Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim (4 June 1867 – 27 January 1951) was a Finnish military leader and politician.
Mannerheim began his career in the Imperial Russian Army. During the Russian Civil War, Mannerheim briefly served the new revolutionary government, before he grew disenchanted with Communism. He was relieved of duty, and returned home to a newly independent Finland. After playing a crucial role in winning the Finnish Civil War for the "white" side, Mannerheim became regent in 1918, and, acting as an interim head of state, received foreign recognition for the new Republic, and oversaw the institution of a new constitution. He stood for election to the presidency in 1919, but lost, and retired from public life. He returned to service in the 1930s, accepting a position as chairman the national defense council, and was informed that, in the event of war, he would be immediately elevated to Commander-in-Chief. Although Mannerheim was neither head of state, nor head of government, he exerted substantial influence over Finland's government.
Mannerheim led the military from November 1939, when the Soviet Union attacked Finland through September 1944, when Finland was able to reach a separate peace with the USSR. During the fighting, Finland had been an ally of Germany, although Mannerheim did his best to keep that alliance as informal as possible.
Mannerheim was concurrently elected president of Finland in 1944, but completed only two years of his six-year term before he resigned due to ill health.
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim in The War That Came Early
Although neither head of state nor head of government, Carl Mannerheim's visible and critical influence over the Finnish government allowed Joseph Stalin to use Mannerheim as a scape-goat to justify a possible pre-emptive Soviet invasion of Finland in December 1939, during the Second World War. Officially, Stalin stated that, as Denmark had already fallen to Germany, and Norway was falling, the "reactionary" Mannerheim could not be trusted to remain neutral. However, by mid-1940, "the big switch" had taken place, and the USSR was fighting Germany, Poland, and its former allies, Britain and France. Thus, Mannerheim was able to continue to influence Finland's decision to remain neutral (albeit with German leanings) for the remainder of the war.
Pehr Evind Svinhufvud
|Regent of Finland
Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg
as President of the Republic
|President of Finland
Juho Kusti Paasikivi