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The winter war awakes many emotions – war history and tanks

An encrypted message has been received; provision and supply goods are arriving. But where? The encrypted message needs to be cracked, and not even the decoder can help.  The delivery needs to be received, unloaded and hidden quickly, so it is important to find out where it arrives. The message is the key to everything.

Finland’s war history is full of stories, secrets, successes, achievements, losses, pain, blood and emotions. War history is also about the cultural history of military equipment and the different types of branches of service. You can explore all these fascinating military topics at the Museum Militaria in Hämeenlinna and the Armour Museum in Parola.

Museum Militaria allows you to gain an insight into Finnish military life and war history from the perspective of three military branches: artillery, pioneer and signals. The museum is a rich setting of Finnish history and is an absolute must on your list of things to do in Finland when, for example, you take a day trip from Helsinki.

In the Armour Museum you get to see military weapons and equipment that are extremely rare to find anywhere else other than in their country of origin. This includes, for example, the museum’s unique comprehensive collection of Soviet tanks. Additional notable special rarities housed in the museum include the one-of-a-kind BT-42 assault cannon, one of only two T-50 light tanks in the world, and the world’s only BA-10 armoured car.

These rarities attract visitors to the Armour Museum from all around the world at an annual rate of over 30,000 visitors. The world’s only BT-42 tank has attracted interest from as far afield as Japan, and many Japanese tourists have visited the museum to admire this unique vehicle.

The Japanese enthusiasts who have visited the Armour Museum have been keen to donate funds to maintain the museum’s collection.

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There are various cannons in the yard of Museum Militaria.

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The indoor exhibition in Museum Militaria tells about Finnish military history and military life.

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In the Parola Armour Museum you can learn about the history of Finnish anti-tank forces.

Raise your glass to Finland at Marshal Mannerheim’s hunting lodge

Finland’s war history is nothing without a mention of Marshal Mannerheim, who served as Finland’s commander in chief in four wars.

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The hunting lodge Marshal Mannerheim is now a museum and restaurant in Loppi.

During the Continuation War in 1942, which began 15 months after the end of the Winter War with the former Soviet Union, soldiers of the 14th Division, commanded by Major General Erkki Raappana, donated a gift to Mannerheim for his 75th birthday.  The gift was a hunting lodge, the Marksin Maja hut, that had originally been built alongside Lake Rukajärvi in east Karelia.

At the end of the Continuation War, the lodge was taken down and moved to a new location on the western side of the post-war Russian-imposed Finnish border. The original builders of the lodge rebuilt the building on the shore of Lake Punelia in Loppi in 1945.

Mannerheim is known to have visited Loppi eight times. He later relinquished the lodge, which had become unnecessary to him, and after some twists and turns it ended up in the safe community-care of the Marshal Mannerheim Hunting Lodge Association (Marsalkka Mannerheimin metsästysmaja ry), a joint venture that was founded by four organisations established for military officers.

Today the Marshall Mammerheim Hunting Lodge is a museum, but the original sauna and the adjacent premises, which also include conference facilities, can be booked for private functions.

So, you are welcome to raise a glass or two in honour of Marshal Mannerheim’s memory. This Finnish toasting tradition is called Marshal’s drink (Marskin ryyppy).

The Prison museum reveals a dark side

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The prison exhibition displays for example old used shackles.

The history of prisoners is closely related to war history. Hämeelinna’s former prison is now a museum that stirs and awakes emotions and breaks prejudices: you can still read the thoughts of prisoners past who wrote their introspections on the prison walls.

Construction of the prison, a former Hämeenlinna county prison, was completed in 1871, and was Finland’s first prison to incorporate prison cells.  The prison became a museum in 1997. Hämeenlinna has always been known as a prison and garrison town, as these two things are intertwined in the history of Häme’s medieval castle.

The prison museum’s web pages describe the many infamous figures of Finnish criminal history who have served their time there, such as murderer Matti Haapoja and knife-wielding troublemakers Isoo-Antti and Rannanjärvi. Some infamous women have also served their time in the prison, including poet Elvi Sinervo and sleep preacher (a person who preaches in a state of trance) Maria Åkerblom.

From summer 2020 onwards, you can experience the prison in an entirely new way with the introduction of audio-visual and digital presentations. These new media tools allow you to gain an even more impressive picture of the memories of long-time-serving prisoners and guards.

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The Prison is Finland’s first cell prison, and it has been influenced by American prisons.

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The Prison also exhibits prisoners’ belongings, some of the cells are decorated and you can see prisoners’ writings on the walls.

See and experience the war history: