Tag: war

Justinian I – The Greatest Byzantine Emperor

In keeping with the theme of the Baltic Post, it is important to recognise the relationships between the Byzantine Empire, the Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons and finally the Normans. The Vikings engaged in trade with merchants throughout Europe, Asia and the Far East. The Volga and Dnieper Trade Routes were the two main trade routes that connected Northern Europe with Constantinople, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and the Caspian Sea. 

Eventually, the Vikings formed part of the Varangian Guard (Greek: Τάγμα τῶν Βαράγγων, Tágma tōn Varángōn)  which was an elite unit of the Byzantine Army, from the 10th to the 14th centuries, whose members served as personal bodyguards to the Byzantine Emperors. They are known for being primarily composed of Germanic peoples, specifically Norsemen (the Guard was formed approximately 200 years into the Viking Age) and Anglo-Saxons (after the Norman Conquest of England created an Anglo-Saxon diaspora, part of which found employment in the Varangian Guard in Constantinople).

Therefore, the Vikings, Byzantines, Saxons and Normans were intrinsically linked. Which is why it is important to explore perhaps the greatest Byzantine Emperor, Justinian I.

Justinian I (/ʌˈstɪniən/; Latin: Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus Augustus; Greek: Φλάβιος Πέτρος Σαββάτιος Ἰουστινιανός Flávios Pétros Sabbátios Ioustinianós) (c. 482 – 14 November 565), traditionally known as Justinian the Great and also Saint Justinian the Great in the Eastern Orthodox Church, was the Byzantine (East Roman) emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the empire’s greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the historical Roman Empire. Justinian’s rule constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the Later Roman empire, and his reign is marked by the ambitious but only partly realized renovatio imperii, or “restoration of the Empire”.

Because of his restoration activities, Justinian has sometimes been called the “last Roman” in modern historiography. This ambition was expressed by the partial recovery of the territories of the defunct western Roman Empire. His general, Belisarius, swiftly conquered the Vandal kingdom in North Africa. Subsequently, Belisarius, Narses, and other generals conquered the Ostrogothic kingdom, restoring Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy, and Rome to the empire after more than half a century of rule by the Ostrogoths. The prefect Liberius reclaimed the south of the Iberian peninsula, establishing the province of Spania. These campaigns re-established Roman control over the western Mediterranean, increasing the Empire’s annual revenue by over a million solidi. During his reign Justinian also subdued the Tzani, a people on the east coast of the Black Sea that had never been under Roman rule before.

A still more resonant aspect of his legacy was the uniform rewriting of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is still the basis of civil law in many modern states. His reign also marked a blossoming of Byzantine culture, and his building program yielded such masterpieces as the church of Hagia Sophia. A devastating outbreak of bubonic plague in the early 540s marked the end of an age of splendour.

Emperor Justinian I.

Justinian was born in Tauresium around 482. A native speaker of Latin (possibly the last Roman emperor to be one), he came from a peasant family believed to have been of Illyro-Roman or Thraco-Roman origins. The cognomen Iustinianus, which he took later, is indicative of adoption by his uncle Justin. During his reign, he founded Justiniana Prima not far from his birthplace, which today is in South East Serbia. His mother was Vigilantia, the sister of Justin. Justin, who was in the imperial guard (the Excubitors) before he became emperor, adopted Justinian, brought him to Constantinople, and ensured the boy’s education. As a result, Justinian was well educated in jurisprudence, theology and Roman history. Justinian served for some time with the Excubitors but the details of his early career are unknown. Chronicler John Malalas, who lived during the reign of Justinian, tells of his appearance that he was short, fair skinned, curly haired, round faced and handsome. Another contemporary chronicler, Procopius, compares Justinian’s appearance to that of tyrannical Emperor Domitian, although this is probably slander.

When Emperor Anastasius died in 518, Justin was proclaimed the new emperor, with significant help from Justinian. During Justin’s reign (518–527), Justinian was the emperor’s close confidant. Justinian showed much ambition, and it has been thought that he was functioning as virtual regent long before Justin made him associate emperor on 1 April 527, although there is no conclusive evidence for this. As Justin became senile near the end of his reign, Justinian became the de facto ruler. Justinian was appointed consul in 521 and later commander of the army of the east. Upon Justin’s death on 1 August 527, Justinian became the sole sovereign.

As a ruler, Justinian showed great energy. He was known as “the emperor who never sleeps” on account of his work habits. Nevertheless, he seems to have been amiable and easy to approach. Around 525, he married his mistress, Theodora, in Constantinople. She was by profession a courtesan and some twenty years his junior. In earlier times, Justinian could not have married her because of her class, but his uncle, Emperor Justin I, had passed a law allowing intermarriage between social classes. Theodora would become very influential in the politics of the Empire, and later emperors would follow Justinian’s precedent in marrying outside the aristocratic class. The marriage caused a scandal, but Theodora would prove to be a shrewd judge of character and Justinian’s greatest supporter. Other talented individuals included Tribonian, his legal adviser; Peter the Patrician, the diplomat and longtime head of the palace bureaucracy; Justinian’s finance ministers John the Cappadocian and Peter Barsymes, who managed to collect taxes more efficiently than any before, thereby funding Justinian’s wars; and finally, his prodigiously talented generals, Belisarius and Narses.


Justinian’s rule was not universally popular; early in his reign he nearly lost his throne during the Nika riots, and a conspiracy against the emperor’s life by dissatisfied businessmen was discovered as late as 562. Justinian was struck by the plague in the early 540s but recovered. Theodora died in 548 at a relatively young age, possibly of cancer; Justinian outlived her by nearly twenty years. Justinian, who had always had a keen interest in theological matters and actively participated in debates on Christian doctrine, became even more devoted to religion during the later years of his life. When he died on 14 November 565, he left no children, though his wife Theodora had given birth to a stillborn son several years into his reign. He was succeeded by Justin II, who was the son of his sister Vigilantia and married to Sophia, the niece of Empress Theodora. Justinian’s body was entombed in a specially built mausoleum in the Church of the Holy Apostles until it was desecrated and robbed during the pillage of the city in 1204 by the Latin States of the Fourth Crusade.


Legislative activities

Justinian achieved lasting fame through his judicial reforms, particularly through the complete revision of all Roman law, something that had not previously been attempted. The total of Justinian’s legislature is known today as the Corpus juris civilis. It consists of the Codex Iustinianus, the Digesta or Pandectae, the Institutiones, and the Novellae.

Early in his reign, Justinian appointed the quaestor Tribonian to oversee this task. The first draft of the Codex Iustinianus, a codification of imperial constitutions from the 2nd century onward, was issued on 7 April 529. (The final version appeared in 534.) It was followed by the Digesta (or Pandectae), a compilation of older legal texts, in 533, and by the Institutiones, a textbook explaining the principles of law. The Novellae, a collection of new laws issued during Justinian’s reign, supplements the Corpus. As opposed to the rest of the corpus, the Novellae appeared in Greek, the common language of the Eastern Empire.

The Corpus forms the basis of Latin jurisprudence (including ecclesiastical Canon Law) and, for historians, provides a valuable insight into the concerns and activities of the later Roman Empire. As a collection it gathers together the many sources in which the leges (laws) and the other rules were expressed or published: proper laws, senatorial consults (senatusconsulta), imperial decrees, case law, and jurists’ opinions and interpretations (responsa prudentum). Tribonian’s code ensured the survival of Roman law. It formed the basis of later Byzantine law, as expressed in the Basilika of Basil I and Leo VI the Wise. The only western province where the Justinianic code was introduced was Italy (after the conquest by the so-called Pragmatic Sanction of 554), from where it was to pass to Western Europe in the 12th century and become the basis of much European law code. It eventually passed to Eastern Europe where it appeared in Slavic editions, and it also passed on to Russia. It remains influential to this day.

He passed laws to protect prostitutes from exploitation and women from being forced into prostitution. Rapists were treated severely. Further, by his policies: women charged with major crimes should be guarded by other women to prevent sexual abuse; if a woman was widowed, her dowry should be returned; and a husband could not take on a major debt without his wife giving her consent twice.

Nika riots

Justinian’s habit of choosing efficient, but unpopular advisers nearly cost him his throne early in his reign. In January 532, partisans of the chariot racing factions in Constantinople, normally divided among themselves, united against Justinian in a revolt that has become known as the Nika riots. They forced him to dismiss Tribonian and two of his other ministers, and then attempted to overthrow Justinian himself and replace him with the senator Hypatius, who was a nephew of the late emperor Anastasius. While the crowd was rioting in the streets, Justinian considered fleeing the capital, but eventually decided to stay, apparently on the prompting of Theodora, who refused to leave. In the next two days, he ordered the brutal suppression of the riots by his generals Belisarius and Mundus. Procopius relates that 30,000 unarmed civilians were killed in the Hippodrome. On Theodora’s insistence, and apparently against his own judgment, Justinian had Anastasius’ nephews executed.

The destruction that had taken place during the revolt provided Justinian with an opportunity to tie his name to a series of splendid new buildings, most notably the architectural innovation of the domed Hagia Sophia.

Military activities

One of the most spectacular features of Justinian’s reign was the recovery of large stretches of land around the Western Mediterranean basin that had slipped out of Imperial control in the 5th century. As a Christian Roman emperor, Justinian considered it his divine duty to restore the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries. Although he never personally took part in military campaigns, he boasted of his successes in the prefaces to his laws and had them commemorated in art. The re-conquests were in large part carried out by his general Belisarius.

War with the Sassanid Empire, 527–532

From his uncle, Justinian inherited ongoing hostilities with the Sassanid Empire. In 530 a Persian army was defeated at Dara, but the next year saw the defeat of Roman forces under Belisarius near Callinicum. When king Kavadh I of Persia died (September 531), Justinian concluded an “Eternal Peace” (which cost him 11,000 pounds of gold) with his successor Khosrau I (532). Having thus secured his eastern frontier, Justinian turned his attention to the West, where Germanic kingdoms had been established in the territories of the former Western Roman Empire.

Conquest of North Africa, 533–534

The first of the western kingdoms Justinian attacked was that of the Vandals in North Africa. King Hilderic, who had maintained good relations with Justinian and the North African Catholic clergy, had been overthrown by his cousin Gelimer in 530. Imprisoned, the deposed king appealed to Justinian.

In 533, Belisarius sailed to Africa with a fleet of 92 dromons, escorting 500 transports carrying an army of about 15,000 men, as well as a number of barbarian troops. They landed at Caput Vada (modern Ras Kaboudia) in modern Tunisia. They defeated the Vandals, who were caught completely off guard, at Ad Decimum on 14 September 533 and Tricamarum in December; Belisarius took Carthage. King Gelimer fled to Mount Pappua in Numidia, but surrendered the next spring. He was taken to Constantinople, where he was paraded in a triumph. Sardinia and Corsica, the Balearic Islands, and the stronghold Septem Fratres near Gibraltar were recovered in the same campaign.

An African prefecture, centered in Carthage, was established in April 534, but it would teeter on the brink of collapse during the next 15 years, amidst warfare with the Moors and military mutinies. The area was not completely pacified until 548, but remained peaceful thereafter and enjoyed a measure of prosperity. The recovery of Africa cost the empire about 100,000 pounds of gold.

War in Italy, first phase, 535–540

As in Africa, dynastic struggles in Ostrogothic Italy provided an opportunity for intervention. The young king Athalaric had died on 2 October 534, and a usurper, Theodahad, had imprisoned queen Amalasuntha, Theodoric’s daughter and mother of Athalaric, on the island of Martana in Lake Bolsena, where he had her assassinated in 535. Thereupon Belisarius with 7,500 men invaded Sicily (535) and advanced into Italy, sacking Naples and capturing Rome on 9 December 536. By that time Theodahad had been deposed by the Ostrogothic army, who had elected Vitigis as their new king. He gathered a large army and besieged Rome from February 537 to March 538 without being able to retake the city.

Justinian sent another general, Narses, to Italy, but tensions between Narses and Belisarius hampered the progress of the campaign. Milan was taken, but was soon recaptured and razed by the Ostrogoths. Justinian recalled Narses in 539. By then the military situation had turned in favour of the Romans, and in 540 Belisarius reached the Ostrogothic capital Ravenna. There he was offered the title of Western Roman Emperor by the Ostrogoths at the same time that envoys of Justinian were arriving to negotiate a peace that would leave the region north of the Po River in Gothic hands. Belisarius feigned to accept the offer, entered the city in May 540, and reclaimed it for the Empire. Then, having been recalled by Justinian, Belisarius returned to Constantinople, taking the captured Vitigis and his wife Matasuntha with him.

War with the Sassanid Empire, 540–562



Modern or early modern drawing of a medallion celebrating the reconquest of Africa, c. 535

Belisarius had been recalled in the face of renewed hostilities by the Persians. Following a revolt against the Empire in Armenia in the late 530s and possibly motivated by the pleas of Ostrogothic ambassadors, King Khosrau I broke the “Eternal Peace” and invaded Roman territory in the spring of 540. He first sacked Beroea and then Antioch (allowing the garrison of 6,000 men to leave the city), besieged Daras, and then went on to attack the small but strategically significant satellite kingdom of Lazica near the Black Sea, exacting tribute from the towns he passed along his way. He forced Justinian I to pay him 5,000 pounds of gold, plus 500 pounds of gold more each year.

Belisarius arrived in the East in 541, but after some success, was again recalled to Constantinople in 542. The reasons for his withdrawal are not known, but it may have been instigated by rumours of disloyalty on behalf of the general reaching the court. The outbreak of the plague caused a lull in the fighting during the year 543. The following year Khosrau defeated a Byzantine army of 30,000 men, but unsuccessfully besieged the major city of Edessa. Both parties made little headway, and in 545 a truce was agreed upon for the southern part of the Roman-Persian frontier. After that the Lazic War in the North continued for several years, until a second truce in 557, followed by a Fifty Years’ Peace in 562. Under its terms, the Persians agreed to abandon Lazica in exchange for an annual tribute of 400 or 500 pounds of gold (30,000 solidi) to be paid by the Romans.

War in Italy, second phase, 541–554

While military efforts were directed to the East, the situation in Italy took a turn for the worse. Under their respective kings Ildibad and Eraric (both murdered in 541) and especially Totila, the Ostrogoths made quick gains. After a victory at Faenza in 542, they reconquered the major cities of Southern Italy and soon held almost the entire peninsula. Belisarius was sent back to Italy late in 544, but lacked sufficient troops. Making no headway, he was relieved of his command in 548. Belisarius succeeded in defeating a Gothic fleet with 2000 ships. During this period the city of Rome changed hands three more times, first taken and depopulated by the Ostrogoths in December 546, then reconquered by the Byzantines in 547, and then again by the Goths in January 550. Totila also plundered Sicily and attacked the Greek coastlines.

Finally, Justinian dispatched a force of approximately 35,000 men (2,000 men were detached and sent to invade southern Visigothic Hispania) under the command of Narses. The army reached Ravenna in June 552, and defeated the Ostrogoths decisively within a month at the battle of Busta Gallorum in the Apennines, where Totila was slain. After a second battle at Mons Lactarius in October that year, the resistance of the Ostrogoths was finally broken. In 554, a large-scale Frankish invasion was defeated at Casilinum, and Italy was secured for the Empire, though it would take Narses several years to reduce the remaining Gothic strongholds. At the end of the war, Italy was garrisoned with an army of 16,000 men. The recovery of Italy cost the empire about 300,000 pounds of gold.

Other campaigns

Spanish Visigothic gold tremisses in the name of emperor Justinian I, 7th century. The Christian cross on the breast defines the Visigothic attribution. British Museum.

In addition to the other conquests, the Empire established a presence in Visigothic Hispania, when the usurper Athanagild requested assistance in his rebellion against King Agila I. In 552, Justinian dispatched a force of 2,000 men; according to the historian Jordanes, this army was led by the octogenarian Liberius. The Byzantines took Cartagena and other cities on the southeastern coast and founded the new province of Spania before being checked by their former ally Athanagild, who had by now become king. This campaign marked the apogee of Byzantine expansion.

During Justinian’s reign, the Balkans suffered from several incursions by the Turkic and Slavic peoples who lived north of the Danube. Here, Justinian resorted mainly to a combination of diplomacy and a system of defensive works. In 559 a particularly dangerous invasion of Sklavinoi and Kutrigurs under their khan Zabergan threatened Constantinople, but they were repulsed by the aged general Belisarius.



Emperor Justinian reconquered many former territories of the Western Roman Empire, including Italy, Dalmatia, Africa, and southern Hispania.

Justinian’s ambition to restore the Roman Empire to its former glory was only partly realized. In the West, the brilliant early military successes of the 530s were followed by years of stagnation. The dragging war with the Goths was a disaster for Italy, even though its long-lasting effects may have been less severe than is sometimes thought. The heavy taxes that the administration imposed upon its population were deeply resented. The final victory in Italy and the conquest of Africa and the coast of southern Hispania significantly enlarged the area over which the Empire could project its power and eliminated all naval threats to the empire. Despite losing much of Italy soon after Justinian’s death, the empire retained several important cities, including Rome, Naples, and Ravenna, leaving the Lombards as a regional threat. The newly founded province of Spania kept the Visigoths as a threat to Hispania alone and not to the western Mediterranean and Africa. Events of the later years of the reign showed that Constantinople itself was not safe from barbarian incursions from the north, and even the relatively benevolent historian Menander Protector felt the need to attribute the Emperor’s failure to protect the capital to the weakness of his body in his old age. In his efforts to renew the Roman Empire, Justinian dangerously stretched its resources while failing to take into account the changed realities of 6th-century Europe.

Religious activities

Justinian saw the orthodoxy of his empire threatened by diverging religious currents, especially Monophysitism, which had many adherents in the eastern provinces of Syria and Egypt. Monophysite doctrine, which maintains that Jesus Christ had one divine nature or a synthesis of a divine and human nature, had been condemned as a heresy by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and the tolerant policies towards Monophysitism of Zeno and Anastasius I had been a source of tension in the relationship with the bishops of Rome. Justin reversed this trend and confirmed the Chalcedonian doctrine, openly condemning the Monophysites. Justinian, who continued this policy, tried to impose religious unity on his subjects by forcing them to accept doctrinal compromises that might appeal to all parties, a policy that proved unsuccessful as he satisfied none of them.

Near the end of his life, Justinian became ever more inclined towards the Monophysite doctrine, especially in the form of Aphthartodocetism, but he died before being able to issue any legislation. The empress Theodora sympathized with the Monophysites and is said to have been a constant source of pro-Monophysite intrigues at the court in Constantinople in the earlier years. In the course of his reign, Justinian, who had a genuine interest in matters of theology, authored a small number of theological treatises.

Religious policy


Justinian I, depicted on an AE Follis coin

As in his secular administration, despotism appeared also in the Emperor’s ecclesiastical policy. He regulated everything, both in religion and in law.

At the very beginning of his reign, he deemed it proper to promulgate by law the Church’s belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation; and to threaten all heretics with the appropriate penalties; whereas he subsequently declared that he intended to deprive all disturbers of orthodoxy of the opportunity for such offense by due process of law. He made the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan creed the sole symbol of the Church and accorded legal force to the canons of the four ecumenical councils. The bishops in attendance at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 recognized that nothing could be done in the Church contrary to the emperor’s will and command, while, on his side, the emperor, in the case of the Patriarch Anthimus, reinforced the ban of the Church with temporal proscription. Justinian protected the purity of the church by suppressing heretics. He neglected no opportunity for securing the rights of the Church and clergy, for protecting and extending monasticism. He granted the monks the right to inherit property from private citizens and the right to receive solemnia or annual gifts from the Imperial treasury or from the taxes of certain provinces and he prohibited lay confiscation of monastic estates.

Although the despotic character of his measures is contrary to modern sensibilities, he was indeed a “nursing father” of the Church. Both the Codex and the Novellae contain many enactments regarding donations, foundations, and the administration of ecclesiastical property; election and rights of bishops, priests and abbots; monastic life, residential obligations of the clergy, conduct of divine service, episcopal jurisdiction, et cetera. Justinian also rebuilt the Church of Hagia Sophia (which cost 20,000 pounds of gold), the original site having been destroyed during the Nika riots. The new Hagia Sophia, with its numerous chapels and shrines, gilded octagonal dome, and mosaics, became the centre and most visible monument of Eastern Orthodoxy in Constantinople.

Hagia Sophia

Religious relations with Rome


Consular diptych displaying Justinian’s full name (Constantinople 521)

From the middle of the 5th century onward, increasingly arduous tasks confronted the emperors of the East in ecclesiastical matters. Justinian entered the arena of ecclesiastical statecraft shortly after his uncle’s accession in 518, and put an end to the Acacian schism. Previous Emperors had tried to alleviate theological conflicts by declarations that deemphasized the Council of Chalcedon, which had condemned Monophysitism, which had strongholds in Egypt and Syria, and by tolerating the appointment of Monophysites to church offices. The Popes reacted by severing ties with the Patriarch of Constantinople who supported these policies. Emperors Justin I (and later Justinian himself) rescinded these policies and reestablished the union between Constantinople and Rome. After this, Justinian also felt entitled to settle disputes in papal elections, as he did when he favoured Vigilius and had his rival Silverius deported.

This new-found unity between East and West did not, however, solve the ongoing disputes in the east. Justinian’s policies switched between attempts to force Monophysites to accept the Chalcedonian creed by persecuting their bishops and monks – thereby embittering their sympathizers in Egypt and other provinces – and attempts at a compromise that would win over the Monophysites without surrendering the Chalcedonian faith. Such an approach was supported by the Empress Theodora, who favoured the Monophysites unreservedly. In the condemnation of the Three Chapters, three theologians that had opposed Monophysitism before and after the Council of Chalcedon, Justinian tried to win over the opposition. At the Fifth Ecumenical Council, most of the Eastern church yielded to the Emperor’s demands, and Pope Vigilius, who was forcibly brought to Constantinople and besieged at a champel, finally also gave his assent. However, the condemnation was received unfavourably in the west, where it led to new (albeit temporal) schism, and failed to reach its goal in the east, as the Monophysites, remained unsatisfied; all the more bitter for him because during his last years he took an even greater interest in theological matters.

Suppression of other religions and philosophies

Justinian was one of the first Roman Emperors to be depicted wielding the cross on the obverse of a coin.

Justinian’s religious policy reflected the Imperial conviction that the unity of the Empire presupposed unity of faith, and it appeared to him obvious that this faith could only be the orthodox (Nicaean). Those of a different belief were subjected to persecution, which imperial legislation had effected from the time of Constantius II and which would now vigorously continue. The Codex contained two statutes that decreed the total destruction of paganism, even in private life; these provisions were zealously enforced. Contemporary sources (John Malalas, Theophanes, John of Ephesus) tell of severe persecutions, even of men in high position. In 529, the Neoplatonic Academy of Athens was placed under state control as paganism, strangling this training school for this branch of Hellenistic phiosopy.

In Asia Minor alone, John of Ephesus reported to have converted 70,000 pagans. Other peoples also accepted Christianity: the Heruli, the Huns dwelling near the Don, the Abasgi, and the Tzanni in Caucasia.

The worship of Amun at oasis of Awjila in the Libyan desert was abolished; and so were the remnants of the worship of Isis on the island of Philae, at the first cataract of the Nile. The Presbyter Julian and the Bishop Longinus conducted a mission among the Nabataeans, and Justinian attempted to strengthen Christianity in Yemen by despatching a bishop from Egypt.

The civil rights of Jews were restricted and their religious privileges threatened. Justinian also interfered in the internal affairs of the synagogue and encouraged the Jews to use the Greek Septuagint in their synagogues in Constantinople.

The Emperor faced significant opposition from the Samaritans, who resisted conversion to Christianity and were repeatedly in insurrection. He persecuted them with rigorous edicts, but yet could not prevent reprisals towards Christians from taking place in Samaria toward the close of his reign. The consistency of Justinian’s policy meant that the Manicheans too suffered persecution, experiencing both exile and threat of capital punishment. At Constantinople, on one occasion, not a few Manicheans, after strict inquisition, were executed in the emperor’s very presence: some by burning, others by drowning.

Architecture, learning, art and literature


Mosaics of Hagia Sophia

Justinian was a prolific builder; the historian Procopius bears witness to his activities in this area. Under Justinian’s patronage the San Vitale in Ravenna, which features two famous mosaics representing Justinian and Theodora, was completed. Most notably, he had the Hagia Sophia, originally a basilica-style church that had been burnt down during the Nika riots, splendidly rebuilt according to a completely different ground plan, under the architectural supervision of Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. According to Procopius, Justinian stated at the completion of this edifice, “Solomon I have outdone thee” (in reference to the 1st Jewish temple). This new cathedral, with its magnificent dome filled with mosaics, remained the centre of eastern Christianity for centuries.

Another prominent church in the capital, the Church of the Holy Apostles, which had been in a very poor state near the end of the 5th century, was likewise rebuilt. Works of embellishment were not confined to churches alone: excavations at the site of the Great Palace of Constantinople have yielded several high-quality mosaics dating from Justinian’s reign, and a column topped by a bronze statue of Justinian on horseback and dressed in a military costume was erected in the Augustaeum in Constantinople in 543. Rivalry with other, more established patrons from the Constantinopolitan and exiled Roman aristocracy (like Anicia Juliana) might have enforced Justinian’s building activities in the capital as a means of strengthening his dynasty’s prestige.

Justinian also strengthened the borders of the Empire from Africa to the East through the construction of fortifications and ensured Constantinople of its water supply through construction of underground cisterns (see Basilica Cistern). To prevent floods from damaging the strategically important border town Dara, an advanced arch dam was built. During his reign the large Sangarius Bridge was built in Bithynia, securing a major military supply route to the east. Furthermore, Justinian restored cities damaged by earthquake or war and built a new city near his place of birth called Justiniana Prima, which was intended to replace Thessalonica as the political and religious centre of Illyricum.

In Justinian’s reign, and partly under his patronage, Byzantine culture produced noteworthy historians, including Procopius and Agathias, and poets such as Paul the Silentiary and Romanus the Melodist flourished. On the other hand, centres of learning as the Platonic Academy in Athens and the famous Law School of Beirut lost their importance during his reign. Despite Justinian’s passion for the glorious Roman past, the practice of choosing Roman consul was allowed to lapse after 541.

Economy and administration

Gold coin of Justinian I (527–565 CE) excavated in India probably in the south, an example of Indo-Roman trade during the period
As was the case under Justinian’s predecessors, the Empire’s economic health rested primarily on agriculture. In addition, long-distance trade flourished, reaching as far north as Cornwall where tin was exchanged for Roman wheat. Within the Empire, convoys sailing from Alexandria provided Constantinople with wheat and grains. Justinian made the traffic more efficient by building a large granary on the island of Tenedos for storage and further transport to Constantinople. Justinian also tried to find new routes for the eastern trade, which was suffering badly from the wars with the Persians.

One important luxury product was silk, which was imported and then processed in the Empire. In order to protect the manufacture of silk products, Justinian granted a monopoly to the imperial factories in 541. In order to bypass the Persian landroute, Justinian established friendly relations with the Abyssinians, whom he wanted to act as trade mediators by transporting Indian silk to the Empire; the Abyssinians, however, were unable to compete with the Persian merchants in India. Then, in the early 550s, two monks succeeded in smuggling eggs of silk worms from Central Asia back to Constantinople, and silk became an indigenous product.

Gold and silver were mined in the Balkans, Anatolia, Armenia, Cyprus, Egypt and Nubia.


Scene from daily life on a mosaic from the Great Palace of Constantinople, early 6th century
At the start of Justinian I’s reign he had inherited a surplus 28,800,000 solidi (400,000 pounds of gold) in the imperial treasury from Anastasius I and Justin I. Under Justinian’s rule, measures were taken to counter corruption in the provinces and to make tax collection more efficient. Greater administrative power was given to both the leaders of the prefectures and of the provinces, while power was taken away from the vicariates of the dioceses, of which a number were abolished. The overall trend was towards a simplification of administrative infrastructure. According to Brown (1971), the increased professionalization of tax collection did much to destroy the traditional structures of provincial life, as it weakened the autonomy of the town councils in the Greek towns. It has been estimated that before Justinian I’s reconquests the state had an annual revenue of 5,000,000 solidi in AD 530, but after his reconquests, the annual revenue was increased to 6,000,000 solidi in AD 550.

Throughout Justinian’s reign, the cities and villages of the East prospered, although Antioch was struck by two earthquakes (526, 528) and sacked and evacuated by the Persians (540). Justinian had the city rebuilt, but on a slightly smaller scale.

Despite all these measures, the Empire suffered several major setbacks in the course of the 6th century. The first one was the plague, which lasted from 541 to 543 and, by decimating the Empire’s population, probably created a scarcity of labor and a rising of wages. The lack of manpower also led to a significant increase in the number of “barbarians” in the Byzantine armies after the early 540s. The protracted war in Italy and the wars with the Persians themselves laid a heavy burden on the Empire’s resources, and Justinian was criticized for curtailing the government-run post service, which he limited to only one eastern route of military importance.

Natural disasters

During the decade of the 530s, it seemed to many that God had abandoned the Christian Roman Empire. There were noxious fumes in the air; and the Sun, while still providing day, refused to give much heat. This caused famine unlike anything those of the time had seen before, weakening the people of Europe and the Middle East.

The cause of these disasters aren’t precisely known, but the Rabaul caldera, Lake Ilopango and Krakatoa volcanoes or a collision with a swarm of meteors are all suspected. Scientists have spent decades on the mystery.

Seven years later, in 542, a devastating outbreak of Bubonic Plague, known as the Plague of Justinian and second only to that of the 14th century, laid siege to the world, killing tens of millions. As ruler of the Empire, Justinian, and members of his court, were physically unaffected by famine. However, the Imperial Court did prove susceptible to plague, with Justinian himself contracting, but surviving, the pestilence.

The extent of the Bubonic plague under Justinian’s rule.

In July 551, the eastern Mediterranean was rocked by the 551 Beirut earthquake, which triggered a tsunami. The combined fatalities of both events probably exceeded 30,000, with tremors being felt from Antioch to Alexandria.

Cultural depictions

In the Paradiso section of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Justinian I is prominently featured as a spirit residing on the sphere of Mercury, which holds the ambitious souls of Heaven. His legacy is elaborated on, and he is portrayed as a defender of the Christian faith and the restorer of Rome to the Empire. However, Justinian confesses that he was partially motivated by fame rather than duty to God, which tainted the justice of his rule in spite of his proud accomplishments. In his introduction, “Cesare fui e son Iustinïano” (“Caesar I was, and am Justinian”), his mortal title is contrasted with his immortal soul, to emphasize that glory in life is ephemeral, while contributing to God’s glory is eternal, according to Dorothy L. Sayers. Dante also uses Justinian to criticize the factious politics of his 14th Century Italy, in contrast to the unified Italy of the Roman Empire.

Justinian appears as a character in the 1939 time travel novel Lest Darkness Fall, by L. Sprague de Camp. The Glittering Horn: Secret Memoirs of the Court of Justinian was a novel written by Pierson Dixon in 1958 about the court of Justinian.

Historical sources

Procopius provides the primary source for the history of Justinian’s reign. The Syriac chronicle of John of Ephesus, which does not survive, was used as a source for later chronicles, contributing many additional details of value. Both historians became very bitter towards Justinian and his empress, Theodora. Other sources include the histories of Agathias, Menander Protector, John Malalas, the Paschal Chronicle, the chronicles of Marcellinus Comes and Victor of Tunnuna. Justinian is widely regarded as a saint by Orthodox Christians, and is also commemorated by some Lutheran churches on 14 November.

Primary sources

  • Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia. Edited by J. Haury; revised by G. Wirth. 3 vols. Leipzig: Teubner, 1962–64. Greek text.
  • Procopius. Edited by H. B. Dewing. 7 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press and London, Hutchinson, 1914–40. Greek text and English translation.
  • Procopius, The Secret History, translated by G.A. Williamson. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966. A readable and accessible English translation of the Anecdota.
  • Elizabeth Jeffreys, Michael Jeffreys, Roger Scott et al. 1986, The Chronicle of John Malalas: A Translation, Byzantina Australiensia 4 (Melbourne: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies) ISBN 0-9593626-2-2
  • Edward Walford, translator (1846) The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius: A History of the Church from AD 431 to AD 594, Reprinted 2008. Evolution Publishing, ISBN 978-1-889758-88-6.

Hobbycraft HC1416 1:48 Hawk 75 “Axis” – REVIEW


Kit: HC1416 Hobbycraft Curtiss Hawk 75A

Price:  £17.99 Available from Kingkit UK

Decals: Twelve Options

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds

Accessories: Kuivalainen KPE48008 photo etched parts for Hobbycraft/Academy 1/48 kit & Eduard EX169 mask for P-36 Hawk 1/48.  


Finland operated 44 Curtiss Hawk 75 aircraft (A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4 and A-6 variants). Deliveries started on June 23rd 1941 and the last machine was supplied on the 05th January 1944. 13 of the aircraft were the Hawk 75A-6 sub-type, overhauled and supplied by Germany from captured Norwegian Air Force stocks. The aircraft were re-painted with RLM 71 Schwartzgrun upper-surfaces with RLM 65 Hellblau lower-surfaces. The remaining 31 aircraft were aircraft taken as war booty from the French Air Force at the fall of France in 1940.


The aircraft were given serial codes CU-501 to CU-507 (with Wright-Cyclone engine) and CU-551 to CU-587 (fitted with the twin-wasp engine). The Curtiss Hawk 75 was well liked by the pilots of the Finnish Air Force who gave the aircraft the affectionate name “Sussu” or “Sweetheart”. The Ilmavoimat achieved an impressive total of 190 1/3rd kills with the type by 58 pilots with the loss of 15 of their own.

Finnish Hawk 75’s initially carried four or six 7.5mm machine guns. As Soviet Air Force fighters improved, the armament was uprated to two .50 inch (12.7mm) Colt machine guns in the fuselage and four .303 inch (7.7mm) machine guns in the wings. These modifications were undertaken at the Valtion lentokonetehdas or State Aircraft Factory at Tampere. The Finnish Hawks were also equipped with Revi 3D or C/12D gunsight.


Surviving Finnish aircraft remained in service with the FAF aviation units HLeLv 13, HLeLv 11 and LeSK until 30 August 1948, when the last operational Finnish Hawks were put into storage. In 1953, the stored aircraft were scrapped.

The two top scoring aces on the Curtiss Hawk 75 were Kalevi Tervo with 15.5 kills and Kyösti Karhila with 13 kills.


Kalevi Tervo: Top scoring fighter ace on the Finnish Hawk 75

(1919 – 1943)

Vänrikki (2nd Lieutenant) Tervo began his career with the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) when he was assigned to LeLv 30 on the 30th August 1941. He was first assigned to Fokker D.XXI’s with LeLv 30 before being transferred to LeLv 24 on the Brewster B.239, followed by a transfer to LeLv 32 on the Curtiss Hawk 75A and finally LeLv 34 with the Messerschmitt Bf 109G. He scored one shared kill with the Brewster B.239, 15.5 kills with the Hawk 75A and 7 kills with the Bf 109G. Tervo completed 150 sorties during the Continuation War.

Kalevi Tervo was killed in action in his Messerschmitt Bf 109G on 20th August 1943. He was decorated for his actions with the Cross of Liberty 3rd class, the Cross of Liberty 2nd class and was promoted twice during his short but illustrious career.


Kyösti Karhila: The last of the Finnish fighter aces

(1921 – 2009)

Kyösti Karhila was born on the 02nd May 1921 in Rauma, in south-western Finland. He volunteered for military service in 1939 and was accepted for fighter pilot training at the ISK (Ilmasotakoulu/Air Force Academy). On the 18th March 1941, Karhila was assigned to 1/LeLv 32 (1st flight, Squadron 32), initially flying the Fokker D.XXI followed by the Curtiss Hawk 75 from mid-July onwards. On September 19th 1941 he scored his fifth kill (a MiG 3) becoming a fighter ace at the age of 20. 2Lt. Karhila continued to claim victories with the Hawk 75 until 20th April 1943 when he was posted to LeLv 34, equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109G.

Following his transfer, he was promoted to Yliluutnantti (1st Lieutenant). On the 04th May 1943, he scored a “double” kill on MT-214 and continued to score until the 22nd August 1943, when his flight moved to Helsinki-Malmi on city defence duties. Karhila was transferred briefly to HLeLv 30 on the 06th March 1944 until the 15th June when he returned back to HLeLv 34. On the 30th of June, he was re-assigned to LeLv 24, assuming command of the 3rd flight when fighter ace Hans Wind was injured. This promotion was considered unusual as Yliluutnantti Karhila was not a regular Officer with the unit.


With this second promotion came a new aircraft, MT-461 one of the formidable Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6/R6 ‘Gunboats’. Kyösti Karhila scored eight kills with this machine. With the close of the war approaching, Karhila was promoted again, this time to command 2/HLeLv 30 on the 21st of July.

Karhila resigned from the service on the 14th of October 1944, working as an air traffic controller for a year before becoming an airline pilot with Aero O/Y and later Finnair, rising to the rank of Captain and retiring from the airline as an Inspector in 1973. He flew charter airliners with Spearair and business jets until 1985 when he officially retired. Kyösti Karhila gathered 556 flying hours during the war and 24,000 after the war. He died on September 16th 2009 in Helsinki at the age of 88 as the last of the World War 2 Finnish fighter aces. F-18 Hornets of the Finnish Air Force performed a flypast over the city during the ceremony.


Kyösti “Kössi” Karhila flew 304 combat sorties, achieving 32 victories in total with 13 on the Hawk 75, 19 with the Messerschmitt Bf 109G. Unlike other units, LeLv 32 did not assign its aircraft to any particular pilot, however Kyösti Karhila scored 8 kills in total with Hawk 75, CU-560w (the ‘w’ indicates that the aircraft was fitted with a twin-wasp engine, however the ‘w’ was deleted when CU-560 went in for an overhaul).

The Kit

 The kit comprises 67 parts in soft grey injection moulded plastic, 8 parts in clear and an impressive decal sheet with markings for 12 aircraft. The latest example of this kit is packed in a sturdy end-opening box with attractive box art.

The kit provides a basic Twin Wasp engine plus all of the parts required to complete the model in Suomen Ilmavoimat service (5 examples), Armée de l’Air (5 examples) and Luftwaffe service (2 examples).


The moulding is clean and crisp with recessed panel lines and fabric control surfaces; the detail is somewhat basic but is improved with the addition of the Kuivalianen etched set.

The instructions are simple but straight forward and consist of 6 stages with each section containing an exploded-view diagram.


 The parts were washed using a warm-soapy solution to remove the mould release from the kit and then dabbed dry. All of the parts were then sprayed with auto-primer from a rattle can. The interior parts were airbrushed with Humbrol matt 226 zinc chromate green. This colour has been a source of contention amongst aviation enthusiasts for several years as some believe that the Finnish Hawk 75 has a light aluminium or light grey interior and others suppose that the interior is zinc chromate. Kuivalianen settles this argument by supplying their etched set for this kit pre-painted in zinc chromate. I have to confess that my sources suggest that the interior is the former but for the purposes of this build, (and to not burden myself with replacing the etched set) I have settled upon the zinc chromate interior.


The construction phase began with dressing the seat with seat-belts, followed by the construction of the console which is a two-piece laminated unit. The cockpit furniture is further enhanced with foot pedals, trim wheel, throttle assembly, flap lever and various other dials and switches. The Revi gunsight is also included, it is recommended that a folding tool is used with this set as some of the parts are very small and require multiple “folds” to complete.

The completed cockpit fitted easily into the fuselage halves and whilst the fit was snug, it went together without any difficulties. Once the fuselage and wing sections had been constructed and left to dry overnight, both sub-assemblies were fitted and the horizontal tail surfaces added. The wing roots required some filler as did the fuselage spine.

The engine consists of four pieces, it is fairly basic but can be enhanced by adding your own copper wire push rods should you wish to do so. I settled for painting the cylinder heads black, and picked out the moulded push rods with silver paint.


Once the engine assembly had dried, the cowlings were fitted and the engine unit was glued to the fuselage. The airframe was then set to one side and allowed to dry over-night.

After drying for several hours, the Hawk was sanded down and given an additional coat of grey auto-primer.

Camouflage & Markings

 I elected to model CU-555 “White 5” of LeLv 32 in spring 1942. According to Sotaamaulas/Warpaint by Stenman and Keskinen, Finnish Hawk 75’s were supplied by Germany in 1941 with RLM 71 Schwartzgrun upper-surfaces and RLM 65 Hellblau lower-surfaces. The Continuation War Yellow theatre bands were applied in Finland.


The airframe was pre-shaded using humbrol 33 black before the cowling, fuselage and under-wing bands were airbrushed with White Ensign Models ACLW21 Gelb RLM 04. The bands were masked off with Tamiya tape before the under-surfaces, undercarriage legs, doors and wheels were airbrushed using White Ensign Models ALCW03 Hellblau RLM 65. Once dry, the lower-surfaces were masked off before Humbrol 244 green was applied to the top-surfaces of the aircraft. The black identification panel was then airbrushed under the right wing and set aside to dry.

The masking tape was then removed before the Hawk was given a wash of thinned Windsor & Newton Ivory Black to pick out the recessed panel lines. Next the airframe was weathered with a primacolor Verithin Argent Metallique silver pencil. This gives the aircraft that “beaten-up” look as these machines were worked hard in Finnish Air Force service. Finally, Johnson’s Klear was airbrushed before the decals were applied with Micro-sol and Micro-set decal setting solutions.

The propeller tips on Finnish Hawk 75’s carrying the early RLM 71/65 colour scheme do not have yellow tips. This can be clearly seen from black and white photographs of CU-558 on page 46, Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 23, and “Sotamaalas” by Kari Stenman & Kalevi Keskinen and of CU-560 on page 28, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 23, Finnish Aces of World War II by Kari Stenman & Kalevi Keskinen.


Final Construction

 The last part of the construction process consisted of fitting the undercarriage and doors, the tail-wheel, wing guns, aerials and pitot tube. A final coat of Johnson’s Klear was applied to seal in the decals and the build was complete.

Although a little basic, the outline of this model is accurate and with a few after-market accessories this kit can make an excellent example of this important aircraft.

Highly recommended.

  • Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 5, Curtiss hawk 75A and P-40M, by Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman and Klaus Niska, Stenman Publishing.
  • Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 20 LeR 1, by Kalevi Keskinen and Kari Stenman, Stenman Publishing.
  • Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 23, Sotamaalaus/Warpaint by Kalevi Keskinen & Kari Stenman, Stenman Publishing.
  • Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 23, Finnish Aces of World War 2 by Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinnen.

Richard Reynolds.

Special Hobby 1/48 Finnish Fokker D.XXI (Wasp) Review

Special Hobby 1:48 Fokker D.XXI 4. Sarja with Wasp Junior engine

 Kit: SH48073 Special Hobby Fokker D.XXI 4. Sarja with Wasp Junior engine.

Price:  £25.80 Available from Hannants UK

Decals: Six Options

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds

Notes: Multimedia kit with resin and photo etched parts. Accessories used; Montex Mini Mask SM48301 Fokker XXI (Wasp) Special Hobby. Kora 1/48 Finnish Logotypes for propellors DEC 4848, Techmod 1/48 Finnish Air Force Swastikas and Serials 1934-44 48073.



Finland was the first export customer for the Fokker D.XXI. The first of 36 examples used in the Winter War of 1939 were delivered between the 4th and 13th of November and formed the backbone of the Finnish fighter fleet during the early stages of the conflict. A more in-depth look at the history of the Finnish Fokker D.XXI 3. Sarja with Mercury engine in 1/48 scale by Special Hobby; can be viewed in my article on THEMODELGALLERY website.

On the 9th May 1939, the Finnish Government placed an order for 50 series 4 Fokker D.XXI’s powered by the 825 hp R-1535 Twin Wasp Junior engine. In total the Finnish Air Force bought 7 aircraft and built 93 on licence. The decision to re-engine the aircraft stemmed from a serious shortage of the Bristol Mercury VIII engine which was needed for the Bristol Blenheim bomber.


All but one of the Wasp powered aircraft were delivered before the continuation war with the Soviet Union which began on 25th June 1941. These aircraft were designated FR-118 – FR-167.

The VL State Aircraft Factory based at Tampere (Valtion lentokonetehdas) produced a total of 55 Wasp powered Fokker D.XXI’s under license.

The Wasp Fokker D.XXI’s were tasked with the protection of towns and industry of South-Western Finland and to prevent air attacks to Turku. The aircraft were initially assigned to Lentolaivue 30 (Squadron 30) based at Pori between 1941-42. The Squadron consisted of 3 flights under the command of Squadron Commander Captain L. Bremer.  Between the 25th June 1941 and 27th March 1943 Lentolaivue 30 gained 40 aerial victories with its Fokkers and sank 17 surface vessels. Eleven aircraft were lost, six in combat, one in an air raid, one was downed by anti-aircraft fire and three were destroyed in accidents. Nine pilots were killed.


12 aircraft were also assigned to Lentolaivue 10 on 18th September 1941 based at Tiiksjärvi in eastern Karelia under Squadron Commander Captain K. Kurimo. Between the 21st of September 1941 and the 1st of November 1941 Lentolaivue 10 scored five victories losing two Fokkers, one in the air and one on the ground with no casualties.

An additional squadron was established in Tiiksjärvi in eastern Karelia from August 1942 to September 1944. This unit was Lentolaivue 14 under the command of Major R. Magnusson. LLv 14 was tasked with supporting the Finnish Army’s 14th division by attacking ground targets and harrying Soviet troops. During 1943 the Fokker D.XXI was becoming supplanted by the more capable Messerschmitt Bf 109G series and was increasingly used in the close-support and reconnaissance role. Between the 1st of August 1942 and the 4th of September 1944, the Fokker D.XXIs of Lentolaivue 14 inflicted considerable losses on Soviet ground forces. They gained one aerial victory, losing three aircraft, one in combat, one in a fire and one in an accident. One pilot was killed.


Lentolaivue 12 was the last operational Squadron to use the Wasp Fokker D.XXI based at Nurmoila on the Olonets isthmus tasked with close range reconnaissance between the lakes Ladoga and Onega. LLv 12 received their aircraft from Lentolaivue 30 on the 27th of February 1943 until they were handed over to Täydennyslentolaivue 35 at the end of May 1944 where they were used in a limited reconnaissance role.

Between 27.2.43 – 28.5.44 the unit lost one Fokker D.XXI in an accident. There were no pilot casualties.


The Kit

The 1/48 Special Hobby Fokker D.XXI (Wasp Junior engine), consists of four sprues in soft injection molded grey plastic, the style of which that we have come to expect from Special Hobby. Essentially, the kit is identical to the Special Hobby 1/48 ‘Sarja 3’ Bristol Mercury powered version, with the exception of the Wasp engine and cowling, canopy and series 4 fuselage. There is a clear bag containing the transparencies, a clear bag containing the resin components for the Wasp Junior engine and wing mounted guns and a final clear bag containing one photo etched fret.

After carefully washing the kit in a warm soapy solution and allowing the parts to dry in order to remove the mould release, I set about cutting away the parts that would not be required in this build. The wheeled spats were removed as I had decided to do this version on skis, as were the single-strut tail surfaces.


There are no less than six colour scheme options for finishing this kit, detailed in a full-colour painting guide with three-view diagrams for each aircraft and a brief history of the machine. Impressive, even by Special Hobby’s standards.

There is the usual 8 page instruction booklet, which as always I study with care as it isn’t always clear to the modeller how certain stages are to be assembled.

Once the sprues, photo-etch and resin parts were dry, they were primed using grey auto-primer from a rattlecan.



As with the Special Hobby Mercury powered Fokker D.XXI, the Instruction booklet comes in 19 stages. The cockpit consists of a full steel tube interior, with a bucket seat complete with a full set of etched brass seat-belts, a steel tube frame into which the seat is positioned; control levers and throttle, gas cylinders and a rudder pedal assembly with etched brass toe straps.

I decided to use the photo etch control panel which includes a clear film instrument panel and was impressed with the results. I had used an after-market replacement on the Bristol Mercury Fokker D.XXI, however, the instrument panel supplied in this kit was excellent.

19 Cockpit

I was fortunate in that having already built an identical cockpit for the Sarja 3 series, the Sarja 4 cockpit assembly presented no problems. I airbrushed the interior in Humbrol 128 blue-grey as suggested in Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 3B, Fokker D.XXI (Wasp) by Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen. The Photo-etched seatbelts were painted using Citadel Colors ‘bleached bone’. The seat was then fitted as was the control column and rudder pedals. At this stage the steel-tube cockpit interior was constructed around the pilot’s area.

Once this stage of the assembly had been constructed, I placed it to one side and began work on the shelf situated behind the pilot’s headrest. I allowed these assemblies to dry for 24 hours before putting the fuselage halves together the next morning. Having experienced difficulties at this stage with my last Fokker D.XXI kit, I added the instrument panel into the cockpit after the fuselage had been glued together. This ensured that the panel is square-on to the airframe, fortunately the Fokker D.XXI has an extremely roomy cockpit opening making this process a simple affair.

20 Cockpit

The next phase was identical to my last Fokker D.XXI build, I cemented the wings together and applied masking tape to ensure a secure fit. The resin engine parts were the next project. These are attached to resin casting blocks which makes them easier to handle. All of the blocks were lightly sprayed with auto primer from a rattle can and then airbrushed with 90% Humbrol black, 10% Humbrol 64. Once dry, the parts were assembled and dry-brushed with small amounts of Humbrol 11 silver. I elected to add 0.2mm HT leads from my spares box to give the Wasp Junior that touch of realism and was ultimately pleased with the result.

The cowling on the Wasp powered D.XXI can be tricky in that if it isn’t correctly glued (I used plastic weld), it can have a tendency to split apart when handled. The skis went together without any difficulties save a tiny amount of flash, once fitted I filled any obvious gaps and fuselage joins with MMD Green Putty and left the project to dry overnight.


I have experienced some difficulties with Montex Masks in the past, this set thankfully went on perfectly with no hint of curling at the edges. Once the aircraft was rubbed down using wet and dry 600 grit paper I fitted the canopy using white glue. Once I was satisfied with the result I sprayed the kit with white Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. At this stage, I airbrushed the fuselage band, cowling and underwing theatre bands with White Ensign Model’s 04 Gelb.



Camouflage and Markings

I elected to finish the Fokker D.XXI Wasp as ‘FR-157’ of 1/LeLv 30 piloted by Lt. V. Lilja Römpötti. The description in the painting guide reports that aircraft received repairs after a collision in March 1942, returning to service in January 1943. The aircraft carries the standard ‘Warpaint’ applied to all Finnish aircraft of this period, a combination of Olive green (6 parts Humbrol 116, 6 parts 117, 1 part 163. IPMS Stockholm colour reference) and black. FR-157 was given its winter scheme of patches of white in the winter of 1942/43. In addition, the white figure of a Red Army soldier with a bayonet was painted on its starboard side. This aircraft unfortunately burnt to the ground on the 21st June 1943.


Final Construction

At this stage the sub-assemblies were added. The propeller with logos, supplied by Kora and the Red spinner hub. Then it was simply a case of adding the tail ski, Aerials and guns, the wing light transparency and gun sight. Once the canopy mask had been removed, the final stage was to add the aerial wires to the fuselage and the tailplane assembly using Lycra thread. The decals were applied using Micro-Set and Micro-Sol, I elected to use techmod’s national insignia as I have found them to be a superior quality product. Once complete, the aircraft was given a coat of Johnson’s Kleer/Future floor wax.



This kit was a pleasure to build. I never seem to tire of their products and once again, I can’t recommend it enough.



Richard Reynolds.

Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto “Zamba” and the Bomber Interception Tactics of the Finnish Air Force during the Winter War of 1939.

Jorma Sarvanto was the top scoring ace during the Finnish/Russian Winter War between the 30th November 1939 and the 13th March 1940. He scored a total of 13 victories using the Bristol Mercury powered Fokker D.XXI.

Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto
Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto

Understanding the political situation that existed at the time between the Soviet Union and Finland, the national mind-set and the military disposition of both nations engaged in The Winter War of 1939, gives an understanding to why Finland, with a modest Fighter Force of only 36 Fokker D.XXI’s and 10 Bristol Bulldog IVA biplane fighters were able to adequately defend their country against the Soviet Union, with vast resources at its disposal. The USSR committed 900 aircraft to the war; 375 of which were fighter types, demonstrating the asymmetric disposition of the protagonists at the beginning of the conflict.

The Finns were outnumbered 9-1 in the air and 3-1 on the ground. The Soviet Air Force was well aware of the strength of the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force), they were also well aware of Finnish offensive limitations in that they possessed only 18 Bristol Blenheim bombers and some sixty mostly obsolescent close support and liaison aircraft. The principle types of which was the Fokker CX and Blackburn Rippon 2-seater biplanes. The Finnish Air Force through an astute procurement programme increased in size by 50% by the end of the Winter War on March 13th 1940.

Many factors contributed to the Finns forcing an armistice with the Soviet Union on the 13th March 1940. The Soviets had not anticipated a particularly stiff Finnish resistance. There was an unusually harsh winter in 1939. Stalin’s purge of the Officer Corps in the 1920’s and 1930’s had left the Soviet military with inexperienced leaders. Additionally his demanding nature and need to ‘micro-manage’ his senior staff meant that many officers were too afraid to make strategic decisions.

The Red Air Force command structure was disastrous. A ‘Dual Command’ or ‘Collegiate’ control system was introduced in 1937. Each fighter or bomber regiment was assigned a ‘Political Commissar’ with equal rank to the Regiment Commander, each tactical plan and decision had to be approved by the Commissar before it could be implemented.

These problems were further compounded by the fact that each Air Regiment operated as an autonomous ‘Air Army’. Air Regiments would regularly operate independently of each other, not share strategic information and in some cases not communicate with each other in the operational area at all.

Furthermore, the Soviets did not commit their best bombers in the initial stages of the campaign. Perhaps in the belief that the war would be quickly won by the USSR. The primary Soviet bombers of the Winter war were the Tupolev SB-2 and the Ilyushin DB-3. Both aircraft were relatively fast but possessed only 2 light machine guns covering the rear of the aircraft and one at the front. Moreover, there was only one gunner covering the rear positions whose job it was to scramble between the guns whilst attempting to anticipate from which direction the attacking fighter would come.

Tupolev SB-2
Tupolev SB-2
Ilyushin DB-3
Ilyushin DB-3

Finnish fighter tactics against Soviet bombers were relentless. They would tend to close to well within 100ft of the bomber concentrating on the single rear gunner first. Then they would attack the engines, then the fuel tanks.

To increase accuracy of bomber interceptions, the Finns harmonised their guns to approximately 150 yards. By harmonising their weapons the Finnish fighters tended to tightly group their hits increasing the effectiveness and the power of the attack. In addition, the Finns would load the right-hand cowl or wing machine gun entirely with tracers to assist in correcting the bullet stream, the remaining weapons were loaded with a mixture of incendiary and armour piercing ammunition to maximize the probability of success.

The extraordinary success of the Finns against the Soviets can also be explained in the good quality of the well trained Finnish pilots. The comparable performance of Soviet aircraft to the Fokker D.XXI was off-set in favour of the Finns by the adoption of Luftwaffe-style fighter tactics with the use of Schwarms. 4 aircraft in formation each sub-divided into 2 pairs called ‘elements’ with a flight leader covered by a wingman. Inexperienced pilots were paired with experienced pilots as opposed to Soviet air combat tactics being predictable with en-masse air regiments being deployed in ridged formations, allowing the Finns the opportunity to range above their opponents and choose their targets before attacking and disengaging.

Fokker D.XXI 'Element'
Fokker D.XXI ‘Element’

Much as the Royal Air Force did in the Battle of Britain, the Finns dispersed their aircraft to auxiliary camouflaged airfields which regularly changed or rotated, enabling the Finns to effectively manage their smaller force. The units flew between 6-8 sorties per day, their aircraft were covered and kept warm with the use of electric radiators when not flying and maintained on ‘alert’ status for rapid deployment in the event of an attack. Similarly, they were operating over home territory, thus a damaged aircraft or downed pilot could be retrieved to fight another day.

Fokker D.XXI Dispersed
Fokker D.XXI Dispersed

The Soviets were also disadvantaged in having to waste time transiting to and from the combat area. Finnish Anti-Aircraft batteries shot down 300 Soviet aircraft; Finnish fighters claimed 200 confirmed kills, whilst losing only 62 of their own.

Finnish Anti-Aircraft Battery
Finnish Anti-Aircraft Battery

The Mercury VIII powered Fokker D.XXI had a maximum speed of 460km/h (286mph), a cruising speed of 429km/h (267mph) and a maximum ceiling of 11,350m (37,238ft.). Time to an altitude of 6000m (19,685ft) was 7 minutes and 30 seconds.

Fokker D.XXI Bristol Mercury VIII Engine
Fokker D.XXI Bristol Mercury VIII Engine

Whilst this performance was by no means remarkable, the Fokker was rugged, reliable and ideally suited to the cold climate experienced at the outbreak of hostilities between Finland and the Soviet Union on the 30th November 1939. In addition, the Fokker D.XXI was well matched against its principle Soviet fighter opponent the Polikarpov I-16.

The Mercury VIII Fokker D.XXI’s were armed with two 7.7mm Vickers machine guns in the forward fuselage and one in each wing. These weapons as previously mentioned were synchronized and when used in combination with the Goertz optical tube-sight Revi 3C or D gunsight, proved a good arrangement against the three 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns of the Tupolev SB-2 and the Ilyushin DB-3. Nevertheless, Finnish tactics dictated that their fighter aircraft would principally be facing the two rear-mounted 7.62mm ShKAS machine guns.

Finnish command and control was an additional asset. Pilots could communicate with each other and the ground via P-12-17/1 radios, whereas the Soviets had to rely upon outdated hand-signals to communicate between aircraft.

It was the Finnish Pilot’s and their determination to defend their home which was the most decisive factor in the Soviet Union not overrunning Finland during the Winter War. There were many acts of courage from these brave men, however the exploits of Luutnantti Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto (August 22, 1912 – October 16, 1963). On the 6th of January 1940 deserves a special mention.

Fokker D.XXI with Pilots posing for a rare photograph
Fokker D.XXI with Pilots posing for a rare photograph

Luutnantti Sarvanto Flew Fokker D.XXI FR-97 with the 4th flight of Squadron 24 (4/LLv 24) from Utti Airfield during the Winter War. Maj. Magnusson was in command at Utti. The site was chosen to protect the towns of Jyväskylä and Kuopio from Soviet bomber attacks. This information was obtained from intercepted Russian radio traffic. There were four Fokker D.XXI Fighters equipped with skis located at Utti Air base on the 6th January 1940.

Luutnantti Sarvanto in Fokker D.XXI FR-97
Luutnantti Sarvanto in Fokker D.XXI FR-97

At 09:30 Air Surveillance reported enemy aircraft heading due west. The two flights of four Fokker D.XXI’s from Utti took off heading east in search of the reported Soviet planes. Visibility was poor with the Finns being unable to locate their targets. They returned to Utti to be prepared to stand ready for further intercepts.

Whilst the four Fokker D.XXI’s from 4/LLv 24 were searching for the reported enemy aircraft, Luutnantti Pehr-Erik “Pelle” Sovelius (Himself an ‘Ace’ with 5.5 kills with the Fokker D.XXI and 7 with the Brewster BW.239), was ferrying Fokker D.XXI FR-92 to Utti from Lappeenranta, where it had been undergoing maintenance, when at 10:10hrs Ground Surveillance reported “Enemy planes north of Hamina at 3000m”. Fortunately, all Finnish military aircraft at this time were fully armed if airworthy.

Sovelius reported seeing 8 DB-3 bombers flying directly towards him as he received the radio report.

Ilyushin DB-3 'White 5'
Ilyushin DB-3 ‘White 5’

Below is Sovelus’ battle report of the engagement:

Place of the aerial battle: “Northern edge of the Utti airfield.”

Enemy a/c: “ DB”

Fate of the enemy a/c: “Dived burning to the ground between Utti and Kaipiainen, North of the railway line.”

Course of the aerial battle: “On a ferrying flight Lappeenranta-Utti I was informed by radio about the movement of enemy a/c at the Southern fringe of the Haukkasuo swamp, eight a/c, on a course to North from Kotka, flying altitude 3000 m. I intercepted the formation on “collision course”. Having climbed above the enemy I half-rolled my Fokker at the left wing a/c. I shot the gunner at 300m and then approached to a distance of 100m. At that moment the third a/c from the left fired at me, so I gave her a brief burst and the gunner fell silent.

Then I fired brief bursts (at the bomber) and the a/c caught fire. The left engine and wing were burning. The a/c crashed.”

Ammunition consumption: “500 pcs.”

Eventual evidence: “A/c found between Utti and Kaipiainen near the railway line.”

Other obervations: “The enemy a/c supported each other by flanking fire. My fighter took 8 hits.”

Signed by : Lt. P.-E. Sovelius Aircraft: FR-92.

The seven remaining bombers then continued northwards where due to their similar speed to the Fokker D.XXI and to the increasing cloud cover, they made their escape.

The Soviet bombers made for Kuopio, a town with a population of 22,000. The air raid alert was sounded at 10:52hrs, unfortunately the town lacked Anti-Aircraft defences. 7 High Explosive bombs were dropped, however no damage was caused. Almost as soon as the first attack was over a second attack began. Reports are unclear as to whether these were the same DB-3 bombers that Sorvelius had intercepted that had turned back or whether it was a new flight of aircraft.

The mist had now unfortunately cleared, the DB-3’s approached at an altitude of 1000m and dropped 54 incendiary bombs. 35 houses were damaged but incredibly only one person died from a heart attack.

The Fokker pilots at Utti were already in their flying gear and the aircraft engines had been warmed up. The message was received at 11.50 that 7 bombers were flying south using the northern railway for navigation. Lt. Sarvanto mounted Fokker D.XXI FR-97 and took off with his wingman in the direction of the enemy aircraft.

As they were climbing to height, Lt. Sarvanto’s wingman’s Fokker D.XXI began experiencing engine difficulties. Snow had clogged the air intake during take-off so he had to return to base. Jorma Sarvanto continued on alone, climbing northwards towards the Soviet bombers.

The second pair of aircraft based at Utti would ordinarily have been required to remain at the base in the event of further Soviet incursions. However, upon seeing Lt. Sarvanto’s wingman return, the decision was taken to launch the flight. Lt. Sovelius and Sgt. Ikonen took off in pursuit of Lt. Sarvanto. Nonetheless, he had a good head start.

Sarvanto climbed steadily to an altitude of 3000m, turning slowly right to the south to position himself behind the bombers. At one point he was directly in front of them but their view was obscured by the glare of the sun. Once he was 500m behind the DB-3’s he opened the throttle and pursued the enemy at full power.

As he approached his aircraft vibrated at a distance of 300m from the bombers as he was caught in the cross-fire from the rear gunners. He opened fire on his first bomber at an incredible 20m, strafing the rear gunner and fuselage before turning in to hit the right engine. As the engine caught fire, he was already repeating the process on the second aircraft in the formation. Two DB-3 bombers were on fire and heading down.

He engaged each bomber at very close range, firing at the engines with two-three bursts until they caught fire and left the formation. Sarvanto reported that he had resolved to take down every one of the bombers. Whilst under fire, he methodically fired at the engines and when the opportunity presented itself, the rear gunner of each of the seven aircraft. Bomber six continued to fly. Lt. Sarvanto was now out of ammunition. Despite this he had used the last of his rounds on the aircraft killing its rear gunner. The aircraft eventually caught fire and crashed. Aircraft number 7 had long since made its escape despite damage.

Sarvanto noted that columns of black smoke from the wrecks of the aircraft could be seen on the ground below him.

DB-3M Reported as shot down over Finland.
DB-3M Reported as shot down over Finland.

He assessed the damage to his own Fokker D.XXI. The instruments and control surfaces appeared to be working, as did the Bristol Mercury engine. The wings were heavily holed but the aircraft made it home to Utti. Whilst preparing to land Sarvanto noticed that the hydraulic pump for the landing flaps was no longer working. Despite this, he achieved a successful landing.

The flight had lasted 25 minutes. The Air Combat had lasted 5 minutes. Luutnantti Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto had shot down 6 Ilyushin DB-3 Bombers.

Fokker D.XXI FR-97 received 23 hits during the action.

The patrol containing Lt. Sovelius and Sgt. Ikonen, that had taken off in pursuit of Lt. Sarvanto located the surviving DB-3 bomber and engaged with it. The second battle report by Lt. Sorvelius states:

Date and time: 6.1. 1940 12.30 hrs

Place of the aerial battle: “Gulf of Finland South of Kotka between Suursaari and Lavansaari”

Enemy a/c: “DB”

Fate of the enemy a/c: “Left engine burning, dived in the sea. Air surveillance center reported 12.25 hrs at map square 32C6.”

Course of the aerial battle: “This a/c belonged to the formation of seven of which Sarvanto shot down 6. This a/c continued flying. I pursued her with Sgt. Ikonen. Sgt. Ikonen ran out of ammo South of Haapasaari (rem: he kept firing at a long range) and he turned back. I continued still for a while and finally reached the range of 200 m. I fired a long burst whereby the enemy left engine caught fire and the a/c began to descend toward the sea. Dense fog made pursuit difficult.”

Ammunition consumption: “1000 pcs”

Evidence : “Air surveillance center report.”

Other obervations:

Signed by : Lt. P.-E. Sovelius Aircraft: FR-92.

Luutnantti Sarvanto received a tremendous amount of attention from the world’s press, who at the time considered his actions a world record. Jorma Sarvanto was embarrassed by the sudden and unexpected fame. His picture appeared in many western newspapers showing him holding the tail of a DB-3 Bomber with the number ‘5’ on it. Typically modest for a Finn, Lt. Sarvanto said that “Any one of my fellow pilots could have shot down those bombers”.

Jorma Sarvanto Showing the tail of DB-3 'White 5'.
Jorma Sarvanto Showing the tail of DB-3 ‘White 5’.

The town council of Kuopio donated silver candlesticks for Sarvanto, Sovelius and Ikonen as a token of gratitude.

During the Winter War, the Soviets enjoyed an approximate 10-1 advantage in aircraft, but LOST aircraft in combat at roughly the same ratio. The Finnish Fokker D.XXI enjoyed a kill to loss ratio of 16:1.

Fokker D.XXI FR-110 on display at the Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo. Photo attributed to: Ruuhinen 11.8.2009.
Fokker D.XXI FR-110 on display at the Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo. Photo attributed to: Ruuhinen 11.8.2009.

Everstiluutnantti Överstelöjtnant (Lieutenant Colonel) Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto

Sarvanto was to become the top scoring Finnish ace of the Winter War with 13 victories. During the Continuation War he downed four more aircraft with Brewster Buffaloes, bringing his total score to 17. He flew a total of 255 combat missions during World War II.

Jorma Kalevi Sarvanto ended the war with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel as Commander of the Flight School in Kauhava where he served until 1954. From 1954 to 1960 he served as the Finnish military attaché in London.

Battle Honours:

  • Cross of Liberty, 2nd Class, with swords, of the order of the cross of liberty
  • Cross of Liberty, 3rd Class, with swords, of the order of the cross of liberty
  • Commander of the Order of the White Rose of Finland
  • Order of the German Eagle 3rd Class, with swords
  • Luftwaffe’s pilot badge honoris causa.




  • Stenman, Kari and Keskinen, Kalevi (1998). Aircraft of the Aces      23 – Finnish Aces of World War 2. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-783-X.
  • Stenman, Kari, Keskinen, Kalevi and Niska, Klaus (1994). Hävittäjä-Ässät      – Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 11 (in Finnish/English). Apali. ISBN 952-5026-00-0.

Richard Reynolds.


The Misunderstood Finnish Swastika

Sanskrit Right-Facing Swastika
Sanskrit Right-Facing Swastika

The swastika (卐) (Sanskrit: स्वस्तिक) is an equilateral cross with four arms bent at 90 degrees. The earliest archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization as well as the Mediterranean Classical Antiquity. Swastikas have also been used in various other ancient civilizations around the world including China, Japan, India, and Southern Europe. It remains widely used in Indian religions, specifically in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, primarily as a tantric symbol to evoke shakti or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness. The word “swastika” comes from the Sanskrit svastika – “su” meaning “good” or “auspicious,” “asti” meaning “to be,” and “ka” as a suffix. The swastika literally means “to be good”. Or another translation can be made: “swa” is “higher self”, “asti” meaning “being”, and “ka” as a suffix, so the translation can be interpreted as “being with higher self”.

The symbol has a long history in Europe reaching back to antiquity. In modern times, following a brief surge of popularity as a good luck symbol in Western culture, a swastika was adopted as a symbol of the Nazi Party of Germany in 1920, who used the swastika as a symbol of the Aryan race. After Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, a right-facing 45° rotated swastika was incorporated into the Nazi party flag, which was made the state flag of Germany during Nazism. Hence, the swastika has become strongly associated with Nazism and related ideologies such as anti-Semitism, hate, violence, death, and murder in many countries, and is now largely stigmatized there due to the changed connotations of the symbol. Notably, it has been outlawed in Germany and other countries if used as a symbol of Nazism in certain instances. Many modern political extremists and Neo-Nazi groups such as the Russian National Unity use stylized swastikas or similar symbols.

In the Baltic region the swastika is one of the most common symbols used throughout Baltic art. In Latvian the symbol is known as either Ugunskrusts, the “Fire cross” (rotating counter-clockwise), or Pērkonkrusts, the “Thunder cross” (rotating clock-wise), and was mainly associated with Pērkons, the god of Thunder and justice. It was also occasionally related to the Sun, as well as Dievs (the god of creation), Laima (the goddess of destiny and fate). It was believed that the god of Thunder (Pērkons) was the only god who was feared by the devil. The swastika is featured on many distaffs, dowry chests, cloths and other artisanal items. Latvia adopted the swastika, called the Ugunskrusts (“fire cross”), for its air force in 1918/1919 and continued its use until 1940. The cross itself was maroon on a white background, mirroring the colors of the Latvian flag. Earlier versions pointed counter-clockwise, while later versions pointed clock-wise and eliminated the white background.

Latvian counter-clockwise Swastika
Latvian counter-clockwise Swastika


In Finland the swastika was often used in traditional folk art products, as a decoration or magical symbol on textiles and wood. The swastika was also used by the Finnish Air Force until 1945, but is still used in air force flags.

The tursaansydän is used by scouts in some instances and a student organization. The village of Tursa uses the tursaansydän as a kind of a certificate of authenticity on products made there. Traditional textiles are still being made with swastikas as parts of traditional ornaments.

Finn HSwastika 2 (1st pic)

The insignia of the Finnish Air force 1918–1945

The Swedish origin of the Swastika in the Finnish Military

The Finnish Air Force uses the swastika as an emblem, introduced in 1918. The type of swastika adopted by the air-force was the symbol of luck for the Swedish count Eric von Rosen, who later became a prominent figure in the Swedish Nazi-movement.

Finnish Air Force Flag

Present-day flag (from 1958) and its pole of the Training Air Wing with three swastikas.

The swastika was also used by the women’s paramilitary organization Lotta Svärd, which was banned in 1944 in accordance with the Moscow Armistice between Finland and the allied Soviet Union and Britain.

The President of Finland is the grand master of the Order of the White Rose. According to the protocol, the president shall wear the Grand Cross of the White Rose with collar on formal occasions. The original design of the collar decorated with 9 swastikas, dates from 1918, and was designed by the artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The Grand Cross with the swastika collar has been awarded 41 times to foreign heads of state. To avoid misunderstandings, the swastika decorations were replaced by fir crosses at the decision of president Urho Kekkonen in 1963 after it became known that the President of France Charles De Gaulle was uncomfortable with the swastika collar.

Also a design by Gallen-Kallela from 1918, the Cross of Liberty has a swastika pattern in its arms. The Cross of Liberty is depicted in the upper left corner of the standard of the President of Finland.

In December 2007, a silver replica of the WWII period Finnish air defense’s relief ring decorated with a swastika became available as a part of a charity campaign.

The original war time idea was that the public swap their precious metal rings for the State air defense’s relief ring, made of iron.



Variations of the tursaansydän symbol

The tursaansydän (Finnish for “heart of Tursas” or “heart of octopus” <of the order “Octopoda”>) or mursunsydän (“heart of the walrus“) is an ancient symbol used in Northern Europe. It was especially popular in Lapland. Some say it was used on Lappish shaman drums. The symbol originates from prehistoric times and incorporates a swastika.

The tursaansydän was believed to bring good luck and protect from curses, and was used as a decorative motif on wooden furniture and buildings in Finland. During the 18th century the simple swastika became more popular in Finnish wood decoration than the more complex tursaansydän.

It has been speculated that the tursaansydän represented a flying and rotating hammer of the thunder god Ukko (in Finland) or Thor (in Scandinavia). It could also have been an image of a lightning ball, like the Russian “thunder marks” (see Perun). Another theory is that it is actually an image of the heart of some being, such as Tursas or the walrus. Based on its many interpretations and uses, this symbol appears to have had many meanings over time.

Eric von Rosen

Eric Von Rosen

Count von Rosen (1919)

Count Carl Gustaf Bloomfield Eric von Rosen (born June 2, 1879 in Stockholm, died April 25, 1948 Skeppsholmen, Stockholm) was a Swedish Honorary doctor, patron, explorer and ethnographer.


Von Rosen was married to Baroness Mary Fock (1886–1967) with whom he had six children: Bjorn (b. 1905), Mary (b. 1906), Carl Gustaf von Rosen (b. 1909), Birgitta (b. 1913), Egil (b. 1919), and Anna (b. 1926). Eric von Rosen’s father was count Carl Gustaf von Rosen and his mother was Ella Carlton Moore of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was brother to count Clarence von Rosen.

Relationship to Hermann Göring

"Svensk national socialism"
“Svensk national socialism”

Poster from the National Socialist Bloc, announcing a 1935 meeting with von Rosen as its main speaker.

Von Rosen became brother-in-law to Hermann Göring when his wife’s sister, Carin von Kantzow, married Göring. Everything had started when Göring was flying Eric von Rosen in bad weather from Stockholm to Rockelstad Castle, at the lake Båven in Sörmland, Sweden. Due to bad weather conditions, Göring had to stay at the castle. There he became acquainted with the sister of von Rosen’s wife, Carin von Kantzow. She was at that time married to a Swedish officer, but would be his big love and future wife.

The von Rosen swastika

Eric von Rosen had been using a swastika as a personal owner’s mark. He originally saw the symbol on runestones in Gotland, while at school. Knowing that the symbol signified good luck for the Vikings, he utilized the symbol and had it carved into his entire luggage when going on an expedition to South America in 1901. Being a friend of Finland, he gave the newly-independent state an aircraft, which signified the beginning of the Finnish Air Force. The aircraft, a license manufactured Morane-Saulnier MS Parasol/Thulin D, was marked with his badge, a blue swastika on a white background. The Finnish Air Force adopted this as their national insignia.

Göring had noted the swastika during his stay in Sweden and at von Rosens’ castle (forged into a metal piece at the fireplace). However, the swastika of the German Nazi party had been adopted already in 1920; two years before Göring met Adolf Hitler.

Lotta Svärd

Lotta Svard Sign

The Lotta Svärd emblem designed by Eric Wasström in 1921. It includes four heraldic roses and a swastika. The swastika motif was inspired by a symbol of luck that decorated the first aircraft in the Finnish Defense Forces, which was donated by the Swedish Count Eric von Rosen in 1918.

Lotta Svärd was a Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women. The name comes from a poem by Johan Ludvig Runeberg. Part of a large and famous book, The Tales of Ensign Stål, the poem described a fictional woman named Lotta Svärd. According to the poem, a Finnish soldier, private Svärd, went to fight in the Finnish War and took his wife, Lotta, along with him. Private Svärd was killed in battle, but his wife remained on the battlefield, taking care of wounded soldiers. The name was first brought up by Marshal Mannerheim in a speech given on 16 May 1918.


During the Finnish Civil War it was associated with the White Guard. After the war Lotta Svärd was founded as a separate organization on 9 September 1920. The first known organization to use the name Lotta Svärd was the Lotta Svärd of Riihimäki, founded on 11 November 1918.

The organization expanded during the 1920s and it included 60,000 members in 1930. By 1944 it included 242,000 volunteers, the largest voluntary auxiliary organization in the world, while the total population of Finland was less than four million. During the Winter War some 100,000 men whose jobs were taken over by “Lottas” were freed for military service. The Lottas worked in hospitals, at air-raid warning posts and other auxiliary tasks in conjunction with the armed forces. The Lottas, however, were officially unarmed. The only exception was a voluntary anti-aircraft battery in Helsinki in the summer of 1944, composed of Lotta Svärd members. The battery operated the AA search-lights. The unit was issued rifles for self-protection, thus being the only armed female military unit of the Finnish Defense Forces history.

Lotta Svard Air Observers

Lottas at an air-raid warning post during the Second World War.

Post-World War II

When the Continuation War ended, the Soviet Union demanded that all organizations considered by them to be paramilitary, fascist or semi-fascist be banned. Thus, the Lotta Svärd organization was one of the groups which were disbanded. This happened 23 November 1944. However, a new organization called Suomen Naisten Huoltosäätiö (Support Foundation of Finnish Women) was started which took over much of the old property. This organization still exists by the name of Lotta Svärd Säätiö (Lotta Svärd Foundation).

Since 4 January 1995 women between the ages of 18 and 29 have had the right to apply for voluntary military service in the Finnish Defense Forces and are free to apply into any form of service, which is granted provided they fulfill the minimum fitness and health requirements.

The Finnish Lotta Svärd organization has inspired similar organizations in other countries and there is still a Lotta Svärd organization in Sweden (Lottorna); the same model is also used in Denmark and Norway.

Moscow Armistice

Territories conceded by Finland under the terms of the Moscow Armistice
Territories ceded by Finland under the terms of the Moscow Armistice

The areas ceded by Finland to the Soviet Union after the Continuation War. Porkkala was returned to Finland in 1956.

The Moscow Armistice was signed between Finland on one side and the Soviet Union and United Kingdom on the other side on September 19, 1944, ending the Continuation War. The Armistice restored the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940, with a number of modifications.

The final peace treaty between Finland and many of the Allies was signed in Paris in 1947.

Conditions for peace

The conditions for peace were similar to what had been agreed in the Moscow Peace Treaty of 1940: Finland was obliged to cede parts of Karelia and Salla, as well as certain islands in the Gulf of Finland. The new armistice also handed all of Petsamo to the Soviet Union, and Finland was further compelled to lease Porkkala to the Soviet Union for a period of fifty years (the area was returned to Finnish control in 1956).

Harsher conditions included Finnish payment of $300,000,000 ($4 billion in today’s dollars) in the form of various commodities over six years to the Soviet Union as war reparations. Finland also agreed to legalize the Communist Party of Finland (after it had made some changes to the party rules) and ban the ones that the Soviet Union considered as fascist. Further, the individuals that the Soviets considered responsible for the war had to be arrested and put on trial, the most known case being the one of Riots Ryti. The armistice compelled Finland to drive German troops from its territory, leading to the Lapland War 1944–45.

Despite Soviet influence and control over Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, Finland remarkably remained an independent democratic state. Finland was however a co-belligerent to the Nazi regime. Although it did not actively participate in the atrocities committed by the Nationalist Socialist Regime such as the extermination of 5.9 million Jewish people, they were faced with the real possibility of occupation by the Soviet Union an act which the western powers could not prevent due to the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France and the USSR being allies. Finland was therefore alone.

To the Nazis the Swastika was a symbol of racial exploitation and the promotion of the Aryan ideal. It repressed women, children and the physically disadvantaged. Nazism exterminated homosexuals and what they termed as “political dissidents” just for expressing their views. They practiced censorship on their own population on a wide scale as a method of state control and they deemed all religious practices other than “Positive Christianity” as state subversion.

The Nazi’s murdered: 5.9 million Jews; 2-3 million Soviet prisoners of war; 1.8-2 million ethnic Poles; 220,000-1.500.000 Romani; 200,000-250,000 disabled people; 80,000-200,000 Freemasons; 20,000-25,000 Slovenes; 5,000-15,000 Homosexuals and 2,500-5,000 Jehovah Witnesses.

According to Rosefielde’s demographic analysis, the Soviet Union were no less extreme. Rosefielde puts the number of excess deaths due to Soviet repression at 2,183,000 in 1939–1940 and 5,458,000 from 1941–1945. These people were; Finns, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Poles, Karachays, kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Crimean Tatars, Meskhetian Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Ukranians, Hungarians, Rumanians, Italians and Germans.

To date the Russians have refused to acknowledge Soviet war crimes, the official explanation is that: “Partly this is because they felt that much of it was justified vengeance against an enemy who committed much worse, and partly it was because they were writing the victors’ history”.

The Finnish people used the Swastika as a good luck symbol. And although they participated in the siege of Leningrad with the Germans, after the war President Ryti stated: “On August 24, 1941 I visited the headquarters of Marshal Mannerheim” (the Finnish Field Marshal). “The Germans aimed us at crossing the old border and continuing the offensive to Leningrad. I said that the capture of Leningrad was not our goal and that we should not take part in it”. The Finnish Armed Forces took no further action against the Russians in the campaign.

Mannerheim and the military minister Walden agreed with the President and refused the offers of the Germans. The result was a paradoxical situation: the Germans could not approach Leningrad from the north. In fact the German and Finnish armies maintained the siege together until January 1944, but there was little or no systematic shelling or bombing from the Finnish positions.


Richard Reynolds.