Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Things to know about Finland's centenary

06 Dec 2017, 23:10 ( 11 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Photo Finnish Government.

Finland celebrates its 100th Independence Day on Dec. 6, which falls on Wednesday.

As the whole nation is immersed in an atmosphere that is both somber and joyful, the festive events across the country as well as some supportive places in the world remind of Finnish history.

Following is a summary of some rarely known historical facts related to Finnish independence.

-- Independence narrowly chosen by favorable vote

Finnish parliament on Tuesday celebrated the feat that it passed the Declaration of Independence 100 years ago.

Unlike Tuesday's unanimous applause, the 1917 vote was a tough one. The declaration got 100 votes in favor, while 88 against it, in the 200-member parliament.

Timo Soikkanen, former professor of political history at Turku University and official historian of the Foreign Ministry, told Xinhua that a political "seesaw" phenomenon prevailed in 1917.

By the time of voting for independence, the political left opposed the outright unilateral declaration of independence and wanted a process in cooperation with Russia.

Contrary to Finnish expectations, western powers did not acknowledge Finnish independence right away and Finland was told to get recognition from Lenin first.

The chairman of the Senate, Pehr Edwin Svinhufvud then traveled to St Petersburg and Lenin became the first foreign leader to recognize Finland at the end of December 1917.

Before becoming independent, Finland had been part of Sweden until 1809 and thereafter an autonomous Grand Duchy under Czarist Russia.

-- Independence first celebrated under yellow-and-red flag

To mark the centenary of Finnish independence on Dec. 6, the blue-and-white Finnish national color is exhibited worldwide on famous landmarks such as the Niagara falls on the border of the U.S. and Canada, the Rome Colosseum, the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro and the mountain Saana in northwestern Finland.

However, the independence was first celebrated in 1917 under banners of red and yellow. The flag of Finland hoisted then exhibited the lion coats of arms in yellow on a dark red background.

Ville Pernaa, editor of the news magazine Suomen Kuvalehti, noted in his celebratory editorial that yellow and red had been associated with Finland at least since the first Coat of Arms of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the 16th century.

When the aspiration for independence really took off in late 19th century, the red and yellow were the national colors. They had western connotations, while blue and white were associated with Russia at the time.

The civil war between the Whites and the Reds that started in January 1918 turned the message of colors in Finland upside down. As the whites defeated the reds by May 1918, the red color was no longer politically correct. The current Finnish flag was adopted literally in May 1918.

-- Defending independence but losing wars

Finnish independence was achieved as a result of the weakening of Russia in the First World War, but thought to come under threat during the Second World War when the new born country confronted the Soviet Union military.

While fighting alone against the USSR in the Winter War of 1939-1940, Finland sought help from Germany to fight against the army of its eastern neighbor in 1941, and was in the end considered a co-belligerent of Germany.

In the aftermath of the war, Finland turned out to be the only one on the losing side of the Second World War that was not occupied by the victorious allied countries. Finland lost 11 percent of its territory but maintained independence.

The war was a bitter memory for Finns, but the bravery of Finnish soldiers has been respected domestically for decades especially when the country celebrates the independence day. WWII veterans get maximum publicity in the celebrations and some are guests of honor in the reception at the presidential palace. 

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