Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Famous Russian War Historian Visited the Museum

A Russian war historian Artem Drabkin and his interpreter Svetlana
in the museum. In the background, the blue and white Finnish
swastika. Photo by Teisuka.

Last Sunday, a Russian war historian Artem Drabkin (Артём Драбкин) from Moscow visited the museum, my current workplace. I had the privilege to be his guide. In addition to Artem, there were two other people: Artem's interpreter, a Russian woman called Svetlana (Светла́на), and their Finnish host and organizer, Matti. We walked around the museum about 90 minutes, and I told about the objects in the exhibition and the Finnish war history, especially about the Lotta Svärd organisation and the Finnish women at war.

"Very interestings place. Spasibo" (thank you), Artem said when the tour was over. Then we shook hands and said "dosvidaniya" (until we meet again) to each other. Both Artem and Svetlana were nice and kind people, as Russians used to be. For me, this was a wonderful opportunity to meet a famous Russian war historian. I'm just reading his book called The Continuation War from the perspective of the Red Army (Finnish: Jatkosota puna-armeijan silmin). Excellent book, including a lot of rare photographs.

In Finland, Artem Drabkin also interviewed the Finnish veterans and Lottas of World War II. In my opinion, this kind of intercultural and international cooperation is remarkable and ground-breaking. Seventy years ago we (Finns and Russians) were enemies but now we are friends.

Artem Drabkin is the creator of a website devoted to the oral history of World War II on the Eastern Front. Like my Russian friend Victor says, Drabkin's project I remember is very interesting and important as it helps to keep our memory of WWII. Drabkin is recording interviews of war veterans in Russia, Germany, and Finland. At the moment, there are more than 2000 interviews in his collection. Artem's website is available in English and Russian at

You can find the Russian Wikipedia article by clicking here.

Lotta Svärd and the Finnish Swastika

Finally, I want to tell something about the Finnish swastika, because it appears in my photos. The Finnish swastika has nothing to do with Nazism, just like a wholesome Finnish patriotism has nothing to do with that sick ideology. (All of my friends know that I hate Nazism more than any other "ism".)

In Finland, the swastika was often used in traditional folk art products, as a decoration or magical symbol on textiles and wood. It is thousands of years old symbol of luck. The swastika was also used by the Finnish Air Force until 1945, and is still used in air force flags.

The Finnish Air Force uses the swastika as an emblem, introduced in 1918 (the Nazi swastika came at a later date, in 1920). The type of swastika adopted by the air-force was the symbol of luck for the Swedish count Eric von Rosen, who donated one of its earliest aircraft.

Also a design by the artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela from 1918, the Cross of Liberty has a swastika pattern in its arms. Gallen-Kallela used the Finnish swastika in his early works, for example the painting called The Aino triptych (Finnish: Aino-triptyykki) from year 1889.

 The Aino triptych, an old Finnish painting by Akseli
Gallen-Kallela, 1889. Click the image to see it bigger.

The Lotta Svärd emblem was designed by Eric Wasström
in 1921. It includes four heraldic roses and a swastika.
In Finland, the swastika is an ancient symbol of luck.

On Japanese maps, a swastika is used to mark the location of a Buddhist
temple. 日本では、卍は、寺院などの地図記号として使用されている。

The swastika was used by Lotta Svärd, a Finnish voluntary national defence organisation for women between 1921 and 1944. The organisation was religious-patriotic, unarmed and non-political. In 1944, there were more than 240 000 Lottas in Finland. About 90 000 Lottas served their country at the front during the wartime 1939-1945. They worked in hospitals, at air-raid warning posts and other auxiliary tasks in conjunction with the armed forces. The motto of the organisation was "religion, home and fatherland" (specifically in that order; the mentioned religion was the Lutheran Christianity).

In addition, the swastika is a good symbol in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Originally, it's a symbol of the Sun. The Buddhist sign has been standardized as a Chinese character 卍 (wàn) and as such entered various other East Asian languages such as Japanese where the symbol is called 卍 (manji) or 卍字 (manji). The swastika is included as part of the Chinese script in the form of the character 萬 (wàn). In East Asian countries, the left-facing and horizontal swastika often marks the location of a Buddhist temple on maps.

P.S. I also add here some other new photos from my workplace, taken this week.

museum assistant

Me in the work. Last Wednesday, there was a Christmas event in the museum.
All workers were dressed in the old costumes. I used the Finnish military
uniform from the time of World War II (reconstruction, not original).

Me and Marshal Mannerheim (a lifelike wax figure, 194 cm
in length) in the headquarters, a railway carriage. This is my
favorite room in the museum. Click the photo to see it bigger.


  1. Hi Teisuka,
    Thank you for your another interesting, informational and well written blog article. It looks like your job is really a dream job! -:) I like the pictures showing you in military uniforms. Ha look very handsome in them, and I think you can be a very good actor if you play a soldier or army officer in a movie.

    The Russian historian and his interpreter really look nice. You must have enjoyed very much showing them around in the museum. And thank you for sharing the link to his website, which I just checked out. It's great that these interviews were translated into English. I will read them in detail when I have time later.

    Also thank you for your detailed explanation of Swastika. I didn't know that this sign ever played such an important role in Finnish history. Originally I thought that this was a sign only used in Buddhism and as a Chinese character. I knew that it is also believed to be a Nazi sign, but there is a tiny difference between them. The Chinese character for this sign is 卍, while the Nazi sign is 卐. See the difference? And there is even an anecdote about this. One day in the 1970s, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was hosting a banquet for foreign guests. And a soup was served, in which there is a piece of vegetable cut into a shape of 卍. Of course, it was intended to express good luck. But unfortunately, this piece was accidentally flipped over when the soup was served, and the sign became 卐, the Nazi sign. You can imagine how much the guests were appalled by this delicacy. At that moment, the quick-witted Chinese premier explained the true meaning of this Buddhism sign, and added, "if this is a sign also used by Nazis, then let's destroy it -- eat it up!"

    As I said before, it has always been a pleasure reading your articles. Please keep up the good work. I'm sure you will have much more interesting things to share in the future.

    Hope you're enjoying your weekend now. Wish you all the best as Christmas is drawing near. Merry Christmas and happy new year! -:)


    1. Hi Bao,

      Thank you very much for your kind words and compliment, my friend. Handsome? Well, I'm not sure... My "ex" said to me: "Such a stupid-looking soldier. You look like a circus clown." Hahaha. Anyway, it would be really nice to act in a war film. Maybe some day... ;)

      Yes, I really enjoyed to meet these nice Russian visitors. Indeed, this is a dream job for me. :) Regarding the swastika: yes, I know the difference between the Chinese character 卍 and the Nazi sign 卐. Except that the Nazi swastika is a right-facing, it is also 45° rotated. So it is actually a twisted sign and a bad luck symbol. Hitler was crazy when he used that doomed sign! To be a symbol of good luck, swastika should be an upright (square ). Thank you for me telling me that Chinese anecdote. It made me laugh. "...then let's destroy it – eat it up!" Hahaha. :)

      Again, thank you for being here, my friend. I always appreciate your wise words and encouraging feedback. 非常感谢! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! :)

      Blessings from cold Finland,


  2. Hi Teisuka! This uniform suits you so much! :) May be you should serve in army not in museum ;) though your recent work seems to be very interesting too. Swastika could be found all over the world, this ancient simbol was used in east slavic cultures too. It was depicted even at some icons.

    Blessings from chilly Moscow.


    1. Hi Victor!

      Haha. Many thanks for your nice comment and compliment, my friend. Большое спасибо! Well, I was in the Finnish army in 1987, but that was only a short service. I prefer to work in the museum. ;)

      Thank you for the interesting information. I didn't know that swastika was also used in East Slavic cultures, and it was depicted even at some icons. Wow, it really is an universal symbol! And then Hitler ruined it...

      Again, thank you for being here today, Victor. Always glad to get visitor from Moscow. :) All the best to you and your loved ones!

      Blessings from rainy and mild (+2 °C) Western Finland,


  3. Teisuka-san, come here to read some of your latest posts and saw your picture with a uniform. Wonderful share Teisuka-san. Always so much to learn from you. Have a happy brand new week. - Shawn

    1. Waa! Nice to see you here, Shawn! Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind words. I really appreciate that. "G+" is not problem here. Haha. You too, have a great week ahead, buddy. See you around! :) Teisuka

  4. hello Teisuka
    very good and interesting article as always my friend. thank you
    i agree with Victor, military uniform suits you so much :)


    1. Hello Nika,

      Many thanks for your kind feedback and compliment, it made me glad. ^^ Oh, you also think that uniform suits for me. Spasibo! My ex is "beaten" now. Haha. Maybe I should to use uniform more often in my work. Perhaps even every day! :D

      I wish you a wonderful weekend, my dear friend. :)


      P.S. At the moment, I have troubles with YouTube. I will check out your new Moscow videos as soon as possible...