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30 of Finland's "unknown soldiers" to be laid to rest

More than 70 years after they fell, the remains of 30 unidentified Finnish soldiers will be laid to rest with honours.

Tuntemattomien suomalaissotilaiden arkut lasketaan maahan.
Finnish military cadets readying the coffins of the remains of unknown soldiers for burial at a war grave in Lappeenranta in 2017. Image: Ulla Ylönen/Yle

The remains of 30 unidentified WWII-period Finnish soldiers recovered from Russia will be interred in a war grave on Finland's Memorial Day, 19 May.

The remains were recovered during searches of former battlefields in Russian territory over the past two summers.

It has not been possible to establish the identity of any of the remains. They were all identified only as Finnish soldiers on the basis of associated artifacts such as uniform buttons, belts and other objects discovered along with the remains.

All unknown Finnish soldiers are buried at a war grave located in the southeastern city of Lappeenranta. When it is possible to identify remains, for example through dog tags or DNA testing, the dead are buried in the local parish war grave nearest their homes.

Over 1,000 now found

The bodies of around 13,000 Finnish soldiers who fell during the Winter War (1939-1940) and the Continuation War (1941-1944) were not recovered after battle. Over the past more than 70 years, about one-tenth or some 1,300 remains have been found and returned to Finland.

For the past 20 years or more, groups of Finnish volunteers have carried out searches for remains in Russia. In addition, some Russian searches have recovered the remains of Finnish soldiers.

However, it is not expected that the remains of all the fallen will ever be found.

Sankarihautajaiset Parikkalassa
Cpl Uuno Johannes Jantunen was interred in the war grave of his home parish of Parikkalan Saari in May 2017 after his remains were discovered the previous summer on the Ihantala battlefield in the Karelian Isthmus. Image: Mika Albertsson

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and Finland agreed to permit Finnish searches of the sites of wartime battles inside Russia. Numerous finds were made during the early years, later in declining numbers. Even so, searches are still carried out every summer.

Military honours

The latest group of remains will receive graveside blessings and a burial with full military honours in Lappeenranta in a ceremony starting at noon on 19 May.

The burial will be preceded by a memorial service at the nearby Evangelical Lutheran church St. Mary's of Lappee.

The last burial of unknown soldiers was in 2017. As a result of searches of Russian battlefields, 782 unknown soldiers were interred in Lappeenranta between 1993 and 2018, and another 18 identified remains elsewhere.

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