Baron Carl Gustaf Emil von Mannerheim defended his country, Finland, against Russia in World War II and then served as Finland's president. He entered the Russian army in 1889, when Finland was a province of Russia, and was commander of the czar's personal army at the beginning of World War I. When Finland declared its independence in 1917, Mannerheim returned home. With German help, his forces won a short war in 1918. He lost the election for president in 1919 and retired from politics.
In 1931 he was placed in charge of Finnish defense and built the famous Mannerheim Line, an unsuccessful attempt to block a Soviet invasion of Finland through the Karelian Isthmus. Mannerheim led outnumbered Finnish forces against the USSR in the Russo-Finnish War of 1939-1940. During World War II in alliance with Germany, he led Finland against the Soviets. Appointed marshal of Finland in 1942, he served as president from 1944-1946.