The Finnish Civil War

The Commander-in-Chief greets the Parliament on Senate Square
The Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Army, C.G. Mannerheim, greets the Parliament in Helsinki Senate square on May 16, 1918. Courtesy of Finnish Heritage Museum.

The Russian Revolution and the Finnish Civil War are often seen as the same event; however, they were two separate wars very close together.  The Finnish government began preparation for separating from Russia in 1917, but Finland did not accept their constitution or separation.  No significant conflicts came from this war, but Finland declared its independence on December 7, 1917, with the support of other European nations.  All Finns were united in this conflict, but the Finnish Civil War was a division between the socialist labor class and democratic middle-class Finns.  It was a short three-month war that began on January 28, 1918, and ended in late April of 1918.  The Civil War ended with the White army winning and Finland becoming a democratic republic.


The end of the war contained many legal proceedings and war criminals.  The white army reportedly mistreated their prisoners, but nothing was proven.  Historic rhetoric was also changed to hide the mistreatment in prisoner camps.  The new government had two methods to distract from their criminal behavior.  The first was discussing the Red terror that occurred before, during, and after the war.  The other was claiming Red soldiers to be Russian, therefore against Finnish sovereignty.  The Finns also continued to try and improve and expand their nation with new governments and territories.


Two issues are being addressed on this website.  The first is the debate on if the Russian Revolution and Finnish Civil War were the same events or different.  The website features two sections discussing both events in detail, expressing how they differed.  The second is the continuing issues and shifting ideas of these events’ memories and their power over the people.  There was no set end to the Russian revolution, leaving its termination available to flow into the Civil War and eventually leading to the distortion of its history.  The middle of the website has information on foreign parties who participated or were somewhat involved in the wars or Finland’s future endeavors—leaving the last two paragraphs to discuss the ending of the Civil War and the memory and events that followed Finland becoming a republic.

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