The Jäger Movement (Finnish: Jääkäriliike) were volunteers from Finland trained in Germany as Jägers (elite light infantry) during World War I. Supported by Germany to enable a Finnish sovereign state, it was one of many means by which Germany intended to weaken Russia and to cause Russia's loss of western provinces and dependencies.
The recruitment of the Jäger volunteers from the Grand Duchy of Finland was clandestine and dominated by the Germany-influenced circles, such as university students and the upper middle class. The recruitment was however in no way exclusive. In all, over 1,100 volunteers are estimated to have "slipped off" to train in Germany.
The recruits were transported across Finland's western border via Sweden to Germany, where the volunteers were formed into the Royal Prussian 27th Jäger Battalion. The Jäger Battalion fought in the ranks of the German Army from 1916 in the battles on the northern flank of the eastern front.
After the outbreak of the Civil War in Finland the Jägers were engaged on the "White" (non-communist) side in the war and formed the nucleus of the new Finnish Army. In Finland, these 2,000 volunteers were simply called The Jägers (Finnish pl. Jääkärit).
Their contribution to the White victory was crucial, not least through improving morale. Educated as elite troops they were also fit to assume command as officers over the untrained troops of the Civil War.
Immediately after the Civil War, they were given the right to use the word Jäger in their military ranks. Many of the Jägers continued their military careers. In the 1920s a long feud between officers with Jäger-background and Finnish officers who had served in the Russian Imperial army was concluded in favor of the Jägers: Most of the commanders of army corps, divisions and regiments in the Winter War were Jägers. The Jäger March composed by Jean Sibelius to the words written by the Jäger Heikki Nurmio, was the honorary march of many army detachments.
Conflict with Mannerheim
The Jäger conflict derived from the German-influenced Jägers and politicians who looked to Germany as their ally building up tensions (but not open armed conflict) with the faction oriented towards an alliance with Sweden, which remained neutral during the war but which was opposed to Russia, and with which Finland shared much of its history up to 1809. The latter faction centered on the former Russian General and Finnish Commander-in-Chief Baron Gustaf Mannerheim, born in a Sueco-Finnish family, a man respected both among Finns, Russians and Swedes. Baron Mannerheim and some of the Swedish officers of the Finnish Army left Finland as a direct consequence of this conflict, as the Finnish senate elected a German prince as King of Finland and would have made Finland a Monarchy. However, the kingdom was never realized beyond this statement of intention, and when the World War ended and the Kaiser fled, the nascent Finnish monarchy was replaced by the Finnish Republic and Baron Mannerheim returned.
|This article's factual accuracy is disputed. (November 2008)|
At the present time, infantry in the Finnish Army are designated either as infantry or Jäger troops, specifically mechanized infantry or motorised infantry using APCs or vehicles such as Sisu Nasu. Mechanized infantry using IFVs are called panssarijääkäri or Armoured Jäger. Several other variations exist, including Finnish Navy Coastal Jäger (Marine), Guard's Jäger of the Guard Jaeger Regiment, in special forces (Para) Jäger, Special Jäger, and in the Border Guard border jäger and special border jäger.
Jääkäri "Jäger" is also the lowest basic rank in the infantry of the Finnish Army and the Uusimaa Brigade (marines) of the Finnish Navy. Also, a driver, medic, military police or mortar man may hold the rank of Jaeger. In other troops, special ranks such as tykkimies "Gunner" are equivalent (see Finnish military ranks). The older rank of sotamies "Private" is no longer used in peace time educational units but remains in war time infantry use.
Media related to History of the Royal Prussian 27th Jäger Battalion at Wikimedia Commons