1918 WHITE GUARD MEMORIAL
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 army and the defeat of the Reds.
The White Guards were led by the Finnish Senate and the Red Guards by the Finnish People's Delegation that opposed the Senate.
A clear divide between the White and Red front lines formed in the early stages of the war, in January and February. Maintaining control over Vilppula was a key objective for the Whites, as the Vilppula troops offered protection for the crucial railway intersection at Haapamäki.
Several campaigns were fought over the control of Vilppula, in which the White troops, despite being few in number, managed to fend off the Red forces. As a result, on the side of the Whites, the name Vilppula name has always been associated with great sacrifice and bravery. Vilppula was seen as the stronghold that stopped the Red army’s advance towards the north. Professor Heikki Klemetti composed the song “In Memory of the Vilppula Heroes”, which, for a long time, was a staple in school song books.
The Vilppula front extended in early February to Ruovesi, where the battles eventually turned much fiercer than in Vilppula. Approximately sixty White Guard fighters were killed in action in Vilppula and Ruovesi between the beginning of the war and the Battle of Tampere. Most of them were killed in the Battle of Ruovesi. The Whites killed in action were taken to their home parishes to be buried.
The year 1918 brought Vilppula into the national consciousness more than ever before or since. To commemorate the events at Vilppula, the White veterans launched a fundraiser in 1932 for a memorial. The funds were used for organising a design competition.
The original idea was to erect the White Guard memorial in Vilppulankoski rapids, but the plan proved infeasible, and the memorial was built on its current location. Financed by Gösta Serlachius and created by sculptor Arvi Tynys, the memorial was unveiled in July 1938. The ceremony was attended by General Gustaf Mannerheim, the leader of the White army, his staff and a large audience. Tynys was a renowned artist who, in addition to Finland, made a notable career in the United States and Haiti.