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Finnish Civil War naval operations

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Post 04 Oct 2018, 10:29
The Finnish Civil War was a bloody conflict concurrent to the Revolution in Russia. Before the agreement of Brest-Litovsk peace, Germany was still officially at war with the Soviet Russia, and openly backed the Finnish White Nationalists as proxies/puppet-force against local Communists. The conflict was almost entirely fought inland (Communist controlled the south of the nation at first), with only sporadic naval incidents toward the end. Soviet Russia provided late help to Finnish Communists, and managed to evacuate some of troops. The conflict was notorious for widespread violence and massacres committed by Whites on the communists POW, civilians and leftist supporters.


27 January 1918
Beginning off the Finnish Civil War

3 March 1918
Icebreaker Tarmo seized by infiltrated Finnish White crew. Seizure happened close Aegna Island, no casualties on both sides. Six Russian armed sailors captured. Crew of ship was 42, including Finnish commander who secretly collaborated with Whites.

9 March 1918
While operating in support of the Aland Islands invasion, the German icebreaker Hindenburg (1850 GRT) sunk by mine.
Three sailors died and five wounded, sinking occurred close Eckerö: it is currently unclear to establish the minefield.
Regardless, this loss represent the only loss suffered by the While Finnish / German side directly involved during this conflict (other contemporary German losses occurred outside this area).

Photo of Hindenburg

29 March 1918
Icebreaker Volynets seized by infiltrated Finnish White crew (53 men). Crew of 116 entirely Russian and was captured without losses.

On unclear day,
The Soviet Navy transferred in March the harbor vessel (former gunboat) Mina to the Finnish communist republic. It is unclear but apparently could be the only possibly armed ship manned by Finnish communists.
Also apparently, she saw no actions, and later captured in harbor in Helsingfors in April (alongside many other ships).

Early 1918
Seizure of Icebreaker Avance failed and ship sailed to Petrograd. It is unclear if the episode included a firefight or the capture of Finnish White infiltrates.

February 1918
Finnish Whites begin a series of convoys under direct German Navy escort to ferry nationalist volunteers (the “Jägers”) trained and armed by Germans. Apparently, no attempt made by the Finnish communists to challenge the Germans openly on sea and intercept the convoys.

4 April 1918
Finnish White icebreaker Hanko, while on mission to cover a convoy of “Jägers” troops (Finnish White volunteers trained by Germans), encountered the communist Finnish icebreaker Murtaja escorting the merchant Dragsfjard (both ship carried Red Guards and Russian soldiers). Warning shots fired from German light cruiser SMS Kolberg, and communist soldiers retreated on ice while the abandoned Murtaja seized. It was apparently the only real naval confrontation involving a communist Finnish ship against a far superior enemy.
Photo of SMS Kolberg in 1910.

31 March 1918
Finnish armed icebreaker (“auxiliary cruiser”) Sampo briefly engaged with the Soviet armed icebreaker Jermak, but there was not return fire and the brief clash caused no damage.This brief engagement was actually the only apparent real naval gunfight during this conflict. Interestingly, the Sampo would later try again to engage the Jermak during the Winter War with similar inconclusive results.

4 May 1918
Soviet Icebreaker Silatch arrived in Kotka to evacuate Finnish communists but seized in harbor by Whites.

15 May 1918
Ending of the Finnish Civil War.


After the ending of the Finnish Civil War the Finnish nationalists committed offensives against the Soviet power from spring to fall 1918. This offensive (Viena and Aunus) failed.
Even after the establishment of the Soviet Union, the Finnish nationalists begun a campaign of raids and attacks on 1921-1922 in support of East Karelian rebels but once again it failed.

During the Winter War, it was briefly established the Finnish Democratic Republic by survivors of the Finnish Civil War, however it existed only on paper and there is no data concerning existence of a possible separate Finnish communist military force (let alone a Navy).

After the WW2, the Finnish Navy, embracing a better relationship with the Soviet Union, received a number of Soviet-made warships during the whole Cold War. Despite a relatively good success of the Finnish Communist Party and general left-wing oriented movements during the time, Finland remained a multi-party state neutral during the Cold War (no known confrontation with NATO or other Nordic states).

With the fall of Soviet Union, this trend reverted, following the general NATO-aligned anti-Russian feelings widespread in eastern and Nordic Europe.
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