Winter War- 67 years ago

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Nov 9, 2005
In the winter dawn of 30 November four Soviet Armies with 23 divisions - some 460,000 men with over 2,000 tanks - began advancing across the length of Finland's 1,200 km long eastern border. Their objective was to occupy the entire territory of Finland by the end of the year, installing Moscow's puppet 'Terijoki Government' in Helsinki, and establishing a new 'Democratic Republic of Finland'. Their troops were issued with detailed written warnings not to cross into Sweden once they had reached Finland's western border, and the 7. Army included a military band for the victory parade in Helsinki.
Few at the time expected the tiny Finnish nation of 3.6 million to survive. But despite the odds Finland reacted with desperate determination. On the one hand the country was determined to fight, and the full field army of some 160,000 men had been mobilized and sent eastwards into position along the front during the fall. On the other hand Finland also was grimly prepared for the worst, and began sending her national treasure - her children - to safety in Sweden, to cover the possibility of a Soviet victory and Stalin's national extermination programmes. Leaving at night from blacked out harbours along Finland's western coast, in the gaps between wailing sirens warning of Soviet bombers, none of the thousands of departing children or their parents remaining behind knew whether they would see each other again.
Four months later, after the hardest fighting seen in Europe since the first World War and massive Soviet reinforcements, Finland's lines remained unbroken, while the Red Army had lost up to 400.000 soldiers in casualties. Finland's soldiers were now down to their last bullets, but Stalin did not know that, and he was running out of time. With the spring thaws approaching, his forces risked becoming bogged down in the extensive wetland forests along the front, while politically every week lost increased his humiliation and vulnerability vis a vis a vengeful Japan in the Far East, an ambitious Hitler in the west, and a Britain and France that were considering intervention on Finland's side.
In early March Stalin conceded defeat, abandoning his occupation plans and settling for a compromise agreement, leaving Finland independent. With the signing of the Peace Agreement on 13 March Finland had to cede 10 % of her territory to the USSR, but Finland herself remained free.
The Winter War is one of the milestones in the history of independent Finland, and the conclusions subsequently drawn by Finland's political leaders, along with the lessons of the Continuation War with Russia between 1941 - 1944, became the foundation for Finland's security policy during the Cold War.
A very well written article.

Don't forget though that the Winter War taught the Soviets lessons that would be decisive in their victory in the Great Patriotic War, not least the abandonment of multi-turreted tanks and their replacement with heavy self-propelled artillery.
Once again I realize how little I know and how narrow my American view is.
Thanks for an excellent summary - so Finland gave up 10% of her territory?

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