FARAVID 33/2009


Anna Tauriainen, Shortage, Opportunities and Perpetrators: Factors Behind the Rise in Property and Rationing Crimes in Oulu in the Years 1939 – 1945

This article is about property and rationing crimes in the largest city in the northern Finland, Oulu, in the years 1939–1945. During this period, property crime increased in all cities and towns in Finland. From the year 1941 onwards, the crime rate in Oulu was above the national average. An important factor in this trend was Oulu’s status as a centre of the Finnish and the German armies’ supply and training in the north and a hub of transportation of both people and cargo. The most widespread property crime was larceny. Common objects of larceny were bicycles, clothes and groceries, but wallets and valuables were also stolen and robbed. Frauds and embezzlements were committed by leaving restaurant and accommodation checks unpaid, by not completing tasks already paid for, and by failing to return property that had been lent or otherwise got into the possession of the perpetrator. Some people took advantage of the circumstances and cheated money in the name of charity. The most common rationing violations were unauthorised use of rationing coupons and possession, transportation and trade of food.

Those accused of property crimes were mostly young, unmarried working class men with a criminal past, while those accused of rationing violations were married men and women with employment and without previous convictions. Many shopkeepers were accused of violating against rationing laws. Underage children and teenagers made a fair contribution to property crime during the Continuation War, mostly by gathering into vandalising groups of boys. By and large, children and women committed crimes impulsively, whereas men showed more planning, often to finance a life of idleness and drunkenness. Those who violated against rationing laws were most often residents of Oulu, but almost every other property offender was a nonresident.

Societal changes are visible in crime. The Winter War was short; little changed in peoples’ financial situation and, consequently, in the level of crime. After the peace treaty of 1940, the situation grew bleaker, and food supply dwindled. Growth in crime ensued, but it was stunted temporarily as men were moved to the front at the start of the Continuation War. When the war stagnated into trench warfare, the army released some men from service. Crime increased immediately. The growth of crime slowed down again in 1943 and in the first half of 1944. This was probably a result of a slight improvement in the economy, people’s adjustment to warfare, and the last gathering of strength against a Soviet assault. As men were demobilized and people started to adapt to the new situation after the end of the war, crime soared. Towards the end of the year 1945, crime finally fell; life in Oulu was normalising.


Faravid 33/2009