B2 Book chapter

Äänislinna noir - miehitetty Petroskoi suomalaisessa kirjallisuudessa

List of Authors: Kauhanen Riku

Publisher: Sotilasperinteen Seura ry

Place: Helsinki

Publication year: 2020

Book title *: Tahtoa ja terästä: näkökulmia sotilasperinteeseen IV

Title of series: Sotilasperinteen Seuran julkaisusarja

Number in series: 17

ISBN: 978-951-98561-6-2

ISSN: 1455-8831


Äänislinna -noir – Occupied
Petrozavodsk in Finnish literature

During the Continuation War
(1941–1944) the Russian city of Petrozavodsk (Petroskoi) was captured and
occupied by the Finnish Army and the city was renamed as Äänislinna (from
Onegaburg, literally “Onegacastle”). City became an important logistical city
to the Finnish Army and it also housed the largest garrison of Finnish history.
City became familiar to hundreds of thousands of Finnish soldiers and women serving
in the area, thanks to crowded passenger trains which transported people to
home in Finland and back to front. Thousands of Russian civilians were also
relocated to the city in the Concentration / Transfer Camps. Especially during
the harsh winter of 1941–1942 and spring and summer of 1942 mortality rate in
these camps was very high due to famine.

Capturing the city in 1st
of October 1941 was a major victory for Finnish army. City became familiar to
home front thanks to articles, radio broadcasts and news films. These were
produced by journalists home and abroad and soldiers serving in Propaganda
Companies (TK, Tiedoituskomppania). These companies had many professional
authors in their personnel. Therefor it’s not surprising, that the occupied
city became a scene for many books: new city intrigued the writers and run-down
shacks, old wooden houses, pompous palaces and pretentious monuments of Soviet
era were portrayed in books set in Petrozavodsk.

In this article I study five books
situated in the city of Äänislinna. Talo
Dźerśinskajan varrella (1942) by Outsider (Aarne Haapakoski), Tapahtui
Petroskoissa (1942) by Heikki Rantala, Petroskoin musta hämähäkki (Published in
1961 in Peitsi-magazine, in 1991 as a book) by Outsider, Petroskoin keltainen
kissa (1980) by Mauri Sariola and Äänislinna (2011) by Pekka Manninen. Two were
written during the war in the year 1942 and during the beginning of Finnish
occupation, two were written after the war by authors, who themselves served in
the city during the war and one is written after the war by an author, who was
born after the war.

Dźerśinskajan varrella (A house on the Dźerśinskaja Street) and Tapahtui
Petroskoissa (Happened in Petroskoi) could be described as “pulp fiction”, the
first being a detective/secret agent story written by the popular writer
Outsider, pen name of Aarne Haapakoski (1904–1961). Book is a part of Outsiders
detective series Karma (Karma-sarja) named after the main character detective
Klaus Karma. The second book is also a detective/secret agent/adventure story
by Heikki Rantala (1911–1961) with several plot lines. Both books were
published at the same time in 1942 and many themes and events are similar. City
is made familiar to reader with Russian street names, city squares and by
describing the buildings in great detail. In both books the key element is a
spy or spies left in the city to sabotage Finnish forces and spy on them. A
very popular theme, which is also mentioned in other literature, are ten (or
less) female spies left by the Russians. Both Haapakoski and Rantala served in
Propaganda Companies and had firsthand experience of the captured city and the
beginning of occupation in 1941–1942. Surprisingly both writers mention the
concentration camps and Rantalas hero, lieutenant Koivu even visits a house in
camp area, though the visits give almost a rosy image of the conditions of two
women living in the camp. The famine and suffering of civilians are not
mentioned, which is not surprising considering that the books were published
during the war.

Outsider “returned” to Petrozavodsk
in 1961, when the story Petroskoin musta hämähäkki (Black Spider of
Petrozavodsk) was published as a serial story. The themes are very similar to
Outsiders previous Petrozavodsk-book, but the story is not limited to
Petrozavodsk. For example the main character Järvinen visits Berlin at one time
to gain information about his adversary. Some things that were definitively a
secret during the war are mentioned, for example the poor morale of some
Finnish units after the occupation of the city. Female spies are mentioned soon
after main character arrives to Petrozavodsk. Surprisingly this book is less
detailed when portraying the city and more room is given to the actual plot.

Fourth book, Petroskoin keltainen
kissa (Yellow Cat of Petrozavodsk) was written by Mauri Sariola (1942–1985) as
a part of his Susikoski crime-series. Superintendent Olavi Susikoski, Sariolas
main character, is however involved only at the end of the book. Most of the
story follows Samuli Ilvesoja during his
visit to Petrozavodsk in 1980. Ilvesoja has arrived to the city with other
Finnish tourists during the golden days of “vodka tourism” with a certain goal
in his mind: he is there to regain a memento, which he buried near his service
place just before Finnish evacuated the city in June of 1944. However other
members of the tourist group also ha histories of their own in the city, and
these stories lead to the death of one traveller. Samuli Ilvesoja is clearly
the alter ego of Mauri Sariola, who himself served as a radio operator in the
city, just like Ilvesoja descripes his time in the city. Petroskoin keltainen
kissa is also the only book which is set in the end of Finnish occupation in
1943–1944, whereas the other books are set in 1941–1942. This is probably
because Sariola served in the city during years 1943–1944. The book is mostly a
memento of Äänislinna, and Ilvesoja navigates his way through the city with the
help of an old war time map and his memories. City of 1944, Äänislinna, and nowadays
(1980 city) Petrozavodsk merge. Crime is a lesser part of the book, and it
roots this part of the story in familiar “Äänislinna-genre” or
“Äänislinna-noir”: according to several travelers there was a spy among Finnish
ranks during the war, and like the back cover of the book mentions: “The hand
of an avenger is long”.

Äänislinna, written by Pekka
Manninen (1953–), was published in 2011 and gives a very brutal image of
concentration camps, going to the point of sadism. The main character Emmanuel
Wolff is a young Finnish officer and a Jew, who instead of going to front lines
is pointed as an intendent of the camps. Unlike the other four books,
Äänislinna is not intended to be a crime/detective book but it is a modern
novel: it’s not even clearly a war novel, but the war is the scenery for sad
and horrific events. Manninen still uses common themes: a spy network,
sabotage, well detailed street names, city plazas and buildings. Manninen also
uses the same time slot as Outsider and Rantala, which is winter 1941–1942.
This is probably because Manninen wanted to show the horrors which the
civilians faced, but time also gives a chance to portray Russian resistance in
the city.

All five books have many themes in
common, so there definitively is a phenomenon which could be called
“Äänislinna-noir”. First, Äänislinna is time and space, a city which existed
during Finnish occupation during years 1941–1944. If studied on map, characters
in books mostly move in a rather small area. This area consist of only few blocks
around the Government Plaza in city center. Outside this “home” is the area of
restricted movement, shanties, camps and unknown people.

The nature of occupied city, which
consist of soldiers and Finnish, Carelian and Russian civilians is unique and
creates an atmosphere of distrust and unclear identities. Especially the
presence of spies working for Soviet Union is a common factor. Many characters
are also given double-identities, thanks to the history of the city as the
center of “Finnish Red Carelia” in 1920–1930s, when refugees of Finnish Civil
War (1918) and Finnish-Americans immigrant workers lived in Eastern Carelia in
great numbers.

Four books are set in winter
1941–1942, when the Finns were still getting to know the city better and it’s
plausible for the plot that the Russians still had operating agents in the
city. The most common theme is not the city itself but knowing it, and in a
way, “taming” it. Books written in 1942 depict Finnish detectives weeding out
Russian spies and criminals, therefore establishing some order. Books written
after the war, Outsiders Petroskoin musta hämähäkki and Äänislinna by Manninen
also cover this, though the eventual failure and loss of the city is present:
city is occupied, but not tamed. In this sense Sariolas book is a curious one:
Instead of a Russian spy, who knows the city of Petrozavodsk well and is
avoiding the Finnish authority the situation is reversed: a Finn, who knows the
city very well, is on rather shady business and wonders if local authorities
are following him or find out what he is actually doing. Also the latest book,
Äänislinna, depicts Wolff as an individual who wants to know the city better
and – in a way – make it his home. But at best the city becomes home turf:
never home.

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Last updated on 2021-24-06 at 09:00