1918 RED GUARD MEMORIALS

In 1918, Finland experienced a brutal civil war, which lasted for four months and resulted in the loss of nearly 40,000 lives.
For seven weeks from the first days of the war, Vilppula was the centre of events. The northern side of Vilppulankoski was held by the White Guard and the southern side by the Red Guard. The Finnish Civil War ended on 16 May 1918 with the victory of the White Guard and the defeat of the Red Guard.
The White Guard was led by the Finnish Senate and the Red Guard by the Finnish People's Delegation that opposed the Senate.

Young Red guard fighters on the Ruovesi frontline in 1918. Vapriikki Photo Archives.

In 1918, there was a 200–300 strong Red Guard in Vilppula that consisted of separate sections in villages throughout the parish. After the war broke out, the majority of the Vilppula Red Guard set out to take over Mänttä.

Some of the Red Guard members stayed home and took no part in the hostilities. After the failed attempt to take Mänttä and with their own parish under the control of the White, the Vilppula Red Guard took part in the battles of Vilppula in February and March of 1918. For them, the fiercest battle, however, was fought defending Tampere against the Whites in March and April 1918. During the battle over Tampere, half a dozen Vilppula Red Guard fighters were killed. Most of the Vilppula Red Guard were taken prisoner on surrendering Tampere of 6 April 1918. In the aftermath of the Battle of Tampere, nearly 20 Red Guard soldiers from the Vilppula region were executed.
After World War II, memorials for the Reds perished in the Civil War began to be erected. There are two Red Guard memorials at Vilppula Cemetery, both erected in 1946 by the workers’ organisations of Vilppula and Mänttä. The remains of the 15 deceased killed in the Civil War lie in the lower joint grave and those of 16 in the upper grave. In 1994, the old memorial received an addition in a memorial revealed on the southern side of Vilppulankoski on the site where the Reds had launched their attack against Vilppula in February and March of 1918.

The Reds buried in Vilppula were either killed in action or executed by the Whites, both from Vilppula and from other localities. The total number of Vilppula Reds killed in action, by executions or at prison camps in the 1918 war is estimated at 80–90. A majority of them are buried elsewhere, mostly in Tampere.

There are two Red Guard memorials at Vilppula Cemetery. The one erected in 1946 has the inscription: “In memory of those who gave their lives for their cause in 1918. Erected by the workers’ organisations of Vilppula and Mänttä”.
In 1994, an addition was made to the memorial , with the inscription: “In memory of the 31 deceased from Vilppula, Mänttä and further regions consigned to the two graves. Brother, father, mother, sister, look for us no longer, in this place we are laid down to rest. You who died on the cross have mercy on the children of men. Committal service conducted on 17 September 1994 by Bishop Yrjö Sariola”.

 

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