Svenskar i österled 1918

Känslor, narrativ och legitimitet i det finska inbördeskriget


  • Anne Hedén Stockholms universitet


Finnish civil war, volunteers, violence emotion


 The aim of this text is to documentation from the Swedish volunteers on the White side in the Finnish civil war 1918, in order to analyze the emotional discrepancy between the higher goals of the endeavour and the mostly very brutal reality of the civil war.

An established view has been that the Swedish volunteers did not fully participate in the extensive brutality against the losing side in the conflict but, so to speak, stayed on the sidelines. Recent research indicates, however, that the Swedes had an accepting attitude and participated fully in acts of war and in punitive campaigns.

This can provide perspective not only on how the Greater Swedish ("Storsvenskheten") ideals developed in this period but also on how emotional brutalization in a war situation develops. Methodologically, the study is based on narrative strategies, within an institutional perspective. The conclusion is that the Swedish volunteers established their narrative within the framework of two emotional communities;  one defined by the notion that the Reds were the moral losers in the conflict, the other based on the the Swedish self image of Sweden as the modernizer and saviour of Finland.

 When these two emotional communities merged, the very brutal treatment of the Reds did not appear as an emotional dilemma The combination of narrative strategies, distancing the volunteers from the violence, and the sanctions from above were crucial in the Swedes accepting the high level of violence in the civil war.