Swastikas in the Skies

Swastikas in the Skies

With Chris being obsessed with everything Finland we pieced together an article on just one of the many eccentricities of the enigmatic frozen expanse of the far north, their air force's swastika emblem. We then delve into the other uses of the swastika in Finland and how this symbol of hate has a completely different significance for the Finns.
Independence Day Parade in Helsinki - Ilmavoimat Color Guard

Finland, the eternal outlier: With the fall of the Third Reich in the Second World War, came a purge of all the symbols and emblems associated with Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Swastikas were stripped from buildings, coins, equipment and flags with hope of expelling the shadow that Nazism had cast over Europe. Although de-Nazification was enforced throughout Scandanavia, it was taken rather lightly in Finland, where the symbol had become an integral symbol for their Air Forces. 
Different than the Nazi hakenkreuz,  it is still of note to recognize the continued use of the Finnish vääräpää, even though it has sparked so much hatred over the course of a century. Here we will explore why Finland stands by its swastika, and how the Finn's emblem developed independently of the Nazi swastika, and of its eastern counterpart. 
Soviet Propaganda: We don't want war but we will defend the Soviets!
Following the onset of the Russian Revolution, Finland, being part of the Russian Empire up until that point, declared independence. With the Russian Empire collapsing around them, the Finns made a dash to claim any Russian aircraft they could. Though the country then promptly devolved into a bloody civil war, with the Reds being supported by their Russian neighbors and the Whites being aided by the German Empire and civilians coming across the border from Sweden. 
Skiing to victory!
With the Finnish Air Force being smaller than the Swiss Navy, a number of Swedes began flying over aircraft to aid their Norse brethren against the red tide. One of the first planes to be sent to Finland was donated by Swedish Count Eric Von Rosen, who left his personal crest painted on the wings. This plane being one of the first and most important planes in the Finnish arsenal, the Finns adopted their patron's emblem. 
Von Rosen's Thulin Type D
The advent of the Von Rosen's swastika is innocent enough. He claimed to have seen the symbol on a viking rune in Gotland, an island off the Swedish coast. It is supposed to evoke Odin's cross or the sunwheel, whereby a cross is surrounded by a circle. This fylfot version was common in many Norse runes and became synonymous with good luck, independently of the Hindu swastika. Von Rosen liked the symbol so much that he made it his personal crest and emblazoned all his possessions with the ancient rune.
Finnish Air Force Roundel 1918-1945
 In the early 20th century, the swastika became a trendy good luck charm with people adopting swastika designs from Hindu culture, native american drawings and Nordic runes. The Swastika became a popular good luck symbol for people, companies and even military units.  This sweeping fad caused everyone including Coca-Cola to want a swastika plastered all over their packaging.   Von Rosen seemed to be no exception for the swastika craze, regardless its origin. 
1925 Ad Campaign - CocaCola lucky fob

Count Von Rosen's swastika was used on flags, patches, medals and aircraft roundels from his first plane in 1918 until 1945. First having to hold back the Russian invasion in the Winter War, then fighting alongside Germans against the Soviets in the Continuation War and finally having to fight German soldiers to get them to finally leave Finland, the Finns fought three bloody and tumultuous wars to defend their country but were still ultimately labeled a belligerent and fascist power. Having fought on the Axis side, the swastika was removed from their emblems in order to distance themselves from the Nazis, and a series of restrictions were placed upon them through the Paris Peace Treaty of 1945. 
A German supplied Messerschmitt Bf 109 with the Finnish Roundel
Following World War II the Finnish Air Force adopted a roundel based on their national flag. Von Rosen's emblem was used minimally following the end of the war and officially were reintroduced in 1958, though the swastika was never returned to use as the official roundel. 
Finnish Air Force Roundel 1945-Present

Today the swastika continues to be used by the Air Force and some Finnish Army regiments on flags, patches and medals in memory of their great Swedish patron, Count Von Rosen. The current Air Force emblem also bears a set of six wings arranged in a wheel, similarly evoking a swastika. 
The swastika also sees use throughout Finland for different reasons. As part of the sunwheel tursaansydän, the Nordic swastika has remained a timeless symbol of protection and luck. Symbols like this have been found throughout Scandanavia, and are recognized as a prominent and ancient symbol in Finland. 

Today in Finland the President's flag displays a swastika representing the sun's rays in a fylfot cross. This symbol is taken from the Order of the Cross of Liberty, one of Finland's highest honors. Designed in 1918 this badge similarly came from an era when the swastika was in resurgence. It remains an integral part of Finnish arms and emblems and represents their Nordic heritage, and the promise of hope and protection.


Flag of the President of Finland
The swastika is an important symbol for the Finns, but as is the case with swastikas, it has been a difficult road for them. Finnish scouts have been heckled and called Nazis, and groups frequently site the Finnish government and military for still using the symbol on medals and decorations. The swastika will always have the terrible connotations that the Nazis imparted upon it, but perhaps if people like yourselves make note of the context of the Finnish swastika, Finland may proudly use her symbols of history and heritage without being falsely accused of supporting hate and atrocity.