The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW

Military


Baron Carl Gustaf Mannerheim

Gustaf Mannerheim was a general in the Russian Imperial Army, an explorer and then - during and after Finland's struggle for independence - Commander-in-Chief in three wars and twice Head of State. During his own lifetime he became, alongside Sibelius, the best-known Finnish personage at home and abroad.

Gustaf Mannerheim, usually referred to in Finland simply as 'Mannerheim', was a general in the Russian Imperial Army, an explorer and then - during and after Finland's struggle for independence - Commander-in-Chief in three wars and twice Head of State. During his own lifetime he became, alongside Sibelius, the best-known Finnish personage at home and abroad. Even at an early stage in his career, he was the object of admiration and respect, a fact reflected in street names, statues and a home museum highly regarded by the public.

The admiration and respect have fluctuated with the changing times. The winning side initially regarded the Commander-in-Chief of 1918 even with the admiration due to a legendary figure; the losing side with resentment. Between 1939 and 1944 the enemy attempted to rekindle negative emotions that had already subsided - though what they achieved was more of a counterstroke. During the leftist upsurge of the 1970s, criticism of Mannerheim re-emerged. Admiration became correspondingly more marked at the time of the Marshal of Finland's death and burial, in connection with the great equestrian statue project in the late 1950s, and again in the 1980s and 1990s. Mannerheim has attracted lively interest on the part of scholars and novel and drama writers from the 1950s onwards.

Gustaf Mannerheim was born on 4 June 1867 at Louhisaari (Villns) Manor at Askainen north of Turku. He was the third child in the family and - as a younger son of a count - inherited the title of baron. His father, Count Carl Robert Mannerheim, and the close relative of his mother, Hedvig Charlotta Helena (Hlne) von Julin, were industrialists and businessmen, while his grandfather, appeal court president Count Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, and Carl Gustaf's father, the senator Carl Erik Mannerheim, were high-ranking officials.

The rapid deterioration of the family's financial situation and Gustaf's ambitious and headstrong character made a military career precisely the right choice for him - though he was expelled from the Military College in 1886 for breaches of discipline. In 1893 Mannerheim was promoted to lieutenant of the guard, in 1899 to first lieutenant and in 1902 to captain.

The February Revolution of 1917 had an immediate effect on the army and the war. Mannerheim did not enjoy the favour of the new government, and in September he was relieved of his duties. In January 1918 Mannerheim was chosen as the commander-in-chief of the pro-government Civil Guards; Mannerheim was considered the most suitable of the many Finnish-born generals who had served or were serving in the Russian army. Mannerheim was out of the country during the last, fateful period of the civil war, a time of mass deaths as a result of disease and starvation.

When a change of government had to be undertaken in Finland after the collapse of imperial Germany, Mannerheim was invited to assume supreme power temporarily with the title of Valtionhoitaja (Swedish Riksfrestndare = Regent). The greatest issue during Mannerheim's regency was what attitude to adopt towards the attempt of Russian White forces to capture St Petersburg. Kaarlo Juho Stshlberg was elected President of the Republic on 25 July 1919, and Mannerheim retired to private life.

In March 1931, soon after coming to power as president as a result of the period of agitation, Pehr Evind Svinhufvud appointed Mannerheim Chairman of the Defence Council and Commander-in-Chief in the event of war, thus formally reintegrating him into the governmental system. In 1933 Mannerheim was given the rank of field marshal. When war broke out on 30 November 1939, Mannerheim assumed the position of Commander-in-Chief and again established his headquarters at Mikkeli. He remained Commander-in-Chief until 31 December 1944.

The Soviet offensive of June-July 1944 forced the Finnish army to retreat in Karelia and to withdraw to the west of Viipuri/Vyborg on the Isthmus. A precondition for peace was a change of government and the severing of ties with Germany. Mannerheim consented to this, and on 4 August 1944 he was elected President of the Republic by the Parliament. For a brief period Mannerheim held all power in his hands. He resigned in March 1946.

Mannerheim died on 27 January 1951. Mannerheim's funeral and the subsequent attention and respect accorded to him marked an ideological turning point, a shift away from the 'postwar' ideological phase, with its disowning attitude towards earlier history, and a move towards an identity which united the various phases of Finnish history belonging to the Imperial and interwar periods with the postwar period, to form a single continuity.

Mannerheim had become a symbolic figure as early as 1918; he became even more of one during the 1930s and the war, and in this 'role' of his he was able to steer the development of a national identity in a direction which he considered important. His central values were Europeanism, i.e. close ties with Sweden and Western European culture, the maintenance of military preparedness and the strong national consensus essential for this.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list



 
Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:57:07 ZULU