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Exhibition: Finnish orders of merit: 100 years - 4.12.2018-20.12.2019

On display: 4 Dec 2018–20 Dec 2019

Open: Tue, Thu and Fri 10 am to 3 pm. Wed 12 pm to 6 pm.

Location: National Archives of Finland. Rauhankatu 17, Helsinki

Admission: Free

Guided tours: Guided group tours can be arranged upon request (

Finnish Orders of merit: 100 years exhibition showcasing the history and current state of Finnish Orders is on display at the National Archives of Finland (Rauhankatu 17, Helsinki) during 4 Dec 2018–20 Dec 2019. The exhibition celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Order of the Cross of Liberty and the Order of the White Rose of Finland. Among others, the honorary decorations received by President Mauno Koivisto are on display.

Establishing the Orders

The diverse collection recounts how the Finnish Orders were established in 1918–1919. General Gustaf Mannerheim had a central role in establishing the Finnish honorary system. During the civil war in March 1918, Mannerheim, as the commander-in-chief of the government’s forces, put in motion the establishment of the Cross of Liberty and the Medal of Liberty. In 1919 after the civil war, acting as Regent, Mannerheim established the Order of the White Rose of Finland, which stabilised its position during the two decades of peace between the World Wars.

The decorations of the Cross of Liberty and Medal of Liberty were taken back into use after the Winter War started in 1939. The crosses and medals became decorations that unified the nation. They were awarded to soldiers and civilians who served the country in the front lines and the home front. The permanent Order of the Cross of Liberty was established in December 1940, and Mannerheim was appointed as the life-long Grand Master of the Order. The Mannerheim Cross of Liberty, introduced in 1940, became an exceptionally esteemed award during the war.

The establishment of the Order of the Lion of Finland in 1942 helped in placing decorations more easily and accurately in accordance with the recipient’s position and merits. In 1943, the Pro Finlandia Medal given only to artists and authors was added to the Order of the Lion of Finland. Pro Finlandia has since become one of Finland’s most well-known honorary decorations.

The Finnish honour system follows its time

Throughout the years, the Orders have adapted both the conferral criteria and the selection of decorations conferred to suit the needs of the changing Finnish society. After the last wars, awarding mothers who had raised their children in an exemplary manner became a custom. From 1947 onward these decorations have been awarded on Mother’s Day.

During his presidency in 1956–1982, Urho Kekkonen broadened and diversified the selection of Finnish honorary decorations. More and more medals of the Order of the White Rose of Finland were conferred to regular people for their work achievements or merits in society. Kekkonen also started the custom of conferring a special Order of the Lion of Finland decoration with a clasp to Olympic winners.

Wearing and manufacturing decorations

The guidelines for wearing the decorations are demonstrated with mannequins dressed in different forms of attire. The high esteem of the decorations of Finland’s orders is largely based on their exquisite goldsmith’s work and high quality materials. The Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose of Finland is the highest decoration in Finland. It is worn by the President of the Republic of Finland, who is also the Grand Master of the Order. It is customarily awarded only to foreign heads of states. In the exhibition, visitors get to see how the Grand Cross and its chain are manufactured from over 400 separate parts.

Orders and Decorations of Mauno Koivisto

The exhibition also has a section dedicated to a smaller exhibition on the Finnish and foreign decorations given to the late President of the Republic Mauno Koivisto (1923–2017). The collection includes several high-ranking foreign decorations, which will be returned to their country of origin after the exhibition, following the usual international custom.

Additional information

The exhibition is free of charge. Guided group tours can be arranged upon request. Please note that the building is not fully accessible.

Exhibition publication


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