Finnish Infantry Regiment 200
Infantry Regiment 200 or Soomepoisid was a unit in the Finnish army
Finnish Army
The Finnish Army is the land forces branch of the Finnish Defence Forces.Today's Army is divided into six branches: the infantry , field artillery, anti-aircraft artillery, engineers, signals, and materiel troops.-History of the Finnish Army:Between 1809 and 1917 Finland was an autonomous part of...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 made up mostly of Estonian
Estonians are a Finnic people closely related to the Finns and inhabiting, primarily, the country of Estonia. They speak a Finnic language known as Estonian...

 volunteers, who preferred to fight against the Soviet Union in the ranks of the Finnish
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 army instead of the armed forces of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...



In September 1939, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 entered World War II as an ally of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 by first invading Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 from the east and then de facto occupying the Baltic states. In August 1940, the Republic of Estonia was officially annexed by the Soviet Union. During the following year, thousands of Estonians were arrested, executed, or sent to the Soviet concentration camp system
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

 in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. After war broke out between the Soviet Union and Germany on June 22, 1941, the Soviet authorities in occupied Estonia, in violation of the international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

, coerced about 30,000 Estonians into service in the retreating Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

. Although initially the Germans were perceived as liberators by most Estonians, it was soon realized that they were but another occupying power. However, with the Russian atrocities fresh in mind, during the early stages of German occupation many young Estonian men volunteered the Estonian units within the German Army to fight against the Soviet Union. In 1944, Estonia, along with Latvia, became one of only two non-German speaking countries occupied by Germany where a general conscription-mobilization was carried out by the occupational authorities.

Against this background, joining the armed forces of Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, a kindred nation, appeared a reasonable alternative for those who wished to fight for the freedom of Estonia and against the advancing Red Army, but who for ideological reasons or historical grievances were unwilling to do it in the German uniform. During the Estonian War of Independence, some 2,000 Finnish volunteers under the leadership of their Estonian commander Hans Kalm had at a crucial moment helped to turn the tide of the war and rout the invading Red Army. The Estonian volunteers in the Finnish Army, to indicate a debt of honor, picked "For the freedom of Finland and the honor of Estonia" as their motto
A motto is a phrase meant to formally summarize the general motivation or intention of a social group or organization. A motto may be in any language, but Latin is the most used. The local language is usual in the mottoes of governments...


Service in the Finnish armed forces

While there had been some Estonian volunteers in the Finnish Army already during the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

, the first men of JR 200 crossed the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

 in early spring of 1943. It was a dangerous journey to make, as the gulf was ablaze with war and ravaged by storms, and the German authorities did not allow Estonians to cross over to Finland, which also put the Finnish authorities in an awkward position. The first batch of volunteers formed the third battalion of Infantry Regiment 47. In the autumn of the same year, when the German authorities called into service those born in 1925, more volunteers arrived from Estonia. The volunteers made their way over the Gulf independently, or with the help of the "hawks" . The Hawks were Estonian volunteers working for the S-office which was part of the secret service of the Finnish headquarters. The hawks were equipped with speed boats and many of them had served in the reconnaissance unit Erna
Erna long-range recce group
The Erna long-range reconnaissance group was a Finnish Army formation, of Estonian volunteers, that fulfilled reconnaissance duties in Estonia behind the Red Army lines during World War II...

, also made up of Estonian volunteers, in the early days of Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...


On February 8, 1944, Finnish Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim
Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was the military leader of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War, Commander-in-Chief of Finland's Defence Forces during World War II, Marshal of Finland, and a Finnish statesman. He was Regent of Finland and the sixth President of Finland...

 ordered the formation of the Estonian volunteer regiment, Infantry Regiment 200. The regiment consisted of two four-company infantry battalions (Companies 1–8 ), the 13th Mortar Company and the 14th Anti-Tank Company. On May 4, 1944, there were 1,973 Estonians and 361 Finns in Infantry Regiment 200, including 67 officers and 165 non-commissioned officers. The regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

 took part in the defensive battles of summer 1944 on the Finnish front. They were sent to the front, on June 10 1944, as part of the Finnish 10th Division, and they took up positions around the Bay of Viipuri. The regiment became known as "The Finnish boys" (Finnish: Suomen-pojat, Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

: soomepoisid).

JR 200 in Estonia

In August 1944, the Germans began their withdrawal from Estonia. The war in Finland was nearly over, and the men of Infantry Regiment 200 wished to return to Estonia and continue their fight. The regiment had been withdrawn from the front and had been following the developments south of the water anxiously. On August 1 1944, it was broadcasted over the Yleisradio
The Finnish Broadcasting Company , abbreviated to YLE , is Finland's national broadcasting company, founded in 1926. YLE is a public-broadcasting organization which shares many of its characteristics with its British counterpart, the BBC, on which it was largely modelled...

 that the Finnish government and President Ryti
Risto Ryti
Risto Heikki Ryti was the fifth President of Finland, from 1940 to 1944. Ryti started his career as a politician in the field of economics and as a political background figure during the interwar period. He made a wide range of international contacts in the world of banking and within the...

 were to resign. On the next day, Aleksander Warma
Aleksander Warma
Aleksander Warma VR I/3 was an Estonian navy officer, diplomat and painter....

 announced that the National Committee of the Republic of Estonia
National Committee of the Republic of Estonia
The National Committee of the Republic of Estonia was formed by the underground resistance movements in German-occupied Estonia in March 1944. By April 1944 a large number of the committee members were arrested by the German security agencies....

 had sent a telegram, which stated: "Estonians return home!" On the following day, the Finnish government received a letter from the Estonians. It had been signed in the name of "all national organisations of Estonia" by Captain Karl Talpak, minister Aleksander Warma and several others. In the letter, the Finnish government was asked to send the Estonian volunteer regiment back to Estonia fully equipped.

It was then announced that JR 200 would be disbanded and that the volunteers were free to return home. An agreement had been reached with the Germans, and the Estonians were promised amnesty if they were to return. The men wanted to return armed and as a unit, but if their wishes would be followed was another question. The uncertainty of situation made the decision difficult, but 9 out of 10 decided to return. As soon as they landed, the regiment was sent to perform a counter-attack against the Soviet 3rd Baltic Front, which had managed a break-through at the Tartu front and was threatening the capital Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

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