Academic journal article Journal of Social History

War of Hearts: Love and Collective Attachment as Integrating Factors in Finland during World War II

Academic journal article Journal of Social History

War of Hearts: Love and Collective Attachment as Integrating Factors in Finland during World War II

Article excerpt

The so-called new military history has replaced the purely "military" and heroic histories of war with histories of mutilation, trauma, chaos, genocide, and repression. (1) Unquestionably, a set of draconic repressive techniques was necessary to make people endure suffering, and to persuade them to fight and commit brutal acts. Still the glorification of war in propaganda and literature, for instance, should not only he seen as manipulation, by which common people were forced to make sacrifices for the cause of the elite. (2) Romantic, even elevated accounts of war could echo true sentiments and the desire for consolation among the wartime population. (3) Often they served the purpose of concealing and making up a reality of war too horrible to be confronted as such; yet at the same time they could be based on real experiences of genuine meaningfulness. Disturbingly, for many the war truly seemed to be a fulfillment of "positive" desires, such as the need to love and to be loved, and to experience one's own life as meaningful. Love--more than hate--made people fight (4).

In the following piece, we examine primarily the "positive" emotions in war--personal and collective bonds of attachment, altruism, the experience of fulfillment--rather than "negative" emotions--fear, hatred, and aggression. Our aim is by no means to dispute war's devastating and violent nature, but to understand, the central and often perverted role of love in both enduring and motivating this violence. As British military psychologists discovered during World War II, the so-called hate training aimed at making killers out of male citizens proved to be inefficient and even harmful, whereas the positive motivations of protecting one's family and country turned out to he much more sustaining. (5)

The main interest of military sociology regarding attachment relations has been in the cohesion of the so-called soldiers' primary group. (6) An emphasis on the primary group as an analytical category was introduced to counter theories of combat motivation, which had stressed military discipline, internalized patriotism, and national re/degeneration. (7) Many studies on the primary group have aimed at producing applicable knowledge for future military conflicts, and the research problem has been approached from the practical perspective of creating "fighting power" through different organizational and educational techniques and arrangements. If, however, one is interested in the wider social and cultural aspects of war, the primary group theory is inadequate. More far-reaching and complex attachment relations than mere buddy-ties were in play, and they had a deep impact on both soldiers' behavior and on the society at large during and after the war.

World War II meant three different wars for Finland: the Winter War against the Soviet invasion from November 1939 to March 1940; the Continuation War of 1941-44 as an officially unallied "brothers-in-arms" offensive with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union; the Lapland War between September 1944 and April 1945, the aim of which was to drive out the German troops in Northern Finland. (8) To analyze the meaning of the bonds of attachment in war, we will study three interwoven aspects of this Finnish war experience: emotional bonds between soldiers, male-female relations in war, and finally, collective, national bonds of attachment as a source of sacrifice and motivation. First, our emphasis will be on frontline soldiers, but in the last two sections we will pay more attention to the home front. We will conclude with a discussion on the contradictions and fragilities of emotional commitment in war and some of its post-war consequences. The article is intended primarily as a methodological opening in understanding attachment relations in war. We take Finnish history in World War II as a case in point to illustrate and bring together various theoretical viewpoints varying from nationalism research to gender studies and from the emerging history of emotions to psychoanalytically-oriented approaches. …

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