Battled Nerves: Finnish Soldiers’ War Experience, Trauma, and Military Psychiatry, 1941-1944

TitleBattled Nerves: Finnish Soldiers’ War Experience, Trauma, and Military Psychiatry, 1941-1944
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsKivimäki, Ville
Academic DepartmentNordic History
Number of Pages488
UniversityÅbo Akademi University
CityTurku, Finland

This doctoral dissertation deals with the psychological disorders of Finnish soldiers during the war. As Matti Ponteva explained as early as 1977, the total number of psychiatric military patients in the Continuation War was about 15,700 men. Kivimäki emphasises that this figure only describes part of the phenomenon: by no means all Finnish soldiers with psychological symptoms were ever sent from the front for psychiatric treatment. Before the Winter War, Finnish psychiatrists had no first-hand contact with war-related mental disorders. The lessons came exclusively from German war psychiatry, which, especially after the First World War, was guided by the idea of blaming mental disorders on the patients' own mental weaknesses and defects. Finally, the author considers why the response to soldiers' mental disorders was so different from that to other war injuries. Soldiers' deaths and physical injuries could be presented as manifestations of male heroism and sacrifice. In contrast, the psychological fractures caused by war threatened to remain empty symbols of war violence, with no content other than the absurdity itself. Psychological disorders were associated with moral disapproval and a stigma of shame - their existence was also sought to be denied, marginalised and separated from the experience of war itself. The mentally disturbed soldiers of the Second World War have been difficult to include in national historiography up to the present day. [Author; translated from Finnish by Deepl]

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