Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim Biography

Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, a renowned Finnish military leader and politician, played a crucial role in defending Finland against Soviet forces during World War II. Serving as the country’s president, he also commanded the cavalry in the Imperial Russian Army during World War I and received the prestigious Sword of St. George. As the leader of Finnish government forces in the civil war of 1918 and the commander-in-chief during World War II, Mannerheim sought a close alliance with the west while vehemently opposing German National Socialism and Soviet Communism. His exceptional military career earned him the title of “Marshal of Finland,” making him the sole recipient of this honor. Despite his short-lived political career, Mannerheim’s presidency is considered one of his significant accomplishments. Revered as one of Finland’s most influential statesmen, his life continues to captivate generations of Finns, with over 300 books published about him. His former residence in Helsinki has been transformed into a museum, attracting tourists for over six decades.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim
  • Died At Age: 83
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Anastasie Arapova (1919)
    • Father: Count Carl Robert Mannerheim
    • Mother: Hedvig von Julin
    • Siblings: Carl Mannerheim, Eva Mannerheim-Sparre, Sophie Mannerheim
    • Children: Anastasie Mannerheim, Sophie Mannerheim
  • Born Country: Finland
  • Presidents
  • Military Leaders
  • Height: 6’2″ (188 cm), 6’2″ Males
  • Died on: January 27, 1951
  • Place of death: Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Ancestry: German Finnish, Swedish Russian, Swedish Finnish
  • Cause of Death: Bowel Obstruction
  • More Facts
  • Awards:
    • Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
    • Order of the Lion of Finland
    • Order of the White Rose of Finland
    • Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
    • Order of Saint Anna 2nd class
    • Order of Saint Stanislaus 2nd class
    • Order of St. Vladimir 4th class
    • Order of Michael the Brave
    • Order of St. George 4th class

Childhood & Early Life

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was born on 4th June 1867 at the manor house of Louhisaari at Askainen, near Turku. He was the son of Count Carl Robert Mannerheim and Héléne von Julin. However, his mother passed away in 1881 and his father abandoned the family of seven children to pursue business opportunities abroad. Mannerheim was taken care of by his uncle, Albert von Julin. Due to these family problems, he struggled at school and was eventually dismissed from the Cadet College at Hamina in 1886.

Military Career

By 1891, Mannerheim had entered the Chevalier Guards in St. Petersburg, Russia, and quickly rose to the rank of cavalry captain. He served in the Imperial Chevalier Guard until 1904 when he was transferred to the 52nd Nezhin Dragoon Regiment in Manchuria. After fighting in the battle of Mukden and the Russo-Japanese War, he was promoted to colonel. In 1906, he led an expedition to China on horseback with French scientist Paul Pelliot.

During World War I, Mannerheim served as a cavalry commander at the Austro-Hungarian and Romanian fronts. He was awarded the Sword of St. George, one of the highest honors of Imperial Russia, in December 1914. After falling sick from an accident, he returned to Finland in December 1917. At that time, Finland was embroiled in a civil war between the Reds (socialists) and the Whites (bourgeois). Mannerheim led the White army and defeated the Reds with the support of Germany. In the 1930s, he worked to bridge the gap between the Reds and Whites and gained the trust of the Social Democrats.

Brief Presidency

In 1939, the Social Democrats agreed to appoint Mannerheim as the commander-in-chief of the army. He later became the head of the state after being elected by the Parliament as the regent following former President Ryti’s resignation. After the armistice with the USSR, he became the president of Finland on 4 August 1944. However, due to his deteriorating health, he resigned as the president on 4 March 1946.

Family & Personal Life

Carl Gustaf Mannerheim married Anastasia Arapova, a wealthy Russian heiress, in 1892. They had two daughters, Anastasie Mannerheim and Sophie Mannerheim. The couple separated and filed for a formal divorce in 1919.

Death & Legacy

In 1946, Mannerheim underwent an operation for a perforated peptic ulcer. The following year, he traveled to the Valmont Sanatorium in Montreux, Switzerland, to write his memoirs. He spent most of his final years at the Valmont, although he did often travel to Finland, Sweden, France, and Italy. Mannerheim passed away on 27 January 1951 in the Cantonal Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was buried at the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki in a state funeral with full military honors on 4 February 1951.

Every year on the 4th of June, the Finnish Defense Forces celebrate Mannerheim’s birthday as their Flag Day. This decision was made by the government on his 75th birthday in 1942.

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