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Parliament to recreate Winter War evacuation

Services were held nationwide on Sunday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the start of Finland's Winter War against the Soviet Union. Parliament will also replicate the wartime evacuation to Ostrobothnia.

eduskuntamuseon istuntosali ja pöydällä vaaliuurna eli hangon keksi -laatikko
The Finnish parliament assembled in this Kauhajoki hall during the Winter War. Image: Elina Niemistö / Yle

Finland commemorates the 75 anniversary of the start of the Winter War on Sunday with services held across the country. Hostilities began on 30 November 1939 with an attack by the Soviet Union including bombing raids on the capital Helsinki.

Parliament would have been a natural target, and so a rapid decision was taken to evacuate the legislature to the Ostrobothnian town of Kauhajoki. The town was chosen as it was in the west, far from the focus of Soviet attacks, and was not a major transport hub or host to any factories vital to the war effort—and therefore likely to be bombed.

The evacuation will be recreated on Monday when MPs convene in Kauhajoki, in the same hall where Parliamentary sessions were held during the three and a half months of the conflict after being evacuated from Helsinki.

The town now hosts a museum dedicated to the evacuation.

Finland and the United Kingdom were the only two countries where parliament continued to meet throughout the Second World War. The Finnish parliament held 34 plenary sessions in Kauhajoki, with the last on 12 February 1940.

In total over 150,000 lives were lost in the war, the vast majority on the Soviet side. It was followed by the Continuation War, in which Finland recovered territory lost in the Winter War and took additional land from the Soviet Union, and the Lapland War, in which Finland ejected former comrades in the German Wehrmacht from the country.

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