On Friday 13 March, exactly 80 years will have passed since the end of the Winter War, fought by Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939-1940 within the frame of the Second World War.
The Winter War marks a milestone in Finnish history and is a sacred event in the collective imagination of the Finns. The Finnish Government wanted to commemorate the date with all solemnity, but the coronavirus outbreak has ruined the most solemn part of the planned celebrations.
The Government Communications Department reported on Thursday that the planned national memorial service -attended by the state leadership- marking the anniversary of the end of the war at the Helsinki Cathedral has been cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The memorial coffee for the public at Senate Square is also cancelled.
The Government issued a recommendation on Thursday to cancel all major seminars and events organised by the state until the end of May.
Bells will ring
To mark the end of the Winter War, bells will ring out in all of Finland’s Lutheran, Orthodox and Catholic churches at 10.55–11.00 on the commemoration day.
The ringing of the bells will commemorate the exact moment when the war ended. The peace treaty between Finland and the Soviet Union entered into force on 13 March 1940 at 11.00.
While the bells ring, 105 candles will be lit on the steps of Helsinki Cathedral, one for each day of the Winter War, which began on 30 November 1939. Across Finland, candles will be lit at war graves and Winter War memorials.
In honour of the 80th anniversary of the end of the Winter War, the Ministry of the Interior recommends that the national flag be flown throughout the country. Flags are to be raised at 8.00 and lowered at sunset.
All government agencies and public bodies will fly the flag to mark the national commemoration.