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A History Of The Finnish Civil Guard

By Jarkko Vihavainen for Mosin-Nagant Dot Net

Edited By Charlie Bowles

Introduction By Tuco


This text documents the history of the voluntary organization, known as Suojeluskunta in Finland. On the internet in Finland, Suojeluskunta has often been compared to the US National Guard and the British WW2 era Home Guard. During certain phases of its history its functions it was somewhat like these two, but in reality it was so unique that finding any internationally well-known exact equivalent is impossible. Even though Suojeluskunta was abolished more than 50 years ago, such was its political weight in Finnish history, that discussion about the subject still easily causes bitter arguments in Finland. The idea of this text is to shed some light on many roles and influences that Suojeluskuntas had when it came into being in Finland and into Finnish Society. A word about a term frequently used later in this text. "Sk" is the Finnish abbreviation for Suojeluskunta.


The background:

Finland had come to Russia as an autonomous Grand Duchy in 1809 after the Swedish- Russian War of 1808 - 1809. When this war was over , the Russian Emperor Alexander I guaranteed the Finns a large variety of rights and exceptions making Finland quite different from other parts of the Russian Empire. The arrangement proved fruitful to both sides: The Finns become loyal citizens and an autonomous Finland prospered both culturally and economically. In the 1880's opinions among the Russians concerning the Finnish autonomous status started to change. As Slavophilism and Panslavism spread in Russia and it created suspicion, envy, and hate against the Finns and their status of an autonomous Finland. When a new Russian Emperor was crowned in 1894, Slavophiles and Panslavists got a controlling position and started stripping the rights of autonomony from Finland one after another. The goal of this oppression campaign was Russification of the whole of Finland by removing its autonomous status and replacing its own culture with a Russian one. In Finland, the Russification campaign met both passive and active resistance and the idea about an independent Finland increasingly started gaining popularity. Hate created by an oppressive campaign and nationalism had planted the seeds for demands of an independent Finland. The environment however, didn't yet allow a good opportunity for it to happen.

The birth of The Protective Guard:

Suojeluskunta could be translated literally as "Protective Guard" and the translation fits nicely for the original mission of Suojeluskunta. The first organizations, which later developed into Suojeluskunta, were locally established from volunteers for maintaining public order during General strike of 1905. Some more were also established in following years, but the real establishment boom didn't come until 1917. In that year Russia faced two revolutions. The first revolution had already led to some homicides in Finland, created lot of restlessness, and lead Bolshevik councils (aka "Soviet") spreading like a plague to Russian military and naval units stationed in Finland. As an aftermath of the first revolution, Finnish police departments also were disestablished. It was ,however, the second one by the Bolsheviks that caused the real havoc. When news of the Bolshevik Revolution reached Finland, large numbers of Russian troops stationed in Finland started celebrating their new "svoboda" by executing their officers and more violence followed. Unfortunately for Finns, too many of the now uncontrolled but well-armed Russian soldiers, this "svoboda" included the possibility to take whatever they wanted with the help of the weapons they had. At the same time the idea of also making a revolution in Finland gained popularity among members of the Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP) and political violence started to spread in Finland in June of 1917. The food situation was getting worse (agricultural strikes during the planting season didn't exactly help the situation) and the revolutionary wing of the SDP, which had allied itself with Russian Bolshevists, started forming armed "Punakaarti" (Red Guard) units. Political violence continued escalating: During a week of long general strikes in November of 1917, armed Russian military and Finnish Red Guard units marched into many places and 34 people were killed in political violence. In these conditions during 1917, more local organizations for maintaining order were rapidly established one after another. At the same time independence activists ,seeking the possibility to separate Finland from Russia, created their own local organizations disguised as voluntary fire departments. Even though local security organizations and "voluntary fire departments" of activists often had originally been established for separate reasons. Typically they had no problems finding common goals and soon started to develop in the same direction of becoming Suojeluskunta organizations.

Suojeluskunta in the Civil War of 1918:

In December of 1917 Finland became independent and the country was lead by the Finnish Senate. There were still large Russian military units (the estimations of Russian soldiers in Finland at that that time vary from 42,500 to over 100,000) in Finland and the Russian Bolshevik Government with  its new allies had plans for them. The Russian Bolsheviks started arming Finnish Red Guards and at end of January 1918,violence in Finland escalated into Civil War. Local Suojeluskunta organizations didn't yet have real higher levels of command connecting them effectively. However, there was one organization that had some influence among them. The Senate elected "Sotilaskomitea" (Military Committee), which was a small organization of well-known nationalistic Finns. In mid-January of 1918 it had asked C.G.E. Mannerheim, who had recently returned from Russia to be its chairman. Soon after this, the Finnish Senate declared Suojeluskunta troops as its troops and named Mannerheim as their commander. When Suojeluskunta faced Civil War its situation anything but easy. It had about 14,000 men, but they were not  organized as a military unit and had no military training to speak of. Its opponent Red Guards had no military training either and was also poorly organized , but it had managed to mobilize some 25,000 men. However, these were only minor problems for Suojeluskunta compared to the shortage of weaponry. Suojeluskunta had only about 9,000 rifles and 44 machineguns. The Red Guard had no such shortage as Russian garrisons were arming them voluntarily and trainloads of weaponry were transported to them from Russia. Germans were arming Suojeluskunta, but no receipt of the cargo of the steamship Equity with its 20,000 rifles and 50 machineguns almost caused Suojeluskunta to lose the war in its beginning. Once the war started, the number of troops on both sides started increasing rapidly. At start of the war, Reds captured the Southern part of Finland and the White Army hurriedly created from Suojeluskunta units gathered together. Armed with the few available weapons they managed to keep the Northern part of Finland. The frontline between the two sides formed a line running from Ahlainen - Vilppula - Mäntyharju - Antrea - Rautu. At beginning of the Civil War Suojeluskunta had only about 5,000 - 6,000 men on the front lines.

Mannerheim - 1918

At first the Reds attacked along main roads and railways, but Suojeluskunta units managed to keep them at bay until the Whites got their main troops organized, equipped and trained. Suojeluskunta units were part of White Army, but at the same time they remained separate from recruited and drafted units, which later became the Finnish Army. In mid-March it was time for the Whites to attack and they first succeeded by surrounding and then capturing the important town of Tampere. After the Reds lost Tampere, their front fell apart, and further successful attacks by the White Army and the German Ostsee Division sealed the fate of the Red Guards. Most of the Red Guard members ended up in POW camps while some managed to escape to Russia. The Civil War ended on the 5th of May 1918, but the situation in Finland remained quite restless several years after that.

At end of January 1918 about 400 Suojeluskuntas having about 38,000 men members were facing some 375 Red Guards with an estimated 30,000 men. In actuality the numbers of frontline combatants on both sides were not that large. The Red Guards naturally had Bolshevik-minded Russian soldiers and sailors fighting at their side from the beginning, but their number seems to have been relatively small. Officially Bolshevik councils ("Soviet") were a leading majority of the Russian military units in Finland. In reality they were unable to control the unwilling and demoralized soldiers. At the end of 1917, the Russian Military still had large numbers of troops in Finland, but practically all of their units either remained passive or simply "melted away" when their soldiers decided to desert and return to their homes. In areas other than the Karelian Isthmus, the size of Russian units taking part in the war were not larger than platoon-size. However, as military training of Red Guards was basically non-existent, Russians often served with them as heavy weapons specialists, training personnel and even as leaders. The amount of troops continued to increase until April, at which point the White Army had about 70,000 men and Red Guards about 75,000.

Suojeluskunta members of Civil War can be roughly divided to three  types of members: Those willing to fight both in their own local area and other parts of the country. Those only willing to fight or maintain order only in their own area. Supporting members, who supported Suojeluskunta with finances and/or supplies without personally participating in battle. At end of the year 1917 and during the Civil War, "lentävä osasto" ("flying unit") type units were established from those also willing to fight in other areas of the country.

Heroic liberators or butchers?
(Source for numbers: “Suomen sotasurmat 1914 - 1922" website)

Wars rarely are clean, but the Finnish Civil War was as ugly as civil wars can be in their worst. The road to this carnage was paved by the Suinula mass-murder of Suojeluskunta POWs, and the incident became widely known as the "Suinula massacre". The number of people executed or murdered (9,278) was only slightly smaller than the amount of those died in battle (9,313). Often the executions had nothing to do with justice or due process, people were executed for old personal grudges, hate, revenge and convenience. As the White Army won the war, its units and members naturally did most of the killing, murdering or executing 7,276 people. In regard to the executions and murders, many Suojeluskunta units also gained a worse reputation than the average White Army unit . There were probably good reasons for this. Their members had volunteered for personal and/or ideological reasons, this combined with weaker discipline and lack of an effective chain-of command didn't exactly improve chances for them to treat POWs humanely. In general, Suojeluskunta members saw the Russians as enemies of Finland and Finnish Reds as traitors, who had betrayed their own country. Volunteers of Suojeluskuntas wanted an independent Finnish State. For them the Russian military was an occupier and the Red Guards, who had allied themselves with the Bolshevik government, were a threat to Finnish independence.

White Guards executing Red Guard members - 1920

Nationalism and hate of the Russians, being typical opinions of Suojeluskunta members, it wasn't surprising that many of them didn't like taking orders  from the ex-Russian Army General Mannerheim and his Staff. The Staff which was mostly Finnish born officers, had earlier served Russia and Swedish officers. The situation offered a convenient opportunity for settling old scores and revenge for lost friends and relatives of Suojeluskunta members who returned to their old villages, cities and towns. Soldiers of other types of White Army units  (recruited units and conscripted troops) rarely had personal grudges to settle even if they were not all exactly innocent when it came to atrocities either. During the Civil War the White Army didn't have a real chain-of-command for Suojeluskunta. The Advisory Committee of the Commander in Chief, which had representatives of various Suojeluskunta, was intended as the connection between local Suojeluskunta and the HQ of Mannerheim. but it didn't take part when it came to actual commanding troops. Also the military chain-of-command for frontline units was quite unclear giving higher headquarters poor control of their troops. As the war continued, executing prisoners of war often become the standard method for troops of both sides. After the War, Red prisoners of war were kept in POW camps, where hunger and pestilence (like the influenza of 1918 and typhoid) killed almost 11,700 of them. The Finnish Civil War of 1918 left festering wounds among Finns and it is open to question if the wound ,even nowadays, is fully healed. For part of the Finnish population Suojeluskunta has remained heroes that liberated Finland, while the other part still calls them by their old nickname "lahtari" (butcher) used by the Reds during the 1918 war.


From childhood problems to stability

The end of the Civil War brought Suojeluskunta to a new situation. Finland was now independent, but having an organization which would guarantee safeguarding it against outside and interior enemies was also seen as important. The Finnish Army was still very small and could not have coped with any real foreign Army on its own. The existing Suojeluskunta organizations, which had been originally organized as "voluntary fire departments" and units for maintaining local security, were no longer up to date for the situation. Suojeluskunta needed to be redesigned and uniformly rebuilt nation wide. Redesigning the new organization included a number of arguments, some of which continued well into the 1920s.

These arguments included matters such as:
Should Suojeluskunta membership be voluntary or obligatory?
What should be the main missions of the Suojeluskunta?
What relationship would Suojeluskunta have to the Finnish Army, the Finnish political system, and local authorities?

On the 4th of July of 1918, representatives of 171 Suojeluskuntas gathered in town of Jyväskylä, and the decisions made there had profound impacts on the future of Suojeluskuntas. The resolutions made in Jyväskylä greatly influenced the first piece of legislation made for Suojeluskunta, which was a statute legislated by the Finnish Senate on 2August 1918. The statute was short in text and rather vague in some matters, but it cleared up things considerably and created the groundwork needed for creating the new organization. At the same time it showed recognition of its status from a part of the State. Matters covered in it included: Suojeluskunta was defined as a State-wide voluntary organization with local and district levels. Each locality would have local Suojeluskunta and the country would be divided to Suojeluskunta districts, all of which would include several localities. Suojeluskunta organization would not be part of the Army, but a separate entity having its own Commander-in-Chief. Membership eligibility requirements (trustworthy males of at least 17 years of age). The process of selecting members (volunteers with recommendation). Members could be active or passive ones. The basic organization (local chief and district HQ levels and how to create them). Suojeluskunta oath introduced for use of all Suojeluskunta. The Suojeluskunta given rights to accept donations and own property.

The basic structure of Suojeluskunta:

The statute also made the leader of the Senate's Committee of Military Matters, General-Major Wilhelm Thesleff, as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Suojeluskuntas and gave Suojeluskuntas their own representative in the Defense Ministry. At the start Suojeluskunta didn't have a Higher HQ, and the organization was directly subordinate to the Defense Ministry. For all purposes Suojeluskunta-districts were the same as mobilization districts. In the beginning the office had only two sections, Military and Financial. Georg D. von Essen was elected as the first leader of Suojeluskunta Office and later (1919) as the first Commander-in-Chief of the then independent Sk organization. The Suojeluskunta was very popular immediately after the Civil War and its organization effectively spread to the whole country. In 1919 Suojeluskunta became an independent organization tied to Finnish defense. First it got its own independent HQ called "Suojeluskunta Toimisto" in the Ministry of Defense, but at April was renamed "Suojeluskuntain Yliesikunta" (Sk.Y). By 1920 about 93 % of Finnish municipalities and towns had local Suojeluskunta.

The basic command structure of structure of Sk organization starting from the top:

Suojeluskuntain Yliesikunta (Sk.Y = Sk General Headquarters) : The high command of Suojeluskunta organization was lead by the Commander-in-Chief of Suojeluskunta organization. Its organization grew with Sk-organization: When Sk.Y was first established at 1919 it had four departments, but in less than a year their number had increased to seven.

Suojeluskunta Districts (Suojeluskunta Piiri): These contained two or three Suojeluskunta areas. Each Sk district had a small District HQ lead by the District Chief (Piiripäällikkö). Most of the time Sk District HQs had 4 members and 2 alternate members.

Suojeluskunta Area (Suojeluskunta Alue): These contained one or more local Suojeluskunta and had a small Sk Area HQs.

Local Suojeluskunta: Suojeluskunta of one municipality or town.

Arm sleeve from the 1920's.  The sleeve is from the local Suojeluskunta of the town of Forssan


Sk organization and its parts got their financing from four main sources:

Voluntary funding : These included donations, membership fees and money collected by Suojeluskunta and Lotta Svärd organizations as entrance fees to functions they had organized and so on. This was the largest source of funding for local Suojeluskuntas.

Funding from State budget : This started when the Finnish State decided to pay wages of some hired personnel of Suojeluskunta organization. The sums increased as Sk organization grew larger, but Suojeluskunta remained a quite inexpensive tool for helping to maintain the defense capability for the Finnish State. The sum always remained smaller than 2% of the yearly State budget and less then 12% of defense spending.

Funding from municipalities, towns and cities: These typically financed local Suojeluskunta (as long as left wing parties didn't have a majority in local politics).

Business profits from firms owned by Suojeluskunta: Three parts of Suojeluskunta-organization were organized as quite independent companies early 1927 and also did business with outsiders. They were: Suojeluskuntain Ase ja Konepaja Oy (SAKO = Weapons and machine factory of Suojeluskunta). Suojeluskuntain Kauppa Oy (SKOHA = Shop of Suojeluskunta). Suojeluskuntain kustannus Oy (= Publishing house of Suojeluskunta).

Selecting and naming officials in Suojeluskunta:

The Finnish President named the Commander-in-Chief of Sk organization, who also had to be approved by Sk organization delegates before selection. Meetings of delegates elected 2 delegates from each Sk District and could be summoned by Suojeluskunta Chief-of-Staff or by five Sk districts by written request.

Representatives of local Suojeluskuntas of each Sk district selected members of their Sk District HQ in annual meetings of Sk-district held in February. In these annual meetings of Sk District each local Sk of the particular Sk District had 1 - 3 representatives depending on the size of the local Suojeluskunta. Sk District HQ members were selected for two years. Additional Sk District meetings could be called by the District Chief and Sk District HQ. Suojeluskunta Commander-in-Chief appointed the Chief of Sk District. Before being appointed, he also needed to be approved by Sk District HQ of the Sk District he was about to lead. The local Suojeluskunta HQ was lead by the Local Chief (Paikallispäällikkö), who lead local Suojeluskunta HQ, which had 4 members and 2 alternate members. Members of these HQs were elected for a period of one year in general annual meeting held in January.

Selection of members:

Sk members were divided to two categories: Actual members and supportive members. Supportive members paid membership fee, but didn't have right to vote in Suojeluskunta, they had no right to wear Sk uniforms and had no responsibility for attending Suojeluskunta training.

The information below concerns only actual members:

Conduct demanded from those willing to become Suojeluskunta members were quite clear: They had to be trustworthy Finnish males having at least 17 years of age (those willing to join but who were under 21 needed permission from their legal guardian). To be more precise, in this case being trustworthy meant not having a criminal past or the wrong kind of political ideals. Ex Red Guard members of Civil War never had any chance to join and neither did Communists (who were basically seen as the enemy). As a rule Social Democrats (moderate left) were also unwanted until a reconciliation between the Social Democratic Party and Suojeluskunta organization in February of 1940. The existing members (especially the Chief of local Suojeluskunta) decided who was considered trustworthy and who was not. If local Sk wasn't familiar with the applicant, then written recommendations from two trustworthy persons were needed.

Those wanting to join, but younger then 17 could join to Boy Units (Poikayksikkö). Suojeluskunta Boy Units didn't give military or weapons training, but instead concentrated on sports. At First Boy Units had been the so called "Squirrel Companies" organized soon after the Civil War for 13 - 16 year old boys wanting to join Suojeluskunta . In that first try sports alone proved too little for maintaining interest, but in the 1920s interest reappeared and this time proved more long lasting. Officially, work with Suojeluskunta Boy Units was started in 1928 and it continued until abolishment of Suojeluskunta. Boy Units also worked to aid recruiting of new members to Sk. Once members of Suojeluskunta Boy Units reached the age of 17, they were transferred from Boy Units to ordinary Suojeluskunta. Sports and other activities of Boy Units got many boys to join and about 70 % of them joined regular Suojeluskunta after reaching the required age. After 1920, Suojeluskunta members, who were at least 20 years old had one vote in elections of his Suojeluskunta and until the statute of January 1934 could also be selected to a responsible position in his Suojeluskunta. After the Statute of January 1934, Suojeluskunta members got one vote in Suojeluskunta elections after belonging to Suojeluskunta for one year. As kind of a "old member bonus", they could also get another vote. This "old member bonus" vote was available to those who had belonged to Sk for 15 years, or were over 40 years of age and had belonged to Sk 10 years. The statute also required those selected for responsible positions to be at least 21 years of age.

Members of Suojeluskunta - Who and what kind of men they were:

Suojeluskunta wasn't a political organization on its own, but its members generally belonged to a specific side when it came to political views. Political views of Suojeluskunta members covered the spectrum from the political center to the extreme right. However, the difference in political views between average Sk member and average Finnish citizen was not as large as one might expect. In the 1920s and 1930s ,Finnish political views in general were more right-wing orientated than they are these days.

Unlike Soviet propaganda and also as often claimed by Finnish Communists, Suojeluskunta members were not all from well-to-do families, rich or even from "bourgeois" professions. The share of farmers among members was quite large, but this was not very surprising as at the time the large majority of Finnish population lived in the countryside, covered by small farms owned by their farmers. The professions of Sk members could also vary considerably from one  local Suojeluskunta to another. For example 92 % of members in Lemi Suojeluskunta were farmers and 60 % of Uuraa Suojeluskunta members were workers. The other largest social classes of Sk-members were lower middle-class and working class. The proportional share of workers among members of Sk increased little by little as their share among new members was on the rise.

Professions and occupations of Sk members in the year 1933: Profession/Occupation Percentage from Sk members
I. Entrepreneurs:
 1. Farmers and fishermen (also non land-owning ones) 51,62 %
 2. Factory- and shop-owners (and executives) 2,88 %
 3. Artisans 1,30 %
 4. Other entrepreneurs (doctors, artists etc) 1,48 %
 Total 57,28 %

II. Public servants and officials:
1. State, municipal and church officials 6,81 %
 2. Industry and business personnel 7,43 %
 3. Other 0,7 %
 Total 14,99 %

III. Servants and workers:
 1. Servants 5,91 %
 2. Agricultural workers 4,75 %
 3. Industrial workers 4,92 %
 4. Other workers 4,60 %
 Total 20,18 %

IV. Other
 1. Students 6,62 %
 2. Other 0,92 %
 Total 7,54 %

(Statistics gathered by the Educational Office of Suojeluskunta. Source:Suojeluskuntain historia, part 3 pages 260 - 261).

Main functions of Suojeluskunta during peace:

Giving military training to its members
Supporting athletics and sports
Assisting authorities when asked (Police officials & country governor)
Assisting Finnish Armed Forces when needed
Propaganda (Publicity)

Assisting authorities in a wide variety of situations where organized and armed troops might be included. This included missions like searching large areas, guard duty and assisting apprehension of dangerous criminals. In the 1920s Suojeluskuntas of the border areas were often very busy plugging up holes to secure borders with far too few Frontier Guard units. The Finnish prohibition covering 1919 - 1932 was another main reason for assisting authorities since searching for illegal stills in forests demanded a lot of manpower. Some Suojeluskuntas were enthusiastic about destroying illegal stills even without authorities asking them, while others were less inclined. Propaganda made by Sk organizations was typically quite subtle. Instead of derogatory and chauvinist speeches, it favored organizing popular events using sports, chorus singing and orchestras as attractions and included some patriotic parts (music, poems etc.) in the programme. Suojeluskuntas also had their own their magazine: "Suojeluskuntalaisten lehti" ("Magazine of Sk-members") published by "Kustannusosakeyhtiö Suunta" ("Publishing-ltd Suunta"), which was replaced with Sk-organization published "Hakkapeliitta" in 1925. From 1926 on ,Hakkapeliitta was weekly color magazine with tens of thousands subscribers. However, it wasn't the only one, "Suomen Sotilas" ("Finnish Soldier") was also a quite popular magazine and many Sk-districts had their own magazines. The fact that the large majority of opinion leaders, like teachers and priests, in Finland in the 1920s and 1930s had positive attitudes towards Sk-organization. didn't do any harm either.


Suojeluskunta wasn't a political organization on its own, but neither was it totally non-political in all ways. The political views of its members were in a spectrum from political center to extreme right, and it showed. The organization was openly anti-communist and in general didn't really like moderate left-wingers either, even though it tolerated them better. Expressing party political or anti-government opinions in public had already been forbidden for Sk officers along with using the organization for political purposes since 1919. Sk organization wasn't a player in State-wide politics (election of Parliament and President), instead starting from the early 1920s, its leadership tried their best to keep the organization non-political, but it did have its own interests in municipal level elections. To secure their funding from municipality/town, local Suojeluskunta needed political parties favorable to Sk organization to have the majority in local municipal/town councils. So local Suojeluskuntas did their best to get all their members and supporters to vote in local elections. Which of the parties supporting Sk members and how supporters voted didn't really matter as long as they voted for one. Political parties supporting Suojeluskuntas in 1920s and 1930s basically included all non-Socialist ones. In the 1920s and 1930s Finland had several political groups, which nowadays would be considered extreme right wing and there was nothing forbidding Sk-members from being members in them also. Communists and Social Democrats were natural political enemies to Suojeluskunta. This was partly due to inheritance of hate from the Civil War, but also partly because of very different political ideals.

The hate relationship with left-wingers wasn't one sided. Social Democrats and Communists attacked Sk organizations in several levels trying to weaken or destroy them all together. The high level attacks inside the political system included demands for abolishing Sk organization in the Finnish Parliament and demands for stopping or cutting State funding to Sk organization. At municipal/town levels, the political left -wing majority could end funding to local Sk, but not much else. The dirtier method used by some extreme left-wingers was "työmaaterrori" (workplace terror) which included ridicule, and even physical assaults against their co-worker Sk-members and White Army veterans of the Civil War. The Left-wing press also remained active against Sk organizations until the Winter War. Until the 1930s, the Finnish Social democratic party strongly opposed defense spending and largely even believed that further wars could be suppressed with non-violent methods like general strikes. In contrast, some educational establishments and firms favored Sk members when accepting students and hiring personnel.

In many countries the great depression starting in 1929 boosted the popularity of extreme political groups and Finland wasn't an exception. Around 1929 - 1930, political violence perpetrated by the extreme right took a strong rise. The most dangerous of these extreme right- wing organizations was "Lapuan liike" (= Lapua movement) whose basic form of political violence used was "muilutus": Persons with unwanted political ideals were forced to cars, transported to the Soviet border and forced into crossing it. Typically, beatings and sometimes even homicides happened during and/or after "muilutus". The Leadership of Sk-organizations tried keeping Suojeluskuntas separate from these Lapuan Liike, but the methods used were not terribly effective. Using Sk uniforms in political events was forbidden in June of 1930. On the 7th of July 1930, Lapuan liike organized "talonpoikaismarssi" (= "peasant march") which was a demonstration of its12,000 supporters in Helsinki demanding actions against Communists. In November of 1930, the Finnish Parliament enacted the so-called "Communists Laws" (including "protection laws of the Republic"). Basically, Communist organizations and activity were made illegal in Finland, but even that was not enough for the worst right-wing hot-heads. The situation didn't calm down and the worse was still to come.

Mäntsälä Rebellion:

On the 27th of February 1931, the well known Social Democrat Dr Mikko Erich was to make a speech in a Workers House in Ohtola in the municipality of Mäntsälä. Demands forbidding the event had been made to the Finnish Government, but it had refused getting involved. The Country Governor had sent police officers to secure public order in the event. The speech was interrupted by about 400 extreme right-wingers, some of whom were wearing Sk uniforms, surrounded the building and interrupted the speech. Lapuan Liike took over the command of the Mäntsälä men. Two days later ( the 29th of February) its leaders sent a statement to Finnish President, in it they demanded the Government either to accept their demands or they would destroy the Government and its representatives. The rebellion had started and basically the Lapuan Liike lead Mäntsälä men now threatened the Finnish political leadership with new Civil War. Among the rebels were also armed Sk members and it soon become clear that the rebels tried to mobilize more Sk members for their support. The Commander-in-Chief of Sk organization, Malmberg, and many other high-ranking Sk-organization leaders did their best to keep Sk members from taking part in the rebellion. The main method used in this was forbidding Sk members from taking orders from anybody else except their own superiors. Finnish President Svinhufvud (who was a well known Sk member) also repeated the same message in his radio speech during the rebellion.


Lauri Malmberg

"Protection laws of Republic" originally enacted against Communists were now turned against this extreme right- wing rebellion. The Government and President were preparing to use the military against the rebels. The rebels had managed to gather about 700 men in Mäntsälä and also slightly smaller groups in some other towns and municipalities. On 3 March, a Presidential HQs was formed, its members were : Defense Minister Lahdenlaakso; Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Army General Hqs, General-Major Oesch; Commander-in-Chief of Suojeluskunta, Malmberg; Chief of Military Forces Sihvo; and Inspector of Infantry, Östermalm. The Finnish Military surrounded Mäntsälä, but the rebels managed still to mobilize some more troops but failed gathering them into Mäntsälä. The rebelllion withered and finally the rebels gathered inside Mäntsälä also scatted peacefully. The Leader of Lapuan Liike, who had lead the rebellion, surrendered on the 6th of March. Lapuan Liike was abolished on 24 March 1932.

The Left-wing press loved to portray the Mäntsälä rebellion as rebellion of Suojeluskunta, but how true was that? Only about 1% of Sk members took part in the rebellion, but if we look at the number of Sk officials taking part, the numbers are bit more alarming. The Finnish legal system punished rebel leaders and some Sk officials received punishments , but Sk organization also handed out its own punishments for its officials who had participated in the rebellion. Sk organization handed these punishments to 54 of its officials, when at that time Sk had only about 1 official per 100 members. This number seems a bit large compared to the amount of Sk members among rebels. The official stance of Sk organization was difficult when it came to Lapuan Liike. It was clear that Lapuan Liike had support inside Suojeluskuntas and taking a hard stand against Lapuan Liike would have certainly harmed unity inside Suojeluskuntas. Maybe the Leadership of Sk organization and especially its Commander-in-Chief Malmberg took this sitting-on-a-fence too far: The orders issued during the Mäntsälä rebellion only hindered Lapuan Liike from mobilizing large numbes of Sk members for its use, but the orders never directly attacked the rebellion situation. A large number of Sk-members had also belonged to Lapuan Liike. It seems that even if members of Lapuan Liike had been a minority in Suojeluskunta, Sk-members had been a majority in Lapuan Liike. Still it is difficult to say how many of them supported Lapuan Liike during the Mäntsälä Rebellion. When the rebellion started Lapuan Liike had already been losing its popularity. Enactment of the Communist Laws had been accomplishment enough for many of its members. Due to the excesses such as muilutus of the previous Finnish president Ståhlberg and his wife in October of 1930, the public opinion had already turned against Lapuan Liike. Suojeluskuntas survived the Mäntsälä rebellion basically intact, but the incident didn't do any good to the reputation of Suojeluskuntas.


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