Flag day – again

I can hardly believe it myself, but today I watched a military parade, the first in my life. 4th of June (1867) is the birthday of Baron Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim and official flag day for the Finnish military. As it was the 150th anniversary of Mannerheim’s birthday and Finland is celebrating 100 years of independence, also thanks to the incessant efforts of Marshall Mannerheim, it was to be expected that the celebrations would be somewhat larger than usual. Helsinki city centre was pretty much closed down and taken over by military parades, flight shows and thousands of spectators.

Being German, everything connected to the military has always been loaded with ambiguous feelings for me. If I had anything to say, there wouldn’t be any military on the planet at all. But living in Finland for many years and working as a tour guide, i.e. having to explain to visitors the history of Finland, has allowed me to understand to a certain extent why a small nation with the Russian bear as it’s neighbour might want to have a military. Without it, Finland wouldn’t exist as an independent nation today. In addition, the Finnish military has a clear focus on self-defence, even the name says it: puolustusvoimat = defence powers. It’s something like the claws of an otherwise relatively small tiger, but at least they are demonstrating that they won’t go down without a decent fight. Still, having spent 17 years with raising a young man and then watching hundreds of young men marching along for the theoretical purpose of defending a country, if need be, with their lives, is not an uplifting sight for me.

Nevertheless, I find Marshall Mannerheim to be an impressive figure. Reading his biography made me realize what a tiny, completely unimportant grain of sand I am myself. By the time he had reached my age, he had already served the last Russian Tsar in two wars, saved his own life through a risky escape from St. Petersburg back to Finland in 1917, won the civil war for the Whites in 1918, helped Finland to be recognized as an independent nation abroad and secured large shipments of food from the Western powers that saved Finland from mass starvation in 1918. On the other hand, he and many other men in high positions did all this to allow unimportant people=normal civilians back then to survive as just the unimportant people they were. Kind of confusing…

Reading his biography also made me wonder, if children somehow unconsciously balance the shortcomings of their parents? The father of Mannerheim, besides being a count, was an industrialist and business person who gambled away the family’s fortune. The manor house was sold and he took off via France to the USA (freedom without responsibility, right?), never to be seen again. 14-year old Mannerheim watched his mother die from a heart attack, as she couldn’t handle the strain of being a single mom. So he went the opposite way: a military career with discipline and “always doing his duty” to the nation, serving as commander-in-chief and president still in his 70s and leading by example despite his health giving in. I am full of respect for all those men who fought for tiny Finland and at the same time I wonder why humans have to put themselves through such agony and hardship, not being able to solve problems peacefully. Anyway, there is much more background knowledge and a small video on “Marski” Mannerheim here

Or on YouTube…

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