The Flame - a monument to the battles of Suomussalmi


Most historical monuments have their origins in battles and the events of wars. A very large part of these consist of portraits and statues in which oligarchies and state apparatuses are assigned their characteristic attributes.

During ancient times, by which I mean the earliest centuries of antiquity, monuments in the forms of both buildings and art sculptures were mostly related to associations between states and especially to the religious ceremonies which they practised. In some cases they were simply gifts.

The idea of creating a monument to the battles of Suomussalmi came from a large body of citizens. At a relatively early stage Colonel August Mäkiniemi was chosen to be the chairman of the committee which was to lead the project of building the monument. I mention this in particular because his viewpoint concerning the nature of the monument came to influence both its general form and, more importantly, its inner content. According to his understanding monuments to battles should not be aggressive but rather the dramatic and tragic elements always present in conflicts between nations should be emphasised.

The unique nature of the monument has affected its form. This is no ordinary urban or street sculpture. It stands alone in the remote forests of Northern Finland. The surrounding scenery, the special landscape forms of northernmost Finland and the modest proportions of the forest themselves form the background. The monument carries no real symbolism or theme. Neither has its creator striven to effect any metaphorical or seminatural meaning. Instead, the form of the monument has, in its creator’s opinion, grown directly from the tragedy of human life as well as from the natural environment and conditions in which man lives. Nevertheless, the viewer himself should be able to project content in the angles and curves of each form and in this way the monument may carry a certain emotional value for the viewer.

This monument is cast from bronze and takes the form of a leaning asymmetrical column representing a linear opposite to the vertical character of Northern Finland’s pine and spruce forests. At the same time the scale of the monument and its surface formationsreflect the ever-changing proportions of the wilderness forest. The monument is fixed to a base of granite and its actual environment is made up of a gradually sloping hillside and surrounding broad landscapes. Perhaps the long winters and snowy forests have to some extent influenced the choice of materials while the way in which the sculpture rises from the ground has been harmonised with the rich and snowy terrain. The monument stands nine metres high, rising above the tree canopy without, however, doing so in a disproportionate way. Since the monument is the work of an architect it is natural that it does not mimic natural themes or represent any kind of symbolic image designed to elicit particular emotions. The creator of this work considers that sentiments should be the result of some kind of free relationship between the monument and the viewer.

The monument was sculpted by Heikki Häiväoja and the casting work performed by Pentti Lappalainen. The stone base and platform are the work of Nurmeksen Kiviveistämö. The sculpture was erected on 30th August 1959 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Suomussalmi battles. Fixed onto the base is a metal plaque showing the battlegrounds of Suomussalmi while at its front is an inscription of General Hjalmar Siilasvuo’s words:
“The lives of many brave soldiers ensured the great victories of Suomussalmi. They showed their nation an honourable path which was hard but which offered no alternative.”

The location of the memorial can be seen on the Kainuu outdoors map.
Street address: Kuhmontie 1, Suomussalmi