Winter War: Soviet-Finnish War: 1939-40

Russo-Finnish War in a gist

War waged by the Soviet Union against Finland at the start of World War II, following the signing of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. When Finland refused to grant the Soviets a naval base and other concessions, Soviet troops attacked on several fronts in November 1939. The heavily outnumbered Finns under Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim put up a skillful defense until February 1940, when heavy Russian bombardments breached the Finns' southern defenses. A peace treaty in March 1940 ceded western Karelia to Russia and allowed construction of a Soviet naval base on the Hanko peninsula.

The war happened because Soviet Union despite the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler's Germany was wary of it. It wanted Finland as a bulwark against Nazi Germany.

“We cannot do anything about geography, nor can you. Since Leningrad cannot be moved away, the frontier must be further off.”
--- Stalin

Despite the difference in the size of the two armies, the Finns put up a good fight, mainly because they were better acclimatised and better prepared than the Russians.


On November 30, 1939, it was Stalin's next move. 250,000 Russian troops under the cover of a coordinated air and artillery bombardment crossed into Finland to begin one of the least publicized and most costly campaigns in the annals of military history. It would be a "walk over;" General Meretskov estimated it would take only 10 to 12 days for his 26 well equipped 14,000 man divisions to reach Helsinki. Russian propaganda had been so convincing that it was felt that the Finns would be waving flags and welcoming the Red Army with open arms. Opposing him were nine poorly equipped 11,000-man Finnish divisions.

Meretskov never suspected that his army was about to plunge into a frozen hell, the second coldest winter since 1828, and oppose Mannerheim, probably one of the greatest defensive tacticians since Robert E. Lee. So confident were the Soviets of a quick victory march to Helsinki that they came with parade bands, but without winter uniforms, without supplies for a protracted campaign and without medical services. Even more sinister was the fact that Stalin had purged most of his regular army officers two years earlier and placed most of the responsibility for the army in the hands of political commissars.

For 105 days the world held its breath and learned the word sisu, while Russians died at the incredible rate of nearly 10,000 per day and the Finns lost 250 per day. When the armistice finally came on March 13, 1940, the Finns counted 25,000 dead, 55,000 wounded, and 450,000 homeless, a terrible price for a country of only four million people. However, even the Finns did not know the devastation that they had caused the Russians until years later. All this was at the hands of an army of less than 250,000 (mostly light infantry, home guard units) with hardly any anti-tank weapons (except Molotov cocktails) and 41 operational fighter aircraft. In the words of my father-in-law, Antti Olavi, who fought in this war: "Our lakes are full of dead Russians."
 This is how American cartoonist Herb Block saw the Russian invasion of Finland

It was a grim fight. A wreck of a Soviet tank lies amidst the destroyed forest.

Russian losses were quite heavy

Finnish civilians dive to the ground as the sirens warn the arrival of Russian planes

Soviet propaganda poster. That is what the Russians thought of the Finnish.

The Russians inspect the captured Finnish defence bunkers

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Quotes about war....

"War grows out of the desire of the individual to gain advantage at the expense of his fellow man."
--Napoleon Hill

"We have failed to grasp the fact that mankind is becoming a single unit, and that for a unit to fight against itself is suicide."
--Havelock Ellis

'Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed."
--Mao Tse-Tung (1893 - 1976)

"I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in."
--George McGovern

"The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic."
--Joseph Stalin

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
--Voltaire, War

In war, truth is the first casualty.
-- Aeschylus

"The ability and inclination to use physical strength is no indication of bravery or tenacity to life. The greatest cowards are often the greatest bullies. Nothing is cheaper and more common than physical bravery."
--Clarence Darrow, Resist Not Evil

"The victor will never be asked if he told the truth."
--Adolf Hitler

"To walk through the ruined cities of Germany is to feel an actual doubt about the continuity of civilization."
--George Orwell

"Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country."
--Bertrand Russell

Men are at war with each other because each man is at war with himself.
--Francis Meehan

Snippets From History

German Soldiers in Russia: Part 1

Hubert Menzel was a major in the General Operations Department of the OKH (the Oberkommando des Heers, the German Army headquarters), and for him the idea of invading the Soviet Union in 1941 had the smack of cold, clear logic to it: 'We knew that in two years' time, that is by the end of 1942, beginning of 1943, the English would be ready, the Americans would be ready, the Russians would be ready too, and then we would have to deal with all three of them at the same time.... We had to try to remove the greatest threat from the East.... At the time it seemed possible.'

Battle for Berlin, 1945

'We started to fire at the masses,' says one former German machine gunner. 'They weren't human beings for us. It was a wall of attacking beasts who were trying to kill us. You yourself were no longer human.'


Berlin after it fell to the Russians, 1945

"Vladlen Anchishkin, a Soviet battery commander on the 1st Ukrainian Front, sums up the horror of the whole event, when he tells how he took personal revenge on German soldiers: 'I can admit it now, I was in such a state, I was in such a frenzy. I said, 'Bring them here for an interrogation' and I had a knife, and I cut him. I cut a lot of them. I thought, 'You wanted to kill me, now it's your turn.'
Read More


Dramatic Pictures: Battle For Stalingrad
"...Effective command no longer possible... further defense senseless. Collapse inevitable. Army requests immediate permission to surrender in order to save lives of remaining troops."
General Paulus' radio message to Hitler on January 24, 1943

"...Capitulation is impossible. The 6th Army will do its historic duty at Stalingrad until the last man, the last bullet..."

Hitler's response to General Friedrich Paulus' request to withdraw from the city


Points To Ponder....

The fall of France was shocking. It reduced France to virtually a non-player in the Second World War. The efforts of Charles de Gualle were more symbolic than material. But the martial instincts of the French must never be doubted. Under Napoleon they were a formidable military power. The French definitely have more iron in their blood then say, the Italians [I do not mean it in a derogatory sense. War never makes sense]


Bias Of Western Historians

Soviet resistance made possible a successful Allied invasion of France, and ensured the final Allied victory over Germany.

It can hardly be called mere 'resistance'! If it hadn't been for the Russians, Hitler would have made mincemeat of British forces in Africa and landed on British shores in no time. Hitler attacked Russia first because it had more land and resources than Britain. It is as simple as that.

Eastern Front: Bias Of Western Historians