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Conscripts’ battle guidelines: Take your smartphone, leave the axe behind

Finland’s guidelines for soldiers in a wartime situation have changed over the years. In the 1990s they were asked to take an axe along with them, but now they’re more likely to have a smartphone.

Sotilaspassi ja tuntolevy.
The 'sotilaspassi' is Finnish conscripts' military ID. Image: Jouki Väinämö / Yle

Back in the 1970s, soldiers going to war in Finland were given guidelines on what they should bring with them if the call for battle readiness ever came. Back then they were asked to turn up with three days’ worth of provisions and a bicycle.

In the 1990s the list included, among other items, an axe, a compass and a torch. According to Defence Forces’ Communications Director Eero Karhuvaara, it’s no longer necessary to bring an axe along. Except for perhaps underwear, the modern Finnish military plans to fully equip its soldiers.

"The fatherland now offers everything you might need," said Karhuvaara. "Military ID is still necessary, but it now looks a bit like a credit card."

Perhaps surprisingly, given the security revelations posted on social media by combatants in Ukraine, Finnish soldiers are allowed to take a smartphone with them into battle.

"The Defence Forces will not however be responsible for its condition," stresses Karhuvaara. "Usage and charging could of course be problematic."

Finland launched an information campaign this year aimed at conscripts. Some 900,000 people were sent information about their possible role in wartime, and asked to correct any erroneous data the military might hold about them.

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