Finland was about to issue, then quickly withdrew, a series of commemorative 5-euro coins meant to celebrate the centennial of Finnish independence.
The coins got as far as to be viewable on Instagram; however, when the public recoiled in horror the depictions were quickly taken down, followed by an announcement that the coins would not be issued. It was not known at the time this article was being written if any of these coins left the Mint of Finland “unofficially.”
What had been the Grand Duchy of Finland became independent of Imperial Russia during the Finnish Civil War of 1918. This is also the period of the Russian Revolution that led to the establishment of the Soviet Union. The German Empire supported the Finnish White Guard against the Red Guard supported by the fledgling Soviet Union. Volunteers from Sweden and Estonia joined the White Guard in their successful campaign for independence. The civil war resulted in the death of about 36,000 people, which at the time was about 1.2 percent of the entire population.
The Red Guard seized most of southern Finland before the White Guard requested and received military assistance from Germany. Finland’s capitol, Helsinki, was captured by the White Guard with German assistance in May 1918.
Many captured Red Guard soldiers were executed or imprisoned. One of the largest camps was Suomenlinna, an island off the coast of Helsinki. It has been estimated that between 14,000 and 27,000 Red Guard soldiers died of hunger and diseases such as the Spanish Flu while in these prison camps or during the reign of terror that followed this “war of liberation,” as some historians now call it. Many of the atrocities committed on these prisoners have been ignored in the so-called “White” interpretation of the events.
White leader Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim is considered by most Finns to be the father of their modern nation. Mannerheim was commander of the White Guard, then later regent of Finland and still later (1944-1946) sixth president of Finland. While Mannerheim is well remembered he is also a divisive figure in Finland’s history.
Finland issued a gold 100-euro, silver 20-euro and silver 10-euro coin earlier this year to mark the upcoming 2018 anniversary. Plans called for five ringed bimetal 5-euro commemoratives to follow. These are the coins that will not be issued.
The subjects on the now-rejected coin designs were meant to each celebrate two decades of Finnish independence. According to the Mint of Finland, four of the coins “tells the story of Finnish independence through its accomplishments and triumph over adversity.” The fifth coin titled “Global Justice” depicts drowned Syrian refugee child Alan Kurdi, who died in 2015. The boy’s family was trying to get to Canada. This final design was meant to show the plight of Syrian refugees attempting to flee an ongoing civil war in that country.
Ilkka Suppanen designed the ill-fated coins. According to Suppanen, the coins were “not a celebration of the civil war…” but were meant to “highlight the fact that Finland pulled through this difficult period.”
One of the other coins depicts White Guard soldiers executing Red Guard prisoners based on a contemporary photograph that, according to Finnish historian Sture Lindholm, was likely staged. All have been called “tasteless” and “surprising” by Finland Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, who demanded the coins be withdrawn even before they were to be offered for sale.
Orpo was quick to backpedal, claiming that he didn’t review the proposed designs prior to the commencement of coin production. Orpo told Finland’s Parliament, “I don’t understand how it conveys the spirit of Finland’s 100th anniversary – in any way at all. I actually hope that this coin will be withdrawn. Finland is 100 years old. We are together. We are one nation. I simply don’t understand.”
As one viewer commented on Instagram, “Is it a joke? How did this vulgar commemorative coin go through? Ew. Sick.”
This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.
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