Murmansk Legion

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Murmansk legionnaires in 1918

Murmansk Legion, also known as the Finnish Legion, was a British Royal Navy organized military unit during the 1918–1919 Allied North Russia Intervention. It was composed of Finnish Red Guards who had fled after the Finnish Civil War from the White dominated Northern Finland to Soviet Russia and of some Finns working on the Murmansk Railroad. The Legion fought the 1918 Viena expedition of Finnish White Guards and defended the Murmansk Railroad along with British troops.[1]

Finnish White Guards had started their military campaign in March 1918. The goal was to annex White Karelia from Bolshevist Russia. British Royal Marines had invaded Murmansk at the same time to prevent the Germans and their Finnish White Guard allies from gaining the White Sea coast and the Murmansk Railroad.[2]

Murmansk Legion was armed with British equipment and wore British uniforms. The Legion was led by Oskari Tokoi and Verner Lehtimäki who were both promoted as Colonel by the British Navy. Strength of the Legion peaked in February 1919 and was about 1,200 men.[2] Murmansk Legion was first approved by Lenin but he later condemned it, as did the communists left behind in Finland, since the British were on the side of the White movement although Finns refused to fight the Bolsheviks.[1]

Murmansk Legion was disbanded in 1919 as the British troops withdraw. Finnish government regarded them as traitors but United Kingdom and United States made their recognition of Finnish independence conditional, the legionnaires had to be either pardoned or allowed to exile themselves to Canada. In the autumn of 1919 most of the Murmansk Legion fighters returned to Finland but some 20 highest-ranked officers like Tokoi, Lehtimäki and Aarne Orjatsalo fled to North America.[2] Some legionnaires joined later the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and few of the youngest even fought in the Finnish Army during the World War II.


  1. ^ a b Royal Reds – Finns in the British Murmansk Legion 1918–1919 Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Jussila, Osmo: "From Grand Duchy to Modern State: A Political History of Finland Since 1809", p. 123 Retrieved 23 November 2013.