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The National Memorial to the Winter War Stirs Emotions, Like Art Should

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The National Memorial to the Winter War stands tall at the Kasarmitori square in Helsinki on December 1, 2017. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

I hadn’t seen the Kasarmitori square in central Helsinki roping in people at a steady pace like this before the corner karaoke bar had opened its doors. Instead of coming to sing evergreens and downing warm liqueur, the people were defying the big wet snowflakes on Friday afternoon to see the soldier of glossy steel pierced with gigantic holes, wearing a hood on its head, but faceless like a Black Rider in the Lord of the Rings and — the bottom half included — standing 10.6 meters tall.

“It looks distressing,” said Maria, a local lady in her 40s.

“It should face the other side because the facade is there and . . . . ,” a man was speed talking to a friend and I lost track.

The National Memorial to the Winter War stirs emotions. Like art should.

The memorial, which was revealed to the public on November 30, is designed by sculptor Pekka Kauhanen. His proposal was selected from among 238 applications. The sculpture cost about 1.4 million euros and was funded by the state, the city and the Winter War Association.

The soldier stands on a base shaped like a massive ball. There are 105 pictures inside that can be observed through round windows. The number 105 was chosen because that’s the exact number of days the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union lasted between 1939 and 1940.

The Winter War was one of the most significant turning points in Finland’s history. It played a crucial role in maintaining Finland’s independence and unifying the nation. “With its multiple holes, the memorial is still standing and pays homage to the heavy sacrifice of safeguarding independence — the more than 25,000 Finns who gave their lives for their country during the Winter War,” said President Sauli Niinistö at the unveiling of the memorial.

Sculptor Kauhanen has a brighter outlook when it comes to the holes. “I wanted to create sculpture that appears lighter from the distance,” he said in an interview for Finland Today. “If the sun is shining and you go and stand under the memorial, you will see the bright blue sky.”

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