Thursday. 12.12.2019
El tiempo

Finns fight over one of their sacred symbols

A professor of Sociology at the University of Oulu caused a storm by requesting the removal of a picture of Marshal Mannerheim for his role as executor of 'reds' in the civil war.

Carl Gustaf Mannerheim military leader of the Whites in the Civil War and later President of Finland.
Carl Gustaf Mannerheim military leader of the Whites in the Civil War and later President of Finland.
Finns fight over one of their sacred symbols

The case has already been named #mannerheimgate on social media and it has been the main trending topic of discussion during the day in Finland.

The origin of this controversy has to be found in two messages sent by Vesa Puuranen, professor of Sociology at the University of Oulu to one association of students of pedagogy and later to all the students.

According to newspaper Iltalehti, Professor Puuranen, criticized in his emails the placement of a picture of Marshal Carl Gustaf Mannerheim on the wall of one student club and the inclusion in the to-do list for first year students to take a selfie with that picture.

Mannerheim, former presidente of Finland and Commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is for most Finns one of the fathers of the country and the guarantor of independence in the hard years of World War II. At that time Finland had its particular conflict with the Soviet Union, fought in two stages known as the Winter War and the Continuation War.

Hitler_Mannerheim_Ryti Kalle Sjöblom Finnish National Board of Antiquities - Musketti Historian kuvakokoelma [Public domain]

Mannerheim, during a meeting with Adolf Hitler. Photo: Finnish National Board of Antiquities [Public domain].

However, others like Professor Puuranen point out that his figure is full of shadows for his role as leader of the 'White' Army in the Finnish civil war (1918), and for his record of executions and imprisonment of 'red enemies'. 

Removal of the picture

Professor Puurunen has demanded the removal of Mannerheim's picture from the university. He also says this habit of new students to be photographed along with the image of the marshal should be abandoned. In his opinion, it contributes to elevate and idealize his figure as an "admirable" person, when "in the light of history, he certainly is not."

Throughout the day many Finns argued heatedly in Twitter about this case and also over the figure of Mannerheim and his legacy to the country. Some of them accused Professor Puuranen of being a communist. Others even published their own selfies with pictures of the former president.

Many recognize that the Marshal had lights and shadows. However, there seem to be more who still believe that Mannerheim -with his faults- did more good than bad for the country.

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