President Sauli Niinistö lead the nation at Saturday’s official commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the start of the Winter War in 1939, when the Soviet Union attacked Finland without a declaration of war.
The president laid a wreath at the Winter War Memorial in Helsinki’s Kasarmintori Square, where 105 candles were lit – representing each day of the conflict – and placed by veterans and their relatives.
“Inevitably, we will soon enter a new era in which those who experienced the Winter War first hand will only live in our memories. But it does not mean that the significance of those experiences would be diminished” the president said in a statement.
“Commemorating a war does not equal its idealisation. The Winter War was brutal and cruel. Many sacrificed life and limb to allow Finland to live” he said.
The battles of the Winter War were a heroic chapter that allowed Finland to create another narrative: a story of a country that retained its democratic institutions even during a war and was able to reconstruct itself.”
Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) said in a statement that “the miracle of the Winter War was built on courage and love for a homeland that was free. It was built on the ability to overcome their fears in an impossible situation.”
The PM also said he extended his “deepest respect” to Finland’s war veterans.
There was also a wreath-laying at Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki on Saturday, and a military guard of honour for the war dead.