Statement by the President of the Republic on the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Winter War

Photo: Jussi Toivanen / Finnish Government

Photo: Jussi Toivanen / Finnish Government

Office of the President of the Republic
Press release 36/2019
30 November 2019

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Winter War. 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.

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. At the same time, something extraordinary happened in Finland. Poet Helvi Hämäläinen described the sense of unity created during the war by saying that it appeared as if all the Finnish people felt to be one. “We did not wish evil to anybody, but we wanted altruistically to defend what was rightfully ours. I am convinced that the Winter War left something valuable in our common being, which – for want of a better word – could perhaps be termed as the soul of the nation, that will outlive us who experienced it first hand.”

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. The existing welfare state based on the rule of law is living proof of this ability for reconstruction.

Now in peace time, we can bring back to mind what was essential about the spirit of the Winter War. While we may have our differences of opinion as citizens, we are unanimous in that any problems and changes facing Finland can be overcome by joint decisions. By doing so, we will also honour those who defended Finland at the front and at home and so afforded us this opportunity through their sacrifice.