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THE SUOJELUSKUNTA : 

A History Of The Finnish Civil Guard

Finnish Whites 1918

Introduction From Tuco Of Mosin Nagant Dot Net and Gunboards Dot Com

The Finnish Civil Guard is an organization that is not really grasped by most in the West as the idea of the Civil Guard or like organization is somewhat alien to our more modern military systems. Groups such as the Civil Guard are not all that uncommon in areas of Europe and these types of military organization were quite standard to see in countries liberated due to the dismantlement of the Imperial Russian Empire. Even today there is the Estonian Kaitseliit (National Defense Force) which is in many regards very similar to the Finnish Civil Guard organization and system. Today the Kaitseliit is three times larger than the standing Estonian Army and would act as a key component in meeting any threat to Estonian self rule. There is a like organization in the Baltic nation of Latvia that was reformed in 1991 when Latvia once again became a free nation. So while we in the West might not fully comprehend such a system, this format is not so exceptional in other areas of the world. It should be noted that in the early history of the United States there were a number of groups that bear a striking resemblance to the Finnish Civil Guard but over time these institutions have died away or have been swallowed into larger more "standard" defense organizations. Many have compared the Civil Guard in Finland to the National Guard Units of the United States , but this is not entirely correct nor is this a grand comparison. There are some similarities but the differences are so significant that this comparison is not altogether sound. While the principle behind the Civil Guard is not unique to Finland it is very different than what most in the West are accustomed to hence the confusion many have on the history and role of the Civil Guard.

As an arms collector it has always been the history of the weapons that I have found appealing and early on I became very interested in the weapons and those behind the weapons issued to the Finnish Civil Guard. When I attempted to research the Civil Guard I quickly learned there was little to no firm information on this establishment available in English. I also noticed that when such information was located it was either very basic, was confusing, or contained information that was incorrect. As this was the case I mainly gained my knowledge of the Civil Guard from personal research using my many Finnish friends to gain insight and information. One of the main reasons this article was undertaken was to assist other collectors from going this route, as this route was time consuming and in many cases quite tedious. It is hoped this article will clear up much or the mediocre and confusing information that has been forced upon those of us outside the borders of Finland .

 

This was not article that I wanted to author. There are a number of reasons for my hesitation in undertaking such a task and I will do my best to briefly explain this to the site readers. The first reason is the simple fact that as an American it is hard for me to write the history of another nation. I have always felt it is best to let Finns speak of their native country, as a Finn is always going to be better suited to do so than I. Another reason that forced me to look elsewhere for an author was that I quickly learned that while I felt I had a good handle on the Civil Guard, I still was a novice compared to others. I knew that if I could locate a Finn with a more solid background in the history of the SY-SKY the article would be superior to anything that I could author. Lastly - and maybe most importantly - the simple fact is that even today the SY-SKY can be a touchy subject in Finland . Finland was at one time a nation deeply divided. Since Finland as a free nation was only born in 1917 there are still very personal connections intact with the early days of Finland 's foundation and at times these feelings can run quite hot. The history of the Finnish Civil War and the time frame of the 1920's and early to mid 1930's can and does still create some hard feelings and deep divides in certain aspects of Finnish society. There are many Finns that call the White and Civil Guard heroes but there are others that will call them murderers or oppressors. I learned this as a fact early in my collecting days as a good friend of mine from one of the more industrial cities in Finland had his grandfather hung by Civil Guard members in the 1920's. His viewpoint of the Civil Guard is quite different from others in Finland but just goes to prove how touchy this subject can be. As an outsider the last thing that I would want to do is offend Finns by trying to put my slant on this subject. It should be noted that no nation's civil war is pretty and Finland 's was no exception.

I give the author of this article a lot of credit for the undertaking. When I first approached him about doing such a work I had no idea he would go into all the detail that will be seen here. In fact when I saw the first draft I was shocked at the amount of work put into the article. What I thought would be a general overview of the Civil Guard might now well be the most detailed work in English on the subject. I am quite proud to have this on the site and can not begin to express how pleased at the extremes the author went to in getting this article done. The author was quite brave in undertaking the effort as even he mentions that many in Finland will not agree with all aspects of his article. Another example of why I as an American was not going to take this task on. As I love to read about history, the work that I put in assisting getting this online was a real treat. I can promise that even advanced collectors and historians will learn quite a bit if they take the time to read and study this work in detail. The main goal of this article was to educate readers on the history behind Finland and behind the rifles that many of us collect. If you do not understand this history then really the rifles-handguns are nothing more than pieces of metal but if you combine the weapons with the history behind them you have cherished historical treasures that will mean more to you as the years go on. It is my hope that this article brings a bit of Finnish history to life for you and that when you have read this section you leave feeling that you have a better understanding of Finland . This site wants its readers to take away a healthy respect for the nation of Finland and it is believed this article will further this cause. Also one of this sites main goals is to educate its readers on subjects that are not often encountered in Western education.  I really do feel that having a better understanding of the Finnish Civil Guard will add greatly to the collector's enjoyment of the hobby.

I want to thank Jarkko Vihavainen for authoring the work and Charlie Bowles for his assistance in editing the article (which was a BIG help and a lot of work).  The maps on site would not be here without the work of Finn MN (Tom). I also wish to thank my friend Vic Thomas for helping in my early days of collecting and helping to jump start my interest in both Finland and the Civil Guard.  Also a special note of thanks to Juha Berg, Jani Uppa , Frans Otila and others for their assitance over the years in locating many of the Civil Guard items in my collection. People such as those listed are what makes collecting the great hobby that it is.  Thanks guys!

 

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