Book Review: The Finnish Civil War, 1918: History, Memory, Legacy


by Tuomas Tepora and Aapo Roselius, editors

Leiden / Boston: E.J. Brill, 2014. Pp. xii, 454. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $162.00. ISBN: 9004243666

“Reds” versus “Whites” in the Making of Modern Finland.

Of the many “supplementary wars” sparked by the Great War, the conflict between the “Reds” and “Whites” in Finland is among the least known, yet one which had important long term effects on Europe, particularly with the rise of the Soviet Union to great power status. Following an introduction on the historiography of the civil war and revolution, the dozen essays in this volume examine various aspects of the conflict. The essays are grouped into three sections

“War and its Prelude” has four essays, covering prewar conditions in Finland, a “Grand Duchy” within the Russian Empire, Finland’s contribution to the Russian war effort until the collapse of the Tsarist regime, the actual civil war in Finland and the associated “Red” and “White” terror, and the post-civil war efforts by some factions on the Finnish Right to expand the state, mostly by invading Russian borderlands. 

“Cultural Contents and Wartime Experiences” includes four essays, dealing the propaganda side of the war, women in the civil war, children in the war, and, most interestingly, the Jäger movement, a group of young men who went to Germany during the Great War for military training in the hope of returning to liberate Finland from the Russians, who later became the backbone of the “White” military forces and ultimately an important cadre of the postwar Finnish Army. 

“Interpretations and Remembrance” has four essays which deal with interpreting and remembering the civil war during the postwar period down to the present, as political and diplomatic developments have lead to changing interpretations of the events, and covers veterans and the Finnish Labor movement. 

Although primarily important for specialists in Finnish history, some essays in this volume will appeal to those interested in inter-war Europe, women’s studies, and the improvisation of armed forces.


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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