Anders Ahlbäck & Ville Kivimäki
This article analyzes historical continuities and changes in the relationship between men and the military in Finland’s history in the first half of the 20th century, by combining perspectives from studies on men with new military history. The focus is on four intertwined aspects of military masculinities: ideology, corporeality, social practices and subjective experiences. This article argues that an inter-war hegemonic ideology of “military manliness” and its reformulation in frontline masculinity during World War II profoundly shaped Finnish concepts of masculinity and national self-image. The hegemony of this ideology had its limits, however, and in a long, conflict-ridden encounter with male bodies, homosocial practices and men’s experiences, it had to transform and adapt to the realities of the barracks and the frontline. The core of military manliness was the male citizen’s duty to prepare for war, defend the nation state and die for it. When this was sufficiently embedded in everyday practices and mindsets, the ideology itself became almost invisible. Through the heritage of frontline masculinity, the politics of the male body in the conscription army, and “the Myth of War Experience” in post-1944 Finland, many values of pre-war military manliness were distilled into characteristics defining “Finnish manliness” up to this day.
conscription, military training, Finland, gender history, ideology, masculinity, military, war