The Institution of Conscription: The Case of Finland

  • Brian Phillips


Peacetime conscription has historically been one of the fundamental means by which the state has ensured the maintenance of a place for military values in society. The long and often harshly-suppressed struggle to achieve recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service bears witness to the significance which governments — and in particular, defence establishments — have traditionally placed on the institution of conscription.1 This struggle for the recognition and protection of the rights of the conscientious objector has made important advances in both the European and international communities in 1989 and 1990. In March 1989, the United Nations Human Rights Commission passed a resolution which ‘recognises the right of everyone to have conscientious objection to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion as laid down in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.’2 The European Parliament passed a similar resolution in October 1989, calling for ‘the right to be guaranteed to all conscripts at any time to refuse military service, whether armed or unarmed, on grounds of conscience, with full respect for the principles of freedom and equal treatment for all members of society’.3 Most recently, the majority of those states participating in the June 1990 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed their support for the 1989 United Nations Resolution and ‘agree[d] to consider, where this has not yet been done, various forms of alternative service … ’.4


Military Service Prison Sentence Alternative Service Strike Action Conscientious Objector 
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  12. Ibid. For more on the Winter War, see Fred Singleton, A Short History of Finland (Cambridge, 1989), Chapter 8.Google Scholar
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  14. For more on the passive resistance campaign, see Steven Huxley, ‘Cultural and Political Defence: The Finnish Resistance to Russification, 1898–1905,’ in Finnish Peacemaking, pp. 303–10; and William Robert Miller, Nonviolence: A Christian Interpretation (London, 1964), Chapter 16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert A. Hinde 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Phillips

There are no affiliations available

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