MANNERHEIM, Carl Gustaf Emil, baron. Louhisaari, Askainen 4.6.1867 — Lausanne 28.1.1951. Finnish Military Leader, Statesman and Traveller. Born in a family of nobility he obtained military education in Hamina and St.Petersburg and became an officer in Russian army. As Lieutenant-Colonel participated in Russo-Japanese war in Manchurian front in 1904-05. The famous “ride across Asia” led him in 1906-08 through Central Asia to Gansu, Shaanxi and Shanxi. The main object was military intelligence for Russia, but he took his disguise as an explorer very conscientiously and collected much scientific, especially anthropological material, but also linguistic. He took a great number of photographs,copied inscriptions and purchased a collection of manuscript fragments. Before the travel he had consulted several specialists of the field (e.g. O. Donner and Ramstedt). The plans to collaborate with Pelliot failed. In Central Asia he went first via Kashgar to Khotan, then back to Kashgar and following the northern route to Dunhuang and further to China. Altogether he travelled c. 14,000 kilometers, mainly on horseback. In summer 1908 in Wutai Shan monasery he met the 13th Dalai Lama, then living there in exile.
From 1911 commander of a regiment in Imperial Guards. From 1912 Major General. Participated in the WW I, in the end as Commander of cavalry corps. Resigned after revolution in 1917 and returned to Finland, where he soon became Commander in Chief of the white army in the Finnish civil war. After a diplomatic mission to the U.K. and France he was in 1918-19 regent of Finland. Losing the election for presidentship in 1919 he retired from public service, but was active in the Red Cross and other humanitarian activities. From 1931 President of the Committee of Defence. In the wars 1939-40 and 1941-44 Commander in the Chief of Finnish Army. In 1944 elected the President of Finland, retired in 1946 because of ill health. Field Marshal 1933, Marshal of Finland 1942. Between wars visited India and Nepal. A keen hunter. Married 1892 Anastasia Arapova, but they did not fare well and decided in 1902 to live separate lives. They had two daughters.
His Central Asian collections are mainly kept in the National Museum and National Library of Finland, some also in his home museum in Helsinki where there are also trophies and other memories from India and Nepal. In his Central Asian expedition he also had a camera, took numerous photographs and kept a detailed special diary recording the circumstances of each.
Publications: “Predvaritel’nyj ottšet o pojezdke, predprinjatoj po Vysotšajšemu poveleniju tšerez Kitajskij Turkestan i severnyja provintsii Kitaja v g. Pekin v 1906–7 i 8 gg.”, Sbornik geograf., topograf. i statist. materialov po Azii (publ. of the Russian General Staff) 81, 1909; Finnish transl. by H. Halén: Eversti, vapaaherra Mannerheimin alustava raportti matkasta, joka suoritettiin Keisarin käskystä Kiinan Turkestanin ja Kiinan pohjoisten maakuntien halki Pekingin kaupunkiin vuosina 1906-7 ja 8. 95 p. Unholan aitta 25. Helsinki 2006.
– “A visit to the Sarö and Shera Yögurs”, 72 p. 33 fig. 1 pl. 1 map. JSFOu 27:2, 1911-12.
– Across Asia from West to East in 1906–1908. 1–2. Suomalais-ugrilaisen seuran kansatieteellisiä julkaisuja 8. 1940, New ed. edited by H. Halén. Suomalais-ugrilaisen seuran kansatieteellisiä julkaisuja 18. Helsinki 2008. Abridged editions in Swedish and Finnish: Till häst genom Asien. Förkortad upplaga, redigerad av Kaarlo Hildén. 12+539 p. Stockholm & Helsingfors 1942; and Matka Aasian halki: päiväkirja matkalta Kaspianmeri – Peking. 1–2. 462+522 p. 2 maps. Helsinki. 1940-41.
– Minnen. 1–2. Helsinki 1951 (Memories, also in Finnish).
– Edited by H. Halén & Bent Lerbæk Pedersen: C. G. Mannerheim’s Chinese Pantheon. Materials for an Iconography of Chinese Folk Religion. 93 p. text, 441 p. ill. Travaux ethnographiques de la Société finno-ougrienne 15. Helsinki 1993.
– Ed. by H. Halén: C. G. Mannerheim in Central Asia 1906–1908. Heslinki: Museovirasto 1999; C. G. Mannerheims svensk-kinesiska reseparlör 1906-08. Unholan aitta 9. Helsinki 2000; Dagbok förd under min resa i Centralasien och Kina 1906–07–08. 1–3. SLSF-Skrifter 736. Helsingfors 2010.
Sources: H. Halén, “Mannerheim – sotilas ja maantieteilijä”, Suomalaiset Aasian-kävijät, ed. K. Hakulinen & O. Heikkinen, Helsinki 1980, 86–106 & “Altain huiput siintelee”, Markku Löytönen (ed.), Matka-arkku. Suomalaisia tutkimusmatkailijoita. Helsinki, SKS 1989, 148–197; and other sources in Finnish; in English e.g. *Wikipedia with photo; H. Halén, “Baron Mannerheim’s hunt for ancient Central Asian manuscripts”, Writing in the Altaic world (PIAC 41). StO 87, 1999, 109–116; Halén also in Literature of Travel and Explor. 2, 2003, 763-765; P. Koskikallio & A. Lehmuskallio (edd.), C. G. Mannerheim in Central Asia 1906–1908. Helsinki 1999.