A Dog Trained to Bite: Finnish War Culture and its Image of the Enemy

Research paper for Prof. Richard Stites' seminar, spring 1998, at the Renvall Institute, Helsinki University.

By Heinrich Pesch

Historical Background

Ethnic tensions and hostilities between Finns and Russians are not a development of the XX century. Sparsely populated Finland had been for centuries a trophy for invaders from the South and from the West, been subject of Christianisation as well from Russian-Orthodox and Roman-Catholic forces until finally, under Swedish rule, the country turned to the Lutheran confession, while much of Karelia remained under the influence of the Orthodox church. During the Northern War 1700-21 the Russian army fought for years on end in Finland causing much destruction and civilian suffering. In 1809 the country became an autonomous part of the Russian Empire while keeping Swedish-style civil institutions. Attempts at Russification under Nicholas II met with resistance, Russian terrorists found support from Finnish socialists and the General-Governor Bobrikov was assassinated. The Bolshevik Government under Lenin conceded in December 1917 to Finnish independence. During the spring of 1918 the Whites, a German supported coalition of nationalists and agrarians won the civil war against the Reds, the left fraction of the socialists, many of whom fled to Russia or perished in concentration camps if not executed by White firing squads. The fate of 20-30 000 Russian soldiers, who had surrendered to the Whites almost without resistance, was never completely resolved. They 'disappeared'. In Vyborg (according to a TV-documentary) Whites collected civilians and asked them to count to three. If the person pronounced the word for 'one' - yksi in the Russian way as 'uksi', he or she was shot.

Both parties were not satisfied with the new borders: White Finland, because she would have liked to own at least the whole Eastern Karelia, and Soviet Russia, because the frontier run uncomfortably close to Leningrad. Practically it was impossible to draw a 'just' frontier as Karelian population was mixed and spoke partly Russian, partly Finnish-related languages.

Already in 1906 Finland had gained general suffrage and, after independence, enjoyed political stability under democratic rule. In Finland as in the other Nordic countries the institution of serfdom had never developed, though the most impoverished peasants had owned no land, but worked for bigger farmers. The land reforms of the early 1920s created a social structure where the majority of people either owned small farms or were the offspring of landowners. Also ownership of forests was widely spread, and even the landless were granted the right to fish, hunt and collect berries and mushrooms everywhere practically without restrictions. Even factory workers usually retained their emotional ties with the countryside. It is important to keep this in mind when considering the question of patriotic culture and war propaganda. In order to mobilise the Finnish people against Soviet style socialism it was not necessary to show a beastly image of the enemy, as Soviet propaganda did during the German-Soviet war. It was enough to remind everybody of what they had  already and what they were going to lose if the front did not hold. As Finnish socialists had good contacts to illegal communists on both sides of the Soviet-Finnish border, they knew pretty well what was going on in Stalin's empire. There, towards the end of the 30s use and education in Finnish and some other minority-languages was banned and all known and trusted revolutionaries got imprisoned.

 According to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact the Baltic states and Finland were left to the Soviet sphere of influence. Finland did not give in to Soviet diplomatic pressure. Any territorial concession on the Karelian Isthmus would have weakened the Finnish defence and the morale of the population. Stalin, who had planned the annexation of Finland, did everything to strengthen the case of the defenders. When, without declaration of war, on 30 November 1939 Soviet planes dropped their bombs on Finnish cities and a Soviet-style People's Government was declared representative of the Finnish working classes, the nation responded unanimously. A united Finland withstood the Russian intruders for the 105 days of the Winter War, but finally, in order to gain a peace settlement, Finland had to cede Vyborg with most of Karelia and other territories on her eastern border. The population of the ceded territories (about 400 000 or 10 percent of the country) left their homes and trekked west behind the new borders. Hardly anybody wanted to stay behind and become a citizen of the workers' paradise.

After Germany had begun her attack on Russia in June 1941, Finland's army took revenge and pushed for the old borders, which were recovered and also surpassed, as many saw the opportunity to establish with German assistance a Greater Finland, which would include ethnically related East-Karelian territories between Lake Onega and Lake Ladoga. After a quiet period of two and a half years of "armed peace" in the trenches, the Russian offensive June 1944 took Finland by surprise. But again the Red Army could not achieve a complete victory. The cease-fire in autumn 1944 and the Paris peace treaty left Finland essentially with the borders of 1940.

When comparing Finnish and Soviet war culture one has to differentiate carefully between the Winter War 1939/40 and the Continuation War 1941-44. The latter was not at all popular. From the start the prospect of warfare against the Soviet Union, thereby assisting Hitler, did not go well with the masses. Olavi Paavolainen reports in his diary the scene of an army worship service in the small industrial city of Mänttä before the outbreak of the Continuation War, when the men demonstratively declined to sing the hymn (M. Luther's Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott).

A characteristic feature of Finnish-Russian relations is the contempt with which Finns like to overlook any cultural impulses from the east. Though the Russian capital of Saint Petersburg offered ready access to career-opportunities and high culture, only few took advantage of it. The best known example, of course, is Mannerheim, a general in the Tsarist army, 1918 the military leader of the Finnish Whites and Marshal of Finland during both wars. During the 20s and 30s any interest for the development in Soviet Russia was viewed upon as unpatriotic. Hardly anywhere in Europe the public knew so little about progressive Soviet developments as in Finland. Industrialisation during the five-year-plans was waved off as the same kind of bluff Count Potemkin had employed when showing new villages to his Empress Catherine II.

 The traditional Finnish swearword for Russian is ryssä, which can be compared to the English 'Hun' and the French 'boche' for Germans. Russians, on the other hand, refer to Finns as chuhna (or chuhonets, chuhonka), because Finns usually pronounce all seven different sibilants of the Russian language as one and the same 's'. Not to speak any Russian was considered a national virtue in Finland.

Though official Finland, during the Continuation War, followed a policy of assimilation and fennofication of the Karelian minorities, for many Finns also these people were more or less ryssä, especially if they were of the Orthodox faith. Lutheran priests were eager to conquer the occupied territories for their own church, they even attempted to exclude Finnish-orthodox clergy from interfering. Russian civilians in Petroskoi and elsewhere were confined to special camps and were required to wear a badge on their clothes. 'Bolshevik' education meant nothing, women with a degree from Petroskoi University were sent to the fields. Also according to Paavolainen especially above-average educated Finnish women held strong racist attitudes against all that was ryssä. At a coffee table two elder nurses confess, that all POWs should be killed. To achieve this they should all be put together onto one heap for overnight, so in the morning it would suffice to tear the dead ones from underneath and bury them (p. 226f).

Of course, neither did in Russia hostile feelings towards the Germans start in the XX century. Since the first German settlers arrived in Moscow during the reign of Ivan IV they were seen as intruders, bloodsuckers and enemies of the pure Orthodox faith. To the simple minded Russian the German was the Antichrist, and everyone who tried to change Holy Russia according to "German" models, as Peter I and his successors did, were allies of the Archenemy. But I wonder, if not Bolshevik propaganda during the 30s had a quite unwanted effect on many Soviet citizens? If Hitler really was the enemy of the Bolsheviks, was he then perhaps the friend of the Russian people? Probably during the first few weeks of the war many hoped this to turn out to be true. But as Stalin against Finland, Hitler against Russia did everything he could to turn the last doubting soul against the aggressor.

Finnish cultural life under the wars

 The 1940s have been named the Golden Years of Finnish entertainment. Everybody took to books, cinemas were always sold out, publishing houses multiplied, from about ten at the outbreak of the Winter War to nearly a hundred in 1944. Newspaper subscriptions doubled and tripled, as did the numbers of radio receivers. Because of rationing the only goods one could buy without restriction were matches, liquor and books. When the men came home from the fighting in the spring of 1940 soon bookstores were full with war memories fresh from print. In the autumn Leningrad radio complained already that all 40 Finnish books about the Winter War depicted Finland as the victim and the Soviet Union as the guilty part. Soon two books were confiscated and the publishers stopped printing any new war literature (Waltari, 81). From 1940 till 1944 more than 200 books about the war were released, 120 of pure literary and 89 of documentary character (Niiniluoto, 106).

Because publishing and film industries were privately owned, people got what THEY wanted, unlike in Russia, where everyone had to watch and read what Stalin wanted. Naturally the war had its impact on production conditions, the authorities gave order that for film decorations not more than 5000 Finnish marks were allowed to spend, so directors shot in open air and existing buildings. Censorship stepped in only after books were written and films were made, not already during production planning, as in Russia. Focus of the censors varied, sometimes it was Russian, sometimes German ore Anglo American feelings which should not be offended. Paavolainen on initiative of the military command had written a book about the 1941 battles in the Aunus area east of Lake Ladoga, but not to offend the Americans (who then still upheld diplomatic relations) the publication was forbidden. One day, in 1943, he met a publisher's clerk on the street, who naively promised that soon the book would be printed after all, because the US were about to declare war on Russia!

 Peter Kenez in Stites (1995) counts, that Soviet film studios made 70 films in 1942-45. Out of these 21 were historical dramas and the rest, 49, about the present, i.e. the war. Fortunately, Finnish statistics show a quite different pattern, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to view for this paper almost all movies dedicated to the war subject. In Finland (with a population of one-fiftieth of Soviet Russia) in 1940 alone altogether 21 full-length pictures were made in addition to two documentaries. The majority was comedy and romance in the 30s tradition. Only two had any connection to the recent historic events. Of course most performances were accompanied by newsreel, which became an important media of information during the war. 1941 saw 16 new Finnish movies, only two touching on the war.

Finnish cinema industry was privately owned, the two foremost corporations being SF and Suomi-Filmi. Finnish production had grown to considerable breadth and quality during the 30s. The scala reached from lighthearted farce and romance to historical drama.

The year 1939 saw the premieres of three historical full-length movies depicting Fenno-Russian relations: Helmikuun manifesti (The February Manifesto) about the resistance of the Finns against Russification 1899-1917, Aktivistit (The Activists) about the underground movement against Russian rule and for independence during WWI, and Isoviha (The Great Hate), about the Swedish-Russian war 1700-1721, which is called the Northern War or "Isoviha". Isoviha was shown the first time on December 16, 1939, and the prophetic words, used by its actors: "again Finland stands alone" and "the time of strain is not over yet" had acquired new significance.

In Aktivistit and Isoviha an almost racist attitude towards Russians is present. In the former revolutionary soldiers are always drunk. In the latter Cossacks attack a congregation in church and one of them tries to rape a woman. (Practically the same scene is found in Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, only with Tartars attacking a Russian church).

Finnish movie-goers enjoyed a broad range of productions during both war periods. A typical page full of cinema advertisements from May 1942 (Bagh, 124) shows a broad collection for all kinds of tastes. American comedy and romance featuring Cary Grant and Kathrine Hepburn or Fred Astaire, the latest productions of the German Ufa along with Swedish and domestic ones. Missing are only Soviet films. During this one week, the Helsinki cinema goer could watch 23 different American pictures, 13 from Germany and occupied France, 9 Swedish, 4 Finnish and 3 of origin unknown to me. But every Finnish movie was seen by at least 10% of the population, only the German films of Veit Harlan could compete with the domestic productions (Niiniluoto, 76).

 Little indicates in these advertisements that a war is being fought, only the text Puolustusvoimain katsaus No. x (Viewed by defence officials) or Puolustusvoimain ja Ufakatsaukset under some advertisements for American productions. The title Adolf kyllä pärjää (Adolf Can Manage) doesn't take side with Hitler, but is a Swedish comedy starring Adolf Jahr.

Germany during the Continuation War tried to put pressure on Finnish authorities to make them stop the import of Western Allied movies and newsreels, but to little avail. So the cinema goer could look at both German and Allied news material and decide for himself what to believe in.

The theatre suffered more than any other cultural institution under the war. Already before the Russian attack on November 30, '39 many men had been drafted in to the army or had volunteered to help in the last-moment fortification efforts. Out of 6800 professional and amateur theatres only 30 worked during the Winter War, even the National Theatre was closed. Of course many of the actors were needed to entertain the troops.

The repertoire changed very much into the direction of lighthearted comedy and operetta. The Jewish composers Imre Kálmán and Paul Abraham, banned in German-ruled Europe, were very popular in Finland. When Léhars The Merry Widow played in Vyborg, some protested against the frivolity of the piece, pointing out that there were many widows in the country, none of them merry.

Lauri Haarla wrote some plays during the war years which were put eagerly on stage. They show the people's hardship during the period at the beginning of the century. Kunnian mies (A Man of Honour) portrays Eugen Schauman, the assassin of the Governor-General Bobrikov.

Already toward the end of 1940, partly because of Soviet diplomatic pressure, the war as the subject of cultural life stepped back. With the start of the Continuation War authors again took up the tradition, but soon found out that the war did not sell anymore. People just wanted to forget the war, did not want to be reminded of it, did not even want to hear about dead enemies. Instead light entertainment, romance, fun, even frivolity took the stage. The Finns love to dance, but public dancing was forbidden between 1939 and 1948. Even on weddings only one waltz was allowed. Alcohol consumption rose to unprecedented levels.


What was it all about?

  Common in the war ideology of both Finland and Russia were the belief that they were victims and quite innocent. Both people saw themselves as defenders of all that was civilized and decent. Of course in Finland this reaction was more spontaneous, the Winter War united the country somehow unexpectedly, as a surprise to many, (not least to the Kremlin). What Russians really thought during summer 1941 doesn't shine through the official propaganda.

As Jeffrey Brooks (Stites 1995, 9) states, before the war "public language atrophied" in the Soviet Union, as everything was described as the fulfilling of a grand scheme, everyone acting according to zadacha (tasks) from above, and the war brought a sudden freedom from the necessity of acting on the theme of life has become jollier, while most people had actually lived in constant fear, under state-induced terror. Especially after Stalingrad Soviet propaganda started again to contribute all success to Stalin's wisdom and foresight, individual initiative lost its importance.

According to Pisiotis in Stites (1995)"the popular arts and especially state propaganda targeted the Nazi invaders and often identified them with the German people" (p.141). "...the Soviet propaganda defined the German nation as the enemy" (p.148). Figures of German officers were modelled after WWI or older origin: Fat, monocled, white gloves (p.145). Simple soldiers were "depicted as stupid, docile and brainwashed cowards" (p.144). Soviet propagandists drew on parasitical terminology from earlier campaigns against enemies of the Bolsheviks from the civil war and the purges of the 30s and from Lenins language (p.150)

German atrocities are depicted realistically, with the intention of awakening hate towards the enemy. German soldiers were called "vandals, idiots, savages, scoundrels, criminals" etc (p.142).

Of course the sufferings of the Russians were much more severe compared to those of the Finns. Few Finnish civilians were ever under Soviet occupation, but Finnish cities were bombed intensively.

 From Finnish war culture are decidedly absent those Soviet examples of hagiography about exceptional heroes, modelled after the socialist-hero-cult of the 30s. One looks in vain for a Finnish Zoia Kosmodemyanskaya or Aleksandr Matrosov. It was enough that every man and woman did his or her duty, the single Finnish hero being the Unknown Soldier. Finnish commanders trusted that a soldier would know best how to behave in a critical situation. The unexpected success of the Finnish defence during the Winter War resulted in the image of the invincible Finnish soldier, first in the foreign media, later at home.  Mannerheim appears only on special occasions in the public media, no superhuman abilities are ascribed to him.

For this paper I took only into account products of mainstream Finnish culture. Probably the language of extremist-right publications was much less restrained in regard to the Russian enemy than one encounters in movies and novels.

It seems that much of Finnish war literature was written by soldiers, who had done part of the fighting (i.e. Hosia, Erkki Palolampi). On the Russian side the authors seem to be professionals, who only reported from the front.

The outstanding novel about the Winter War is Eino Hosia's Tuliholvin alla (Under the Fire Dome). The author, an infantryman, depicts his own experiences of the frontline fighting at the Taipale and Vuoksi rivers on the Isthmus. Only in a few moments finds he the leisure to think  about the enemy: "Yes, I'm thinking about Russia, her current power-holders and her system, her suffering people, her thousands of abandoned churches, whose bells do not ring even on Easter eve anymore, but whose cupolas still shine and glow when the sun rises from the East, out of the lap of Asia and when she sinks into the sea of flames in the West" (p. 29/30). When describing the battle-field the tortured landscape brings to his mind the Northern War or Isoviha, when the army of Peter I had occupied Finland for years on end: "How many times already in the course of time have the Russians burnt to ashes Finnish villages and trampled this country underfoot?" (p. 107). About the enemy, after Siberian skiing units had arrived: "Nor are they all bad soldiers, not nearly so. Its wrong, harmful and self-deceptious to underestimate them too much" (p. 140f). Hosia was killed in battle during the beginning of the Continuation War on July 19, 1941. Already during the Winter War Finland had lost her most talented film director, Nyrki Tapiovaara.

 In 1941, after hostilities had returned, it was possible to publish Nils Wikberg's Olin sotavankina (I was a Prisoner of War). The author, in civil life a painter, had been taken prisoner in February 1940 and released in April of the same year. After a week of day and night interrogations, during which he was beaten for hours on end, the Russians finally tried to recruit him as an agent, offering him all the money he could dream of, if he would allow them to use the selling of his paintings as a smoke screen for illegal intelligence. The author believes, he was beaten so fiercely because the Bolsheviks saw in him a representative of the bourgeoisie. Food was generally better than he would have expected (i.e. 800 g of bread plus soup and kasha), only he could not eat much with his teeth smashed. Typically he calls all Russians Bolsheviks, and notes that nothing what gets broken is ever fixed in those surroundings.

The most popular fiction during the war were Pulla's Ryhmy & Romppainen books. Maybe it is worth stating that these books were not published abroad nor their movie versions shown; not in Germany nor in Sweden could one understand, why Finns made fun of themselves and of their courageous soldiers of world fame.

Making films is a slow procedure, so in 1940 at first only documentary movies and newsreels took a position on the war: Välähdyksiä Suomen ja Venäjän sodasta 1939-40 (Glimpses of the Fenno-Russian War 1939-40) and Taistelun tie (Our Fight). Both reached the theatres two months after the cease-fire.

Only Taistelun tie has survived. It shows the succession of events from the journey of the Finnish negotiators to Moscow and the defence preparations on the Karelian isthmus (clearly shows Finnish fortifications consisting of wooden logs and tank deterrents made from bolders), the result of Soviet bombardments (predominantly showing destroyed churches and civilian homes) and the most important battles. A very typical symbol of war imagery became the bodies of frozen Russian soldiers, their arms sticking up into the air. One such photo was the most effective item of Finnish war propaganda, on a leaflet distributed to enemy lines with the caption: Belaya smert' (White Death)(Paavolainen, 88). Captured Russians are shown during light work (interestingly very much as in the imagined Russian prisoners' camp in Jees ja Just, see below), eating in a canteen, reading the Holy Scripture for the first time in their life.

 The filmatisation of the very popular theatre play from 1932 Anu ja Mikko shows the happy life of a Karelian village and its people. Oi kallis Suomenmaa (Oh Dear Fatherland) depicts the trek of the Karelians after the 1940 cease-fire. The script is by Mika Waltari.

In 1941 the first war comedy hit the box-office: Suomi-filmi's Ryhmy ja Romppainen. Sergeant Kalle Ryhmy  and second lieutenant Ville Romppainen (in civilian life a vacuum-cleaner salesman and therefor used to intruding) were the creation of Armas Pulla (the name is real and means "Dear Bun"), who wrote a score of novels around this pair of soldiers. Together with Jees ja Just (Yeah and Now) from 1943 they won immense popularity and helped to keep the spirit high. In Ryhmy ja Romppainen the heroes are on vacation and fight against a mysterious bunch of foreign spies in Helsinki. No Russians are portrayed, but the 'home front' is ridiculed. Everyone talks about Summa and Taipale etc. as if he had been in the trenches himself. Romppainen squeezes one of these heroes by his tie till he confesses that all his battles were actually fought in Helsinki nightclubs.

One has to turn to newspapers if one wants to know how the public was informed during the Winter War. Suomen Kuvalehti=SK (Finnish Illustrated Weekly) brings the first photos about the air raids on Helsinki in the 48/1939 edition: "After the neighbour's visit". Two weeks later it announces:"The victims of the Russian attack were mostly women". From now on some themes appear again and again. As Soviet propaganda had promised to free the Finnish working people from their class-enemy and bring bread to the famished, Finns liked to joke about the odd habit Russian bread seemed to have by exploding on civilian homes and killing women and children. So the bombs and shells were called Ryssän limppuja (Russian loafs of bread). Shortly before the cease-fire they fell even on Swedish territory and destroyed some buildings (10/1940). Enemy planes are referred to as peace-doves. Humour shows through also in the word motti. Usually it refers to a cubic metre of cut and spliced logs, ready to be burned in sauna. The enemy was put into a motti by encircling his advancing columns from the surrounding forests and cutting them up nicely.

 Soon the language becomes sharper, in addition to ryssä new epithets are coined: poetical ones like vieras verinen Venäjä (strange bloody Russia)(50/1939), vihavenäläinen (Hate-Russian)(1/1940), vainolainen (persecutor)(4/1940) or simply isoryssä (Great-Ryssä)(51-52/1939). Some articles liked to ridicule the low educational level of the enemy. 4/1949: The Red Army artillery school: in January they learn to read, in February to write, in March mathematics, and in April - vot tak - to hell with the chuhna! An anecdote from the front: A detachment finds in the forest a field-kitchen, left behind by the ryssä. The food stinks so awfully, that no Finn would touch it. It has been "vitaminated" with spoiled oil. (2/1940).

More seriously: "The curse of mankind and the real plague of the Finnish tribe, that mixture of Slavs and Finns which is called Great-Russian" and: "Throughout Russian history the destructive forces have been overwhelmingly victorious over the constructive ones".(51-52/1939). The title of a centerfold with photos of children awaiting the next attack of the peace-doves: "The murderous angels come again!" (6/1940). "Enemies are dropping from the sky," when paratroopers are dropped behind the lines during darkness, they are mostly destroyed before morning (7/1940). Only by own machine-gun fire from the rear can they be driven into ever new attacks ((1/1940).

A centerfold titled "Prisoners and Booty": "The prisoners stare curiously waiting what is to happen next, but notice after a few moments, with astonishment, that they fare better than on their own side. - A Finnish Red-cross nurse aids also a wounded enemy" (1/1940). During the Winter War the Red Army soldiers wore still the peaked helmets from the 1918/20 civil war, with a cloth covering ears and neck like a fire brigade's helmet. Some of them have learned a standard sentence of Finnish, in case they are taken prisoner: "No shoot! Me three children and wafe! (originally veimo instead of vaimo for 'wife')" (2/1940). Artturi Leinonen reports about "The last war conference". In the forest one Finn finds a group of Russian officers, two of them politruks, sitting in a circle. All frozen to death (6/1940). Finally: "Hundreds of frozen Russian bodies" on the Road of Death at Suomussalmi (9/1940)

Ville Pesola's article about his visit to Leningrad a few years earlier: "The grey city of joylessness and poverty". Where have all the beautiful women gone? Hardships of the civilians under Stalin (2/1940). On recent Russian history touches also a larger article about "Soviet imperialism": Trainloads full with Ukrainian books are taken from Kiev and Kharkov around 1933 to be used as raw material in paper mills. Russification of the Ukraine (8/1940) as example for what fate awaits the Finns if Russia should take over.

 In 9/1940 one humorist takes up the idea of the Olympic games, scheduled for 1940 in Helsinki: Every country represented in the International Olympic Committee to send a crew of 21 air-men with planes. The Russians provide them with the necessary targets.

Finally Mannerheim, Commander-in-chief: Had to accept harsh conditions for peace-settlement. The reason: Finland stood alone, without material support. Finnish losses he reports with 15 000 dead, enemy losses 200 000 (11-12/1940).

After June 25, 1941, when Russian artillery opened fire and the air force bombed Finnish towns, the Finnish offensive started on July 10, soon recovering the lost territories. Relieved not to stand alone this time, Finns hoped for complete victory. The intonation of the articles in SK are more self-confident, some Nazi-ideology seems to have wound its way into the pages.

SK 27/1941: "To the Finns it has always been a clear fact that Bolshevism is the enemy no. 1 of Europe and of culture, even their only real enemy" (Rafael Koskimies). News from the German-Soviet front: The east in flames. Photos of Hitler dining with his highest officers under open sky, Latvia being liberated, Lithuania with German assistance getting out of Soviet slavery.

But according to the novelist Wolf Halsti: "We don't hate Russians as we don't hate a dog which has been trained to bite".

SK 28/1941: An article about "The liberation of Russia: Part one: East-Karelia, Part two: The Ukraine". Even Mannerheim compared the enterprise to a crusade and Holy War (Paavolainen, 80) and promised: "Trusting in our just and honourable cause and trusting in our brave men and devoted women we are now about to create a mighty great Finland". In the same edition, beneath a photo of Stalin in his study: "The decisive moment draws near. Shortly before his fall"

 In SK 29/1941 under the title "Soap-bubbles are bursting" the writer discusses the odd way the Soviet army was concentrated at strategic points on its western front making it easy for Germany to encircle and capture it. The most reasonable explanation: Stalin was about to attack, only waiting for a suitable opportunity. In SK 32/1941 a centerfold with photos of the front: "Out of Europe with the Asian hordes". And in the same edition a historical feature on "Finland's men at Moscow's gates" about the Polish-Swedish expedition of 1610 against Moscow. Clearly many minds were set on a complete victory over the centuries-old enemy. Even the former Minister of Internal Affairs and later President from 1956-81, Urho Kekkonen, wrote in his newspaper columns under the pseudonym of Pekka Peitsi in a very inconsiderate manner. Still in SK on 19 July 1942 he recommended under the title "The Blessing of Destruction", that the more Russians are killed, the better. When the battle of Stalingrad draw to its disastrous close, however, according to Paavolainen the Headquarters had to devise its officers to stop telling jokes about the Germans like this one, parodying the style of German announcements: "In Stalingrad have our troops yesterday after tough fighting captured a kitchen with bathroom." The news of the loss of Stalingrad and 200 000 men exploded like a bombshell in the Finnish consciousness, suddenly one had to think of alternatives to current policies.

During the Continuation war the importance of entertainment grew rapidly. Thanks to the experience artists acquired during these years Finnish popular music gained a position which has lasted to this day. In no other European country except Italy does domestic pop music sell as well as in Finland. The best remembered composers of the war years were  Georg Malmstén and George de Godzinsky. Subject of their songs were often far and exotic countries and people, but mostly their melancholic verses refer to the situation of their own generation, to the men in the trenches and the beloved ones at home. Also the beauty of the Karelian province is praised in many songs. In comparison to Soviet popular music, which seemed to be full of partisan war and boast, in Finnish music practically no reference to the enemy or the battle is made, no hate or anger expressed.

Some of the best remembered Finnish performers were the Harmony Sisters, who as "Geschwister Valtonen" toured German controlled Europe, and Einari Ketola as Corporal Möttönen, the man of 1001 jokes. ("I love peace so much, that I left my wife for a while and joined the war.") Around this figure was made the film of 1942, Niin se on, poijjaat! (That's how it is, Fellers!).

 In 1942 also three patriotic movies of the serious genre were made. In Yli rajan (Across the Frontier) a loving couple is divided by the frontier between the Soviet Union and Finland during the late 30s. (The boundary marker reads RSFSR, but on the wall of the hut is written Za rodinu, za Stalina!) Elisa lives with her sick father across the river Rajajoki on Soviet territory, Mikko and his mother in Finland, their homes well in sight of each other. Grigory, the leader of the Soviet border troops, is of Finnish origin and his Russian soldiers hate him. One Ivan tries to rape Elisa, but is stopped by Grigory. The Russian soldiers are a bunch of drunkards. With its ethnic stereotypes this movie seems a typical product of its time, shortly before Stalingrad. The film was honoured at the Venice film festival of the same year.

A prisoner's home-coming is the subject of SF's Rantasuon raatajat (The Rantasuo Story). A symbol for the fate of the Karelians when settling in new surroundings is depicted in SF's Uuteen elämään (Toward a New Life): Finns settle in America. All in all 18 movies were made, among them 2 long documentaries from the fighting: Suomenlahdelta Äänisjärvelle (From the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga) and Hangon motista Vienan kanavalle (From the Hangö Blockade to the White Sea Canal).

The next year SF's Tyttö astuu elämään (Girl in Grey) a young woman joins the Lotta-organisation, the support troops for women. The woman in uniform was a speciality of Finnish war years. Lottas fulfilled many important functions, nursing, communications, fire brigades, everything short of actual fighting, thereby freeing the men for front service. German officers in Finland could not understand why women were allowed to wear uniform.

The mobilisation of the whole society is also the subject of Kirkastettu sydän (A Woman's Heart). We witness the last evening and night of a Finnish family before the husband, a priest and poet, father of nine children, leaves for the war. Strong symbols intertwine, the spell of midsummer, nature, faith, fatherland and family. On the eve of departure husband and wife, listening to the radio speaker with the address of Mannerheim referring to a Holy War and a crusade. The two eldest sons ask, if it is true that Ryssä are many and Finns few, shouldn't they also leave for the fighting. The ryssä as a force of nature, every generation of Finnish men in its course has to stand up and fight him. During the second half of the film scenes of life at home and at the front alternate and try to prove that the Finnish nation is one, that the fatherland knows of no class-distinctions anymore. The funeral of a young war-hero, who died on the day his son was born, constitutes the focus of this unusually emotional picture, which seems to be the most "Russian-style" of all Finnish war-movies.

 Salainen ase (The Invisible Enemy)produced by Fenno-filmi, is an espionage story about Bolshevik spies in Finland. A bunch of sinister spies, working under different covers, place a beautiful woman into the office of a famous Finnish engineer, who is working on an important invention. The gang is also involved in sabotage and printing of illegal propaganda leaflets. Fortunately the woman falls in love with an honest journalist who is already investigating the underground press. The message to the audience is clear: keep Your eyes open everywhere but don't worry, everything's under control. Mika Waltari, one of the most talented Finnish novelists and play writes, wrote in 1942 his documentation "In the Shadow of Soviet Secret Intelligence", in which he shows how the Kremlin, using his diplomats and Finnish communist traitors, manipulates idealistic young people to organise strikes, demonstrations, espionage and sabotage. Interestingly, the Soviet ambassador in Finland between 1929-32, Ivan Maisky, moved from Helsinki to London and seems to have been there very successful, as demonstrates the activity of Soviet-recruited British spies during and long after the war.

The plot of  Jees ja Just  (Suomi-Filmi 1943) follows very closely the first book of the series by Pulla, "Ja pöh!" sanoi sotamies Ryhmy (1940), except the prisoners camp episode, which is from "Ole viisaasti höperö!" sanoi vääpeli Ryhmy (1940) The two heroes are ordered to blow up an ammunition depot behind enemy lines. The typical, degrading word to signify a Russian, ryssä, is uttered only once, when a colonel suggests that Romppainen should stop drinking his onionbooze (a concoction he always carries in his pocket), because the enemy could smell him from a distance. "Don't worry, the ryssä stinks even worse!" (This sentence is not found in the book!) Otherwise the enemy is always referred to as Iivana or Vanja. The only realistically depicted war scene happens, when the Finnish trenches are shelled and our heroes let themselves be taken prisoner, because its the easiest way to get behind enemy lines. Life in the prisoners-of-war camp is very quiet, work is Soviet style: the saw is so blunt, that cutting through a log takes an eternity. Easily Ryhmy makes friends with the Russian watchman, together they plot against Romppainen, the officer and representative of the Finnish capitalist bloodsuckers. (So it seems that the film-makers believed that their audience expected the Russian soldiers to believe in the official Soviet version of the friendly Red Army coming to liberate the suppressed Finnish working class.)

 The Russians are depicted as the lazy and brainless Vanjas of old, with only boozing and dancing in mind. If not for their fanatic leaders the war would be over in a minute and all could go home happily to wife and kids. Two politruks are portrayed: the woman Vengrovskaya, her outward appearance reminding one of Aleksandra Kollontai, always threatening to shoot or hang her prisoners but easily fooled by our heroes: Ryhmy's tomcat (its name ought have been Molotohvi, but because of censorship it was changed into Mörökölli (Niiniluoto, 70)) carries into the interrogation room a living mouse, the politruk jumps onto her table and the prisoners escape. At the end Ryhmy and Romppainen kill another politruk by lassoing him by his neck through a hole in the roof of the division headquarter's barracks, right during the war negotiations. A couple of Finns are always sufficient to encircle a Russian division, the movie parodies the Winter War reputation.

Very characteristically, no actual killing or other brutality is shown. The most effective weapon is the sharp tongue. Even when Romppainen has to hit the watchman on the head with a log the camera zooms in on the accordion the man is playing. The strangled politruk is already drawn halfway through the roof when he comes into view. This seems to be an important difference to Soviet war pictures and their "loving" studies of enemy brutality and civil suffering.

Film production displays the overall trend towards entertainment and away from the war. The above mentioned films of 1943 (out of 22 produced) are the last of their genre, in 1944 all 16 movies had off-war subjects.

What's left?

 Under normal circumstances popular culture in both Russia and Finland are not so much different, at least from a Central European perspective. Both peoples love sentimental music, strong spirits, sauna-bath, dacha and urban lifestyle. If one would compile a list of the most popular Finnish fiction it would probably look not much different from that compiled by Klaus Mehnert in the Soviet Union. The war hit Russians much harder because of the incompetence of the Stalinist leadership and the cruelty of the German invaders. Much propaganda is always a sign that a leader does not trust in the readyness of his people to act in a desirable way. As the Bolsheviks never even trusted farmers to sow and harvest without party control, how could they trust soldiers to fight without propaganda? The Finnish army was famous for its lack of formal discipline, which did not prevent its soldiers to defend the country successfully.

If one only looks at the remains of war culture one is easily fooled into believing, that the Finns took things very easy, that their war propaganda was very restrained compared to the systematic demonization of the enemy in Soviet Russia. Of course, humour indeed makes life easier, but what about the real feelings of the men in the trenches, the women and children in the cellars during air-raids, the Karelians trekking away from their centuries-old homesteads? That's why I cited some observations of Paavolainen, whose diary was published 1946.

After the war Russian authorities built the war culture into a form of national religion. The Finns, under the suspicious eyes of Zhdanov and his control commission, had to abandon most public reference to the war experience. Soon performing artists, who had entertained the troops, were called fascists. Strangely, those who really had been infected with Nazi-ideology during the war, were left in peace and were able to gain high positions. So the vice-president of the Goebbels-inspired League of European Writers, V. A. Koskenniemi became after the war a member of PEN and the Finnish Academy.

Most of the movies cited in this paper were forbidden after 1945 to appear again after Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union. For intellectual youngsters in the 60s and 70s, influenced by fashionable Stalinist ideology, even the word 'war veteran' almost acquired the meaning of 'war criminal'. Fathers mainly kept quiet about their war memories when dealing with their children, maybe later on opening up to their grandchildren. But nothing was able to wipe out the memories of the war generation, and from the beginning of the 80s, the Winter War won in respect at the same time when Russian war culture started to lose its credibility, according to Tumarkin (Stites 1994, 194ff). While the most famous Finnish novel about the Continuation War, Väinö Linna's The Unknown Soldier, ended with the statement about the mighty Union of Socialist Soviet Republics having won and little Finland finishing second, it had then become obvious already that Russia had lost when Stalin was victorious.




(As these items are not translated into English, I have given my own translations of their titles)

Primary Sources

Films on videotape:

Anu ja Mikko - Anu and Mikko. Orvo Saarikivi, 1940. Suomi-filmi Oy.

Jees ja just - Yeah and Now. Risto Orko, 1943. Suomi-Filmi Oy.

Kirkastettu sydän - A Woman's Heart. Ilmari Unho, 1943. Suomi-filmi Oy.

Niin se on, poijjaat - That's How it is, Fellers!. Ossi Elstelä, 1942. Oy Suomen filmiteollisuus.

Ryhmy ja Romppainen - Ryhmy and Romppainen. Risto Orko, 1941. Suomi-filmi Oy

Salainen ase - The Secret Weapon Fenno-filmi 1943.

Yli rajan - Across the Frontier.Vilho Ilmari, 1942. Suomi-filmi Oy.

Taistelun tie - The Road of Battle. Risto Orko, 1940. Suomi-filmi Oy.

Talvisota - The Winter War.  Maanpuolustuslehden Kustannusosakeyhtiö. Helsinki, 1986.

Jatkosota - The Continuation War 1941-1944 I osa. Maanpuolustuslehden Kustannusosakeyhtiö. Helsinki 1986

Books and newpapers:

Hosia, Eino: Tuliholvin alla - Under the Fire Dome. A War Novel. Helsinki, 1940.

Pulla, Armas J.: Ryhmy ja Romppainen - Ryhmy and Romppainen. Hämeenlinna, 1992. (A collection of 10 novels, originally published 1940-50)

Suomen kuvalehti - Finland's Weekly 1939 - 1944.

Wikberg, Nils: Olin sotavankina - I was a Prisoner of War. Helsinki, 1941.


Secondary sources:

Bagh, Peter von: Suomen elokuvan kultainen kirja - The Golden Book of Finnish Cinema. Helsinki, 1992.

Mehnert, Klaus: The Russians & Their Favorite Books Standford, 1983.

 Niiniluoto, Maarit: On elon retki näin. Eli miten viihteestä tuli sodan voittaja - Life's Journey it was. Or How Entertainment won the War. Helsinki, 1994.

Paavolainen, Olavi: Synkkä yksinpuhelu - A Gloomy Monologue. Helsinki. 1982.

Stites, Richard (ed.): Culture and Entertainment in Wartime Russia. Bloomingdale and Indianapolis, 1995.

Waltari, Mika: Neuvostovakoilun varjossa - Under the Shadow of Soviet Intelligence. Helsinki, 1942.