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Defence Forces flag day again a mostly-virtual event

The flag day commemorates the birthday of national hero Mannerheim, who led the White forces during the Finnish Civil War and the FDF during World War II.

Puolustusvoimien lippujuhlaa vietettiin Helsingissä.
Puolustusvoimien lippujuhlaa vietettiin Helsingissä.
Yle News

Due to the pandemic, the Flag Day of the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) is again being observed on a subdued note on Friday, as it was last year. The traditional military parade, usually held on a rotating basis in various cities, has been cancelled for a second consecutive year.

Instead, the main event of the day was a concert performed by the Dragoon Band, which can be seen on Yle Areena as part of a roundup of the day’s events. The concert features heavy metal vocalist Jarkko Ahola, who sang a Finnish version of "A Salty Dog" by British rock band Procol Harum.

The official programme began under sunny skies with a flag-raising at Mäntyniemi, the official residence of President Sauli Niinistö in Helsinki's Meilahti neighbourhood (video above). The president officially serves as the FDF's Commander-in-Chief.

There was also a fly-over by four Hornet fighter jets, part of an ageing fleet that is to be replaced over the next decade.

That was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Helsinki's Hietaniemi cemetery, led by Gen. Timo Kivinen, who has been Commander of the FDF since 2019.

Remembering Mannerheim in Helsinki and Mikkeli

Kivinen then led a virtual celebration at the Mannerheim Museum, adjacent to Embassy Row in Helsinki's Kaivopuisto district, where Marshal C. G. E. Mannerheim lived from 1924 until his death in 1951.

The flag day commemorates the birthday of national hero Mannerheim, who was born on 4 June 1867 in the southwestern town of Askainen, now part of Masku, just northwest of Turku. It was then part of the Russian-ruled Grand Duchy of Finland.

Mannerheim began his career as an officer in the Imperial Russian Army but then led the victorious White forces against the Russian-backed Reds in the Finnish Civil War of 1918. He then served as Regent of Finland, as commander-in-chief of the FDF during the Second World War and as president in 1944-46.

There were also commemorations in the eastern city of Mikkeli, site of Mannerheim's headquarters during World War II.

Maj. Gen. Markku Myllykangas, Chief of Staff of the Finnish Army, and Lt. Col. Joni Volanen, Commander of the Mikkeli garrison, laid a wreath at a monument to Mannerheim on the town's central square.

A new World War II history museum, the Muisti Centre of War and Peace, was also formally opened in the city on Friday.

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