Thursday, September 29, 2005

Gustaf Mannerheim

There is no doubt that Gustaf Mannerheim is one of the most interesting personalities of the dramatic European 20th century.

With wide margins seen as the most significant Finnish personality ever, I think it is too limited to see him only in that perspective.

That what was I argued at a most well-attended seminar at the Embassy of Finland earlier today that had gathered different scholars of both the period and of the person.

Most of the attention given to Mannerheim is obviously focused on his role in securing the independence of Finland in 1917 and 1918, as well as surviving the Soviet onslaught in first the Winter War 1939 and 1940 and then the war of continuation from 1941 to 1944.

But essentially he was a Swede from Finland who become a general in the army and court of the Tsar of Russia, and whom the Bolsjevik revolution forced back to his native Finland to try to save it from the Red menance.

The speech is - unfortunately - in Swedish, but there might be those that understand that language as well.

It could be noted that the two main languages of Mannerheim were Swedish and Russian. His Finnish was never much to boast about.

It was a different time.