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Unknown soldiers laid to rest on Memorial Day

As this is also Whit Sunday or Pentecost, many shops are closed.

Lappeenrannan sankarihautausmaa
Lappeenranta's military cemetery Image: YLE Etelä-Karjala

Flags fly in Finland on Sunday in memory of those killed in the nation’s wars. In the morning, President Sauli Niinistö laid a wreath at Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki. 

At a military cemetery in the eastern town of Lappeenranta, the remains of 42 Finnish soldiers were buried with full honours. The remains have been recovered in recent years from former battle sites, many now located over the Russian border. Only five of them have been identified.

One was buried in an individual grave under his name. The rest were put to rest in a shared grave. The interment was led by the Finnish Defence Forces' Chaplain General, Pekka Särkiö. Similar, smaller ceremonies were held simultaneously elsewhere in Finland.

More than 1,000 soldiers found in past 20 years

Between 1992 and 2013, the remains of more than 1,100 Finnish soldiers have been repatriated. The identities of about 300 of them have been ascertained through DNA analysis at Helsinki University’s Department of Forensic Medicine.

Those who have been identified have been handed over to their hometowns for burial in local military grave sites. Unknown soldiers have been interred in the eastern towns of Lappeenranta, Joensuu and Kajaani.

The Finnish version of Remembrance Day or Memorial Day has been a national flag day since 1977. The day is observed on the third Sunday of May every year. It commemorates all who have died in or following wars or battles on Finnish territory or involving Finland, as well as those killed in peacekeeping operations.

Following the Civil War just after Finland gained independence in 1917, the country was involved in the Winter War of 1939-40, the Continuation War of 1941-44 and the Lapland War 1944-45.

Also on Sunday, the Evangelical Lutheran and Greek Orthodox churches observes Pentecost or Whit Sunday, marking the end of the liturgical Easter season. As a result many shops and offices that might otherwise be open on Sunday are closed.

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