A Brief History
On March 12, 1940, an epic battle of a David against a Goliath ended in a draw! Or did it? Read on for the our exciting sequel to “The Start of the Winter War: Finland Humbles the Russian Bear“!
Digging deeper, we find the “Winter War” between the gigantic Soviet Union (one of the largest countries the world has ever known) and Finland, much smaller and with far fewer people.
The Soviets had taken advantage of their “non-aggression” pact with Hitler’s Germany to make land grabs of their own in Poland, the Baltics, and in Finland. The heroic Finns had initially held off the Red Army with stunning feats of heroism and maneuver, but had finally succumbed to the overwhelming mass of the Soviets.
The so called Moscow Peace Treaty that ended the Winter War preserved Finnish independence, but forced Finland to cede valuable territory to the Soviets, territory that was of vital strategic value for transportation and defense as well as containing the heart of Finland’s industry. Unable to get any help from the UK, France, or Sweden, Finland had no choice for the immediate present but accept the harsh terms.
Not forgotten, just put on hold for a short time, Finnish patriots rose up as soon as the situation presented itself, which was the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union a year later. The Finns went back to war with the Soviets, this time with at least some help from the Germans. Unfortunately for Finland, the Soviets saw what was called “The Continuation War” as a major threat and accordingly allotted enormous resources to the battle.
As with the Winter War, the Continuation War ended in another draw, with Finland retaining independence but having to make small territorial concessions and paying reparations. The Moscow Armistice of September 1944 was formalized as the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947.
The Finns and their allies had suffered about 275,000 casualties, but had inflicted 835,000 casualties on the Soviets. Not only had the Finns fought both wars with fewer forces, but also with far fewer tanks and heavy weapons. Both sides, however, had used the Mosin-Nagant 1891 rifle (7.62 mm X 54 mm), an incredibly rugged and reliable bolt action rifle well suited for the harsh conditions found in Finland.
Like many countries fighting against larger and more heavily armed opponents, the Finns had employed guerrilla tactics to great effect, using their skill on skis and mountain climbing in the rugged terrain.
The Soviet campaigns against Finland were just part of the continuing pattern of rotten behavior by the Soviet Union, and had its seeds in the 1939 secret agreement with Nazi Germany to split up the Baltic States and Finland. Truly, the price of freedom is vigilance!
Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite David versus Goliath story in military history? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please read…
Engle, Eloise and Lauri Paananen. Winter War, The: The Soviet Attack on Finland, 1939-1940 (Stackpole Military History Series). Stackpole Books, 2014.
Irincheev, Bair. War of the White Death: Finland against the Soviet Union, 1939-40 (Stackpole Military History Series). Stackpole Books, 2012.
Sander, Gordon F. The Hundred Day Winter War: Finland’s Gallant Stand against the Soviet Army (Modern War Studies). University Press of Kansas, 2013.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of Finnish soldiers, some in snow camouflage, inspecting an abondoned Soviet T-26 tank after the Battle of Raate road during the Winter War, is in the public domain in Finland, because either a period of 50 years has elapsed from the year of creation or the photograph was first published before 1966. The section 49a of the Finnish Copyright Act (404/1961, amended 607/2015) specifies that photographs not considered to be “works of art” become public domain 50 years after they were created. The 50 years from creation protection period came into force in 1991. Before that the protection period was 25 years from the year of first publication according to the §16 of the law of protection of photographs of 1961. Material already released to public domain according to the 1961 law remains in public domain, and therefore all photographs (but not photographic works of art) released before 1966 are in the public domain. See Commons:Copyright rules by territory/Finland for details.
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