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Continuation War

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C. G. E. Mannerheim

 

HISTORY IN BRIEF

The legendary Marshal of Finland and President of Finland Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867–1951) led the Defense Forces of Finland in four major wars during the 20th century, helping to secure the continuation of Finland as a free, sovereign and independent nation.

Before that, Mannerheim spent a total of 30 years in the service of the Russian Imperial Armed Forces, in the end of the era when Finland was the Grand Duchy of Finland (1809–1917), an autonomous part of the Russian Empire. For 28 years, Saint (St.) Petersburg (Finnish: Nevanlinna) was the hometown of Mannerheim.

Mannerheim volunteered to serve in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. He was promoted to colonel for his bravery in the Battle of Mukden in 1905, after which he led an exploratory mission into Inner Mongolia. In 1906–1908, Mannerheim served as a secret intelligence officer in Asia.

In 1909–1910, Mannerheim served as a regiment commander in Poland. He was promoted to major general in 1910. In 1912, Mannerheim became part of the Russian Imperial entourage, and in 1913 was appointed cavalry brigade commander.

At the beginning of World War I, Mannerheim served as a brigade commander on the Austro-Hungarian and Romanian fronts. In December 1914, after distinguishing himself in combat against the Austro-Hungarian forces, Mannerheim was awarded the Order of St. George, 4th class. In March 1915, he was appointed to command the 12th Cavalry Division.

In early 1917, Mannerheim witnessed the outbreak of the February Revolution in St. Petersburg (Petrograd from 1914). After returning to the front, he was promoted to lieutenant general in April 1917 (the promotion was backdated to February 1915), and took command of the 6th Cavalry Corps in the summer of 1917. However, as Mannerheim did not support the Russian revolution, he returned to Finland.

As the commander-in-chief of the defense forces of the newly-independent Finland, Mannerheim and the government forces – formerly the White Guard – defended Finland against a coup-attempt by the Finnish Red Guard during the Finnish Civil War that broke out on January 27, 1918. The coup-attempt was inspired by the October Revolution (1917) of Russia and was supported by Vladimir Lenin.

Mannerheim was promoted to general of cavalry in March 1918, during the Finnish Civil War. Following this, in the Civil War of Estonia, fought in 1918–1920, c. 4,000 Finns loyal to Mannerheim played a critical role in achieving independence for Estonia.

Shortly after the Finnish Civil War of 1918 had ended, Finnish forces loyal to Mannerheim also made armed advances eastbound from Finland, into the culturally, ethnically, and linguistically Finnic areas in what today is the extreme northwestern part of the Russian Federation.

These advances took place in 1918–1920, during the Russian Civil War (1917–1922), in support of the Finnic kindred peoples by Finland's borders, who in and close to Russia were oppressed by the Bolsheviks fighting to take charge of what up to then had been the Russian Empire (1721–1917).

On the St. Petersburg front of these advances, the toughest obstacle for the forces loyal to Mannerheim were members of the Finnish Red Guard operating in the area, many of whom had fled Finland during or in the aftermath of the Finnish Civil War (1918).

During World War II, Finland fought two defensive wars against the Soviet Union, the Winter War (1939–1940) and the Continuation War (1941–1944). In these wars, Mannerheim led the Defense Forces of Finland against the Soviet attempts to conquer Finland. The Finnish-Soviet warring ended in series of nine Finnish defensive victories in major battles fought in the summer of 1944, and in a retreat of the Soviet forces in the last major battle, fought in Ilomantsi.

In his final victory, the now Marshal of Finland Mannerheim commanded the Defense Forces of Finland in the Lapland War, fought between Finland and Germany from September 1944 to April 1945, in which the Finns chased away the German forces from Northern Finland.

Mannerheim was appointed the President of Finland on August 4, 1944, shortly before the Finnish-Soviet Continuation War ended. He remained in office until March 4, 1946, when he resigned and retired, 19 months after the Continuation War had ended.

During the era of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809–1917, over 300 Finns rose to generals and admirals in the Russian Imperial Armed Forces, including the last officer promoted to general in the Russian Empire in 1921, Georg Elfvengren.

When the coronation of the last Emperor of Russia, Tsar Nikolai II, formally took place in St. Petersburg on May 26, 1896, the Tsar's ceremonial private bodyguard of seven generals included four Finns. The unit was headed by Mannerheim, who walked right in front of the royal couple in the coronation parade.



MANNERHEIM AND NEVANLINNA

When the Grand Duchy of Finland (1809–1917) existed, the Russian Empire was a relatively young naval power. It had gained access to the Baltic Sea in the 18th century, after the founding of the city of St. Petersburg in place of the Finnish ("Sweden-Finland") town of Nevanlinna on the coast of the Gulf of Finland.

Officially, Nevanlinna became part of Russia in 1721, when the Great Northern War (1700–1721) ended, and when the era of the Swedish Empire (1611–1721) ended, and when the era of the Russian Empire (1721–1917) began.

Starting over a century before, in the early 17th century, great-uncles of Mannerheim, Lars and Johan Bengtsson Skytte, had been the chief players in – and architects of – the foundation of the Swedish Empire, which they also helped to govern. Then Ingria, including Nevanlinna, was reunited with the Swedish Empire.

• Lars Bengtsson Skytte (1574–1634), Stadtholder (Finnish: Käskynhaltija; Swedish: Ståthållare) of the Swedish Empire, the ruler of the empire for the king: http://fb.me/Lars.Bengtsson.Skytte

• Baron Johan Skytte (1577–1645) delivers the king's marriage proposal to Princess Stuart in 1610: http://fb.me/Johan.Skytte

• The most powerful leader of the late Viking Age, Skjalm Hvide, is Mannerheim's forefather: http://skjalm.kvenland.org



MANNERHEIM'S DECISIONS SAVED SAINT PETERSBURG

Through the Finnish language video linked directly below, pertaining to the participation of c. 4,000 Finnish soldiers in the Estonian War of Independence (1918–1920), and the Continuation War (1918–1920) article linked underneath it, learn how Mannerheim's decisions not to permit Finnish attacks against Saint Petersburg (Leningrad during World War II) saved the city from the conquests of the Russian Whites during World War I and Germany during World War II.

• Estonian War of Independence (1918–1920)
– http://areena.yle.fi/1-2338145 (video in Finnish)

• Continuation War (1941–1944)
– http://ContinuationWar.com