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Fictional Finnish divisions and corps in the Russian army

Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 9:17 am
by PJJ
Playing as the Eastern Entente, I've noticed To End All Wars has fallen in the same trap as many other WW1 wargames in having Finnish divisions and corps in the Russian army OOB.

In real life, there were no such formations. The Finns were not required to serve in the Russian military.

Finland was something of a special case in the Russian empire. In 1809, after having conquered Finland from Sweden, Tsar Alexander I made Finland into an autonomous Grand Duchy in order to prevent any rebellions and to quickly win the hearts and minds of the Finns in a dangerous international situation (the Napoleonic Wars).

Finland had a small military of its own in the 19th century, and some of those units took part in Russian military campaigns, most notably the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.

Everything changed when Nicholas II came into power at the turn of the century. A so-called Russification policy was begun in Finland, the goal of which was to integrate Finland better into the Russian Empire. The Finns responded to this pressure with various means, ranging from peaceful demonstrations to political assassinations. As a result, the Russian authorities began to view the Finns as dangerously disloyal and unreliable subjects of the Tsar. It was seen as unacceptable to allow the Finns to have their own military, and so the last units of the Finnish army, the Guard, were disbanded in 1905.

When WW1 began, the only Finns serving in the Russian army and navy were a few hundred volunteers, many of them in high positions, like General Mannerheim.

The Finns were required to pay war taxes and provide industrial products to support the Russian war effort, but they were never required to send their men to fight in the war.

In order to make EAW more historically accurate, I suggest that you remove the Finnish nationality designations from all the Russian divisions and corps that currently have it in the game.

There must be an erroneous book or some other source somewhere that contains a Russian OOB with these completely fictional Finnish units that simply did not exist in real life.

It's common knowledge in Finland among all the people who know at least a little bit about our history as part of the Russian Empire that Finns weren't required to serve in the Russian army in the Great War, so I don't think there's even any need to provide you with sources. In any case, they would be in Finnish. :)

All you have to do is to remove the Finnish nationality from the Russian units in the game. Should be a relatively simple change. :)

Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:26 pm
by caranorn
Could it be that the forces these day commonly (mis)identified as finish were the ones that had prewar been stationed in Finland? I'm not a specialist on Russian Order of Battle, looking in a general resource I immediatelly find mention of four Finish Brigades and one Guards Finish Regiment. Lastly, are you sure the number of Finns serving in the Russian Army is not underplayed today (I've seen some very worrysome (Mannerheim) propaganda from Finland concerning WWII recently, so I'm a bit mistrustful as it could be an even unconscious rewriting of one's own history)...

Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:41 pm
by PJJ
No, there were only a few hundred professionals of Finnish origin in the Russian army and navy in those days. No propaganda there, just a simple historical fact. It has been documented quite well. Many of those men became officers in the Finnish army after Finland became independent. Mannerheim was just the most famous example of them. He wasn't alone! :)

But in wargames, we see these tens of thousands of Finnish troops in the Russian army of WW1 - whole divisions and corps! It's pure fantasy. I'd love to see what is the source of such misinformation. I suspect it must the same source for all the games.

One explanation could well be that the Russian army formations in Finland have been interpreted to be of Finnish origin. During WW1, there were at most 125,000 Russian troops in Finland to protect Petrograd and the northwestern flank of the Eastern Front from German invasion. No battles were fought in Finland until the civil war of 1918. When the Bolsheviks came to power, Russian forces began to withdraw from Finland.

What exactly is that worrisome propaganda you're referring to?

Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 1:06 pm
by havi
it have to bee that way that the russians who were in finland have misunderstood to be a finnish troops, but they were russian troops placed in finland.
What i have seen in empire war museum in england there is this propaganda that we fins where nazis and worship hitler and i think that still live in some minds there. they just forget that thing in midle-europe that Stalin attacked in finland and bombed civilians, we just did what we have to.

Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 5:10 pm
by caranorn
PJJ wrote:
What exactly is that worrisome propaganda you're referring to?

That's really offtopic as it concerns WWII. I no longer have the link, but essentially a paper supposed to be originating from Mannerheim on how WWII (for the Germans) was essentially a defensive war. Then again, that document is probably from a fringe group (as exist everywhere) in Finland and in no way representative of the people...

Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 5:59 pm
by PJJ
Such idiots exist in every country, no doubt about that!

Mannerheim himself disliked both the Nazis and the Communists. To him, they were all uncivilized radicals and barbarians. He was at heart a conservative monarchist, somewhat out of place in a post-1918 world full of these new and radical ideologies.

Posted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 11:58 pm
by Searry
Why does threads about Finland always derail into a discussion like this... But yes, there weren't a lot of Finnish troops, the Finnish soldiers in the Russian army were officers, usually of Aristocratic origin, like the already mentioned Mannerheim but also others. There has probably been a lot of obfuscation of historical facts about the number of men serving in the Russian army for nationalist purposes and propaganda but the numbers were never high. The Grand Duchy did pay the war tax indeed as per the contract with the Petrograd government.

Posted: Sun Aug 31, 2014 3:45 pm
by PJJ
This topic is not politically sensitive in Finland - and it never really has been that way, because otherwise men like Mannerheim would never have been allowed to serve in independent Finland, if they had been seen as traitors or something - and the only problem is the lack of sources in some cases, which means that the exact number of Finns in the Russian army of WW1 will probably never be determined. However, we're talking about a few names missing here and there, not tens of thousands of men in fictional military formations!

A collection of academic papers, Suomalaiset ensimmäisessä maailmansodassa (Finns in the First World War), edited by Lars Westerlund, was published in Finland in 2004. Among other topics, it also covers the question of Finns serving in the Russian army in the Great War.

There were about 800 such men; this number includes professionals who were already serving in Russian ranks when the Great War began (300-400 men) and those who joined after the war broke out (the rest of them). There were five Finns who became corps commanders in the Russian army, so at least in theory they could be included in EAW, though I don't know how extensive the Russian officer database in the game is. There were also a few admirals of Finnish origin in the Russian navy. One of them, Rear Admiral Gustav von Schoultz, was the Russian navy's representative in Britain's Grand Fleet. (See pages 11-26 of the book.)

How these 800 Finnish volunteers in Russian service are transformed into tens of thousands of men distributed in several corps, one of them participating in the battle of Tannenberg in Rennenkampf's army, in EAW and other Great War games, such as WW1 Gold, is an interesting mystery!

The book I mentioned is available as a free PDF, here:

It's in Finnish only. :)

Posted: Sun Aug 31, 2014 5:31 pm
by caranorn
A bit tough to read if you know no Finish (I've used google translate on other historic material, but in this case I think I'll pass ;-) ). But I'm sure this issue will get fixed in some way for EAW...

Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 8:25 am
by Doctor Haider
The topic starter is absolutely right. All formations named "Finnish" in the Imperial Russian Army was named after the place of deployment and were actually russian. Finns weren't obliged to serve in the army due the autonomous status of Finland.

Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2014 12:05 pm
by Jarkko
Just chiming in to verify there indeed were not many finns fighting in the ranks of Russian armies (some 800 in all, practically all of them as officers; the names of all finns serving in Russian armies are well documented). There is also no "controversy" in Finland regarding this (as has been suggested in this thread), officers like Mannerheim et al who fought in the russian armies were, and still are, very highly revered in Finland.

The units listed as "finnish" in EAW where purely russian (I can't even find any mentions of any single finnish officers in these units; finnish officers mostly served in russian units stationed in Poland, Crimea and Far East, altough there were a few in the guard units in St.Petersburg). The error must have come from the fact that they might have at some point been used as garrison units in Finland.

Posted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:57 pm
by PJJ
Fictional Finnish formations are still there in version 1.01. Any chance of getting the Finnish nationality symbol removed from these units in a coming patch? It should be a relatively simple fix compared to many other things you have to change and implement when making patches.

Historical accuracy is important in such games, and this issue does hurt immersion for those people who know what's wrong with the Russian OOB.

What would people think if for example the French army in EAW had Chinese corps in its OOB? :)

Posted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 5:33 pm
by elxaime

Posted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 6:05 pm
by PJJ
That wouldn't change anything, because such formations simply didn't exist in WW1. There was no Finnish army, just Russian units, some of which happened to be stationed in Finland during the war. :)

Posted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 7:10 pm
by PJJ
I'm resurrecting this topic one more time, in case the devs wish to make changes to the Russian OOB. The massive (and still completely fictional!) Finnish division and corps formations are still part of the Russian army in the latest patch.

I suppose they are there to stay, which would be a shame. Historical accuracy has always been an important part of Ageod titles, but in this case it's sadly lacking.

The solution would be as simple as removing the Finnish nationality from the game and renaming the Finnish formations into something else. They are already completely fictional, so it doesn't matter which names and numbers you'd choose for them, if you don't have access to a more historically accurate Russian OOB.

Posted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 1:51 am
by elxaime
An interesting article on the Finnish jaeger troops during and after WW1

Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:16 am
by The Lev
Ah just found this topic, It is rather odd that the thing is still in there-then again all the Central Powers' OOB's have Hannoverian units in the Wurttemberg corps and are generally all over the place-Its a straightforward thing to rename them but a harder thing to know where to do so.

Modding could be the answer, some things seem hard coded into the game but it might be possible to remove the finnish logo from those units.

Oh and Tzarist pragmatism meant that the names of regiments hardly ever reflected their actual location or makeup-the 15th Ukrainian hussars barely had any Ukrainians in them, while the 42nd Yakut Infantry Regiment had no Yakuts in it either, being stationed (and recruiting from) the border with Galicia. Do remember reading in Norman Stone's Eastern Front about how ineffective Russian recruitment was, the Finnish exemption being listed-

That being said, the 22nd corps is listed as being stationed in Finland, and while bearing the name "Финлянд" in a regiment doesn't make its' soldiers Finnish the corps itself (Four rifle brigades, supposedly expanded into divisions, as well as the 20th Dragoon Regiment) did exist. Hell I dont like Tzarist regimental naming systems any more than the next guy, but if four rifle brigades' worth of russians called their regiments Finnish, then the name ought to stay-while the Finnish nationality symbol really ought to be removed.

Posted: Wed Apr 08, 2015 7:42 am
by Sir Garnet
The ability to raise troops in Finland would similarly have to be removed.

And I could imagine circumstances changing during the war to motivate enlistment in Finnish-officered formations for relatively better treatment of the troops, though that hardly seems necessary..