Military Museum of Finland

Military Museum of Finland
Sotamuseo (Finnish)
Krigsmuseet (Swedish)
General information
Type Museum
Location Helsinki, Finland
Coordinates 60°10′30″N 024°57′36″E / 60.17500°N 24.96000°E / 60.17500; 24.96000Coordinates: 60°10′30″N 024°57′36″E / 60.17500°N 24.96000°E / 60.17500; 24.96000
Completed 1881
Inaugurated 1929
Design and construction
Architect Evert Lagerspetz

The Military Museum of Finland (Finnish: Sotamuseo) is the central museum of the Finnish Defence Forces and the national special museum of military history. It is located in Helsinki and it is part of the Finnish National Defence University. Military Museums exhibitions in Kruununhaka and Suomenlinna had around 55,000 visitors in 2012. The most popular exhibition space is submarine Vesikko, visited by around 27,000 people annually.[1]

The Military Museum's task is to collect, preserve, research and display artifacts and other heritage related to the Defence Forces of Finland, to military history and to the history of weaponry.


Military Museum was founded November 25, 1929. The opening ceremony followed October 18, 1930 at Liisankatu, Kruununhaka. Before the foundation Finnish military history was shown to public first in 1908 at Valtion historiallinen museo (The History Museum of the State) and in 1918–1919 at the National Museum. The former exhibition’s theme was The War of 1808–1809 and latter’s Finnish Civil War.[2]

In January 1930 The Ministry of Defence ordered Military Museum to continue in Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, where bastion Carpelan was reserved to museum’s use. Lieutenant Reijo Wilhelm Palmroth was elected as museum’s manager. The opening ceremony occurred June 11, 1933 and after that museum was seen by around 9254 visitors annually. The exhibition consisted of different arms sections which included jaegers, engineers, arms and navy. There were also civil war collections to be seen.[3]

Military Museum was closed however in autumn 1939, just before the break out of Winter War against Soviet Union. The items and collections were removed from bastion Carpelan during the war and stored around Finland. The museum office had to also relocate from Helsinki because of the Soviet air bombings in 1944.[4]

During the Winter War and Continuation War Military Museum organized a series of exhibitions at the Exhibition Hall. The first was Sotasaalisnäyttely (War Looting Exhibition) in February 1940 which was shortly followed by Sotamuistonäyttely (War Memories Exhibition) I and II in 1941. Military Museum organized also touring exhibitions around Finland between 1941 and 1943 and even had exhibitions in Sweden in 1942–43. There were several purposes for these kinds of war exhibitions. It was, for example, a means to gather funds for war invalids and their families, to show how it was to fight on Finnish side at the front and to lift up morale among citizens.[5]

1944 was the year of the foundation of Sotamuistoyhdistys, later to be named Suomen sotahistoriallinen seura (The Association for Military History in Finland). The Association is and independent unit but it runs in close relationship with The Military Museum. Its goal is to cherish the memory of Finnish wars in various ways.

After the war Military Museum had to manage without exhibition halls for a short period of time. The situation changed when it received a hall at Maurinkatu, Kruununhaka. The Military Museum is now located in a garrison building designed by Evert Lagerspetz in 1883. Military Museum expanded more in the mid-1990s after setting up an exhibition also at Liisankatu. In March 2013, a new permanent exhibition was opened there.

Military Museum’s presence in Suomenlinna ceased to be at the brink of Winter War in 1939. The collections in bastion Carpelan were moved to the mainland and later Military Museum had to make way for the Armfelt Museum. However, there had been thoughts and debate about founding a Coastal Artillery Museum and Naval Museum in Suomenlinna in 1946–1948.[6] Finally, the Coastal Artillery Museum was opened in December 1948. The exhibition’s time range was from autonomy to the times of independence. The Museum was closed in 2007 because the building was considered too unsound.[7]

The Naval Museum opened its doors on 6 November 1948 although considerations about the exhibition had been made already in 1923. The exhibition showed Finnish naval defence during her independence era but in the end it didn’t last long. Museum was ordered to close in 1963 due to high moisture and didn’t manage to find new exhibition hall.[8]

In the 1970s there emerged series of debates about opening Military Museum exhibition again in Suomenlinna in addition to submarine Vesikko, which was had been there as a museum since July 1973. After a number of failures Military Museum managed to gain the permit in August 1980. The Manege, which had been storage for Military Museum since 1974, was constructed to an exhibition hall during 1986–1989. The opening followed June 1, 1989.[9] In summer 2011 Military Museum opened a Submarine Vesikko – special exhibition in addition to current Winter War-, The Continuation War- and Lapland War-exhibition.

The Military Museum has organized over 30 special exhibitions during 1962–1984. Among these are for example 40th and 90th anniversaries of the Finnish Defence Forces in 1958 and 2008 respectively and several Winter War exhibitions.[10]


The collections of the Military Museum cover over 200,000 artifacts. Most artifacts are organized in research collections or stored. The collections include weapons, uniforms, medals, artworks, flags and vehicles among other things. One exhibit area is dedicated to Finnish war hero Lauri Törni, who received the Mannerheim Cross.[11]


Military Museum publishes Journal of Military History (Sotahistoriallinen Aikakauskirja) together with The Military History Society of Finland annually and has also created content to various multimedia publications.


Permanent exhibition

Two Finnish soldiers from the Winter War and Simo Häyhä's uniform in the permanent exhibition.
Ford V8 in the Manege.

The Military Museum's permanent exhibition displays Finnish military history since the beginning of the fifteenth century. The main focus is in the 19th century. Exhibition is permanently closed at Liisankatu 1.

Submarine Vesikko and Manege

The Military Museum has in the summer time two exhibitions open in Suomenlinna. Vesikko is a Finnish submarine built in 1933 that served in the second World War in the Gulf of Finland. Vesikko is the only remaining submarine of the Finnish Fleet during the World War II. Other four U-boats were scrapped in 1953. During the Winter War and the Continuation war 1939–1944 Vesikko was in active service, conducting patrol and safeguard missions in the Gulf of Finland and Åland archipelago. Vesikko managed to destroy one enemy transport ship as it sank Soviet Vyborg July 3, 1941 near Suursaari. After the peace treaty with the Soviet Union Vesikko’s days in active service were over because The Peace Treaty of 1947 banned Finnish submarines. Vesikko was however saved for possible Finnish Navy’s educational purposes. But no use emerged for Vesikko and it was transferred to Katajanokka dockyard. The state planned to sell it in 1959 but thanks to ex-submariners' strong lobbying, the submarine was once again saved and transported from Katajanokka to Suomenlinna in the early 1960s. After opening as a museum July 9, 1973 it has become the Military Museum's most popular exhibition.

The Manege was opened to public June 1, 1989. The original exhibition consisted mainly of heavy weapons from Finnish wars against Soviet Union in 1939–1944. There have been arranged also special exhibitions, for example in 2003–2004 about Finnish submarines and in summer 2011 about the submarine Vesikko. The Manege’s collections include e.g. a German 88mm Flak 37 Anti-Aircraft gun and British Vickers-Armstrong 38 light tank. Both have been used by the Finnish Army during the wars. One specialty in the exhibition is a torpedo tube from a Finnish S2- torpedo boat, sunk in 1925. In summer 2012 there opened a new exhibition, From Autonomy to Atalanta – an exhibition on Finnish military history.

Special military museums

At the moment there are eight special military museums in Finland, which operate under Military Museum’s supervision. Due to limited resources and lack of exhibition halls historical military collections have been divided to special arms museums. Especially the growing amount of collections in different army units affected to the founding of special military museums. They are often financed by foundations and have been founded since 1945. Special military museums include The Tank Museum, The Anti-Aircraft Museum, The Finnish Aviation Museum, The Infantry Museum, The Museum of Military Medicine, Mobilia, Forum Marinum and Museum Militaria, which comprises the Engineers Museum, The National Signals Museum and The Artillery Museum of Finland.

See also


  1. Melkko, Markku (1999). "Sukellusvene Vesikko", p. 27. Sotamuseon julkaisuja 2/1999, Gummerus Jyväskylä.
  2. Huusko, Harri; Saari, Anssi; Haavisto, Lauri."Sotamuseo eilen, nyt, tulevaisuudessa", Museo, 2/2011, pp. 14–17.
  3. Enqvist, Ove; Härö, Mikko (1998). "Varuskunnasta maailmanperinnöksi – Suomenlinnan itsenäisyysajan vaiheet", p. 63. Suomenlinna ry, Uudenkaupungin Sanomat Oy, 1998.
  4. Enqvist, Ove; Härö, Mikko (1998). "Varuskunnasta maailmanperinnöksi – Suomenlinnan itsenäisyysajan vaiheet", p. 63. Suomenlinna ry, Uudenkaupungin Sanomat Oy, 1998.
  5. Huusko, Harri; Saari, Anssi; Haavisto, Lauri. "Sotamuseo eilen, nyt, tulevaisuudessa", Museo, 2/2011, pp. 14–17.
  6. Enqvist, Ove; Härö, Mikko (1998). "Varuskunnasta maailmanperinnöksi – Suomenlinnan itsenäisyysajan vaiheet", p. 202. Suomenlinna ry, Uudenkaupungin Sanomat Oy, 1998.
  7. Enqvist, Ove; Härö, Mikko (1998). "Varuskunnasta maailmanperinnöksi – Suomenlinnan itsenäisyysajan vaiheet", p. 204. Suomenlinna ry, Uudenkaupungin Sanomat Oy, 1998.
  8. Enqvist, Ove; Härö, Mikko (1998). "Varuskunnasta maailmanperinnöksi – Suomenlinnan itsenäisyysajan vaiheet", p. 205. Suomenlinna ry, Uudenkaupungin Sanomat Oy, 1998.
  9. Enqvist, Ove; Härö, Mikko (1998). "Varuskunnasta maailmanperinnöksi – Suomenlinnan itsenäisyysajan vaiheet", p. 203. Suomenlinna ry, Uudenkaupungin Sanomat Oy, 1998.
  10. Saari, Anssi. "Sotamuseo 80 vuotta – museotoimintaa Suomessa sodan ja rauhan oloissa." Sotahistoriallinen Aikakauskirja 28/2009.
  11. Remember the Military Museum in Helsinki during your summer holiday. 14 June 2012
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