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Country marks 80th anniversary of Winter War

Published : 30 Nov 2019, 19:33

Updated : 01 Dec 2019, 00:33

  DF Report

The 80th anniversary of the Winter War was observed. Photo Finnish government by Jussi Toivanen.

The 80th anniversary of the Winter War was observed in the country on Saturday commemorating the sacrifice of the brave people of the country and the international volunteers.

The outbreak of the Winter War was commemorated in a public ceremony on Kasarmitori square in Helsinki, where state leaders laid a wreath at the National Memorial to the Winter War, said a government press release.

The programme was followed by the lighting of 105 candles, one for every day of the war, in homage to the Finns and international volunteers who fought in the war and to the friends of Finland abroad.

The ceremony was attended by President Sauli Niinistö, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Tuula Haatainen, Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen, Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori and Chief of Defence Command, Lieutenant­General Eero Pyötsiä.

Following the event in Kasarmitori square, a seminar marking the anniversary was held in the House of the Estates, where Minister of Defence Kaikkonen delivered the Government’s greeting.

The commemoration was organised jointly by the Winter War Association and the Prime Minister's Office.

On the occasion, President Sauli Niinistö in a statement said that the importance of the war experience for Finland will not fade even though "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," the president added.

The war began when the Soviet Union invaded Finland without declaring war on 30 November 1939. The war ended on 13 March 1940, after 105 days of hostilities.

Finland paid a high price for defending its independence. More than 25,000 Finns died in the war effort and about 44,000 were wounded. Civilian casualties numbered over 1,000. Soviet losses in the war were many times higher.

Finland preserved its independence, but had to cede 11% of its territory to the Soviet Union. As a result, some 430,000 Finns, or 12% of the population, lost their homes and had to be resettled elsewhere in Finland.

Winter War and defenders of Finnish independence honoured at memorial ceremony in Helsinki.