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Thursday's papers: Red women of Tampere, church short of funds, and mämmi shortage threatens

The press has a mixed bag of stories on Maundy Thursday, including a look ahead at the anniversary of Finland's civil war in 2018, an analysis of the finances of the Finnish church, and a possible shortage of Finland's black, rye-based Easter delicacy.

Mämmipakkauksia kaupan hyllyllä.
Mämmi could be in short supply this Easter. Image: Yle

If 2017 marks the centenary of Finland's independence, with numerous celebrations in the works, then 2018 will be the year to mark a hundred years since the bloody civil war that followed Finland's disentanglement from Russia. That conflict will be re-examined in a spate of books published in the next year, and on Thursday Tampere daily Aamulehti takes a closer look at those covering women's participation.

The city of Tampere played a crucial role in the conflict, as a bastion of the reds and scene of crucial battles, and Aamulehti also looks at productions in the works at the city's theatres to mark the anniversary.

Tiina Lintunen's book Punaisten naisten Ttet (rough translation: The paths of red women) looks at women who held roles in the Red Guards. In particular the book examines their lives in the years afterwards, the traumas they went through, and their struggle to lead normal lives after the conflict.

The book has its roots in Lintunen's Masters' thesis, which covered the battle of Pomarkku. She found that she wasn't too concerned with the military history of who attacked who from which direction, but was fascinated by the human interest angle.

From their she started to wonder about the women in the conflict, and she discovered that plenty of women from the Pori area were involved in the Red Guards, but none had frontline combat positions. Some 267 of them were apprehended and prosecuted, and left a long paper trail, giving sufficient material for a historian to research further.

The youngest woman in the book was 13, the oldest 69, and more than half were unmarried. From court and prison records she found that few of the red women in her study admitted joining up for ideological reasons, with most saying they did so for the much higher pay on offer. Many of them, however, had been active in left-wing organisations--and it was not prudent in post-civil war Finland to admit communist sympathies.

Another new book covering the topic more broadly has detailed statistics on women's participation. It says 2,600 women took up arms in the war, a few on the white side. Some 1,100 of those were convicted after the war, 270 executed, and 60 fell on the battlefield. In all some 5,533 women were convicted after the war.

Church poor

Kauppalehti has a nice line in stories applying an economic analysis away from the usual business press beat, and Thursday sees a good example of the genre: Church finances.

Finland's evangelical Lutheran church has lost a lot of members in recent years, as younger people leave the organisation by resigning using an online form. That has a very concrete effect, as every member of established churches in Finland pays tax on their earnings, typically of between one and two percent depending on the parish.

Kauppalehti describes this as "parishes losing market share in the competition for souls".

Despite the lost market share, the church is doing alright. That's because the young souls it has lost are less profitable than the older, wealthier ones that still pay their church tax. Even heading into 2025, when the church will be smaller by about half a million people, if current trends continue, revenue will remain stable.

Some kind of structural reform is necessary, however, as costs will rise. Redistribution from wealthy urban parishes to poorer, sparsely populated towns in the north and east will also have to intensify, along with efforts to manage the better church's property holdings.

Mämmi shortage?

Finnish Easter wouldn't be Easter without the sticky rye-based gloop that is mämmi. The black stuff is flying off the shelves as usual, but it seems, according to Ilta-Sanomat, that there's a risk it might run out.

The paper cites a tweet from a Turku shopkeeper (a not entirely impartial source, it must be said), that indicated a mämmi shortage might transpire. His solution? Buy some before the Easter weekend starts.

The paper does also interview producers who say orders are up this year, and coming in later than usual, so the story does have some substance. Stocking up is, as ever, the only way to prevent a mämmi shortage on your own kitchen shelves.

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