Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Winter War

65 years ago today, the Russo-Finnish War (otherwise known as The Winter War) began. During the 1939-40 winter, the Finns held off an invasion by the poorly prepared Soviet Army for 105 days. The Soviets apparently wanted a buffer zone for Leningrad against Nazi Germany (though not the last buffer zone the Soviets sought). After more than 126,875 Soviets troops were killed- vs less than 50,000 Finns- the Soviets were forced to negotiate a peace.

In a war where both sides suffered serious privation, the Finn's advantage came through cleverness- such as producing nighttime raids that forced the Soviets into a firefight with themselves or bypassing forward Soviet tanks to attack unprotected Soviet troops. Of course, in such a snowy climate, having a hardy
Finnish horse was a valuable asset as well.

Photos typically depict Finnish Soldiers, though several Soviet soldiers are shown in this joint Russo-Finnish electronic Winter War Monument- a collaboration by historians with reenactment photos to boot. However, this reenactment site has over 300 photos.

Other Sites: An interesting (though text-intensive)
geocities site about the war. Lessons Learned by the Finns from the war is quite good. To see what Finland had to cede - scroll down for demands and land ceded on map.

The Frozen Hell appears to be the best book on the subject, being well-researched and liked.

Update: During the "Continuation War" (in which the Finns switched sides to help the Nazis, leading them to fight the Soviets again), the Finns had their own territorial ambitions:

...a top Finnish officer outlined... the main aims of the war that Finland waged alongside Germany. "These included, in addition to the return of areas lost to the Soviet Union in the Winter War, taking part in the attack on Leningrad and the conquest of a considerable portion of Soviet Karelia."
From an article on Finnish War Criminals...


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