Monday, 26 April 2021

Sellanen ol Viipuri - A theme of Continuation

So today Postie delivered a book that I ordered from Helion in on of their frequent sales (50% off). The book is Bair Irincheev's Vyborg 1944: The Last Soviet-Finnish Campaign on the Eastern Front. When this first came out I baulked at the £30 cover price, bearing in mind the patchy quality of Helion's publications.  At half that I jumped in. I had a quick skim through the book and started reading it this evening.



A couple of immediate observations. There are some excellent photographs, including a number of shots taken by Soviet aerial reconnaissance planes and by bomber crews. The maps are strange. For a start none of them show the city of the book's title. Maybe they make more sense when I get to the relevant part of the text. Secondly, they use unit icons that are quite different to what we're used to in the west, but crucially, there's no key. Finally, none of them have scales. Maybe it's a Soviet thing and the staff couldn't be trusted with all the information. Most odd. Or sloppy. So far the text seems fine and does not suffer from the same translation issues that I mentioned with regard to the Saxon army book. More anon.



Detailed Soviet dispositions, but how big is this area?


Vyborg is the largest city in Karelia and sits on the northern side of the Gulf of Finland, about 10 miles inside the Russian border. Its fate has been that of the classic border city. Once part of the Swedish Baltic empire, Vyborg then passed into the Russian sphere during the Great Northern War. After Sweden lost Finland to the Russians in the war of 1808-09, Vyborg was included within the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. From independence in 1917 to the end of the Winter War in 1940 Vyborg was part of the Finnish republic, then it came under Soviet control. For just over a year, as it was recaptured by the Finns in 1941 in the Continuation War. Finally in 1944 Vyborg was re-captured but the Soviets and eventually it ended up in the Russian Federation.

Viipuri by the way is the Finnish name for Vyborg, Vyborg being the old Swedish name. Viipuri is not a transliteration, but is I suppose is the closest to how it notionally sounds to Finnish ears (there being no 'B' or 'G' in the Finnish phonetic system). We did have some confusion in the Schloß several years ago over 'backs', 'bags' and 'packs'. Sellanen ol Viipuri is the usual title given to an old song which I came across on t'internet. I think rendered in formal language it would be 'sellainen on Viipuri' ('such is Vyborg').

The song was written as Ilta Viipurissa* (Sellanen on Viipuri) in 1929 by Eino Kettunen. More specifically Kettunen wrote the lyrics. As I've discovered before with these standards (e.g. Joseph Joseph and Those Were the Days), the tunes are often older. The music was composed by Moravian born Rudolph Josef František Benatzky as Abends in dem kleinen Städtchen. This seems to have been an instrumental judging by the 1924 version on YouTube. No doubt some musicologist or folklorist from Mitteleuropa will (or perhaps already has) claimed even older antecedents for the tune. 

* 'Evening in Vyborg'.  Kettunen also wrote the lyrics to another Finnish classic which became a meme a decade and a half ago when an electronic version got linked to a Japanese cartoon. Again, the tune is older. Much older I believe. (Ievan Polkka in case you're wondering).


There are many versions of Sellanen Ol Viipuri on YouTube, but my favourite is still this one. I may have mentioned it before, but I'm a sucker for cheese. 😁

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc_pVBAVzlk

Here are the lyrics so you can sing along. Enjoy!

Siihen aikaan näillä mailla

Oltiin vielä paljon vailla

Eikä kukaan kummempaa kaivannut kai

Tanssittu ei pitkin yötä

Illoin riitti puhdetyötä

Kapaloissaan kehitys köllöttää sai

Toista oli Viipurissa

Karjalaisten kaupungissa

Siellä vanhat vaihtuivatkin uusiin säveliin


Tanssia sai siellä aina

Arkena ja sunnuntaina

Helppo oli tiensä löytää

Kohti oikeata pöytää

Jos vain joku kielsi 'ei ei ei'

Toinen sanoi heti 'hem till mej'

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Karjalaisten kaupunki


Silloin painaneet ei huolet

Ystävät kun kantoi puolet

Surra saivat hevoset, laulut kun soi

Pyöreen tornin hämärässä

Pöydässä niin hilpeässä

Ilo oli irrallaan niin kuin vain voi

Kaikki viihtyi Viipurissa

Karjalaisten kaupungissa

Siellä vanhat vaihtuivatkin uusiin säveliin


Tanssia sai siellä aina

Arkena ja sunnuntaina

Kieli vieras taikka tuttu

Laulu oli helppo juttu

Jos vain joku kielsi 'ei ei ei'

Toinen sanoi heti 'hem till mej'

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Karjalaisten kaupunki


Tieshää Nuutipoja passas

Että syvämes ja vassas

Viipurlaise rakkaus assuuki vain

Torkkelista sai mie muiston

Alla koivu kaunii puiston

Rinkelii ko siult mie kerrankii sain

Muistat sie myös jottai muuta

Taisiha mie saaha suuta

Monrepoos myö kuuta ko nii kahe kasseltii


Laa-laa-la-la-la-la-laa-laa

Laa-laa-la-la-lal-la-laa-laa

Laa-laa-la-la-la-la-laa-laa

Laa-laa-la-la-lal-la-laa-laa

Hmm...

Hmm...

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Sellanen ol' Viipuri

Karjalaisten kaupunki




6 comments:

  1. I saw this on offer and resisted as l am trying not to buy books currently. Great excuse for the rousing song and wonderfully cheesy singer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have more willpower than I. Ms Tuupanen has the act off to a T. All the little winks, gestures and flourishes. A real trouper.

      Delete
  2. Hopefully this is one of Helion's better books. I did have somewhere some info on Soviet markings for their maps, which made it easier to interpret them. No idea where it is now though:(. Google might be your friend though if you're lucky.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A source in a former Soviet republic has sent me the required information.

      Delete
  3. Hopefully the early promise of the photos is backed up by the text, and the maps make sense when you get to the right part of the narrative!

    ReplyDelete