanks and other war-related materiel as it was used to make alloys of steel (particularly stainless steel) important for improved corrosion resistance (shipbuilding) and outstanding high temperature performance (aircraft engines), armor plate and ammunition. The first Finnish nickel deposits were found in the Petsamo area on the Barents Sea, the northernmost part of Finland in the early 1920’s and were Europe’s richest nickel deposits. Finland had gained control of Petsamo in the Tartu Peace Agreement reached with the USSR in 1920. An early assessment of the region's natural resources revealed that the forest and mineral exploitation would be expensive and risky, and unlikely to attract sufficient capital. An early proposal for a rail link to Rovaniemi was rejected by the Government.

The Government conducted a geological survey of the area in 1921. On the Norwegian side of the border an iron ore field had already been found, and it was hoped that the ore would continue on the Finnish side. In the summer of 1921 the survey identified Neck Kolosjoelta Fell, near the Norwegian border and about 40 miles from the coastm as a nickel-copper ore deposit. In 1922, the Finnish Geological Commission mapped out the preliminary size of the orebodies and explained the content of the ore. The ore was calculated at about two million tons, and was estimated to contain 1.3 per cent nickel and 1.6 percent copper. A preliminary assessment determined that while the result was modest, the ore might still be enough to start mining. The calculated concentrations later proved to be significantly below those of the actual nickel content, which proved to be 3.9 percent over a thirty kilometer trendline.

The deposit was first offered to a Finnish state-owned mining company, Outokumpu Oy, but Outokumpu was already heavily committed and had insufficient resources for two projects. Early interest was shown by several international mining companies, including German companies Krupp and IG Farben and the Canadian International Nickel Company of Canada (Inco), which controlled 90 percent of world nickel market and owned most of the world's known nickel resources. Demand for nickel on the world market was growing rapidly during the 1930s due to the use of steel/nickel alloys, used to improve the strength of the steel as well as humidity and temperature stability characteristics. Negotiations with Inco were long and thorough, but the agreement was approved in June 1932 At this stage, the ore was estimated at double the original calculation. The contracting parties were the State of Finland and the UK registered subsidiary of Inco, Mond Nickel Company . Mond held the right to the Kolosjoen orebodies for a fifty year period. Work began in 1933 to build a mine to Canadian plans. A three mile long underground tunnel was built, with work going on in 3 shifts.

Kolosjoen nickel mine entrance in the mid 1930s

Initially, the ore was shipped to the United States from the small Finnish Barents Sea port of Liinahamari (which was ice-free all year round) for smelting, but when it became clear that electric power would be available, Inco decided to build a smelter in Petsamo, where ore was processed to semi-finished 50% nickel (matte). The high brick chimney of the smelter, when completed, was the highest in Europe at 163 meters (the Masons were Americans). By 1936 the mine, powerplant and smelter were fully operational and producing approximately 3,000 tonnes of pure nickel annually (although it was processed and shipped as matte - the refined so called "Matte" contained about 50% of nickel. There were usually other metals with nickel, particularly copper, gold and silver). The mine employed about 1,400 employees.

Kolosjoen mine smelter - the165-meter high chimney when completed was the highest in Europe

When development started, the area was untouched wilderness. To accommodate the employees, an entire town was planned, with roads, utilities, a market, cinema, tennis courts, workshops and administration buildings. The town was designed by architects Kaj Englund and Olav Hammarstrom and was completed over a two year period from1934-35 with 140 homes. The buildings were modern, with central heating, bathrooms and modern kitchens. Building material used were new porous concrete hole bricks. The site of the town was also connected by road to the south in 1931 (construction of the road from Sodankylä through Ivalo to Liinahamari started in 1916 and was completed in 1931. After that Petsamo became a popular tourist attraction as it was the only port at the Barents Sea that could be reached by an automobile).

Residential Units at the Kolosjoen Mine

At this stage Finland was also of increasing interest to Germany, who saw Finland’s nickel deposits as a vital war industry in any major conflict. In 1937 the Germans expressed an interest in purchasing nickel from Petsamo. This was of concern to the British Government, who were again concerned when they found, in September 1938, that the the German General Staff’s Economic Representative had traveled to Finland to investigate materials available for use in the production of munitions and had expressed the wish that Finland would sell all Nickel production to Germany (at this stage, Nickel was a major source of concern to Germany –their nickel self-sufficiency was only 5 per cent). At the same time, Finland was also seeking to raise revenue to finance further defence spending and pressured Inco to increase production at the Petsamo facility. Smelter capacity was expanded, port capacity Liinahamari was increased and, with open-cast mining introduced, by 1939 production had expanded to 220 000 tons of ore, (8,000 tonnes of pure nickel). Of this, more than than half of ore was smelted into matte on site, while the remainder was shipped out as ore to Britain and the United States. This was a valuable source of foreign exchange for Finland and, increasingly, was carried on Finnish-built and owned merchant shipping.

However, while the nickel deposits at Petsamo were important, there were two other nickel mines in Finland that had entered operations in the mid to late 1930’s, one of which, the Kotalahti mine, was almost as significant as the Petsamo deposit. The Kotalahti mine in Leppävirta was mined from 1934 to 1967 and the Makola Mine, near Nivala, entered production in 1937. The Makola Mine yielded around 500 tonnes of Nickel annually, the Kotalahti Mine was producing 424,000 tonnes of ore annually by 1939, yielding 2,800 tonnes of pure Nickel. Both of these deposits were mined by the state-owned mining company, Outokumpu and a political decision was made to sell a good part of this production to Germany. Accordingly, in early 1937 the Government signed a contract for the supply of 3,000 tonnes of Nickel annually, sourced from the Kotalahti and Makola Mines and generating substantial revenue for the Government (and for Outokumpu).

Outokumpu Oy itself had, by the late 1930’s, become a significant player within Finland’s economy. Outokumpu was a mining and metallurgical company, headquartered in Espoo and managed by Eero Makinen. The company took its name from the town in the eastern part of Finland where a rich copper ore deposit was discovered in March 1910. The deposits owners, both the Finnish State and private players, could not agree on a clear direction for the project and WW1 then intervened, with financial difficultiues and limited capital hindering the launch of efficient production. From 1913, copper ore was smelted and refined in a small copper works next to the mine. While the process was inconsistent, sufficient raw copper was produced to meet domestic demand together with some exports.

Things began to take off in 1924 when the State became the sole owner of the deposit and then when, as part of the Industrialisation Legislation of 1926-27, the deposit was transferred to the ownership of a state-owned mining company, with Eero Makinen appointed as manager. The old copper works was closed in 1929 as Ourokumpu began drafting plans for an integrated copper chain. The first step in Outokumpu’s integrated copper chain was completed in 1931 when an electric smelting plant, the largest of its kind in the world at that time, was built in Imatra to take advantage of the power from the newly completed Imatra Dam. The next step was the building of a metal works in Pori, where the raw copper produced in Imatra was refined into semi-finished prodicts such as wire ingots, sheets and rods (Outokumpu's "concentrated copper ore" contained 4% copper, 28% iron, 25% sulphur, 1% zink, 0,20% cobolt and additionally 0.80 grams of gold and 9 grams of silver per ton of ore).

Harjavalta Nickel Works Furnace Aisle

The opening of new nickel, zinc and copper mines in Finland in the 1930’s enabled Outokumpou to develop into a multi-metal company, with a new nickel works built at Harjavalta in 1934 and zinc and cobalt works in Kokkola in 1936. Outokumpu was also the owner of the newly constructed Tornio Steel Works, in the small town Tornio on the coast of Gulf of Bothnia, with up to 85 pct of the product exported. In the late 1930’s, Outokumpu also opened another major Copper mine at Ylöjärvi, near Tampere. Outokumpu also started down the road to stainless steel in 1937, when it began to exploit a large chrome ore deposit in Kemi. The construction of a ferrochrome smelter in Tornio (a joint venture with the Swedish firm Avesta), combined with the nickel works in Harjavalta, provided Outokumpu with the key raw materials for stainless steel, and the production of this was a natural next step, with 10,000 tonnes annually being produced by late 1939. The company’s net sales increased tenfold between 1930 and 1939, by which time Outokumpu was Finland’s third largest export company.

As the pressure from the USSR grew ever more pressing in the late 1930’s, Finland began to use it’s position as a key supplier of Nickel to Germany and an important supplier to the UK as leverage in negotiations for the purchase of weapons, munitions and technology. In the case of Germany, this resulted in Germany supplying Finland in early 1938 with some two hundred 88mm Anti-Aircraft guns together with ammunition, designs and a manufacturing license as well as shiploads of coal (as Finland began to build up strategic reserves of coal and oil). The 88mm guns were pressed into service as Anti-Tank Guns in the Winter War, first used in the Battle of the Summa Gap with devastating effect on Russian armor. In the case of the UK, Finland was able to exert less pressure (the Inco Mine in Sudbury, Canada, supplied the bulk of the Nickel needed for the USA and the UK) but was able to pressure the UK into selling aircraft, including a limited number of Hurricane Fighters, as well as the transfer of technology. This included a license for the State Engine Factory to build the Rolls Royce Merlin engine, export licenses for the De Havilland Wihuri and designs for the Miles M20 Fighter, all of which would be invaluable to Finland in the Winter War.

At the same time, increasing amounts of metallurgical products from Outukumpu and other Finnish companies were going into the expanding Finnish Maritime Construction Industrial Complex. Both merchant ships and warships demand large quantites of steel, and between the demands of the new Finnish shipping lines, the ongoing Finnish Naval construction program, sales of merchant ships to the Soviet Union and the building of both Baltic and transoceanic ore carriers and Oil Tankers, the Finnish Maritime Industrial Complex was expanding rapidly. There were other internal demands – for the burgeoning automobile industry as well as for the internal Armaments Industry that had been slowly developing through the 1930’s to meet Finland’s defense needs.

But besides the keystones of the Finnish economy of the 1930’s – Lumber, Pulp and Paper, Metallurgical and the heavy industrial companies (The Maritime Complex, Sisu, Neste and othere) - there were other Companies within Finland that were beginning to emerge, less significant in terms of pure percentages, but significant in terms of technology and knowledge.
Very detailed, huge work must have gone into this. It is nice to see Finnish timelines on the forum... I see some material borrowed from Jukra's past threads, at least the "Obligatory Nationalist Thread", am I right?

I believe, though, that this TL falls under the category of "wank". This is Finland that is punching seriously above its weight, in almost all sectors of the economy as well as militarily. More than anything, it comes down to inadequate capital to do everything the TL outlines, as well as the numbers of qualified workers, engineers, and professionals of all stripes. Finnish industrial development in the 30s, ITTL, includes several of events and changes that IOTL only took place in the 50s or 60s or some even later.

Speaking about the military, that navy alone would have all likelyhood bankcrupted OTL Finland, or at least made it unlikely that the army or air force have anything more than very basic equipment.
Very detailed, huge work must have gone into this. It is nice to see Finnish timelines on the forum... I see some material borrowed from Jukra's past threads, at least the "Obligatory Nationalist Thread", am I right?

I believe, though, that this TL falls under the category of "wank". This is Finland that is punching seriously above its weight, in almost all sectors of the economy as well as militarily. More than anything, it comes down to inadequate capital to do everything the TL outlines, as well as the numbers of qualified workers, engineers, and professionals of all stripes. Finnish industrial development in the 30s, ITTL, includes several of events and changes that IOTL only took place in the 50s or 60s or some even later.

Speaking about the military, that navy alone would have all likelyhood bankcrupted OTL Finland, or at least made it unlikely that the army or air force have anything more than very basic equipment.

Yup, borrowed a chunk from Jukra's maritime thread from a whiles ago (acknowledged in the post). And yes, basically I boosted Finland's GDP by moving a bunch of economic development stuff from the 50's into the 1930's. Also, boosted the education system in the same timeframe to allow for the industrial expertise.

As far as Navy goes, destroyers probably equate in cost to the battleships that were never built in this scenario so that's a wash. ASW corvettes are mercantile std rather than naval and so considerably cheaper. Patrol Boats cheap by comparison to almost anything. And think a much larger GDP - about twice the historical by the mid 1930's. All that nickel..... and lumber .... and shipyards .... and steel mills at Tornio .... and oil refinery (that was post war OTL).

Got a lot more to copy across at this stage, mostly historical.
Part 2B - More on the Finnish Economy through the 1930's

A further discussion of Forestry and related Industries

Finland’s economy largely relied on her Forests, with Finnish farmers owning approximately half the forested land, the state owning a third (mostly in the North) and the remainder largely owned by forestry companies. Sawmills and lumbering were a large source of employment in rural Finland, and in the 1930’s Finland led the world in the export of sawn timber, ahead of Canada, the USSR, Sweden and the USA. Britain was the largest buyer, followed by Germany, Holland, Denmark, Belgium and South Africa.

The old way of transporting logs.....


Finnish forestry workers with early mechanised log-haulers

With the rapid acceleration of industralisation and the consequent movement of people from rural areas to the towns and cities, there was a growing demand for housing. This resulted in the emergence of a new industry, which rapidly became one of Finland’s largest – the manufacture of prefabricated houses, schools, stores and warehouses. Initially, these were built for the Finnish market, but it was found that there was also an export market and through the 1930’s, sales picked up rapidly. In 1935 for example, 35,000 prefabricated houses were sold to the USSR. As their economies recovered from the Great Depression, Poland, Denmark, France, the UK, Holland, Belgium and Germany were among the countries which brought large numbers of these houses, with some thirty other countries buying smaller numbers.

Finland had, in addition to forestry, established a large variety of forestry-related industries including mechanical pulp mills, cardboard and building board factories, suphite and suplhite cellulose mills as well as paper mills. In 1932, Finland’s mechanical pulp production totalled 750,000 tonnes, cellulose 1.5 million tons and paper 550,000 tons and these numbers continued to climb through the 1930’s. The first plywood factpry was built in 1912 and by 1938, there were eighteen mills manufacturing plywood and exporting 200,000 cubic meters annually. In 1930, Finland began to maufacture wood-fiber panels and a geowing world-wide demand for this product had led, by the late 1930’s, to eight factories having been established to meet demand.

Finland had also established many smaller industries, both before and after independence, many of them to supply her own needs. As we covered earlier, the development of hydroelectric power was important to Finnish industry, as Finland had and has no black coal fields. With the development of hydroelectricity and the provision of increasing amounts of cheap power through the 1920’s and 1930’s, Finland’s small industries were able to increase production and compete successfully in both domestic and foreign markets. We’ve already looked at the metal industry’s growth – by 1938 this sector of the economy employed 83,000 works in 1,000 different companies, building machines and equipment for the woodworking industry, locomotives, ships, electrical machines and equipment, cables and machine tools, fittings for water and steam pipes, seperators, and automobile parts, bodies and engines among others. For a further example, the first porcelain factory in Finland, the Arabia, was started in 1874 in Helsinki, producing a wide variety of porcelain and earthernware articles such as toilets, basins, baths, technicak porcelain, china and the like. Arabia’s products won the Grand Prox at the World;s Exhibition in Barcelona in 1929, Salonika n 1935 and Paris in 1937 and were sold in more than thirty countries. Arabia's factory was the largest porcelain and china factory in Scandanavia, with 3,000 employees.

Arabia Porcelain Factory in Helsinki

Another of Finland’s important secondary industries was clothing and textiles, with factories in Tampere employing around 10,000 people, nearly all women, and satisfying primarily domestic demand. By 1934, Tampere had the largest textile manufacturing plant in Scandanavia. Other industries included flour mills, the dairy industry (which produced over 30,000 tons of butter and 10,000 tons of cheese, most of which was exported). Finland also produced a large amount of leather, with approx. ninety shoe plants producing 4.8 million pairs of shoes annually. And then there was the very visible contribution of Finnish architects and designers to architectural and furniture design which was rapidly gaining respect and being imitated around the world. Alvar Aalto, Erik Bryggman, Sigurd Frosterus, Armas Lindgren, Valter Jung and Eliel Saarinen among others. Here’s a few examples.

Eliel Saarinen’s Helsinki Railway Station (1909)


Alvar Aalto’s iconic Auditorium of the Viipuri Municipal Library.


Alvar Aalto’s Headquarters for the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) in Seinajoki


Alvar Aalto Armchair – now you know where Ikea got their concepts from


The Tilkka Military Hospital, Helsinki. Designed by architect Olavi Sorrka and built in 1930

Alvar Aalto’s Helsinki Olympic Stadium (Helsingin Olympiastadion)

Athletics have always held a particular importance in Finland and in the minds of the Finns. The first sports associations were founded as long ago as the end of last century, and from the beginning of the twentieth century the Finnish nation has been animated by a great zeal for sports. Finland participated in the international Olympia movement even before the country gained independence in 1917. The Finns’ excellent results in the Olympic Games of the 1920s fostered the dream that one day it would be possible to hold the Games in Helsinki. The Stadium Foundation, established 1927, started to implement this dream and their first and foremost task was to get a stadium built, which would permit Helsinki to host the Summer Olympics. Building began on February 12, 1934, and the Stadium was inaugurated on June 12, 1938.

The Stadium arena, which has been described as the most beautiful in the world, was the product of an architectural competition. Architects Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti won the competition with their clearly lined functionalistic style design.

The 1940 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XII Olympiad were originally scheduled to be held from September 21 to October 6, 1940, in Tokyo, Japan. When Tokyo was stripped of its host status for the Games by the IOC after the renunciation by the Japanese of the IOC's Cairo Conference of 1938, due to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the IOC then awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland, the runner-up in the original bidding process – much to the delight of Finns. The Games were scheduled to be staged from July 20 to August 4, 1940 but were cancelled after the Second World War broke out

The Emergence of Nokia Ltd (Nokia Oy)

In 1927, three companies, which had been jointly owned since 1922 (Finnish Rubber Works-Suomen Gummitehdas Oy, Finnish Cable Works-Suomen Kaapelitehdas Oy and Nokia Company- Nokia Aktiebolag) were merged to form a new industrial conglomerate named Nokia Oy. Through the late 1920’s and 1930’s, Nokia Oy was involved in many industries, producing paper products, car and bicycle tires, footwear (including rubber boots and boots for the Finnish Army), communications cables, electricity generation machinery, gas masks for the Finnish Army), aluminium and chemicals. Each business unit had its own director who reported to the Nokia Corporation President.

Nokia's history starts in 1865 when mining engineer Fredrik Idestam established a groundwood pulp mill on the banks of the Tammerkoski rapids in the town of Tampere, in southwestern Finland, and started manufacturing paper.[30] In 1868, Idestam built a second mill near the town of Nokia, fifteen kilometers (nine miles) west of Tampere by the Nokianvirta river, which had better resources for hydropower production. In 1902, Nokia added electricity generation to its business activities. In 1898, Eduard Polón founded Finnish Rubber Works, manufacturer of galoshes and other rubber products, which later became Nokia's rubber business.[29] At the beginning of the 20th century, Finnish Rubber Works established its factories near the town of Nokia and began using Nokia as its product brand. At the end of the 1910s, shortly after World War I, the Nokia Company was nearing bankruptcy. To ensure the continuation of electricity supply from Nokia's generators, Finnish Rubber Works acquired the business of the insolvent company. In 1912, Arvid Wickström founded Finnish Cable Works as a producer of telephone, telegraph and electrical cables and in 1922, Finnish Rubber Works acquired Finnish Cable Works.

Despite their reputation of being reticent, the Finns were among the forerunners in the world in the use of the telephone. The first telephone line was erected in Helsinki towards the end of 1877; only 18 months after the telephone had been patented in the United States. The first telephone company was founded in Helsinki in 1882, and 1930 a total of 815 local telephone companies had been set up in Finland. In most other countries telephony was regarded as a successor to telegraphy and hence became a state monopoly. Telephones first arrived in the largest towns, then gradually spread to smaller towns and the surrounding countryside. In urban areas telephones grew common quite rapidly. At the turn of the century Helsinki had 3.3 phones per 100 population, which was considerably more than in other towns. By 1930 there was approximately one phone for every six people.

Measured with any indicators, private telephony activity was many times more extensive than that of the State. For example, in 1932 State telephone companies had 227 exchanges whereas private telephone companies had as many as 1,998. Likewise, in the same year the State had 1,763 "subscriber apparatuses" but private telephone companies had 133,456. At the time, Telephone Services in Finland were an open market, with the state-owned telecom company having a monopoly only on trunk network calls, while most (c. 75%) of local telecommunications was provided by telephone cooperatives, with most of the actual telephones and switches being purchased from the Swedish Ericsson Company. In 1930, the newly appointed President (and former Technical Director) of Finnish Cable Works, Verner Weckman, made a case for Nokia to move into the design and maufacture of telephony equipment for the Finnish market. With the support of the Finnish Government (by way of placing orders and placing tariff barriers on imports), Nokia quickly established itself in the limited Finnish market for such equipment, at the same time gaining experience in the design and manufacturing of telephones and the new automatic switches that were slowly penetrating the telephony market.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the world telephone markets were being organized and stabilized by many governments. The fragmented town-by-town systems which had grown up over the years, serviced by many small private companies, were being integrated and offered for lease to a single company. Finland was no exception and in 1932, Nokia was awarded the contract for Finnish Telephone Services nationwide. Within two years, Nokia had expanded into Estonia and had begun selling telephones and switches to the other Baltic States and to Poland. As part of the trade deals with the USSR, in 1935 the Government secured a contract for the delivery of automated switches to the USSR, a minor order for the established European and American manufacturers but a significant sale for Nokia. By 1935, Finnish Cable was securely established as a small (by world standards) telephone equipment designer and manufacturer. And in 1935, influenced by Finnish Cables success in the communications field, the Defence Forces signed a research and development contract with Finnish Cable to design and develop a number of military communications devices for the Army and Air Force. The significance and impact of this R&D contract will be discussed in a later section.

Finland Steamship Company Ltd. / Suomen Höyrylaiva Osakeyhtiö / Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolaget (FÅA)

In an earlier section, the founding of Finnish transoceanic shipping companies was covered. However, it’s also important to note that there were other quite large Finnish shipping companies that were focused primarily on European shipping routes with over 800 ships of various sizes and types in operation. A good example of these is the Finland Steamship Company. This company was founded in 1883 by Captain Lars Krogius to compete with the increasing number of steamers coming into service in the Baltic, and to maintain a regular service to the United Kingdom for Finland's agricultural and forestry products. In 1884 the first steamships, Sirius and Orion were completed.

The company expanded rapidly and owned eight ships by 1890 and 27 by 1899, totalling 30,000 gross tons. Originally winter traffic to Finland was considered impossible, and their ships were forced to sail south for the winter months. However, with the assistance of a loan from the State, the CAPELLA was built in 1888, able to withstand ice pressure, and in the winter of 1888-89 maintained a service between Hanko and Hull for most of the season. In the light of this, new ships were planned to meet ice conditions, and from 1898 to 1914 an uninterrupted service ran between Hanko and Hull. The export of butter to the UK required regular sailings by vessels equipped with refrigerated cargo space, and the company placed it's best ships on this service between Hanko and Hull, and later also between Turku and Hull. They were also heavily involved in the transport of Finnish emigrants to Hull on their way to America and by 1932 had carried nearly half a million passengers on this route.



During the 1914-1918 war, the company lost eight of the nine vessels that were beyond the Baltic at the outbreak of war, and as these ships were employed by the British Admiralty, they never received full compensation. Payment was dependent on the approval of the Russian Government and this was never received due to the Russian Revolution. The company's ships played an important role in the country's war of independence and many ships were lost, but by 1919 economic conditions improved and the fleet expanded rapidly, by 1929 comprising 44 vessels, totalling 55,000 tons.

The trade depression of the 1930s did not affect Finland's export trade with regard to shipping to any great extent and the company continued to grow. Cargo services were operated to most European countries as well as the east coast of North America and passenger routes were operated between Turku - Stockholm, Helsinki - Stockholm, Helsinki - Copenhagen and Helsinki - Lubeck. From 1929 on, as the Company continued to expand, new ships were built in Finnish shipyards (18 altogether), and by 1939 the company owned and operated 62 Ships, both Cargo and Passenger, and operated 22 regular routes. This experience was typical of most of the smaller Finnish shipping companies, who experienced steady growth through the 1930's.

Gustaf Eriksons Fleet

But there were also other types of Finnish shipping companies, some of them sizable. The rapid growth in foreign trade guaranteed a plentiful demand for shipping but interestingly enough, the biggest rise in Finnish tonnage coincided with the worst years of the Great Depression - in 1931, 1932 and 1933, Finnish steamship tonnage grew by as much as half again. As these were the years when freight was at its lowest levels and large fleets of tramp ships were being laid up, it seems to have been a good example of buying when everyone else was selling. This was actually quite logical - while Finnish shipowners were short of capital, they had access to abundant cheap low-wage labor. Accordingly, they bought cheap elderly steamers which required large crews when compared to new ships, but they could man the vessels for less than their competitors in high-wage countries. In any case, in spite of this and also the new state-owned shipping companies expanding rapidly, the growth in tonnage exceeded the growth in foreign trade considerably as Finnish ships rapidly increased their participation in international cross trades between foreign countries (some 35% of shipping income was generated in this trade by 1939). The low wages, almost as low as Estonia and Latvia and lower than in Greece in the 1930s, gave Finland a competitive advantage. Indeed, in the 1930s, the Finnish flag was gaining favor as a Flag of Convenience for some British and Swedish shipowners, who adopted it in order to gain access to cheap labor.

Gustaf Eriksons Fleet is another example. Gustaf Adolf Mauritz Eriksson was born on 24 October 1872, the son of Gustav Adolf Eriksson and his wife Amalia of Hansas farmstead, Hellestorp in the municipality of Lemland in the Åland Islands. (Gustaf later spelt his surname Erikson). At the age of ten he spent a summer at sea as cabin-boy of the barquentine ADELE, and in 1885 and 1886 he served as cook of the barque NEPTUN. In 1887 he became ordinary seaman in the ADELE, and the following year he was employed as able seaman in the same ship. In 1889 he became steward of the barque ANSGAR. In 1890 he signed on the barquentine FENNIA as bosun, and the following year as Second Mate of the barque SOUTHERN BELLE. After attending maritime college in Mariehamn, he obtained his Second Mate's certificate in the spring of 1892. In 1893 and 1894 he served as Master of the barquentine of the ADELE, although not formally qualified for that post. He then attended navigation college in Oulu, obtaining his Chief Mate's certificate in 1895. After that Gustaf served as Chief Mate of the barque MATILDA and then as mate of the barque MARIEHAMN and later as mate of the barque FINLAND. There he suffered a broken thigh-bone after falling from the rigging, and he was left with a limp for the rest of his life. Gustaf obtained his Master Mariner's certificate at the college in Vasa in 1900. He then became Master of the barque SOUTHERN BELLE, remaining in her until 1905. In 1906 he married Hilda Bergman, with whom he eventually had four children, Edgar, Greta, Gustaf-Adolf and Eva. From 1906 until 1908 he was Master of the full-rigger ALBANIA, and from 1909 he served as Master of the barque LOCHEE, remaining there until 1913, when he left the sea for good. In that same year he formed a shipping company which purchased the barque TJERIMAI, and that November he formed another company which bought the four-masted barque RENEE RICKMERS.

Gustaf Erikson

He bought up second-hand, iron-hulled sailing ships after WW1 and, thanks to low labor and capital costs, was able to run a fleet of them efficiently and profitably despite competition from modern vessels. Eriksons ships were mainly used to carry grain from Australia to Europe, as it was hard for steamers to make sufficient profit in this low-value niche. Eriksons fleet was the largest and last of its kind in the world, with his windjammers making their last voyages in 1949. His ships were bought cheaply as most shipping companies switched to steam ships about the turn of the century and Erikson would often acquire ships at shipbreakers prices. In the early 1920s there was still some competition for the windjammers sold — the shipping company F. Laeisz even ordered new sailing ships in the 1920s — but in the 1930s Erikson owned a significant share of the operational windjammers of the world. In March 1935, he purchased Moshulu, "one of the finest steel barques afloat", for only $12,000.

A race between the beautiful 4-masted barque, 'Herzogin Cecilie,' skippered by Sven Erikson, and a British liner bound for the far east. On an October morning in 1934, the captain of the British ship saw a tall sailship ahead. Wishing to give his passengers a thrill, he tried to catch up with the sailing vessel, by going full steam at 17 knots. Captain Erikson did not wish to let a mere stinkpot beat the flagship of Gustaf Erikson. Although the wind was at gale force, 35-40 knots and raising, he set all 33 sails (45,000 sq.ft.). With rail awash, she was soon doing 18 knots and slowly pulling away from the steamer. The British captain dipped his ensign to the winner.

By the late 1930s, the South Australian grain trade was virtually the only profitable use for windjammers, and then only if the ship owner minimized costs as much as possible. Erikson supplied his ships adequately with crew and supplies as these were necessary for his ships to sail quickly and efficiently, but supplied neither more crew or equipment than was necessary. Erikson's large four-masted barques would routinely sail on voyages of 30,000 nautical miles (56,000 km) with less than 30 crew. A young Eric Newby sailed to Australia on Moshulu in 1938–1939, as part of the South Australian grain trade. At the time she was owned by Erikson and part of the last "great fleet of sailing ships". Newby chronicled his trip in The Last Grain Race and Learning the Ropes, where he wrote that Erikson was both respected and reviled by the crew, who knew him only as "Ploddy Gustav". Of the 13 ships which took part in the 1939 grain race, 10 were Erikson ships

The barque Herzogin Cecile, probably the best known of Gustaf Eriksons ships

It was a hard life on the last of the windjammers, with tragedy, romance and comedy, perhaps best illustrated by the stories below:

(this was an Erikson ship, sold in 1938 and remaned Admiral Karpfanger)

This chilling story comes from "Time" magazine in 1943.

The long swells of the South Atlantic break angrily against lonely Tristan da Cunha. In the volcanic rock of this island group, halfway between Cape Town and Montevideo, they have scoured deep, dark caverns. Far back in the recesses of one such cavern on Tristan Island, Arthur Repetto, brother of the island's headman, found a ship's figurehead. Its ghostlike glimmer "skeered" him at first. When he went in he found a beautifully modeled maiden, nine feet high. Her hair was done up in a bun behind her head; a long cloak, which her left hand grasped, covered her dress. Her right hand held a lily to her bosom. Around her neck was carved a necklace of disks; a tasseled cord girdled her waist. On each arm was a bracelet hung with draperies. The wood was well preserved, with few barnacles or seaweed, and traces of white, blue, green, gold and red paint glowed faintly. Rusty iron bolts showed where the figure had been fastened to a ship's bow. With the help of other islanders, Repetto brought the figurehead by boat to Tristan's settlement. There it was repainted, mounted at the base of the flagstaff. Four years after Repetto found the maiden, a ship touched at Tristan, took back photographs to Cape Town. There a mechanic of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm identified it as the figurehead of the 'Admiral Karpfanger', which had once been laid up in his Liverpool shipyard. The 'Admiral Karpfanger', a four-masted bark of 2,853 tons, put out from Port Germein, South Australia, on Feb. 8, 1938. Aboard were 44 cadets and 16 officers and men of the Hamburg-America Line. Five weeks later she radioed her position from somewhere south of New Zealand and said she would round Cape Horn. That was the last ever heard of her until the lily maiden was found.

n fact, this is just the sad end of a ship which had a fascinating history. Built in 1908, and named L'Avenir, to be used as a training ship, in 1932 it was sold to Gustaf Erikson for the Australian wheat trade, could take 60 passengers and often made summer cruises in the Baltic. One well known passenger was Percy Grainger, (Country Gardens) who sailed to Australia on 'L'Avenir' with his wife on its 110 day voyage in 1933-1934. He took numerous photos and painted life aboard the ship, disembarking at Port Germein from the long voyage. The couple did not attend the wedding of their fellow passenger in the town. Owen Broadbear (in his book A Life's Memories) tells a story about 'L'Avenir's' time in the town. (The nationality of the ships isn't correct, they were Finnish, not Swedish)

At one time two Swedish ships were taking in wheat, both at each side of the jetty, when a French ship pulled up at anchorage. Of course, they had to get provisions, so either first or second mate would come to shore in a small boat with a few sailors. Naturally they finished up at the hotel, where the Swedish sailors were drinking. The French and Swedes don't agree and it wasn't long before the bar walls were getting splattered with blood. Local chap Constable Pearce couldn't quell the fight so got out of it and ran home to ring the Pirie police. Anyway, before they got out, Pearce went back with cuffs in pocket and tried to handcuff the Swedes as he had learnt from the barman or proprietor who were causing the most trouble. Away went the Swedes around the pub with Pearce after them, about four times around. The Swedes caught up with Pearce, picked him up and took him to the clink. They took the keys out of his pocket and put him in a cell and locked the door. Mrs Pearce then rang the Pirie police and another bloke came out with a duplicate key to let Constable Pearce out of his own cell. By the time the first two police had arrived all sailors were up the jetty and on the ship and by the time the police got to the boats, no talk, nobody did anything-what could two policemen do among forty or so sailors? The keys were never found. (p 43)

Another story associated with the visit of L'Avenir to Pt Germein in 1934 is the marriage of Miss Barbara Strachey (born 17th July, 1912 died 15th October, 1999) a rather rebellious English girl who acquired a liking for smoking cigars on the trip, and Mr Olav Hultin (born 1910, died 1958?) a Finnish cadet and son of a professor at the University of Helsingfors. On January 17th they were married at the tiny St Clemens Church next to the school in Port Germein. The details of the romance are contained in the newspaper articles. They were divorced only 3 years later so the mother's warning seems to have been well founded. They had one son. Barbara Strachey was the niece of the writer, Lytton Strachey, and mixed with many other well known literary figures of her day including Virginia Woolf and Bertrand Russell. She wrote an atlas to Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" called "The Journeys of Frodo" and worked in BBC radio for many years. There are only obscure references to Olav Hultin on the internet, although one article calls him dissipated.

Miss Barbara Strachey and Mr. Olav Hultin

In the Australian grain loading ports of Port Victoria, Port Germein and Port Lincoln, situated in Spencer's Gulf, 13 sailing ships loaded their grain cargoes for Europe in what was to be the last Grain Race of any magnitude. The average passage time from Australia to Europe for the 1939 race was 124 days. Of the 13 ships that left Southern Australia five were bound for Falmouth for orders, three for the Lizard to pick up instructions and the remainder sailed for Queenstown, Ireland. Freight rates saw grain being carried for 25 shillings per ton. Ships normally sailed from Australia in March and April for the 100-plus days passage to Europe either via Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope. Between 1921 and 1939 a total of 328 sailings were made from the Australian Grain ports.

Ship captains pictured at Pt Victoria in 1934

The economic effect of Logistical Improvements

Incidentally, the whole logistics sector had directly and indirectly greatly benefited from state intervention in maritime transportation. One of the crucial, although seemingly minor, modifications being implemented over the 1930's was large scale palletization of cargo combined with the large scale introduction of fork lifts. Although for the modern reader a humble pallet might not seem as important as the now ubiquitous container, it still had a dramatic impact upon labour and the time involved in cargo handling at the time. In 1931 it took three days man-effort to unload a boxcar filled with individual goods. In 1939, with palletization of loads, the same task took four hours. The effort to palletize transportation was carried out because investment in the Finnish rail network was well behind the countries strong economic growth, thus there was a need for the rail network to be utilized with maximum efficiency. Combined with strong Finnish trade with early palletizers in the UK and US, this path was inevitable.

Looks simple doesn’t it, but it changed the economics of freight handling dramatically

It must be noted that without the general economic boom that had been taking place, the change would have been very difficult to implement due to the strongly luddite tendencies of stevedores as the changes did result in rather drastic cuts to manpower in stevedoring. On the other hand, the wages of the remaining stevedores increased as the work changed from one needing the use of muscle power to one demanding more mechanical skills.

The Co-Operative Movement and Farming

As with the other Scandanavian countries, Finland was fertile ground for the co-operative movement in the changed economic and social conditions that were brought about by the growth of industry. The swift growth of industry as well as foreign competition in agricultural products encouraged farmers and workers to collaborate and early in the 20th century, a number of local and national cooperatives were created to buy farmers products, to process them and to market them. The co-operative movement had begun in Finland in the 1880’s but had split in 1916 into two parallel organisations, each with it’s own stores, factories and central organization. The two retail-oriented co-ops, SOK and OTK, were the largest wholesalers in Finland, owning flour mills, bakeries, brick, macaroni, match, margarine, bedding and chemical factories as well as operating their own insurance companies. They also bought and marketed local agricultural produce – grain, eggs, meat and vegetables and between the two organisations, they amounted to 40% of Finland’s retail grocery business.

There were also co-operative dairy associations (Valio and Enigheten in dairy products, with the Co-operative Butter Association exporting 90% of Finland’s butter and 70% of it’s cheese) while there were many other co-ops, including co-ops for the sale of livestock (Atria, LSO and Portti in meat) and eggs, harvesting and threshing grain as well as electricity, flour mill and sawmill co-ops (Metsaliito was a large forestry coop). With the average Finnish farm being on a small scale, these co-ops assisted Farmers in raising their incomes. In agriculture, these co-ops were all farmer-controlled organisations. They also had in important impact on industrialisation in the country, especially in the food industry. Other specialised co-ops were established to sell machines and equipment to farmers (Hankkija and Labor) and there was also a banking co-op (Osuupankki). Common to all these co-ops was the fact that, although they were Companys, they did not act according to the rules of the market economy. The aim of the co-ops was not to create market-value but to take care of the interests of the owners, usually the rural population generally. Thus for example Metsaliito, a forestry co-op, was not only to sell forest products (pulp, paper, timber) profitably, but also to buy raw wood at a reasonable price from the forest owners. Rather than produce market value, Valios major aim was to keep producer prices of milk at a reasonable level, just as it was the objective of Atria and other meat co-ops to achieve the same with the price of meat. Speaking of Co-ops, we’ll address Trade Unions in an upcoming section on Finnish Politics through the 1920’s and 1930’s.

However, life in rural areas was still tough. Most farming was done by muscle power, rather than with machinery, and this in part encouraged the migration from rural areas into the industralising towns and cities. Between 1926 and 1939, 687,000 Finns, approximately one sixth of the population, moved from rural to urban areas. Of those Finns in rural areas, around 100,000 worked for industrial concerns near their homes while there were also an estimated 200,000 part-time farmers who worked their own farms in summer and for the remainder of the year worked as lumberjacks or in woodworking plants. Subtracting these numbers, roughly 40% of the population continued to be primarily employed in agriculture, and highly manual agriculture at that.


A typical small rural North Karelian Farm of the 1920's

In 1917, Finland produced only 40% of cereal consumed. By 1937 this had risen to 87% through the introduction of more scientific methods and the very slow introduction of mechanization, largely through farming co-operatives. As previously mentioned, Dairy farming made up a large percentage of agriculture but even by 1935, Finland was not self-sufficent in agricultural products and relied on imports to make up the difference. This began to change somewhat in 1935, when the Ministry of Agriculture encouraged the adoption of large-scale potato farming in Lapland. In initial trials the per-acre potato yield on land hitherto used for growing Hay had provided a better yield than prime potato growing acreage in the United States (25,000kg per hectare on average).

Large scale potato farming got underway in 1936, with acreage increasing rapidly on a yearly basis. This was fortuitis as it turned out – by 1939, substantial acreage in Lapland was devoted to potato farming (and to raising hogs, which happily lived off potatoes). When, with the outbreak of the Second World War, Finland was largely cutoff from from agricultural imports, it proved possible to expand potato cultivation and hog raising rapidly from a by-then well-established base, enabling Finland to become self-sufficent in food for the duration of the War.

An Economic Overview and a Note on the Finnish Education System

Prior to WW1, Finland participated fully in the global economy of the first gold-standard era, importing much of its grain tariff-free and a lot of other foodstuffs. Half of the imports consisted of food, beverages and tobacco. Agriculture turned to dairy farming, as in Denmark, but with poorer results. The Finnish currency, the markka from 1865, was tied to gold in 1878 and the Finnish Senate borrowed money from Western banking houses in order to build railways and schools. GDP grew at a slightly accelerating average rate of 2.6 percent per annum, and GDP per capita rose 1.5 percent per year on average between 1860 and 1913. The population was also growing rapidly, and from two million in the 1860s it reached three million on the eve of World War I. Only about ten percent of the population lived in towns. The investment rate was a little over 10 percent of GDP between the 1860s and 1913 and labor productivity was low compared to the leading nations.

During the two decades after the establishment of the republic in 1917, Finland made remarkable economic progress. At the time of the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, the Grand Duchy of Finland had the most backward economy in Nordic Europe. Situated at the outer edges of the spheres of influence of major European industrial powers – principally Britain, Germany and Sweden - newly independent Finland appeared destined to remain a poor, peripheral area. By the late 1930’s however, Finland had begun to gain somewhat of a reputation, with its citizens enjoying a high standard of living and industrialization proceeding rapidly. Although the economy was heavily dependent on exports, the Finns had developed markets in both Eastern and Western Europe, including the USSR, avoiding excessive dependence on any single market.

Material conditions had been difficult at the birth of the Finnish republic. The country's industries had started to develop after about 1860, primarily in response to a growing demand for lumber from the more advanced economies of Western Europe, but by 1910 farmers still made up over 70 percent of the work force. Finland suffered from food shortages when international trade broke down during World War I. The fledgling metal-working and shipbuilding industries expanded rapidly to supply Russia during the early years of the conflict, but the empire's military collapse and the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 eliminated trade with the East. The Finnish civil war and the subsequent massacres of the Reds spawned lasting labor unrest in factories and lumber camps, while the plight of landless agricultural laborers remained a pressing social problem.

During the immediate post-WW1 years, Finland depended on aid from the United States to avoid starvation, but by 1922 industrial production had reached the prewar level and continued to grow rapidly. While trade with the Soviet Union languished through the 1920’s for political reasons, Western European, especially German, markets for Finnish forest products soon reopened. In exchange for lumber, pulp, and paper-which together accounted for about 85 percent of exports--Finland obtained needed imports, including half the nation's food supply and virtually all investment goods. Despite initial political instability, the state built a foundation for growth and for greater economic independence.
The first and most important step had been an agricultural reform program that redistributed holdings of agricultural and forest land and strengthened the class of smallholders who had a direct stake in improving farm and forest productivity. The government also nationalized large shares of the mining and the wood-processing industries. The subsequent public investment program in mines, metal foundries, wood and paper mills, dams and power generation plants, shipyards and the like improved the country's ability to process its own raw materials. By the late 1920s, agricultural modernization was well under way, and the country had set key foundation stones industrialization in place, including the establishment of Finnish owned trans-oceanic shipping companies trading with North and South America (expanding to include the Far East in the 1930’s).

The world-wide Great Depression started when share prices slumped on the New York Stock Exchange in September 1929. The effects from the 1930s depression could be seen earlier in Finland than elsewhere in Europe: the pace of economic growth already slowed down in 1929. In the same year the rate at which industrial output was going up also decelerated from the preceding years when it had exceeded 10 per cent. Between 1930 and 1931 Finnish industrial output suffered one of the strongest periods of decline in its history. The problems of Finnish industrial production did not arise as a direct consequence of the slump on the New Your Stock Exchange only. The biggest problems were caused by the difficulties the wood industry - the most important industry at that time - faced on the world market. Soviet Union entered the international market for wood, dumping prices downwards. At the same time, international demand for wood was declining as a consequence of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Added together, these factors caused to the industry serious problems, which could also be seen as declines in output in 1930 and 1931.

Yet, the Great Depression of the 1930s was much more short-lived in Finland than elsewhere in the world. Industrial output began to again climb in 1932. The international competitiveness of Finnish industry was improved by the devaluation of the Finnish markka in 1931-1932, which lowered its value by 50 per cent against the US dollar and by 15 per cent against the British pound. Although Finland suffered less than more-developed European countries during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the country nonetheless experienced widespread distress, which inspired further government intervention in the economy. Comprehensive protection of agricultural produce encouraged farmers to shift from exportable animal products to basic grains, a policy that kept farm incomes from falling as rapidly as they did elsewhere and enabled the country to feed itself better. Similar policies spurred production of consumer goods, maintaining industrial employment. As in other Nordic countries, the central bank experimented with Keynesian demand-management policies, using the creation of credit as well as loans from foreign banks and creative tax credit schemes to encourage investment in Finnish infrastructure by selected companies such as Ford (automobile manufacturing) and Inco (Nickel Mining at Petsamo).

In addition, such large-scale projects as Outukiumpu’s new nickel mines were financed by bank loans to the now well-established State-owned company itself, rather than by the extension of financing from the Government Budget. During the 1930s, the metalworking industries (Primarily the Shipbuilding, Machine Goods, Cable Products and new Locomotive construction industries) continued to grow their exports to the Soviet Union, a market in which the Finns faced virtually no competition from other Western countries. These were bartered for Oil, which was refined in the new Oil Refinery, with production in excess of Finnish demand in turn exported as finished petroleum products to Sweden, the Baltic States and even to Germany and Norway. In addition, transportation, communications, engineering, finance, and commerce became more important as the economy further developed and diversified.

Extensive borrowing in Western financial markets - especially in Sweden and in the United States - financed investments in infrastructure, agriculture, and industry. The consumer goods and construction sectors prospered in the booming domestic market, which remained protected by import controls until the end of the decade. In the 1930s, Britain replaced Germany as Finland's main trading partner. The two countries made bilateral agreements that gave Finnish forest goods free access to British markets and established preferential tariffs for British industrial products sold to Finland. Mainly driven by exports, industrial output grew very strongly, on average by over 20 per cent per year in the period between 1933 and 1938. This was assisted by a series of currency devaluations between 1935 and 1939 which boosted exports to the west. For example, the combined effect from the two devaluations in 1939 was that the value of the dollar rose by 70 per cent against the Finnish markka. From 1925 to 1939, Finland's gross national product (GNP) grew (despite the interlude of the Great Depression) at an average annual rate of 6.2 percent, considerably higher than the European average.

Control and ownership of Finland's economic life were highly concentrated, especially after the establishment of the large state-owned enterprises of the late 1920s. Thus, by 1937 three firms controlled most shipbuilding, a small number of large woodworking enterprises dominated the forest industries, and two main commercial banks exercised wide-reaching influence over industrial development. Large state-owned firms provided most of the energy, basic metals, and chemicals. The country's farmers, workers, and employers had formed centralized associations that represented the vast majority of economic actors. Likewise, a handful of enterprises handled most trade with the Soviet Union. Thus, while Finland remained a land of small family farms, a narrow elite ran the economy, facilitating decision making, but perhaps contributing to the average worker's sense of exclusion, which may have contributed to the country's endemic labor unrest through the 1930’s.

Innovative economic policies lead to rapid structural transformation, and Finland's structural transformation through the 1920’s and 1930’s was brutally quick, driving workers out of agriculture more quickly than had been the case in any other Western country. Although manufacturing output increased sharply, many displaced farm workers could not easily be placed in industry and this also contributed to the country's endemic labor unrest through the 1930’s. Yet, despite the costs of economic growth, most Finns were happy to have escaped the hardships of the Great Depression, short as it had been. The growing prosperity of the 1930’s made possible the extension of the welfare state, a development that did much to reduce tensions between workers and management. Finland's increased foreign trade made industrial competitiveness more important, causing greater interest in restraining the inflationary wage-price spiral. Starting in 1935, the government succeeded in sponsoring regular negotiations on wages, benefits, and working conditions. The political consensus that developed around income settlements helped to slow inflation and to increase productivity. Welfare programs and income policy thus helped to maintain economic growth and stability during the late 1930s.

A corollary of an increasingly industralised workforce is the need for a more educated workforce. Nationwide industrial growth requires all sorts of secondary and tertiary-level educated people...drawing office clerks, wages clerks, draughtsmen, skilled machinists, welders, mechanics. It also means a great expansion in secondary level "technical" education, you don't bring an agricultural farmhand in from the fields and teach him how to use a lathe/drilling bench and a micrometer! However, Finland had had a strong tradition of literacy since the Protestant Reformation. The Lutheran Church aimed at widespread literacy to enable the common man to read the Bible. In the eighteenth century, proof of literacy became a requirement for the right to marry. By the second half of the nineteenth century, legislation was in place for a general system of elementary education, although the tsarist regime did not allow its realization. Almost immediately after independence, the 1921 Comprehensive Education Act was passed that set the state a constitutional duty to provide "universal compulsory education," including elementary education, at no cost. Legislation also stipulated that Finnish citizens had a duty to be educated.

In the immediate post-WW1 period, the basic goal of Finnish education authorities had been to create a system that would provide equal educational opportunities for everyone within Finland. Even in the early 1920’s it was recognized that for Finland to evolve from an agricultural to an industrialized state had an educated and competent labour force as a key factor in the development process. With the Act of 1921, compulsory education came to apply to all children aged 7 to 13, that is, compulsory schooling consisted of a primary school with 6 grades. The State invested heavily in the education system to make this possible, constructing schools and hiring teachers. Gradually the Compulsory School Attendance Act extended primary education to cover the entire age group. In 1920 some 70 per cent of 15-year-olds were literate. The number of pupils in primary school started to rise quickly after the Act entered into force. As a consequence of regulations enacted in 1924 and 1922, two years of civic school were added to primary school, which then consisted of 8 grades.

An elementary school in the working-class section of Helsinki, named after the Finnish Poet and Writer, Aleksis Kivi

Discussion on the establishment of comprehensive schools started in the mid 1920’s with the introduction of the idea of a 9-year universally free municipal comprehensive school. Under the system preceding the comprehensive school, pupils in the fourth grade applied for admission to secondary school, which opened up the route to further studies, e.g. the matriculation examination. Pupils not admitted to secondary school, or pupils whose parents could not afford or did not want to educate their children, stayed in primary school. Generally a fee had to be paid for attending secondary school. The increasing wealth of families through the 1920’s meant that more and more parents wanted their children to receive better education than before.

An amendment to the Compulsory School Attendance Act on the basis of the education system was enacted in 1928, and the comprehensive school was established and realised over the 1930s, with the statutory school age covering the age groups 7 to 16, with 6 year olds entitled to receive pre-primary education during the year before the start of their compulsory education. By the late 1930’s, nearly the entire age group attended voluntary pre-primary education for 6-year-olds while 95% of 7-15 year olds were attending schools and were literate. Secondary School education also became much more common and available through the late 1920’s and 1930’s. Attending secondary school was rare up until 1920, with less than 10 per cent of the age group going to secondary school. Until the late 1920s, secondary school was an educational institution mostly for children from affluent city families. However, from 1928 on, when the majority of state and private upper secondary general schools were taken over by the municipalities, the number of secondary schools started to increase rapidly, from 200 in 1928 to 300 in 1930 and exceeding 500 in 1939. Attendance grew rapidly, from 10% in 1920 to 25% in 1930 to 40% in 1939. At the same time, secondary education was broadened and reformed to allow a greater range of choices and opportunities.

Vocational education was also dramatically expanded. Vocational colleges had been mainly established during the late 19th century but saw a rapid expansion with the industrialisation program of the late 1920’s and then the onset of the Great Depression. Government funding for vocational education (and later for unemployed workers to be retrained) was increased, with retraining focusing on apprenticeship training and vocational education in areas where the government was funding or encouraging development. These programs continued to grow slowly through the 1930’s, with apprenticeship training and competence-based skills examinations. In addition, the state-owned companies saw it as a patriotic duty to increase the skill levels of Finnish workers and many introduced their own internal training and education programs.

University education was also expanded and distributed more equally across the country, with access to it widened. The beginning of the 20th century saw the founding of the University of Technology and the Helsinki School of Economics. After Finland became independent, Åbo Akademi, the University of Turku and Svenska Handelshögskolan started their operations. The number of students attending higher education grew steadily. In 1900, the University of Helsinki had 2,500 registered students, in 1920 all higher education institutions had a total of just 3,600 students. The 1930’s was a decade of expanding higher education: several new higher education institutions were founded. During the decade, the Lappeenranta and Tampere Universities of Technology as well as the University of Joensuu and the Vaasa School of Economics were founded. The University of Social Sciences became the University of Tampere and the Institute of Pedagogics became the University of Jyväskylä. The University of Oulu started its operations in the late 1930s and in 1939, just before the Winter War, the number of students was about 15,000, with a heavy emphasis in particular on Engineering.

Thus, there was a continuing expansion of the education system through the 1920’s and the 1930’s that resulted in an ongoing supply of educated and literate students moving into the industrial economy. Concurrently, there was a steady rise of the numbers of graduates from vocational training institutes and, more slowly, from Universities. The large state-owned organisations and many of the larger private companies also ran their own internal training and vocational education programs. Taken together, this resulted in a steady increase in the numbers of trained and educated workers in the industrial sector. Where shortages of specific skillsets existed, as with the construction of the Oil Refinery or of Smelters, the expertise needed was generally imported from North America, Germany or Britain. This also applied with rather more urgency to some of the military-industrial projects of the 1920’s (as we saw with German assistance in submarine construction) and in the 1930’s as we will see in the upcoming section describing the establishment of Finland’s internal defence industries.

Social Cohesion and the rapproachment between the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) and the Social Democrats

There were other factors at play through the 1930’s. Social cohesiveness, a growing sense of national pride and Finnish nationalism had an effect on the events of 1939-1940. By the late 1930's the Finnish economy was enjoying its longest and most powerful economic boom ever (as in OTL). GDP per capita was slightly higher than Swedish, German and British levels (being on Dutch level OTL), the employment situation was very good and wages had increased, bringing the standard of living for all up to a level never before dreamed of. Free education was the norm, health care and social services had improved dramatically, the large estates had disappeared from the rural landscape, their place taken by small farms, the working day was a standard 8 hours, 5 days per week and their was a boom in the construction of good quality housing for the rapidly growing numbers of industrial workers.

One of the much loved new Finnish suburbs of the late 1930's. Identical two-story houses suited for the large families of the time, situated in spacious lots and flanked by three-story apartment buildings with two-bedroom apartments for young families. In coming years this scenery would change for the better as the birch and alder trees gave their shadow during summers. While these new suburbs were derided for their uniformity, they represented a huge leap in living standards.

The status symbols of the improved standards of living were still rather modest by modern standards. Bicycles were becoming a standard accessory for young and old alike. The yearly summer holidays, introduced in the mid-1930's, were being spent almost entirely in Finland due to the extremely high cost of foreign travel. However domestic travel became accessible for virtually everyone. Factory-produced functionalist furniture became a standard accessory. All this money and the demand for a better quality of life supported a burgeoning consumer goods industry and some rather innovative concepts, such as the large scale marketing of prefabricated housing.

Memories from the spring of hate of 1918 were rapidly being left behind. The general agreement of all the major political parties on the major industrial and construction projects being undertaken had lead to an increased sense of national unity and a decline in the formerly sometimes bitter disagreements between Left and Right on social and economic issues. There was a growing tendancy for behind-the-scenes compromise and with the economic boom, increased incomes and the “every family has a right to a home” policy that almost guaranteed everyone but the very poorest the ability to purchase their own house with affordable government-insured loans (and for the very poor, there was a state-owned rental housing program), there was a growing sense that this was “Our Finland” for all. The rapproachment between the Social Democrats and the Suojeluskunta in 1930, orchestrated behind the scenes by Vaino Tanner and Mannerheim (with the resultant rapid expansion of membership of both the Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svard organizations) was yet another manifestation of this growing social cohesiveness that would serve Finland so well in the dark days to come.

This rapproachment had its background in the ongoing meetings, both public and private, which took place over this period as a consensus was reached on the economic development programs being advanced in the late 1920’s. These served in particular to build an unexpectedly close relationship of mutual respect, if not liking, between Vaino Tanner, Risto Ryti and Mannerheim that had not previously existed.


Väinö Tanner (March 12, 1881, Helsinki – April 19, 1966) was a pioneer and leader in the cooperative movement in Finland, and Prime Minister of Finland from 1926 to 1927. Tanner did not participate in the Finnish Civil War. When the war ended he became Finland's leading Social Democratic Party (SDP) politician, and a strong proponent of the parliamentary system. His main achievement was the rehabilitation of the SDP after the Civil War. Väinö Tanner served as Prime Minister (1926–1927), Minister of Finance (1937–1939), Foreign Minister (1939–1945)


Risto Ryti, (3 February 1889 – 25 October 1956) started his career as a politician in the field of economics and as a political background figure during the interwar period. He made a wide range of international contacts in the world of banking and within the framework of the League of Nations. In 1921 he was appointed Finance Minister, in 1924 he took up the posoition of Chairman of the Bank of Finland. In 1934 he was awarded a British honour, being created a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) due to his great merits in Anglo-Finnish relations. It must also be noted that he had excellent relations with the leaders of the Bank of England, due to his similar economic policies, such as the belief in the gold standard until the Great Depression, and due to his excellent command of English (In fact, Ryti regularly telephoned the Bank of England's leaders when he wanted to discuss economic or financial policies with them). Ryti served as Prime Minister during the Winter War and was the fifth President of Finland from 1940 to 1944.


Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (4 June 1867 – 27 January 1951) was the Commander-in-Chief of Finland's Defence Forces, Marshal of Finland and a politician. He was Regent of Finland (1918–1919) and the sixth President of Finland (1944–1946).

It was this relationship which had led to the unprecedented reconciliation betweent the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) and the Social Democrats – a reconciliation that was, incidentally, reviled by the Communists. While we will cover the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) and it’s role in Finnish politics and scoiety in detail in a subsequent section, the rapproachment between the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) and the Social Democrats Party in 1930 was one of the more epochal moments in Finland’s history, and one that also subsequently removed a major obstacle to increased defence spending.

Through the 1920’s, the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) and the Social Democrats had largely seen each other through the prism of the Civil War, in which many Social Democrats had fought as Red Guards. After the Civil War, the hostility continued, although the Social Democrats had to a certain extent moved away from the Communists. There were still, particularly in the industrial city of Tampere, running brawls between the so-called Lahtarit (the Butchers) and the Punikit (the Reddies) and these continued through the 1930’s. When, in 1930, Mannerheim and Vaino Tanner publicly and jointly announced that the Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) shared a common vision of the need for a spirit of national unity within Finland, jointly saw the dangers of the rising move towards totalitarianism in Europe and encouraged Finnish citizens of all political persuausions to join the Suojeluskunta or Lotta Svärd, this was a momentuous and earth-shattering political event that captured headlines across Finland.

However, Tanner had done his behind-the-scenes preparations within the Social Democrat organisation well, and Mannerheim’s allies and supporters within the Suojeluskunta and the rightist political parties had also done their groundwork. There was little publicly voiced opposition in the Press, indeed the Press generally hailed the rapproachment in the spirit with which it was made. The Communists reviled the move, but they were an illegal and underground movement, unable to voice their opposition publicly although the Unions they controlled or influenced were quick to make their opposition known, Within the Suojeluskunta, members were ready to take the first step in removing hostility between the SDP and the Sk-organization. In February of 1930, at the urging of Tanner, and with the active support of Mannerheim, the SDP party committee had first made private contact with the Suojeluskunta leadership, and the two organisations found common ground very fast. The means of publishing the news of the reconciliation between the two organizations needed some negotiating but this was also rapidly concluded and a formal event welcoming both Social Democrats into the Suojeluskunta, and Sk-members into the SDP was held on the 15th of March1930. The symbolic significance was large, but the actual results for members of both organizations were not immediately so.

By the 10th of April 1930, only about 1,000 Social Democrats had joined the Suojeluskunta. However, with Mannerheim, Vaino Tanner, other SDP politicians and party leaders and Suojeluskunta leaders working together to emphasis the need for Finland’s defences to be strengthened, and continually emphasizing that the Suojeluskunta was a “Finnish” organisation, and not a “political” organisation, membership of the Suojeluskunta began to grow significantly from 1931 on. 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 as follows:
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 from 1935 to 1936 coincided with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War whilst the additional large membership surge in 1938 concided with the Munich Crisis. There was a further massive surge in 1939 as the looming threat of another European War became ever more obvious and the pressure on Finland from the Soviet Union grew ever more blatant. These numbers were the “active” members capable of military service in the event of war. In addition, there were “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. In addition there were a further 54,000 “Boy-Soldier” members (many of whom had, by 1939, military training as a result of the school-based Military Cadet program introduced starting from 1933).

The reconciliation between the Social Democrats and the Suojeluskunta had also had its effect on the Lotta Svärd. Unlike the Sk-organisation, this showed almost immediately with a substantial increase in the number of members as large numbers of women from Social Democratic families started to join almost immediately. 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

In addition, by 1939 there were also 49,000 Girl-Lotta’s (aged 17 and under, many of whom held positions of responsibility, particularly those in the 15-17 year old class (many of whom had also, by 1939, military training as a result of the school-based Military Cadet program).

And with SDP members in particular flocking to join the Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svard organisations, there was an ever increasing public awareness of the gaping holes in Finland’s defences. This rapproachment and growing public awareness somewhat indirectly resulted in some slow but significant adjustments in attitude to defence spending. Finnish politicians of the Left and even some of the Centre had been strongly resistant to any significant defence-related spending, placing their faith in the League of Nations and turning a blind eye to the potential threat posed by the Soviet Union. Indeed, Cajander had said at the time that he would “rather spend money on schools for our children than on uniforms and guns that will gather mould and rust in warehouses.”

However, public attitudes to defence spending had changed somewhat. The SDP’s rapproachment with the Suojeluskunta resulted in a lessening of opposition from the main Leftist political party (the promise of even more employment for industrial workers was also influential), the right-wing Kokoomus (National Coalition) Party had always backed Marshal Mannerheim’s defence proposals unanimously, the conservative Agrarian Party had usually supported improvements in national defence and the Swedish People's Party (RKP) saw the proposed naval buildup and construction work as a maritime issue of benefit to their supporters. As always, the only party wholly in opposition to the defence spending initiative was the Socialist Party of Workers and Smallholders (STP), a cover organization for Soviet-backed communists.

Starting in 1927, defence budget appropriations had been made to fund the early naval construction programs involving the Submarines and, in the early 1930’s, the construction of the Destroyer Flotilla. In 1931, Mannerheim was appointed Chairman of the Defence Committee, and for the first time, a significant increase in defence expenditure was included in the State Budget. This was a trend which would continue, and which we will examine more closely in a later section. For now, we’ll pause and take a closer look at the Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svard organizations and their changing social and military role in Finnish society.
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Part 3-A - The Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svard organisations

Off-ATL Topic: The Suojeluskunta (abbreviation=“Sk”) was a voluntary organization, in Finland often compared to the US National Guard and the British WW2 era Home Guard, but it was also an organisation that had played a major role in the defeat of the Reds in the Finnish Civil War and thus, for a long period, membership was a politically charged issue. During certain phases of its history, its functions were somewhat like the US National Guard or the British Home Guard, but in reality it was so unique that finding any internationally well-known exact equivalent is impossible. Even though the Suojeluskunta was disbanded following the Second World War, such was its political weight in Finnish history that discussion about the subject can still cause bitter arguments in Finland.

In this ATL, the Suojeluskunta and the SDP stage a historic reconciliation in 1930, earlier that occurred historically - to gain a better understanding of how important this reconciliation was, an overview of the historical background to the Finnish Civil War (in which the Suojeluskunta played a key role) as well as of the Suojeluskunta is needed, together with a clear outline of the Suojeluskunta role both before and after 1930 in my ATL. The Lotta Svard organisation, which was perhaps less controversial, will also be covered. I’ve tried to present as accurate a picture of the Suojeluskunta as I can from the English-language sources I have available to me – and it should be easy for Finnish readers to identify where I have moved into an ATL as opposed to the OTL. If anything sounds to implausible, or I’ve got some of the OTL history incorrect, let me know. And a note on sources - for much of this, I’ve used “The Suojeluskunta: A History Of The Finnish Civil Guard” by Jarkko Vihavainen as my primary source on the Suojeluskunta – any errors are however, mine.

Part I – Introduction to the Suojeluskunta

Through the 1920’s and increasingly in the 1930’s the Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svärd organisations filled an important role in Finnish Society, bringing together Finns of all classes and political backgrounds and giving them a common interest and purpose. The Suojeluskunta acted as a Non-Government Organisation (as we now term it) but at the same time slotted neatly into the national military chain of command. From 1921, the organisation consisted of a General Staff, Suojeluskunta districts (corresponding from 1934 on to Army Reserve Jalkaväkirykmentti - Infantry Regiments) and local Suojeluskunta chapters. Every municipality had at least a single chapter, responsible for its own funding, although they received minor funding from the state budget. The Suojeluskunta was active in numerous branches of life, organising sports activities, especially cross-country skiing, orienteering, shooting and Finnish baseball.

For fundraising, the chapters organised numerous informal events and lotteries. It is estimated that about one fifth of all get-togethers in Finland were organised by the Suojeluskunta and as many again by the Lotta Svärd. 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).

The Chief of the Suojeluskunta and the district chiefs were selected by the President of Finland. From 1921 to the end of WW2, this post was occupied by General Kaarlo Malmberg. In most cases, the district chiefs and most officers in the district headquarters were from the Regular Army. Only able-bodied males between 17 and 40 years of age could be full members of the Suojeluskunta. Every member was required to attend a specified amount of training on penalty of losing membership. Initially, members were required to buy their own equipment and rifle, with local chapters helping their members, if the chapters had funds for it.

Lotta Svärd was a Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organisation for women, in many ways the women’s equivalent of the Suojeluskunta. The name comes from a poem by Johan Ludvig Runeberg. Part of a large and famous book, 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. Private Svärd was killed in battle, but his wife remained on the battlefield, taking care of wounded soldiers. The name was first brought up by Marshal Mannerheim in a speech given on May 16, 1918. The first known organisation to use the name Lotta Svärd was the Lotta Svärd of Riihimäki, founded on November 11, 1918 while the Lotta Svärd was officially founded as a separate organisation on September 9, 1920.

Part II - The Finnish Civil War and the Historical Background to the Formation of the Suojeluskunta

Finland was transferred from Sweden to Russia after the Swedish- Russian War of 1808 – 1809, in which Russia was victorious. When this war was over, the Russian Emperor, Alexander I, guaranteed the Finns a large variety of rights and exceptions as well as status as an autonomous Grand Duchy, making Finland quite different from other parts of the Russian Empire. The arrangement proved fruitful to both sides: The Finns became loyal citizens and an autonomous Finland prospered both culturally and economically within the Czarist Russian Empire. In the 1880's however, opinions among Russians concerning Finnish autonomous status started to change. As Slavophilism and Panslavism spread in Russia, it created suspicion, envy, and hate against the Finns and the status of an autonomous Finland.

When a new Russian Emperor (Nicholas) was crowned in 1894, Slavophiles and Panslavists gained a controlling position and started stripping autonomous rights from Finland one by one. The goal of this oppressive campaign was Russification of the whole of Finland by removing its autonomous status and replacing Finnish culture with a Russian one. In Finland, the Russification campaign met both passive and active resistance from the start, and the idea of an independent Finland increasingly started gaining popularity as the Russification program intensified. Hate created by an oppressive Russification campaign and growing Finnish nationalism had planted the seeds for demands for an independent Finland. The political and military environment however, did not permit any progress.

Huge crowds had cheered in the streets of Helsinki, Viipuri and Turku when the Russian Baltic Fleet had sailed towards it’s fate during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. But while few had anticipated it at the beginning of the hostilities against Japan in Manchuria, that war had transformed the Grand Duchy of Finland and rest of the Russian Empire for good. The 1905 Russian Revolution had brought about the first general strike in the history of the region, demonstrating the strength of the Finnish SDP, the Social Democratic Party. The Social Democrats had successfully created the first mass political movement in the history of the country, and during the turmoil in Russia they publicly demanded abolition of censorship in the Grand Duchy and more political freedoms, including universal suffrage.

Demonstators during the SDP-organized General Strike of 1905. Since they appeared to the political life of the Grand Duchy on a right time and were strongly against the old injustices of Finnish society, the Social Democrats of SDP soon became the strongest party in local-level politics. They were popular both in the countryside as well as in the cities, and their massive support made them the most important political force in the Grand Duchy.

However, 1905 also saw the formation of the first Finnish Red Guard units, which were active in the demonstrations at the time.

The Finnish Red Guards were originally organized by local-level worker organizations during the demonstrations of 1905

And in turn, the first organizations, which later developed into Suojeluskunta, were established locally by volunteers to maintain public order during the General Strike of 1905. “Suojeluskunta” could be translated literally from Finnish as "Protective Guard" and the translation fits well with the original mission of the Suojeluskunta, which was to provide protection against Strikers and early Red Guard militants.

Civil Guards were originally formed for various reasons - to maintain public order, to support hardliner Activist goals of separating Finland from Russia and later on increasingly to oppose the political goals of Red Guards - that in turn expanded their ranks because of the suspicion and mistrust caused by the expansion of Civil Guards.

Ultimately the developments in Russia in 1905 brought a temporarily halt to the Russification politics that were being implemented in the Grand Duchy during the last decades before WW1. Most important for the future of the Grand Duchy, however, was the November Manifesto. As the old Romanov regime was forced to undertake reforms in Russia, the Grand Duchy of Finland that had been ruled under the same legislation and bureaucratic structures ever since it had been tranformed from eastern half of Sweden to it's current political structure now suddenly received a new Parliament with universal suffrage. The resulting reform replaced the archaic "Diet of Four Estates" administration of the Grand Duchy with a parliamentary system where each citizen had universal right to vote and to be elected. This system was actually the most liberal of it's time since it had no racial restrictions (as in Australia) and it gave women the right to be elected as well as to vote (unlike New Zealand, where women had been give the vote but could not stand for election).

The first elections with the new system, held in 1907, gave the SDP 80 of the total of 200 seats, and the relative strength of the Social Democratic Party kept growing during each of the pre-war elections, reaching 90 seats in 1913. Russian authorities had followed political developments in the Grand Duchy with growing alarm, and at the beginning of the war they were swift to declare a state of emergency with wartime censorship and special decrees - the new Russian Constitution of 1906 had given the Tsar full rights to veto decisions of the Eduskunta (the Parliament of the Grand Duchy) and a free hand as to whether or not to implement the parliamentary decisions made by it. Given the attitude of the Tsarist authorities, it was perhaps only logical that the first free parliamentary elections in Grand Duchy were followed by a period of repression. The Tsarist authorities in St. Petersburg gradually replaced the troublesome Finnish Liberals in the Senate of the Grand Duchy with ethnic Russians, resulting to a total statis in parliamentary domestic politics of the Grand Duchy. The Eduskunta still existed, but by August 1914 it was increasingly seen as an inefficient discussion forum that had no political power- much to the dismay of the leadership of the SDP.

During this time the leaders of the Finnish Social Democrat Party were mostly following the example of their German colleagues, and as a result their political program was based on the political philosophy of Karl Kautsky. Violent revolution was out of the question, and society could instead be reformed by democratic reforms where the proletariat would take over the parliamentary system by their strong numerical majority - after this the capitalists would be more or less forced to cooperate with the movement, starting a process of reforms and steady improvement of the well-being of common workers. While they were therefore extremely satisfied with the reforms implemented after the Russo-Japanese War, their ever-growing political power meant little as long as the Tsarist system controlled the supreme authority in Grand Duchy.

Eduskunta, the Parliament of the Grand Duchy at work in 1917

Initially the leadership of the SDP opted to patiently wait and see how the European war would play out. The SDP leadership calculated that the war would bring about a new revolution in Russia just like the last one had done. But since Russia was viewed as a backward, largely agrarian society that "could not be ready for full revolution of the proletariat in a true Marxist sense", the leadership of SDP expected that a new bourgeois government would topple the monarchy and seize power in Russia, thus hopefully bringing an end to the current oppressive period of Russian rule and giving the Finnish SDP new significance in future negotiations with these would-be future rulers of Russia. Despite the fact that Lenin had often used Finland as a safe haven (and Lenin and Stalin had actually first met one another in Tampere), Bolshevik ideas and writings were virtually unknown in Finland, and the local Socialists firmly believed that world revolution would begin in Germany or one of the other developed and industrialized nations of West rather than in Russia.

All in all the leaders of the SDP looked to the future with confidence in 1914. The local-level militant organization of the SDP, the Red Guards, had been created roughly a ten years before and during the period between 1905 and 1914 new local branches had been established through the entire Grand Duchy. While the total membership numbers were roughly 30, 000 by 1917, the support of SDP was strongest among the industrial workers in largest towns and cities and among the large landless population in countryside of southern Finland. But while the Left was organizing its ranks, other political forces were also at work within the Grand Duchy.

While the SDP opted to wait out for a future revolution in Russia, the Finnish nationalist movement was more than eager to utilize the new situation to their advantage. During the previous ten years the Finnish local-level political resistance to Russian rule had begun to follow a vicious cycle, where new repressive actions and censorship further radicalized a small minority of Grand Duchy citizens. Political organizing among university students led to the creation of the Activist movement that sought to separate Finland from Russia through the use of violence and terror - a dramatic change to the earlier Finnish historical tradition of resistance through legalist, nonviolent means. While they were initially dismissed as a mere group of angry teenage amateurs, the successful assassination of General-Governor Bobrikov on 16th of June 1904 made them the prime target of Russian security organizations. By 1914 many prominent Activists had been successfully captured and sent to exile in Siberia, but this crackdown had considerably increased the local support for Activist political goals.

During the first years of the war the Activist movement successfully made contact with the German authorities and began to secretly recruit volunteers for "Boy Scout courses", aka military training in German Empire. While many volunteers were captured and ended up in jail in St. Petersburg instead of reaching their planned destination, by 1916 there were enough volunteers to form the Königlich Preussisches Jägerbataillon Nr. 27.

The volunteers of Royal Prussian 27th Jäger Battalion enlisted to the service of foreign power and enemy of Russia, thus linking their future to the war success of Germany

But while different factions within the Grand Duchy waited for time to act, the war effort of Tsarist Russia was slowly beginning to crumble. The slow, steady decline of the Russian war effort finally led to major changes in the situation of the Grand Duchy on 15th of March 1917, when a deteriorating security situation in the capital of Petrograd turned into an open revolt against the old reign. Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, and members of the earlier disbanded 4th Duma formed a new Provisional Government. Determined to bring about long-awaited reforms to solve the dire crisis Russia was facing, the new government was quick to bring about radical reforms. Initially controlled by liberals, the Provisional Government abolished the death penalty and released large numbers of political prisoners - several important Finnish politicians among them.

The former Russification politics were set aside, and the Provisional Government acknowledged the autonomous position of the Grand Duchy of Finland. The Eduskunta, the Parliament of the Grand Duchy, was finally able to wield the political power that it legally had, and based on the earlier elections of 1916 a new Senate was soon formed. With a compromise membership made up of of six Socialists from the SDP and six representatives of other parties, the Senate devised a new amd ambitious political program that aimed to ease the rising tensions within the Grand Duchy. It aimed to expand the internal democratic powers of the Eduskunta by seeking to limit and gradually remove the veto powers of the Russian Provisional Government. Other goals included the expansion of local-level municipal democracy, improvement of working conditions (with new laws on minimum working hours, social security, compulsory schooling system and freedom of religion).

Initially, the "compromise Senate" seemed to appease the majority of the Grand Duchy’s citizens. Conservatives were pleased with the domestic political goals of the Provisional Government and by the fact that the fall of the oppressive Tsarist regime had seemingly ended the Russification era in the Grand Duchy. Additionally the future seemed bright for the local economy because of the the continually growing demands of the Russian wartime economy. For workers the developments were even more promising: the Eduskunta (where the SDP had an absolute majority) was getting stronger and restrictions put in place by the wartime legislation of the Tsarist regime were removed. With renewed rights to organize strikes and use their freedom of speech, the working class finally seemed to have gained an influential position in society.

This initial optimism was not to last. The new Senate was soon facing a steep economic decline as the economic growth caused by the war during the earlier prosperous two years begun to slow down. Unemployment and inflation grew. For the working class, this sudden turn to the worse caused increased hardship because of the rising prices of food. Fear and insecurity grew, accompanied by new strikes and increased political activity. As the new Senate struggled to cope with the new strike activity and rising food prices while trying to simultaneously redefine the relations between the Grand Duchy and rest of Russia, full support of all political forces would have been pivotal to the success of these efforts. Such support never appeared, as the SDP leadership preferred to focus their efforts on their parliamentary work in the Eduskunta and to organizing their growing street level support. Political organization was rapidly expanding: during 1917 the SAJ, the Trade Union of Finland (Suomen Ammattijärjestö) increased it's membership from 40 000 to 160 000.

The most pressing political matter was the question of food shortages. The Senate tried to solve the matter by maintaining the wartime policy of fixed prizes. When food imports from Russia begun to diminish during 1917, a new food supply law was enacted in June 1917. To be effective, the new law would have required an effective system of control and firm political support from all major parties in the Grand Duchy. Without it, the new law was largely irrelevant as a vast black market soon emerged. Food prices kept rising sharply and relations between conservative farmers in the countryside and working class people in the cities deteriorated accordingly. Many agricultural producers felt that confiscating food and routine inspections of food storage facilities were nothing but a Socialist violation of private property. While the situation in Grand Duchy deteriorated, the food trade to Petrograd continued and rumors on the streets were that the shortage was artificially created and made worse by the greedy producers and black market dealers. As newspapers wrote extensively about the matter, dissent among the population kept growing through the year.

The Question of Sovereignty

While Russia seemed to be on the brink of a new revolution and internal dissolution due the war and the internal struggle for power between the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government through 1917, all political parties in the Grand Duchy had virtually similar political goals. Their aims were focused on restoring and further expanding the pre-Russification era autonomy of the Grand Duchy, culminating in some kind of new political independence. But as the struggle for power and unrest within the Grand Duchy itself kept growing, the Conservatives begun to hesitate about their previous goals of expanding the powers of the Eduskunta - after all, in Parliament the SDP had an absolute majority. Simultaneously the SDP sought to expand the autonomy of the Grand Duchy, thus expanding their domestic influence even further. Initially the SDP was most active in the relations between the Grand Duchy and the Russian Provisional Government, seeking political allies for their goals. Ultimately only one faction was willing to listen to them - a radical minority fringe group known as the Bolsheviks, led by recently returned exile V.I. Lenin. While these early contacts between the SDP and Bolsheviks had no early concrete results, they would have major significance later on.

Lenin, who was busily planning to seize power in Russia in the summer of 1917, fully supported the goals of SDP since he calculated that unrest in Grand Duchy would cause the Provisional Government’s position to deteriorate even further. But while this political scheming continued in Petrogad, the Senate in Helsinki pondered a difficult question: what was the legal position of the Grand Duchy in the current situation? Tsarist power was over, and legally speaking the sole legal Head of State of the Grand Duchy had been the Tsar of Russia in his role as the Grand Duke of Finland. As the debate on the question of sovereignty continued, two sides emerged. The Committee led by Senator Antti Tulenheimo created a draft of a new law, soon nicknamed the “Lex Tulenheimo”. Since everyone understood that this was a matter of utmost political importance, the Committee was filled with the leading and most experienced Conservative politicians and law experts, future president Ståhlberg among them. Meanwhile the SDP devised their own draft legislation.

Lex Tulenheimo envisioned that the legal powers of the former Grand Duke would be transferred mostly to the Senate of the Grand Duchy. Russia would still have retained the powers to call, open and disperse the Parliament as well as administer matters of defense and foreign policy. The draft legislation of the SDP aimed to give the majority of power to the Eduskunta, leaving Russia to control solely foreign policy and defense. This law draft was also clearly based on the assumption that there would be future changes in the structure of the Provisional Government. Of these two options the more radical law draft of the SDP soon gained more support, and it was accepted by the Eduskunta on the 18th of July 1917 after an election where the SDP, the Agrarian Party and independence-minded Conservatives (Activists) joined forces against the fierce opposition of the Conservative representatives.

Kerensky Reshuffles The Deck – the Russians retain their control of Fortress Finland

The political aspirations of the Grand Duchy came to a sudden stop when the first revolutionary uprising of soldiers and workers in Petrograd ended in failure in August 1917. The Provisional Government was shaken but still standing, and under the new leadership of Alexander Kerensky it refused to accept the new legislature of the Grand Duchy, disbanded the current Eduskunta on the 31st of August and reinforcing the presence of the Russian military in Finland. New parliamentary elections were to be held in October 1917. For Finnish politicians this was a bitter reminder of the fact that even with the Tsar gone, the Russians still viewed the Grand Duchy as an integral part of their empire. For Russians, in addition to being a vital supplier of consumer goods for the capitol, the area of the Grand Duchy was also seen as vitally important for the security of Petrograd.

This can hardly be considered a surprise. During the first years of WWI, when Germany focused on the Western Front, the Russians had had ample time to create extensive naval minefields in the Gulf of Finland and the northern Baltic. With the threat of German invasion thus removed from the Gulf, the Russian planners begun to fear that the Germans would invade the long coastline of the Gulf of Bothnia and then move towards Petrograd through the Grand Duchy. As a result the Russians strongly fortified the Åland Islands, and begun an extensive fortification effort within the Grand Duchy. The strategic idea of building a belt of defensive lines within Finland was planned so that the defending forces would delay the enemy while withdrawing to South-Eastern Finland, buying time for reinforcements to reach the area so that they could then move forwards in a counterattack.

By 1917 the Grand Duchy of Finland was on a full war footing, with extensive fortification lines constructed throughout the country and large forces of the Russian military stationed on the coastlines.

So while the Russian military stayed in their garrisons throughout the Grand Duchy, Finns voted in their new parliamentary elections. Here the more radical line adopted by the SDP during the previous summer returned to haunt them at the ballot box, and the up till then continuous growth of the SDP received a strong setback. The SDP was left as the parliamentary opposition rather than expanding as they had anticipated. With the SDP ousted from control of the new Senate, the attitudes of many workers became increasingly radical and their trust in the Senate and its ability to solve problems like the food shortages was reduced. The SDP was now mobilizing its supporters to defend the gains they had made instead of aiming to further expand them as they had hoped.

The new Conservative Senate hoped in vain to gain control of the situation after the dissolution of Eduskunta on August 1917

Meanwhile the Conservatives who had supported Lex Tulenheimo now cooperated with the Russian authorities after the dissolution of the SDP-majority Parliament. As a result of this situation the Grand Duchy was on a course towards crisis. Without a strong Parliament and Senate there were no official authorities that could solve the domestic problems of the country. Policemen clashed with violent strikers throughout the country, and as the first people died in these clashes mutual mistrust made the Conservative elements of the society to start organizing their own "Civil Guards" as a response to the growing power and radicalization of the Socialist Red Guards. With Russia in turmoil, citizens of Grand Duchy were increasingly left to deal with their hopes, fears and conflicting visions of future among themselves. Time was running out.

Reluctant revolutionaries – The SDP in 1917

When the Bolshevik Revolution finally toppled the struggling Provisional Government in Petrograd by way of a new uprising on October 1917, the Russian Empire begun to disintegrate. On the 23rd of October 1917 local leftist revolutionaries seized the streets in Tallinn, the capital of the recently established Autonomous Governorate of Estonia. Revolution was now virtually within sight of Helsinki, the capital of the Grand Duchy. This period of uncertainty after the downfall of the Kerensky Government gave a new breathing space to the Senate and the Eduskunta - but when they finally regained the political freedom to operate, the society of the Grand Duchy was already polarized into two camps that were increasingly hostile and leary of each other’s opposing political aims. The SDP was determined to regain their former leading position in local politics and to secure the rights of the working class, while the Conservatives were terrified of the events in Russia and were becoming increasingly determined to defend their position by any means necessary.

When parliament finally resumed on the 1st of November 1917, it was marked with hectic attempts to find some kind of a way out of the political stalemate. On the 9th of October 1917 the Conservative-dominated Eduskunta had agreed that the powers of Governor-General should be transferred to a new representative regent(s) chosen by parliamentary process. Initially the plan was to give this position to a triumvirate made up of Svinhufvud, the leader of the Conservatives, Tokoi from the SDP and Alkio from the moderate Agrarian Party. It soon became clear that disputes on the actual division of power and future courses of action between the Conservatives and Socialists were too great, and the plan was abandoned.

Simultaneously, the first revolution had already led to Bolshevik Councils (aka "Soviets") spreading like a plague through the Russian military and naval units stationed in Finland. It was, however, the second revolution by the Bolsheviks that caused real havoc. The success of the Bolshevik coup against the Provisional Government in October led to large numbers of Russian troops stationed in Finland started celebrating their new "svoboda" by executing their officers and more violence followed. Unfortunately for Finns, for too many of the now uncontrolled but well-armed Russian soldiers, this "svoboda" included the opportunity for taking whatever they wanted with the help of the weapons they held.

Under these conditions, more local organizations for “maintaining order” were rapidly established. At the same time, independence activists seeking to separate Finland from Russia created their own local organizations disguised as voluntary fire departments. Even though local security organizations and "voluntary fire departments" made up of independence activists often had originally been established for separate reasons, typically they had no problem in finding common goals and soon started to develop into Suojeluskunta organizations.

By now the leaders of the SDP were increasingly certain that they had to make a fundamental choice about their political future: either to continue to cooperate and compromise with the Conservatives or to seize political power by revolution. While in opposition, the SDP had published their famous "We Demand" program that was a direct ultimatum to the Conservative-led Senate:
- New Parliamentary elections should be organized ASAP
- The current legislation should be replaced with the earlier SDP draft for legislature concerning the sovereignty of the Grand Duchy
- The Paramilitary Civil Guards (Suojeluskunta) should be dismantled and disarmed
- After the elections the Eduskunta should quickly implement a number of new social reforms to stabilize the internal dissent within the society

Conservatives considered the "We Demand" proclamation a direct threat and a challenge to their authority, and as a result the demands were never brought to vote in the Eduskunta. Since they had begun their activity in Estonia and had supported the SDP before, Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders now begun to put pressure on leading Finnish Social Democrats, threatening that they would sent in loyal forces from Tallinn and Petrograd to spread the revolution to the Grand Duchy by themselves unless the SDP acted independently - and soon. The Bolsheviks increased their agitation among the Finnish Red Guards. This infiltration was relatively easy due the fact that Petrograd had a huge community of both Ingrian Finns as well as immigrant Finns, who had been active in labor organizing and political turmoil in Russia well before the current revolution. In addition, the countryside surrounding Petrograd was predominantly inhabited by Finnish-speaking, Lutherian Ingrian villagers.

During the autumn of 1917 Lenin had personally spent some time in Helsinki negotiating with the SDP leaders, but actual plans for cooperation were never agreed to since the local Socialists doubted Lenin’s chances - he had already once failed to seize power in Russia after all. Now Petrograd had once again hoisted the red flag, but the situation elsewhere in Russia was so uncertain that the SDP leaders postponed their original attempt to seize power - on the 10th of October 1917 they were planning a manifesto that would demand that the Grand Duchy gain "independent statehood." Yet matters were quickly moving forward. On the 9th of October labor organizations in Finland (the SDP, SAJ and the Red Guards) joined forces and established the Central Revolutionary Labor Committee as their new joint leadership organization. On the 12th of October, after the Senate had refused to bring the points of the “We Demand” program up for discussion in the Eduskunta, the Central Revolutionary Labor Committee gathered to discuss their possible options, ultimately deciding not to attempt an armed uprising by 18 votes against, 8 in favor. Instead, the Central Committee and the SAJ organized a general strike that paralyzed the whole of the Grand Duchy on 14th of October.

Local strike committees and Red Guards virtually seized control of several municipalities in southern parts of the Grand Duchy, and over 85 000 workers joined the mass movement that officially aimed to pressure the Senate into accepting the "We Demand" program. This was the point where the SDP leaders where no longer able to fully control the course of events in the streets. While prominent SDP leaders like Kuusinen, Tokoi and Manner were all still cautious and democratic Kautskyan Social Democrats, the local level organizers and leaders of various labor committees and local Red Guards were much more varied in their political inclinations. Anarchist ideals of writers like Kropotkin were mixed with the political vision of agrarian socialism promoted by the Russian Social Revolutionary Party, while influence was also taken from American-styled Syndicalism. (brought to the Grand Duchy by immigrants returning from the US). Finally the methods and ideals of the Bolsheviks were also becoming more widely known in Grand Duchy. The mixture was fatal. For unemployed and landless supporters of the SDP, the news from Tallinn and Petrograd (brought to them by local political speakers who where often supporting their own personal political agendas instead of official SDP policy) seemed to indicate that the bourgeois capitalistic system was collapsing in Russia and that the time to act was now upon them.

The wide spread support for the General Strike increased the confidence of the Socialist forces, and new incidents occurred that further antagonized the relations between Socialist and Conservatives. On the 16th of November 1917 at 5 AM in the morning the Central Committee held a new secret vote that narrowly approved the initiation of an armed revolt with 14 votes in favor, 11 against. By now, even though they did not fully realize how dire the situation was, the Conservatives were becoming increasingly alarmed by events within the Grand Duchy, and sought to support the moderate majority of the SDP against the radicals of the Red Guards and SAJ. Parts of the "We Demand"-program were implemented as new laws on an 8-hour work day and legislation on municipal-level elections and democracy were implemented on the 16th of November 1917. Meanwhile the turmoil within Finnish labor movement continued.

The yes-votes for the revolution came from the leaders of the Red Guards and the SAJ, while the SDP activists remained sceptical. Upon receiving the news of the acceptance of parts of the "We Demand" program, the leaders of the Central Committee refused to implement the earlier resolution, demanding a new vote that ultimately decided not to start the revolt by 13 votes to 12. A week later the General Strike was called off. 34 people had died during the clashes and the violence that had been associated with it. The Strike had also shown the power of the Finnish labor movement - and the fact that the SDP leadership was no longer able to control the movement they had originally founded. The most likely reason for the one-vote victory of the moderates on the Central Committee was the fact that even the most radical revolutionaries accepted that the Red Guards were still too disorganized and lacked sufficient weapons and training to stage a successful uprising.

Left-wing radicals within the SDP and SAJ formed the core of Finnish Red Guards, with additional support coming from landless agricultural workers in southern Finland. The failure of SDP leadership to control their rank-and-file supporters more or less doomed the Finnish independence to have a violent beginning.

Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders were furious upon receiving the news of this decision, and lost all faith in the willingness and capabilities of the SDP to act as a revolutionary force in Finland. In the end the difference of methods between the Kautskyan Finnish Social Democrats and the Russian Bolsheviks was simply too great, and from this moment on Lenin chose to ignore the SDP leadership. Instead of negotiating with the moderate SDP, the Bolsheviks now focused their efforts on the radical minority in the Finnish labor movement, supported by Finnish Bolsheviks in Petrograd.

Estonia Leads the Way

Meanwhile the southern neighbour of the Grand Duchy was also living in historic times. As the German troops approached Tallinn, the Estonian National Council (Maapäev) decided to act and proclaimed itself the new highest authority for the whole Autonomous Governorate on the 28th of October 1917. Finnish Conservatives followed closely how the Bolsheviks would react to this move. Once they reacted by repressing the Estonian nationalist movement by dissolution of the Maapäev, Finnish nationalists became confident that they should be extremely cautious in their own similar attempts and in dealings with the Bolsheviks in general, especially since the Russians still had a strong military presence in the country in the form of their 60,000-men strong garrison force. Conservatives were also now increasingly confident of the fact that sovereignty in the Grand Duchy would enable them to control the left-wing political activity by reducing the influence the Bolsheviks wielded in Finland.

On the 15th of December 1917 the Eduskunta followed the example of the Estonian Maapäev and declared themselves the new highest authority in the Grand Duchy. A new Senate led by Svinhufvud was formed on the 27th of December 1917, and after a week of preparations the Senate published a draft of a new document – the proclamation of independence of the Grand Duchy of Finland. The Eduskunta voted on this initiative - with the Socialists voting against it and demanding that their own similar draft should be accepted instead - and approved it. Life in the Grand Duchy went on as normal. Russian troops remained in their garrisons, mutual hostility between the Civil Guards and the Red Guards kept growing, the black market trade of consumer goods continued and prices and unemployment kept on rising. Politically the declaration of independance was only a symbolical gesture as long as foreign powers would not recognize it. And as the situation in Russia remained uncertain, there would be no diplomatic initiatives from other powers unless Petrograd approved.

It was at this point that the Social Democrats, ultimately being Fennoman nationalists themselves, activated their old contacts within Petrograd and with the Bolsheviks. Between the 9th and 27th of December they made contact with Lenin, asking him to acknowledge the newly declared sovereignty of Finland. This was also a matter of domestic political importance – the SDP leaders were eager to regain their old influence among their supporters and thought that being seen as active on the matter of gaining independence in any form would be most beneficial for their long-term interests and support. Meanwhile Lenin was busily trying to secure the still uncertain outcome of the revolution in Russia - a truce had been declared on the Eastern Front on 6th of December 1917 and negotiations between the German and Bolshevik officials were ongoing at Brest-Litovsk - and most likely calculated that a gesture of goodwill would gain more support for the radical left within the Finnish labor movement. But whatever the motives might have been, the result was nevertheless the Bolshevik acknowledgment of the independence of Finland on the 31st of December 1917 signed by Lenin, Trotsky, Petrovsky, Steinberg, Karelin, Schlichter - and Stalin.

The Radicals Take Over

During December of 1917 the radicalized Red Guards in the major cities declared that they would no longer take orders from the SDP leadership. By December 1917 the country had roughly 350 different local Red Guard detachments with a total strength of 31,000 active members. Simultaneously the Suojeluskuntas had been building their strength following the General Strike. With 400 more or less independent local organizations operating through the country, this organization also had a total strength of roughly 30,000 by the end of 1917. These disorganized forces were also arming themselves. Both sides bought and acquired weapons from Russian Army and weapon smugglers operating from Germany and Russia.

Moderate opponents of revolution were still in the majority in the SDP, especially in the countryside. There were members of the party leadership who wanted to kick out the radicals, but by now the fact that the Conservative militias were arming themselves made many argue that the labor movement should not disperse its ranks at such a time but instead stand firm and united. Meanwhile the events in Estonia and Russia created increasing fear and mistrust among Finnish conservatives against the growing power of Red Guards and their increasingly violent methods. Radicals on both sides gained more influence, and the situation begun to escalate.

Meanwhile, roughly a month after Finland had declared independence and gained recognition from the Bolshevik regime, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Greece had followed suit. And the Finnish Civil War had begun.

The Civil War of 1918

When Finland declared independence, there were still large Russian military units (estimates of Russian soldiers in Finland at that time vary from between 42,500 to over 100,000) in Finland and the Russian Bolshevik Government had plans for them. The Russian Bolsheviks started arming the Finnish Red Guards and at the end of January 1918, violence in Finland escalated into outright Civil War as the Finnish Red Guards carried out a revolution against the democratically elected Finnish Government. At this time, local Suojeluskunta organizations didn't yet have any real command structure connecting them effectively. However, there was one organization that had some influence among them. This was the Senate-elected "Sotilaskomitea" (Military Committee), which was a small organization of well-known nationalistic Finns.

As the members of the last pre-war Senate fled to northern Finland or went underground in Helsinki, the opposing sides of the Civil War sought to organize their ranks, mobilize their supporters and most importantly started their military campaigns by securing their strongest support areas. For the White side the first action was the encirclement and disarmament of Russian garrison forces in Ostrobothnia, followed by the siege and destruction of isolated local Red Guard strongholds in the industrial regions of northern Finland. At the same time the new leaders of the Soldier Soviets of the Russian garrison troops declared that they considered themselves to be at war against the Suojeluskuntas due their aggressive actions. The Soviet government in Petrograd approved this viewpoint, wiring in orders that demanded that the garrison troops "should actively participate in the conflict in Finland by destroying the White forces." While it thus initially seemed that the situation of the Senate was hopeless, at the same time the international position of Bolshevik government was extremely precarious, forcing them to act carefully in the matter of Finland due to the growing political pressure from Germany. Ultimately this led to the evacuation of the remaining Russian troops, but before that Lenin had managed to secure a Treaty of Friendship with the SDP leadership in Helsinki in exchange for promises of material support.

Pukkilan Punakaartilaisia / Red Guards from Pukkila

Oppressors slash their whips to our shoulders,
opposed by their White Army we are;
forced to fight, to die or to triumph
no one yet knows the outcome of war

Still we rise high our scarlet standard,
to rally the workers for our noble cause,
Inspired by our brotherly ideals we march
to the battle and sing for you all:

For our cause that is just, dear and righteous
onwards ye oppressed, onwards march!

Translation of the 1st verse of the Finnish version of an old Polish revolutionary song, Warszawianka

While the White side consolidated its positions in the northern parts of the country, the majority of the population and largest cities were firmly under the control of Reds who were busily turning their plans for the future of Finland into reality. The new People's Council assembled in Helsinki and created a new constitution that was heavily influenced by the Constitutions of Switzerland and the United States of America. People's Council also declared that they aimed to hold general elections to determine the future status of the country and constitution "as soon as the current state of emergency is over and order is once again established throughout the country." In exchange for his promises of support, Lenin was able to persuade the leaders of People's Council to name their new state the Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic. This made it politically easier for Lenin to justify the developments in Finland since he could now directly compare the new state to the Socialist Workers' Republic of the Ukraine. It is also noteworthy that new Treaty of Friendship said nothing about re-establishing the state of union between Finland and Russia. Privately Lenin was frustrated by the fact that even when they were finally rebelling as he had long pleaded with them to do, the SDP leaders still defied the Bolshevik ideology of proletarian dictatorship by instead drafting their new constitution based upon the principles of direct, popular democracy.

In mid-January 1918 the Sotilaskomitea had asked C.G.E. Mannerheim, who had recently returned from Russia, to be its chairman. Soon after this, the Finnish Senate declared Suojeluskunta troops to be Finland’s Army and named Mannerheim as their commander. With the Suojeluskunta now facing Civil War, the situation was serious. The Suojeluskunta organisations had about 14,000 men, but they were not organized as military units and had no military training to speak of. The opposing Red Guards also had no military training and were also poorly organized, but had managed to mobilize some 25,000 men. However, these were only minor problems for the Suojeluskunta compared to the shortage of weaponry. The Suojeluskunta had only 9,000 rifles and 44 machineguns. The Finnish Red Guard had no such shortage as Russian garrisons were arming them and trainloads of weapons were transported to them from Russia.

Suojeluskunta in Nummi. Suojeluskunta were appointed the White Army of Finland on 25 January 1918.

The Germans decided to arm the Suojeluskunta, but the non-arrival of the cargo of the steamship Equity with the 20,000 rifles and 50 machineguns it was carrying almost caused the Suojeluskunta to lose the war at the start. Once the war started, the number of troops on both sides started increased rapidly. While the Red Guards were statistically an impressively-sized militia, their fragmented organization and lack of training and military cohesion gave the more organized Suojelusjuntas a fighting chance during the early fighting in the winter of 1918. Led by former Russian Army Lieutenant Ali "Ali Baba" Aaltonen, the first proper campaign action of the Red side was an offensive attempt towards the north, along the main roads and railway lines that formed the backbone of the supply system of the White side. Even though they were able to create numerical superiority in the areas of the planned offensive, the Red side suffered from a lack of competent commanders and their overly idealistic approach to this conflict in a similar way to the way Anarchist militias operated during Spanish Civil War - votes on whether to attack or not, whom should be the leader for this week, etc. The end result was that the Suojeluskunta units managed to keep hold the Red Guards at bay along a frontline running from Ahlainen - Vilppula - Mäntyharju - Antrea - Rautu while the Whites got their main troops organized, equipped and trained.

Lapuan suojeluskunnan miehet valmiina lähtöön Punaisia vastaan / Civil Guard of Lapua get organized and ready to march to the front and fight against the Red Guards.

Suojeluskunta units were part of the White Army, but at the same time they remained separate from recruited and drafted units, which later became the Finnish Army.


Punainen sotilasosasto marssilla Helsingin Unioninkadulla / Red soldiers marching in Unioninkatu in Helsinki


Initial frontlines and offensives of the Civil War at the beginning of February (area controlled by the Reds in red, and by the Whites in blue)

This same lack of cohesion damaged the public image of the new Red administration, since the same active Red Guard leaders who had originally drawn the moderate Social Democrats into the revolt along with them were now free to act and "continue the revolutionary process" as they themselves saw fit. Old grievances and the divide between the predominantly Swedish-speaking upper classes and the Finnish working class caused an atmosphere where former tenant farmers and other persons who felt that they had been unjustly oppressed had little restraint in terrorizing their former masters. These political murders, known as the "Red Terror" were relatively small in scale, but their political backlash was far-reaching.

After the White’s repulsed these early attacks, they soon went over to the offensive themselves. The fighting was geographically dispersed across various parts of the country, with different forces facing one another in the battlefields of Satakunta, Tavastia, Savolax and Karelia. At the end of January 1918 about 400 Suojeluskuntas with about 38,000 members were facing some 375 Red Guard units with an estimated 30,000 men. In actuality the numbers of frontline combatants on both sides were not that large. The Red Guards naturally had Bolshevik-minded Russian soldiers and sailors fighting at their side from the beginning, but their number seems to have been relatively small. Officially, Bolshevik councils ("Soviet") controlled a majority of the Russian military units in Finland. In reality they were unable to control the unwilling and demoralized soldiers. At the end of 1917, the Russian Military still had large numbers of troops in Finland, but practically all of their units either remained passive or simply "melted away" when their soldiers decided to desert and return to their homes.

Venäläisiä sotalaiva Petropavlovskin merimiehiä kesällä 1917 Helsingissä. Lipussa teksti "Kuolema porvareille" / Revolutionary Russian sailors of the Russian Imperial Navy battleship Petropavlovsk in Helsinki during Summer 1917. The Flag carries the text "Death to the petty bourgeoise".

In areas other than the Karelian Isthmus, the Russian units taking part in the war were not larger than platoon-size. However, as the military training of the Finnish Red Guards was basically non-existent, Russians often served with them as heavy weapons specialists, training personnel and even as leaders. The numbers of troops on both sides continued to increase until April, at which point the White Army had about 70,000 men and Red Guards about 75,000.
But while the Finns were focused on their Civil War, other powers in the region sought to take advantage of this new situation. A battalion's worth of Swedish volunteers had moved to assist the White side earlier on and 84 high-ranking Swedish officers had also volunteered to organize and lead the White forces, and the decline of Russian power in the Baltic made the Government of Sweden take a renewed interest in the strategically important and ethnically Swedish Åland Archipelago.

The situation in Åland developed rapidly. Initially the islands had both Red, White and Russian troops, but acting officially out of humanitarian concerns, Swedish soldiers arrived on the islands on the 13th of February 1918. The Bolsheviks were originally planning to send the Russian Baltic Fleet to repel this invasion, but since the sailors stationed in Finland and other naval bases had killed most of their officers, the fleet was not in an operational condition and the plan had to be postponed. In addition the rulers of Petrograd had more serious concerns. After negotiations had been going on inconclusively for months, Germany had restarted hostilities in the East and her armies were now marching through the Baltic region towards Petrograd itself. As a part of this activity German troops secured their flank by invading the Åland islands on the 4th of March - upon their arrival Sweden evacuated her own troops without a fight and this setback caused much political turmoil back in Stockholm. At the same time the Germans were increasing their influence in Finland on other fronts as well. On the 25th of February 1918, roughly a month after the Red side had proclaimed the Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic on the 28th of January, the 700 German-trained Finnish volunteers of the Königlich Preussisches Jägerbataillon Nr. 27 arrived in Vaasa, the temporary capitol of Senate forces. On a following day this unit was greeted on a parade by "that Russki general", as the Jäeger officers privately mocked the new commander of the Senate’s forces.

Vaasaan Saksasta (25.2.) saapuneiden Jääkäreiden paraati 26.2.1918 / Finnish Jäegers parade in Vaasa 26th February after arriving from Germany, 25th February 1918

Fierce are our blows, unyielding our wrath
we have no mercy nor homeland.
Our swords' tips hold our grim destiny
as we follow the calling of our hearts.
Our bloodstained war cry calls out to the land
that's finally breaking its old chains.

We will not rest until we see the day when
the people of Finland shall be free.
We will not rest until we see the day when
the people of Finland shall be free.

When the nation and land had
abandoned all hope, we Jäegers
still held true to our beliefs. There was
night in our hearts, despair and pain
- and an idea so pure and so holy.
We shall arise as the Vengeance of Kullervo,
It will be sweet to meet the fate of the war we undertake

A new legend in Finland will soon be born
- it will grow, storm forwards and triumph.
A new legend in Finland will soon be born
- it will grow, storm forwards and triumph.

Häme, Karelia, the shores and lands of Viena,
One great Finnish Nation.
Its idea cannot be defeated by any force,
Away beneath the northern sky.
The Lion flag is carried,
by the strong hand of we Jaegers,
Over the roaring fields of blood
towards the shores of rising Finland.
Over the roaring fields of blood
towards the shores of rising Finland

Jaeger March (1917, Composer: Jean Sibelius, Lyricist: Jaeger Heikki Nurmio)

And if you care to listen, here's the link to the Jääkärimarssi on YouTube.

Just a note on the song: The Jäger March from 1917 was written by the Finnish Jäger Heikki Nurmio (1887-1947) in Libau, Prussia, where a competition was held on the best lyrics for a mach song. The lyrics were smuggled to Finland, where Sibelius received them from his ear doctor, Dr Wilhelm Zilliacus. Sibelius was enthusiastic of the proposal and composed the march in three days in his villa Ainola in Järvenpää, according to his own account overwhelmed by highly patriotic emotion. The march was presented for the first time in Libau on 28 November 1917 in a leisure occasion for the staff of the Battalion. It was published in December 1917 as written for a male choir and piano, without mentioning the writer of the lyrics or the composer. In Finland, the march was apparently presented for the first time to a larger audience in a celebration of the New Day Club of the advocates of independence in restaurant Ylä-Oopris in Helsinki on 8 December 1917. The proper debut of the Jäger March was in Helsinki on 19 January 1918, by the choir of Akademiska Sångföreningen, led by Olof Wallin. On the same day, the first battles broke out in Karelia between the Reds and the Whites, related to the weapons supplies to the Reds from St Petersburg.

And a further note on the emotional context: Kullervo is a tragic hero of Kalevala, the national epos of the Finns, and this detail, a single word of the lyrics, is packed with strong sentiment to anyone familiar with Kalevala.

Kullervo, the son of Kalervo, is an orphan, whose whole family has been murdered by sword of the men of Untamo, Kalervo's foe. Only a maid was left alive and taken as a slave, but she gave birth to this son of Kalervo. The boy is put to work but he proves of no use, they try to kill him but fail in it. Finally Kullervo is sold to Ilmarinen. He sends Kullervo to shepherd cattle, but his wicked wife, the daughter of Pohjola (North), bakes a stone inside the bread that is packed as a meal for Kullervo. When cutting the bread, Kullervo breaks against the stone his puukko knife, his only heritage of his father, and infuriated by this he swears revenge. In his relentless, fierce hate of the unjustly oppressed, he puts a magical spell on the bears and wolves of the forest, driving them to kill all the cattle and the wicked wife as well. (Thx for that explanation from Hanski on the axisforum board, much appreciated)

Their new leader, the son of of an old Swedish noble family, was indeed a former career officer of Russian Army and had been rewarded with the St. Georges Cross for his successful command of Corps-sized cavalry formations on the Eastern Front not to much earlier. Now he had returned to his former homeland and soon found himself in command of the Senate's militia force, a forces that he was tasked to transform into the fighting army of independent Finland. His name was Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, and from the beginning the relations between him and the Jäegers were troubled.

Valkoisten joukkojen ylipäällikkö sisällissodassa, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim Tampereen lähellä / The White army´s commander-in-chief during the Civil War, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim near Tampere

Mannerheim disbanded the Jäeger battalion, dispersing the trained men throughout the ranks of the White forces to gain new officers and leaders for future NCO courses. Mannerheim did this also to increase his own control of the military situation - he was bitterly opposed to the pro-German faction of the Senate, led by Svinhufvud who had earlier stated that he was going to return to power in the country "with the help of God and Hindenburg." Mannerheim believed that the Reds could be beaten without outside interference, and to prove this and to bolster his own status he needed a decisive military victory and fast. After the White forces pushed the crumbling Red front southwards at Tavastia, the battles soon begun to approach the city of Tampere. Tampere was an important industrial center within the Grand Duchy, and thus it was one of the solid strongholds of the Red forces. Both sides knew that they would have to control the city to secure the vitally important railway connections located there.
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Part 3-A Continued - From Tampere to Final Victory

From Tampere to Final Victory

By 24th of March the city of Tampere was besieged by the White forces, with a 12,000 strong Red garrison and most of the civilian population trapped inside the pocket. Since Tampere was (and still is) the largest inland city of Finland, the ensuing battle soon turned into bitter urban warfare. The eastern parts of the city were ravaged by artillery fire as the White forces gradually pushed the determined and stubbornly resistant Red defenders back into the inner parts of the city.



Tampereen kaupungin Tammelan kaupunginosaa Suomen sisällissodassa keväällä 1918 käydyn Tampereen taistelun jälkeen / Tammela district of the City of Tampere after the Finnish Civil War in 1918

Despite local counterattacks and fanatical resistance in some blocks of the city, by the 6th of April 1918 it was all over, and the remaining defenders surrendered. While Mannerheim had now proved that the White forces were more than capable of gaining decisive victories in the Civil War, but the Senate had nevertheless made an official request for help to German government that was once again fighting against the Bolshevik regime in Russia after truce negotiations had broken down. Units of the famous Ostsee-Division, having specifically trained for amphibious warfare and led by Graf Rüdiger von der Goltz hit the beaches in southern Finland on April 3rd 1918. On April 7, 1918, the German Brandenstein Brigade or Detachment landed in Finland, made up of 3,000 German troops under the command of German officer Colonel/Oberst Otto Freiherr von Brandenstein, and seized the town of Loviisa. Major German units and detachments then rapidly advanced towards Helsinki, which was taken by German troops on April 13.

German troops advancing on Helsinki

The Germans advanced quickly, meeting only sporadic resistance from Red forces as the majority of reserves had been transferred to delay the advancing White forces in the north. Helsinki was captured ten days later, and a smaller detachment of German forces cut the escape route of retreating Red Guard forces at Lahti a day later on April 19th. With the last West-to-East railroad line cut, the Red Guard forces were effectively split in two and soon forced to lay down their arms. Most of the Finnish Red Guard members ended up in POW camps but some managed to escape to Russia. The Civil War ended on the 5th of May 1918, but the situation in Finland remained restless for several years subsequently.

Saksalaiset lääkintäsotilaat kantavat haavoittuneen Punaisen sotilaan pois Pasilan kallioilta Helsingissä / German medics carrying wounded Red soldier to hospital from Pasila´s rocks in Helsinki


German soldiers after the fall of Helsinki in the Finnish civil war 1918. TheRed Guard Headquarter Smolna´s flag thrown to the street

While it was clear that the battle of Tampere had broken the back of the Red war effort, the swift German intervention had clearly hastened the defeat of the Red forces and tied Finland firmly into German political orbit. On 18th of May the last Russian garrison forces and remaining Red militias had moved across the border to Russia, and White army marched triumphantly through the streets of Helsinki. The fate of the Red Guards was sealed.

Wars are rarely clean, but the Finnish Civil War was as ugly as civil wars can be. In general, Suojeluskunta members saw the Russians as enemies of Finland and Finnish Reds as traitors who had betrayed their own country. Volunteers of the Suojeluskuntas wanted an independent Finnish State. For them the Russian military was an occupier and the Red Guards, who had allied themselves with the Bolshevik government, were a threat to Finnish independence. During the Civil War the White Army didn't have a real chain-of-command for the Suojeluskunta. The Advisory Committee of the Commander in Chief, which had representatives from the various Suojeluskunta, was intended as the connection between the local Suojeluskunta and Mannerheim’s HQ, but it didn't take part when it came to the actual commanding of troops. Also the military chain-of-command for frontline units was unclear, giving higher headquarters poor control of their troops.

During the civil war, the White Army and the Red Guards both perpetrated acts of terror, the Red and White terror respectively. The main purpose of the Red and White terror was to destroy the power structure of the opponent, clear and secure the areas governed by the armies since the beginning of the war and the areas seized and occupied by the common units during the conflict. Another goal of the terror was to create shock and fear among the civil population and the opposing soldiers. The lack of combat skills of the common soldiers in the both armies created the opportunity to use terror as a military weapon. Terror achieved some of the intended military objectives, but also gave additional motivation to each side to fight against an enemy perceived to be inhuman and cruel. The propaganda of the Reds and Whites utilized the terror acts of the opponent effectively, which increased the local political violence and the spiral of revenge.

The Red Guards executed the representatives of economic and/or social power in Finland, including politicians, major landowners, industrialists, police officers, civil servants, teachers, and leaders and members of the White Guards. Servants of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ten priests) and the labour movement members (90 obviously moderate socialists) were executed also, but they were not the main targets of the terror. The two major sites of the Red terror were Toijala and Kouvola. There 300–350 Whites were executed between February and April 1918. In total, 1,400–1,650 Whites were executed in the Red terror. Without straying into the whys and wherefores, the road to further carnage was paved by the Suinula mass-murder by the Reds of Suojeluskunta POWs, the incident that became widely known as the "Suinula massacre"

Viipuri Prison 1918: A farewell from the Red Guard. Red Guard prison guards executed their prisoners in this prison before leaving town. Once the White Army had taken the city of Viipuri its soldiers organized mass-executions of Reds and Russians in Viipuri castle as a payback

Nationalism and hatred of the Russians being typical opinions of Suojeluskunta members, it wasn't surprising that many of them didn't like taking orders from the ex-Russian Army General Mannerheim and his Staff, many of whom were either Finnish born officers who had earlier served Russia, or Swedish officers. The lack of a clear command and control structure offered a convenient opportunity for the settling of old scores and the taking of revenge for lost friends and relatives of Suojeluskunta members when they returned to their old villages, towns and cities. Suojeluskunta members of the Civil War can be roughly divided into three types of members. Those willing to fight both in their own local area and in other parts of the country, those willing to fight or maintain order only in their own area and supporting members, who supported the Suojeluskunta with finances and/or supplies without personally participating in battle. At end of the year 1917 and during the Civil War, "Lentävä Osasto" ("flying detachment") type units were established from those willing to fight in other areas of the country.

Devils of Kuhmoinen: "Kuhmoiset Pirut" (Devils of Kuhmoinen) was nickname given by Reds to one of the Suojeluskunta Flying Units lead by Estonian Captain Hans Kalm. The unit gained notorious reputation during the Civil War. Captain Kalm is marked with a small X below his feet in the photo. Photo taken in February of 1918

The Whites responded in kind, and as the White Army won the war, its units and members naturally did most of the killing, murdering or executing 7,276 people.

Suojeluskuntas Soldiers executing Red Guard members - 1918

With regard to the executions and murders, many Suojeluskunta units also gained a worse reputation than the average White Army unit. There were probably good reasons for this. Their members had volunteered for personal and/or ideological reasons, this combined with weaker discipline and lack of an effective chain-of command didn't exactly improve the odds that they would treat POWs more humanely. Often the executions had nothing to do with justice or due process, people were executed for old personal grudges, hate, revenge and convenience. As the war continued, executing prisoners of war often become the standard method for troops of both sides. After the War, Red prisoners of war were kept in POW camps, where hunger and pestilence (like the influenza of 1918 and typhoid) killed almost 11,700 of them.


Prison camp in Suomenlinna, Helsinki. More than 11,000 people died in such camps due to hunger, disease, and executions.

Mannerheim resigned soon after the Red Guards had been defeated, and the winners of the bloody Civil War begun to argue about the future course their country should take. And while the war on Finnish soil was finally over, new challenges awaited Finnish Nationalists in Estonia, Eastern Karelia - and Ingria.

The Finnish Civil War of 1918 left festering wounds among Finns and it is open to question if the wound, even nowadays, is fully healed. For part of the Finnish population the Suojeluskunta were the heroes that liberated Finland, while the other part still called them by their old nickname "lahtari" (butcher) or “Lahtarikaarti” (Butcher Guard) used by the Reds during the 1918 war. This is what made the public reconciliation in 1930 between the Suojeluskunta and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) such an epochal event in Finnish history.

In the next section, we’ll look at the immediate post-Civil War events within Finland, the Heimosodat (Kinship Wars) and then the Suojeluskunta through the 1920’s and the Rise of the Lapua Movement.
Part 3-B - The Kingdom of Finland

The Monarchists make their move

When Finland has first declared her independence in December 1917, the new country had declared itself a republic without any serious debate or alternative proposals. When the Eduskunta officially assembled in May 1918 for the first time after the Civil War less than a year later, the situation was drastically different. During the declaration of independence the SDP had had 92 representatives in parliament, but after the Civil War 40 of them had fled to Russia and 50 of them had been imprisoned. As a result the post-Civil War Eduskunta had only one Social Democratic representative and was thus dominated by Conservatives, who now sought to secure their victory and consolidate their power within the country. While all Conservative parties agreed on this goal, they were divided between monarchists and republicans.

Monarchists, who had joined forces by creating the Committee of Security of New Finland as their coalition organization, sought to turn the country into a monarchy primarily for reasons of Realpolitik. By creating strong monarchist ties to Germany they sought to counterbalance the position of Finland against foreign threats - during this time the Russian White's who were fighting the Bolsheviks with British, French, American and Japanese backing refused to acknowledge the independence of Finland and the Bolsheviks had recently supported the revolution against the current Finnish government. As the Finnish economy was also firmly tied to Germany by a new trade agreement signed right after the Civil War, many former republicans and influential Finnish politicians had quickly turned their coats to support the idea of a German king - future presidents Svinhufvud and Paasikivi among them. During the summer of 1918 the issue had become the key political question in the country and the supporters of republic had also united their ranks by creating the Central Organization of Republicans. Since Monarchists had a parliamentary majority, they were initially able to dictate the course of events.

The Crown of the King of Finland and Karelia, Duke of Åland, Grand Prince of Lapland, Lord of Kaleva and the North

On June 1918 the Senate represented a draft of a new monarchist constitution to the Eduskunta. It was otherwise virtually similar to the old republican constitution draft represented on December 1917, the sole difference being that the position and powers of President would be replaced by a King. Even though this draft gained majority support, it didn't receive enough votes to be implemented immediately but was instead shelved until new parliamentary elections could be arranged. Since the monarchists knew that they now fielded much more power than their true democratic support would ever give them in a fair elections, their leaders decided to act before it would be too late. Soon they demanded that the country should quickly elect a new monarch, based on the still formally official 38rd Paragraph of the (old Swedish) Constitution of 1772, stating that if the ruling dynasty should die out the Diet should assemble to elect a new one. Since Nicholas II had abdicated and none of his relatives had taken the throne, the monarchists argued that this was just the kind of the situation the constitution was referring to - after all, the powers and missions of the old Diet had been transferred to the Eduskunta in 1907. This polical gamble seemed to work, since the Eduskunta approved the actions of Senate on the 9th of August.

Friedrich Karl of Hesse, the would-be King Freedrik Kaarle I.

By now the republican opponents of a monarchy were increasingly determined to stop the monarchists at any costs. Many imprisoned SDP MPs suddenly found out that their charges of treason had been canceled and they were rushed back to resume their work in Eduskunta - just in time to vote against the new draft constitution. As the legal process of creating the new kingdom was thus temporarily blocked, the monarchists opted for pressuring some uncertain Conservative politicians to support their proposal. By October 1918 their gamble had paid off - after a whole summer of inconclusive elections, 64 votes (a full quorum of the Eduskunta had 200 seats) against 61 managed to elect Friedrich Karl Ludwig Konstantin Prinz und Landgraf von Hessen-Kassel, the brother-in-law of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany as the King of Finland. Republicans boycotted the elections.

Now the country had a Finnish Regent, a German King and a dubious legal situation with an old Swedish-era constitution dating back to 1772 being still officially in force. But as the monarchists were busily planning the crowning ceremony, the geopolitical changes elsewhere in the world finally affected the situation of Finland. While the Finns were electing their king, the German war effort was crumbling on the Western Front and on the 11th of November 1918 the guns of the Great War fell silent in the trenches of Belgium and France. A month later Friedrich Karl wrote a formal letter of resignation to the Finnish Senate. In the backlash of their political defeat the Monarchist Senate left office, and a new State Council was assembled to lead the country. The State Council summoned Mannerheim to temporarily lead the country as Regent until the first Presidential elections could be organized in the following summer.

Next - The Heimosodat, or Finnish Kinship Wars
The Heimosodat - Part 1

I'm including this section on the Heimosodat ("Kinship Wars") as it's a pretty good background to the strongly nationalist feelings among a fairly large sector of the Finnish population at the time, and thus somewhat relevant to my scenario as it progresses. It's also a bit of Finnish history not many people outside of Finland have every heard of.

The Heimosodat

The Heimosodat, or Kinship Wars (in English literally "Kindred Nations Wars", "Wars for kindred peoples" or "Kinship Wars" for Finnic kinship) were the conflicts in territories inhabited by other Finnic peoples, often in Russia or in borders of Russia, in which some 9000 Finnish volunteers took part between 1918 and 1922, to assert Finnish control over areas with predominantly Finnic populations. Many of the volunteer soldiers were inspired by the idea of Greater Finland. Some of the conflicts were incursions from Finland and some were local uprisings, where volunteers wanted either to help the people in their fight for independence or to annex the areas to Finland. When Finland declared independence, a century of nationalist agitation had created a mood where Finnish politicians viewed Eastern Karelia as nationally Finnish territory that should be included to any future administrative reorganization of the Grand Duchy and a good part of the population of the former Grand Duchy felt that they had an obligation to help other Finnic peoples to attain the same. The Finnish Civil had awakened a strong nationalistic feeling that sought tangible ways to make itself have an impact and in February 1918, Mannerheim, the commander of the Finnish White Army, wrote his famous "sword scabbard order of the day", in which he said that he would not return his sword to his scabbard until East Karelia was free of Russian control. Finland had, incidentally, for the two next decades, a relatively high citizen participation in nationalistic activities (e.g Karelianism and Finnicization of the country and its institutions).


Greater Finland

The Heimosodat themselves consisted of a number of different conflicts that Finnish volunteers participated in. Generally, these are described as:
The Estonian War of Independence (1918–1920) – in which the Pohjan Pojat ("Sons of the North") and I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko (I Finnish Volunteer Corps) helped Estonian troops.
The Viena expedition (1918)
The Murmansk Legion
The Aunus expedition (1919)
The Petsamo expeditions (1918 and 1920)
The East Karelian Uprising (1921–1922)
The National revolt of Ingrian Finns (1918–1920)

The Expeditions

East Karelia - 1918

Already during the Finnish Civil War the White forces had begun to prepare for intervention in the region, looking to utilize the collapse of the Russian state to fulfill the nationalist goal of unifying the "kindred nation" of Karelians with Finland. At the same time the Finnish Senate wanted to avoid direct confrontation with the factions of the Russian Civil War, and thus refused to send the official military across the border. Yet the recruitment of volunteers was never abolished, and soon various volunteer units composed of Civil War and Suojeluskunta veterans marched eastwards filled with nationalist zeal. The Entente Powers were not amused. Where the Finnish nationalists saw a long-waited fulfillment of their nationalist agenda, Britain and France saw the aggressive expansionism of a German puppet state into the strategically important territory of their former key ally whom they were doing their best to keep in the War.

On 6th March 1918 the Royal Navy landed 130 Royal Marines in Murmansk with the tasks of guarding the local supply storages and preventing the Finnish forces from reaching and cutting the Murmansk Railway. The Entente Campaign in North Russia had begun. The original goals of this operation were ambitious, hoping to create a new anti-German resistance center to the former Eastern Front in the north by providing support to local anti-Bolshevik forces. As a result of these conflicting goals, Eastern Karelia was about soon experience the chaotic summer of 1918. The complexities of the local political situation in Eastern Karelia are best explained by viewing the motives of various local factions and forces. The locals themselves were Karelians, a Finnic Orthodox ethnic group that had gradually developed their own separate distinct culture with Russian influences and some key differences to Finns in a similar way the South Slavic population of Balkans gradually separated from their common origins into Serbs, Croats and Bosnians. 19th century ethnic nationalist Fennomans saw East Karelia as the ancient home of Finnic culture, "un-contaminated" by both Scandinavians and Slavs. In the sparsely populated East Karelian backwoods, mainly in Vienan Karelia, Elias Lönnrot collected the folk tales that ultimately would become Finland's national epic, the Kalevala.

In 1918 Karelians were hungry and uncertain of their political future. During the last century they had seen widespread settlement by Russian immigrants into their formerly remote home territory due the growing importance of Murmansk, and the ever closer linking of their local economy to the city of St. Petersburg. However, due to the chaos caused by the Revolution, grain supplies from the south had been cut off and the local population was threatened with starvation. Politically the Karelian local leaders would have preferred independence, or at least autonomy from whomever would rule Russia after the Civil War. Only some of them initially supported the idea of state union with "the Swedes", as the locals referred to their Lutherian Finnic neighbors to the West.

The Viena Expedition

The Viena Expedition was the attempt by Finnish volunteer forces to annex White Karelia (Vienan Karjala). The expedition was made up of two groups. The group in the North, made up of Finnish Jäger troops, was led by Lieutenant Kurt Martti Wallenius. Initial operations in Northern Finland were successful and the Red Finns were forced to withdraw to Eastern Karelia. Wallenius and his light infantry crossed the border at Kuusamo but got bogged down in fighting the Finnish Red Guards. The low level of training and the low morale of the conscripted troops made any advance impossible and only the withdrawal of the defending Red Finns allowed the White Finns to advance a small distance until the troops again mutinied at the goals of the operations having passed the state border. In the end the force was withdrawn back within the Finnish borders and performed only small incursions into East Karelia.

Volunteer force of the Vienna Expedition crossing the border into Eastern Karelia, Summer 1918

The Finnish southern Viena Expeditionary Force was more sucessful at first. This group was led by Lieutenant Colonel Carl Wilhelm Malm and consisted of about 350 volunteers. By 10 Apri 1918l, Malm's group had advanced as far as the coastal town of Kem on the White Sea. Malm was unable to capture the town and retreated to Uhtua where he began defending western White Sea Karelia. The Finns now switched tactics and adopted a village-by-village strategy of persuading locals to join the Finnish volunteer side. When the Finnish troops arrived in White Sea Karelia they noticed that the population was divided. A part of the population wanted to secede from Russia and form an independent Karelia separate from Finland. However, a larger part of the population just wanted some form of autonomy. Many thought they would get autonomy as part of Bolshevist Russia. A small minority of the population wanted Karelia to be joined to the new state of Finland.

Most importantly, for the great majority of the population, practical issues (such as ensuring having enough food) were more important than ideological issues. In the end, the proposal to join East Karelia to Finland received support in the White Karelian villages around Uhtua. Local Finnish White Guard (Suojeluskunta) militias were formed in over 20 villages in that area. In July, Malm was recalled back to Finland and in his place Captain Toivo Kuisma was placed in charge of the Finnish troops. The Finnish government could not decide whether to recall the troops or to send reinforcements.

By June 1918 the British/American Murmansk Expeditionary Force in Eastern Karelia was steadily growing in size due the active work of Colonel P.J. Woods. Woods was acting more or less independently when he decided to bolster the ranks of his hodgepodge force of British-French-Polish-Serbian units by starting recruitment campaigns among the Finnish Red Guards that had withdrawn into Eastern Karelia after the Civil War and were now continuing their civil war against the Finnish volunteer military expeditions there. Woods allowed these men to enlist in his service, and by June 1918 he had over 1,500 volunteers, of whom he chose one-third to receive British military training and weapons. Even though this unit was mocked as "His Majestys Royal Bolsheviks" by many other officers of the expedition, Woods continued his recruitment efforts, this time targeting the local Karelian population, resulting in the creation of another volunteer force, the Karelian Regiment.

The situation of the Viena expedition began to deteriorate. The Karelian regiment stationed in Kem attacked the Finnish troops at Jyskyjärvi on 27 August. 18 men were lost. The next attack came against Luusalmi on 8 September when 42 Finns were killed. The following battles were fought at Kostamus and Vuokkiniemi in September-October. Soon Woods and his 4000-men strong "Irish Karelians" (Woods was of Northern Irish origin and the badge of the regiment, designed by Woods, consisting of a green shamrock on an orange field) were without question the strongest military force in the region, and the early hopes of Finnish nationalists were quickly fading away. Karelians were increasingly looking towards the Entente powers, especially Britain as the protector of their interests and the Finnish volunteer forces were unable to "rise the locals to revolt against their old Russian oppressors" as they had perhaps naively originally hoped. The Finnish Volunteer Forces had to offer little except nationalist propaganda, while the British provided bread and rifles to anyone willing to enlist to their service.

The British forces under Woods were able to push the Germans and Finns established in Uhtua out of White Karelia (Vienan Karjala), with the Finnish Volunteers returning to Finland on 2 October 1918. Woods success with the Karelians fostered unrealistic hopes of national self-determination which were ultimately unfulfilled, caught as they were between the Finns and Russians. The formation melted away as a transfer to White Russian command was attempted and Woods was evacuated in October 1919 with the rest of the British forces. The primary reason for the failure of the Finnish expeditions was the British intervention, which was driven by the strategic need to prevent then German-aligned Finland from cutting the Murmansk railroad.

The Aunus Expedition

The Aunus expedition was an attempt by Finnish volunteers to occupy parts of East Karelia in 1919. Earlier attempts in 1918 to take Petsamo and White Karelia (the Viena expedition) had failed, partly due to the passive or even hostile attitude of the Karelians. During the summer of 1918, the government of Finland received various appeals from Eastern Karelia to join the area to Finland. Especially active were the inhabitants of the parish of Repola, which had held a vote to join Finland. The Finnish Army occupied the parish in the fall of 1918. In January 1919 a small expedition of volunteers occupied the parish of Porajärvi, but was quickly repulsed by Bolshevik forces. Porajärvi held a vote on January 7 and also voted to join Finland.

In February 1919 Mannerheim made clear to the Western powers and the White Army that Finland would attack the Bolsheviks in Saint Petersburg if it would receive material and moral support. During the same time the plans for the Aunus expedition were prepared and the Jaeger-Major Gunnar von Herzen was chosen as the commander of the troops. He thought that the expedition would succeed with a thousand Finnish volunteers, but only if the Karelians would join the fighting. Mannerheim approved the plan, but demanded that Britain would also have to approve of it before it would proceed.

Finnish Volunteers of the Aunus Expedition on the assault in East Karelia

The expedition crossed the border on the night of April 21, 1919. The goals were to capture Lodeynoye Pole, Petrozavodsk and the Murmansk railroad. The troops were divided into three groups and were made up of 1000 volunteers. The southern group advanced to Lodeynoye Pole in just three days, but was pushed back behind the River Tuulos by Bolshevik troops. The northern group captured Prääsä. At this time it became obvious that there weren't enough troops to achieve the goals of the expedition. A new round of recruiting for 2000 new volunteers was started and Mannerheim made Aarne Sihvo the new commander of the expedition. Major Paavo Talvela's regiment started an attack aimed at Petrozavodsk on June 20, but was beaten by Bolsheviks and Finnish Red Guard forces just outside the town after Trotsky sent in fresh Bolshevik reinforcements.

The British troops that operated along the Murmansk railroad were quite close by, but did not participate. The Finns had hoped that the Karelian population would have joined the troops as volunteers but only a few did and their morale was never very high. The initiative now passed to the Bolsheviks. On June 26 over 600 Finns of the Red Officer School in Saint Petersburg made a landing at Vitele across Lake Ladoga behind the Finnish lines. The southern group was forced to retreat to Finland after suffering heavy losses. Talvela's group was also forced to retreat back to Finland, with Finnish volunteer forces remaining only in the two border parishes of Repola and Porajärvi.

The East Karelian Uprising

In the treaty of Tartu in 1920 Finland and Soviet Union agreed on their common border. Repola and Porajärvi were left on the Soviet side and the Finnish troops had to be withdrawn before February 14, 1921. During the treaty negotiations, Finland proposed a referendum in East Karelia, through which its residents could choose whether they wanted to join Finland or Soviet Russia. Due to opposition from Russia, Finland had to withdraw the initiative. In return for ceding Repola and Porajärvi back to Russia, Finland acquired Petsamo and a promise of cultural autonomy for East Karelia. However this promise of cultural autonomy was not met. The young police chief in Repola, Bobi Sivén shot himself in protest.

The East Karelian Uprising began in November 1921 and ended on March 21, 1922 with the Agreements between the governments of Soviet Russia and Finland on the inviolability of the Soviet–Finnish border. The motivation for the uprising was the East Karelians' year long experience of the Bolshevik regime – not respecting promises of autonomy, food shortages, the Finnish nationalist “kindred activists” desire to amend the results of the "shameful peace" of Tartu, and the wishes of exiled East Karelians. Finnish kindred activists, notably Jalmari Takkinen, the deputy of Bobi Sivén, the bailiff of Repola, had been conducting a campaign in the summer of 1921 in order to rouse the East Karelians to fight against the Bolshevik belligerents of the ongoing Russian Civil War. The pivotal moment in the uprising was the council meeting of the Karelian Forest Guerrillas (Karjalan metsäsissit) in mid-October 1921. It voted in favor of secession from Soviet Russia. The key leadership was formed by military leaders: Finnish-born Jalmari Takkinen, aka. Ilmarinen, Ossippa Borissainen and Vaseli Levonen aka. Ukki Väinämöinen, who had prominent Karelian features and a general resemblance to the Finnish mythical character, Väinämöinen – and as such was deemed suitable for his role as an ideological leader.

Finnish and East Karelian soldiers figting side by side against Russians in the East Karelian uprising

Some 550 Finnish volunteers joined the uprising, acting mostly as officers and squad leaders. Most famous of them was Paavo Talvela and Erik Heinrichs, who later served as high ranking staff officer in the Winter War. The uprising is a peculiarity among the heimosodat at this time as the initiative was not taken by Finnish insurgents, but by East Karelian separatists, and Finnish government remained officially passive. The uprising began with the immediate summary execution of anyone who was or was suspected of being a Bolshevik. The uprising escalated into military engagements over October–November 1921. The 2,500 Forest Guerrillas were initially fairly successful, despite their lack of proper equipment and by the autumn of 1921 a major part of White Karelia was under their control.

The East Karelian rebels got some publicity in international media, but they had expected Finland to intervene with its defence forces. However, the Finnish government refused any official participation, but it did not prevent private Finnish volunteer activists from crossing the border. Finland also agreed to send humanitarian aid to the East Karelian rebels, taking the risk of provoking a war with the Soviet Union. Russian historians, however, stipulate that the Finnish government did support the uprising in a military manner, and was intervening in an internal conflict. In Northern White Karelia the smaller Vienan Rykmentti (Viena Regiment) was formed. On November 6, 1921 the Finnish and Karelian forces began a new incursion into East Karelia. According to Finnish historians, on that day Karelian guerrillas and Finnish volunteer forces attacked in Rukajärvi. Russian historian Alexander Shirokorad claims this force was 5,000–6,000 strong, which is twice the total strength of East Karelians and Finnish volunteers combined according to Finnish records.

Command of the Battalion in Olonets Karelia was first taken by Gustaf Svinhufvud and thereafter by Talvela, at the middle of December 1921. By the end of December 1921, the Finnish volunteers and Karelian Forest Guerrillas had advanced to the Kiestinki Suomussalmi – Rukajärvi – Paatene – Porajärvi lines. Finnish support of the uprising with volunteers and humanitarian aid caused a chill in Finnish-Russian diplomatic relations. Leon Trotsky, the commander of the Red Army, announced that he was ready to march towards Helsinki and Soviet Russian troops would strike the East Karelian rebels with a 20,000 strong army via the Murmansk railway. Meanwhile, approximately 20,000 troops of the Red Army led by Alexander Sedyakin reached Karelia and mounted a counterattack. The Red Army also had Red Finns within its ranks. These Finns had emigrated to Soviet Russia after their defeat in the Finnish Civil War.

At the onset of winter the resistance of the Forest Guerrillas collapsed under the superior numbers of the Red Army, famine, and freezing cold. The rebels panicked, and their troops started to retreat towards the Finnish border. According to Shirokorad, the troops of the Red Army had crushed the main group of the Finnish and Karelian troops by the beginning of January 1922 and had retaken Porajärvi and Repola. On January 25th 1922 the northern group of the Soviet troops had occupied Kestenga and Kokkosalmi, and by the beginning of February occupied the settlement Ukhta. During the final stages of the uprising, the Red "Pork mutiny" occurred in Finland, sparking a hope among the rebels and Finnish volunteers that this would cause the Finnish government to intervene and provide military aid to the insurgents. This did not happen; on the contrary, the minister of the Interior, Heikki Ritavuori, tightened border controls, closed the border preventing food and munitions shipments, and prohibited volunteers crossing over to join the uprising.

The assassination of Ritavuori on February 12, 1922 by a Finnish nationalist activist did not change the situation. The last unit of the uprising, remnants of Viena Regiment, fled Tiirovaara on February 16, 1922 at 10.45 am and reached the border at 1 pm. On June 1, 1922 in Helsinki, Finland and Soviet Russia signed an Agreement between the RSFSR and Finland about the measures providing the inviolability of the Soviet–Finnish border. Both parties agreed to reduce the number of border guards and to keep those who did not reside permanently in the border zone from freely crossing the border from either side to the other. Towards the end of the uprising some 30,000 East Karelian refugees evacuated to Finland.

A 1922 Bolshevik propaganda poster: "We don't want war, but we will defend the Soviets!"

Next – Estonia and Ingria
Petsamo and The Estonian War of Independance and Finland....

In addition to the expeditions into Karelia, there were a number of other conflicts involving Finnish volunteers in the years between 1918 and 1922.

The Petsamo Excursions of 1918 amd 1920

The idea of these expeditions was to bring Petsamo officially under Finnish control, and then to establish and place border guards on the Finnish - Russian border in order to solidify the Finnish claim to Petsamo, which was based on the promise of Czar Alexander II, who had undertaken to award Petsamo to Finland in exchange for the territory of the Siestarjoki / Sestroryetsk weapons factory on the Karelian Isthmus. In 1918, both Finnish Whites and Reds were interested in the Petsamo area. The Finnish Reds (People’s Commissar George Sirola) negotiated over Petsamo with the Bolsheviks, while the Finnish Whites sent an expedition to lay claim to the area.

The 1918 expedition: In the spring of 1918, the Finns sent two expeditions, which later joined together. One of these two expeditions had a strength of about 100 men and was lead by Dr. Thorsten Renvall (brother of Senator Heikki Renvall, who was the leader of the Finnish Senate aka the Finnish Government in Vaasa during Civil War). The other expedition was financed by businessmen, and was known as Lapin Rakuunat (The Dragoons of Lapland) and was also lead by a doctor - Onni Laitinen. In May of 1918 the two expeditions arrived together at Petsamo. The British North Russia Expeditionary Force based in Murmansk considered these Finnish expeditions a threat, since they were worried that the Germans might arrive in the area after the Finns and take over it for their own purposes (the major concern of the British was that the Germans might use Petsamo as a Submarine base, targeting British shipping to Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, which had become major transit ports for the transhipment of military equipment and munitions to Russia for use in fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front).

Leaders of the first Petsamo Expedition – Rovaniemi: 1918. Pictured left to right, front (in the white hat and coat): Thorsten Renvall (CO), Johan Bäckman, Julius Niemura, Jalmari Ruokokoski. Arvi Vinberg and Hjalmar Mehring. Rear: Ellen Id, Elvi Halle, Helge Aspelund, Ester Fogelberg, who is holding the flag created for the expedition by the artist, Jalmari Ruokokoski.

On the 3rd of May 1918, HMS Cochrane brought troops to Petsamo (100 Royal Marines, 40 sailors and 40 Russian Reds, commanded by Captain Brown). The Finnish Expeditionary Force fought the British for three days until the 6th of May, when HMS Cochrane brought in reinforcements (35 additional soldiers, five Lewis machineguns plus sailors, and also landed a 12-pound artillery gun as additional support). On the 10th of May the British captured Petsamo and succeeded in repelling the Finnish counter-attack. After this, the British replaced their troops with 200 Serbian soldiers (The Allies were using Serbian soldiers, among others, in the North Russian Expeditionary Force). The Finnish expeditions headed back south. Finland and Britain exchanged diplomatic notes and Britain advised that it didn't have anything against Finnish demands concerning Petsamo. The Finnish force consisted contained mostly civilians (not such a surprise considering the timing – the Finnish Civil War ended officially on the 15th of May).

HMS Cochrane

The 1920 expedition: This expedition in the spring of 1920 consisted of about 60 men and was led by Kurt Martti Wallenius (who was better known later as one of the leaders of the Lapua movement and then as the commander of the Lapland Group during the Winter War). From the 16th of April the expedition was lead by Major Gustaf Taucher. The Russian Bolsheviks sent a ski battalion created in Murmansk to fight against it. This expedition also failed and was forced to return south tp Finnish territory. Despite these military defeats, the Treaty of Tartu agreed that the Petsamo area would become part of Finland.

The Estonian War of Independence Nov 1918 to Feb 1920

Estonia had been subject to some sort of foreign hegemony since the 13th century and had been a province of Imperial Russia since 1710. Then, amidst the turmoil of World War I and the Russian Revolution, chaos ensued: foreign armies (Bolshevik, White Russian and German) came and went. Estonia sought independence and between 1918 and 1920 fought a war to achieve this. The war attracted a diverse range of participants. Estonian efforts to achieve independence were augmented by White Russian soldiers fighting to restore the Russian Empire, by Finnish, Swedish, and Danish volunteers, and by a British naval presence. Estonia also fought a bloody battle on its southern border against a Baltic German military force. There was a great deal of battlefield realignment, and front lines moved dramatically as each side’s fortunes rose and fell: at one point, Soviet forces came within 35 kilometers of Tallinn; at another, Estonian forces conquered Pskov and got quite close to St Petersburg (then called Petrograd).

By the time it was over, the 14-month war had claimed 3,588 Estonian lives and left 13,775 Estonians injured. Estonian and Soviet Russian negotiators met in Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city, to negotiate peace. In the resulting Tartu Peace Treaty, signed on February 2nd, 1920, Soviet Russia recognized Estonian independence and forever renounced claims on Estonian territory. The Soviets also agreed to pay Estonia restitution in the amount of 15 million gold rubles. But between the Bolshevik Revolution and the Taru Peace Treaty, a great deal had occurred.

In November 1917, on the disintegration of the Russian Empire, a diet of the Autonomous Governorate of Estonia, the Estonian Provincial Assembly, which had been elected in the spring of that year, proclaimed itself the highest authority in Estonia. Soon after, the Bolsheviks dissolved the Estonian Provincial Assembly and temporarily forced the pro-independence Estonians underground in the capital Tallinn. A few months later, using a moment of time between the Red Army's retreat and the arrival of the Imperial German Army, the Salvation Committee of the Estonian National Council, Maapäev, issued the Estonian Declaration of Independence in Tallinn on February 24, 1918 and formed the Estonian Provisional Government. This first period of independence was extremely short-lived, as the German troops entered Tallinn on the following day. The German authorities recognized neither the provisional government, nor its claim for Estonia's independence, viewing them as a self-styled group usurping the sovereign rights of the (Germanic) Baltic nobility.

However, after the capitulation of Imperial Germany in November 1918, the situation in the Baltic became increasingly chaotic. The Russian Empire had collapsed and was in the throes of Civil War. Estonia, Latvia amd Lithuania has been granted nominal independence by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but Lenin had also declared: "The Baltic must become a Soviet sea," and unleashed his forces across the region. German garrisons held many of the major cities, few of them were inclined to obey their government's order to return home. And in Latvia and Estonia, White Russian forces were gathering, bent on retaking the Bolshevik stronghold of Petrograd and rebuilding the Russian empire. In Estonia, the representatives of Germany formally handed over political power to the Estonian Provisional Government. On 16 November 1918, the Estonian provisional government called for voluntary mobilization and started to organize the Estonian Army, with Konstantin Päts as Minister of War, Major General Andres Larka as the chief of staff, and Major General Aleksander Tõnisson as commander of the Estonian Army, initially consisting of one division.

Brothers, Hurry to Join the Nation's Army!: Estonian Army Recruiting poster in 1918

The Estonian War of Independence began a few days later, when on 28 November 1918 the Bolshevik 6th Red Rifle Division attacked units of the Estonian Defence League (which partly consisted of secondary school pupils) and the German Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 405 who were defending the border town of Narva. The Red’s, with their force of 7,000 infantry, 22 field guns, 111 machine guns, an armored train, 2 armored vehicles, 2 airplanes, and the Bogatyr class cruiser Oleg supported by 2 destroyers captured Narva almost immediately (on the 28th of November 1918). The Red force then advanced to the Tapa railway junction by Christmas Eve, later advancing to 34 kilometers from the capital Tallinn. Estonian Bolsheviks declared the Estonian Workers' Commune in Narva. The German Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 405 withdrew westwards. At the same time, the 2nd Novgorod Division opened a second front south of Lake Peipus with a force of 7000 infantry, 12 field guns, 50 machine guns, 2 armored trains, and 3 armored vehicles. The 49th Red Latvian Rifle Regimen took Valga railway junction on 18 December and Tartu town on Christmas Eve. By the end of the year, the 7th Red Army controlled Estonia along a front line 34 kilometers east of Tallinn, west from Tartu and south of Ainaži.

Front line Estonian Soldiers in the trenchs fighting for independence

The Red Army attack starting at the end of 1918 hit Estonia in an extremely difficult situation. The administration and army of the young republic were only then being formed, and had very little experience. The army lacked sufficient weapons and equipment. Food and money were scarce and the population of the towns were in danger of starvation. Although the majority of the population did not support the Bolsheviks, their faith in the survival of the national state was not high. People did not believe that the Republic of Estonia would be able to resist the attacks of the Red Army. The Estonian government nevertheless decided to oppose the Bolshevist aggression, hoping for help from the Western countries (i.e. the former Russian allies in World War I) and Finland.

Opposing the two Red Army Divisions was an Estonian military force consisting of 2,000 men equipped with light weapons and about 14,500 poorly armed Estonian Defence League (Home Guard) soldiers. The end of November 1918 also saw the formation of an Estonian Baltic battalion, made up of volunteers belonging to Estonia's Baltic German minority. This battalion was thus one of the first fighting units of the Estonian Army, and stayed loyal to the authorities of the republic, unlike the Landeswehr in neighbouring Latvia. External help was essential, but it would have been insufficient without Estonia’s own decisive steps. Active organisational work was conducted, and new army units were formed. On 23 December 1918, the energetic Colonel Johan Laidoner was appointed Commander in Chief of the Estonian armed forces, and recruited 600 officers and 11,000 volunteers by 23 December 1918. He reorganized the forces by setting up the 2nd Division in Southern Estonia under the command of Colonel Viktor Puskar, along with commando type units, such as the Tartumaa Partisan Battalion and Kalevi Malev. At the first opportunity he planned a counter-attack and forced the Red Army out of Estonia.

Colonel Johan Laidoner, Commander in Chief of the Estonian armed forces

Meanwhile, the British government had been uncertain how to handle the unstable situation in the Baltic. The British agreed with the principle of supporting the newborn states in their independence and were now opposed to the Bolshevik’s, in general supporting White Russian and Independence movements throughout the former Russian Empire.

But the British, after four years of carnage in France, feared the political fall-out a prolonged infantry campaign in Russia would cause. Spurred by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Wester "Rosy" Wemyss, a man who believed in extending the "freedom of the seas" principle to the Baltic, the British Government decided to send a naval task force "to show the British flag and support British policy as circumstances dictate." On Nov. 22 1918, the Sixth Light Cruiser Squadron - five light cruisers and nine destroyers plus supporting vessels - sailed for the Baltic under the command of Rear-Admiral Edwin Alexander-Sinclair. First blood was soon shed: the squadron was passing northwest of Saaremaa, heading for Tallinn, when the cruiser Cassandra struck a German mine and sank with the loss of eleven hands. It was an ill-omened start, but the British soon recovered.

The flagship of British Admiral Kelly in Tallinn harbour. The Royal Navy took part in the Estonian War of Independence from the end of 1918, and was a considerable help in securing victory for the Estonian Army. The extensive British assistance was not, however, totally selfless — it was also an attempt to keep Estonia in an anti-Bolshevist coalition, which in the end did not succeed; the separate peace treaty of the Republic of Estonia with the Soviet Union caused much dissatisfaction in Western countries

The British intervention had some immediately beneficial impacts on the Estonian fight for independence. On arrival at Tallinn on 31 December 1918, the Squadron delivered 6500 rifles, 200 machine guns and 2 field guns to the Estonian Army. Soon after reaching Tallinn they sailed again, steaming to Narva to bombard the Bolshevik positions there. Their actions infuriated Trotsky, who ordered: "They must be destroyed at any cost." On Dec. 26 1918 a Soviet task force left the Kronstadt naval base. One destroyer was sent to Tallinn to lure the British into an ambush, but when the British left harbor the destroyer began firing so wildly that it wrecked its own charthouse, concussed its helmsman and ran aground, signaling "All is lost. I am pursued by the English." By the end of the night two Soviet destroyers (the Spartak and the Avotril) had been captured (and were then donated to the Estonian navy, who renamed then Vambola and Lennuk), and the commissar of the Soviet fleet, F.F. Raskolnikov, had been found hiding under 12 sacks of potatoes and taken prisoner.

Estonian Destroyer Vambola (ex Spartak)

Viron Avustamisen Päätoimikunta / Committee to Aid Estonia
Meanwhile, in addition to assistance from the British, Estonia also obtained assistance from Finland. Estonia had made a number of requests for help to Finland in 1918 and public support for the provision of assistanc to Estonia (which linguistically and culturally is closely related to Finnish) was growing within Finland. On December 5th, 1918 Finland delivered 5000 rifles, 50 machineguns and 20 field guns together with ammunition. In addition, Finnish women’s groups organised clothing, bandages and medicine for export to Estonia.

Within Estonia, the situation continued to worsen through December and in Finland, right-wing newspapers were increasingly strident in their calls to assist Estonia. The Viron Avustamisen Päätoimikunta was founded on the 15th of December 1918 by Senator Oscar Wilho Louhivuori. Louhivuori was elected chairman of the Committee in Helsinki on the 20th December 1918, the Vice Chairman was Santosh Ivalo. Other members included figures with significant political and social influence within Finland, with representatives from all political parties except the Social Democrats. The committee’s main task was to organise the recruitment of volunteers for Estonia, for which permission was receieved from the Government and from the Regent (CGE Mannerheim).

Recruitment points were set up across the country and an agreement was reached with the Estonian Government on 18th December 1918 that a total of 2000 Volunteers would be sent, formed into two different volunteer forces. The leaders of these two forces were to be the Swedish Major Martin Ekström and Estonian Colonel Hans Kalm (both of whom had served in the White forces in the Finnish Civil War).

Hans Kalm

Martin Ekstrom

The Finnish government gave overall command of the Finnish Volunteers to Lieutenant General Martin Wetzer. The Committee registered a total of 10,000 volunteers through the recruiting points that had been set up, but of these only 4,000 were sent to Estonia (a number which was, however, twice the number of volunteers originally agreed between the two countries). It was also agreed however that if the situation in Estonia should further worsen, the remaining “reserve” of 6,000 volunteers would be sent. Of the 4,000 volunteers, almost all ended up fighting at the Front. The committee also arranged for other foreign volunteers to go to Estonia, notably a group of Swedish Volunteers and a further group of 175 soldiers and 16 Officers from Denmark (the Danish volunteers arrived in Helsinki from Copenhagen on 1 April 1919 and on 3 April arrived in Tallinn. The Danish volunteers fought in southern Estonia and northern Latvia, and many were decorated with various Estonian military medals. The commander of the Danes, Richard Gustav Borgelin, was promoted to lieutenant colonel for his services rendered in the War of Independence, and was given the manor of Maidla in recognition of his services.

Danish Volunteers in Estonia

The Swedish volunteer unit to support the Republic of Estonia in the Estonian War of Independence under the command of Carl Mothander was formed in Sweden in early 1919. In March 1919, 178 volunteers took part in scout missions in Virumaa. In April, the company was sent to the Southern front and took part of the battles near Pechory. By May 5 there was 68 men left in the company. On May 17, the company was disbanded by the order of the Estonian Minister of War. Some of the volunteers returned home in Sweden, some joined the Estonian Army, some the Danish volunteer unit. Other commanders of the Swedish volunteers in Estonia included C.G. Malmberg and L. Hällen

Major Carl Axel Mothander, Commander of the Swedish volunteers in the Estonian War of Independence (where he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel)

The start of the war had not been successful for Estonia. On 29 November 1918, the Estonian Workers’ Commune was declared as an independent Soviet Estonian Republic, in occupied Narva. This was essentially a Soviet Russian puppet state, established in order to present the events in Estonia as a civil war. At the same time underground communist agitators continued their subversive activity in the Estonian rear and in the army throughout the War of Independence. The militarily more numerous Red Army had managed to conquer about half of mainland Estonia by early January 1919. Only about 30 km separated them from the capital, Tallinn. BUT … on 2 January 1919, a Finnish volunteer unit of 2000 men arrived in Estonia, escorted and partially transported by a Royal Navy Baltic detachment, incidentally at the same time as other Finnish volunteer units were fighting against British-sponsored forces in East Karelia (proof of the confused situation and political complexities in the Baltic and on the periphery of the now-imploded Russian Empire).

Finnish volunteers arrive in Tallinn Estonia in December 1918 – these consisted of two volunteer units, Pohjan Pojat ("Sons of the North") and I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko (Ist Finnish Volunteer Corps).

Things now took a sudden turn for the better – on 7th January 1919 the now reorganized Estonian troops (15,000 men), together with the Finnish volunteers began a counter-offensive. Within three weeks all of Estonian territory was liberated from the Bolsheviks. A significant role was played by the volunteer units, the highly motivated armoured train crews, and the Julius Kuperjanov Battalion (Julius Kuperjanov was an Estonian who had graduated from the Tartu Teachers’ College in 1914. In 1915 he was conscripted into the Russian Army, completing the School of Ensigns and served as CO of an infantry regiment’s recconnaisance unit. In late 1917 he joined the national armed forces of Estonia. During the German occupation in 1918 he helped to organise secret military groups that were to form the basis of the Estonian armed forces once the German occupation was over.

In November 1918 Kuperjanov was appointed the head of the Defence League in Tartu County. After the War of Independence had started, he assembled a battalion in December 1918 which took his name – the Kuperjanov Partisan Battalion. In the January 1919 battles he stood out for his brave, energetic and successful actions. Kuperjanov also demanded strict discipline, not allowing his men any alcohol or playing cards. On 31 January 1919 Kuperjanov was fatally wounded at Paju Manor near Valga when he led his men in the attack. In the Republic of Estonia in the twenties and thirties he posthumously became a national hero, a paragon of bravery and self-sacrifice. The regiment formed by Kuperjanov demonstrated an excellent fighting spirit throughout the rest of the War of Independence, and a battalion bearing his name has been restored in today’s Estonian army).

Julius Kuperjanov

An added factor in the Estonian success was that both the Estonian Army and the Finnish volunteers supporting the Estonian Army had the open support of both the Finnish Government and of the Royal Navy task force operating in the Baltic at the time (now under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Walter Cowan, who had replaced Sinclair in January 1919). And unlike in Eastern Karelia, the Finnish volunteer forces achieved major successes in the fighting in Estonia, Western Ingria and Northern Latvia. The 1st Suomalainen Vapaajoukko captured Narva shortly after their arrival in Estonian in an amphibious assault (another operation supported by the Royal Navy) to the rear of the Red Army units - Trotsky himself was reportedly inside the city organizing the defense at the time the Finns stormed the city in a surprise attack. The defense collapsed, and Trotsky managed to get out before being captured.

Lt. Eskola of 1st Suomalainen Vapaajoukko in Narva

In February 1919 the Estonian government and army command set the military objective as being push the frontline as far from Estonia’s borders as possible. To this end they hoped that the Russian Whites (who had formed the Northern Corps - later the North-Western Army) would come to power in north-western Russia and the local nationalists in Latvia. In February 1919, as part of an agreement with the Latvian government, Latvian troops were formed in Estonia. Repeated attempts by the Estonian army to push the Red Army out of Estonia and fight the war in Russia and Latvia failed until May 1919, when Estonian troops together with the Northern Corps started an offensive towards Petrograd, pushed the frontline beyond the borders of Estonia and conquered a large territory east of Lake Peipsi. Forcing the enemy out of the country increased faith in the authority of the state, and enabled a further mobilisation that was crucial in continuing to fight the much larger Red Army. At the same time the Red Army had considerably supplemented its forces fighting against Estonia (between February and May, 6-8 percent of the Red Army forces or about 80,000 men were active on the Estonian Front) and carried out their own (unsuccessful) offensives.

In May the Estonian Army consisted of about 75,000 men, by the end of the year the number had increased to 90,000 – and this, combined with the new frontline beyond the borders, considerably reduced the danger of another Bolshevik invasion (in August, however, the troops retreated in order to protect the Estonia’s borders). Another key factor in the continuing success of the war was the foodstuffs, military equipment and weapons provided by Great Britain and the USA throughout 1919. Ongoing communist propaganda was seriously undermined by the revelations about the mass murders committed by the Bolsheviks while they had temporarily held power (among others, they had killed the Estonian Orthodox bishop Platon in Tartu). On 23 April 1919 the Estonian Constituent Assembly gathered in Tallinn. Its greatest achievement was the adoption of a Constitution and of land reform legislation. On the basis of the latter, a radical land reform program was carried out in 1920, mainly aiming to nationalise the lands of the German-owned manors and to distribute this land to the peasants, especially those who were takingt part in the War of Independence.

To a certain degree, the radical character of the land act was influenced by the so-called Landeswehr War waged in June and July 1919. In the course of that war, Estonian troops defeated the German army group based in Latvia and headed by Major-General Rüdiger von der Goltz, which consisted of many representatives of the Baltic German nobility from Latvia and Estonia. As a result of the Landeswehr’s defeat, the government of Kārlis Ulmanis came to power in Latvia, and Estonia now enjoyed a friendly neighbour to the south. As eastern Latvia was still occupied by the Red Army and the army of the Latvian Republic needed some organisation, the Estonian military command partly undertook the protection of the front there (until December 1919).

For the British, the situation in the Baltics had been complicated by the arrival of German Major-General Rudiger von der Goltz, and for the whole of 1919, Rear-Admiral Cowan's greatest challenges were to keep the Soviet fleet penned in Kronstadt and to stop the Germans overrunning the Baltics. His success was spectacular. The Soviet fleet had been reorganized following the loss of its two destroyers, and Trotsky had given the blunt instruction: "The Revolution must put the British fleet out of action." At first, fortune favored him: mines damaged the British cruiser Curacoa and sank the submarine L-55 and the minesweepers Myrtle and Gentian with the loss of over 50 lives. But despite these losses, the British managed to keep the Soviet navy from intervening in Estonia's war for independence, but failed to cause material harm until June 1919.

Major-General Rudiger von der Goltz

In that month, a single 40-foot coastal motor boat commanded by Lieutenant Augustus Agar (based out of Finland) penetrated the Kronstadt minefield and sank the cruiser Oleg. The action inspired Cowan, and on Aug. 17 he sent eight CMBs into Kronstadt. These small motorboats, armed only with torpedoes and machine guns, entered the main harbor basin and sank the Soviet fleet's two chief battleships and a store-ship. In the hail of fire that followed, three CMBs were sunk with the loss of 15 lives; but as Cowan commented of the Soviet fleet: "Nothing bigger than a destroyer ever moved again." Although a Soviet submarine later sank one British destroyer and a mine sank another, the Soviet naval threat to Estonia's flank was permanently lifted.

In Latvia, meanwhile, the situation was more complex. The largest armed force there was Goltz' German army, and Goltz was bent on conquest. To further his dream he repeatedly sabotaged the creation of a Latvian army, arranged a Baltic German coup, built a wall along Liepaja quay to keep Latvians and British apart (the British waited until the wall was finished, then simply moved their ships around it) and accused Karlis Ulmanis of having Bolshevik sympathies. The Latvian leader took shelter on the Latvian ship SS Saratov, and for the next few months his government lived under the protection of the Royal Navy's guns. When Goltz was forced to resign in September 1919, he was replaced by the Russian adventurer Paul Bermondt-Avalov, whose army promptly attacked Riga.

Pavel Bermondt-Avalov

Latvia's nascent army deserves all the credit for stopping them; but throughout the battles, Cowan's ships and a French flotilla provided artillery support and transport, enabling Latvian forces to capture the fortress of Daugavgriva and turn the enemy flank. In the process, HMS Dragon was struck by German artillery with the loss of nine lives. Soon after, Avalov's forces attacked Liepaja, and again the Allied ships acted as floating batteries, covering the Latvian counter-attack that drove the Germans out of the city.

HMS Dragon in action

The Bolsheviks decided to make peace with Estonia and thus exclude it from among the enemies of Soviet Russia. In August Moscow officially offered peace to Estonia. The Estonian politicians and the higher military were divided in two on this matter, trying to work out whose victory in the Russian Civil War (Whites or Reds) would be more advantageous for Estonia. The majority thought that the Whites, who were reluctant to recognised Estonian independence, constituted a bigger threat. In autumn 1919 it was realised that the Russian Whites were going to lose, so the only chance of getting the economically struggling Estonia out of the gruelling war was to make peace with the Bolsheviks. Another factor supporting this decision was that throughout 1919 the Republic of Estonia had failed to get de jure recognition from the Western countries.

Signing the Tartu Peace Treaty

Peace talks with Soviet Russia started on 5 December 1919 in Tartu. The simultaneous offensive of the Red Army aiming to influence the talks did not produce the desired effect. An armistice was announced on 3 January 1920. On 2 February the Tartu Peace Treaty was signed – the Republic of Estonia and the Soviet Russia recognised each other, declared the end of the war and determined the post-war cooperation plans. The War of Independence had cost the Estonian troops about 2,300 men killed, about 13,800 were wounded (including about 300 killed and 800 wounded in the Landeswehr War), plus the losses of foreign volunteers and allied forces.

Next: Finnish Volunteer Units in Estonia: Pohjan Pojat ("Sons of the North") and I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko (Ist Finnish Volunteer Corps) – and the Ingrian Uprising
Finnish Volunteers in the Estonian War of Independence

Finnish Volunteers in the Estonian War of Independence
Two groups of Finnish Volunteers took part in the Estonian War of Independence, I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko (1st Finnish Volunteer Corps) commanded by the Swedish Maj. Martin Ekström and Pohjan Pojat (The “Boys from the North”) commanded by Colonel Hans Kalm. Finnish Army Major-General Martin Wetzer was the Commander-in-Chief of both units.

OTL Note: The last surviving Finnish volunteer who fought in the Estonian War of Independance, Paavo Takula, died in 2004.

Paavo Takula was one of 4,000 Finnish volunteers, 175 of whom were killed. Takula joined the Volunteers even though his mother asked him not too. "I went because my father and brothers went," he explained. The Takula family paid a heavy price fighting for Estonia’s freedom. His father and older brother went missing and another brother was killed. "The Soviet Navy shot at us from a large warship, our bunker was hit by a shell, and Mikko was hit by a 12-inch shell fragment," recalled Takula. His brother lived for two weeks with a broken backbone before dying from his injuries. The attack also resulted in Paavo losing the hearing in one ear.

As can be seen from the map below, the front moved out of Estonia and east into Russia, nearing the outskirts of Petrograd and southwards into Latvia, reaching Riga. The Finnish volunteer units participated in much of the fighting before they were withdrawn or disbanded.


I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko / 1st Finnish Volunteer Corps

The 1st Finnish Volunteer Corps was a Finnish military volunteer group who participated in the Estonian War of Independence in 1918 - 1919. The 1,550 man-strong regiment was commanded by the Swedish Maj. Martin Ekström, formed up in Finland in December 1918 and was transported to Estonia on the 30th December 1918.

The Bolshevik forces had been making rapid progress up until the arrival of the battle-hardened and experienced Finnish troops. The arrival of the Finns triggered the arousal of the Estonians fighting spirit, and this together with the experience of the Finnish troops enabled the Estonians to achieve their first victories. Incidentally, the Bolshevik forces also included many Finns from the Red Guards and to a certain extent, the fighting turned into a continuation of the Finnish Civil War fought in northern Estonia. I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko attacked vigorously, capturing Rakvere on 12 January 1919. This was followed by a successful seaborne attack (transported by the Royal Navy) by 500 volunteers on Narva on 17 January.

The taking of Narva was the most important military achievement of I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko in the Estonian War of Independence. The volunteers lost ten men killed, two missing and thirty-forty wounded in the action against a Bolshevik force many times larger which fled in panic. Trotsky and the Estonian Communist leader Jaan Aanveltia were in Narva at the time and barely escaped capture. The remainder of the Finnish and Estonian forces arrived the next day and assisted in clearing the city of the enemy remnants. In the clearance operation, 27 Red Finns were captured and subsequently executed in front of the Narva City Hall. The capture of Narva was a humiliating defeat for the Red Army and an inspiration to the nascent Estonian forces. The capture of the city also captured the attention of the foreign press and made news around the world.

The C-in-C of the Estonian Army, Johan Laidoner, promoted Ekstrom to Colonel after the victory and requested that the Finns continue the attack into Western Ingria. However, the overall commander of the Finnish volunteers, Major General Wetzer did not want volunteer forces to exceed the Estonian national borders. The Estonian/Finnish forces therefore held the line of the Narva-Peipsi until the end of the war while Estonian and White Russian forces continued to advance further into Russia, reaching the approaches to St Petersburg and capturing Pskov, which was occupied by the Estonian army between February 1919 and July 1919


Estonian troops cross the Velikaya River taking over Pskov. Pastel by E. Brinkmann

After the capture of Narva, I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko was no longer involved in large operations and withdrew to a reserve position at Rakvere before being disbanded in March. Overall, I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko lost only 31 men, a very low number. Aside from skill and experience, the units advantages had been their unshakable faith in victory, and their ability to achieve the element of surprise in battle.

Pohjan Pojat (The “Boys from the North”)

Pohjan Pojat (the “Boys from the North”) were the second of the Finnish Volunteer Units to participate in the Estonian War of Independence. While the first Volunteer Unit (I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko / 1st Finnish Volunteer Corps) was larger and arrived in Estonia earlier, Pohjan Pojat achieved a legendary reputation, fighting on the Southern Front all the way to the Estonian border under the command of Colonel Hans Kalm.


Pohjan Poikien esikuntapäällikkö Elja Rihtniemi ja Pohjan Poikien päällikkö Hans Kalm (oikealla) / Pohjan Pojat’s Commanders: Chief of Staff Elja Rihtniemi and Hans Kalm (right)

Hans Kalm was an officer with experience from serving in the Russian Army (he was drafted in 1914 as an NCO, promoted to Lieutenant in 1915, attended Hatsinan Aviation School as a trainee. From December 1915, Kalm had served on the Galcian Front and had acted as the Battalion Commander. He was wounded in action four times, awared decorations for bravery and was promoted to Staff Captain in July 1916. When the Bolshevik Revolution broke out, Kalm escaped with the assistance of Romanian Officers and reached Estonia in late October 1917. In Estonia, he worked to assist in setting up an Estonian Army but after “difficulties” with the Russians and local Estonian communists (his house was burnt down) he escaped to Finland, where he worked in Lapland and Northern Finland under the pseudonym John Kontiomäki, helping establish Suojeluskunta units.

When the Finnish Civil War broke out in late February 1918, he gathered students and volunteers into the Northern Häme I Battalion, which he commanded. The battalion fought well under his leadership and towards the end of the Civil War he was promoted to Major in March 1918. Forces under his comman played an important role in the liberation of the city of Lahti. His battalion was somewhat notorious for the executions of Reds that were carried out during the Civil War. After the fighting was over, Kalm’s battalion guarded a Prison Camp at Hennala for Red PoW’s, where they executed some 500 Reds.

Writer and researcher Tauno Tukkinen has documented that of these executions, some 200 were women and children with an average age of 20 years (Tukkinen identified that the executed women ranged from 30 to 17 years old, including Nurses, with 25 girls younger than 17 executed. The youngest were 14 and 15-year old children). Kalm’s unit executed more Reds that any other White unit in the Civil War and similarly, executed more women than any other White Force. Almost all the killings of women were in the first two weeks of May, after which Kalm’s unit was transferred in late May to Hämeenlinna. Shortly after this the battalion was dissolved and Kalm resigned from the Finnish Army in July 1918 (he had been promoted to lieutenant colonel). He was promoted to full Colonel in August 1918 and received Finnish citizenship in 1918.

As soon as the Committee to Aid Estonia was set up and the decision was made to form Volunteer formations, Kalm began recuiting volunteers. Volunteers over the forst few weeks were assigned to I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko rather than to the more outspoken Kalm. On the 23rd Dec 1918 Kalm published a series of outspoken and emotional recruitment advertisements in Finnish newspapers in which he appealed to veterans of the Finnish Civil War, asking Finns to fight for humanity, justice, patriotism and to assist their brothers in Estonia. Meanwhile the Committee to Aid Estonia had decided that another thousand men should be sent to assist the Estonian forces under Kalm. Kalm however was not particularly interested in the force size limitation and recruited around 2,300 men, creating the equivalent of a strong Regiment or a small Brigade with two infantry battalions, three Artillery Batteries, Signals, Cavalry and Ski sections. The 1st Battalion was commanded by Jaeger Lieutenant Erkki Hannula while the 2nd Battalion was commanded by Captain Gustav Svinhufvud.

Pohjan Pohjat suffered from equipment and financing problems, which meant that while the first members of Pohjan Pohjat arrived in Estonia on 7 January 1919, the 1st Battalion did not complete arrival in Tallinn until 12 January 1919. They received a much warmer welcome than I Suomalainen Vapaajoukko due to the victories the earlier-arriving unit had achieved, being greeted on arrival by Estonian army chief Colonel Johan Laidoner, Estonia-Finland Volunteer Commander Maj. Gen. Martin Wetzer and the Estonian Minister of War, Konstantin Päts. Following their arrival, Pohjan Pohjat moved from Tallinn to Tartu on the southern front on 27 January 1919, which had been recently recaptured from the German Baltic Landswehr forces. Their first operation was against heavily armed Latvian Red Army forces on 31 January, where they fought together with the Estonian Julius Kuperjanov Partisan Battalion and Estonian armored trains in a bloody first battle at Paju Manor, during the course of which the 1st Battalion suffered heavy casualties, losing one officer, two NCO’s and 21 soldiers.

The Battle of Paju Manor

In early January 1919, Estonian forces had started a full scale counterattack against invading Soviets. Their main objective was liberating north Estonia including Narva, which was achieved by January 17. They then started to advance into south Estonia. On January 14, the Tartumaa Partisan Battalion, organised and led by Lieutenant Julius Kuperjanov, and armoured trains liberated Tartu. At that time the only working railway connection to Riga, which the Red Army had captured on January 3rd, passed through Valga, so defending Valga (in southern Estonia) had strategic importance for Soviet Russia. The Red Army sent a number of units to defend Varga and halt the Estonian advance, including a large part of the elite Latvian Riflemen. Estonian Commander-in-chief, Johan Laidoner reinforced the Estonian advance in the south, sending Pohjan Pojat under the command of Colonel Hans Kalm. Finnish General Paul Martin Wetzer was appointed the commander of the southern front.

To liberate Valga, it was necessary to capture Paju Manor. On January 30, Estonian partisans had briefly captured it, but were soon pushed out. With his 300 men, 2 guns and 13 machineguns, Kuperjanov decided to recapture Paju on January 31. Armoured trains were unable to support Kuperjanov’s unit, due to the destruction of the Sangaste railway bridge. The Latvian Riflemen holding Paju Estate had about 1,200 men with 4 guns and 32 machineguns. They were also supported by an armoured train and armoured cars. The Tartumaa Partisan Battalion attacked the estate directly over open fields. At 400 metres the Bolshevik troops opened fire, inflicting heavy casualties. Kuperjanov led the attack personally, as was his usual practice, and was fatally wounded, dying two days later. After Kuperjanov was hit, Lt. Johannes Soodla took command of the battalion.

Battle of Paju on January 31 1919. Watercolour by M. (Maksimilian) Maksolly

A little later in the day, Pohjan Pojat units with about 380 men arrived, bringing with them 4 guns and 9 machineguns. They also assaulted the estate in a frontal attack which caused heavy losses. In the evening the Estonians and Finns finally pushed into the park of the estate where heavy hand-to-hand combat took place, resulting in the defeat of the Bolsheviks and the capturing of the estate. The retreating Latvian Riflemen were subjected to heavy fire. On the next day the Estonians and Pohjan Pohjat units liberated Valga without resistance. The victory cut off the Soviets’ railway supply line and denied them the use of armoured trains. Soon almost all southern Estonia was liberated and Estonian troops advanced into northern Latvia. The Battle of Paju was the fiercest battle in the early period of war. To honour Julius Kuperjanov who died of his wounds on February 2, Tartumaa Partisan Battalion was renamed Kuperjanov's Partisan Battalion.

Pohjan Pojat continued to fight the Latvian Red’s at the side of the Estonians, but a number of the volunteers were instructed to remain in reserve at Valkiin until the command to move into northern Latvia was give. Kalm grew tired of waiting and ordered his soldiers to attack the northern Latvian city of Marienberg (Aluksne) on 16 Feb 1919. Finnish volunteers were not supposed to operate outside of Estonia’s borders but despite this, Pohjan Pojat moved out on 19 Feb and arrived near Marienberg on the evening of Feb 20. At dawn on Feb 21st they started their attack without any support. Pohjan Pojat captured the city with the loss of 3 officers and 15 soldiers, after which some looting took place. Estonian armored trains arrived on 22 Feb and on the 23rd, Estonian troops took over the City. On Feb 24th a Victory Parade took place, subsequently Pohjan Pojat withdrew and returned to Estonia on Feb 26th, where they moved into the Reserve at Valkiin.

In mid-March 1919, Pohjan Pojat were sent to the St Petersburg front, where the Bolsheviks had begun a counter-attack. They fought there until the end of the month, then returned to Valkiin at the end of March. In this last major fight that the unit participated in, they lost 27 dead, eight missing and nearly 100 wounded. Kalm then wanted to commit Pohjan Pojat to the Ingrian cause but the majority of the soldiers at this stage wanted to return home to Finland. Most of the soldiers of Pohjan Pojat were repatriated back to Finland in early April 1919. Kalm remained in Estonia with 200 men, with whom he hoped to establish the beginnings of an Ingrian volunteer army. These 200 soldiers participated in the fighting of April-May but in the end did not move into Ingria and the Committee to Aid Estonia Päätoimikunta terminated Kalm’s employment. Kalm disbanded the regiment on 29 May 1919. After dissolution some of the men continued to serve with the Ingrians's and some with the Estonian Army.

However, Kalm was not the only officer with ambitions towards Ingria. The region around St. Petersburg had been a historical gateway between Estonia and Finland, forming the easternmost part of the Finnic populations living around the Gulf of Finland. Like the Estonians and Finns, the Ingrians were Lutherian people who spoke a language that was classified as a dialect of Finnish. They were mostly descendants of immigrants that had moved from Finland during the time when the region had been under Swedish rule - after the establishment of St. Petersburg they had stayed on their old villages located to the countryside around the growing new capitol of Russia. Now this 200,000 strong community suddenly found itself living in the vicinity of the new center of Bolshevik power. After the Finnish Civil War the leaders of the failed revolution from Finland had fled to Petrograd, where they soon created the SKP (Communist Party of Finland). Lenin tasked this group to organize all the Finnic peoples of Russia to support the Soviet war effort, and naturally the organizers of SKP started their work from Petrograd and surrounding Ingria. Conservative elements in the Ingrian population resisted this development, and by spring 1918 small groups of armed Ingrian guerrillas had established their presence in the border parish of Kirjasalo next to the Finnish border on the Karelian Isthmus.

This small local rebel band was soon swept away into a major conspiracy involving top levels of Finnish Government. During the stormy year of 1919 Finland had indeed held two elections that had dramatically changed the political situation within the country. On the insistence of United States, Britain and France, Finland was due to have "new, free parliamentary elections." That meant that the SDP was allowed to campaign as well. Despite the understandably icy and tense atmosphere of the election process, the elections (under international supervision) went off without major fraud and the SDP remarkably maintained the position of strongest party with 80 seats, despite the loss of twelve when compared to the previous election.

Even though the SDP was left in opposition, the new political situation in the country no longer enabled the Conservatives to conduct foreign policy as freely as during the previous year. When the decision to let the Eduskunta elect the first President of the country was approved and the election approached in summer 1919, the supporters of a more aggressive policy towards Russia began to conspire behind the scenes. These groups were based on the contacts of pre-independence Activists who were now aiming their activities against the growing threat posed by Bolshevik government and their presence in Petrograd. The conspirators knew that in order to gain support for their plans, they would have to support Mannerheim for President. The former commander of the White forces was however strongly opposed by the SDP, and would surely lose the summer elections unless something major took place near the borders of Finland. As the months went by, secret shipments of weapons and supplies begun to trickle through the border on the Isthmus to Kirjasalo, and recruiters were soon circulating in Ingria and Finland, gathering suitable men to join the newly established "Regiment of North Ingria." This force was led by a somewhat eccentric veteran officer of the Civil War, Georg Elfvengren, who had joined forces with the Activist plotters for his own reasons.


Georg Elfvengren and his North Ingrian Regiment in Kirjasalo, 1919

Like Hans Kalm in Estonia, Elfvengren was a former officer in the Russian Army and hated Bolsheviks like poison. He wanted to see them driven out from Petrograd, and figured that the fully mobilized Finnish Army could to the job. But a casus belli was needed to justify any intervention against the Bolshevik capitol, and here Elfvengren and his Ingrians came in to play. They were tasked to invade Ingria from the Isthmus, "encouraging the locals to join in a wide uprising" that would create similar feelings of empathy and calls for intervention as the Red Army invasion of Estonia had done. In this situation Mannerheim could win the elections, declare martial law, mobilize the Army and march to Petrograd.

Georg Elfvengren

Elfvengren gave the order to attack the day before the Eduskunta gathered to vote, and immediately afterwards he wired all the major Finnish newspapers and radio stations, declaring that "Ingria had arisen against the Bolshevik terror." The poorly armed and trained Ingrian volunteers who marched southwards in those critical days of June were opposed by Red Army units that were ironically composed of Finns of St. Petersburg and Ingrians from the surrounding countryside. Just as in Eastern Karelia and Estonia, the locals were fighting amongst themselves while the major powers played their own games at a higher level. The invasion failed miserably, and the public mood was more surprised than shocked. Mannerheim was still widely despised among the SDP members and distrusted by the Agrarian Union, he lost the election decisively to K. J. Ståhlberg on 26th of July 1919.

For the next year the North Ingrian Regiment and Elfvengren used the region of Kirjasalo as their base, fighting what was more or less a private war against the local Bolshevik Ingrian units defending Leningrad. By now the situation in Finland and more importantly in Russia was stabilizing somewhat, and attempts to change the borders in Eastern Karelia were looking increasingly unlikely due the fact that the Eduskunta was once again dominated by the SDP. Lenin wanted to secure his northern flank, while Finland wanted to solve the uncertain "undeclared war" status between Finland and the Bolsheviks. As border negotiations got underway, Ingria was not even among the discussed topics even though the Bolshevik government had stated that it would respect the local wishes for autonomy both in Eastern Karelia and in Ingria. As the Russo-Polish War was drawing to an end, Finland and the Bolshevik Government signed the Treaty of Tartu on 14 October 1920 after four months of complex negotiations. The North Ingrian Regiment withdrew to Finland to be disarmed and demilitarized, and the situation along the borders seemed to finally calm down.

The Influence of the Heimosodat on the development of Finnish Military Doctrine

The experiences of the Heimosodat had a strong influence on the evolution of the Finnish Army’s strategy and tactics as they were developed through the 1920’s and 1930’s. Many of the writers of the first training manuals and future senior officers of the Army in the Winter War were men who had been trained through the German system, which emphasized the competence and initiative of the NCOs, while their war experience was a unique mixture of trench warfare on the Eastern Front followed by the experiences of the Finnish Civil War and the Heimosodat in Estonia, Ingria and Eastern Karelia.

Värväreitä ja etappimiehiä: vasemmalta ylhäältä: jääkärimajuri Kurt Wallenius (käytti nimeä Aarne Pursiainen), kapteeni Urho Sihvonen (Oravapoika), majuri Lennart Oesch (Johansson), vänrikki Väinö Sutinen (Blomberg), kapteeni Erkki Viitasalo (Torniaisen Ville), kapteeni Tauno Ilmoniemi (Möttönen) ja vänrikki Eino Koivisto (Aho); keskirivissä: kapteeni Friedel Jacobsson (metsänhoitaja Borg), maisteri H. Stenberg, vääpeli Väinö Heikkinen (Hallan Väinö) ja tohtori Valter Sivén, alarivissä: kapteeni Aarne Salminen (Virén), vääpeli Savolainen ja Vääpeli Vilkman. Kuva: Tukholma tammikuu 1917 / From top left: Major Kurt Wallenius (using the name of Aarne Pursiainen), Captain Urho Sihvonen (Oravapoika/Squirrel Boy), Major Lennart Oesch (Johansson), Lieutenant Väinö Sutinen (Blomberg), Captain Erkki Viitasalo (Torniaisen Ville), Captain Tauno Ilmoniemi (Möttönen) and Lieutenant Eino Koivisto (Aho), middle row: Captain Friedel Jacobsson (metsänhoitaja Borg), Mr. H. Stenberg, Warrant Officer Vaino Heikkinen (Halla Väinö) and Dr. Walter Sivén, bottom row: Captain Aarne Salminen (Viren), Sergeants Savolainen and Vilkman.

The fast-paced and relatively mobile (by WWI standards) small unit combat of the Finnish Civil War and the Heimosodat led to the stressing of the importance of a high standard of marksmanship, good use of camouflage and most importantly, the use of terrain. The ambushes, hit-and-run raids and constant maneuvers that had defined these conflicts were now taken and used in Army training plans. As noted before, the emphasis on flanking manouvres and seizing the initiative were deemed important. And as paradoxical it may sound, the legacy of the German-trained Jaeger officers ensured that tactical attack became the most favoured fighting style.

While this may seem to be a suicidal tactic for a nation of 3.5 million people bordering a superpower that was known to possess substantially more trained reserves than the total population of Finland, since the most expected scenario was that the enemy would launch a surprise attack, the ability to tactically harass and delay the advancing foe was deemed important. It was generally agreed that WWI-style attritional trench warfare was a situation that should be avoided at all costs, since it was precisely the type of combat where the potential opponent excelled and was able to use its material superiority to the fullest extend. Instead, the planners believed that bold attacks at the right time and place could lead to success. Delaying actions were planned to be executed in an active manner, whilst any passive defense was to be only temporary and something that had to be resorted to while preparing for an offense elsewhere.

Moving ahead somewhat, the role of the peacetime army was seen to be as a delaying force with the primary mission of buying time for the mobilization of the field army. Furthermore, as the majority of the the almost roadless Eastern Karelian border between Finland and the Soviet Union was considered to be terrain where division- or even regimental-sized formations would be unable to operate due the lack of necessary infrastructure to supply them, the defense of the borderzone north from the shores of Lake Laatokka (Ladoga) to the Arctic Sea became the task of 25 lightly armed and equipped Independent Battalions (Erillinen Pataljoona). In the event of a war, these units were to be sent into Soviet territory to conduct guerrilla warfare in Eastern Karelia, thus forcing the Red Army to divert men and material away from the Karelian Isthmus (which was always seems as the axis for the main enemy thrust) in order to defend the Murmansk Railway.

We will look at this in more detail later, but suffice it to say that the experiences of the Heimosodat had a strong influence on the evolving strategy and tactical doctrine of the Finnish Army through the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Sources (if you’re interested):

There is relatively little research about the kinship wars available in English (or in Finnish for that matter):
In English (most of these books are peripheral to the Heimosodat but address aspects of primarily British involvement)

The King of Karelia. Col P.J. Woods and the British Intervention in North Russia 1918–1919. A History and Memoir by Nick Baron
Soldiers of Fortune – Swedish and Danish Volunteers in the Estonian Civil War 1918-1920 by Kaido Jaansen (Tallinn, 1988) – Note: although this book displays some of the worst characteristics of Soviet-era historiography, it does offer a wealth of data and includes some interesting photographes and facsimiles. Available as a free ebook.
Murmansk Venture by Maynard
Footprints in the Sea & Baltic Episode by Capt. Augustus Agar
The Kronstadt Operation by Harry Ferguson
Cowan’s War by Geoffrey Bennett
Finland – Russia. Three unknown wars - by Alexander Shirokorad (2006)
The Boys from the North: The Nordic Volunteers in Estonia’s War of Independence 1918-1920 by L Ericson, Vastervik, Ekbal & Co, 1993. A hard to find booklet which accompanied an exhibition by the State Archives in Tallinn and elsewhere, containing brief introductory surveys by Ericson and others, along with some interesting photographes and some general references.

In Finnish:
Heimosotien historia 1918-1922 ("The History of the Kinship Wars 1918-1922") by Jussi Niinistö. It’s perspective is mostly that of the expeditionaries, based on their personal recollections
Nuorukaisten sota: Suomen sotaretki Aunukseen 1919, by Jouko Vahtola, Otava, Helsinki (1997)
An FYI for anyone interested in this What If and where it's going

Just an FYI for anyone interested in this What If and where it's going. Work being a bit demanding at the moment (I'm taking some time out to work now and then
) I'm not getting quite as much done on this What If as I wanted to in the timeframe I wanted to. But in case you're wondering where this is going, the next half dozen (more or less, we'll see) posts are going to concentrate on:

(1) the Finnish Army and Air Force through the 1920's (largely historical but with some minor points of departure from the OTL which will have ramifications later on in the 1930's, with consequences on the outcome of the Winter War)

(2) the Suojeluskunta / Lotta Svard organisations throught the 1920's, largely as background as these organisations play an important role in the 1930's and into the Winter War

(3) development of the Finnish arms industry and weapons used by the military through the 1920's (again, largely historical but with some early points of departure from the OTL)

(4) internal Finnish politics (again, largely background but some points of departure from the OTL)

(5) foreign affairs and attempts to negotiate treaties and agreements with neighboring and other countries. The relationship(s) with Estonia and Poland take a twist here (refer back to the purchase of the Polish Grom Destroyer design in the Naval-related posts and consider the implications of a closer Finnish-Polish relationship as well as stronger ties with the other Baltic States - Latvia and Lithuania).

(6) a summation of where we are at the end of the 1920's - industrially, financially, economically, politically and militarily.

After which, I will move on to the 1930's, where we will start to really get interesting. I'm currently considering two approaches to the 1930's - one a year by year progression, the other treating each of the major themes running through this What If as an entity for the period 1930-1938 and addressing them one by one, with a summary putting together where we are as of the 1938 Munich Crisis. Opinions what's the best approach are actively solicited - this is my first real What If and a lot of you guys have way more experience writing these than I do - so I'd like to know what you think.

And just as a hint of things to come......


Eino Ilmari Juutilainen won all his victories flying an Ilmavoimat Merlin-engined Heinkel He 112 Fighter. In his biography, he described his first combat flights against the Soviet Bombers attacking Helsinki on the first day of the war. "We were scrambled by Fighter Control early on the 1st of December. The Controllers vectored us onto the Soviet Bombers heading for Helsinki. I had some trouble with my engine, and so I got a little behind the rest of my Squadron. When I was close to Helsinki, I got a message from Control of three enemy bombers approaching and was vectored onto them. After about half a minute, I saw three Soviet bombers approaching. I was about 1,500 feet above them and started the attack turn just like in gunnery camp at Käkisalmi. Despite the engine problems, which meant I did not have full power, I closed with them quickly. The Soviet aircraft immediately dropped their bomb loads and turned back. I shot the three rear gunners, one by one. Then I started to shoot the engines. I followed them a long way and kept on shooting. One of them nosed over and crashed almost immediately. The two others were holed like cheese graters but continued in a shallow, smoking descent until I closed in again to finish them off. Then they went down. I had spent all of my ammunition, so I turned back. There was no special feeling of real combat. Everything went exactly like training."


The Merlin-engined Heinkel He112 was one of the better Fighters operated by the Ilmavoimat in the Winter War.
Part 4A - The Finnish Army and the Suojeluskunta in the 1920s

The Finnish Army (Maavoimat) through the 1920’s

When the victorious Government that emerged from the Finnish Civil War begun to organize a new national army in 1918, this new force drew much inspiration from the previous Finnish national army that was, paradoxically, much older than Finnish independence. Previous to being ruled by Russian, Finland had been under Swedish rule for centuries and as far back as the Thirty Years War, Finnish Regiments had been recruited into the Swedish Army. By 1636 for example, the Wunsch, Wrangel and Ekholt Cavalry Regiments and the Vyborg, Wrangel, Essen, Grass, Horn and Burtz Infantry Regiments were Finnish unit sserving under the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus in his campaigns in Germany. When Charles XII set out in 1700 to enlarge his Empire, the Finnisg Rehbinder Cavalry, Knorring Dragooons and Tiesenhausen, Lode and Gyllenstrom Infantry Regiments were part of his Army.However, in the decisive Battle of Poltava, Russia’s Peter the Great had destroyed Charlesd XII Army, the Finnish Regiments were decimated and Finland was temporarily overrun by Russia in 1713 (and in the overrunning, Finland’s population decreased from 400,000 to 300,000).

In 1788, the King Gustav III had taken advantage of Russia’s war with Turkey to march on St Petersburg. Afraid their country would be partitioned between the two protagonists, some Finnish Officers formed the Anjala League to promote seperation from Sweden and the formation of an independent Finland under Russian protection. Gustav III’s execution of some of these Officers resulted in his assassination, ending the war. Although Finland was little affected by Gustav III’s war, disaster accompanied the war of Gustav IV. The Swedish Army, whose troops at this stage were mainly Finnish, withdrew under the orders of their Swedish Generals, were defeated and in 1809 Finland was declared to be part of the Russian Empire as a Grand Duchy. The Finnish Regiments, trained in Swedish military techniques, were disbanded. However, the war against Napoleon led the Tsar to allow Finnish volunteers to form three Regiments in 1812.
Throughout the suceeding century, the strength of the Finnish Armed Forces had fluctuated with the diplomatic situation. Within the Russian Army, 8 Finnish Regiments and 3 Jaeger Battalions were maintained. Finnish troops took part in crushing the Polish Uprising in 1830-31 and the Russo-Turkish War if 1877-78. Although the Russian Army was responsible for Finland’s defence, a general conscription law passed in 1878 had provided for a force of 6,000 men for local defence. Rifle Battalions had been formed in 1881 to carry out the training specified by the new law. Reserves were trained within local companies. By 1900, Finland had it’s own Army of 8 provincial battalions, a Regiment of Dragoons and the Finnish Guard, all commanded by a Governer-General answering to the Tsar. Each military province had 4 Reserve Companies.

However, following the uprisings throughout the Russian Empire after the fiasco of the 1905 Russo-Japanese War, the Tsar had begun a policy of Russification in Finland and the last units of the Army of the Grand Duchy of Finland were decommissioned (also in 1905). Many Finns however either continued, or went on to serve, in the Tsarist Russian Armed Forces. Mannerheim was one of these And many of the former officers trained in the (originally Swedish) military academy of the Hamina Cadet School started a new career as the first commanders of the new Finnish Army. These men were still firmly in charge in the General Staff when the outlines of Finnish Army were being drawn.
Following the successful conclusion of the Civil War (in which, incidentally, Mannerheim had strongly opposed an agreement reached between the Finnish Government and the Germans to send a German Expeditionary Force to assist the Finns, believing the White Forces were strong enough to defeat the Reds without German help – a position which he was later able to parley into support from the victorious Allies and diplomatic recognition for the new State in May 1919) Mannerhem had resigned in May 1918, disapproving of the inordinate influence of the Germans and the German-trained Finnish Officers in the organization of the Finnish Army.

After the Civil War ended, the Suojeluskunta were officially turned back into a semi-independent paramilitary organization in February 1919. While the leadership of the Suojeluskunta movement wanted to regain their freedom to operate and develop their organization as they saw fit, the newly formed Finnish Army (Maavoimat) was seeking a way to become a truly national army for the war-torn nation - a force based on the other side of the Civil War would have surely been unable to win over any respect from the supporters of the Reds. Army leaders aimed to turn the military into a guardian of a new national consensus, and carefully sought to keep it away from daily politics while turning the conscription system into a way of indoctrinating new age-classes of conscripts into reliable citizen-soldiers of the young Republic. In September 1919, in the middle of the turbulent years of the Heimosodat (the Kinship Wars that we have covered earlier), the legal framework for the Army was finally ready.

The highest authority was reserved to the President of the Republic as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, with the Chief of Staff and the Head of the Army both under his command, controlled by the new War Ministry. In 1922 (after the threat of getting involved to the Russian Civil War was removed and Treaty of Tartu was signed) the legal framework was expanded further when a new Conscription Act made military service compulsory for every able-bodied adult male, starting from the age of 18 and releasing the reservists from the last reserve category at the age of 65. The basis for the new conscription system was a cadre system. A small professional core group of Officers and NCO’s and a small standing Army would train reservists, who would remain in training for a period that would generally last a year, with three months of additional extra service in the Air Force, Cavalry, Technical and Supply units. The new system drew it’s inspiration from pre-war Russian methods due to the influence of the Russian-trained General Staff Officers, but some parts of the system were also copied from Germany due the insistence of influential Jaeger officers.

This reform was the first time (but certainly not the last) when internal conflicts between the two different schools that would determine the status and development of the Army during the 1920s emerged: The disagreements over methods between German-trained Jaegers and the Russian-trained “Old Guard” on the one hand, and between the Army and Suojeluskunta on the other would continue. However, one area that was agreed on quickly was Mobilization. This was a problem for Finland as the country was both large and sparsely populated, with considerable time required to mobilize and concentrate the Reserves. With the Soviet Union on the other side of the border, it was imperative that mobilization occur rapidly. The Cadre mobilization system was used in the Finnish army from April of 1918 to April of 1934. Just as in later mobilization systems, the whole country was divided into military districts and upon mobilization a certain number of units would be formed in each of these districts. In this system (based on the German mobilization system) each of the wartime Army Regiments had an active peacetime battalion-sized unit as a cadre, around which the wartime unit ,when mobilized, would be formed by filling up the ranks with reservists. The first ambitious mobilization plan made in 1918 would have required forming 9 divisions (with a total of 27 infantry regiments), but at that time Finland didn't even have half of the needed trained troops or weapons for an the Army of that size.

Training of recruits through the 1920s followed a similar pattern to other European countries. The Finnish Army was largely infantry based and conscripts were taught the basic infantry skills – drill, discipline, shooting, fitness and small unit tactics with an emphasis on the tactical skills being developed for Finnish conditions.

Recruits Marching in to Camp for Basic Training


Recruits being trained on the Mosin-Nagant Rifle


Recruits training on the Maxim Machinegun


Advanced Recruit Training – out on Summer Manoeuvers


Advanced Recruit Training – out on Winter Manouvers

The plan was revised somewhat in 1919, being based on a more realistic 3 Infantry Divisions, a Jaeger Brigade and other units. As more conscripts went through training and the trained Reserves grew in strength, the planned size of the Army on mobilization grew steadily year by year. In 1921 the mobilization force was re-set to 6 divisions and 1 Jaeger Brigade, but the Finnish military had come to the conclusion that 10 Divisions would be needed to adequately fight a defensive war. In 1927 Finland finally had the trained reserves to form 7 Divisions on mobilization, but the Defense Revision of that time suggested a future wartime Army of 13 Divisions would be needed. The constantly growing size of the mobilized Army meant that more equipment was constantly needed, and through the 1920’s there was a constant race between the ability of the Army to provide arms and equipment with a very limited budget, and the growing numbers of trained reserves to whom equipment would need to be issued on mobilization.

To a certain extent the Army managed this situation by limiting the number of Conscripts to be trained through stringent medical exams, eliminating many who might have been trained (a situation that was to be recitified in the 1930’s). This meant that a balance between equipment and trained reserves was maintained, but it also meant the number of trained reserves was less than it might have been. The budgetary battles also meant there was very little expenditure available for anything other than basic military equipment. Weapons used by the Finnish Army were largely those left over from the Civil War or inherited from the Russians and the Germans. The Russian Mosin-Nagant M/1891 was the principal Rifle, the Maxim M.1909 was the principal Machinegun.

While the old Mosin-Nagant remained in production in the Soviet Union as it was, Finns took this battle-proven weapon as the starting point and, in the 1920s, reverse-engineered it to produce a new family of more accurate and reliable service rifles.

OTL Note: The Russian Mosin-Nagant M/1891 was a manually operated bolt-action, magazine fed rifle. It fired 7.62 mm ammunition, fed from an integral, single stack magazine, loaded from clip chargers, with a capacity of 5 rounds. The Mosin-Nagant had a maximum range of around three kilometers but was only capable of effective aimed fire out to ranges of 400-500 meters. The rifle is striker-fired, and the striker was cocked on the bolt open action. The positive aspects of the Mosin rifles were the reliability and simplicity of both manufacture and service. They were reasonably effective infantry weapons. Fairly good shooting can be done with them at combat ranges, although their sights do not lend themselves to fine degrees of accuracy. On the other side, this rifle had some serious drawbacks. The length made the rifle awkward to maneuver and carry, especially in woods and trenches. The horizontal bolt handle was short by necessity, so, in the case of the cartridge case being stuck in the chamber, a lot of strength was required to extract it. They suffered from an overcomplicated bolt, but in other respects were relatively simple to service and maintain. The safety, in that it was extremely hard to engage and disengage, represented a major shortcoming of the weapon.

The Mosin-Nagant rifle was developed in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and was officially adopted for service by the Russians in 1891. During the official trials, two designs were selected - one by a designer from the Tula arsenal - Mosin - and another by the Belgian brothers Emil and Leon Nagant. The final design, adopted by the Commission utilized features from both. The action of the rifle was developed by Colonel S.I. Mosin, and the magazine was developed by the Nagants. Along with the rifle, a new, small-caliber cartridge was adopted. This cartridge had a rimmed, bottlenecked case and a jacketed, blunt nose bullet. The rimmed case design, which at that time had already started to became obsolescent, was largely driven by the low technical capabilities of the Russian arms industry. This decision kept this obsolete, rimmed cartridge in general service with Russian army for more than 110 years.

The Mosin-Nagant was one of the earliest small-caliber battle rifles developed in the late 19th century. Its rugged design and construction are borne out by the fact that the only changes ever made to its basic design were to shorten and lighten the rifle as ammunition improved and battle conditions changed. This venerable design is arguably the longest-lived and is also one of the most widely-produced and copied firearm in the world. This design saw action in almost every major conflict of the twentieth century, from WWI, the Russian Civil War, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and even in Grenada. The standard North Korean and Chinese rifle of the Korean War was the Russian-designed Mosin-Nagant M1891/1930. The 1891/30 was found on many North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. Thousands of these obsolete but deadly weapons were given to the Viet Minh and later to the Viet Cong. As the war continued, these were replaced with the AK-47 rifle. Up to 1943, Soviet infantry was primarily armed with the bolt-action 1891/1930 Mosin-Nagant rifle with iron sights. It was accurate to 400 meters. The scoped Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle was accurate to 800 meters. During WW2, the Soviet Union replaced the infantry Mosin-Nagant rifles with submachine guns.

The Mosin-Nagant can be used as a sniper rifle if it is fitted with a telescopic sight. Sniper rifles, based on the M1891/30 rifles, were issued with scope mounts on the left side of the receiver and with bolt handles bent down. Red Army snipers hunted in pairs, one spotting and one firing. Both were armed with the Mosin-Nagant 1891/1930 rifle that fires a 7.62x54mm rimmed round. The rifle’s four-power scope mount also allowed the sniper to use the standard open sights for closer-in shots. The Mosin-Nagant rifle was in use for more than sixty years by half the world's military forces. Developed in 1891, it was last manufactured in Hungary and China in the mid-1950s.

Finnish Recruits training on the Mosin-Nagant

The Russian Maxim M.1909, the principal Machinegun of the Finnish Army of the 1920s, was another sound weapon that formed the core of the direct firepower of Finnish infantry units. Finnish usage of machineguns was directly copied from German methods and then adapted to local circumstances and terrain features. Fire from automatic infantry weapons was mainly provided by MGs. To maximize the effectiveness of these weapons Finnish prewar training manuals stated that they should; 1) have clear fields of fire, 2) be located in protective positions, 3) be positioned to give flanking fire (the goal being to catch the enemy in the crossfire of multiple MG’s) and 4) be able to cover any defensive obstacles (tank & infantry obstacles) with their fire. Importance of flanking fire was further emphasized by stating that "Flanking effect can be achieved by either fire, movement or a combination of both. A weaker force can hope to achieve success against numerically superiour opponent by attacking to the flanks. Flanking fire multiplies the effectiveness of fire, and when used together with tactical surprise and fire from other directions it has a paralyzing effect to the enemy, who is therefore forced to direct his attention and actions to multiple directions.*"
*Infantry Manual II, 1932

The Maxim M/32-33 was a Finnish modification of the old Great War MG from 1932. It had a faster rate of fire (up to 850 RPM vs roughly 600 of the original model), German-styled metallic ammunition belt and most importantly an improved cooling system with a snow hatch on the top of the barrel cooler. This little feature enabled the crews of the weapon to keep it operational and firing in winter conditions for extremely long periods of time if necessary.

The Maxims were gathered into special Heavy Machine Gun Companies in each Infantry Battalion. However, by the late 1920s, the analysis of earlier fighting in the Kinship Wars, the Civil War and the latest field exercises all clearly showed that the Maxim as a weapon was too heavy for successful mobile warfare in difficult forested terrain, where the limited visibility dictated that weapons had be located far forward, capable of delivering massive firepower while simultaneously remaining light enough to be quickly displaced when necessary. While suitable for static defensive warfare, a lighter and more mobile automatic weapon was needed. This was a demand that would only be addressed in the 1930s.

Finnish Artillery was largely inherited from the Russians, with many older artillery pieces that were already semi-obsolete by the early 1920s. Due to budgetary constraints, these weapons were kept in service, although many, even in the 1920s, were used only for training. The only half-way modern artillery pieces in service were the Putilov M.02 76mm Field Guns, with a range of 11,000m and firing a 6.5kg shell, and the Schneider Mle.1913 105mm, with a range of 11,000m and firing a 15.9kg shell.

Note: Artillery and Coastal Artillery will be addressed in more detail in a subsequent Post.

Finnish artillery of the 1920’s - 1877-vintage: Through the 1920’s and into the early 1930’s, the abysmal material condition, aged guns and chronic ammunition shortage of the Finnish artillery arm would haunt the Army. This would change through the 1930’s as the Finnish Army re-equipped with modern artillery, built up substantial ammunition stockpiles and trained using the pioneering methods of the Army’s Russian-trained artillery specialist General Nenonen.


More Finnish artillery of the 1920’s


The supply system of the Finnish Army was almost exclusively based on horse-drawn supply convoys since mobility in roadless terrain was deemed vitally important - not that Finland in the 1920’s could have afforted even a modest motorization of it´s forces. Should mobilization of the Field Army be needed, the law forced the agrarian nation to give up most of the civilian horses for the use of the Army.

The new Finnish Army was founded upon old military traditions, drawing influence from Sweden, Russia and Germany. This mixing of different traditions and approaches caused internal friction within the new Army, but also ensured that there was an atmosphere where innovative new ideas could be freely discussed, as opposing camps of the Finnish military establishment were pitted against one another again and again during the defense policy debates of the postwar decades in the 1920s and 1930s. Studies of infantry tactics were a key part of the development of the Finnish military during the two decades between the Civil War and the Winter War. The developers of the first training manuals were men who had been trained by the German system, where competent NCO leadership emphasizing individual initaitive was encouraged, while their war experience was a unique mixture of the trench warfare on theEastern Front followed by the experiences of the Finnish Civil War and the Heimosodat (Kinship Wars) in Estonia, Ingria and Eastern Karelia. The fast-paced and relatively mobile (by WWI standards) small unit combat stressed the importance of rifle marksmanship, camouflage and most importantly the use of terrain. The ambushes, hit-and-run raids and constant maneuvers that had defined these conflicts were now taken to use in Army training schemes. As noted before, the emphasis for flanking manouvres and seizing the initiative were deemed important. And as paradoxical it may sound, the legacy of German-trained Jaeger officers ensured that tactical attack became the most favoured fighting style.

While this may seem a suicidal tactic for a nation of 3.7 million bordering a superpower that was known to possess more trained reserves than the total population of Finland combined, it served the political mission of the Army rather well. As the emphasis in Finnish foreign policy was focusing on neutrality and the other Scandinavian and Baltic countries in the new era of "Red Earth"-coalitions of the SDP and the Agrarian League, the Army was seen more and more as the guarantee for the territorial neutrality of Finland in the event of a new European war. And since the peacetime army was in fact a mere delaying force with a primary mission of buying time for the mobilization of the field army (since the most expected scenario was that the enemy would launch a surprise attack), the ability to tactically harass and delay the advancing foe was deemed important.

Furthermore, the majority of the the almost roadless Eastern Karelian border areas between Finland and the Soviet Union were considered to be terrain where division- or even regimental-sized formations would be unable to operate due the lack of the necessary infrastructure to supply them. Therefore the defense of the borderzone northwards from the shores of Lake Laatokka (Ladoga) became the task of 25 lighly armed and equipped Independent Battalions (Erillinen Pataljoona). Before the war these units were planned to be used by sending them to Soviet territory to conduct guerrilla (Sissi) warfare in Eastern Karelia, thus forcing the Red Army to divert men and material away from the Karelian Isthmus in order to defend the Murmansk Railway.

It was generally agreed that WWI-styled attritional trench warfare was a situation that should be avoided at all costs, since it was precisely the type of combat where the potential opponent excelled and would be able to use its material superiourity to the fullest extent. Instead, the planners believed that bold attacks at the right time and place could lead to success. Delaying actions were planned to be executed in an active manner, and any passive defense was to be only temporary and something that had to be resorted to while preparing for an offensive action elsewhere. All these tactical schemes were devised in the firm knowledge that the potential foe would certainly have massive artillery and air superiority, and therefore operations in open terrain were consider impossible. Forests were considered to be the best terrain to conduct attacks, as even a large numerical and technical superiority was considered to be indecisive due to the possibilities open for small-unit manouvres and the fact that a large force would be unable to bring its total firepower to bear.

The offensive mentality was further supported by peacetime military exercises, which were usually focused only on attack or delay-attack scenarios. While taking the offense tactically, the Finnish strategic thinking was firmly based on a defensive mindset. One of the key reasons for this was the influence of French military schools and military theories. Being widely seen as the strongest land army in Western Europe during the 1920s, France was a natural place to send talented young officers for training. A large number of the officers who had received their military education in France were in key leading positions in later phases of Finnish history. At this time, Army planners became increasingly interested in fixed fortification zones and the possibilities they offered. The first fortification efforts in the Karelian Isthmus were, however, a short-lived project in the mid-1920s and after this time the idea of building prepared defense lines was not priorized - global economical crisis soon ensured that Army was operating with a budget that barely allowed it to maintain training and exercises, and thus nothing could be spared to grand construction efforts (the Mannerheim Line fortifications will be covered in detail in a later post as we cover developments in the 1930s).

In addition to their ideas of strategic defense and fortifications, the French-trained officers also brough home military ideas that were far older than the experiences of the Great War. When a young Finnish Captain named Akseli Airo was studying in the École Supérioure de Guerre, he was fascinated by the thoughts and ideas of one of his course books. He bought a copy for himself, and kept reading it and rereading it, making markings, notes and sidenotes up to and including the much later period when Airo led the operational planning of the Finnish Army.

The book Airo and many other prominent Finnish military theorists praised and kept reading over and over again was nothing less than L'art Militaire - DansLl'antiquité Chinoise, an old French translation and commentary on the Chinese classic "Art of War." Later in his life Airo commented in an interview: "The art of war itself has remained unchanged. I have a French book that contains a compilation of the Chinese wisdom of military leadership and warfare, and the theses presented there are still valid today...it contains the whole art of war, and it was written two millenia ago. Naturally equipment and weapons change and will change in the future as well, but the principles are still the same and they will remain the same."

Aside from the development of strategy and tactics suited to Finnish terrain and the strengths and weaknesses of the Finnish Army, there were two areas in which the Finnish Army were “early adopters.” The first was in the formation of experiemental “elite” units and the second was in the adoption of Tanks and experiments with Combined Arms forces.

Bicycle Battalions (Polkupyöräpataljoona) were the first experimental light infantry units. Two were formed in the early 1920s and later on renamed the 1st and 2nd Jaeger Battalions (Jääkäripataljoona.) These units consisted of selected, physically fit conscripts and they were led by the "rising stars" of the Finnish Officer Corps. The Jaeger units were designed to be the spearhead of counterattacks, act as a delaying unit in the border zones in a surprise attack situation and generally to provide the HQ with light, mobile and well-trained fighting units. Later on the men trained in these units would form the future core group of the best divisions in the Finnish Army and would also lead the development of other “elite” combat units in the 1930s. These elite units would go on to play a decisive part in many of the strategic and tactical decision points of the Winter War – but all had their roots in the early Polkupyöräpataljoona.

The Elite of the Finnish Army in the 1920’s

In 1919 the newly created Finnish Armed Forces were shopping for new weaponry in France and, as a part of the initial spirit of experimentation within the Army, bought 32 modern Automitrailleuse à Chenilles Renault FT Modèle 1917 Tanks from the French in 1919 (with a further 2 in 1920), ensuring that the Finnish Armored Forces got off to a roaring start. The FT 17 tanks were shipped from Le Havre to Helsinki on the S/S Joazeiro and issued to the Finnish Army on the 26th of August 1919. The price of these tanks was 67 million Finnish Marks. All 32 tanks were factory-new, manufactured in 1918 – 1919 and had French register numbers in between 66151 – 73400. 14 of them were equipped with 37-mm tank guns and 18 had been equipped with 8-mm Hotchkiss M/1914 machineguns. The Finnish Army decided to call the version with the tank gun koiras (male) and the version with machinegun as naaras (female). For transporting the tanks on roads the Finnish Army also bought six Latil tractors with their trailers, these arrived on the same ship as the tanks.

Tanks, tractors and trailers were all issued to the newly formed (15th of July 1919) Hyökkäysvaunurykmentti (Tank Regiment), which had its garrison in the Santahamina military base at Helsinki. Following the French model, theTank Regiment was early on considered part of the field artillery and organised accordingly as artillery battalions and artillery batteries, which size-wise were the equivalent of companies and platoons. Since this was the first Finnish military unit of its type, in the beginning there were no Officers with the appropriate training. Early on, the most likely tactics for tanks were considered to be modernised cavalry tactics of sorts, so seven out of the first dozen officers of the Tank Regiment were transferred from the Cavalry. Recruits for this new military unit were selected with a preference for those with technical training and/or technical experience of any kind. To get the training going a French team of nine men lead by Captain Pivetau arrived to Finland in 1919 and trained the Finnish personnel in the basics of tank maintenance and warfare. In light of the political situation in 1919 and the geographic location of Finland, the FT 17 tank deal wasn’t exactly lacking in ulterior motives.

France apparently had political plans of its own in relationship to selling the Renault FT 17 tanks to Finland in 1919. The main intent of these plans was encouraging Finland to actively join the battle against the Russian Bolshevik government. The Finnish Government had no real interest in supporting the White Russians, since their leadership refused to accept Finland’s independence, so Finland refused to join the war, but this didn’t stop the French. Soon after delivery of the FT 17s, the French government exerted diplomatic pressure and demanded that Finland loan two of these tanks (one male and one female) to General Nikolai Yudenich’s North-Western Russian White Army, which in 1919 was operating from Estonia and advancing towards Petrograd (St. Peterburg). Ultimately the Finnish government gave in to political pressure on this matter.

On the 17th - 18th of October 1919 the two tanks were shipped to Tallinn, from where they moved to Narva two days later. They served with French-Russian crews and took part in the attack towards Kipi on the 27th - 31st of October 1919. Yudenich's North-Western Army failed in its attack towards Petrograd in October 1919, retreated to Estonia and was disarmed there before being evacuated. Estonia used the two tanks for training its tank crews before returning them to Finland on the 9th of April 1920. Both of them proved to be in poor condition on return. Because of this the French government as compensation sent Finland two new additional Renault FT 17 tanks, which arrived n the S/S Ceres on the 21st of April 1920. (The French registration numbers for these additional tanks were 66614 and 67220). Arrival of these two new additional tanks increased the total number of Renault FT 17 tanks with the Finnish Army to 34 tanks.

Two Renault FT 17 tanks of the Finnish Army taking part in war games in the 1920's. Koiras (gun-tank) with octagonal riveted turret is passing a partially smoke-covered naaras (machinegun-tank) version

While budgetary constraints through the 1920s kept the force small, it was kept up to strength (some additional used units were purchased from France in 1926) and used largely as an experimental unit. While the British were the first to introduce a tank into combat use, for many the Renault FT 17 is the first modern tank. It was certainly the first to have the basic layout still found in most tanks today – the driver in the front part of the hull, the engine in the rear and weaponry in a rotating turret located on top of the hull. While obviously smaller than other tanks introduced during World War 1 it proved a surprisingly good design. By the end of WW1, French manufacturers had delivered 3,700 of the FT17s, many of which would remain in service with the French Army through to WW2.

While the French Army was the main customer for these tanks, they were also widely exported after World War 1. Export customers included Belgium, Brazil, China, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, Manchuria, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, USA and Yugoslavia. They were also provided as a military assistance to White Russians during Russian Civil War (1917 - 1923) and saw use in variety of other wars like Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939), Franco - Thai War (1940 - 1941), Chinese Civil War (1927 - 1937 and 1946 - 1950) and Chinese - Japanese War (1937 - 1945). Many of the Renault FT 17 tanks delivered to Russia ended up being captured by the Soviet Red Army, while some were taken over and used by Estonia until 1940. That same year the USA delivered some of them to Canada. In addition Italy (FIAT 3000), the Soviet Union (KS, MS-1 and MS-2) and the USA (6 Ton Tank M1917) started manufacturing either copies or their own tanks based on the FT 17 design.

The FT17 did have its limitations - the modest 35-horsepower tank engine was too weak for armoured vehicle of this size, giving it a very slow top speed (about equal to walking infantry). While it had a rather large (95-litre) gasoline tank, the maximum range was limited to a mere 35 kilometres. The two-man crew consisted of a driver and a very much over-burdened gunner/tank commander while the only signal equipment used in typical FT 17 tanks were signal flags, which the tank commander would wave when necessary. For Finland, like for many of the export customers for the FT 17 tanks, this was the first tank in use and the starting point for an Armored Corps in their Armed Forces.

The Finnish Army was an early adopter of Armored Units and would later link these with the light Jaeger brigades, Mobile Artillery and Air Support in a combined arms unit which would, in the 1930’s, become the 21st Armored Division, but few people were aware of this before the Winter War.

Over the 1920s, the Finnish military had plenty of opportunities for gathering experience with the tanks, which they did so to good effect. The French had originally suggested 20 kilometers as their maximum daily road march distance, but in 1925 this assumption was overturned by the successful performance of a 150 kilometre road mach. However this kind of test also revealed weaknesses in the design – the most problematic of which proved to be radiator fan belts, which for example needed to be replaced 21 times during the above mentioned 150 km road march. A Finnish-designed improved radiator fan belt introduced in 1926 had twice the working life of the original, but even its increased lifespan was too short to provide an answer to this problem. While replacing a broken radiator fan belt was easy and fast (for an experienced crew it took two minutes), the frequent breakages reduced the already limited march speed of the entire tank column. The engine also demanded constant maintenance - for example its oil had to changed after every 20 hours of use.

In 1926, Major Olavi Sahlgren reported that in addition to the already limited maximum road speed (7.5 km/h) of Renault FT 17: "On a road march, after only 50 - 60 kilometres the technical losses are around 25 % and frequent technical problems demanding repairs reduce the actual march speed of the Renault tanks on the road to only about 4 kilometres per hour."Because of this he noted that Renault tanks simply were not suitable for mobile warfare. Around 1927-28 the Finnish Army tested the old Renault FT 17 tanks in deep snow and against various kinds of antitank obstacles. In these tests the FT 17 performed surprisingly well in deep snow, but when it came to tightly packed snow-drifts or antitank-obstacles its capabilities proved much less spectacular. The design of the FT 17 had some obvious inbuilt limitations to begin with. These included the very slow maximum speed (making the tank an easy target for any antitank weapon), thin armour designed to provide protection only against small arms fire and shrapnel and a low-velocity 37-mm Hotchkiss SA-18) L/21 tank gun, which was a poor weapon against other tanks. When testing the armour-penetrating capability of this tank gun, its ammunition was noted as so poor that it was considered unable to reliably penetrate even 10-mm of armour plate from any useful distance.

The vehicle also lacked a radio (and had very limited room even for adding one) and the tank commander/gunner/loader was over burdened with his many tasks. Signalling between tanks took place using small flags, which the tank commander waved when necessary and internally through yelling, hand signals and physical contact. With signalling equipment as rudimentary as this, it is hardly surprising that the most commonly used message was "Do as I Do". In 1922 the Hyökkäysvaunurykmentti (Tank Regiment) shad uggested acquiring radio-equipment for eight tanks, which would have been reserved for company commanders and platoon leaders, but the suggestion was not approved due to cost.
The Finnish Army also experimented on a small scale with combined arms forces, tanks operating in conjunction with infantry, artillery and air support. The stated intent was to develop an effective method for counter-attacking any major attack on the Karelian Isthmus, the obvious direction for any major offensive from the Soviet Union. Finnish Officers of the Hyökkäysvaunurykmentti and of other units assigned to Combined Arms tactical experimentation were avid (and apt) students of foreign writings on this subject, as we will cover in more detail when we discuss the development of Finnish Armored doctrine through the 1930s and the highly effective use of Finnish Armor in the Winter War, both in the defensive phase over the Winter and in the Spring Offensive of 1940 that took the Kannaksen Armeija (Army of the Isthmus, under the command of Lt.Gen Hugo Viktor Österman) to the outskirts of Leningrad whilst virtually annihilating or capturing all the Red Army units they fought against.

When acquired by Finland in 1919, the Renault FT 17 was likely the most advanced tank in the world and remained an effective fighting vehicle through the 1920s, but as tank development in the 1930’s moved ahead at a rapid rate, it became seriously outdated. In 1932, the commander of the Hyökkäysvaunurykmentti reported to the Finnish Armed Forces General Headquarters that tank units equipped with Renault FT 17 tanks were unfit for modern mobile warfare. In 1933 the Finnish Army acquired several new tanks for testing, with results that we will see as we cover the Finnish military of the 1930s. Suffice it at this stage to say that as a result of ongoing experimentation with tanks and armored tactics through the 1920s, the 1933 Tank Evaluation Program, the Armaments Program of the latter part of the 1930’s, the Combined Arms Experimental Combat Program and the experiences of the Finnish Volunteer Division in combat in the Spanish Civil War, the Finnish Army had a well-trained and highly affective Armored Force in being on the start of the Winter War.