What the Finnish veterans remember.

Satu Krautsuk (Satu Krautsuk)
In June 2016, writer Petri Pietiläinen held a list of names. He wanted to go round the whole country to write down the stories of war veterans who fought in the First Infantry Regiment (JR 1). The list had 70 names.
“While the book was being written, some veterans died. In Lahti, we tried to interview the centenary veteran three times, but every time we visited, he slept. In Helsinki, we did not have time to interview one veteran, because during the month and he died. We ran a race with death. "
Usually the door was opened by a very modest veteran, who immediately began by saying that we would not hear any heroic story from him. According Pietiläinen, stories of old men broke his heart.
"Memories made many of them cry. We were very touched by their frankness. They ventured to curse Mannerheim and their commanders and told stories about superiors who could not stand the nerves, and they were ready to shoot all their people."Veterans said that the command had betrayed them during the deployed offensive in the area of ​​Beloostrov in 1944.

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The soldiers of the First Infantry Regiment arrived at the front line in the area of ​​Beloostrov in the middle of May 1944, when another regiment left positions. The soldiers wondered why the defensive positions were in such terrible condition, although they had long been aware of the impending offensive from intelligence reports. In addition, some of the positions were in open territory below the places where the enemy was located, and were completely open to the fire of the Soviet troops.
"Machine-gun nests like a child did, they were covered with branches." (Martti Parkkonen, Martti Parkkonen) "At first, they always built luxurious premises for the authorities, not fortifying the second line of defense." (Matti Mäkinen, Matti Mäkinen)
According to the veterans, the officers treated their subordinates arrogantly. In the opinion of many, the battalion commanders waged a meaningless and even harmful struggle for the title of best commander. For example, during the offensive, they sought to withstand speed with abnormal clarity. Marshal Mannerheim, according to the veterans, was poorly aware of what was happening in the Beloostrov area.
"It is said that on June 9, Mannerheim set off for an ordinary morning horse ride in Mikkeli. His batman led the horse by the bridle. In the distance, there was a strong rumble. The marshal and the batman decided that it was a distant thunder. All this happened at the Main Headquarters." (Otto Kangas, Otto Kangas)
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Memories of war veterans of events in the area of ​​Beloostrov are different from what the commanders of the First Infantry Regiment wrote in reports and field journals. In field journals, a well-organized defensive battle and a planned retreat are described as follows:
"The first infantry regiment did not take to flight. The retreat took place in steps, but on a broad front it was not possible to stop the movement right up to a suitable point on the ground. Talking about runaway flight and panic is a lie." (Commander Tauno Viljanen, Tauno Viljanen)
However, according to veterans, the control was completely absent. The surviving soldiers report panic and chaos, in which no one wanted to take responsibility. They were waiting for the order to retreat, but he never came.
"There was no one else. Everyone died. When there was no one left, I left."(Vilho Kuukka, Viljo Kuukka) "In the chaos of the offensive, the leadership disappeared. And the ordinary soldiers only looked where the sun was pointing - to the west. At the first opportunity they jumped into trucks or a train." (Mikko Soille, Mikko Soille)
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Many say that managers were losing their heads from stress. "A familiar captain from headquarters, distraught, swinging a pistol and shouting:" We will fight here! Everyone who leaves without my permission will be shot! " (Veikko Pystunen, Veikko Pystynen)
"Probably, he completely went nuts when he saw that I had not obeyed the order. He was going to shoot me! Veikko saved me by taking away his weapon." (Veikko Hämäläinen, Veikko Hämäläinen) Pietilaynen trusts veterans' stories because their stories are very similar.
“Everyone only talked about panic in the last stage.“ I was left alone and no one came to say that we should retreat. ”No one commanded the troops. The last survivors left alone when the Russian tank was on the roof of the dugout.
Field logs of the regiment remained on the battlefield. The official field journals were written three weeks after the offensive, because the real ones did not have time to take them with them. Pietilainen is doubtful of these records.
“Are they historically accurate? Where is the truth? I trust the man’s stories about how he feared, trembled and waited for someone to come and tell him:“ Run! ”Those who remained to wait for the order to retreat are now in the sands of Beloostrov. "
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In their stories, veterans admit to committing war crimes. Especially at the initial stage of the attack, enemy prisoners and Soviet soldiers were mercilessly killed.
"The company commander ordered me to run for the soldiers. I blocked the road and they were trapped. They had to do badly. When we lay at the abutment at night, I thought about the senselessness of all this. At night I decided that I would not take anything on myself and I will only do what is ordered. In the evening I did everything I needed and never remember what I did. " (Veikko Kuyala, Veikko Kujala)
There is also a story about how soldiers were allowed to kill Soviet prisoners of war after the Soviet troops inflicted great damage on the Finns. The soldiers behaved in this situation in completely different ways.
Some could take not even one, but two prisoners and later boasted that "they killed these filthy Russians."But still, many said that they were uncomfortable with this task. For example, a gunner, Sergeant Aarne Aaltonen (Aarne Aaltonen) said that moral principles do not allow him to kill.
"He believed that we can not do even in a war they do not blame others because they were all in the same position I find it interesting that they were able to talk about difficult moral issues and to explain why it happened.." - says Pietilinen.
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The military literature says nothing about the feelings and thoughts of individual soldiers. Also shamefully avoid unpleasant questions for the Finns. For example, the execution of Finnish soldiers of Soviet prisoners of war are mentioned in passing.
"In my opinion, they are not suppressed, but did not pick up because they have more noise talking about what happened in the summer of 1944, we must remember that the enemy is doing the same." - said Professor of National University of Defense of Finland Janne Myakitalo ( Janne Mäkitalo).
In his book Myakitalo and Jukka Vainio (Jukka Vainio), published in 2013, entitled "Breakthrough near Beloostrov: First Infantry Regiment" (Valkeasaaressa läpimurto - jalkaväkirykmentti 1 jatkosodassa) these questions also remain in the background.According to Mäkitalo, the stories of veterans allow to get information that was not in official sources.
"Field journals tell about it in their own way, and military history has its own version. I tried to give an overall picture. In addition, we were in a hurry - they wanted veterans to read the book. If I put these events in a bad light, would not do them honor. "
What the Finnish veterans remember. veterans, when, Myakitalo, Pietilaynen, stories, veterans, Beloostrov, regiment, offensive, magazines, war, says, say, the area, very, only, happened, because, stories, tell

Mjakitalo disagrees with Pietilaynen that the veterans' stories would contradict the records in the regiment's field magazine. He says field journals do not convey pictures of planned containment battles or retreats.
“The fact that the veterans talk about panic is not recorded in the field journals. They still say that the lines were broken, the troops moved to the line of defense, but they also had to leave under the onslaught of the enemy.”
In recent years, veterans have become more openly talking about their military experience. It became known about the use of drugs by soldiers, especially members of the reconnaissance detachments, about mental illnesses that did not give much rest to the post-war years.
"About drug problems,When they used Pervitin, they were silent, just like what happened when a man who had fought for four years in inhuman conditions was returning home. Then it was all buried under the glamorous heroic stories of the 60s, "says Pietiläinen.
The culture of silence flourished during the Cold War and the politics of Finlandization. According to military professor Janne Mäkitalo, veterans were condemned when they asked, for example, state benefits in order to complete a rehabilitation course.
What the Finnish veterans remember. veterans, when, Myakitalo, Pietilaynen, stories, veterans, Beloostrov, regiment, offensive, magazines, war, says, say, the area, very, only, happened, because, stories, tell

"They were advised not to be thrust. All this did not contribute to writing memories of the war. The same applies to the lotte memories. The lotto and the order were kept in a secluded place." The situation began to change in the 1980s. We are now at a stage when, for example, veterans of the First Infantry Regiment decide to criticize weapons and command.
“Books were written about the commanders, and they themselves wrote books in which they justified their actions. History at the micro level, the world of a single simple person became important only now. It’s a pity that it happened so late,” says Pietilainen.
Military Professor Janne Myakitalo believesthat silencing unpleasant questions or putting responsibility on the shoulders of others is a feature of all memories. The authors emphasize their own successes, and sometimes ascribe to themselves the successes of others.
“Already in the 1950s, one officer wrote that he was tired of reading the memoirs of senior officers. They talk so vividly about events and put the main actors in such a positive light that these stories have absolutely no relation to real military history,” says Myakitalo.
What the Finnish veterans remember. veterans, when, Myakitalo, Pietilaynen, stories, veterans, Beloostrov, regiment, offensive, magazines, war, says, say, the area, very, only, happened, because, stories, tell

The war has a great impact on national identity, even if the peace period has been going on for a long time. According to Petri Pietiläinen, he once thought that Finland seemed to be mired in a war.
“Now I think that every nation should have its own great narratives. The expression“ to wallow in war ”is not suitable here: we are analyzing history. Now we have reached a balance and started talking about how it really was. This does not mean that we are mired in war. We have to figure it out. "
https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9816288

What the Finnish veterans remember. veterans, when, Myakitalo, Pietilaynen, stories, veterans, Beloostrov, regiment, offensive, magazines, war, says, say, the area, very, only, happened, because, stories, tell

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