Carl Mannerheim - History

Carl Mannerheim - History

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Carl Mannerheim

1864- 1951

Finnish General

Finnish hero Carl Mannerheim was an officer in the Russian Army. He fought in both the Russo-Japanese War and World War I. After the Russian Revolution, Finland declared independence and Mannerheim became the Supreme Commander and regent of Finland.

In 1919, he was defeated in elections and retired to private life. When the Soviets invaded Finland in 1939, Mannerheim returned to become commander of Finnish forces. He developed the "Mannerheim line," which delayed the Russian forces.

Carl Mannerheim

Carl Mannerheim was born on the family estate in Turka, Finland on 4th June 1867. He became a cavalry officer in the Russian Army in 1889 and later married the daughter of a Russian general.

Mannerheim fought in the First World War against the German Army. However, after the Russian Revolution, he fought against the Red Army and on 29th April 1918 led Finnish forces to victory at the Battle of Viborg.

Russia lost all control over Finland after the new Bolshevik Government signed the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. Mannerheim became regent of Finland and held office until a republic was established. Mannerheim was known to be an opponent of democracy and parliamentary government and unsurprisingly failed to win election as president in July 1919.

Mannerheim retired from the army but in 1931 was recalled as head of the defence council. Afraid of being invaded by the Red Army, he organised the construction of the Mannerheim Line across the Karelian Isthmus.

In the late 1930s Joseph Stalin became concerned about the Soviet Union being invaded from the West. Stalin argued that Leningrad was only thirty-two kilometres from the Finnish border and its 3.5 million population, were vulnerable to artillery fire from Nazi Germany.

After attempts to negotiate the stationing of Soviet troops in Finland failed, Joseph Stalin ordered the Red Army to invade on 30th November 1939. Adolf Hitler, who also had designs on Finland, had under the terms of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, was forced to standby and watch the Soviet Union build up its Baltic defences.

Although the advance of Soviet troops was halted at the Mannheim Line the Finns lost more that 20 per cent of their 200,000 soldiers in three months. In March 1940 the Finnish government signed a peace treaty in Moscow that surrendered 16,000 square miles of territory to the Soviet Union.

When Adolf Hitler ordered the German Army to invade the Soviet Union on 22nd June 1941, Mannerheim led the Finnish Army that retook the Karelian Isthmus. The following year Mannerheim, now aged 75, became a marshal of Finland.

The Red Army launched a counter-offensive and penetrated the Mannerheim Line taking Viipuri on 20th June 1944. Finnish defences were gradually overwhelmed and on 4th September 1944, Mannerheim, now president of Finland, was forced to sign a peace treaty with Joseph Stalin.

Mannerheim resigned from office on 4th March 1946. He moved to Switzerland where he died on 27th January 1951. His autobiography, Memoirs of Marshal Mannerheim , was published in 1953.

Carl Mannerheim, Adolf Hitler and Risto Ryti on 6th June 1942.

Carl Gustaf Mannerheim

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Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, in full Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, (born June 4, 1867, Askainen, Finland—died Janaury 27, 1951, Lausanne, Switzerland), Finnish military leader and conservative statesman who successfully defended Finland against greatly superior Soviet forces during World War II and served as the country’s president (1944–46).

Mannerheim was of Swedish ancestry. He entered the Russian army in 1889 as a lieutenant in the cavalry. Finland was then a part of the Russian Empire, and Mannerheim distinguished himself during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05) and World War I, rising to the rank of lieutenant general and corps commander in the Russian army. After the outbreak of the October (November) Russian Revolution in 1917, he returned to Finland, which had declared its independence from Russia. A conservative aristocrat and monarchist, Mannerheim assumed command of the “ White” (anti-Bolshevik) forces in January 1918 during the Finnish Civil War and, with German assistance, defeated the Finnish Bolsheviks and expelled Russian forces in a bloody four-month campaign. He became regent of Finland in December 1918, holding this post for seven months until a republic was declared in 1919. From 1919 to 1931 he lived in semiretirement, concerning himself with volunteer health and social welfare causes in Finland.

Reentering public life in 1931, Mannerheim became chairman of the national defense council. During his eight-year tenure, Finland constructed the so-called Mannerheim Line of fortifications across the Karelian Isthmus facing Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) this system of defenses was intended to block any potential aggressive moves by the Soviet Union. When Soviet forces attacked Finland in December 1939, he served as commander in chief, and his brilliant leadership won considerable successes against vast numerical superiority, but the end result was defeat, resulting in a relatively harsh peace settlement in 1940.

Hoping to win back some territory regarded by some as historically Finnish, Finland successfully joined Nazi Germany in its invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Mannerheim was named the only marshal of Finland in June 1942. But as Russian strength grew and Germany weakened, Mannerheim’s troops were forced to retreat. He was named president of the Finnish republic in August 1944 in the hope that he would be able to negotiate a separate peace with the Soviets, which he did, signing an armistice with them in September. The armistice ultimately led to a peace treaty by which Finland was forced to make concessions more extensive than those made after the Winter War. Mannerheim remained president until ill health forced his retirement in 1946. He wrote Erinnerungen (1952 Memoirs).

Distinctive background

Mannerheim reads a newspaper on the porch of Stormhällan villa in 1926. In 1920, he rented Iso Mäntysaari, an island near Hanko in southwestern Finland. He later bought it and renamed it Stormhällan. Photo: Otava Publishers

However, Mannerheim’s background differed from that of his Baltic brother officers. He came from the Grand Duchy of Finland, which sent more than 4,000 officers to serve in the Russian army between 1809 and 1917. Almost 400 of them reached the rank of general or admiral.

Most of the officers from Finland spoke Swedish as their mother tongue, Finnish being used mainly as a second language, if they knew it at all. Mannerheim’s Finnish before 1917 was far from fluent.

However, in common with the Baltic German officers, the Finnish officers served the emperor impeccably. In fact, there are no records of disloyalty among the Finns, even during the period from 1899 to 1917 when Russia began to pressure Finland by undermining its juridical status. In lieu of disloyalty, some of the officers chose to retire from active service.

Mannerheim did not retire. He remained a faithful soldier even though he privately deplored the emperor’s policies, which he regarded as unwise. Even when his own brother was exiled to Sweden, Mannerheim’s loyalty to the emperor remained unshaken. His relatives understood his position.


Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was born on 4 June 1867 in Askainen, Grand Duchy of Finland, Russian Empire to a well-known noble family that came from Germany in the late 17th century. From 1887 to 1917, he served in the Imperial Russian Army and almost forgot how to speak Finnish while serving in Russia's military, but he re-learned it later in life. Mannerheim was appointed commander-in-chief of Finland's new armed forces at the start of the Finnish Civil War in January 1918, and in March he was promoted to General of Cavalry. Although he supported the Lapua Movement, he refused to be named dictator of Finland, and in 1933 he was promoted to Field Marshal.

When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in 1940 in the "Winter War", Mannerheim was given command of the Finnish forces resisting the Bolsheviks due to his experience against them in 1918. Mannerheim defended Finland from the "Mannerheim Line", and although the Soviets were victorious in some pitched battles, the Finns succeeded in ambushing the Soviets using ski troops and fought the Soviets to a standstill. Eventually, Finland was forced to give Karelia to Russia, but Finland allied with Nazi Germany during World War II to reclaim lost land in the Continuation War. Adolf Hitler visited Mannerheim ostensibly to celebrate his 75th birthday, but he instead asked him to step up Finland's military campaign against the Soviets. However, he was not pro-Nazi, and he brazenly lit a cigarette while talking with Hitler (who led an anti-tobacco campaign in Germany Hitler did not react to Mannerheim's lighting) and had an engineer record a conversation with Hitler in his car. In August 1944, Mannerheim became President after Risto Ryti resigned, and Mannerheim voided the pact with Germany, leading to the Germans declaring war on Finland. The Finns allied with the Soviets to fight against Germany in the Lapland War, and in 1946 he resigned from the presidency after accomplishing his goals. Even his communist enemies from 1918 respected him as a good leader, and he died in 1951 at the age of 83.

A Finnish hipster named Mannerheim

Although Mannerheim is one of the most famous figures in Finnish history, many people have no inkling of the details they may discover on a visit to his home.

C.G:E: Mannerheim, one of the most important figures in Finnish history, poses in uniform in 1918.

Photo: Finnish Museum Collection/Lehtikuva

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867–1951) commanded the Finnish armed forces during the Second World War and went on to serve as president. His house in Helsinki is now the Mannerheim Museum and shows off his collection of weapons, his hunting trophies and his taste in interior decoration.

His residence forms a real work of installation art. The visitor enters different worlds in the various rooms because Mannerheim, ever cosmopolitan, wanted the décor to present diverse cultural trends, from English nuances to French ambience. That’s how Mannerheim Museum curator Kristina Ranki describes the house.

One of the most important figures in the history of independent Finland, Mannerheim leased the villa when he was 57 from Karl Fazer, the owner of a candy factory. Mannerheim lived there, surrounded by the greenery of Kaivopuisto, the park that covers the southern tip of Helsinki, until he passed away. The great man’s residence was subsequently opened to the public as a museum.

“The reception rooms for prestigious guests were downstairs, while upstairs was more for his private use,” says Ranki. Except for the three exhibition rooms upstairs, the residence remains almost exactly as it was when Mannerheim was alive.

“A visit to the museum and the guides’ stories are sure to provide a new kind of experience,” says Ranki, “even for people who have read their war history and think they already know everything about Mannerheim.”

Elegance before etiquette

Akseli Gallen-Kallela painted this sitting portrait of Mannerheim a standing portrait by the same artist hangs in the Mannerheim Museum. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa/ Lehtikuva

The only object brought to the museum later is a classic portrait of Mannerheim painted in 1929 by a good friend of his, the prominent artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The painting reveals a lot about its subject. It conveys the essential nature of a Renaissance regent and his dandyish sense of style, with his sword of honour and his tailcoat.

Mannerheim was neurotically meticulous not only about his appearance, but also about his public image: He demanded the right to inspect all photos of him before publication to make sure that no signs of fatigue were visible.

As a young military officer, Mannerheim was already extremely particular about grooming. Later in his career, when he had attained the title of field marshal, he ordered bespoke clothing from foreign tailors, with details according to his wishes. The gentleman’s civilian outfits were always immaculate, but for reasons of style the commander-in-chief took liberties even with military uniform etiquette. Mannerheim considered narrow lampasses, or trouser stripes, more elegant than the wide stripes that would have been in accordance with regulations for his military rank. For this reason he preferred to wear a uniform of lower rank.

A home says something about its inhabitant

Mannerheim’s bedroom contains an army-style cot, just as it did when he was alive. Photo: Pekka Holmström/ Otavamedia/Lehtikuva

The walls of Mannerheim’s home are decorated with dozens of hunting trophies, of which the most famous is probably the tiger skin on the floor of the salon. He killed the Bengal tiger while visiting India in 1937. Nor did he ever go hunting looking like a novice he rode out on horseback dressed as stylishly as if he were going to war. His wardrobe included a red tailcoat and black top hat to wear while hunting.

Mannerheim took care of his grooming otherwise, too, and not only when he was entertaining – he was well aware of the impact his elegant appearance had on other people. For example, in addition to a toothbrush, he used an innovation of his time – a water jet. Menthol drops were added to a device resembling a small pressure washer attached to the bathroom wall, and then he could carefully rinse his teeth.

His boots gleamed, every hair was in place and his moustache was correctly shaped, even on his deathbed. A real dandy.

“He represented the gentleman’s culture,” says Ranki. “Nowadays Mannerheim could perhaps be called a hipster, if the word is taken to mean a person who cares about his own appearance.”

Welcome to a work of art

Wealthy chocolate manufacturer Karl Fazer leased this house in Helsinki to Mannerheim for decades it is now a museum. Photo: Ilkka A. Suominen/ Lehtikuva

The smartness of the residence emphasised Mannerheim’s aesthetic sensibility, which extended from his own appearance to the matching colours of the décor in his house.

“Military discipline is visible in the home,” says Ranki. “Mannerheim himself paid attention to every detail and made sure that everything was exactly in place. He wanted his home to present a certain image of himself, which was conveyed in the items on display – hunting trophies, official gifts and, placed on the grand piano, pictures of heads of state.”

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim

Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (Swedish pronunciation: [kɑːɭ ˈɡɵ̂sːtav ˈěːmɪl ˈmânːɛrˌhejm] (listen), Finland Swedish: [kɑːrl ˈgʉstɑv ˈeːmil ˈmanːærˌhejm] 4 June 1867 – 27 January 1951) was a Finnish military leader and statesman. Mannerheim served as the military leader of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War of 1918, Regent of Finland (1918–1919), commander-in-chief of Finland's defence forces during World War II (1939–1945), Marshal of Finland, and the sixth president of Finland (1944–1946). He also founded the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare in 1920, which promotes the well-being of children, young people, and families with children.

Mannerheim made a career in the Imperial Russian Army, rising by 1917 to the rank of lieutenant general. He had a prominent place in the ceremonies for Tsar Nicholas II's coronation in 1896 and later had several private meetings with the Tsar. After the Bolshevik revolution of November 1917 in Russia, Finland declared its independence – but soon became embroiled in civil war between the pro-Bolshevik "Reds" and the "Whites", who were the troops of the Senate of Finland, supported by troops of the German Empire.

Mannerheim was appointed the military chief of the Whites. Twenty years later, when Finland was twice at war with the Soviet Union in the period from November 1939 until September 1944, Mannerheim led the defence of Finland as commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces. In 1944, when the prospect of Germany's defeat in World War II became clear, the Finnish Parliament appointed Mannerheim as President of Finland, and he oversaw peace-negotiations with the Soviet Union and the UK. He resigned the presidency in 1946 and died in 1951.

A Finnish survey taken 53 years after his death voted Mannerheim as the greatest Finn of all time. Given the broad recognition in Finland and elsewhere of his unparalleled role in establishing and later preserving Finland's independence from the Soviet Union, Mannerheim has long been referred to as the father of modern Finland, and the New York Times has called the Finnish capital Helsinki's Mannerheim Museum memorializing the leader's life and times "the closest thing there is to a [Finnish] national shrine". Mannerheim is the only Finn to have held the rank of field marshal, an honorary rank bestowed upon especially distinguished generals.

Carl Gustaf Mannerheim

Gustaf Mannerheim was born in Finland on 4th June 1867 into a wealthy family. Mannerheim was to command Finland’s military during the Winter War from 1939–1940 when Russia attacked after her occupation of eastern Poland at the start of World War Two. At the age of fourteen, Mannerheim was sent to the Military Cadet School in Hamina – though Finland’s future military commander was expelled for disciplinary reasons.

In 1887, Mannerheim decided to enrol into the Russian army and he served in the Alexandrijski Dragoons, a regiment quartered in Poland. He was later transferred to St. Petersburg.

In 1892, he married Anastasia Arapova, the daughter of a Major-General, though the essentially marriage ended in 1903, though legally in 1919.

Mannerheim took part in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 and was promoted to colonel in the battlefield. In 1906, Mannerheim was offered a special military commission to China. The journey to his posting took two years.

In 1911, Mannerheim was promoted to Major-General and he made his name during World War One. He was promoted to Lieutenant-General and was awarded the Cross of St George – the highest military award an officer in the Russian Army could receive.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 ended his career in the Russian Army and in December 1917 Mannerheim returned to a Finland that was both independent of Russian rule but also divided by revolutionary disturbances. The Finnish parliament gave Mannerheim the task of forming a Finnish Army that had the primary task of restoring Finland to stability. Mannerheim disarmed the 40,000 Russian troops still stationed in Finland and, after a three-month campaign, put down the rebels. By May 1918, Finland had been restored to relative calm.

“The task of the army is accomplished. Our country is free. From the Tundras of Lapland, from the remotest skerries of Aaland to Systerback, the Lion flag is flying. The people of Finland have flung away the chains of centuries and stand ready to take the place that properly belongs to them.” Mannerheim

However, Mannerheim fell out with Finland’s Senate. He was wary of their pro-German stance and resigned his post and went abroad in an attempt to influence countries that he believed were clearly going to win the war. Mannerheim believed that Britain and France needed to be allies of the newly created Finland if the nation was to survive. In December 1918, Mannerheim returned to Finland and stood in the country’s presidential elections – losing to K Ståhlberg. Mannerheim signed the constitution of Finland in July 1919.

Mannerheim encouraged Finland to take part in the anti-Bolshevik campaign during the Russian Civil War, but the failure of this led to him retiring from the military. In civilian life he worked for the Red Cross and established the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare. In 1933, he was awarded the title of Field Marshall in recognition of the work he had done in the military. He constructed a series of defence lines for Finland – known as the Mannerheim Line – across her south-east border. Though he was critical of Nazism, he participated in visits to Finland by Nazi leaders – including Goering’s hunting trips.

When Russia attacked Finland in November 1939, Mannerheim was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Finland. As well as fighting a military campaign against the Russians, Mannerheim was also concerned that Finland should not be seen as being pro-Germany and as a result of this he developed a political role as well as his military one.

In 1942, Mannerheim was appointed Marshall of Finland and in that year Hitler visited Finland to offer his congratulations. In a later visit to Germany , Mannerheim was received by Hitler.

In August 1944, Mannerheim was appointed President of Finland by the nation’s parliament in an attempt to get a separate peace settlement with the advancing Red Army of Russia. Finland withdrew from the war in September 1944.

In 1946, Mannerheim resigned his presidency due to poor health. He moved to Switzerland and spent his last few years in relative quiet.

Gustaf Mannerheim died in January 1951 at Lausanne in Switzerland aged 83. His body was returned to Finland where it was buried with full military honours in a hero’s cemetery.


Bis zum Ende des Ersten Weltkrieges Bearbeiten

Mannerheim entstammte einer einflussreichen Familie der schwedischsprachigen Minderheit in Finnland, das damals zum Russischen Reich gehörte. Geboren wurde er auf dem Landgut der Familie, Schloss Villnäs (finnisch: Louhisaari) in Askainen. Nach dem Abitur in Helsinki wurde er in die Nikolajewsche Kavallerieschule in Sankt Petersburg aufgenommen und beendete sie mit Auszeichnung im Jahr 1889. Im selben Jahr trat er seinen ersten Offiziersposten als Kornett im 15. Aleksandrijski-Dragonerregiment in Kalisch an. Darüber schrieb er: „Das Regiment, dessen Pferde schwarz waren, wurde noch immer ‚Todeshusaren‘ genannt, eine Erinnerung daran, dass es einst ein Husaren-Regiment gewesen war. Die Uniformjacke (Dolman) war schwarz und mit silbernen Schnüren besetzt.“ Nach einem Jahr in Kalisch wurde er zur Chevaliergarde in Sankt Petersburg versetzt, wo er wichtige Kontakte zum Zarenhof knüpfen konnte. Während des Krönungszugs des Zaren Nikolaus II. am 26. Mai 1896 in Moskau war Mannerheim einer der Leibwächter des Zaren. Nach kurzer Zeit im Hofstall kehrte Mannerheim 1903 zum aktiven Dienst zurück, kämpfte im Russisch-Japanischen Krieg von 1905 und wurde im gleichen Jahre zum Oberst befördert. 1906 erhielt er den Auftrag des russischen Generalstabes, die unerforschten Gebiete an der russisch-chinesischen Grenze zu erkunden, worauf er sich bis 1908 auf eine 6000 Kilometer weite Reise auf dem Pferd begab. Dabei gewann er auch wichtige Kenntnisse in Anthropologie (besonders über finno-ugrische Völker und Sprachen) und erlernte die chinesische Sprache. 1909 wurde er zum Kommandeur des 13. Wladimirschen Ulanen-Regiments in Nowominsk (heute: Mińsk Mazowiecki) ernannt und verbrachte vor dem Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges zwei Jahre in dieser Stadt. Hier wurde er auch 1911 zum Generalmajor befördert und nach Warschau versetzt, wo er das Leibgarde-Ulanenregiment übernahm, das, wie er schreibt, „eines der besten Kavallerieregimenter der Armee war“.

Am 2. Mai 1892 heiratete Mannerheim die Russin Anastasia Nikolajewna Arapowa († 1936), mit der er zwei Töchter hatte: Anastasia (* 11. April 1893), die Karmeliternonne in London wurde, und Sophie (* 24. Juli 1895). Die Ehe wurde 1919 geschieden, endete jedoch inoffiziell bereits 1902. Mannerheim war später noch mit mehreren Frauen liiert, heiratete aber nicht mehr.

Während des Weltkrieges war er Befehlshaber verschiedener Verbände. Anfang 1917 kommandierte er als Generalleutnant ein Kavalleriekorps.

Im September 1917 wurde er zur Reserve versetzt, nahm nach der Oktoberrevolution Abschied von der russischen Armee und kehrte in seine Heimat Finnland zurück. [1] Er beabsichtigte, eine zivile Karriere zu beginnen. Als Flüchtling bekam er aber weder einen finnischen Pass noch eine Lebensmittelkarte. [2] Als einziger hoher General finnischer Herkunft erhielt er jedoch am 15. Januar 1918 den Oberbefehl über die noch im Entstehen begriffene Armee des Landes. [3] Der aristokratische, elegante Kavalleriegeneral mit seinen schwedischen und russischen Sympathien, der nur schlecht Finnisch sprach und den Verhältnissen des Landes entfremdet war, wurde zum Nationalhelden des weißen Finnlands. [4] Seine erste Maßnahme war die Entwaffnung der russischen Garnisonen von 5.000 Mann in der Provinz Österbotten. [1] Gleichzeitig ergriffen finnische Sozialdemokraten in Südfinnland die Macht. In dem sich anschließenden Bürgerkrieg besiegten die bürgerlichen „Weißen“ unter Mannerheims Oberbefehl die aufständischen „Roten“ im Frühjahr 1918 in der Schlacht um Tammerfors/Tampere. In den Bürgerkriegskämpfen fielen etwa 5.200 Soldaten und insgesamt rund 30.000 Finnen auf beiden Seiten. [5]

Weißer Terror Bearbeiten

Nach dem Zusammenbruch des „roten Finnlands“ wurden 70.000 bolschewistische Sympathisanten, darunter auch Kinder, in Konzentrationslager verbracht, 12.000 starben in den folgenden sechs Monaten. [6] Obwohl Mannerheim persönlich keine Grausamkeiten vorzuwerfen waren, ist nicht vorstellbar, dass er über die Zustände im größten Konzentrationslager, der Festung Suomenlinna, nicht informiert war: Hier wurden 3000 „Rote“ erschossen, gehängt, bajonettiert oder erschlagen. Zwar ordnete er die Tötungen nicht an, unternahm aber auch kaum etwas dagegen. Zu der Zeit erhielt er den Spitznamen „der blutige Baron“. Mannerheim war Monarchist und überzeugt, dass es genügte, die roten Führer zu erschießen und die Arbeiter sofort wieder in die Fabriken zu bringen. [7]

Demokratisches Finnland Bearbeiten

Mannerheim zog sich zurück, weil er die prodeutsche Einstellung des finnischen Senats, der das Land gegen Sowjetrussland zu schützen suchte, nicht teilte. Nach der Niederlage der Mittelmächte wurde Mannerheim 1919 zum Reichsverweser (finnisch: valtionhoitaja schwedisch: riksföreståndare) ernannt und setzte sich für die internationale Anerkennung des unabhängigen Finnlands ein. Bei den Präsidentschaftswahlen im Juli 1919, die nach der neuen republikanischen Verfassung stattfanden, unterlag er dem Liberalen Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg und zog sich wieder ins Privatleben zurück. Nach der Übernahme des Präsidentenamtes durch Pehr Evind Svinhufvud wurde Mannerheim 1933 zum Feldmarschall ernannt.

Winterkrieg und Zweiter Weltkrieg Bearbeiten

Im Zweiten Weltkrieg führte Mannerheim die finnische Armee als Oberbefehlshaber im Winterkrieg 1939/1940, obwohl er gewisse Zugeständnisse an die UdSSR befürwortete. Nach dem Angriff der deutschen Wehrmacht auf die Sowjetunion 1941 führte er im Fortsetzungskrieg wiederum die finnischen Truppen, war aber immer bemüht, die Sowjetunion nicht allzu sehr zu provozieren – unter anderem weigerte er sich, finnische Truppen zur Belagerung von Leningrad zu entsenden und die Murmanbahn zum Nordmeerhafen von Murmansk anzugreifen.

Im Jahre 1941 wurde ihm zu Ehren der Tapferkeitsorden des Mannerheim-Kreuzes gestiftet. 1942 wurde er aus Anlass seines 75. Geburtstags zum Marschall von Finnland befördert.

Besuch Hitlers in Finnland 1942 Bearbeiten

Adolf Hitler nutzte Mannerheims 75. Geburtstag zu einem kurzfristig vereinbarten Besuch in Finnland am 4. Juni 1942. Hitler informierte Mannerheim erst am Vortag über sein Vorhaben, plante diese Reise jedoch Wochen vorher bis ins Detail. [8] Bei der unsanften Landung fing ein Reifen des Flugzeuges Feuer, was Hitler ignorierte, um sich auf sein Auftreten vor der Kamera zu konzentrieren – die Ankunft wurde für die deutsche Wochenschau mitgefilmt. Später wurden die Szenen mit dem Brand wegretuschiert und teilweise neu gedreht. [8]

Mannerheim wirkte skeptisch und ernst gegenüber Hitler und ließ diesen hauptsächlich seine bekannten Monologe führen, wohingegen er im Gespräch mit seinen eigenen Gefolgsmännern scherzte und lachte. [8] Während des Aufenthalts Hitlers in Finnland, der, um den Anschein eines Staatsbesuchs zu vermeiden, unter weitgehender Geheimhaltung [9] in der Nähe einer Eisenbahnstation am Flugplatz von Immola stattfand, entstand die einzige private Gesprächsaufnahme Hitlers. Von Thor Damen, einem finnischen Tontechniker, wurden heimlich gut 25 Minuten eines Gespräches mit Mannerheim aufgezeichnet. [10] [11] [12]

Hitler wollte nach einigen Berichten die Finnen zu stärkerem militärischem Vorgehen gegen die Sowjetunion auffordern, machte aber keine diesbezüglichen Bemerkungen. Einer Anekdote zufolge hatte Mannerheim sich bei dem Gespräch bewusst eine Zigarre angesteckt, um anhand der Reaktion des für seine Aversion gegen Raucher bekannten Hitlers dessen Verhandlungsposition zu erkunden. Eine Reaktion blieb entgegen den Erwartungen der Begleiter aus, Mannerheim meinte daher um die schwache Position der Deutschen zu wissen. [9]

Als die SS-Wachen bemerkten, dass das Band lief und das Gespräch mitgeschnitten wurde, wurden sie sehr wütend und unterbanden die Aufnahme. SS-Soldaten deuteten gestisch an, dem Tontechniker die Kehle aufzuschneiden, und sollen gesagt haben, in Deutschland hätte man ihn für Spionage umgebracht. [13] [14] Das Band wurde jedoch von der SS nicht zerstört oder beschlagnahmt es wurde lediglich mit dem Versprechen versiegelt, es nie wieder zu öffnen. [14]

Waffenstillstand 1944 und Lapplandkrieg Bearbeiten

Am 4. August 1944 wurde der 77-jährige Mannerheim zum Präsidenten der Republik Finnland gewählt. Zuvor hatte er seinen Vorgänger Risto Ryti noch zum Abschluss des Ryti-Ribbentrop-Vertrags gedrängt. Durch das Militärbündnis mit Deutschland, verbunden mit Waffenlieferungen und einem Verzicht auf einen Separatfrieden, sollte die Sowjetunion zu günstigeren Friedensbedingungen für Finnland bewegt werden. [15] Wilhelm Keitel reiste nach Helsinki, um Mannerheim im Bündnis der Achsenmächte zu halten, und überreichte ihm das von Hitler verliehene Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub. Mannerheim antwortete, die deutsche Nation könne bis zum Letzten kämpfen, ohne eine Auslöschung zu befürchten, das kleine finnische Volk hingegen nicht. [16] [17] Er brach alle Beziehungen zum Deutschen Reich ab und schloss am 24. August 1944 einen Waffenstillstand mit der Sowjetunion. [18] Die günstigen Friedensbedingungen wurden durch die erfolgreiche Schlacht von Tali-Ihantala ermöglicht, den größten militärischen Erfolg Finnlands im Krieg. [19] Im Lapplandkrieg wurden die Truppen der Wehrmacht aus Finnland vertrieben, die Kampfhandlungen und die von der Wehrmacht angewandte Taktik der verbrannten Erde führte zu erheblichen Schäden. Unter anderem wurde Rovaniemi fast restlos niedergebrannt.

Nach dem Rückzug aus der Politik 1946 Bearbeiten

Mannerheim blieb Staatsoberhaupt bis zum Jahr 1946, als er aus gesundheitlichen Gründen zurücktrat und von Juho Kusti Paasikivi abgelöst wurde. Mit Paasikivis Übernahme der Präsidentschaft begann eine neue Epoche in der finnischen Politik.

Seine letzten Lebensjahre verbrachte Mannerheim hauptsächlich im Schweizer Sanatorium Valmont (Glion), wo er seine Memoiren, Minnen, schrieb. Am 27. Januar 1951 verstarb er nach einer Magenoperation in Lausanne.

Er wurde mit militärischen Ehren auf dem Friedhof Hietaniemi in Helsinki inmitten eines militärischen Gräberfeldes beigesetzt.

Von einem kaum bekannten Offizier wurde Mannerheim zum finnischen Nationalhelden. Mannerheim, der nie fließend Finnisch sprechen lernte, erlangte noch zu Lebzeiten den mythischen Status als „Retter des Vaterlandes“. [4] [20] Er wurde zum bewunderten Idol, zum Symbol des Sieges über den Bolschewismus, für seine Gegner war er hingegen der „blutige Baron“, der „Weiße Teufel“, „Henker“ oder „Schlächter“. [21] 1960 errichtete man im Zentrum von Helsinki ein Denkmal, eine Reiterstatue am Mannerheimintie, einer ebenfalls zu Ehren Mannerheims benannten Hauptstraße.

Am 16. Juni 2016 wurde in St. Petersburg eine Gedenktafel für den "Helden der zaristischen Armee" errichtet, der während des Ersten Weltkriegs Einheiten befehligt hatte. Die Einweihung fand unter lautstarkem Protest der Bewegung Antimaidan statt. [22] Es wurde auch gegen die Anbringung der Tafel geklagt. [23]

Lost in the Myths of History

Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (1867-1951), the Swedish-Finnish nobleman and former Tsarist officer who defended Finland from Soviet aggression during the heroic Winter War (1939-1940), is often forgotten outside his homeland. Even less well known are his wife and daughters, but their stories are fascinating and rather remind me of a Tolstoy novel.

Anastasia Arapova (1872-1936) was a charming, flirtatious young Russian heiress, the daughter of General Nikolai Arapov, a former Chevalier Guards officer, and his wife, Vera Kazakova. She was also a relative of the great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin. Gustaf Mannerheim met Anastasia while serving in the Chevalier Guards in St. Petersburg, and Empress Maria Feodorovna, the mother of Tsar Nicholas II, reportedly, enthusiastically favored the match. Anastasia's wealth would prove a great asset to Mannerheim, who had suffered from financial insecurity ever since his father's bankruptcy during his youth. Gustaf's relatives, however, considered Anastasia emotionally unstable and disapproved of the marriage. Nonetheless, the wedding took place in May, 1892.

Initially, it was a happy union. The couple had two daughters, Anastasie (born 1893) and Sophy (born 1895) and a son who died at birth. Sadly, however, the marital relationship crumbled rapidly, kindling gossip and rumor. Some of the couple's disputes appear to have centered on the education of their daughters. Gustaf wanted them raised as capable, down-to-earth Finnish women, like his beloved sister and confidante, Sophie, a pioneer of modern nursing, while Anastasia sought to form them into glamorous Russian society ladies like herself. In 1903, after traveling to China to nurse Russian troops during the Boxer Rebellion, a task which proved to be beyond her strength, Anastasia left her husband, eventually settling with her daughters in France. Although it seriously depleted his own resources, Mannerheim provided his wife and daughters with a generous financial settlement. The separation remained unofficial for 16 years.

As for the Mannerheims' two daughters, they attended Catholic boarding schools in France, and received an Anglo-French education. Mannerheim was seriously concerned about his children, and tried to maintain contact with them, but his letters often went unanswered. Nonetheless, around 1910, the girls ceased living with their mother, and contacted their relatives in Finland and Sweden. At this point, their father was serving in Poland, and, given the tense political situation in Central Europe, did not consider it prudent to raise his daughters in his military surroundings. Instead, his sister Sophie, Matron of the Surgical Hospital in Helsinki, took the girls in. Neither Anastasie nor Sophy, however, felt comfortable in Finland.

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