14:52 GMT +317 July 2018
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    Finns Furious Over War Execution Scene, Drowned Refugee Boy on Anniversary Coins

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    As Finland gets ready to celebrate the centenary of its independence, a commemorative coin depicting an execution scene from the Civil War has sparked fury and carved deep divisions among Finns, who still suffer the aftershocks of the strife. Another coin that raised Finns' eyebrows features a drowned refugee boy.

    The outrage triggered by the Civil War-themed scene, which depicts soldiers from the victorious White Guard executing Red Guard prisoners, forced the Finnish mint to withdraw the peculiarly partisan coin, the Finnish daily Hufvudstadsbladet reported.

    Finance Minister Petteri Orpo called on the Mint to retract the coin, calling its imagery "surprising" and "tasteless."

    "I don't understand how it conveys the spirit of Finland's 100th anniversary — in any way at all. I actually hope that this coin will be withdrawn," Petteri Orpo said in Parliament. "Finland is 100 years old, we are together, we are one nation. I simply don't understand," Orpo declared, apologizing for the incident, which struck a soft sport in the Finnish national psyche.

    ​Designer Ilkka Suppanen said that he was not aware of who was shooting who in the picture, which he chose to illustrate the Civil War as the largest challenge in the early days of Finland's independence. He also suggested that the idea was to stress that each coin had two sides, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.

    ​According to Finnish historian Sture Lindholm, the original photograph was probably staged, yet to use it in a commemorative coin was "distasteful" because it touched a very sensitive issue, Yle reported.

    During the Finnish Civil War (1918), the parliamentary White Guard, which was heavily supported by the German Empire as well as Swedish and Estonian volunteers, defeated the paramilitary Red Guard, which was supported by early Soviet Russia. The Civil War was a catastrophe for Finland, which lost around 36,000 people or 1.2 percent of the nation's total population.

    In the aftermath of the civil war, hundreds of Reds were executed, and thousands thrown into prison camps, where around 14,000 perished in captivity due to hunger and diseases such as the Spanish Flu. The camps and the executions, which were often carried out at random, left a deep impact on the minds of Finns, especially because they were largely ignored in the "White" interpretation of history. Therefore, White leader Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, who is revered as the father of the nation, still remains a divisive figure among Finns.

    The Mint divided the collection into five coins; each celebrating two decades of the Finnish independence. Incidentally, the Mint described the collection as a series that "tells the story of Finnish independence through its accomplishments and triumph over adversity."

    However, the final coin celebrating Finnish independence since the turn of the century also sparked an outrage. The coin headlined "Global Justice" portrays a rescue worker holding the dead body of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in the autumn of 2015. Although the image made international headlines and became iconic, many Finns found it hard to associate it with the history of Finnish independence. The boy's family had intended to make its way to Canada.

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    coins, civil war, Petteri Orpo, Scandinavia, Finland
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