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Finnish city rejects display of Civil War plaque commemorating White Guard

The City of Rauma has refused to allow a plaque commemorating members of the White Guard in Finland's 1918 Civil War to be installed in the wall of the local landmark old town hall. The position of city officials is that a new White Guard memorial would serve to maintain ideological divisions.

Sisällissota, suojeluskuntalaisia
Image: Iisalmen Kamera ry, Arttu Tiikkainen

Even 100 years after the conflict, the White Guard is a contentious issue, which can still divide the people along political lines.

Formed out of paramilitary groups establisheded for protection and to preserve order in the wake of the Russian Revolution, the White Guard was a volunteer militia with local chapters.

Under the provisions of the 1947 post-WWII Treaty of Paris, Finland disbanded all organizations considered fascist by the Soviet Union. The White Guard fell under this ban and was disbanded.

With the 100th anniversary of the war this year, the City of Rauma received a request from a local White Guards heritage association to be permitted to install a plaque in the wall of the Rauma Old Town Hall, which is a landmark building located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The plaque would have carried a text reading in Finnish, "On Rauma's Bloody Sunday, 14.4.1918, a bloody battle was fought on this site between invading Red Guards and White Guards defending the city. The rebels killed five White Guard members and two policemen in the clash."

Group calls commemoration inappropriate

As a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, preservation of the Old Town Hall building is overseen by a special body comprised of elected representatives, civil servants and museum representatives. In a statement on the issue forwarded to city officials, the group described the plan to set up the plaque as a very bad idea.

"The Old Town Hall is a building that members of the community of Rauma feel is a shared site. It is not appropriate to commemorate the divisions in the nation of a hundred years ago with a plaque on the walls of a public building considered as shared heritage," the statement noted.

In addition, it pointed out that setting up any kind of plaque would undermine the historic architectural integrity of the building.

The City of Rauma agreed with the group and rejected the application for putting up a plaque.

Story continues after the photo.

Joulukuusi, takana Vanhan Rauman alueella sijaitseva raatihuone
Image: Jari Pelkonen / Yle

Rauma's Old Town Hall does have one plaque honouring the memory of Johan Fredrik Eek, a locally-born military officer and writer who served in the Swedish army in the 1808-1809 war with Russia.

The city also has monuments to those who fought on both sides in the Civil War, one from 1937 to the Whites and one set up in 1944 to the Reds.

The Finnish Civil War of 1918 was a brutal conflict. Battles, the use of terror tactics by both sides, post-war executions by White forces, as well as hunger and disease in prison camps claimed the lives of close to 40,000 people.

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