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What is the Russian view of the Finnish War

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  • What is the Russian view of the Finnish War

    After recently watching a Russian series on the Eastern front on YouTube. I found it very enjoyable however I did notice one glaring omission which was the war against Finland.

    Though eventually won, it was pretty much through superior numbers as the Finns had outfought and outthought them through most of it. The Red Armies poor performance was noted by the Germans as well which influenced thinking for Barbarossa.

    But I wondered what Russian views today are of that war. Do they think it was a necessary war/ a just war or a bad war, What I am curious ?

  • #2
    I don't think that many Russians now believe that the war started with aggression from the Finnish side, according to the Soviet propaganda.
    Largely, it is a "forgotten war" overshadowed by the Great Patriotic War. And the latter inherently included the hostilities that are called "Continuation War" and "Lapland War" in Finland.

    from Russian wiki:
    Сове́тско-фи́нская война́ 19391940 годов (Советско-финля́ндская война, фин. talvisota Зи́мняя война[9], швед. vinterkriget) вооружённый конфликт между СССР и Финляндией в период с 30 ноября 1939 года по 12 марта 1940 года.
    26 ноября 1939 года правительство СССР направило ноту протеста правительству Финляндии по поводу артиллерийского обстрела, который, по заявлению советской стороны, был совершён с финляндской территории. Ответственность за начало военных действий была полностью возложена на Финляндию. Война завершилась подписанием Московского мирного договора. В составе СССР оказалось 11 % территории Финляндии (со вторым по величине городом Выборгом). 430 тысяч финских жителей были принудительно переселены Финляндией из прифронтовых районов вглубь страны и лишились своего имущества.
    По мнению ряда историков, эта наступательная операция СССР против Финляндии относится ко Второй мировой войне[10]. Начало военных действий привело к тому, что в декабре 1939 года СССР как агрессор был исключён из Лиги Наций[11].
    Here's an edit from google translator:
    Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940 (Soviet-Finnish war, Fin. Talvisota - Winter War [9], Swedish: Vinterkriget) - an armed conflict between the USSR and Finland in the period from 30 November 1939 to 12 March 1940.
    On November 26, 1939 the Soviet government sent a note of protest to the Government of Finland on the shelling, which, according to the Soviet side, was committed from the Finnish territory. The responsibility for the outbreak of hostilities was fully vested in Finland. The war ended with the signing of the Moscow Treaty. Within the Soviet Union turned out to be 11% of Finland (the second largest city of Vyborg). 430 000 Finnish residents were forcibly resettled by Finland from the war zone deep into the country and lost their property.
    According to some historians, the Soviet offensive against Finland relates to the Second World War. [10] Start of hostilities led to the fact that in December 1939 the Soviet Union as an aggressor was expelled from the League of Nations. [11]
    Here's the whole article (if you're interested) in Russian
    https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Советс...2;_(19391940))
    "Keep Calm. Use Less X's"

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    • #3
      Originally posted by dmf01 View Post
      I don't think that many Russians now believe that the war started with aggression from the Finnish side, according to the Soviet propaganda.
      Largely, it is a "forgotten war" overshadowed by the Great Patriotic War. And the latter inherently included the hostilities that are called "Continuation War" and "Lapland War" in Finland.

      from Russian wiki:


      Here's an edit from google translator:


      Here's the whole article (if you're interested) in Russian
      https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Советс...2;_(19391940))
      Interesting thank you.

      Side note: One of the aims of sending French and British troops to Norway besides stopping the German Iron ore supply was also to use it as a supply funnel for the Finns. There was even talk of declaring war on Russia.
      Thankfully the speed of the German victory in Norway soon shelved that crazy idea.

      They even talked about it in the World at War documentary at the 27 min mark
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr8alkWSDzE
      Last edited by History fan; 02 Jan 16, 06:27.

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      • #4
        Moreover, British & French were preparing to bomb Soviet oilfields and pipelines in Caucasus in Spring 1940.

        some more info
        http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...2&postcount=80
        "Keep Calm. Use Less X's"

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        • #5
          I see the Winter War as an inevitable consequence of the split just after the Great War that created Finland as an independant nation.

          Finnish territory was far too close to Leningrad for Soviet officials. Hanko was a base they desperately needed for the Baltic fleet. Finland's entire independence conflict in 1919 was launched at a time of great turmoil in Russia proper. I am of the opinion that the Soviet Union, in 1939, was in a position to redress that, and took the opportunity with both hands.

          Remembering also that negotiations with Finland broke down. This is really the fault of both sides. Who's to say that Finland couldn't have co-operated militarily with the Soviets, leasing their port of Hanko to the Baltic fleet requirments?

          It would have demonstrated far more readily exactly whose side they were on.

          Mannerhiem had to tread a very fine line during the so called "Continuation War", (which was really "Barbarossa" by another name). German troops were staioned in Finland, and Finland recieved military help from Germany. there really is no covering these realities. Maybe Soviet jitters concerning Finland's real alignment in 1939 were fully justified. If not, what was Finland doing in the GPW then?

          I have no doubt about Finland's right to independance, but having attained that, a little understanding of the Russian Bear and some military co-operation with a country that was, after all, their immediate neighbour might have yielded different results other than an open conflict in 1939.

          And then, you have the aspect that the Red Army does not deny to this day. Their experience in Finland helped their war effort enormously when the time came to fight the real enemy, Germany. It also convinced German intelligence that the Purges of 1937-38-ongoing had robbed the Soviet officer corps of any natural talent they might have posessed.

          We all know what an appalling error of judgement this was.

          The Purges robbed the Red Army of many officers trained in STAFF WORK.

          But tactically, they would learn on the job as they did in Finland.

          and with the same result.
          Last edited by Drusus Nero; 03 Jan 16, 18:20.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
            I see the Winter War as an inevitable consequence of the split just after the Great War that created Finland as an independant nation.
            The Winter War was a direct result of Soviet war mongering and imperialism.
            Finnish territory was far too close to Leningrad for Soviet officials. Hanko was a base they desperately needed for the Baltic fleet.
            The latter is a very strange argument since Soviets even after acquiring Hanko never deployed more than few boats there. Clearly it was not in any way crucial to the Baltic fleet. As to the former given that Soviet troops which invaded Finland carried with them orders that explicitly forbid them from crossing over to Swedish territory it appears that the Soviet officials consider the whole of Finland as being the 'minimum buffer' for Leningrad...
            Remembering also that negotiations with Finland broke down. This is really the fault of both sides. Who's to say that Finland couldn't have co-operated militarily with the Soviets, leasing their port of Hanko to the Baltic fleet requirments?
            So when one country demands land from the other that demand has to be agreed with or the failure of the negotiations is going to be the fault of the country from whom the land was demanded from? As to what military 'co-operation' with the Soviets resulted to you only need to check as to what happened to the Baltic states which did agree to the thing you suggest. And Hanko was back far more important for the Finns than what it appears. It is the sole point in the Finnish mainland that sticks out to the Baltic Sea from within the archipelago - meaning that it is the last port to freeze (if it does so at all) during the winter. So it was crucial to the Finnish foreign trade which in turn was something Finland heavily depended upon.
            It would have demonstrated far more readily exactly whose side they were on.
            Finns had only wanted to be left alone. Also known as neutrality.
            Mannerhiem had to tread a very fine line during the so called "Continuation War", (which was really "Barbarossa" by another name). German troops were staioned in Finland, and Finland recieved military help from Germany. there really is no covering these realities. Maybe Soviet jitters concerning Finland's real alignment in 1939 were fully justified. If not, what was Finland doing in the GPW then?
            Change in the Finnish stance was a direct response to the Winter War and to the Soviet threats and blackmailing that continued after the Winter War. Without the Winter War (and especially without the vast quantities of material Finns acquired during the Winter War, both as aid and as spoils of war) the Continuation War - or equivalent situation - would have been unthinkable. The traditional Soviet way of explaining the Winter War follows exactly the reasoning you provided, only problem is that it uses the effect (Continuation War) to explain the cause (Winter War), thereby violating the causality.

            Shooting down Finnish passenger aircraft, blackmailing with agreed food shipments, intervening with Finnish domestic politics, actively supporting organizations that aimed to overthrow the Finnish government... Just some of the things Soviets kept doing after the Winter War.
            I have no doubt about Finland's right to independance, but having attained that, a little understanding of the Russian Bear and some military co-operation with a country that was, after all, their immediate neighbour might have yielded different results other than an open conflict in 1939.
            Military co-operation is what Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania went for. And how exactly did that turn out? Ended up being occupied by the Soviets for 50 or so years. The Winter War was a far better result for Finland - in fact compared to the loss of life and forced exile the Soviet rule caused in the Baltic states even the total loss of life from all the three wars Finland fought in 1939 - 1945 could easily be seen as a bargain.
            It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion, it is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed. The hands acquire shaking, the shaking becomes a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion

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            • #7
              I believe that Mannerheim himself advocated a border adjustment on the Karelian isthmus so that Soviet fears about the security of Leningrad would be (partially) allayed.
              "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
              Samuel Johnson.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
                I believe that Mannerheim himself advocated a border adjustment on the Karelian isthmus so that Soviet fears about the security of Leningrad would be (partially) allayed.
                Not to the extent that Soviets wanted, and in any case it didn't really matter. It's quite clear that Stalin saw a change to take back what Lenin gave a way. Finland was in fact one of the few(only?) part of the old Russian Empire that wasn't absorbed back into Soviet Union.
                Wisdom is personal

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
                  I believe that Mannerheim himself advocated a border adjustment on the Karelian isthmus so that Soviet fears about the security of Leningrad would be (partially) allayed.
                  Mannerheim actually commented that he thought the islands in the Gulf of Finland (especially the eastern ones) could be given and that Finland should not hold onto to Ino. And the reason for this was that the Finnish Army was woefully ill-prepared for war and Mannerheim wanted to buy more time to get it ready.

                  As reference:

                  In other words Mannerheim thought about compromising up to the line marked with blue running close to the 3.11.
                  It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion, it is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed. The hands acquire shaking, the shaking becomes a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Vaeltaja View Post
                    Mannerheim actually commented that he thought the islands in the Gulf of Finland (especially the eastern ones) could be given and that Finland should not hold onto to Ino. And the reason for this was that the Finnish Army was woefully ill-prepared for war and Mannerheim wanted to buy more time to get it ready.

                    As reference:

                    In other words Mannerheim thought about compromising up to the line marked with blue running close to the 3.11.
                    I suppose the islands in the Gulf could not really be defended anyway. At least the Soviet proposal would have spared the Finnish Ladoga Coast and, particularly, Viipuri (Vyborg). The security of Leningrad would have been enhanced which,on the face of it, was not an unreasonable objective.

                    Then, again ,as Karri suggested, the whole dispute may have been just Stalin's pretext to occupy the entire country.
                    "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                    Samuel Johnson.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Vaeltaja View Post
                      The latter is a very strange argument since Soviets even after acquiring Hanko never deployed more than few boats there.
                      There were heavy coastal guns deployed on Hanko. Hanko was important first of all as a lock blocking the Gulf of Finland not as a berth for military ships.
                      The Winter War was a far better result for Finland
                      The Winter War ended with Finland being forced to accept the terms which were far worse than those offered in October-November 1939. Simply speaking Finns didn't gain anything rejecting them but lost a lot. I know that Finnish view is different but it's based more on patriotic feelings than on rational argumentation.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by History fan View Post
                        I found it very enjoyable however I did notice one glaring omission which was the war against Finland.
                        The Finnish war is not seen as a part of the Great Patriotic War which started on 22.6.41.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                          There were heavy coastal guns deployed on Hanko. Hanko was important first of all as a lock blocking the Gulf of Finland not as a berth for military ships.
                          It was rather bad lock since even during the 1941 both Finnish and German ships sailed past it despite it having mine barriers and supporting fortress on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. So it didn't accomplish even that.
                          The Winter War ended with Finland being forced to accept the terms which were far worse than those offered in October-November 1939. Simply speaking Finns didn't gain anything rejecting them but lost a lot.
                          Given that the Soviet goals - as proven by the existence of Soviet sponsored puppet government long prior to the war, orders not to trespass into Sweden, Molotov's discussions late 1940 with Nazis for the USSR to be allowed to 'deal with the Finnish situation', extensive Soviet spying and mapping operations in Finland (as shown in the 'Red Army's Invasion Manual for Finland' produced and printed well prior to autumn 1939 - at least one copy captured by the Finns in the Winter War), captured maps showing the extended 'Finnish-Karelian' state etc. - included the acquisition of the whole of Finland the fact that Finland lost mere 10% of its land instead of 100% that the Soviets had intended there doesn't appear to be anything that badly wrong with the decisions the Finnish leaders made.
                          I know that Finnish view is different but it's based more on patriotic feelings than on rational argumentation.
                          It is based on comparing the Finnish situation with that of the only valid countries that it can be compared with, the Baltic states. Compared to those the decision not to yield and instead fight proved to a highly beneficial decision.
                          It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion, it is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed. The hands acquire shaking, the shaking becomes a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Vaeltaja View Post
                            as proven by the existence of Soviet sponsored puppet government long prior to the war
                            There was no "puppet government long prior to the war". Actually Kuusinen's government was formed only after negotiations failed.
                            Molotov's discussions late 1940 with Nazis for the USSR to be allowed to 'deal with the Finnish situation'
                            Yes, if you read transcripts carefully, Molotov told Hitler to stop meddling in Finnish affairs.
                            Other cases such as spying activity are rather trivial.
                            It was rather bad lock since even during the 1941 both Finnish and German ships sailed past
                            After the war started? In any case the line "Hanko was not used" is not valid.
                            It is based on comparing the Finnish situation with that of the only valid countries that it can be compared with, the Baltic states.
                            If Stalin really wanted to sovietize Finland he would do that in the summer of 1940 without much problem. Actually as events demonstrated he had much smaller interest such as Aland problem or Petsamo mines.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                              There was no "puppet government long prior to the war". Actually Kuusinen's government was formed only after negotiations failed.
                              You are aware that it was unofficially formed quite a bit prior to the war in Petrozavodsk?
                              Yes, if you read transcripts carefully, Molotov told Hitler to stop meddling in Finnish affairs.
                              Actually he requested freedom to act against Finland.
                              After the war started? In any case the line "Hanko was not used" is not valid.
                              Yes, after the war had started. And given how Hanko demanded supposedly as a crucial naval base for the Baltic fleet that it wasn't used as such is rather telling.
                              If Stalin really wanted to sovietize Finland he would do that in the summer of 1940 without much problem. Actually as events demonstrated he had much smaller interest such as Aland problem or Petsamo mines.
                              Main reason the Winter War had ended was the potential British and French intervention to it - both via Norway as well as by bombing Caucasus. That threat only receded later in the 1940 by which time Germans had already a 'foothold' in Finland. There wasn't time or chance for the Soviets to accomplish anything without involving either Britain/France or Germany.
                              It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion, it is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed. The hands acquire shaking, the shaking becomes a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion

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