Winter War
Part of World War II
File:Winter war.jpg
Finnish machine gun team during the Winter War.
Date November 30, 1939 - March 13, 1940
Location Eastern Finland
Result Interim Peace
Moscow Peace Treaty
Flag of Finland
<center>Flag of the Soviet Union 1923
Soviet Union
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim Kliment Voroshilov, later Semyon Timoshenko
250,000 men
30 tanks
130 aircraft[1][2]
1,000,000 men
3,000 tanks
3,800 aircraft[3][4]
26,662 dead
39,886 wounded
1,000 captured[5]
126,875 dead or missing
264,908 wounded
5,600 captured[6]

Template:Campaignbox Winter War The Winter War (Finnish: Talvisota, Swedish: Vinterkriget, Russian: Зимняя война, also known as the Soviet-Finnish War or the Russo-Finnish War[7]) began when the Soviet Union attacked Finland on November 30, 1939, three months after the invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union that started World War II. Because the attack was judged as illegal, the Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations on December 14. Soviet leader Josef Stalin had expected to conquer the whole country by the end of 1939, but Finnish resistance frustrated the Soviet forces, who outnumbered the Finns 4:1 in men, 100:1 in tanks and 30:1 in aircraft[3]. Finland held out until March 1940, when the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed ceding about 10% of Finland's territory (excluding its population) and 20% of its industrial capacity to the Soviet Union.

The results of the war were mixed. Soviet losses on the front were tremendous, and the country's international standing suffered, especially following its earlier attack on Poland. Even worse, the fighting ability of the Red Army was put into question, a fact that contributed to Adolf Hitler's decision to launch Operation Barbarossa. Finally, the Soviet forces did not accomplish their primary objective of conquest of Finland but gained only a secession of territory along Lake Ladoga. The Finns retained their sovereignty and gained considerable international goodwill.

The March 15 peace treaty thwarted Franco-British preparations to send support to Finland through northern Scandinavia (the Allied campaign in Norway) which would also have hindered German access to northern Sweden's iron ore. Germany's invasion of Denmark and Norway on April 9 1940, diverted the attention of the world to the struggle for possession of Norway. The Winter War was a military disaster for the Soviet Union. However, Stalin did learn from this fiasco and realized that political control over the Red Army was no longer feasible. After the Winter War, the Kremlin initiated the process of reinstating qualified officers and modernizing its forces, a crucial decision that enabled the Soviets to eventually resist the German invasion.



Pre-World War IEdit

Finland had long been part of the Swedish kingdom when it was conquered by Imperial Russia in 1809 and turned into an autonomous buffer state to protect the Russian capital.

Western Karelia had a different history from the rest of Finland. Most of the area paid tribute to the Russian Novgorod feudal republic and was the arena of Swedish-Novgorodian Wars. The southwestern area, from the River Sestra to the River Vuoksi and Lake Saimaa (including Viborg) was annexed by Sweden at the same time as the rest of Finland, and the border was defined between Sweden and Novgorod at the Treaty of Nöteborg in 1323. In 1617, the rest of the Western Karelia was captured by Sweden. During the Swedish sovereignty this region lost all of its Russian ecclesiastical and bourgeois inhabitants and much of its Russian Orthodox Karelian population, with much of it moving to the Tver region. In 1721, as a result of the Northern War, the Karelian isthmus, the Ladoga Karelia, and later in 1743 the southern Karelia, was captured by Russia. In 1812, Russian emperor Alexander incorporated this region into the Grand Duchy of Finland.

World War I eraEdit

Following the October Revolution that brought the Communists to power in Russia, Finland was offered independence. Finland declared itself independent on December 6, 1917. Strong ties between Finland and Germany began when Imperial Germany supported Finland's underground independence movement during the First World War. In the subsequent Finnish Civil War, German-trained Finnish Jäger troops and regular German troops played a crucial role. Only Germany's defeat in World War I hindered the establishment of a Germany-dependent monarchy under Frederick Charles of Hesse as King of Finland. Following the war, German–Finnish ties remained close, although Finnish sympathy for the National Socialists was very sparse.

Interwar periodEdit

The relationship between the Soviet Union and Finland had been tense—the two periods of forced Russification at the turn of the century and the legacy of the failed Soviet backed socialist rebellion in Finland and two Finnish military expeditions (Viena expedition, 1918 and Aunus expedition, 1919), when the Finnish volunteers tried to win Russian East Karelia which had never been a part of the Swedish-Finnish state or the Great Duchy of Finland, contributed to a strong mutual distrust. Stalin feared that Nazi Germany would eventually attack, and with the Soviet-Finnish border crossing the Karelian isthmus just 32 kilometres (20 mi) away from Leningrad, Finnish territory would have provided an excellent base for the attack. In 1932, the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Finland. The agreement was reaffirmed in 1934 for ten years. However, the Soviet Union violated the Treaty of Tartu in 1937 by blockading Finnish merchant ships navigating between Lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland.

In April 1938 or possibly earlier, the Soviet Union began diplomatic negotiations with Finland, trying to improve their mutual defence against Germany. The Soviets were mainly concerned that Germany would use Finland as a bridgehead for an attack on Leningrad, and demanded concessions of large areas. More than a year passed without considerable progress, and the political situation in Europe worsened.

Beginning of World War IIEdit

The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a mutual non-aggression pact, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, on August 23, 1939. The pact also included a secret clause allocating the countries of Eastern Europe between the two signatories. Finland was consigned to the Soviet "sphere of influence". The German attack on Poland on September 1 was not followed by a Soviet invasion from the east. Within a few weeks, they had divided the country between them.

In the autumn of 1939, the Soviet Union demanded that Finland agree to move the border 25 kilometres (16 mi) back from Leningrad. It also demanded that Finland lease the Hanko Peninsula to the USSR for 30 years for the creation of a naval base there. In exchange, the Soviet Union offered Finland a large part of Karelia ("two pounds of dirt for one pound of gold").

The Finnish government refused the Soviet demands. The Soviet General Staff under Boris Shaposhnikov and Alexander Vasilevsky was already drawing up plans for an offensive. On November 26, the Soviets staged the shelling of Mainila, an incident in which Soviet artillery shelled areas near the Russian village of Mainila, then announced that a Finnish artillery attack had killed Soviet troops.[8] The Soviet Union demanded that Finns apologise for the incident and move their forces 20-25 kilometres from the border. The Finns denied any responsibility for the attack and refused to give in. The Soviet Union used it as an excuse to withdraw from the non-aggression pact. On November 30, Soviet forces attacked with 23 divisions, totalling 450,000 men, which quickly reached the Mannerheim Line.

The Terijoki Government, a Soviet puppet regime created in the occupied Finnish border town of Terijoki (now Zelenogorsk) on December 1, 1939, was also called the Finnish Democratic Republic. It was headed by Otto Ville Kuusinen and was used for both diplomatic purposes (it was immediately recognized by the Soviet Union) and for military ones (they hoped it would encourage socialists in Finland's Army to defect). This republic was not particularly successful but lasted until March 12, 1940, and was eventually incorporated into the Russian Karelo-Finnish SSR.


Finn ski troops

Finnish ski troops in Northern Finland on January 12, 1940.

Initially, Finland had a mobilized army of only 180,000 men, but these troops turned out to be fierce adversaries employing small-unit surrounding "motti" tactics, fast-moving ski troops in white camouflage suits, and local knowledge. Many had spent most of their lives in the forest; the vast majority of Finns were rural dwellers until the 1950s. The conditions of the winter of 1939-40 were harsh; temperatures of -40°C (-40°F) were not unusual[citation needed], and the Finns were able to use this to their advantage. Often, they opted not to engage the enemy in conventional warfare, instead targeting field kitchens (which were crucial for survival in the cold weather) and picking off Soviet troops huddled around camp fires.

At the beginning of the war, only those Finnish soldiers who had received basic training had uniforms and weapons. The rest had to make do with their own clothing, which was their normal winter clothing in many instances, with a semblance of an insignia added. These mismatched "uniforms" were nicknamed "Model Cajander" after the Prime Minister Aimo Cajander. The Finns alleviated their shortages by making extensive use of equipment, weapons and ammunition captured from the enemy. The army had not changed the calibre of its weapons after independence and was able to use Soviet ammunition. The deployment of poorly trained and badly led Soviet troops gave the advantage to the Finns, allowing the latter ample opportunities to capture war booty. Though the Finns had few anti-tank weapons, they had the Molotov cocktail, an improvised petrol bomb adapted from the Spanish Civil War, which was used with great success in destroying around 2,000 Soviet tanks.

The Soviets attacked in regimental strength, with their dark uniforms easily visible against the white snow, so they were easily targeted by the Finns' snipers and machine guns. Corporal Simo Häyhä was credited with more than 500 known kills. When the Red Army tried to use their own snipers, the Finns countered with the "Kylmä-Kalle" (Cold Charlie) tactic. A mannequin or other doll was dressed as a tempting target, such as an officer sloppily covering himself. Soviet snipers usually were unable to resist the target. Once the Finns determined the angle from whence came the shot, a heavy-calibre gun, such as a "Norsupyssy" ("Elephant rifle") anti-tank rifle, was fired in the Soviet sniper's direction to kill him.

File:Russian political officer (during winter war).jpg

Soviet ignorance and incompetence were important factors in the Finnish success during the war. The attackers were not expecting much resistance; General Kirill Meretskov estimated it would take only 10 to 12 days for his 26 well equipped 14,000 man divisions to reach Helsinki. Their propaganda had been so convincing that it was felt that the Finns would be waving flags and welcoming the Red Army with open arms.

Because of Stalin's purges, the commanders of the Red Army had suffered 80% peacetime losses[citation needed]. These were commonly replaced by people less competent but more "loyal" to their superiors, since Stalin had supervised his commanders with Commissar or political officers. Tactics which were obsolete by World War I were sometimes employed. Tactics were strictly "by the book," because failed initiative carried a high risk of execution. Many Soviet troops were lost because commanders refused to retreat; commissars disallowed them from doing so and often executed commanders that disobeyed.

File:Bt5 10.jpg

The Soviet army was poorly prepared for winter warfare, particularly in forests, and heavily used vulnerable motorized vehicles. These vehicles were kept running continuously so their fuel would not freeze, which led to increased breakdowns and aggravated fuel shortages. One of the most remarkable losses in military history is the so-called "Raatteentie Incident," during the month-long Battle of Suomussalmi. The Soviet 44th Infantry Division (c. 25,000 troops) was almost completely destroyed after marching on a forest road straight into an ambush of the Finnish "Kontula detachment" (a unit of 300 men). This small unit blocked the advance of the Soviet Division, while Finnish colonel Hjalmar Siilasvuo and his 9th Division (c. 6,000 troops) cut off the Soviet retreat route, divided the enemy force into smaller units and then destroyed it in detail. The Soviet casualties amounted to up to 23,000 men, while the Finnish lost around 800 men. In addition, the Finnish troops captured 43 tanks, 71 field and anti-aircraft cannons, 29 anti-tank cannons, AFVs, tractors, 260 trucks, 1,170 horses, infantry weapons, ammunition, medical and communication materiel.

The Soviet commander, Vinogradov, and two of his chief officers survived the battle. When they reached the Soviet lines four days later they were court martialed, found guilty and sentenced to death; the executions were carried out immediately. The charge was losing 55 field kitchens to the enemy.

The Soviets failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority at the start of the war. Finland massed 130,000 men and 500 guns in the Karelian isthmus, the main theater of the war; the Soviets attacked with only 200,000 men and 900 guns. 1,000 tanks were ineffectively used and took massive losses.

File:Finnish soldiers during the Winter War.jpg
File:1930s gas mask.jpg


In air combat, Finland used the "finger four" formation (four planes, split into two units of two planes, one unit flying low and the other high, with each plane fighting independently of the others yet supporting their wingman in combat), which was superior to the Russian tactic of three fighters flying in a delta formation. This formation and the credo of Finnish pilots to always attack, no matter the odds, contributed to the failure of Russian bombers to inflict substantial damage against Finnish positions, cities or population reserves.

Other considerationsEdit

The vast bulk of the Red Army's troops that fought in the Winter War were taken from the southern regions of the Soviet Union. It was Stalin's opinion that Soviet troops from the area immediately bordering Finland could not be trusted to fight against the Finns. These southern Red Army soldiers had no experience with Arctic winter conditions and virtually no forest survival skills. Not only were they up against the Finns who were experts in winter warfare and knew the land, the weather during the war was one of the three worst winters in Finland in the 20th century[4].

To the surprise of both the Soviets and the Finns, it turned out that the majority of the Finnish Socialists did not support the Soviet invasion but fought alongside their compatriots against the common enemy. Many Finnish Communists had moved to the Soviet Union in the 1930s to "build Socialism," only to end up as victims of Stalin's Great Purges, which led to widespread disillusionment and even open hatred of the Soviet regime among Socialists in Finland.

Another factor was the advancement of Finnish society and laws after the civil war that helped to decrease the gap between different classes of society. This healing of the wounds and rifts of the Finnish Civil War (1918) and from Finland's language strife and the coming together of different factions of society is still referred to as "the Spirit of the Winter War". The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and Germany had shaken the world views of both the bourgeois as well as the working class Finns. Many Finns had believed that Germany would eventually aid Finland against the Soviet Union as Imperial Germany had in 1917. In similar fashion the ordinary workers had believed that Soviet Union was a guarantee for peace and force against Nazi Germany. After the signing, Germany was in pact with Soviet Union against Finland. The workers had witnessed the Soviet Union invading Poland instead of fighting the Nazis. On the eve of war there was very little trust for any foreign power—be it socialist internationalism, German military, League of Nations or western powers. Nonetheless, some communists were not allowed to fight in Finland's conscripted army because of their political background.

Foreign support Edit

World opinion at large supported the Finnish cause. The World War had not yet begun in earnest and was known to the public as the Phony War; at that time, the Winter War was the only real fighting besides the German and Soviet invasion of Poland, and thus held major world interest. The Soviet aggression was generally deemed unjustified. Various foreign organizations sent material aid, such as medical supplies. Finnish immigrants in the United States and Canada returned home, and many volunteers (one of them future actor Christopher Lee) travelled to Finland to join Finland's forces: 1,010 Danes, 895 Norwegians, 372 Ingrians, 346 Finnish expatriates, 346 Hungarians[9] and 210 volunteers of other nationalities made it to Finland before the war was over. Foreign correspondents in Helsinki wrote, and even greatly exaggerated, reports of Finnish ingenuity and successes in combat.

Pope Pius XII condemned the Soviet attack on December 26 1939, in a speech at the Vatican and later donated a signed and sealed prayer on behalf of Finland. [10]


In addition to those 895 that volunteered to fight for Finland, amongst whom were later war heroes such as Max Manus and Leif "Shetland" Larsen, there were numerous nationwide collections campaigns of supplies and money in Norway to help the Finns. This included a special Finnish day held at the Holmenkollen skiing games in Oslo to collect money for the Finnish cause [5]. In all 50,000 pairs of shoes, 100,000 backpacks filled with supplies and 16,000 blankets were shipped off. Collections of rifles (mostly Krag-Jørgensen models) and home knitted shooting gloves also took place, and the Norwegian government secretly sold the Finns numerous old field guns and allowed the transfer of aircraft to Finland via Sola Air Station. Sigrid Undset, Norwegian author and Nobel laureate, donated her Nobel medal to Finland on January 25, 1940 [6]. The North-Norwegian county of Finnmark received over 1,000 Finnish refugees from Petsamo by February 6 1940 [7], as the Red Army advanced through that lightly defended area Finnish civilians sought shelter on the Norwegian side of the Pasvik/Paatsjoki River.


Sweden, which had declared itself to be a non-belligerent rather than a neutral country (as in the war between Nazi Germany and the Western Powers) contributed military supplies, cash, credits, humanitarian aid and some 8,700 Swedish volunteers prepared to fight for Finland. Perhaps most significant was the Swedish Voluntary Air Force, in action from January 7, with 12 fighters, 5 bombers, and 8 other planes, amounting to one-third of the Swedish Air Force of that time. Volunteer pilots and mechanics were drawn from the ranks. The renowned aviator Count Carl Gustav von Rosen, related to Hermann Göring, volunteered independently. There was also a volunteer work force, of about 900 workers and engineers.

The Swedish Volunteer Corps with 8,402 men in Finland — the only common volunteers who had finished training before the war ended — began relieving five Finnish battalions at Märkäjärvi in mid-February. Together with three remaining Finnish battalions, the corps faced two Soviet divisions and were preparing for an attack by mid-March but were inhibited by the peace agreement. Thirty-three men died in action, among them the commander of the first relieving unit, Lieutenant Colonel Magnus Dyrssen.

The Swedish volunteers remain a source of dissonance between Swedes and Finns. The domestic debate in Finland had in the years immediately before the war given common Finns hope of considerably more support from Sweden, such as a large force of regular troops, that could have had a significant impact on the outcome of the war — or possibly caused the Russians not to attack at all.

However the help from volunteers, especially the Scandinavian ones, was appreciated by the Finns. This is shown by the fact that during the Norwegian campaign against the German invasion in April 1940 a Finnish group of volunteers formed an ambulance unit and helped the defenders until forced to return home because of the success of the German armed forces. A group of Swedish and Finnish volunteers fought along Norwegian soldiers against the German invaders near Os, on May 2 as well.

Franco-British plans for a Scandinavian theatreEdit

Within a month, the Soviet leadership began to consider abandoning the operation, and Finland's government was approached with preliminary peace feelers (via Sweden's government), first on January 29. Until then, Finland had fought for its existence as an independent and democratic country. When credible rumours of this reached the governments in Paris and London, the incentives for military support were dramatically changed.


In February 1940, the Allies offered to help: the Allied plan, approved on February 5 by the Allied High Command, consisted of 100,000 British and 35,000 French troops that were to disembark at the Norwegian port of Narvik and support Finland via Sweden while securing the supply routes along the way. The plan was agreed to be launched on March 20 under the condition that the Finns plead for help. On March 2, transit rights were officially requested from the governments of Norway and Sweden. It was hoped this would eventually bring the two still neutral Nordic countries, Norway and Sweden, to the Allied side by strengthening their positions against Germany — although Hitler had by December declared to the Swedish government that Western troops on Swedish soil would immediately provoke a German invasion, which in practice meant that Nazi Germany would take the populated southern part of Scandinavia while France and Britain would fight in the furthest north.

However, only a small fraction of the Western troops were intended for Finland. Proposals to enter Finland directly, via the ice-free harbour of Petsamo, had been dismissed. There were suspicions that the objective of the operation was to occupy the Norwegian shipping harbour of Narvik and the vast mountainous areas of the north-Swedish iron ore fields, from which the Third Reich received a large share of its iron ore, critical to war production. If Franco-British troops moved to halt export to Germany, the area could become a significant battleground between the Allies and the Germans. As a consequence, Norway and Sweden denied transit. Despite the Allies' pretense of mounting a defense for Finland against the Soviets, after WWII it became known that the commander of the Allied expedition forces had been ordered not to engage Soviet forces once his troops were in Finland.

The Franco-British plan initially hoped to secure all of Scandinavia north of a line StockholmGothenburg or Stockholm–Oslo, i.e. the British concept of the Lake line following the lakes of Mälaren, Hjälmaren, and Vänern, which would contribute with good natural defence some 1,700–1,900 kilometres (1,000-1,200 miles) south for Narvik. The expected frontier, the Lake line, involved not only Sweden's two largest cities, but its consequence was that the homes of the vast majority of the Swedes would be either Nazi-occupied or in the war zone. Later, the ambition was lowered to only the northern half of Sweden and the rather narrow adjacent Norwegian coast.

The Swedish government, headed by Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson, declined to allow transit of armed troops through Swedish territory. Although Sweden had not declared itself neutral in the Winter War, it was neutral in the war involving France, Britain, and Germany. Granting transit rights to a Franco-British corps was at that time considered too great a departure from international laws on neutrality.

The Swedish Cabinet also decided to reject repeated pleas from the Finns for regular Swedish troops to be deployed in Finland, and in the end the Swedes also made it clear that their present support in arms and munitions could not be maintained for much longer. Diplomatically, Finland was squeezed between Allied hopes for a prolonged war and Swedish and Norwegian fears that the Allies and Germans might soon be fighting each other on Swedish and Norwegian terrain. In addition, Norway and Sweden feared an influx of Finnish refugees should Finland lose to the Soviets. Also, Hermann Göring was through his private channels in Sweden offering distinct advice for peace and concessions — Göring suggested that concessions "could always later be mended."

While Germany and Sweden pressured Finland to accept peace on bad conditions, Britain and France had the opposite objective. Different plans and figures were presented for the Finns. To start with, France and Britain promised to send 20,000 men to arrive by the end of February, although under the implicit condition that on their way to Finland they were given opportunity to occupy North-Scandinavia.

By the end of February, Finland's Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Mannerheim, was pessimistic about the military situation. Therefore, on February 29 the government decided to start peace negotiations. That same day, the Soviets commenced an attack against Viipuri.

When France and Britain realized that Finland was considering a peace treaty, they gave a new offer for help: 50,000 men were to be sent, if Finland asked for help before March 12. Only 6,000 of these would have actually been destined for Finland. The rest were intended to secure harbours, roads and iron ore fields on the way.

Despite the feeble forces that would have reached Finland, intelligence about the plans reached the Soviet Union and contributed heavily to their decision to sign the armistice ending the war. It is argued that without the threat of Allied intervention, nothing would have eventually stopped the Soviets from conquering the entirety of Finland because of the Soviet Union's large number of troop reserves.


By the end of the winter, it became clear that the Russian forces were becoming exhausted, and German representatives suggested that Finland should negotiate with the Soviet Union. Russian casualties had been high, and the situation was a source of political embarrassment for the Soviet regime. With the spring thaw approaching, the Russian forces risked becoming bogged down in the forests, and a draft of peace terms was presented to Finland on February 12. Both the Germans and the Swedes were keen to see an end to the Winter War; the latter feared the collapse of its neighbor. As Finland's Cabinet hesitated in face of the harsh Soviet conditions, Sweden's King Gustaf V made a public statement, in which he confirmed having declined Finnish pleas for support from Swedish troops.

By the end of February, the Finns had depleted their ammunition supplies. Also, the Soviet Union had finally succeeded in breaking through the Mannerheim Line. On February 29, the Finnish government agreed to start negotiations. By March 5, the Soviet army had advanced 10–15 kilometres past the Mannerheim Line and had entered the suburbs of Viipuri. The Finns proposed an armistice on the same day, but the Soviets wanted to keep the pressure on and declined the offer the next day. Indeed, the fighting continued up to the day the peace treaty was signed.

After the war, the situation of the Finnish army at Karelian Isthmus at the end of the war had created significant discussion. The orders were already given to prepare a retreat to the next line of defence in the Taipale sector. The estimates of how long the enemy could have been held in these kinds of retreat-and-stand operations varied from a few days[11] to a couple of months[12], most averaging around a few weeks[13], too little time for any foreign help to make a difference.

It is speculated that Stalin had practically wiped out his intelligence apparatus during the purges, thus damaging the effectiveness of spies in Finland and other countries, as well as cowing operatives into writing the kind of reports they thought Stalin wanted to read. Thus he was not aware the real situation in Finland and amongst the Western Allies[14][15].


Soviet intelligence sources were informing their leadership of the Allied plans to intervene in the war, but not of the details or the actual unpreparedness of the Allies. Therefore, the Soviets felt forced to seek a premature end to the war before the Allies intervened and declared war on the Soviet Union.

During four months of fighting, the Soviet Army suffered huge losses. One Red Army General remarked that "we have won enough ground to bury our dead." Casualty estimates vary widely — from 48,000 killed, died from wounds, and missing in action, as quoted by Soviet officials immediately after the war, to 391,800 according to some recent research[16] According to Nikita Khrushchev, 1.5 million men were sent to Finland and one million of them were killed, while 1,000 aircraft, 2,300 tanks and armored cars and an enormous amount of other war materials were lost. [8] The most reliable[citation needed] current estimate puts the figure at 126,875[6]. Finland's losses were limited to around 22,830 men[17].

Peace of MoscowEdit

File:Finnish areas ceded in 1940.png

In the Moscow Peace Treaty of March 12, Finland was forced to cede the Finnish part of Karelia. The land included the city of Viipuri (the country's second largest), much of Finland's industrialized territory, and significant parts still held by Finland's army: nearly 10% of pre-war Finland. Some 422,000 Karelians—12% of Finland's population—lost their homes. Military troops and remaining civilians were hastily evacuated in accordance with the terms of the treaty; only a few score civilians chose to remain under Soviet governance.

Finland also had to cede a part of the Salla area, the Kalastajansaarento peninsula in the Barents Sea and four islands in the Gulf of Finland. The Hanko Peninsula was also leased to the Soviet Union as a military base for 30 years. While the Soviet troops had captured Petsamo during the war, they returned it to Finland according to the treaty.

As a whole, the peace terms were harsh for Finland. Russia received the city of Vyborg, in addition to their pre-war demands. Sympathy from the League of Nations, Western Allies, and from the Swedes in particular, did not prove to be of much help.

Only a year later, hostilities were resumed in the Continuation War.

File:Rouwkruis van het Vrijheidskruis.jpg

The 25,000 widows, eldest daughters or mothers of the fallen Finnish soldiers were given the Mourning Cross of the Order of the Cross of Liberty. The next of kin of the civilian casualties were given a medal on a black ribbon.

Post-Soviet demands for return of territoryEdit

After the war, Karelian local governments, parishes and provincial organizations established Karjalan Liitto in order to defend the rights and interests of Karelian evacuees and to find a solution for returning Karelia. During the Cold War, President Urho Kekkonen tried several times to get the territories back by negotiating with the Soviet leadership, but did not succeed. No one openly demanded return. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, disputes were revived. Some minor groups in Finland have been actively demanding the peaceful return to Finland of the ceded territories. The most active group in this field is ProKarelia. In the latest polls, these demands have met with 26– 38% support in Finland.[18] Although the peaceful return of Karelia has always been on its agenda, Karjalan Liitto has, for the most part, stayed away from these demands.


In 1989, the Finnish movie Talvisota was released. This film tells the story of a Finnish platoon of reservists from Kauhava. The platoon belongs to the infantry regiment "Jr23", which consists almost solely of men from Southern Ostrobothnia.

See alsoEdit


  1. Pentti Virrankoski, Suomen Historia 2, 2001, ISBN 951-746-342-1, SKS
  2. Erkki Käkelä, Laguksen miehet, marskin nyrkki: Suomalainen panssariyhtymä 1941-1944, 1992, ISBN 952-90-3858-5, Panssarikilta
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tomas Ries, Cold Will - The Defense of Finland, 1988, ISBN 0-08-033592-6, Potomac Books
  4. Ohto Manninen, Talvisodan salatut taustat, 1994, ISBN 952-90-5251-0, Kirjaneuvos, using declassified Soviet archive material, Manninen found 12 previously unrecognized infantry divisions ordered to Finnish front
  5. Finnish Defence College, Talvisodan historia 4, p.406, 1991, ISBN 951-0-17566-8, WSOY, The dead includes 3,671 badly wounded who died after the war without leaving the hospital, some several years after the war.
  6. 6.0 6.1 G.F. Krivosheev, Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century, 1997, ISBN 1-85367-280-7, Greenhill Books
  7. Russo-Finnish War. Encarta. Retrieved on 2006-07-11.
  8. Tanner, Väinö, The Winter War, 1957, Stanford University Press
  9. Tapani Kossila: Foreign volunteers in the Winter War
  10. Finnish Defence Forces - The Winter War 1939-1940 Retrieved 9-5-2007.
  11. Laaksonen, Lasse, Todellisuus ja harhat, 2005, ISBN 951-20-6911-3, Gummerus
  12. Wolf H. Halsti, Talvisota 1939-1940, 1955, Otava
  13. Paasikivi, J.K., Toimintani Moskovassa, 1959, WSOY
  14. C. Van Dyke, The Soviet Invasion of Finland 1939–40, 1997, London: Frank Cass
  15. Rentola, Kimmo, Residenttimme ilmoittaa..., Suomen Historiallinen Seura, 2002
  16. A.E.Taras, Soviet-Finland 1939-1940 war, Minsk, 1999.
  17. Winter War Website, [1]
  18. Karjala-lehti and MC-Info Oy 2005 (36 % vs. 52 %), Karjalan Liitto and Taloustutkimus 5.- 7.4. 2005 (26 % vs. 57 %)[2], HS-Gallup: Selvä enemmistö ei halua Karjalaa takaisin 21.8.2005 (30 % vs. 62 %)[3], STT / Suomen Gallup 2.7. 2004 (38 % vs. 57 %)


  • Engle, Eloise; Paananen, Lauri (1992). The Winter War: The Soviet Attack on Finland 1939-1940. Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-2433-6.
  • Jakobson (1961). The Diplomacy of the Winter War: An Account of the Russo-Finnish War, 1939-1940. Cambridge, MA: Harward University Press.
  • Öhquist, Harald (1949). Talvisota minun näkökulmastani. Helsinki: WSOY. (in Finnish)
  • Ries, Tomas (1988). Cold Will: Defence of Finland. Brassey's. ISBN 0-08-033592-6.
  • Schwartz, Andrew J. (1960). America and the Russo-Finnish War. Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press.
  • Trotter, William R (1991). A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 (also published as The Winter War). Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. ISBN 1-56512-249-6.
  • Van Dyke, Carl (1997). The Soviet Invasion of Finland, 1939-40. Frank Cass Publishers. ISBN 0-7146-4314-9.
  • Vehviläinen, Olli (2002). Finland in the Second World War: Between Germany and Russia. New York: Palgrave. ISBN 0-333-80149-0.

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Flag of Germany 1933 Germany
Flag of Japan - variant Japan
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned Italy
Flag of Vichy France Vichy France
Flag of Hungary 1940 Hungary
Flag of Bulgaria (1878-1944) Bulgaria
Rumania Romania
Flag of Finland Finland
Flag of Croatia Ustasa Croatia
Slovakia WW2 flag Slovakia
Flag of Thailand Thailand


in Europe
in Asia

Main theatres
Eastern Europe
Middle East
Asia and the Pacific

General timeline

Invasion of Poland
Winter War

Invasion of Denmark/Norway
Battle of France
Battle of Britain

Invasion of the Soviet Union
Battle of Moscow
Attack on Pearl Harbor

Battle of Midway
Battle of Stalingrad
Second Battle of El Alamein

Battle of Kursk
Guadalcanal campaign
Invasion of Italy

Battle of Normandy
Operation Bagration
Battle of Leyte Gulf

Battle of Okinawa
Battle of Berlin
End in Europe
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Surrender of Japan


Home Front
Military engagements

Civilian impact and atrocities
Nanking Massacre
Siege of Leningrad
Dutch famine of 1944
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Strategic bombings
Comfort women
Allied war crimes
German war crimes
Japanese war crimes

Expulsion of Germans
Cold War

See also

Category:World War II
Total war
WWII in contemporary culture
Military awards of World War II
Attacks on North America
Comparative military ranks of World War II

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