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Battle of Kämärä – Russian arms to revolutionaries

White Guards at Lemi
In January 1918 Finland was in turmoil. While the nation had mostly avoided the horrors of the Great War and successfully declared itself independent in December of 1917, the population was divided between socialists and the rest, the Reds and the Whites. After mid January both the Red Guards and the Suojeluskunta, also known as White Guards, began to clash, especially in Karelia.

The Imperial Russian army was still occupying Finland and the White Guards managed to disarm the passive Russian forces in Sortavala, Antrea and Joensuu. On the 26th the socialist Red Guards begun an open revolution.

In January 26th the Suojeluskunta Battalion from Viipuri, that had regrouped at Venäjänsaari after communists took over the city, began to march, mostly on skis, towards the railway stations at Kämärä and Säiniö in order to disrupt the vital railway line between Petrograd and Vyborg.

The battalion had roughly 500 white guards and its forward elements managed to capture the Säiniö railroad station. Before the rest of the battalion could move in, a train carrying Russian Baltic Fleet sailors returning home from Helsinki arrived at the station and managed to push the small White Guards elements away. Finns suffered a single casualty, no records of the casualties of the Baltic Fleet have survived.

Aminoff and his stache
The Finnish troops then fell back to a nearby mansion for the night. The battalions cautious approach, with reconnaissance elements deployed to scout the route, were probably due to the surprisingly experienced leadership of the battalion. Its commander Adolf Aminoff was a 62 years old ex dragoon officer of the Imperial Russian army, who had been discharged as a Lieutenant colonel in 1902 and forced into exile by the Russian General governor Bobrikov in 1903. Bobrikov would in turn be exiled into hell by a Finnish nationalist Eugen Schauman and his FN 1900.

Urho Sihvonen
On the other hand the only trained sapper in the unit was a 24 years old Urho Sihvonen, who had fought against the Imperial Russian army in the 27th Prussian Jaeger battalion along with the other Finnish volunteers, who joined the German army to gain training and experience for the Finnish struggle for independence. The early years of the Finnish army were labeled with the struggle between the Jaegers and ex-Imperial officers. Sihvonen would later on command the Infantry Regiment 28 at the hellish battles at Taipale during the Winter War in 1939 and then the Finnish Jaeger Brigade through the Continuation War 1941-1944.

On 27th of January 1918 the Viipuri Suojesluskunta Battalion relaunched its attempt to take the railroad. Aminoff sent two of his platoons to cut the tracks, while his main force attacked the station at Kämärä. The station was defended by a Red Guards unit also from Vyborg. The battle along the station and a near by trade union house was intense, but the Suojeluskunta  gained the upper hand.

As a great surprise to all parties a train pulled to station and parts of the Red Guard unit boarded the train and fled towards Äyräpää. After securing the station Aminoff and his men went through the paperwork found at the office and realized that a major arms shipment for the Bolsheviks at Petrograd was due to arrive the station soon. The trains cargo manifest showed that it carried over 10000 rifles, 30 machine-guns, 10 cannons and over two million rounds of ammunition. But it was also escorted by another train, that was full of well equipped Finnish Red Guards and Bolsheviks from Petrograd sent by Lenin and Stalin.

Petrograd Red Guard
Aminoff made the call to cut the tracks and keep marching northwest with his battalion. The frozen ground made it impossible to blow the tracks properly with the tools and explosives on hand, so the Suojeluskunta then left Jaeger Sihvonen with 60 men to ambush the arms train.

The arms shipment was commanded by a Finnish communist radical Jukka Rahja, who was a founding member of the Finnish communist party SKP. He would later on also participate in the founding of the Comintern. In 1920 he would be deemed as a threat to the communists close to Lenin and Stalin. The Finnish trustee of Stalin, Otto Wille Kuusinen, would arrange the assassination of Rahja and other communists not fully in Russian control.

Jukka Rahja, Commie
The Rahja’s two trains would slowly advance towards the station at Kämärä. The damaged track caused the lead locomotive to derail and the Red Guards jumped out to observe the situation. Jaeger Sihvonen ordered his sixty men to open fire at the cluster of communists by the derailed locomotive. Rahja was badly wounded along with several of his men. The Suojeluskunta troops would fire as long as they had ammunition and then skied away towards Antrea and the rest of the battalion before the Red Guards could get their cannons deployed and aimed.

The Suojeluskunta lost 18 men and the Red Guards and Russians over 30, so the battle was hardly a decisive one. The “great arms train” as it would later be known would eventually reach the heart of the Red Guard controlled area in Tampere and it's arms would prolong the war significantly.

The battle at Kämärä was the first real military battle of the Finnish independence war that would eventually end as a crushing victory for the Whites.

Revolutions incited from Russia, mercenaries and Russian regulars fighting abroad, arms shipments across the border and troublesome local leaders assassinated. Instead of 1918 Finland this conclusion could be about 2020 Ukraine. Russia never changes.


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