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Finnish Left Alliance Calls to Remove Statue of National Hero Mannerheim

Despite the controversy surrounding Carl Gustaf Mannerheim's role in the Finnish Civil War, he is seen as the father of modern Finland and has been voted the greatest Finn of all time.

The youth wing of the Left Alliance, currently part of the ruling left-of-the-centre coalition, has called to review the statues adorning the Finnish cities and remove those associated with war and oppression.

This includes the statue of war hero and former president Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, which, according to the Left Youth, should be removed from its vantage point in central Helsinki.

“It is high time for Finland to consider whether our history should be remembered with monuments in the middle of cities glorifying war and oppression. For example, the equestrian statue of Marshal Mannerheim, the Tampere Statue of Liberty and the monuments to racial hygienists like Lauri 'Tahko' Pihkala should be removed from the streets,” the Left Youth said in a statement.

Instead, the youth wing of the Left Alliance party proposed creating a “statue park” on an island off the coast of the capital, which could become a Nordic “cultural destination”.

“We suggest Suomenlinna Island as a place for the new statue park”, Left Alliance youth chair Somali-born Liban Sheikh said in the statement. “It is time to move the worship of atrocities and great men away from the streets. Remembering our past does not require glorifying the ills of history.”

Liban Sheikh earlier expressed his solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement that swept the Western world following the death of African American former convict George Floyd in police custody. He also called out Finland's “racist past” and urged to combat “Afrophobia and systemic racism.”

The Left Youth also suggested placing signs next to statues that “tell the full history of the people and events associated with the statues – including the questionable aspects associated with them.”

The bronze equestrian statue of Mannerheim by Aimo Tukiainen stands in centre of Helsinki, Finland. It was erected in 1960 and is 5.4 metre tall, standing on a 6.3 metre tall granite podium.

Baron Carl Gustaf Mannerheim was a Finnish military leader and statesman. After making a career in the Imperial Russian Army, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant general, he served as the military leader of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War, when he helped defeat the nation's communists, and a regent of Finland. During World War II, he became Finland's commander-in-chief of forces and ultimately the nation's president (1944–1946), overseeing peace negotiations with the Soviet Union and the UK.

While not entirely uncontroversial, as many left-leaning Finns have issues with Mannerheim's brutal crackdown on the Reds in the aftermath of the Civil War, Mannerheim is revered throughout Finland. In a survey more than half a century after his death, Mannerheim was voted the greatest Finn of all time and is seen as the father of modern Finland. The Mannerheim Museum in the Finnish capital Helsinki has been called “the closest thing to a Finnish national shrine”.

The Left Alliance was founded in 1990 by the communist People's Democratic League (SKDL), the Communist Party of Finland (SKP) and the Finnish Women's Democratic League (SNDL). It was later joined by the communist Democratic Alternative. The party currently stands for social equality and identifies as strongly feminist and anti-racist.

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