Sunday, November 1, 2015


Commissioner Sven Nilsson

Every land is my Fatherland

1918 Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania declared independent states 1920-1940 Years of independence in the Baltic
1924 Failed communistic coup in Tallinn, Estonia
1929 King Gustaf V visits Estonia and Latvia
1934 Leaders from the days of war for independence, Konstantin Pàts in Estonia

and Karlis Ulmanis in Latvia, establish authoritarian regimes

In a time of threats to internationalism Bramwell Booth, Catherine and William Booth's oldest son, emphasized The Salvation Army;s opposition to provincialism, racism and enmity between peoples and nations with the statement: Every land is my Fatherland, for all lands are my Father's."

The Salvation Army began as a local expression in the east London slums in July 1865 but it soon expanded beyond that limited area.

In the beginning Catherine and William Booth did not have any ambitions to create a worldwide movement. They were totally absorbed in helping people in the slums out of the degrading conditions in which they lived.

The work was successful as many became involved and quite soon there were activities established in other parts of London, in great parts of England and in different countries.
The new movement consisted of enthusiastic people who were not afraid of anything. Their methods varied from the established churches. Consequently they also met with opposition. But the opposition created a larger fighting spirit. That is shown particularly in the battle songs that were written and are still in use today. In the current Swedish songbook there is for example song number 625, written by one of the pioneers, George Scott Railton, and in the second verse there is the phrase from which the international vision comes:
Onward we go, the world shall hear our singing:
Come guilty souls, for Jesus bids you come;
And through the dark its echoes loudly ringing, shall lead the wretched, lost

And wandering home.

Salvation Army, Army of God,
Onward to conquer the world with fire and blood, Onward to conquer the world with fire and blood!

The exclamation point lets us imagine the longing for battle and the challenge to serve.

William Booth did not have any posts where soldiers eager to battle were waiting to conquer the world. But time and time again, in nation after nation, people who met The Salvation Army adopted the ideas and the calling to win others for God wherever they went. This was the case in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Elsa Könönen describes in the book An Army on the March, which relates the history of The Salvation Army in Finland, how the young Estonian Army officer Lieutenant Caspar Dahl, serving in Finland, received a letter from a Salvationist in St. Petersburg, Russia. The letter writer was Liisa Bakul, a soldier in St.Petersburg's fourth corps. She was from Estonia and together with some other Estonian Salvationists had returned to start the establishment of the Army's work there. They had not only started to function as an Army corps but had sought official permission from the authorities. On October 21 1921 the
Christian Association Salvation Army was registered and approved by the authorities."

Lieutenant Dahl was happy about the news but became worried at the same time. He knew his Estonian comrades and did not believe that they had the capability to organize the work. Caspar Dahl spoke with the Chief Secretary in Finland, Colonel Gustaf Blomberg, concerning the matter. A letter was written to International Headquarters in London regarding the new branch on the Army tree. In March 1922 Staff Captain Rosa Hacklin was requested to travel to Estonia to investigate the possibilities for the work of The Salvation Army there.

It is now possible to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit. The Salvation Army had come to Russia in 1913 and Rosa Hacklin was the first Finnish Salvation Army officer in Russia. The Estonian Salvationists who had moved from St. Petersburg knew her very well. The Swedish officer Karl Larsson played a significant role in establishing the Army in Russia and his book Ten Years in Russia offers lively and dramatic stories as to what happened in that large kingdom. The Army was first established in St. Petersburg and this book ought to be read by all who want to know the precursor of The Army's current heroic battle in Russia.

Through the years St. Petersburg has changed its name many times and during the years 1914 -1923 it was called Petrograd. The Army had several corps and other work in this city and the above named soldiers belonged to corps 4. The Estonian Caspar Dahl had become a soldier in Petrograd's 5 corps. 

In 1918 he was trained as an officer in the first cadet session in Russia. The session started January 17. Actually it was a challenge of faith to commence a training program for future officers in Russia in 1918. The 1917 revolution had brought great upheavals in the country and religious denominations had very limited freedom. Caspar Dahl evidently was appointed to Russia when the training period ended, but there are no other notes regarding him other than that he came to Hangö in Finland on July 20 1920 as the corps assistant. 

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