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Conscription in Finland is part of a general compulsion for national service in time of crisis (Finnish language: maanpuolustusvelvollisuus

Swedish language

) defined in the 127§ of the Constitution of Finland.

Conscription can take the form of military or of civilian service. According to Finnish Defence Forces 2011 data slightly under 80% of Finnish males turned 30 had entered and finished the military service. The number of female volunteers to annually enter armed service had been stabilised to 300.[1] The service period is 165, 255 or 347 days for the rank and file conscripts and 347 days for conscripts trained as NCOs or reserve officers. The length of civilian service is always twelve months. Those electing to serve unarmed in the military serve either nine or twelve months, depending on their training.[2][3]

Any Finnish citizen who refuses to perform either military or civilian service faces a penalty of 173 days in prison, minus any served days. Such sentences are usually served fully in prison, with no parole.[4][5] Jehovah's Witnesses are exempted in that they may be granted a deferment of service for 3 years upon presentation of a certificate from their congregation's minister showing they are an active member of that religious community. Providing they are still an active member 3 years later, there is nothing to stop them getting a further certificate and deferment.[6] The inhabitants of the demilitarized Åland Islands are exempt from military service. By the Conscription Act of 1950, they are, however, required to serve a time at a local institution, like the coast guard. However, until such service has been arranged, they are freed from service obligation. The non-military service of Åland islands has not been arranged since the introduction of the act, and there are no plans to institute it. The inhabitants of Åland islands can also volunteer for military service on the mainland. As of 1995, women were permitted to serve on a voluntary basis and pursue careers in the military after their initial voluntary military service.

The military service takes place in Finnish Defence Forces or in the Finnish Border Guard. Civilian service may take place in the Civilian Service Center in Lapinjärvi or in an accepted non-profit organization of educational, social or medical nature.

Military service[edit | edit source]

Finnish conscripts swearing their military oath at the end of their basic training period.

The Finnish defence forces is based on a universal male conscription. All men above 18 years of age are liable to serve either 165, 255 or 347 days. Yearly about 27,000 conscripts are trained. About 80% of the males complete the service. The conscripts first receive basic training (8 weeks), after which they are assigned to various units for special training. Privates who are trained for tasks not requiring special skills serve for five and half months. In technically demanding tasks the time of service is eight and half or (in some cases, such as those selected for NCO or officer training) eleven and half months. At the completion of the service, the conscripts receive a reserve military rank of private, lance corporal, corporal, sergeant or second lieutenant depending on their training and accomplishments.[7] After their military service, the conscripts are placed in reserve until the age of 50 or 60, depending on their military rank. During their time in reserve, the reservists are liable to participate in military refresher exercises for a maximum of 40, 75 or 100 days, depending on their military rank. In addition, all reservists are liable for activation in a situation where the military threat against Finland has seriously increased, in full or partial mobilization or in a large-scale disaster or a virulent epidemic. The males who do not belong to the reserve may only be activated in case of full mobilization, and those rank-and-file personnel who have fulfilled 50 years of age only with a specific parliamentary decision.[8]

Military service can be started after turning 18, but can be delayed due to studies, work or other personal reasons until the age of 28. In addition to lodging, food, clothes and health care the conscripts receive between €5.00 and €11.70[9] per day, depending on the time they have served. The state also pays for their rent and electricity bills. If the conscripts have families, they are entitled to benefits as well. It is illegal to fire an employee due to military service or due to a refresher exercise or activation. Voluntary females in military service receive a small additional benefit, because they are expected to provide their own underwear and other personal items.

Military service consists of lessons, practical training, various cleaning and maintenance duties and field exercises. The wake-up call is usually at 6am and a day's typical service lasts for twelve hours, including meals and some breaks. In the evening there are a few hours of free time. Roll call is at 9pm, and at 10pm silence is announced, after which no noise is to be made. On a majority of weekends conscripts can leave the barracks on Friday and are expected to return by midnight on Sunday evening. A small force of conscripts is kept in readiness on weekends to aid civil agencies in various types of emergency situations, to guard the premises and to maintain defence in case of a sudden military emergency. Field exercises can go on regardless of the time of day or week. An average conscript spends 40–60 nights outdoors during field exercises, depending on his unit.[10]

Figure illustrating the organization of Finnish conscript training

The training of conscripts is based on the joukkotuotanto principle (lit. English troop production). In this system, 80% of the conscripts train to fulfill a specific role in a specific war-time military unit. Each brigade-level unit has a responsibility of producing specified reserve units from the conscripts it has been allocated. As the reservists are discharged, they receive a specific war-time placement in the unit with which they have trained during their conscription. As the conscripts age, their unit is given new, different tasks and materiel. Typically, reservists are placed for the first five years in first-line units, then moved to military formations with less demanding tasks, while the reservists unable to serve in the unit are substituted with reservists from the reserve without specific placement. In refresher exercises, the unit is then given new training for these duties, if the defence budget permits this.[11]

Non-military service[edit | edit source]

Non-military service has a fixed length of 347 days[12] and consists of basic training and the actual service. The basic training takes place in the Lapinjärvi civilian service centre and lasts 28 days. During basic training, the serviceman is given instruction in first aid, peace education, internationalism, and non-violent resistance. In addition, some trainees receive an anti-oil leak or non-violent activity training.[13] During the basic training, the civilian servicemen have training during weekdays from 8.00 until 16.00. On Fridays, the service usually ends before noon, while weekends are off. The servicemen are allowed to leave the service center freely during their free time, and may, if they wish, live at their homes during the basic training.[14]

For the actual service period, the serviceman is required to obtain a service place, which must have an agreement with the civilian service center. During the actual service period, the place of service is responsible for the health care and maintenance of the serviceman. The serviceman is obligated to work for 40 hours a week at times prescribed by the place of service. He has the right to enjoy a continuous daily rest period hours of 8 hours, however. The work is carried out according to the usual civilian OSHA regulations. During his free time, the serviceman is allowed to leave the premises of the service place freely.[15] During the service and basic training, the serviceman receives the same daily allowance as the conscript.[16] During the service, the serviceman is entitled to receive 18 days of leave, in addition to his free time. In addition to this leave, he may receive a maximum of 20 days of leave for good performance.[17]

If the serviceman does not comply with his duties and obligations or is absent, the service place is obligated to inform the civilian service center, which carries out an investigation. For minor infractions, the serviceman may be punished administratively. The punishment consists of a written warning, extra work (maximum 4 hours/day for five days), or the loss of daily allowance for a maximum of 30 days. If the infractions are continuous, the civilian service center reports the serviceman to the police and discharges him. After this, the serviceman is usually convicted of civilian service crime to prison for a time that corresponds half of his remaining term of service. No parole is available. The same punishment applies to those who make a written denunciation of their service obligation. After serving the prison term, the former inmate is freed of his remaining peace-time service obligations.[18]

After their service, the civilian servicemen belong to the civil reserve (siviilivaranto) until the end of their 50th life year. After this, they belong to the civil militia (lisävaranto) until the end of their 60th life year. During this time, they may be activated for extra training, if the international tension rises to the level where military reserves are activated. During a mobilization, the civilian servicemen may be mobilized and assigned duties in civil defence, rescue authorities or environmental authorities. In case of general mobilization, the parliament may give permission to activate even the civil militia. The "total objectors", who have served a prison term for refusing civilian service, receive no exceptions. The activated or mobilized servicemen receive the same pay as rank-and-file reservists.[19]

In case of a crises where reserve is partially activated, the automatic acceptance into civilian service is suspended. Instead, those applying to the civilian service on grounds of conscience must demonstrate their personal, non-violent conviction to an investigation board. The board would consist of three professional judges, a psychologist selected by the civilian service center, an officer selected by the Finnish Defence Forces and a priest or a religious scholar. Only those who could prove their conviction would be given the right to civilian service. Persons failing the examination would be liable for military service. However, those who have already served their civilian or supplemental service are ensured of their right to non-military duties at all times.[20] In addition, any conscript or activated reservist always has the right to be transferred to non-armed military service, regardless of eventual crisis.[21]

If, after his military service, a person experiences a crisis of conscience that prevents him from fulfilling his reserve obligations, he may ask the Military regional office for acceptance into civilian service. In such a case, the person is ordered to start a supplemental service, the length of which is not more than 40 days, but usually less. After starting the supplemental service, the person is transferred to civilian reserve and cannot be ordered to serve in military duties at any time.[22]

See also[edit | edit source]

Other forms of conscription[edit | edit source]

Finnish conscription is based on the general duty of national defence, which applies to all citizens, regardless of their age or sex.[23] The other forms of the fulfillment of this duty are

  • Duty to partake in civil defense training
  • General work duty
  • Duty to partake in rescue operations

The duty to partake in civil defense training is applicable to those persons who have been designated as civil defense personnel by a competent authority. Such persons may be called up to civil defense training for a maximum of ten days per year. During the training, they enjoy the same benefits and pay as activated reservists.[24]

The duty to partake in rescue operations is applicable to anyone near a fire or an accident. Everyone is required to report the accident or fire and to immediately start such rescue and fire-fighting they are capable of.[25] After the arrival of the rescue crew, the chief of the rescue operation may order anyone who is nearby to help in rescue operation in such manner as they are capable, if preventing an accident or saving a human life requires the order. If the emergency cannot be otherwise controlled, a career rescue authority official may order any person inside the municipality to immediately arrive at the place of operation to assist in the operation.[26]

The general work duty is applicable only during a severe crisis which involves a war, a foreign aggression, a heightened international tension causing a danger of war, a severe disruption of international economy or a large-scale disaster.[27] In the case of such emergency, the Government may, using the powers given by the Emergency Powers Act, introduce a general work duty, pertaining to all Finnish citizens between 16 and 65 years of age. In the case of non-military emergency, a person may only be ordered to perform work pertaining to health care, civil defense or rescue operations. In case of a military emergency, the work may consist of any duties that are necessary to secure the livelihood of the population and the national economy, to maintain legal order and constitutional and human rights, and to safeguard the territorial integrity and independence of Finland in emergency conditions.[28] However, the work must be such that the person obligated to work can carry it out within their skills and strength. The order to work suspends, but does not terminate, the present employment. The work carried out by the obligated person is regulated under the usual conditions of the field of employment and the standard union wages are paid for it.[29]

During a war or an armed crisis, the military has the power to order persons present in the area which is exposed to enemy attack to perform such work as is necessary for the maintenance of the troops or for the defense preparations. A person given such an order may not be obligated to work for longer than 12, or in special circumstances, 24 days. Anyone between 15 and 65 years of age may be drafted for such work, regardless of nationality, occupation or obligation to perform general work duty. The right to draft civilians for necessary work is delegated to commanders of battallion-sized units.[30]

Criticism[edit | edit source]

A citizen’s initiative on abolition of conscription in Finland started collecting names on the 2nd of September 2013. The initiative proposes that men who refuse service should no longer be sentenced to prison. According to the initiative conscription is an expensive, sexist, and out-dated solution for combating any realistic threat scenarios of today.[31]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Annual Report 2011. Page 29 Finnish Defence Forces
  2. Siviilipalveluslaki (1446/2007) (Civilian service act), 4§. Retrieved 1-24-2008. (Finnish)
  3. Asevelvollisuuslaki (1438/2007) (Conscription act), 37 §. Retrieved 1-24-2008. (Finnish)
  4. [1] (Civilian service act), 74, 81§§. Retrieved 4-17-2013. (Finnish)
  5. Asevelvollisuuslaki (1438/2007) (Conscription act), 118 §. Retrieved 1-24-2008. (Finnish)
  6. "Försvarsmakten > Beväringar > Alternativ och undantag". Puolustusvoimat.fi. http://www.puolustusvoimat.fi/portal/puolustusvoimat.fi/!ut/p/c5/xZHLepswFISfxQ-QIIS4LQUSRoBEuBgCGz7HdqiJ8T0G8_SxF1mkbZx20VRnOTr6ZzRSKV1mPT0t6-lxuVlPV9KjVGqVFWXpmCohGIeKClgkp8gJbDkl-kUvtGoMNcP1gGyGPrcACwOQ6cGDHMb6F9u59AhQlTTnLRtehrgZ4jBpHCGeoo4Tx-cNxXzZpzVpRHcYuC_cghEqZ2n1OMlojO3pNtuh0c8uhEcBQ2Pbh4JB4Op_lQGYJrhk0AnVCfEeIPyTbU2hPhVjJBtBhABLAuw7wB2rpvblD5TXG7e8f9B_4-6q3-J_fP_Xhq46-ORgcNufiSThbtqFVEil_mlOT5fS96Y3hzSBOxnPzval9EkVNU0pktThIoh63ngeJwzzcx_V6Z53fBC-ICVLqZINSAUZjnB3stS-Ho1uMy30_cxY-36mAP-BCf8J05PK5VN7383ae3BvIBnqBkIGQKaqmFJeFl1PDqwj2K5ArS6occcJ75hdtOfXXJ6yLUPLLWwrT_NXC-X1xz4kbqbt7qKIQWczPG_6FtVL1KuYcmuxwPk8AS8mrC2-nk_WR6Nb6LB-rvW5OvfRbJe3WeOCtUC1W-XybIdYHjw50Qs4HRAu9XmRascM49WrsUpzu6ZbhOHeVSpr3hSoKUbStp2cfD_QYhq7nWy8T_cGOr8rsg!!/dl3/d3/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/?pcid=3bd5e18042b40e189d189f8662a30aee. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  7. The Finnish legislation concerning conscription has been completely overhauled in 2007. The new legislation came into force 1-1-2008. No changes were made to the service periods, which are given in Conscription Act (452/1950), 5§ and in the new Conscription Act, 37§. (Both laws in Finnish)
  8. The reserve obligation is listed in the §§6–7 of the Conscription Act (452/1950) ((Finnish)) and in §§49–50 of the new Conscription Act (Finnish). The old Conscription Act mandates the activation of the reserve only in case of full or partial mobilization (§10). The new Conscription Act allows for selective activation of reservists even in situations which do not require even partial mobilization (§§78–89).
  9. Kähkönen, Heidi (February 1, 2011). "4,7 €:n ongelma intissä? – "Ihan sama"" (in Finnish). uusisuomi.fi. Uusi Suomi. http://www.uusisuomi.fi/kotimaa/108833-47-%E2%82%ACn-ongelma-intissa-%E2%80%93-%E2%80%9Dihan-sama%E2%80%9D. Retrieved July 15, 2011. 
  10. Maastovuorokausien määrä on laskussa Ruotuväki 15/5. (Finnish) Retrieved 3-26-2008.
  11. Asevelvollisen pitkä marssi Ruotuväki 9/2004. Retrieved 11-19-2007. (Finnish) The cited source includes a very good overview of the system, paraphrased here.
  12. http://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/2007/20071446?search%5Btype%5D=pika&search%5Bpika%5D=siviilipalveluslaki#L1P4. Finlex. Retrieved 4-17-2013. (Finnish).
  13. Sivarin arki koulutusjakson aikana. Lapinjärven koulutuskeskus. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish).
  14. Kysymyksiä ja vastauksia. Lapinjärven koulutuskeskus. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  15. Työ ja vapaa-aika. Lapinjärven koulutuskeskus. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  16. Ylläpito. Lapinjärven koulutuskeskus. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  17. Siviilipalveluslaki (1446/2008). Chapter 40. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  18. Kuripito ja oikeusturva. Lapinjärven koulutuskeskus. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  19. Siviilipalveluslaki (1446/2008). Chapter 9 and § 50. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  20. Siviilipalveluslaki (1446/2008). Chapter 4. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  21. Asevelvollisuuslaki (1446/2008). §§67–71. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  22. Siviilipalveluslaki (1446/2008). Chapter 8. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  23. Constitution of Finland (731/1999). 127 §. Retrieved 2-29-2008
  24. Pelastuslaki (468/2003). §§ 53–57. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  25. Pelastuslaki (468/2003). § 28. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  26. Pelastuslaki (468/2003). § 46. Exact quote: Jos ihmisen pelastamiseksi tai onnettomuuden torjumiseksi on välttämätöntä, on pelastustoiminnan johtajalla oikeus määrätä palo- ja onnettomuuspaikalla tai sen läheisyydessä oleva työkykyinen henkilö, jolla ei ole pätevää syytä esteenä, avustamaan pelastustoiminnassa. Pelastusviranomaisella on vastaavassa tilanteessa oikeus, jos tilanteen hallitseminen ei muuten ole mahdollista, määrätä onnettomuuskunnassa oleskelevia työkykyisiä henkilöitä viipymättä saapumaan palo- tai onnettomuuspaikalle ja avustamaan pelastustoiminnassa. Translation: "If it is indispensable for the saving of human life or for the prevention of an accident, the chief of rescue operation is entitled to order any person capable of work, without a pertinent preventing reason and present or close to the place of accident or fire to assist in rescue operation. In similar situation, the a career rescue authority official is entitled, unless the emergency cannot be otherwise controlled, to order persons present in the municipality of the accident and capable of work to arrive at the place of accident or fire without delay and to assist in rescue operation." Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  27. Emergency Powers Act (1080/1991). 2 §. Retrieved 2-29-2008.
  28. Emergency Powers Act (1080/1991). §§ 22, 22a, 23 §. The quote is from § 1, giving the purpose of the act mentioned in § 23. Retrieved 2-29-2008.
  29. Emergency Powers Act (1080/1991). § 24. Retrieved 2-29-2008.
  30. Puolustustilalaki (1083/1991). §§ 26, 28, 30. Retrieved 2-29-2008. (Finnish)
  31. http://www.ohion.fi/english.htm

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