The Hunting Cabin
During World War II, Finland was twice at war with the Soviet Union. In the Winter War 1939-1940 Finland made successful defensive war for 105 glorious days, but in the peace treaty lost vast territories at the eastern border, particularly in Karelia. In the Continuation War 1941-1944 Finland fought to retrieve the territories lost in the Winter War and safeguard Finland's young independence.
During the offensive stage of the Continuation War in 1941, the 14th Division, formed by men from Kainuu, North Karelia and North Savo had proceeded 200 kilometres from the Finnish border to the east, through the vastest desert of Western Europe, the Pieninkä wilds. The Commander of the division was Major General Erkki Raappana, former Commander of the North Karelian Border Guard Detachment, avid hunter and fisherman. He was also well aware of Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Mannerheim's enthusiasm for hunting and fishing.
At the approach of the Field Marshal's 75th birthday, Major General Raappana, together with his division, decided to build a hunting cabin as a present for the Commander-in-Chief. The soldiers wished in this way to express their respect of and gratefulness to their Commander-in-Chief. The cabin was designed by architect, lieutenant Eino Pitkänen, who served in Raappana's troups. A place on the western shore of lake Lieksajärvi, close to the village of Repola, was chosen as a site. The place was east of the Finnish border.
The cabin was built by 60 men; each company of the division released two skilled workers for the construction and the artillery saw to the felling and transporting of the timber to the building site in connection with munitions transports. The felling of dead standing trees started in March 1942. Fifteen men and their horses transported the logs, whose length was 12-18 metres and diameter 18-25 centimetres. In the course of two weeks, 350 pine logs were brought to the side of the main road, from where they were carried by lorries to the building site some 100 kilometres away.
The cabin consisted of a spacious living room with a fireplace, the Marshal's bedroom, the aide-de-camp's room, a kitchen, rooms for the housekeeper and orderly and a veranda. A separate sauna including a fireplace room was also built. A fishing hut was built at the south end of lake Lieksajärvi.
Members of the women's voluntary defence service saw to the catering during construction. They also took part in the furnishing of the cabin. Numerous objects made by veterans as hobby articles were received as presents for the cabin.
By mid May the cabin was completed, including interior decoration and yard work. A delegation from the division went to Mikkeli on June 5, 1942, to hand over the cabin to the Commander-in-Chief. The delegation consisted of Major General Raappana and two young non-commissioned officers, Tahvo Laitinen and Samuli Pääkkönen, who had distinguished themselves in the war.
The Marshal was able to visit the cabin only in September 1942. The retinue, joined by Major General Raappana, spent two days at the cabin. The programme included a hunting and fishing expedition. The Marshal was very pleased with the sauna sitting in a cove with a sandy bottom. Despite the war, the party could listen to the clear autumnal stillness outside the cabin. Afterwards, the Marshal recalled his days at the cabin with great warmth, planning a renewed visit there. However, the opportunity never arose.
At the end of the Continuation War, at the turn of the month July-August 1944, the decision was made to move the Marshal's cabin and its fittings to the Finnish side of the border. The buildings were pulled down and the logs carefully numbered. All material was transported to Pielisjärvi and stored there.
In spring 1945 Mannerheim purchased a piece of land for the hunting cabin on the shore of lake Punelia in Loppi. The grounds belonged to the Leppäniemi mansion, whose owners Saara and Paavo Kassari took a very positive attitude to the project. The Kassari family also later supported the activities and developing of the Marshal's Cabin. The original designer of the hunting cabin, architect Eino Pitkänen from Kajaani assisted the Marshal in preparing the plans for the grounds and planning the location of the buildings. The building party consisted of 20 men from various border companies. They obtained leave from their units and were paid by the Marshal.
Construction work in Loppi started in May 1945 and the erection of cabin, sauna and fishing hut took six weeks. The Marshal received the completed buildings on June 21, 1945.
The Marshal visited the cabin several times after it had been completed in Loppi. The last time was in early spring 1948. Some months earlier he had donated the cabin and its fittings to the Union of Hunters in Finland. After some years the Union found that it was unable to maintain the cabin. In 1957 the officers' associations decided to take joint responsibility for the cabin. The Jägerfederation, the Cadet Corps, the Officers Union and the Reserve Officers' Federation founded an association called Suomen Marsalkka Mannerheimin Metsästysmaja ry. The first chairman of the Association's committee was General of Infantry, Knight of the Mannerheim Cross, Adolf Ehrnrooth, who held the office for more than four decades.
All Marshal's Cabin buildings had to be repaired. In 1959 the cabin was opened for the public. Later on a separate café building for the public was built. The Marshal's Cabin complex also includes a field guard museum.
Today the Marshal's Cabin offers a variety of services. It is open to the public and guided museum tours are arranged. For conferences there is modern audio-visual equipment. The restaurant services comply with customers' wishes and, if desired, in the elegant and simple wartime style observed by the Marshal. The café is continually at the disposal of visitors. The field guard museum illustrates how the original builders lived during the Continuation War. Various other programmes can also be arranged according to customers' wishes.
Mannerheim was an avid hunter. With the possible exception of riding, nothing pleased him as much as hunting. He hunted whenever the opportunity offered itself.
Hunting was a form of entertainment and social life for the aristocracy of imperial Russia. Mannerheim learnt the hunting habits of the aristocracy at the Nicholas Cavalry School and the Chevalier Guards. Hunting and pertaining arrangements were included in the service programme of the Guards.
During his ride in Asia, Mannerheim often moved apart from the caravan in the hope of encountering game. He also made hunting trips to the mountains when the expedition was encamped. The quarry mostly consisted of mountain goats or wild sheep.
Having moved to Poland as Commander of a Uhlan Regiment, Mannerheim joined the Warsaw Hunting Club, which was on a level with the most distinguished clubs in London, Paris and St. Petersburg. In Poland Mannerheim's two hobbies were joined in the then very popular par-force hunting, where the game is pursued on horseback. This was also a part of the cavalry officers' training.
In the 20's and 30's, after his term as Regent, Mannerheim had more time for hunting. He booked hunting grounds including a lodge in the Austrian Alps for some weeks at a time. The quarry was chamois and red deer. After a successful hunt a festive evening was spent at the lodge. Mannerheim also hunted red deer in East Prussia as the guest of distinguished German hunting enthusiasts.
Mannerheim also became renowned as a tiger hunter. In 1928 and 1937 he made hunting trips to India. The first trip was not a success, but on the second trip he brought down four tigers. The hunters rode on elephants and killed the tigers by shooting. The hides of two of the tigers shot by Mannerheim can be seen in the Mannerheim Museum.
Mannerheim also hunted in Finland. Elks were the only big game. The stock of elks was very small in Finland in the 20's because of poaching. The protection of elks ended in 1933, after which Mannerheim was a regular guest at many elk hunts.
Mannerheim was an excellent rifle shooter but was not as used to the shotgun. He was a master of bird-shooting. His weapons were top-class English rifles and shotguns.
Mannerheim mostly hunted big game. He preferred to shoot game that was worth remembering. He was first of all an aristocrat, also when it came to hunting.