Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Finnish Swastika

I decided that it would be important to write about the Swastika that is presented on Finnish military equipment. I was prompted because there is a lot of hatred regarding the Swastika but also a lot of ignorance to it's application outside of the Third Reich. I read on a military history forum recently someone making the dubious claim that the Finnish Blue Swastika (known as Hakaristi) was actually used because the Finns were allied with Nazi Germany and thus needed something to be identified with them. This poster also didn't seem to believe others when they tried to correct him.

So the first thing we need to establish is that the Swastika is not a modern symbol but in fact goes back thousands of years. The word Swastika comes from the Sanskrit (an ancient Indian language) svastika, which means lucky and is used to denote auspiciousness (good fortune, luck) upon on person or object.

Seals from the Indus Valley Civilisation (4,000-5,000 years ago)

Seen at a Buddhist Temple
So as we can see the swastika is not a modern symobl and not just associated in to Germany. The oldest known swastika is from 10,000 BCE and was uncovered by archaeologists in the Ukraine. The symbol has been found to be used in almost all countries and civilisations, from Indus Valley to the Sami Tribes, from Coptic Egyptian to the Native Americans. It is believed to have become so common because of its simplicity  and symmetry, which led to independent development by those countries who used it.

The second thing that needs to be cleared up is the Finland was using the swastika before Germany's Nazi Party adopted it. The National Socialist German Worker's Party (NSDAP, more commonly known as Nazi Party) adopted the symbol in 1920 due to the symbols increasing popularity across Europe as a symbol for Luck. Indeed the symbol has been used by pilots as a good luck charm.
American aviatrix Matilde Moisant seen with her Swastika lucky charm in 1912.
Raoul Lufbery, an American Ace serving in the French Lafayette Escadrille Squadron in World War 1.
 There is even a town in Canada named Swastika. It was founded in 1906 and became a Mining town in 1908 after Gold was discovered. The local Government tried to get the name changed in world war two because of the symbols now infamous association with the Nazi party. However the town refused and posted signs stating 'To Hell with Hitler. We came up with our name first'. The town has had to 'defend' its position numerous times since the Second World War and as yet has resisted every attempt at changing its name.

So now we have established the history and meaning of the Swastika, I think we can move onto the history and meaning behind the Swastika used by Finland on military equipment.

On March 6th 1918, Lieutenant Nils Kindberg landed at Vaasa in a Thulin Typ D carrying it's donor Swedish Count Eric von Rosen. This became the first aircraft of the newly created Finnish Air Force but incorrectly thought of as the first aircraft to fly for Finland. Finland at the time was gripped by Civil War (which started on 27th January and ran till May 15th 1918, only a month and a half after Finland declared its independence) and many Swedes decided to help 'White' Finland despite their Governments refusal (Kindberg was fined 100 Kronor for his flight as he left the country without permission). Von Rosen had his personal Good Luck symbol painted onto the aircraft, this was the Blue Swastika. The White Circle came about when the Finns painted over the Thulin Air Academy advertisement. On the 18th March 1918 the Swastika was formally adopted by the Finnish Air Force by decree of Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish White Army.

From that moment in 1918, the Swastika became a official national symbol. It was used on the Medal of the War of Liberation, the Mannerheim Cross, Tanks, Aircraft and even a Women's auxiliary organisation. Also as you can see from the following pictures, the Finnish Swastika comes in two varieties, the Full Cross which is normally represented parallel to the ground and the Short Fylfot Cross.

Finland never was a Fascist country and even though it was allied to Germany during the second world war it did not support its goals entirely (this is seen by Mannerheim's refusal to allow Finnish Troops to march on Leningrad). There seem to be many people out there that like to tell stories that Finland was a supporter of Nazism but with a bit of research it can be easily disproved. After the Second World War, the Allied Control Commission forced that symbol be dropped because of it's association with the Third Reich. However the Swastika has survived in Finnish culture, being seen on textiles and art in association with the age old belief that it is an Nordic symbol for Happiness. Also it is still used by the Finnish Defence Forces, the Air Force uses it on its colours as well as shoulder insignia. Some Army units use the symbol too, most notably the Utti Jaeger Regiment (Finland's Special Forces). It still appears in various medals and decorations, the most famous being the Order of the Cross of Liberty. The collar of The Order of the White Rose of Finland originally had 9 Swastikas on it but these were replaces by Fir crosses in 1963 by order of President Urho Kekkonen when he learnt of President Charles De Gaulle's discomfort of wearing Swastikas. 

It also appears on the Presidential Standard of Finland. The fact of the continual use of the Swastika in Finnish culture sparked a debate within European media in 2005.  So I think it is safe to end this article. We have covered many areas and have firmly established Finland's use of the Swastika and it's detachment from the Third Reich and Facist use.


  1. thanks to you we live and learn, extremely enlightening, as ever

  2. While discussing the swastika as part of modern Finnish culture, we should not forget the obvious Nazi sympathies we express during Christmastime through the popular pastry "joulutorttu", or should we call it "natsitorttu"... we can thank the guardians of moral correctness, the Swedes, for pointing this out and getting their knickers in a bunch.