Finland and the Winter War

72 years ago today, Finland accepted the Soviet Union’s terms and entered into Winter War peace negotiations.  While the Winter War was relatively brief, lasting from November 1939 to March 1940, it was a pivotal event in Finnish history. However, many believe that this war has not garnered enough recognition in the West.

Source: The Library of Congress

In an article from The Golden Gazette News, the Winter War is described as an “obscure piece of military history”.  Referring to the start of the war, the author writes,

“After a long and troubled relationship with the Soviet Union, open hostilities erupted during World War II when Soviets made heavy demands on the Finns. Having won autonomy only a relatively short time before, and also having witnessed the execution of many Finns during the Soviet Union’s Great Purge, the country was not inclined to capitulate. Instead it stood firm.”


This firm stance from Finland lasted longer than the Soviets expected, which enabled them end the war in a peace negotiation.  The strength and determination of the Finnish people also inspired its surrounding countries during World War II.  In The Swiss and The Nazis: How the Alpine Republic Survived in the Shadow of the Third Reich, author Stephen P. Halbrook writes,

“The Swiss [gained confidence] from the resistance tiny Finland put up against invasion by the Soviet Union, which at the time had become Nazi Germany’s tacit ally.  During the Winter War, the Finnish army, only half as numerous as Switzerland’s, held out for almost three and a half months against overwhelming Soviet Forces. The Finns had only 100 airplanes and 60 ancient tanks but, like the Swiss, they had few equals in rifle marksmanship. Russian paratroopers were shot out of the air, and those that were missed were shot when they hit the ground. Even after suing for peace, the Finns managed to keep most of their territory.” p. 136


While some people believe that the Winter War hasn’t received it’s deserved attention, Henrik Lunde, author of Finland’s War of Choice disagrees and brings up another Finnish war that is even more ignored:

“In the Winter War, Finland was left alone to face Soviet aggression with only a modicum of assistance from Western Countries. Many books and studies have been written about this conflict. The extensive coverage in English of this three-and-a-half month struggle should not be surprising – for it represented the gallant fight of a democratic ‘David’ against a totalitarian ‘Goliath”…The same is not true for the much longer and bloodier war that Finland fought against the Soviet Union at the side of Germany from 1941 to 1944 – and their subsequent campaign to drive the Germans out of Finland 1944-45. It might be true, as Olli Vehviläinen writes, that the war in North Europe was ‘buried under the avalanche of more newsworthy events in the greater war’.” p. 1

The Swiss and the Nazis and Finland’s War of Choice are currently available at casematepublishers.com

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