University of Oulu

Petteri Pietikainen, The Republic of Fear: Mental Illness in the Finnish Civil War of 1918, Social History of Medicine, 2023;, hkac065,

The republic of fear : mental illness in the Finnish Civil War of 1918

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Author: Pietikäinen, Petteri1
Organizations: 1History of Sciences and Ideas, University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Oxford University Press, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-03-22


This article examines the links between mental illness and the Finnish Civil War of 1918. Based on the study of patient records from a large state mental hospital, the article discusses the mental wounds of both servicemen and civilians and focuses on fear as an essential component in the onset of mental disorder. An examination of patient records reveals how civil war affected the mental health of ordinary people and created a collective psychological atmosphere of fear and anxiety. What this article also demonstrates is that, during and after the war, patients who were mentally scarred by the atrocities were neither categorised nor diagnosed any differently from other mental patients. By focussing on patient experiences in the ‘mini-society’ of a mental hospital, this article aims to give a nuanced account of the ways in which civil war can affect mental health on both the individual and collective levels.

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Series: Social history of medicine
ISSN: 0951-631X
ISSN-E: 1477-4666
ISSN-L: 0951-631X
DOI: 10.1093/shm/hkac065
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Social History of Medicine. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.