One hundred years ago today, Finland declared its independence from Russia.
The following is a scene from SILENCES: A NOVEL OF THE 1918 FINNISH CIVIL WAR. In December of 1917, government and law enforcement are falling apart as the Great War ravages Europe. A shopkeeper in a small town near Nykarleby is murdered by men who leave a note behind suggesting that the Red Guard, followers of Karl Marx, is responsible. In this scene, Jussi Mantere and several other men meet to discuss establishing a White Guard to help maintain order.
“And today is December sixth,” Norlund, a politician, said nonchalantly. “And in case you haven’t heard, there is now an armistice between Germany and the Bolsheviks.”
He waited for the words to take effect, but his audience sat waiting for an explanation. After a moment, he added, “Right now, perhaps even as we sit here, Finland is declaring itself an independent state.”
For a moment, no one spoke, then they turned as one toward Emil Almquist, the newspaper editor, for confirmation.
“It will be in tomorrow’s Tidning,” Almquist said. “We are no longer a Russian Duchy. We have our country back.” He rose to his feet. “Long live Finland!”
The men at the table immediately stood. “Long live Finland!” they shouted in response—all but Jussi, who stood with them but could not speak. His mind was full of thoughts of war. The Reds would think that the country had been given to them; the Whites would think it was theirs.
From this basic conflict, which Jussi sees so clearly, grows the Finnish Civil War.