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Finns commemorate outbreak of Winter War

Ceremonies in Lappeenranta and Helsinki honoured those who took part in the war, including foreign volunteers.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö valtakunnallisessa talvisodan syttymisen muistotilaisuudessa Helsingissä talvisodan kansallisella muistomerkillä Kasarmitorilla lauantaina 30. marraskuuta 2019.
President Sauli Niinistö at the Winter War memorial in central Helsinki. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

On Saturday, Finns commemorated the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Winter War against the Soviet Union.

President Sauli Niinistö said that the importance of the war experience for Finland will not fade even though "we will soon enter a new era in which those who experienced the Winter War first hand will only live in our memories. But it does not mean that the significance of those experiences would be diminished," he said in a statement.

"Commemorating a war does not equal its idealisation. The Winter War was brutal and cruel. Many sacrificed life and limb to allow Finland to live," the president added.

The statement was issued as he and other officials took part in a memorial ceremony in Helsinki. Other participants included Deputy Speaker of Parliament Tuula Haatainen, Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen, Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori and representatives of veterans' groups and the Finnish Defence Forces.

They laid wreaths at a Winter War memorial on Kasarmitori Square, which was unveiled two years ago.

After the wreath-laying, 105 candles were lit, one for each day of the war. The candles were meant to honour the Finns of the wartime era as well as the foreign volunteers and other international supporters. Most of the foreign volunteers came from Sweden and other Nordic countries, but there Finnish-Americans and others.

The war ended in March 1940 with Finland retaining its independence but forced to cede and lease large swaths of territory to the USSR.

Performing were the YL Male Voice Choir (Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat) and the Guards Band (Kaartin soittokunta). Both groups date back to the nineteenth century, when Finland was a Grand Duchy under the Russian tsars.

Lappeenranta event honours evacuees

Another wreath-laying ceremony took place at a Karelian monument near the military cemetery and Army Academy in Lappeenranta, eastern Finland.

Story continues after photo

Seppeleenlasku Sankarihautausmaan tuntumassa olevalle Äiti-Karjala monumentille Lappeenrannassa 30. marraskuuta 2019.
A wreath-laying ceremony by a Karelian monument at a military cemetery in Lappeenranta, eastern Finland on 30 November. Image: Silva Nieminen / Yle

The main speaker at the event was the Chief of Defence, General Timo Kivinen.

The event was hosted by the Karelian Association (Karjalan Liitto), founded in 1940 by Karelian evacuees who lost their homes in areas ceded to the Soviet Union. Some 442,000 people from these areas were resettled elsewhere in Finland.

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