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The Continuation War 1941-1944 as a Metanoic Moment

A Burkean Reading of Finnish Clerical Rhetoric

Jouni Tilli

The study explores an aspect of Finland in World War II that has received little attention. The research examines how Lutheran priests contributed rhetorically to the war effort against the Soviet Union in the Continuation War 1941-1944. The war was emplotted using six dramatic analogies: apocalypse, holy war & crusade, election & mission, jeremiad, the war within, obedience and mortification. Changes from an offensive phase in 1941 to an almost chaotic retreat in summer 1944 could be explained using rhetoric that was familiar to all Finns. The material consists of texts by bishops, chaplains and other priests. Priestly power is examined using the concept of metanoia, a radical transformation of mind. The textual analysis relies on Kenneth Burke’s theory of symbolic action.

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