« Alpeilla lämpimintä 1300 vuoteen | Memoria volatilis | Athanasius Kircher -yhdistyksen asiakirjat »

joulukuu 06, 2006

Candles in the window

Today is the 89th Independence Day of Finland. It is a Finnish tradition to light candles in the windows in the evening of the Independence Day. There is a historical reason for this, although not many might know it.

From 1809 until 1917 Finland was an autonomous part of Russia as the Grand Duchy of Finland with its own four-chamber Diet as the legislative body. In the late 19th century a policy of russification began in the Russian empire. The aim was to abolish cultural and administrative autonomy of non-Russian minorities within the empire. The periods of russification are called in Finland the years of oppression or "the frost years".

The first period of russification in Finland was 1899-1905. The oppressive actions of Russians resulted in Finnish resistance. Resistance began with with petitions and escalated to strikes and passive resistance. Resistance culminated in the assassination of the Russian governor-general Nikolai Bobrikov in June 1904.

After the defeat in the Russo-Japanese War 1905 a period of civil unrest began in Russia and the Russian officials suspended and partially reversed the Russification campaign. In 1906 the old four-chamber Diet was replaced by a unicameral Finnish Parliament as an attempt to improve the Russo-Finnish relations. The Russification campaign was reintroduced in 1908. When the First World War began, the Russification campaign was suspended again.

The Finns were rightly suspicious of the Russian government and the Jäger movement began. The Jäger troops were volunteers from Finland who were trained in Germany as elite light infantry, called Jäger in German. The Finnish volunteers were transported from Finland across the western border to Sweden and from there to Germany. In Germany these volunteers were formed into the Royal Prussian 27th Jäger Battalion. Their goal was to return to Finland to lead armed resistance against the Russians.

Of course the Russian government did not approve the recruitment of Finns to the army of its enemy and recruitment had to be done secret. The route to Sweden was dangerous and here's the background for the candles in the window: two candles in the window were used as a sign to inform Finnish Jäger volunteers that the house was ready to offer shelter and keep them hidden from the Russians.

The Finnish Jäger Battalion participated from 1916 in the battles on the northern flank of the eastern front as a part of the German Army. After abdication of Tsar Nicholas II on 15 March 1917, the Finns thought the personal union between Russia and Finland lost its legal base. Finally on 6 December 1917 the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Finnish Parliament. The Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also declared their independence from Russia around the same time.

The Finnish independence was acknowledged by Russia on January 4, 1918. After that Germany and the Scandinavian countries also acknowledged the inpedendence of Finland. From January to May 1918 there was a civil war in Finland. On the one side there were the non-socialist White Guards and on the other side fought the socialist Red Guards, which consisted mainly of workers and tenant farmers.

Although Lenin himself had acknowledged the Finnish independece, he tried to commit the units of Russian army still stationed in Finland to fight for the Red Guards in order to get a friendly socialist government in Finland. But the Russian troops in Finland were demoralized and war-weary after years of constant, traumatic defeat against Germany and they had no significant influence on the course of the war.

The Finnish Jägers who intended to fight in the White Guards in the Finnish civil war were released from the German army and they returned to Finland. Their contribution to the White victory was crucial. Educated as elite troops they were also fit to assume command as officers over the untrained and uneducated White Guards troops. Led by the General Mannerheim and supported by the German army, the White Guards won the war.

Many of the Jägers continued their military careers in the Finnish army. In 1939 the Soviet Union attacked Finland and attempted a reconquest. Although greatly outnumbered, the Finnish Army successfully defended the country and the inpedendence of Finland. Most of the commanders of army corps, divisions and regiments in the Winter War were Jägers. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were annexed to Soviet Union in 1940 and occupied by the Soviet forces until 1991.

Bookmark and Share

Lähettänyt – Sent by Jussi |
(0) kommenttia - comments

Kommentoi - Post a comment

Jos et ole kommentoinut aikaisemmin, kommenttisi ilmestyy vasta kun se on hyväksytty.