Finnish Civil War

Finnish Civil War
Finnish Civil War
Tampere destroyed in Civil War.jpg
Tampere's civilian buildings destroyed in the civil war.
Date 27 January – 15 May 1918
Location Finland
  • Decisive White Army-German army victory
  • Russian military presence ceased[1]
  • German hegemony until December 1918
Flag of Finland 1918 (state).svg White Government


Red flag.svg Red Government

 Russian SFSR

Commanders and leaders
C.G.E. Mannerheim
Ernst Linder
Ernst Löfström
Martin Wetzer
Karl Wilkman
Ali Aaltonen
Eero Haapalainen
Eino Rahja
Adolf Taimi
Evert Eloranta
Kullervo Manner
80,000–90,000 Finns
13,000 Germans
1,737 Poles from the Polish Legion
550 Swedish volunteers[2]
80,000–90,000 Finns
4,000–10,000 Russians[2]
Casualties and losses
3,414 killed in action
1,400–1,650 executed
46 missing
4 dead in prison camps
450–500 killed in action[3]
5,300 - 5,600 casualties
5,199 killed in action
7,000–10,000 executed
2,000 missing
11,000–13,500 dead in prison camps
700–900 killed in action
1,500 executed[3]
27,400 - 33,100 casualties

The Finnish Civil War (Finnish: Suomen sisällissota, Kansalaissota; Swedish: Finska inbördeskriget) was a part of the national, political and social turmoil caused by World War I (1914–1918) in Europe. The Civil War concerned control and leadership of The Grand Duchy of Finland as it achieved independence from Russia after the October Revolution in Petrograd. The war was fought from 27 January to 15 May 1918 between the forces of the Social Democrats led by the People's Deputation of Finland, commonly called the "Reds" (Finnish: punaiset), and the forces of the non-socialist, conservative-led Senate, commonly called the "Whites" (Finnish: valkoiset). The Reds — usually Finnish-speaking workers — were supported by the Russian Soviet Republic; they were based in the industrial cities in the south. The Whites — dominated by farmers and by middle- and upper-class Swedish speakers — received military assistance from the German Empire. The Whites won the war, in which about 37,000 people died out of a population of 3 million.[4]

Following the Diet of Porvoo in 1809, Finland, previously part of the Kingdom of Sweden, had been ruled as a nominally autonomous part of the Russian Empire, the Grand Duchy of Finland. It was gradually developing an early form of the eventual Finnish state, including a marked rise of Fennoman movement representing the Finnic part of the nation. Finland had been culturally divided between a majority of Finnish speakers and a minority of Swedish speakers, but united in the Finnish response against the policy of Russian integration since 1899.[5]

The February and October Revolutions in 1917 led to Russia's defeat in World War I. The chaos that ensued in mainland Russia induced the collapse of the Grand Duchy of Finland and breakdown of the Finnish government, military force, economy and society. Before 1917 the Finnish people had experienced a rapid population growth, industrialization, improvements in the economy and the standard of living, the rise of a comprehensive labor movement as well as marked economic, social and political divisions, and the Finnish political system was in an unstable phase of democratization and modernization.[6]

The power vacuum of 1917 led to a bitter contest for the leadership of the Finnish state between the left-leaning labour movement led by the Social Democrats and the more right-wing non-Socialists. Both sides refused to make political compromises and aimed to gain supremacy for their own faction. In the end, the crisis of power and authority penetrated all levels of society, from local administration to the workplace. Finland declared independence on 6 December 1917 and the newly established Russian Council of People's Commissars recognized it on 31 December 1917. Although the majority of the Finns supported sovereignty, the declaration occurred in the context of the power struggle; therefore it neither unified nor pacified the nation and society.[7]

Both the left and the right began building security groups of their own after the spring of 1917. In the end, two paramilitary forces emerged: the White Guards and Red Guards. An atmosphere of political violence, fear, and mistrust reigned in Finland. Fighting broke out between the Reds and the Whites during January 1918, and quickly escalated. The fate of the Finns during 1917–1918 is often that of the peoples of minor nations separating from (disintegrating) large ones.[8]

The Reds (the Guards' total force was approximately 85,000 troopers) carried out a general offensive from mid-February to early March, which failed. The general offensive of the Whites began on 15 March 1918 (the Guards' total force was approximately the same as in the Red Guards). Sixty to eighty thousand Russian soldiers remained stationed in Finland at the beginning of 1918, but the majority of these troops were demoralized and unwilling to fight, and were withdrawn from Finland by the end of March. Soviet Russia's main support to the Reds was the supply of weapons. The White offensive was bolstered by the intervention of the 10,000-strong Baltic Sea Division and the 3,000-strong Detachment Brandenstein of the German army in southern Finland on 3 and 7 April. The battles of Tampere and Viipuri won by the Whites and the Battle of Helsinki won by the German troops were the decisive military actions of the war. Both the Reds and Whites used political terror as a military weapon during the conflict.[9]

In the aftermath of the 1917–18 crisis and civil war, Finland passed from Russian rule to the power sphere of the German Empire. The conservative Finnish senate attempted to establish a Finnish monarchy ruled by the House of Hesse, but after the defeat of Germany in the Great War, Finland emerged as an independent, democratic republic, with a modernizing civil society.[10]

The civil war remains the most traumatic, controversial and emotionally charged event in the history of modern Finland, and there have even been disputes about how to designate it.[11] Most of the victims of the war died off the battlefields. Three-quarters of the dead were Red combatants and sympathizers. Most of the deaths were caused by political terror campaigns and high prison camp mortality rates. The turmoil caused a severe food shortage, destroyed the Finnish economy, demolished the political apparatus and divided the Finnish nation for many years. Finland was slowly reunited through the policy of compromises led by moderate political groups. The shift to the peaceful development of the Finnish society was facilitated by the outcome of World War I and by the pre-1918 cultural and national unity of the majority of the nation.[12]



The main factor behind the Finnish Civil War was World War I. The conflict caused a collapse of the Russian Empire, and the February Revolution and the October Revolution during 1917. This led to a formation of a large power vacuum and struggle for power. The autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, as a part of the Russian Empire, became a part of the struggle and the vacuum. The war between Germany and Russia had a major impact on the Finns beginning in 1914.

Both empires had political, economic, and military interests in the Finnish area. The military significance of the Grand Duchy of Finland had been increasing for the Russians from the mid-19th century with the rising tension and competition between the major European powers. The northwestern territory was a part of the gateway and buffer zone (with Estonia) to and from the imperial capital Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), both via the Gulf of Finland towards the Kronstadt naval base, and via the Finnish land area, the Karelian Isthmus. The Grand Duchy had also become a vital source of raw materials, industrial products, food and labour for the growing capital of Russia.

From the beginning of World War I the German Empire had seen Eastern Europe, mainly Russia, as a major source of vital products and raw materials for sustaining the capacity of the nation both during the war and after the final victory. Part of the German leadership was most concerned about the two-front war in which Germany had engaged. It pursued a policy of breaking up the enemy from inside by providing financial support to revolutionary groups, such as Bolsheviks in Russia. In total, 25 million German marks were spent on Russia. Controlling the Finnish area would allow the German army to enter Russia at Petrograd, and to penetrate northeast, towards the Kola Peninsula, an area rich with raw materials for the mining industry. There were also ample timber and ore reserves, and a well developed forest industry in Finland.[13]

During 1809–1898, a period called Pax Russica, Finnish-Russian relations had been exceptionally peaceful and stable, compared with other parts of the Russian Empire. The crisis of the Crimean war in the 1850s led to attempts to speed up the modernization of Russia, which led to more than 50 years of positive economic, industrial, cultural and educational development in the Grand Duchy of Finland. The improvement in the status of the Finnish language was especially striking. These developments also encouraged Finnish nationalism and cultural unity through the birth of the Fennomanan movement, which bound the Finns to the domestic governmental system and led to the idea that the Finnish Grand Duchy was an increasingly autonomous part of the Russian Empire.[14]

In 1899 the Russian Empire initiated a policy of integration through Russification in the Finnish Grand Duchy:

  • the military and strategic situation of Russia had become more difficult because of the rise of Germany and Japan; and
  • the Russian central administration and panslavism had grown in Petrograd.

As a consequence, the Russian Tsar and the military leaders had since 1870s attempted to unite their large, heterogeneous empire, described as a Russian multinational, dynastic union.

The Russification of Finland and the crisis of governmental leadership in Finland, following the 1899 imperial order, was a result of collision between the ideologies of peripheral authority (the Grand Duchy as a state of the Russian empire but a separate part of the Russian governmental system) and central power (one, undivided Russia dominated by Petrograd). Russification aimed to increase military and administrative control over the Grand Duchy. The Finns called the integration policy "the first period of oppression 1899–1905."

After 1899 Finnish-Russian relations worsened, and plans for disengagement from Russia or sovereignty for Finland were drawn up for the first time. Several political and economic groups with different policies in respect to Russia arose. The most radical one, the activist movement which included anarchistic groups both from the working class and the Swedish speaking intelligentsia, arranged terrorist attacks.

During World War I and via the rise of Germanism, the latter (svecomans) began a covert collaboration with Imperial Germany, and during 1915–1917 a "Jäger" (Jääkärit) battalion consisting of 1,900 voluntary Finnish men was trained in Germany, by the support of the same German source of financing, which aided the Bolsheviks in Russia. Contrary, a few thousand Finns with a positive attitude towards Russia, joined the Tsar's army in 1914.[15]

Peasants in the fields. Many Finns were agrarian workers and crofters, who had no political influence in the class society that existed before the parliamentary reform in 1906.


The major reasons for the rising political tensions among the Finns were the autocratic rule of the Russian Tsar, and the undemocratic class system of the estates in the Grand Duchy. This system originated in the Swedish regime of the 17th century, which effectively divided the Finnish people into two groups, separated economically, socially and politically. Finland's population grew rapidly in the 19th century (860,000 in 1810 to 3,130,000 in 1917), and a class of industrial and agrarian workers and property-less peasants emerged. The Industrial Revolution and economic freedom arrived in Finland later than in Western Europe (1840–1870), owing to the rule of the Romanov family. Industrialization was typically led and financed primarily by the state. This meant also that some of the social problems associated with the industrial process were diminished via control of the administration, by learning from the experiences of countries such as England. In the Finnish case, there were marked cultural differences between Russia and the Grand Duchy. The estates planned to build up an increasingly autonomous Finnish state, led by the elite and intelligentsia. The Fennomans in particular aimed to include the common people to sustain the state in a non-political role in order to reduce social problems' unrest. In fact, the peasants and clergy took up the cause of the working man and woman already before the beginning of the large scale industrialization. The labour movement and many nonpolitical movements (such as youth associations and temperance movement established in the end of the 19th century) were initially led "from above."

Social conditions, the standard of living, and the self-confidence of the workers gradually improved due to the industrialization between 1870–1916. At the same time the political concepts of socialism, social liberalism and nationalism took root, especially in fennomania. But while the standard of living rose among the common people, the rift between rich and poor deepened markedly.[16]

The Finnish labour movement, which emerged at the end of the 19th century from folk, temperance and religious movements and fennomania, had a "Finnish national, working class" character and was represented by the Social Democratic Party, established in 1899. The movement came to the fore without major confrontations when tensions during Russia's failed war against Japan led in 1905 to a general strike in Finland and revolutionary upheaval in the empire.

In an attempt to quell the general unrest, the system of estates was abolished in the parliamentary reform of 1906, which introduced universal suffrage. The strike increased support of the Social Democrats substantially; in 1906, in relation to countries' population, the party was the most powerful socialist movement in the world. In addition to the vital and primary support of the urban workers, the socialists had also gained the support of agricultural workers. Because Finland was a country with relatively minor towns with a small workforce, and many industrial centres were small "islands" surrounded by large rural areas, there was social integrity between the urban and rural workers.[17]

During 1899–1906 the labour movement had become conclusively independent in respect to the patriarchal thinking of the Fennoman estates. The workers' activity after 1899 had opposed Russification and also had sought to develop a domestic policy that tackled social problems and respond to the demand for democracy. This was a reaction to the futile domestic dispute, since 1880s, between the Finnish nobility and the labour movement concerning voting right for the common people. Besides their obligations as obedient and nonpolitical inhabitants of the Grand Duchy, and participants of the political battle against the Tsar, the workers had begun to ask and demand for their civil rights in the Finnish society. The power struggle between the Finnish estates and the Russian administration had given a concrete role model and space for the labour movement. In the end, a rapid change had occurred in the thinking and goals of the common people; the peaceful Finns who had just a few decades ago accepted the class system as the long-lasting, natural order of their life, demanded now a true citizenship. On the other side, due to at least a century-long tradition and experience of administrative leadership, the Finnish elite saw itself as the inherent mastermind in the Grand Duchy.[18]

The reform of 1906 was a giant leap in the political and social liberalization of the Finnish common man and woman. The autocratic rule of the Russian tsar, intermediated to the ordinary people via the four Finnish estates, had been the most conservative political system in Europe. While most of the nations of Western Europe had adopted bicameral parliaments by the end of the 19th century, in 1906 the Finns adopted a unicameral parliamentary system, and female citizens were included in the universal suffrage. All Finnish adults were given the right to vote, increasing the number of voters from 126,000 to 1,273,000. This soon produced around 50 percent turnouts for the Social Democrats.

A setback followed as the Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, was not, however, dethroned or his power shared in the Grand Duchy. The Tsar regained his authority after the crisis of 1905, reclaimed his role as the Grand Duke of Finland, and during the second period of Russification between 1908 and 1917 neutralized the functions and powers of the new parliament. The emperor saw the parliament to have merely an advisory role. He determined the composition of the Finnish senate, which did not correlate with the assembly of the parliament, prohibiting true parliamentarism. The Tsar dissolved the parliament and ordered new parliamentary elections almost annually between 1908–1916.

The capacity of the Parliament to solve major social and economic problems was compromised by confrontations between the representatives of the largely uneducated common man and the representatives of the former estates accustomed to the meritocratic rule and attitudes. At the same time conflict occurred between the industrial employers and their workers as the industrialists denied collective working agreements and the right of the labour unions to represent the working people; the employers dominated and ruled the working contracts signed on the personal level. Although the parliamentary work and achievements had disappointed the labour movement, dominance in the Finnish Parliament and in legislation seemed to be the only true pathway to reach a more economically and socially balanced society. That is why the Finnish working man and woman identified themselves powerfully to the state. All together, these political developments led to conditions that encouraged a struggle for leadership of the Finnish state, during the ten years before the collapse of the Russian Empire.[19]

February Revolution

On strike in Helsinki, 1917. Workers demanded food and a complete shifting of legislative power from the Russian government to the Finnish parliament.

The more severe program of Russification, called "the second period of oppression 1908–1917" by the Finns, was halted on 15 March 1917 by the removal of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II. The immediate reason for the collapse of the Russian Empire was a domestic crisis precipitated by military defeats in the war against Germany and by war-weariness among the Russian people. The deeper causes of the revolution lay in the collision between the policies of the most conservative regime in Europe and the necessity for political and economic modernisation brought about by industrialisation. The Tsar's power was transferred to the Russian Duma and Provisional Government, which at this time had a right-wing majority.[20]

Autonomous status was returned to the Finns in March 1917, and the revolt in Russia handed the Finnish Parliament true political power for the first time. The political left, comprised mainly Social Democrats, covering a wide spectrum from moderate to revolutionary socialists; the political right was even more diverse, ranging from social liberals and moderate conservatives to rightist conservative elements. The four main parties were:

  • the two old Fennoman parties, the conservative Finnish Party and the Young Finnish Party including both liberals and conservatives;
  • the social reformist, centrist Agrarian League, which drew its support mainly from peasants with small or middle-sized farms; and
  • the conservative Swedish People's Party, which sought to retain the rights of major part of the former nobility and other Swedish-speaking minority of Finland.[21]

The Finns faced a detrimental interaction of power struggle and breakdown of society during 1917. The collapse of Russia induced a chain reaction of disintegration among the Finns starting from the government, military power and economy, and spreading downwards to all fields of the society such as local administration and workplaces, and finally to the level of individual citizens as changes and questions of freedom, responsibility and morality. The blow of World War I hit the Finnish people and the nation, which, at the beginning of the 20th century, stood at the crossroads between the old regime of the estates and the evolution of a modern, democratic society. The direction and goal of this period of change now became a matter of accelerating political dispute. This eventually spilled over into armed conflict because of the weakness of the Finnish state, lack of basic controlling factors, and instinctive reactions of the individual Finns under most uncertain and fearful conditions. The Social Democrats aimed at retaining the political rights of the labour movement already achieved, and establishing influence over the people and society. The conservatives were fearful of losing their long-held social and economic power. Both groups collaborated with the corresponding political forces in Russia, deepening the split in the nation.[22]

As a consequence of the unbalanced social development and the labour movement's continuous position in the political opposition, the Social Democratic Party had gained an absolute majority in the Parliament of Finland, in the general elections of 1916.[23] The new Senate was formed in March 1917 by Social Democrat and trade union leader Oskari Tokoi. His Senate cabinet comprised six representatives from the Social Democrats and six from non-socialist parties. In theory, the new cabinet consisted of a broad coalition; in practice, with the main political groups unwilling to compromise and the most experienced politicians remaining outside it, the cabinet proved unable to solve any major local Finnish problems. After the revolution, real political power shifted to the street level in the form of mass meetings, strike organizations, and the street councils formed by workers and soldiers, and to active organizations of the employers, all of which served to undermine the authority of the state.[24]

The rapid economic growth stimulated by World War I, which had raised the incomes of industrial workers and profits of the employers during 1915 and 1916, collapsed with the February Revolution. The consequent decrease in production and economy led to unemployment and high inflation. For those who had a job, the February revolution gave freedom to reach for resolving long-term problems of their laborious working life; the workers called for eight-hour-per-day working limits, better working conditions, and higher wages. The demands led to demonstrations and large-scale strikes in both industry and agriculture throughout Finland.

The food supply of the country depended on cereals produced in southern mainland Russia, while the Finns had specialized in milk and butter production. The cessation of the cereal imports from disintegrating Russia led to food shortages in the country. The government responded to this by introducing rationing and price fixing. However, the farmers opposed the control of the government, and a black market formed. Food prices in the black market continued to rise sharply, which was a major problem for the unemployed worker families. Food supply, prices, and in the end the fear of starvation became emotional political issues between farmers in the countryside and industrial workers in the urban areas. The common people, their fears exploited by the politicians and the political media, took to the streets. Despite the food shortages, no large-scale starvation hit the Finns in southern Finland before the war. Economic factors remained a supporting factor in the crisis of 1917, but only a secondary part of the power struggle of the state.[25]

Revolutionary Russian servicemen of various political groups added to the feeling of the instability during 1917.

Battle for leadership

The passing of the Tokoi's Senate bill, called the "Power Act," in July 1917 became the first one of the three culminations of the power struggle between the Social Democrats and the conservatives during the political crisis from March 1917 to the end of January 1918. The fall of the Russian emperor opened the question of who would hold the highest political power in the former Grand Duchy. Although the Finns had accepted the liberating manifesto (from the period of 1908-1916) of March 1917 issued by the Russian Provisional Government, they planned at least an expansion of the former autonomy.[26]

The February Revolution offered the Finnish Social Democrats momentum: they had the exceptional absolute majority in the Parliament and a narrow dominance in the Senate. After 25 years of disappointments, the Social Democrats had an opportunity to take political power. Since the beginning of 1910s, the socialists had seen that the ability to improve the conditions of the common people through social reform was dependent on holding power in the country.

Conservatives were alarmed by the continuous increase of the socialists’ support during 1899-1916 that had climaxed in 1917 with their dominance in the Parliament and Senate, without the offsetting control of the emperor and Russian administration. The former estates had accepted and supported the rise of the nonpolitical value of the common man in the society, but had tried to limit the working class’s access to political authority in the country. The summer of 1917 brought forward the major confrontation between the socialists and conservatives. It offered the labour movement a chance at political power and start of social reforms. For conservatives, the socialists had to be halted before they were able markedly alter the power structure of the country.[27]

The "Power Act" incorporated accordingly a plan by the Social Democrats to substantially increase and concentrate the power of Parliament, as a reaction to the non-parliamentary and conservative leadership of the Finnish Senate between 1906-1916. The bill also furthered Finnish independence by restricting Russia's influence on domestic Finnish affairs: the Provisional Government of Russia would determine only the foreign affairs and military policy in Finland. In Parliament, the bill was adopted with the support of the Social Democrats, the Agrarian League, and some rightist activists and other non-socialists eager for Finnish sovereignty. The conservatives opposed the bill and some of the most right-wing representatives resigned from Parliament.[28]

In Russia the Social Democrats' plan had the backing of Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Bolsheviks, who in July 1917 were plotting a revolt against the Russian Provisional Government. But the Provisional Government opposed the Power Act as it would reduce the power of the Russian administration in the country. The Government still had the support of the Russian military in Finland. In Petrograd, Lenin was thwarted during the "July Days" and forced to flee to Finland. As the Russians' war against Germany had come increasingly closer to defeat, the significance of Finland as a buffer zone protecting Petrograd was highlighted, and the Russians could not allow the Finns to separate from Russia. The Provisional Government refused to accept the "Power Act" and sent more Russian troops to Finland, where, with the co-operation and support of the conservatives, Finnish Parliament was dissolved and new elections announced. In the October 1917 elections, the Social Democrats lost their absolute majority, which radicalized the labour movement and decreased support for relying on parliamentary means of achieving its aims.

The events of July 1917 did not bring about the Red Revolution in January 1918 on their own. Together with the political development based on the Finnish labour movement's interpretation of the ideas of fennomania and socialism between 1880s and summer 1917, these events were decisive for the nature, content and goal of a Finnish revolution. In order to win power and carry out political reforms, the socialists had to overcome the Finnish Parliament.[29]

The collapse of Russia in the February Revolution resulted in a loss of institutional authority in Finland and the dissolution of the police force, creating fear and uncertainty. In response, groups on both the right and left began assembling independent security groups for their own protection. At first, these groups were local and largely unarmed. By autumn 1917, in the power vacuum following the dissolution of parliament and in the absence of a stable government or a Finnish army, such forces began assuming a more military character.[30] The Civil Guards (later called the White Guards) were organized by local men of influence, usually conservative academics, industrialists and major landowners and activists and were armed by the Germans. The Worker's Security Guards and Red Guards (later called solely the Red Guards) were often recruited through their local party sections and the labour unions, and were armed by the Russians.[31]

October Revolution

Lenin's Bolshevik Revolution on 7 November transferred political power in Petrograd to the radical, left-wing socialists, a turn of events which suited a German Empire exhausted by fighting a war on two major fronts. The policy of the German leaders had been to foment unrest or revolution in Russia in order to force the Russians to sue for peace. To that end, they had arranged for the safe conduct of Lenin and his comrades from exile in Switzerland to Petrograd in April 1917, and financed the Bolshevik party, believing Lenin to be the most powerful weapon they could launch at Russia. The German policy was a success; an armistice between Germany and the Bolsheviks came into force on 6 December and peace negotiations began on 22 December 1917 at Brest-Litovsk.[32]

November 1917 was the second turning point in 1917-1918 rivalry for the leadership of Finland. After the dissolution of the Finnish parliament, the polarization between the Social Democrats and the conservatives increased dramatically. The parliamentary power vacuum lasting for several months provided opportunities for an increased role for the Red and White paramilitary groups. After the Finnish non-socialists won the October 1917 Parliamentary elections, they established a sort of truce with the Russian Provisional Government. This situation was disrupted again by the Bolshevist October revolution, which changed everything. The non-socialist majority in the new Finnish parliament took power on 15 November, on the model of the Power Act of the socialists in July 1917. On the next day the Parliament accepted the Social Democratic proposals from July 1917 for an eight-hour working day and universal suffrage in local elections.

Finally, on 27 November the conservatives tried to hold onto power with the appointment of a purely conservative cabinet, led by Pehr Evind Svinhufvud. The government decided to separate Finland from Russia and strengthen the military power of the Civil Guards. The first Finnish Jägers had arrived at Finland on 31 October on a ship called Equity, carrying a first marked shipment of weapons from the German army. Equity was followed by a German U-boat (UC-57), with more Jägers and weapons on 17 November 1917; there were around 50 Jägers in Finland by the end of 1917. Finnish conservatives were concerned about the aim of Germany and Russia to conduct armistice and peace negotiations as this would restrict the ability of Germany to provide assistance to the White Finns. Just before the start of the peace negotiations, however, Germany agreed to sell 70,000 rifles to the White Guards and arrange a safe return of the Jäger battalion to Finland.

There were 149 Civil-White Guards in Finland (local units in towns and rural communes) on 31 August 1917, 251 on 30 September, 315 on 31 October, 380 on 30 November 1917 and 408 on 26 January 1918. The first attempt to start a serious military training among the Civil Guards was establishment of a 200-strong "cavalry school" at Saksanniemi estate, in vicinity of town Porvoo, east of Helsinki on 19 September 1917.[33]

Following the political defeats in July and October 1917, on 1 November the Social Democrats put forward an uncompromising program called "We demand" in order to push for political concessions. They demanded annulment of the result of the October Parliamentary elections and disbanding of the Civil Guards, which the right refused. Following the October Revolution, Finnish socialists planned to ask the Bolsheviks for acceptance of Finland's sovereignty in a manifesto on 10 November, but the uncertain situation in Petrograd stalled it. After the "We demand" program had failed, the socialists initiated a general strike on 14–19 November 1917. The moderate left aimed to put political pressure on the non-socialists to include a large number of Social Democratic members in the new cabinet.

A revolution had been the goal of the radical left since the loss of the political power in July and October 1917. The shooting of an agricultural worker during a local strike on 9 August at Ypäjä created widespread anger among the working men throughout the country. November 1917 seemed to offer momentum for a revolt. At this phase, Lenin and the Bolsheviks, under threat in Petrograd, urged the Social Democrats to seize power in Finland, which was an important defensive area against the German threat, and a vital backup zone for the Bolsheviks towards Petrograd. But the majority of the Finnish socialists were moderate and preferred parliamentary methods, prompting Lenin to label them "reluctant revolutionaries." However, as the general strike appeared to be successful, the "Workers' Revolutionary Council" voted by a narrow majority to seize power on 16 November, but the supreme revolutionary "Executive Committee" was unable to recruit enough members to carry out the plan and had to call the proposed revolution off the same day.

The Social Democrats had an extra party meeting on 25–27 November 1917. There the voting between revolution and parliamentary means was repeated; the moderates won, but when they tried to pass a decision to completely abandon the idea of socialist revolution in Finland, the party representatives voted "no." The Finnish labour movement wanted thus to sustain a military force of its own and keep the revolutionary road open too.

Russian Bolshevik Joseph Stalin visited the meeting demanding that the Finnish socialists carry out revolution, and tried to push the Social Democrats forward by promising independence to Finland. Stalin failed to convince them to undertake a revolution as the Finns were more eager for sovereignty. The Finnish Social Democrats lack of interest in revolutionary activity was a disappointment to Lenin. He lost his faith in them finally in December 1917 during the process of independence of the Finns and he tried to persuade on the Finnish Bolsheviks in Petrograd.

These incidents effectively split the Social Democrats in two, a majority supporting parliamentary means and a minority demanding revolution. The most revolutionary workers were bitter about the labour movement's decision to give up the political power that it had easily gained during the general strike. The repercussions of the events had a lasting effect on the future of the movement, with several powerful leaders staking positions within the party, and losing support among the radical workers. The atmosphere after the deeds of the armed workers during and immediately after the general strike was not promising.[34]

Among the labour movement, a more marked consequence of autumn 1917 was the rise of the Worker's Guards. There were approximately 20-60 Worker's Guards in Finland between 31 August and 30 September 1917, but after the defeat in the October Parliamentary elections the number of the Guards began to substantially increase. On 20 October the Finnish Labour Union proclaimed the need to establish Worker's Guards in the country; the announcement led to a rush to the Guards; on 31 October their number was 100-150, 342 on 30 November 1917 and 375 on 26 January 1918. There were two parts to the Worker's Guards since May 1917: the Security Guards and the Red Guards. The majority of members were Security Guards. The Red Guards were a partly secret group formed in certain cities including Tampere and Helsinki on the model of the domestic Red Guards built up during the general strike in 1905.[35]

The presence of the two opposing armed forces in Finland, the Red and White Guards, imposed a state of “dual power" and "multiple sovereignty" on Finnish society, typically the prelude to civil war. The decisive cleavage between the two guards broke out during the general strike, when the radical elements of the Red Guards and Worker's Security Guards executed several political opponents in the main cities of southern Finland, and the first armed clashes between Civil Guards and Workers' Guards broke out, with 34 reported casualties. The Finnish Civil War would probably have started at that point had there been enough weapons in the country to arm the two sides; instead, there began a race for weapons and a final escalation towards war.[36]

Finnish sovereignty

The disintegration of Russia offered the Finns a historic opportunity to gain independence, but after the October Revolution, the positions of the conservatives and the Social Democrats on the sovereignty issue had become reversed. The right was now eager for independence because sovereignty would assist them in controlling the left and in minimizing the influence of revolutionary Russia. The Social Democrats had aimed to increase independence of the Finns since the spring of 1917, but now they could not use it for the direct political benefit of their party, and had either to adjust to the right's dominance or try to change everything via a revolution. Nationalism had become a "civic religion" among the Finns by the end of the 19th century; but their main goal, particularly during the first period of Russification and the general strike in 1905, was not independence, but rather a return to the autonomy of 1809-1898. Since 1809, the Grand Duchy had benefited from a customs organization, an independent domestic state budget, its own currency (Finnish markka, since 1860) and industrial progress during 1860–1916. The economy of the Grand Duchy was dependent on the huge Russian market, and separation from Russia would create a risk of losing Finland's preferred position. The economic collapse of Russia and the political power struggle of the Finnish state during 1917 were among the key factors that brought sovereignty to the fore in Finland.[37]

The Bolshevik government's recognition of Finnish independence was the first expression of Lenin's power political strategy and ideology; the right of nations to self-determination.

P.E. Svinhufvud's Senate proposed Finland's declaration of independence, which the Parliament adopted on 6 December 1917.[38] Though the Social Democrats voted against the Svinhufvud proposal, they decided to present an alternative declaration of independence containing no substantial differences. The socialists feared a further loss of support (as in the October elections) among the nationalistic common people and hoped to gain a political majority in the future. They sent two delegations during December 1917 to Petrograd to ask Lenin to approve Finnish independence. Both political groups, therefore, agreed on the need for Finnish sovereignty, despite strong disagreement on the selection of its leadership.[39]

The establishment of sovereignty was not a foregone conclusion; for a small nation like Finland, recognition by Russia and the major European powers was essential. Three weeks after the declaration of independence, Svinhufvud's cabinet concluded, under pressure from Germany, that it would have to negotiate with Lenin for Russian recognition. During December 1917, in turn the Bolsheviks were under pressure, in the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk with the Germans, and Russia Bolshevism was in a deep crisis with a demoralized army and the fate of the October Revolution in doubt. Lenin calculated that the Bolsheviks could perhaps hold central parts of Russia but would have to give up some territories on its periphery, including Finland in the less important north-western corner. As a result, Svinhufvud and his senate delegation won Lenin's concession of sovereignty on 31 December 1917. By the beginning of the Civil War, Austria-Hungary, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland had accepted the Finnish sovereignty. The United Kingdom and United States did not approve it; they were standing by and followed the political and military development between Finland and the major enemy of the Allies, German Empire. The Allies hoped to override Lenin and the Bolsheviks, in order to get Russia back to the war against Germany. As to the Finnish independence, the Germans had hastened it in order to get Finland to their power sphere. France broke off diplomatic relations to the Vaasa Senate later, in spring 1918, as a consequence of the co-operation between Germany and White Finland.[40]


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


In hindsight the events of 1917 have been often seen simply as precursors of the Civil War, an escalation of the conflict starting with the February Revolution, but the opposing political factions had made many failed attempts of their own to create a new order and prevent disintegration among the Finns. The most serious effort had been the Tokoi's Coalition Senate in spring 1917.[41] In autumn 1917, the power vacuum began to be filled by the paramilitary troops of the right and left. The events of the general strike in November 1917 deepened the suspicion and mistrust in Finland and put the possibility of compromise out of reach. The conservatives and rightist activists saw the groups of radical workers active during the strike as a threat to the dominance and security of the former estates and the political right, so they resolved to use all means necessary to defend themselves, including armed force. At the same time, revolutionary workers and left-wing socialists were now considering removing the conservative regime by military force rather than allowing the achievements of the workers' movement to be reversed or implementation of new reforms to be hampered. In these conditions the independence of Finland, gained in December 1917, gave more space to the competing groups in domestic policy, and deepened the power struggle. The result of this hardening of positions was that in late 1917 and early 1918, moderate, peaceful men and women were forced to stand aside while the men with rifles stepped forward to take charge.[42]

The final escalation towards war began in early January 1918, as each military or political act of the Reds or the Whites resulted in a corresponding counteract by their opponents. Both sides justified the acts as defensive measures, particularly to their own supporters. On the left, the vanguard of the war of 1918 was the most radical urban Red Guards and Workers' Security Guards from Helsinki, Kotka and Turku; they led the rural Reds, and convinced those leaders of the Social Democrats who wavered between peace and war, to support revolution. The Guards were under the command of Ali Aaltonen, a former officer in the Imperial Russian Army, who had been appointed in December 1917. On the right, the vanguard of the war was the Jägers who had been moved to Finland by the end of 1917, and the most active volunteer White Guards of Viipuri province in the southeastern corner of Finland, southwestern Finland and southern Ostrobothnia.

The Svinhufvud Senate and the Parliament decided on 12 January 1918 to create a strong police authority, an initiative which the Red Guards saw as a step towards legalizing the White Guards. On 15 January, Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, like Aaltonen a former officer in the Russian army, was appointed supreme commander of the White Guards, and on 25 January the Senate renamed the White Guards the Finnish White Army. The Red Guards refused to recognise the title, and decided to establish a military authority of their own. General Mannerheim located his headquarters in Vaasa, while Aaltonen located his in Helsinki. The third and final culmination of the power struggle between the Finns, and the disintegration of the Finnish society had begun.[43]

The official starting date of the Finnish Civil War is a matter for debate. The first serious battles were fought during 17–20 January in Viipuri province, mainly for control of the town of Viipuri and to win the race for weapons. The White order to engage was issued on 25 January. On 27 January the White Guards tried to capture trains carrying a large shipment of weapons from Petrograd to Viipuri, as promised to the Reds by Lenin. They also continued disarmament of Russian garrisons, initiated in Karelia on 23, by a major operation in Ostrobothnia during the early hours of 28 January. The Red Order of Revolution was issued on 26 January, and on the same day all the Worker's Guards joined together to form the Red Guard of Finland. The large scale mobilization of the Red Guards began in the late evening of 27 January, but some of the Guards located along the Viipuri-Tampere railway had been alerted beforehand to safeguard the Russian trains of arms on 24–26 January, and a 250-strong Finnish Red unit escorted the trains from Petrograd to Viipuri. Around 60 Finns, Red and White, died in "Battle of the Rahja Trains" in the Karelian Isthmus on 27 January 1918.

A symbolic date for the start of the war could be 26 January, when a group of Reds climbed the tower of Helsinki Workers' Hall and lit a red lantern to mark the start of the second major rebellion in the history of Finland.[44]

Brothers in arms

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)

At the beginning of the war, the discontinuous front line ran through southern Finland from west to east, dividing the country into White Finland and Red Finland. The Red Guards controlled the area to the south, including nearly all the major industrial centres and the largest estates and farms with high numbers of crofters and tenant farmers. The White Army controlled the area to the north, which was predominantly agrarian with small or medium-sized farms and tenant farmers, and where crofters were few or held a better social position than in the south. Enclaves of the opposing forces existed on both sides of the front line: within the White area lay the industrial towns of Varkaus, Kuopio, Oulu, Raahe, Kemi and Tornio; within the Red area lay Porvoo, Kirkkonummi and Uusikaupunki. The elimination of these strongholds was a priority for both armies during February 1918.[45]

Red Finland, later named the Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic, was led by the People's Delegation in Helsinki. Kullervo Manner was the chairman and other delegates included Edvard Gylling, Eero Haapalainen, Anna Karhinen, Otto Ville Kuusinen, Hilja Pärssinen, Yrjö Sirola and Oskari Tokoi. In domestic policy the People's Delegation sought socialism based on the Finnish Social Democratic ethos; their vision of democratic socialism for the country did not resemble Lenin's dictatorship of the proletariat.

Otto Ville Kuusinen formulated a proposal for which he would see final acceptance through a referendum for a new constitution, influenced by those of Switzerland and United States, for example. Political power was to be concentrated in the Parliament, with a lesser role to Senate. The proposal included a multi-party system, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and of the press, and the use of referenda, for example, for dissolving the Parliament. In order to ensure the power of the labour movement, the common people would have a right to a "continuous revolution".

However, the Reds’ plans concerning private property rights of the Finns were in conflict with the plans of an "ultrademocratic" and free society; only the state and local administration of municipalities would have had the true property rights. In agriculture the crofters were liberated from the control of the landowners at the beginning of the war, but they were allowed only a right of containment of the farms under the plans of a later general socialization in the country.

All these plans, including the new constitution, remained unfinished as the Reds lost the war.[46]

In foreign policy Red Finland leaned on Bolshevist Russia, which declared its support for the Red Finns; a peace agreement was signed between the Bolsheviks and the Finnish Reds on 1 March 1918. The negotiations for the treaty revealed that, as in World War I in general, nationalism was more important for the both sides than principles of international socialism and pacifism. The Red Finns did not accept an alliance with the Bolsheviks and Lenin, but agreed to an exchange of land areas. An artillery base, Ino located in the Karelian Isthmus, was transferred to Russia, while Finland received Petsamo in north-eastern Lapland.

Lenin’s policy of the right of nations to self-determination aimed to prevent disintegration of Russia during its period of military weakness. He expected that proletariat of free nations would carry out socialist revolutions and join socialist Russia later. In the end, Lenin failed; many minor, western territories of the former empire declared independence. The majority of the Finnish labour movement supported Finland's independence, however, the Red Guards had influence on the politics of Red Finland. The most radical Guards and the Finnish Bolsheviks, though few in number, favoured annexation of Finland back to Russia. The question of annexation was resolved by the defeat of Red Finland.[47]

The senate of White Finland was called the Finnish senate, the Vaasa Senate. It was relocated to the west-coast city of Vaasa, which acted as the capital of White Finland from 29 January to 3 May. Only some senators managed to escape from Helsinki to Vaasa. The chairman Pehr Svinhufvud and Jalmar Castrén had to travel through Estonia, Poland, Germany and Sweden to arrive in White Finland. In the end the Vaasa senate consisted of P.E. Svinhufvud, Juhani Arajärvi, J. Castren, Alexander Frey, E.Y. Pehkonen and Heikki Renvall.

In domestic policy the main goal of the Vaasa Senate was to return the right to power in Finland. The conservatives planned a monarchist political system, with a lesser role for Parliament. A section of the conservatives had always been against democracy; others had approved parliamentarianism since the revolutionary parliamentary reform of 1906, but after the crisis of 1917 and the outbreak of the 1918 war, had concluded that empowering the common people would not work. Social liberals and reformist, moderate non-socialists opposed, however, any restriction of parliamentarianism. They initially resisted German military help, but the prolonged warfare changed their stance.

In foreign policy, the Vaasa Senate looked to Germany for military and political aid in order to defeat the Finnish Red Guards, end the influence of Bolshevist Russia in Finland, and to expand the Finnish territory to Russian Karelia. The latter held economic and strategic significance, and was home to people speaking Finno-Ugric languages. The disintegration and weakness of Russia induced an idea of "Grand Finland" among the more nationalistic factions of both the right and left; a part of the Reds had plans concerning the same areas (Heimosodat).

General Mannerheim agreed on the need for German weapons, but opposed any help from German troops in Finland. As a former Russian army officer, Mannerheim was well aware of the demoralization of the Russian army. He co-operated with the non-socialist, White Russian officers in Finland and Russia, and he recognized also the lack of combat skills of the Red Guards.[48] The competing parties’ war propaganda aimed to prove their support of democracy and liberty and their ability to represent the whole Finnish nation. Both failed by allowing the political crisis to end up in the bloody Civil War and a comprehensive terror, instead of reaching a compromise to accomplish a peaceful political settlement.[49]

The main offensives to the end of March. Whites besiege Tampere and encircle attacking Soviet Russian and Red forces at Rautu, on Karelian Isthmus.

Soldiers on rails

Russian armoured train Partisan, which assisted the Finnish Reds e.g. in the Viipuri area[50]

The number of Finnish troops on each side varied from 50,000 to 90,000. While the Red Guards consisted mostly of volunteers (wages paid at the beginning of the war), the White Army contained only 11,000–15,000 volunteers, the remainder being conscripts. The main motives for volunteering were economic factors (salary, food), idealism, and peer pressure. Urban and agricultural workers constituted the majority of the Red Guards, whereas land-owning farmers and well-educated people formed the backbone of the White Army. Both armies used juvenile soldiers, mainly between 14 and 17 years of age, the most famous example being Urho Kekkonen who fought for the White Army and later became the longest-serving President of Finland.

The Red Guards also included 2,000 female troops, mostly girls, recruited from the industrial centres of southern Finland. The use of child soldiers was not rare in World War I; children of that time were under the absolute authority of adults and were not shielded against abuse of this kind, they were a natural part of the working life and mentally orientated for unrealistic adventure. In the Finnish case an additional reason for the use of juveniles in the turmoil was the less organized and confused conditions, particularly at the beginning of the war; the military leaders took what they got in hand at the time, and in the Red Guards there was a chance for salary also.

The Finnish Civil War was fought primarily along the railways, the vital means of transporting troops and supplies. One of the most important objectives for both Guards was to seize a railway junction northeast of Tampere, Haapamäki, which connected both western-eastern and southern-northern Finland; the Whites captured the junction permanently in the end of January 1918, this led to fierce battles at Vilppula. The Whites' bridgehead south of the River Vuoksi at Antrea on the Karelian Isthmus was a constant problem to the Reds as it threatened the railway connection Viipuri-Petrograd. The other vital railway junctions during the war were Kouvola, Riihimäki, Tampere and Toijala. The significance of the railways to the Civil War of the Finns is well symbolized by the most modern and frightening weapon used in the turmoil: an armoured train, carrying light cannons and heavy machine guns.[51]

The German intervention (grey arrows) and final offensives of the War

Red Guards and the Russian troops

The Red Guards seized the early initiative in the war, taking control of Helsinki, the capital, in the early hours of 28 January, and gaining first advantage with an "attack phase" that lasted till mid-March. However, a chronic shortage of skilled leaders, both at command level and in the field, left them unable to capitalize on their initial momentum, and most of the offensives finally came to nothing. The troops of the Red Guards were not professional soldiers but armed civilians, whose military training and discipline were mostly inadequate to resist the counter-attack of the White Army when it came, still less the onslaught of the German forces who arrived later.

The military hierarchy and the implementation of the warfare functioned only at the level of a platoon and a company in the Red Guards. As most of the platoon and company leaders were chosen in a democratic manner—voting by the troopers—the leadership and authority were weak. The combat morale of the Red troops was often low; some defeated platoons and companies simply left the battlefield and travelled home, regardless of the higher staffs. The effect on the morale of the troopers fighting against the people with the same nationality is not known.

Ali Aaltonen found himself rapidly replaced in command of the Red troops by Eero Haapalainen, who in turn was replaced by the triumvirate of Eino Rahja, Adolf Taimi and Evert Eloranta. The last commander of the Red Guards was Kullervo Manner, who led the final retreat into Russia. Some talented men with a high sense of responsibility such as Hugo Salmela rose up to take the lead, but in the end they could not change the course of the war, and the fate of the Red troops. The Finnish Red Guards achieved their only victories as they retreated from southern Finland towards Russia. In the fierce battles against German troops on 28–29 April 1918 at Hauho and Tuulos, Syrjäntaka, female Red Guard platoons played a marked role. These combats had only local importance.[52]

Red officers on their horses

Although some 60,000 to 80,000 Russian soldiers of the former Tsar's army remained stationed in Finland at the start of the Civil War, the Russian contribution to the Red Guards' cause was to prove negligible. When the conflict began, Lenin tried to commit the army on behalf of Red Finland, but the troops were demoralized, war-weary and home-sick after years of World War I. The majority of the soldiers had returned to Russia by the end of March 1918. As a result, only 7,000 to 10,000 troops participated in the Finnish Civil War, of which no more than 4,000, in separate smaller units of 100-1,000 men, could be persuaded to fight in the front line.

The Russian revolutions had split the Russian army officers politically and their attitude toward the Finnish civil war varied. Some of them such as Mikhail Svetšnikov led the battles on the Red side in western Finland throughout February 1918, while other officers were afraid of their revolutionary underlings and co-operated with the former colleague General Mannerheim, assisting the Whites during the disarmament of the Russian garrisons in Finland.[53] The number of Russian soldiers active in the Civil War declined markedly once Germany attacked Russia on 18 February 1918. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed between Russia and Germany on 3 March, effectively restricted the Bolsheviks' ability to support the Finnish Red Guards with anything more than weapons and supplies. The Russians remained active on the south-eastern front, however, defending the approaches to Petrograd.[54]

White Guards and the German Army

While the conflict has been called by some "The War of the Amateurs", the White Army had three major advantages over the Red Guards in the war: the professional military leadership of General Mannerheim and his staff—which included 84 Swedish volunteer officers and former Finnish officers of the Tsar's army—and 1,450 soldiers of the 1,900-strong, elite "Jäger" battalion. This battalion was trained in Germany during 1915-1917, and battle-hardened on the Eastern Front. The main part of the battalion arrived at Vaasa on 25 February 1918. In the battlefield the Jägers provided strong leadership that made a disciplined and rational combat of the common White soldiers possible. The Jägers were allowed extensive latitude to lead the fighting. The White troopers, however, were similar to those of the Red Guards in that most of them had brief and inadequate training. At the beginning of the war, the leadership of the White Guards had little authority over volunteer White Guard platoons and companies, which obeyed solely their dominant, local leaders. A rapid training of six new Jäger Regiments, with conscripts, started after the arrival of the Jäger battalion at White Finland in the end of February.[55]

However, the Jäger battalion was divided in the same way that the rest of the country was: 450 mostly socialist soldiers of the unit remained stationed in Germany as they could have chosen the Red side in the conflict. The leaders of the White Guards faced a similar problem with drafting young men to the army in February 1918: 30,000 obvious supporters of the Finnish labour movement never showed up. In addition, the White Guard leadership were uncertain whether the common troopers, drafted from the small-sized and poor farms of central and northern Finland, had a strong enough motivation to fight the Finnish Reds. Accordingly, the propaganda of the Whites promoted a nationalist war against the Red, Bolshevist Russians, and belittled the significance of the Red Finns. On 30 January 1918 General Mannerheim proclaimed to Russian soldiers in Finland that the White army did not fight against Russia: the goal of the White campaign was to beat the Finnish Red rebels and the Russian troops supporting them.

Divisions existed in Finland because of the social structure of the country: ownership of even a small parcel of farmland created a motivation to fight against the Reds. Moreover, the economy and society of northern Finland had modernized more slowly than those of the south. Finally, there was a more pronounced conflict between Christianity and socialism in the north.[56]

Sweden's role

Like other European nations, Sweden tried to protect and promote its national interests during the Finnish Civil War and World War I. Officially the Swedish King and the Liberal-Social Democratic government proclaimed neutrality in war, as a consequence of pressures in both foreign and domestic policy. Sweden sought to avoid tensions with the Allied powers and with the strong Swedish socialist movement. Both of these opposed Swedish support for the Whites, because they had co-operated with the German Empire and fought against the Finnish Social Democrats. The Swedish socialists, on the other hand, did not provide support for the Finnish Reds, but tried to open peace negotiations between the Finnish Whites and Reds.

In the background, however, Sweden was concerned about the possibility of expansion of Bolshevist influence in northern Europe, and an increase of radical leftist political activity and social unrest in Sweden. Moreover, there were some factions that supported Germanism in the country. On the other side, the weakness of Russia and Finland opened an opportunity for geopolitical changes in Fennoscandia that would benefit Sweden. The Åland islands, located south-west of Finland, held a strategically vital position in respect to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.

The government of Sweden finally approved participation of volunteer Swedish soldiers in the Finnish Civil War, on the White side. In addition to the Swedish officers, a 800-1,000-strong "Swedish Brigade", led by Hjalmar Frisell, took part in the battles of Tampere and those fought in the area to the south of the town. Moreover, the Swedish Navy escorted the German naval squadron, transporting German weapons to the Finnish Whites, and allowed the squadron to pass through Swedish territorial waters in February 1918.

On the other side, Sweden aimed to take over the Åland islands from Finland by sending a naval military expedition there on 15 February 1918. According to the Swedish propaganda the motive for the move was humanitarian factors, but the true reasons were geopolitical.[57]

Battle of Tampere

Unburied bodies – outcome of the Battle of Tampere

In February 1918 General Mannerheim weighed the centre of the general offensive of the Whites between two strategically most vital strongholds; Tampere, Finland's major industrial town in the south-west, and Viipuri, Karelia's main city. Although seizing Viipuri offered major advantages, the lack of combat skills of his army and potential for a major counterattack by the enemy in the area or in the south-west made it too risky.

In the end Mannerheim decided to strike first at Tampere. He launched the attack on 16 March at Längelmäki, 65 km north-east of Tampere. At the same time, the White Army began advancing along a line through Vilppula–Kuru–Kyröskoski–Suodenniemi, north and north-west of Tampere. The Red Guards collapsed under the weight of the assault, and some of its detachments retreated in panic. The White Army cut off the Red Guards' retreat south of Tampere in Lempäälä and lay siege to Tampere on 24 March, entering the town four days later.

The true Battle of Tampere began on 28 March, later called the "bloody Maundy Thursday" on the eve of Easter 1918. The battle for Tampere was fought between 16,000 White and 14,000 Red soldiers. It was the decisive action of the war and the largest military engagement in Scandinavian history to that point. It was Finland's first urban battle, fought in the Kalevankangas graveyard and from house to house in the city as the Red Guards retreated. The battle, lasting until 6 April 1918, was the bloodiest action of the war.

The Reds, now on the defensive, had increased motivation to fight. The Whites had to use part of the fresh, best trained detachments of their army. The fighting in Tampere was purely a civil war—Finn against Finn, "brother rising against brother"—because most of the Russian army had retreated to Russia in March and the German troops had yet to arrive in Finland. The White Army lost 700–900 men, including 50 Jägers. The Red Guards lost 1,000–1,500 soldiers, with a further 11,000–12,000 imprisoned. 71 civilians died mainly due to artillery fire. The eastern parts of the city, with wooden buildings, were destroyed completely.[58]

After their defeat in Tampere, the Red Guards began a slow retreat eastwards. As the German army seized Helsinki, the White Army shifted its military focus to Viipuri, taking it on 29 April 1918 with a major attack of 18,500 men, against 15,000 Red troopers. 500–800 Reds died, and 12,000–15,000 were imprisoned.[59]

German intervention

German Maschinengewehr 08-machine gun position in Helsinki

The German Empire intervened in the Finnish Civil War on the side of the White Army in March 1918. Finnish nationalists leaning on Germanism had been seeking German aid in freeing Finland from Russian hegemony since Autumn 1917, but the Germans did not want to prejudice their armistice and peace negotiations with Russia because of the pressure they were facing at the Western front. The German stance was altered radically after 10 February when Leon Trotsky, despite the weakness of the Bolsheviks' position, broke off negotiations, hoping revolutions would break out in the German Empire and change everything. The German government promptly decided to teach Russia a lesson and, as a pretext for aggression, invited “requests for help” from the smaller countries west of Russia. Representatives of the Vaasa Senate in Berlin duly requested help on 14 February.[60]

The Germans attacked Russia on 18 February; the offensive led to a rapid collapse and retreat of the Russian troops and to signature of the first Treaty of Brest-Litovsk by the Bolsheviks on 3 March 1918. Russia lost Finland, the Baltic countries, Poland and Ukraine from its western territory; in the end, the economic and political investments that Germany had made in Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin had paid off. The German army did not alter its military plans concerning Finland after the peace treaty with the Bolsheviks because the Civil War of the Finns had opened an easy access with low costs to Fennoscandia, and because troops of a British Naval squadron had invaded the harbour of Murmansk on the northwestern coast of Russia by the Arctic Ocean on 9 March 1918.[61]

On March 5 a German naval squadron landed in the southwestern archipelago of Finland, on the Åland Islands, which the Swedish military expedition had taken over in mid-February.[62] On 3 April 1918, the 10,000-strong Baltic Sea Division led by Rüdiger von der Goltz struck west of Helsinki at Hanko. On 7 April, the 3,000-strong Detachment Brandenstein overran the town of Loviisa on the south-eastern coast. The main German formations then advanced rapidly eastwards from Hanko and took Helsinki on 13 April. At the same time, two German battleships and smaller vessels entered the city harbour and bombarded the Red positions, which included the present-day Presidential Palace. The Brandenstein Brigade attacked the town of Lahti on 19 April, cutting the connection between the western and eastern Red Guards. The main German detachment advanced northwards from Helsinki and took Hyvinkää and Riihimäki on April 21–22, followed by Hämeenlinna on 26 April.

The efficient performance of the German top detachments in the civil war contrasted strikingly with that of the demoralized Russian troops. The final blow to the cause of the Finnish Reds was dealt when the Bolsheviks broke off the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk, leading to the German eastern offensive in February 1918.[63]

Red and White terror

White firing squad executing Red soldiers in Länkipohja

During the civil war, the White Army and the Red Guards both perpetrated acts of terror, called the Red terror and White terror. The threshold of political violence had been crossed in the primarily peaceful Grand Duchy of Finland during the first period of Russification 1899-1905 when Finnish nationalists murdered a Russian governor-general, police officers and a Finnish civil servant. World War I enhanced the potential of terror as it was widespread between the Allies and the Central Powers during the conflict. The February Revolution in 1917 initiated a comprehensive terror in Finland; the Russian common army soldiers murdered several Russian army officers in March 1917. The first victim of non-war violence between the Finns, an agricultural worker, died at the beginning of August 1917 at Ypäjä, during a local strike. In the end, the general strike in November 1917 led to a marked Finnish political terror; the Worker's Guards murdered 27 Finns.[64]

During the war of 1918 there were two kinds of Red and White political violence: (i) a calculated part of the general warfare, and (ii) more local, personal murders and corresponding acts of revenge. In the former, the highest staffs of both sides planned and organized these actions and gave orders to the lower level. At least a third of the Red terror and perhaps most of the White terror was centrally led.[65] At the beginning of the war the governments of White Finland and Red Finland officially opposed acts of terror, but such operational decisions were made at the military level.

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.[65]

The number of casualties and the timing of the terror differed markedly between the Reds and Whites.

Months Deaths from Red Violence Deaths from White Violence
February 1918 700 350
March 1918 200 500
April 1918 700 1,800
May 1918 50 4,800
June 1918 - 300

The level of killings by the Red Guards varied over the months because the Reds could never seize and occupy new areas outside Red Finland, and because they had to focus their efforts on the industrialized southern Finland, where they faced the establishment of Finland. The Red Guards were less organized than the White army in respect to the political terror. The level of killings by the Whites varied over the months of the war because they occupied southern Finland, and initially did not encounter marked resistance from the area of White Finland. The comprehensive White terror started with the general offensive of the Whites in March 1918, increased constantly, culminated in the end of the war, and ceased soon after the enemy had been sent to the prison camps.[66]

Red terror illustrated by a newspaper drawing

Most of the terror was undertaken by "flying detachments" deployed by the both armies. These were cavalry units, usually consisting of 10 to 80 soldiers aged 15 to 20, under the absolute authority of an experienced adult leader. The detachments, specialising in search-and-destroy operations behind the front lines and during and after battles, have been described as death squads. They resembled German Sturmbattalions and Russian Assault units organized during World War I.

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.

The White Guards executed Red Guard and party leaders, Social Democratic representatives of the Finnish parliament and local Red administrations, members of the Red tribunals and police, and common troopers of the Red Guards, and those who had participated in a way or another to the Red terror. During the peak of the White terror, between the end of April and the beginning of May, 200 Reds were shot per day. The White terror hit particularly strong against the Russian soldiers who fought with the Red Guards.

In total, 1,400–1,650 Whites were executed in the Red terror, and 7,000–10,000 Reds were executed in the White terror. The White victims have been recorded quite exactly, but there are questions and permanent uncertainty about the Red victims of the terror. It is unclear which of the victims died in the battles and which of them were executed immediately after the battles. Together with the prison camp experiences of the Reds later in 1918, the terror caused the deepest mental wounds and scars of the Civil War among the majority of the Finns regardless of their political allegiance. It is also known that a part of those who carried out the terror were seriously traumatized, a phenomenon that was later to become well-documented.[67]


After the defeat in Tampere and under the threat of invasion by the German division on the south coast, the People's Delegation retreated from Helsinki to Viipuri on 8 April. After the loss of Helsinki, most of them, only Edvard Gylling standing by his warriors, moved to Petrograd on 25 April 1918. The escape of the Red leadership made the ranks of the Red soldiers bitter and resentful. At the end of April, thousands of them, without true leadership, tried to flee to Petrograd from Red Finland, but the majority of the refugees were besieged by the White and the German troops. The Reds surrendered on 1–2 May in the Lahti area. The long caravans of the Reds included women and children, who experienced a desperate, chaotic escape with several human losses due to the attacks of the enemy. It was "a road of tears" for the Reds, but for the Whites the long enemy caravans heading east was a victorious scene. The Red Guards' last stronghold in south-east Finland, the area between Kouvola and Kotka, fell by 5 May. The war of 1918 ended on 15 May, when the Whites took over Ino, a Russian coastal artillery base on the Karelian Isthmus, from the Russian troops. White Finland and General Mannerheim celebrated the victory with a large military parade in Helsinki on 16 May 1918.[68]

The Red Guards had been defeated. The initially pacifist Finnish labour movement had lost the Civil War, several of its military leaders committed suicide and a majority of the Reds were sent to prison camps. The Vaasa Senate returned to Helsinki on 4 May 1918, but the capital was under the control of the German army. White Finland had become a protectorate of the German Empire. General Rüdiger von der Goltz was called "the true Regent of Finland." No armistice or peace negotiations were carried out between White Finland and Red Finland, and an official peace treaty in order to end the Finnish Civil War was never signed.[69]


Lives Lost
Cause of death Reds Whites Other Total
Killed in action 5,199 3,414 790 9,403
Executed, shot or murdered 7,370 1,424 926 9,720
Prison camp deaths 11,652 4 1,790 13,446
Died after release from camp 607 - 6 613
Missing 1,767 46 380 2,193
Other causes 443 291 531 1,265
Total 27,038 5,179 4,423 36,640
Source: National Archive
Prison camp in Suomenlinna, Helsinki. More than 11,000 people died in such camps due to hunger, disease, and executions.

Bitter legacy

The Civil War was a catastrophe for the Finnish nation. Almost 37,000 people perished, 5,900 of whom (16 percent of the total) were between 14 and 20 years old, the youngest victims of the battles and the terror being between 8 and 10 years. Only about 10,000 of these casualties occurred on the battlefields; most of the deaths resulted from the terror campaigns and from the appalling conditions in the prison camps. In addition, the war left about 20,000 children orphaned. More than 1 percent of the nation's total population perished. Many Red Finland supporters fled to Russia at the end of the war and during the period that followed. The traumatic civil war created a legacy of bitterness, fear, hatred and desire for revenge, and deepened the divisions within Finnish society, a part of the Finns identifying themselves as "citizens of two nations."[70]

The war of 1918 led also to disintegration within both socialist and the non-socialist factions. The power political shift toward the right caused a dispute between conservatives and liberals on the best system of government for Finland to adopt: the former demanded monarchy and restricted parliamentarianism, the latter demanded a Finnish republic with full-scale democracy and social reforms. In the conflict both sides justified their views both via political and legal grounds. The monarchists claimed that the law of 1772 from the Swedish period constituting monarchy was still in effect, the declaration of independence on 6 December 1917 determining only "a principle of republic," and that the constitution must be altered via the law of 1772. They proposed a modernized monarchist constitution for Finland. The republicans argued that the law of 1772 had lost its status in the February Revolution, the power and authority of the Russian Tsar had been assumed by the Finnish parliament through the proclamation of 15 November 1917 and Finnish republic had been accepted in the declaration of independence. The republicans were able to postpone processing of the monarchists' proposal in the parliament, and in the end a new monarchist constitution was not accepted in Finland. Therefore, the monarchists applied directly the law of 1772 to select a new monarch for the country.

A major consequence of the 1918 conflict was the breakup of the Finnish labour movement into three parts: moderate Social Democrats and left-wing socialists in Finland, and communists acting in Soviet Russia with the support of the Bolsheviks. The Social Democratic Party had its first official party meeting after the civil war on 25 December 1918, and the party proclaimed its commitment to parliamentary means and a moderate political program was composed, The Social Democrats disclaimed Bolshevism and communism. The leaders of Red Finland who had fled to Russia, on the other hand, established the Communist Party of Finland in Moscow on 29 August 1918. After the power struggle of 1917 and the bloody civil war, the former Fennomans and Social Democrats, who had supported "ultrademocratic" means in Red Finland, declared now to have committed to revolutionary Bolshevism-communism and to dictatorship of proletariat, under the control of V.I. Lenin.[71]

A new conservative Senate, with a monarchist majority, was formed by JK Paasikivi in May 1918. All members of parliament who had taken part in the revolt were removed from office. This left only one Social Democrat later to be joined by two more. Accordingly the parliament was named a “rump parliament.”[72] In foreign policy, the 3 March Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had placed White Finland in the sphere of influence of the German Empire. The agreements signed with the Germans on 7 March 1918 in return for military support had bound Finland politically, economically, and militarily to Germany. The Finns had looked actively for German military aid: at the end of May the Senate asked the German troops to remain in the country. The Germans proposed a further military pact in summer 1918 as a part of the plan to secure raw materials for their industry from eastern Europe and tighten their control over Russia.

General Mannerheim resigned his post on 25 May after disagreements with the Senate about German hegemony over the country, and about his planned attacks on Petrograd to repulse the Bolsheviks and to Russian Karelia. The Germans opposed these attacks under the peace treaties they had signed with Russia. On 9 October, under pressure from Germany, the monarchist Senate and the rump parliament chose a German prince, Friedrich Karl, brother-in-law of German Emperor William II, to become the King of Finland. All of these measures diminished Finnish sovereignty. The Finns, both right and left, had achieved independence on 6 December 1917 without a gunshot, but then compromised that independence by allowing the Germans to enter the country without difficulty during the civil war.[73]

The economic condition of the country had deteriorated so drastically that recovery to pre-conflict levels was not achieved until 1925. The most acute crisis was in the food supply, already deficient in 1917, though starvation had at that time been avoided in southern Finland. The Civil War, according to the leaders of Red Finland and White Finland, would solve all past problems; instead it led to starvation in southern Finland too. Late in 1918, Finnish politician Rudolf Holsti appealed for relief to Herbert Hoover, the American chairman of the Committee for Relief in Belgium: Hoover arranged for food shipments and persuaded the Allies to relax their blockade of the Baltic Sea, which had obstructed food supplies to Finland, to allow the food in.[74]

Prison camps

The White Army and German troops captured about 80,000 Red prisoners by the end of the war on 5 May 1918. Once the White terror subsided, a few thousand including mainly small children and women, were set free, leaving 74,000–76,000 prisoners. The largest prison camps were Suomenlinna, an island facing Helsinki, Hämeenlinna, Lahti, Viipuri, Ekenäs, Riihimäki and Tampere. The Senate made the decision to keep these prisoners detained until each person's guilt could be examined. A law for a Tribunal of Treason was enacted on 29 May after a long dispute between the White army and the Senate of the proper trial method to adopt. The Tribunal did not meet all the standards of neutral justice, due to the mental atmosphere of White Finland after the war. Approximately 70,000 Reds were convicted, mainly for complicity to treason. Most of the sentences were lenient, however, and many got out on parole. Some 555 people were sentenced to death, of which 113 were executed. The trials revealed also that some innocent people had been imprisoned.[75]

Combined with the severe food shortage, the mass imprisonment led to high mortality rates in the camps, and the catastrophe was compounded by a mentality of punishment, anger and indifference on the part of the victors. Many prisoners felt that they were abandoned by their own leaders, who had fled to Russia. The physical and mental condition of the prisoners declined rapidly in May as food supplies had disrupted during the Red Guards' chaotic retreat in April, and a high number of Red prisoners had been sent to the less organized prison camps already during the first half of April in Tampere and Helsinki. As a consequence, 2,900 starved to death or died in June as a result of diseases caused by malnutrition and Spanish flu, 5,000 in July, 2,200 in August, and 1,000 in September. The mortality rate was highest in the Ekenäs camp at 34 percent, while in the others the rate varied between 5 percent and 20 percent. In total around 13,500 Finns perished. The dead were buried in mass graves near the camps.[76]

The majority of the prisoners were paroled or pardoned by the end of 1918 after the change in the political situation. There were 6,100 Red prisoners left at the end of the year, 4,000 at the end of 1919 (3,000 pardoned in January 1920, at the same time civil rights were given back to 40,000 prisoners), 500 in 1923, and in 1927 the last 50 prisoners were pardoned by the Social Democratic government led by Väinö Tanner. In 1973, the Finnish government paid reparations to 11,600 persons imprisoned in the camps after the civil war. Several reasons for the long-term and relatively high support of communism in Finland can be found; for the civil war generation of the left, the traumatic hardships of the prison camps were probably decisive.[77]


Just as the fate of the Finns was decided outside Finland in Petrograd on 15 March 1917, so it was decided outside Finland again on 11 November 1918, this time in Berlin, as Germany accepted defeat in World War I. The grand plans of the German Empire had come to nothing, and revolution had spread among the German people due to lack of food, war-weariness, and defeat in the battles on the Western Front. German troops left Helsinki on 16 December, and Prince Friedrich Karl, who had not yet been crowned, left his post on 20 December. Finland's status altered from a monarchist protectorate of the German Empire to an independent democratic republic, with a modernizing civil society. The system of government was confirmed on 17 July 1919.

The first local elections based on universal suffrage in the history of Finland were held during 17–28 December 1918, and the first parliamentary election after the Civil War on 3 March 1919. The United States and the United Kingdom recognised Finnish sovereignty on 6–7 May 1919. The Western powers demanded establishment of democratic republics in post-war Europe in order to calm down the widespread revolutionary movements in Europe.[78]

Memorial to all Finns of the Civil War.

After the Civil War, at the beginning of 1919 a moderate Social Democrat, Väinö Voionmaa, wrote: "Those who still trust in the future of this nation must have an exceptionally strong faith. This young independent country has lost almost everything due to the war...." He was a vital companion for the leader of the reformed Social Democratic Party, Väinö Tanner. In the half of April 1918, a social liberal, non-socialist, the eventual first president of Finland, K.J. Ståhlberg, elected 25 July 1919, wrote: "It is urgent to get the life and development in this country back on the path that we had already reached in 1906 and which the turmoil of war turned us away from." He was supported by Santeri Alkio, the leader of the Agrarian League. Alkio's party colleague Kyösti Kallio gave his Nivala address on 5 May 1918 saying: "We must rebuild a Finnish nation, which is not divided into the Reds and Whites....We must establish a democratic Finnish republic, where all the Finns can feel that we are true citizens and members of this society."

In the end many of the moderate Finnish conservatives followed the thinking of Lauri Ingman, who wrote in spring 1918: "A political turn more to the right will not help us now, instead it would strengthen the support of socialism in this country."[79]

Together with the other broad-minded Finns, the new partnership constructed a Finnish compromise which eventually delivered a stable and broad parliamentary democracy. This compromise was based both on the defeat of Red Finland in the Civil War and the fact that most of the political goals of White Finland had not been achieved. After the foreign forces left Finland, the militant factions of the Red and the White lost their backup, while the pre-1918 cultural and national integrity, and the legacy of Fennomania, stood out among the Finns. The weakness of both Germany and Russia after World War I made a domestic Finnish political and social compromise possible. The reconciliation led to a slow and painful, but steady, national unification. In the end, the power vacuum and interregnum of 1917-1919 gave way to the Finnish compromise. From 1919 to 1991, the democracy and sovereignty of the Finns withstood challenges from right-wing and left-wing radicalism, the crisis of World War II, and pressure from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.[80]

In popular culture

The first generally appreciated book in Finland concerning the war, Devout Misery (Finnish: Hurskas kurjuus), was written by the Nobel Laureate in Literature Frans Emil Sillanpää in 1919. Between 1959 and 1962, Väinö Linna, in his trilogy Under the North Star (Finnish: Täällä Pohjantähden alla), described the Civil War and the Second World War from the point of view of the common people. In poetry, Bertel Gripenberg, who had volunteered for the white army, celebrated its cause in The Great Age (Swedish: Den stora tiden) in 1928. Viljo Kajava, who had experienced the horrors of the Battle of Tampere at the age of nine, presented a pacifist view of the civil war in his Poems of Tampere 1918 of the 1960s. Also Kjell Westö's epic novel Where We Once Went (Swedish: Där vi en gång gått) deals with the Finnish civil war, following individuals and families from both the Red and the White sides of the spectrum, before, during and after the war period.


  1. ^ Russian troops' departure was an interaction between the war for Finland and the German-Russian peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk
  2. ^ a b Arimo 1991, Manninen 1992–1993 II, pp. 131, 145, Upton 1981, p. 107
  3. ^ a b Manninen 1992–1993, Paavolainen 1966, Upton 1981, pp. 191, 453, Westerlund 2004
  4. ^ Hämäläinen 1974, pp. 117–125, Upton 1980b, Westerlund 2004a
  5. ^ Klinge 1997, Jussila 2007, pp. 230–264
  6. ^ Alapuro 1988, pp. 185–196, Haapala 1995, pp. 11–13, 152–156, Klinge 1997, Jussila 2007, pp. 230–264, Haapala 2008, pp. 255–261
  7. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 109–114, 195–263, Alapuro 1988, pp. 185–196, Haapala 1995, pp. 11–13, 152–156
  8. ^ Haapala 2008, pp. 255–261
  9. ^ Upton 1981, pp. 227–446, Manninen, O. in: Aunesluoma & Häikiö 1995, pp. 21–32
  10. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 434–435, Ylikangas 1986, pp. 163–172, Manninen, T. 1992 in; Manninen, O. ed., part I pp. 346–395 and pp. 398–433, Haapala 1995, pp. 223–225, 237–243, Vares 1998, pp. 56–137, Jussila 2007, pp. 264–291, Haapala 2008, pp. 255–261
  11. ^ The Finnish Civil War has also been called The Freedom War, The Brethren War, The Class War, The Red Rebellion and The Finnish Revolution. Haapala 1993, Manninen 1993, Ylikangas 1993b, Lackman 2000, Peltonen 2003, pp. 307–325
  12. ^ Alapuro 1988, pp. 85–100, Haapala 1995, pp. 241–256, Tikka 2006, pp. 11–13, Haapala 2009, pp. 395–404
  13. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 62–144, Apunen 1987, pp. 47–404, Haapala 1995, pp. 11–13, 152–156, Meinander 1999, pp. 11–52, Lackman 2000, pp. 54–64, Lackman 2009, pp. 48–57
  14. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 13–15, 30–32, Alapuro 1988, pp. 110–114, 150–196, Haapala 1995, pp. 11–13, 152–156, Lackman 2000, Jutikkala & Pirinen 2003, pp. 397, Meinander 2006, pp. 93–119, Jussila 2007, pp. 81–148, 264–282
  15. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 13–15, 30–32, Alapuro 1988, pp. 110–114, 150–196, Haapala 1995, pp. 11–13, 152–156, Klinge 1997, pp. 483–524, Jussila, Hentilä & Nevakivi 1999, Lackman 2000, Jutikkala & Pirinen 2003, pp. 397, Jussila 2007, pp. 81–148, 264–282, Soikkanen 2008, pp. 45–94
  16. ^ Contrary to Central Europe and mainland Russia, as a consequence of the Swedish regime, the economic, political and social authority of the Finnish estates was not based on marked feudal land property and capital. Instead there were free peasants with no tradition of serfdom in the country, and the might of the estates was bound to the interaction between the state formation and industrialization. Particularly socialism was an antithesis to the class system of the estates, Haapala 1986, Apunen 1987, pp. 73–133, Alapuro 1988, pp. 85–100, Haapala 1995, pp. 40–46, 62–66, 105–108, 254–256, Klinge 1997, pp. 250–288, 416–449, Kalela 2008a, pp. 15–30, Kalela 2008b, pp. 31–44
  17. ^ The increasing political power of the left drew a part of the Finnish intelligentsia, mainly Fennomans - radical Fennomans from the Old Finnish party, to the labour movement: Edvard Gylling, Otto-Ville Kuusinen, Kullervo Manner, Hannes Ryömä, Yrjö Sirola, Väinö Tanner, Karl H. Wiik, Väinö Voionmaa, Sulo Vuolijoki (called the "November 1905 socialists"), Klinge 1997, pp. 250–288, 428–439, Nygård 2003; in Zetterberg S. (ed.) Suomen historian pikkujättiläinen pp. 553-565.
  18. ^ The power struggle of 1880-1905 dealing with the voting right appeared both within the estates peasants-clergy vs. nobility-burghers as a dispute of Swedish and Finnish language dominance, and between nobility-burghers vs. the labour movement; peasants-clergy supported the voting right for the common man in the class system as it would have increased the political power of the Finnish speaking population within the estates, Apunen 1987, pp. 242–250, Alapuro 1988, pp. 85–100, 101–127, 150–151, Haapala 1995, pp. 49–77, Klinge 1997, pp. 289–309, 416–449, Vares 1998, pp. 38–55, Olkkonen 2003, pp. 517–521, Mickelsson 2007, Kalela 2008a, pp. 15–30, Kalela 2008b, pp. 31–44
  19. ^ Apunen 1987, pp. 242–250, Alapuro 1988, pp. 85–100, 101–127, 150–151, Alapuro 1992, pp. 251–267, Haapala 1995, pp. 230–232, Klinge 1997, pp. 450–482, Vares 1998, pp. 62–78, Jutikkala & Pirinen 2003, pp. 372–373, 377, Jussila 2007, pp. 244–263, Kalela 2008b, pp. 31–44, Parliamentary reform of 1906
  20. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 51–54, Ylikangas 1986, pp. 163–164, Jussila 2007, pp. 230–243
  21. ^ There were just a few Bolshevist socialists in Finland: Bolshevism was more popular among Finnish industrial workers who had moved to work in Petrograd during the end of 19th century, Haapala 1995, pp. 56–59, 142–147
  22. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 109, 195–263, Alapuro 1988, pp. 143–149, Haapala 1995, pp. 11–14
  23. ^ Kirby 2006, pp. 150
  24. ^ Haapala 1995, pp. 221, 232–235
  25. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 95–98, 109–114, Ylikangas 1986, pp. 165–167, Alapuro 1988, pp. 163–164, 192, Haapala 1995, pp. 155, 197, 203–225
  26. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 163–194, Alapuro 1988, pp. 158–162, 195–196, Keränen 1992, pp. 35, 37, 39, 40, 50, 52
  27. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 163–194, Alapuro 1988, pp. 158–162, 195–196, Keränen 1992, pp. 35, 37, 39, 40, 50, 52, Haapala 1995, pp. 229–245, Klinge 1997, pp. 487–524, Kalela 2008b, pp. 31–44, Kalela 2008c, pp. 95–109
  28. ^ Keränen 1992, p. 50, Haapala 1995, pp. 229–245, Klinge 1997, pp. 502–524, Kalela 2008b, pp. 31–44, Kalela 2008c, pp. 95–109
  29. ^ Enckell 1956, Upton 1980, pp. 163–194, Alapuro 1988, pp. 158–162, 195–196, Alapuro 1992, pp. 251–267, Keränen 1992, pp. 35, 37, 39, 40, 50, 52, Kettunen 1994, Haapala 1995, pp. 229–245, Klinge 1997, pp. 502–524, Kalela 2008b, pp. 31–44, Kalela 2008c, pp. 95–109
  30. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 195–230, Ylikangas 1986, pp. 166–167, Haapala 1995, pp. 237–243
  31. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 195–230, Lappalainen 1981, Salkola 1985, Alapuro 1988, pp. 151–167, Manninen 1993, Haapala 1995, pp. 237–243, Hoppu 2009, pp. 112–143
  32. ^ Keränen 1992, p. 36, Lackman 2000, pp. 86–95, Lackman 2009, pp. 48–57
  33. ^ The German rifles were transported to Finland between the half and end of February 1918, Upton 1980, pp. 264–342, 383–466, Keränen 1992, pp. 59, 62–63, 66, 68, 70, Manninen, Turo 1992; in: Manninen, O. ed. part I, pp. 393-395, Haapala 1995, pp. 152–156, 235–243
  34. ^ The Russian District Committee in Finland was the first one to reject the authority of the Provisional Government, at the beginning of the October revolt. Lenin's pessimistic comment on 27 January 1918 to Finnish bolshevik Eino Rahja who led the trains carrying a heavy load of Russian weapons from Petrograd to Viipuri is well known: "No comrade Rahja, this time you will not win your campaign, because you have the power of the Finnish Social Democrats in Finland," Ketola 1987, pp. 368–384, Upton 1980, pp. 264–342
  35. ^ Salkola 1985, Manninen, Turo 1992; in: Manninen, O. ed. part I, pp. 324-343, 393-395, Jussila 2007, pp. 282–291
  36. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 317–342, Alapuro 1988, pp. 151–171
  37. ^ Until 1914 Finland exported refined forest and metal products to Russia, and sawmill and bulk wood products to Western Europe. World War I cut off the export to the West, and directed the majority of the trade to Russia. Since 1917 the export to Russia collapsed, and after 1919 the Finns were able to penetrate substantially to the western market due to the high demand of products there, after World War I Alapuro 1988, pp. 89–100, Haapala 1995, Meinander 2006, pp. 143–150, Jussila 2007, pp. 9–10, 269–276, Kalela 2008a, pp. 15–30, Kuisma 2010, pp. 13–81
  38. ^ Keränen 1992, p. 73, Haapala 1995, p. 236
  39. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 343–382, Alapuro 1988, pp. 189–192, Keränen 1992, p. 78, Manninen 1993, Jutikkala, E. in: Aunesluoma & Häikiö 1995, pp. 11–20,
  40. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 258–261, 343–382, Keränen 1992, p. 79, Jussila 2007, pp. 183–197
  41. ^ Haapala 1995, p. 232
  42. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 517–518, Alapuro 1988, pp. 185–196, Ylikangas 1993, pp. 15–24, Haapala 1995, pp. 221, 223–225, Jutikkala & Pirinen 2003, pp. 389
  43. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 390–500, Lappalainen 1981, Keränen 1992, pp. 80–87, Manninen, Turo 1992; in: Manninen, O., ed., part I pp. 398–433
  44. ^ In the end, Eino Rahja got the trains and weapons to Viipuri, the final station, Tampere was reached on 2 February 1918, Upton 1980, pp. 471–515, Lappalainen 1981, Keränen 1992, pp. 85–89, Manninen, Turo 1992; in: Manninen, O., ed., part I pp. 398–433
  45. ^ Keränen 1992, pp. 91–101
  46. ^ The "ideological father" of the Finnish Social Democrats, Karl Kautsky, disapproved the Finnish red revolution, in the end Kautsky, an opponent of V.I. Lenin, had supported reformist policy; his message to the People's Delegation was never published in Red Finland, Keränen 1992, p. 102, Piilonen Juhani 1993; in Manninen, O. ed. part II pp. 486-627, Jussila, Hentilä & Nevakivi 1999, pp. 108
  47. ^ The Russian Bolshevist District Committee and the Russian Red troops declared war against White Finland after the Whites had attacked the Russian garrisons in Finland, Upton 1981, pp. 255–278, Keränen 1992, pp. 94, 106, Manninen 1993, Manninen, O. in: Aunesluoma & Häikiö 1995, pp. 21–32
  48. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 383–457, Upton 1981, pp. 62–64, Manninen, O. in: Aunesluoma & Häikiö 1995, pp. 21–32, Klinge 1997, pp. 516–524, Vares 1998, pp. 38–46, 56–79, Meinander 1999, pp. 11–52, Lackman 2000, Westerlund 2004b, pp. 175–188
  49. ^ Piilonen Juhani 1993; in Manninen, O. ed. part II pp. 486-627
  50. ^ The original name of the train, manufactured during 1915 for WW I, was General Annenkov, Eerola Jouni 2010; in Journal of Finnish Military history 29, pp 123-165
  51. ^ Lappalainen 1981, Ylikangas 1993, pp. 15–21, Manninen, O. in: Aunesluoma & Häikiö 1995, pp. 21–32, Tikka 2006
  52. ^ Upton 1981, pp. 227–255, Lappalainen 1981, Marjomaa 2004
  53. ^ Mannerheim promised the co-operating officers their freedom, while many of those opposing the Whites were executed during the 1918 war. The Russian army officers were executed by the Finnish Reds also; some of the officers assisting the Finnish Red Guards were shot due to the bitter defeat in battle for Tampere, Upton 1981, pp. 265–276, Lappalainen 1981, Manninen, O. in: Aunesluoma & Häikiö 1995, pp. 21–32, Westerlund 2004b, pp. 175–188, Tikka 2006, Hoppu, T. 2008; in: Hoppu T et al. (eds.) Tampere 1918 pp. 188-199
  54. ^ Upton 1981, pp. 259–262, Manninen, O. in: Aunesluoma & Häikiö 1995, pp. 21–32, Lackman 2000
  55. ^ Some volunteer troops unexpectedly left the frontline empty, e.g. in order to travel home to change their clothing outfit, which the incomplete White army could not supply. They returned to the battlefield later, Upton 1981, pp. 62–144, Roselius 2006, pp. 151–160, Tikka 2006, pp. 25–30, Lackman 2009, pp. 48–57
  56. ^ Upton 1980, pp. 9–50, Keränen 1992, p. 89, Haapala 1993, Jussila 2007, pp. 264–291, Lackman 2009, pp. 48–57
  57. ^ On 31 December 1917 the people of Åland had proclaimed (by a 57% majority) that they wanted to join the island to the Kingdom of Sweden. The question of controlling Åland became a matter of dispute between Sweden and Finland after World War I, Upton 1981, pp. 990–120, Keränen 1992, pp. 79, 97, Klinge 1997, pp. 483–524, Hoppu 2009, p. 130
  58. ^ Ylikangas 1993, pp. 103–295, 429–443, Aunesluoma & Häikiö 1995, pp. 92–97, Ahto Sampo 1993; in Manninen, O., ed., part II pp. 180–445, Hoppu 2007, pp. 12–35
  59. ^ Lappalainen 1981, Upton 1981, pp. 424–446, Aunesluoma & Häikiö 1995, p. 112, Lackman 2000, Hoppu 2009, pp. 199–223
  60. ^ On 7 March, representatives Hjelt and Erich agreed to pay the military costs of German military assistance. Jussila, Hentilä & Nevakivi 1999, pp. 117
  61. ^ Upton 1981, pp. 62–144, Keränen 1992, p. 108
  62. ^ The Swedish troops were forced to leave the area by May 1918, Keränen 1992, Jussila, Hentilä & Nevakivi 1999, pp. 117
  63. ^ Upton 1981, pp. 369–424, Arimo 1991, Manninen 1992–1993, Lackman 2009
  64. ^ Keränen 1992, Uola 1998, pp. 11–30, Tikka 2009, pp. 226–245
  65. ^ a b Tikka 2004, pp. 452–460, Tikka 2006, pp. 69–138, Tikka 2009, pp. 226–245
  66. ^ Paavolainen 1966 and 1967, Manninen 1992–1993, Eerola & Eerola 1998, pp. 59, 91, Westerlund 2004, pp. 15, Tikka 2009, pp. 226–245
  67. ^ The number of the Red casualties of the White terror is estimated to be around 10,000, including 300–500 female soldiers. Participation of child soldiers in the execution squads was a feature of the Civil War, Paavolainen 1966, pp. 183–208, Paavolainen 1967, Keränen 1992, pp. 121, 138, Eerola & Eerola 1998, pp. 59, 91, Tikka 2004, pp. 96–108, 214–291, Westerlund 2004a, pp. 15, Tikka 2006, pp. 25–32,69–81,141–146,157–158, Huhta 2009, Tikka 2009, pp. 226–245
  68. ^ Keränen 1992, pp. 123–137
  69. ^ Keränen 1992, pp. 123–137, Jussila 2007, Kolbe & Nyström 2008, pp. 144–155
  70. ^ Upton 1981, pp. 447–481, Haapala 1995, pp. 9–13, 212–217, Peltonen 2003, pp. 9–24, 214–220, 307–325, Tikka 2004, pp. 452–460, Tikka 2006, pp. 32–38, 209–223 War victims in Finland 1914–1920
  71. ^ Upton 1981, pp. 447–453, 480, Keränen 1992, pp. 136, 149, 152, 159, Manninen 1992–1993, Vares 1998, pp. 38–115, 199–249, Jussila 2007, pp. 276–291, Vares 2009, pp. 376–394
  72. ^ Jussila, Hentilä & Nevakivi 1999, pp. 121
  73. ^ An additional, partly secret, peace treaty, settling the Finnish-Russian border, was signed at Brest-Litovsk on 27 August 1918, Rautkallio 1977, Upton 1981, pp. 447–453, 480, Keränen 1992, pp. 136, 152, Manninen 1992–1993, Vares 1998, pp. 38–115, 199–249, Jussila 2007, pp. 276–291
  74. ^ The Finnish economy grew exceptionally rapidly between 1924 and 1939, despite a slow-down during the depression of 1929-1931, enhancing markedly the standard of living of majority of the Finns, Keränen 1992, p. 157, Haapala 1995, pp. 9–13, 212–217, Saarikoski, V. in: Pernaa & Niemi 2008, pp. 115–131
  75. ^ Paavolainen 1971, Kekkonen 1991, Keränen 1992, pp. 140, 142, Jussila, Hentilä & Nevakivi 1999, pp. 112, Tikka 2006, pp. 161–178,
  76. ^ Paavolainen 1971, Manninen 1992–1993, Eerola & Eerola 1998, pp. 114, 121, 123, Westerlund 2004, pp. 115–150, Linnanmäki 2005, Suodenjoki 2009, pp. 335–355
  77. ^ Upton 1981, pp. 447–481, Jussila, Hentilä & Nevakivi 1999, pp. 112, Suodenjoki 2009, pp. 335–355
  78. ^ Keränen 1992, pp. 154, 171, Manninen 1992–1993, Haapala 1995, pp. 243–256, Kalela 2008c, pp. 95–109
  79. ^ Ståhlberg, Ingman, Tokoi, and Miina Sillanpää with other moderate female politicians had desperately tried to avoid the war in Jan 1918 with a proposal for a new Senate including both non-socialist and socialist members, but they were run over, Hokkanen 1986, Haapala 1995, pp. 243, 249, Vares 1998, pp. 58, 96–99
  80. ^ The Finnish modernization process, during the end of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century, was an interaction between industrialization, state formation, democratization, formation of civil society and national independence. The process did not follow any long-term, grand plan made by the Finns or some others. Instead it was the result of reacting to and solving short-term domestic and international economical, social and political questions and problems on the basis of the long-term history, structure and the way of living of the northern society formed between western and eastern Europe, Upton 1981, pp. 480–481, Ylikangas 1986, pp. 169–172, Haapala 1995, pp. 243–256, Haapala 2008, pp. 255–261, Haapala 2009, pp. 395–404, Vares 2009, pp. 376–394


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