This chapter explores the retrospective meaning making of the 1918 Finnish Civil War, a dramatic rupture in the country’s history. The aim is to study how the war and pre-war activities were perceived, described and remembered by the Lotta Svärd organisation. Lotta Svärd was born out of bourgeois women’s desire to help the White Army and the voluntary auxiliary defence organisation Suojeluskunnat (the White Guards). Lotta groups were initially subordinated to local Suojeluskunta units and became a separate organisation in 1921. Due to its popularity and size, Lotta Svärd played an important role in shaping the national consciousness and memories of the 1918 war. The organisation is of great interest, since, over the years, Lottas have both lost and regained their good reputation.
The material consists of the Lotta Svärd magazine and Lotta pages in the military magazines Suomen Sotilas, Suojeluskuntalaisen lehti and Hakkapeliitta in the period 1919‒1939. As the Winter War began on 30 November 1939, memories of the 1918 war faded into the background. Much of remembering (and forgetting) is socially motivated, since memories need to be communicated (Cubitt 2007; Fentress & Wickham 1992). However, the early wartime experiences shaped the Lotta organisation’s activities, membership requirements, ideology and sense of belonging. Lotta pages and magazines often described individual members’ experiences and contributions to the national struggle. Texts were typically written from the point of view of ‘us’ or ‘I’, meaning that the individual was always positioned as serving the organisation and the Fatherland. The 1918 war was ‘kept alive’ by various rituals, involving sacralisation of the Nation, for example flag raising or visits to war cemeteries. Such events were also described in the magazines, meaning that there was an element of anniversary journalism (Kitch 2007; 2008). In the process these rituals were turned into Lotta rituals.
The Red and White Guards can trave their history back to the 1905 general strike. Such groups were formed on both sides to ’keep order’ in the streets. However, the first clashes occured during the strike. Suojeluskunnat grew out of this experience and formed an essential part of the Civil War White Army under mannerheim’s leadership. There is no established translation for Suojeluskunta (or, Suojeluskunnat in plural), which was an essential part of the White Army. Suojelus means ‘protection’. Kunta has several meanings, but in this context it refers to a collective, for example ihmiskunta means ‘mankind’. The word valkokaarti (White Guard) also exists, for example in Helsingin valkokaarti (White Guard of Helsinki). In Finnish Suojeluskunta is more common, since it is the official name of the organisation. Haapala and Tikka (2012, 81) speak of “Protection Guard”, combining suojelus and kaarti. Heimo and Peltonen (2006, 52) prefer “White Guard”. Lavery (2006), Nevala-Nurmi (2006), Ahlbäck and Kivimäki (2008) say “Civil Guard”. Kirby (2006) uses suojeluskunta but also mentions “the White Guards”. The Reds used the word lahtarit, i.e. the butchers. I will use “White Guards” to emphasise the political element and the link to the White Finland.
Tartu: University of Tartu , 2016. 147-168 p.
Lotta Svärd, Finnish Civil War, mediated memories, organisational magazine, women and war