Finnish Exceptionalism – Sisu

American exceptionalism is no myth. The 19th century saw some of the greatest minds produce a vastly modern civilization out of a wilderness. Since then we have been in intellectual decline – we have consistent party purges of anyone who doesn’t toe the party line in all areas of life from academia to the military, and narrow ideological constructs such as political correctness have rendered the 1st amendment a relic and a sideshow.

How about our performance in the Second World War? The greatest fighter pilot was a German, the greatest tank ace was a German, and the greatest sniper was a Finn.

The greatest military performance of all time took place in Finland, as well. Historians must acknowledge the organic national character of the Finns to reason with how they gutted the largest military in the world and made them sue for peace after 105 days of conflict.

Americans have their grit, and the Western Europeans have their sangfroid, but the Finns have something that defies translation. Sisu is an organic concept born from the frozen tundra of the North.

This concept defies the idea of universal equality among cultures. It helps us understand not only why Finns were capable of military prowess that puts the rest of us to shame, but also why a barren, rocky arctic nation could turn into the leader of educational and technological excellence after the war.

Finns are not ideologues, nor chauvinists. They are a people who learned to survive in an isolated, sub-zero wilderness and how to apply a can-do attitude to everything in life. Sisu is not only a kind of fatalistic amor fati, but also a simple method of troubleshooting. Life is expected to be brutal, frustrating and people are expected to try to drain us of our energy and resources. It is how we face these obstacles that define our character and our reputation.

Sisu represents not the final goal, but taking a deep breath as you walk the plank. Sisu defies the inner cries for peace as well as the external. Sisu is an inner battle that manifests itself outwardly in feats such as holding the Mannerheim Line, while brandishing relic rifles from 1905 against the largest army in the world.

The world can look to this nation and truly say “I have something to learn from you.” The world can say “I am humbled to admit that your mental training is superior to mine.”

Among all the battle performances in the world, the Finns of the Winter War are among the world’s greatest, right up there with Leonidas and Alexander the Great.

One reason for their amazing performance was the trust and camaraderie that they showed to each other. The Finns fought in a synchronized fashion, where every man’s effort was appreciated, even if it didn’t translate into Rambo-like kill counts of the Bolsheviks. Love, on the line, combined with intense hatred for the invader created a force that to this day can make a reader’s jaws drop.

For the rest of us scouts, we should sit at the feet of these people, and try to absorb what we can.

3 thoughts on “Finnish Exceptionalism – Sisu”

  1. Patrick Schrier simply has a case of schadenfreude. Finland, a nation of little more than 4 million, alone, outnumbered, cut off from the entire world because no nation sharing a border was willing to send Finland supplies, lest they give provocation to their own invasion, defied a nation of 120 million at the very peak of its resources and power. Stalins army was larger than Finland entire population. Stalin invaded with an army of 1,500,000 troops fitted with the latest in technology. They had 6,541 tanks, over 3,800 aircraft, compared to the Finns 30 tanks, and 130 aircraft.

    Outnumbered 6 to 1, with 250,000 men (virtually the entire Finnish military age male population), only 100,000 of the Finns even had heavy greatcoats and boots. Most, instead of wearing even a proper uniform wore whatever military surplus they could scrounge along with whatever clothes they brought from home. (The so called “Cajander Uniform”).

    At the end of the war, the Finns, despite a complete lack of reinforcements lost barely over 10% of their personnel. (A heavy blow for so tiny a country), meanwhile they killed 226,514 Russians, with over 400,000 more Russians lost, dead, or missing and never heard from again. The Finns had destroyed 2,262+ tanks, and severely injured more Russians than the Finns had troops. Next came operation Barbarrosa where the Finns allied themselves with the Nazis and continued to kick Russian asses in unbelievable numbers in what the Finns call “the continuation war”. When Stalingrad went south for Hitler, and while the Russians drove the Nazis back to Berlin, Finland devastated the Stalinist offensive and tanks in battle after battle, and saved their homeland. Finland pragmatically sued Stalin for peace, because they did not have the manpower to face the entire resupplied Russian army backed with the Allies. Stalin demanded they cede most of Karelia, and cancel their alliance with the Nazis. Meanwhile Hitler decided to dig in and seize every strategic resource the Finns had, intending to resupply their own desperate war effort by sea through the Baltic. The Finns then charged headlong into the heavily fortified, mined, and baricaded Nazis outnumbered THREE to one charging right into the heart of the dug in Nazi positions – once again unsupplied. The Finns once again triumphed, denied the Nazis their resupply, and made twice as many casualties as they took.

    But sure Patrick. The Finns, one of the smallest nations in Europe fought longer than any other nation, faced the entire Russian nation bred for the cold by killing and capturing equipment because they were completely denied supply, fought the most courageous and effective fall back action in the entire war, quickly and effectively eviscerated the Nazi, again against impossible odds, airpower, and naval shelling, were the only nation east of Germany NOT to fall behind the “Iron Curtain” after the fall of Berlin, endured incredible poverty and became the ONLY nation in World War Two to pay back their war debt IN FULL, built the world’s best education system, one of the most advanced technological states in Europe, and never received help or assistance from ANY other government (though a few countries citizens did send volunteers), performed at every single step of the way in a completely unprescedented level (doing the very same savage business that through history has caused even the Vikings to fear them as “uncivilized” savages, wizards, and “devils” / finnjavel (“Finnish Devils”), but Patrick thinks he can do better lol.

    But let’s remember Patrick, 300, Thermopylae, and the battle of plataea was just a single battle, Alexander the Great, though undefeated, was an aggressor who PICKED most of his own battles and fights, and Caesar had the support of the majority of the Roman people. So who exactly is it that you claim were finer soldiers than the highly unlikely and improbable Finns who fought alone and unsupplied in over six years of total war?

  2. The Winter War was the greatest military performance of all time? I would not call it so. What the Finns achieved against the Russians was amazing but not unparalleled. You ,must remember that Stalin did not deploy his entire strength against the Finns and if he had the Red Army would have crushed them because the Russians could absorb 10-1 casualties if they had to in order to win.

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