The swastika symbol which has featured on Finland's Air Force Command logo for nearly a century is quietly being phased out.
Finnish authorities confirmed to Euronews the unit emblem of the country's Air Force Command has been amended so as to not feature the swastika — a symbol inextricably linked in the Western world to the Nazi regime.
Finland's Air Force has been using a blue swastika since it was first established in 1918 after Swedish count Eric von Rosen donated a Thulin Type D reconnaissance aircraft to the country.
Von Rosen had painted his personal symbol of luck, a blue swastika, on the wings of the aircraft and the symbol became the national insignia of all the Finnish Air Force aircraft from 1918 until 1945.
Since the end of the Second World War, Finland's Air Force aircraft have instead featured a white-blue-white roundel as the national insignia but the blue swastika remained on unit emblems, unit flags and decorations.
In 2017, the unit emblem of the Air Force Command, which had until then featured a swastika and a pair of wings, was changed to resemble an Air Force service emblem — a golden eagle and a circle of wings.
"As unit emblems are worn on uniforms, it was considered impractical and unnecessary to continue using the old Air Force Command unit emblem, which had caused misunderstandings from time to time," a spokesperson from the Finnish Air Force told Euronews.
"However, having been von Rosen’s symbol and the national insignia of Finnish military aircraft, the swastika remains featured in some Air Force unit flags and decorations," it added.
The change was first flagged by Teivo Teivainen, a professor of world politics at the University of Helsinki, who had previously questioned the Finnish military's continued use of the swastika.*
In a 2016 blog post on the matter, he concluded that "the case for getting rid of the swastika is stronger than the case for keeping it".
The swastika has been part of many different cultures for thousands of years. In Eurasia, the hooked cross motif appears to have first been used 7,000 years ago, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Artefacts from pre-Christian European cultures have featured the symbol although it somewhat disappeared until the nineteenth century "as a result of growing interest in the ancient civilisations of the Near East and India," where the symbol remains commonly used to this day.
"At the beginning of the twentieth century, the swastika was widely used in Europe. It had numerous meanings, the most common being a symbol of good luck and auspiciousness," the Holocaust Memorial explains.
Von Rosen is believed to have first seen the swastika on runestones from the Viking Age while on a school trip to Gotland, a Swedish island. He then carved the symbol for good luck into his luggage before departing for an expedition to South America in 1901.