his is the story of war between Finland and Soviet Union, the Third Aggressor of World War II. Antti and Meeri, the writer's parents lived in Viipuri, Karelia when Russia attacked.
On 30 November 1495, Russia attacked Viipuri Fortress in Karelia, but failed to capture it. The Russian soldiers ran away after a huge explosion that they attributed to St. Andrew, as November 30 is St. Andrew's Day.
On November 30, 1939 the massive forces of the Soviet Union were unleashed against one of the most viable little democracies in Europe, resulting in 1944 of the loss of 1/10th of Finland - most of Karelia - to the monster USSR. This war was called "The Winter War." The League of Nations recognizes the 1939 action as aggression and kicks USSR out. This action, and inaction to follow up, spell the end of the League.
Stalin and Hitler had carved up Europe, and Finland was given to Soviet Union and Stalin had plans to begin operations to incorporate Finland into Russia. Not all history books state this truth so bluntly, but that is exactly how it happened. Most of the time excuses are made for Stalin's inexcusable behavior, and according to Russians today, they never attacked anybody. The war with Finland was Finland's fault and they deserve to lose their precious Karelia. Russians still have ceremonies to commemorate Soviet liberation of Karelia from the "Nazis." The question is, if they liberated it from the Nazis, why then did now Karelia need to be liberated from the Russians?
Other deals are also made with Stalin. Poland is abandoned.
We have recently received some never-before-seen photos from East Karelia on this page, thanks to Mr. Oras' daughter who contacted me with amazing photos from the War. Rather than see the photos go to Finnish archives and forgotten, she wisely decided to present them to our Internet audience. The photos are so valuable because they have been taken deep within Soviet Karelia - the land Finns claim on ethnic grounds.
This is the historical epic life and death struggle of a tiny country and only a small Finnish Army against the powerful "Evil Empire." It is the story of the stubborn will to remain free, enlisting the help of the Almighty in the superhuman task, and we have pictures of the men praying before battle. It worked. The writer's parents resided in Viipuri, (Vyborg), an ancient Finnish fortress city, which Russians now claim was theirs all along. They were just "liberating it back to its rightful owners." The Viipuri fortress was built in 1293 to fend off Russian invaders, to prevent their westward expansion. It took these eastern Slavs (not a coastal people) four hundred years to finally occupy the coastal areas so they could build St. Petersburg, which now was "too close" to Finland. Were not the Finns there first? If you built your house too close to mine, who should move?
Soviet army crossed the Finnish border when "negotiations" broke down regarding Russian territorial demands. It would not have mattered if Finland had granted Russia the territory it demanded. Like Chamberlain and Hitler, it would have merely given Stalin some territory it did not have to fight for.
Map is from: Vetres or "Vantaan veteraani- ja reserviläisjärjestäijen yhteistyötoimikunta" - Vantaa (Helsinki) Verteran's and the Reservist's Committee.
Like Chamberlain, who may have been a Nazi sympathizer, Churchill too went under a delusion, to the detriment of all of Eastern Europe and Finland. (Let's pretend Stalin is a gentleman and maybe he will be our friend forever.) Some believe that the Atlantic Charter is the key to undoing territorial grabs by Russia. In this Treaty, the Soviets agreed, along with many other countries, to not expand
territory in this war. In return USSR received vast amounts of military equipment and aid, which it turned on Finland in its territorial expansion. While the West was fighting to "free" Europe, Stalin had other things on his devious schizophrenic mind.
Hoping that Finland would choose to appease Stalin with gifts of land, the Russians proceeded to try and convince the Finns to give up. Already Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had been annexed by Soviet armies and Finland was next.
Stalin tried in vain to con the Finns into letting him take over the country without resistance.
After all, it is sound policy not to risk a war and losses, when it might be possible to just walk in and take over. Otto Ville Kuusinen, the Finnish communist traitor who escaped across the border in 1918, thought up the idea that Leningrad was too close. It was a perfect excuse, after all, who can blame anyone for trying to protect themselves. Still today many historians repeat this line, that the Finnish border was too close to Leningrad and that is why Stalin had no choice but to attack. In a civilized world where borders are always "too close" to some populated area, it is no excuse to attack. But it was used as an excuse.
A well-known fact in Finland, was that Finland would never be so stupid as to attack the mighty Soviet Union, nor pose a threat to Leningrad. Finland had made that pledge, and realistically such a move would be suicide anyway. During the war, Finland was not even involved in the Leningrad siege with Hitler, though it was easy for them to do so in 1941 from the north. They did not make attempts to disrupt the flow of food to Leningrad via northern ports either. This ideology of being a threat to Soviet Union was suicidal and no leader ever espoused such nonsense, and definitely not fieldmarshall Mannerheim. For these reasons, the writer rejects the proposal that Finland posed a greater threat to Soviet Union than any other border country. Henceforth Finland would do whatever it took to reinstate its borders, and considered all actions between 1939 and 1944 as one: the fight for freedom, that Churchill and Roosevelt refuse to accept after 1941; Soviets were now their allies. Roosevelt had Goldwyn produce a pro-Soviet film "North Star" (1943) that Herst refused to endorse; he called it in big headlines "Unadultrated Soviet Propaganda."
However Stalin liked his "too close border" idea and wanted to make Otto Ville Kuusinen the leader of a Communist Finland after annexation. Of course he had to convince the world that he wasn't just using it as an excuse. This was the chance Stalin was waiting for: the domination of Eastern Baltic. The Soviet leadership thought they could take Finland in about two weeks so they didn't even bother with too much preparation. Why didn't Stalin occupy Finland in 1940?
The writer, whose father had just joined the Finnish army in the summer of 1939, believes that most people are tired of the propaganda films and history books that leave out "uncle Joseph's" genocide and simply magnify Stalin's defeat of Hitler. "Hitler attacked Poland" is printed in many history books without mentioning that Stalin attacked too. Hitler and Stalin were partners in crime, and they both must share the blame for starting WWII. It is making excuses for murder to say Stalin did it for self preservation or whatever. Is there any valid excuse? Finland's culpability is zero. In post-war history, Stalin becomes good and Finland becomes a bad country that needs to be punished for trying to stay free. In 1944, Churchill warned Finland to stop hostilities with Russia! This would be capitulation, and out of the question. Churchill could have acted as a referee instead of taking sides, and perhaps Karelia could have been restored to the rightful owners. Propaganda films prepared the American people to position Stalin in a favorable light, while the British were told that Stalin was good now. They did not understand Stalin nor Communism. Though they condemned Soviet aggression against Finland in 1939, this aggression was, after 1941, seen as legitimate because Finland became, unwittingly, the ally of Hitler. I must emphasize here that this was not by choice but by survival, and Britain and United States all but forced Finland to accept Nazi aid by not doing anything for Finland. Not only was the 1939 attack on Finland not legitimate, it was an attack on the other members or the League of Nations, including Britain, France and United States which should have acted immediately. See Churchill's prewar relationship with Mannerheim.
Finland was not the only country abandoned by the western allies. The world should just be aware of one thing: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland among others, were victims of Stalin and nothing was done about it. It is ironic that their expectations and what they got from Stalin after the war were totally different. I wonder if the surprise taught them a little of how all those countries they abandoned to Stalin felt. The only thing these countries could have done was resist Stalin, in which case they would be branded Fascist. Russia calls Finland Fascist because Finland was fighting Russia with Hitler. Since Stalin was allied with Hitler in 1939, would that mean Finland was attacked by Fascists? We could turn that logic back on Russia who today claim that Karelia was liberated from Fascists because Finland received aid from Hitler.
The writer asks: if it is wrong for Hitler and Stalin to carve up Europe, why was it OK for Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt? These deals never should have been made since all were signatories to Atlantic Charter which forbade territorial alterations. If this action to annex Karelia was illegal, then why did the former members of the League allow it at the end of the War? What the Allies did was therefore illegal, and Karelia still belongs to Finland! Churchill and Roosevelt had no right to agree to this land grab. The businesses and property still belong to their rightful owners, who are waiting for their return.
Soviet Union, being a signatory of the Atlantic Charter, could not increase in size at the expense of other nations. This is a key point in any future negotiations to repatriate Karelia to the rightful owners.
Receiving great admiration abroad, the Finnish people became an example to all small nations of the world that are harassed by larger countries bent on justifying their ends by force. From the author's point of view, and a point of historical fact, the war was Russia's fault. Yet Finland (contrary to propaganda still circulating today, was the target of Soviet aggression) was made to pay dearly, which was the fault of Roosevelt and Churchill (God rest their souls).
To Russian leaders the eastern Karelian people are a separate ethnic group; to Finnish people they are Finns which belong to a "Greater Finland." Between 1941 and 1944, education was switched from Russian to Karelian, which would have saved the culture from extinction. In the end with overwhelming force of artillery spaced every 300 feet, and facing eventual defeat, Finland signed a peace agreement. No attempt was made by the Allies to intervene and save our homes in western (Finnish) Karelia. Instead, Finland received warnings to stop resisting Stalin. To get Finland to cease fire, Russia employed the greatest concentration of artillery in the history of warfare. The result was Finland remained free but lost Karelia, its most beloved province, and the destruction and dispersal of its genealogical structure. Antti and Meeri, the writer's parents, were among those who had to leave their homes behind. This was agreed to by the Allies, an act that shall live in infamy forever. Despite being ecstatic about their victory over Hitler, civilians of America and Britain condemned these and other unwise, genocidal, actions in Europe by their leaders. The harsh terms of peace in 1944 was the fault of the Allies and the victim of aggression was Finland.
In the end Stalin got most of the countries he had planned to get with Hitler. Britain and United States had made an ally out of the USSR and reversed their position on Finland. Now Stalin was carving up Europe with his new allies instead of Hitler. This was a betrayal to all nations that Stalin wanted to occupy including Poland, the country Britain promised to help, costing 6 million lives.
Stalin had tried but failed to turn Finland into a puppet state in 1918. His real goal in attacking Finland was to complete the failed task. In August 1939 Stalin had a record made for the Finnish people about how he was coming to save them from the capitalists. Suomi Beauty. All Stalin wanted was a buffer zone against the Nazis. This was the official reason for attacking Finland, one that history books state without question. Not a bad excuse to annex a neighbor, and some may argue for Stalin's "position." But this was, as you can see by the evidence of Stalin's true motive, just an excuse used by him in 1939 and the Allies in 1944 to perpetrate this crime on the Finnish people. It is not the first time in history that this excuse was used in aggression, it is quite common.
In this page you will not find sympathy for such actions, nor for the unconscionable acts done in their kangaroo court against the people of Finland and Eastern Europe by three men. The idea that somehow Finland was guilty in some way in its military actions against the overpowering strength of the Soviets and their aims regarding annexing Finland, and therefore Finland deserved the loss of Karelia and the harsh terms, is absurd. Since Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin said so it must be true: Finland is an aggressor nation and must be punished. The truth is that the allies wanted to please Stalin, and what Stalin wanted Stalin got which is pretty plain to anyone who wants to see. The gifts he got in the Baltic area were: Karelia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Whether you believe that Russia had some legitimate claim to Karelia or not, one thing is clear: Russian goals in that region were towards dominating the Baltic by annexation of those countries. The ends achieved by aggression, namely annexation of Karelia by breaking treaties must be reversed and the displaced Karelian people must be returned back to their homes. Time does not diminish the need for justice. Criminals must not profit from their crimes, and the keepers of justice in the world should correct their mistakes where genocide and territorial annexation are concerned. Finland is innocent of all charges, and it is time for compensation: the return of Karelia and the indemnity unjustly levied on the people. Russia's position.
An estimated one million Soviets were wounded or died on Finnish soil while attacking Finland in the winter of 1939-40. Western sources often grossly underestimate Soviet losses. These were the result of Soviet propaganda when they wanted to minimize their reported losses. Later, of course when they wanted sympathy, they increased their numbers. The writer does not attempt to give a complete picture from The Winter War to armistice. Instead, these pages fill in information gaps left out for various reasons by others. Sometimes the information exists only in archives, old photos, or it is not considered politically correct enough to print. There are some sensitive Russian photos which were found left behind by the advancing Finnish army in 1941. You will find them and the first-hand account of one phase of the Continuation War around Lake Laatokka (Ladoga) as documented in the family photo album.
World War II Begins
Stalin and Hitler started the Second World War when they attacked and occupied Poland. On August 23, 1939, Stalin and Hitler divided eastern Europe amongst themselves in a secret pact. Finland was placed in the Soviet "sphere of influence" along with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The pact was followed by Hitler's invasion of Poland. Stalin's Red Army came to the "aid of Poland" and invaded Poland from the East on September 17, 1939. Historians conveniently leave out Soviet invasions in Europe, especially that of Poland and the Baltic States. History Channel's "WWII The Lost Color Archives" shows Hitler attacking and occupying Poland, but does not mention Stalin's occupation of the Eastern half. While this oversight may be innocent enough, it is serious. The three small Baltic countries were then occupied/invaded by the Soviets as per the agreement and later incorporated into the USSR by "unanimous" elections. Finland was next. Stalin offered Finland a cake: the icing was the "legitimate" concerns of U.S.S.R., while underneath was a rotten core consisting of the real motives: annexation. Finland had a choice: give up ground (Karelia) and then be attacked, or stand up against the aggressor. From a tactical point of view there really was no choice. Finland had no desire to be anyone's occupied buffer zone.
After the Soviets had begun military operations with Hitler, they requested minor adjustments to the border on the Karelian Isthmus and the lease of the Hanko peninsula at the mouth of the Gulf of Finland in return for a slice of East Karelia. No international law states that a country should give land to another country for defensive reasons, and Finland was within its rights to refuse. Paasikivi and Tanner, Finland's negotiators, felt that the territories requested were of military importance and refused Stalin's proposal. They didn't trust Stalin, nor did they accept at face value, Soviet concerns that a foreign power might attack Russia across Finland. A foreign power would use just such a tactic if it wanted to annex a neighboring country: appeal to defense requirements, request the placement of "limited" forces on their soil and follow through with the rest of it when you have the advantage. If you look at a map, an attacking fleet would be wiped out in the Baltic as they sailed first past the Baltic countries, then into the Gulf of Finland, which was mined by Germans, Russians and Finns. All Stalin had to do was ask Finland to mine their half of the Gulf of Finland, and do a few other things. There was no need to demand Finland compromise their defenses, giving its strategic military advantage over to the whims of a foreign power.
Finland is not easily crossed from either the west or the east, unless you cross in winter, not an easy matter either. A mechanized German army would have just as much trouble in Finland as the Russians. The Finns were in their element, like the rabbit in the briar patch. The writer, like the Finnish leadership of 1939 believes that Stalin was just using it as an excuse, a believable one at that. But the Finns traditionally mistrust Russians, so it was no surprise that they mistrusted this murderer, Stalin. There is absolutely no way that Stalin could be considered a normal human being - he was a pathological, but clever, genocidal criminal, back-stabbing friend of Churchill and Roosevelt, who was never punished. This is the man many of the other writers want to believe at face value.
Stalin wanted to make a deal the Finns could not refuse: "say Finnsky, how about you all giving us Karelia, and we will more than compensate you with some wasteland up north." (not an exact quote but the spirit is there) The Finns have an uncanny ability to see through Russian demands; it comes with the territory.
On November 26, 1939 at 1500 in the afternoon, the Red Army commenced fire with heavy guns and mortars on their own positions, claiming that the shots came from Finland. The Finnish army was 50 km from the border to prevent such an incident, and the men were in Sunday worship at the time. Field worship was common in the Finnish Army, and yes it was Christian worship, as political correctness had not ruined the country yet. On November 30, 1939 the Soviet Army attacked Finland on all fronts with army, air force and navy; Helsinki was bombed, and 91 persons were killed. On Dec. 1, 1939, a puppet government headed by Finn-hater and Stalin's ghost writer/purge-accuser, Otto Kuusinen, was installed by Stalin in Terijoki.
When the Soviet Union invaded Finland, Antti, the writer's father, was in one of nine divisions of Finns against an army of 600,000 men divided into four main army groups over a 1000 km front. The odds pitted against Finland were so overwhelming that observers abroad expected the Finnish resistance to collapse in a short time because Finland was not well equipped to wage war with Russia in 1939. But the Finnish Army was well trained and they improvised and captured enemy weapons. Unlike the Norwegian army which required 84 days military service, every Finn had to serve a full 365 days. They would need every bit of that training.
By the end of December, 400,000 Russians were dead, wounded, captured or trapped. After many defeats, Stalin was desperate for a victory, so he installed new leaders, changed his tactics, and sent in 1.2 million men with masses of artillery. Finally in March, after Stalin's Red Army, that was coming to "liberate" Finland, had become an embarrassment to Soviet Union, the Finns began secret negotiations for peace.
The war lasted a little over 3 months. By March 1940, the brief but disastrous war was over. It was disastrous for the Soviets because they lost, by some Finnish estimates, close to one million men and for little Finland, especially the Karelian people, because Karelia was lost and over 420,000 people lost their homes, including the writer's parents and grandparents. The stupidity and arrogance with which the Russian campaign was carried out is simply mind-boggling. But the poor infantry troops who were led as sheep to the slaughter deserve our sympathy. Blame it all on the Russian state and Stalin. But United States and Britain must accept their part in all this for turning their backs on Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. For in their enthusiasm to beat Hitler they were willing to sacrifice much, as long as it was not their land. See book
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, a native Ukranian, remembers very well.
"I had firsthand knowledge of what happened, including the strategic miscalculation on our side. The very day the war with Finland started, I was in Moscow with Stalin. He didn't even feel the need to call a meeting. He was sure all we had to do was fire a few artillery rounds and the Finns would capitulate. Instead, they rejected our terms and resisted. There was a false sense of confidence on our side; a few days would pass and we would polish off the Finns. But that didn't happen either. Many of our troops were ground up by the Finns...Stalin lost his nerve after the defeat of our troops in the war against Finland. He probably lost whatever confidence he had that our army could cope with Hitler. Stalin never said so, but I came to this conclusion watching his behavior."
"We soon realized that we had bitten off more than we could chew. We found ourselves faced with good steel reinforced fortifications and effectively deployed artillery. The Mannerheim line was impregnable. Our casualties mounted alarmingly. In the winter it was decided to bypass the Karelian Isthmus and to strike a blow from Lake Ladoga to the north where there were no fortifications. But when we tried to strike from the rear, we found ourselves in an even more difficult situation than before. The Finns, who are a people of the North and very athletic, can ski almost before they can walk. Our army encountered very mobile ski troops armed with automatic high velocity rifles. We tried to put our own troops on skiis too, but it wasn't easy for ordinary, untrained Red Army soldiers to fight on skiis. We started intensively to recruit professional sportsmen. There weren't many around. We had to bring them from Moscow and the Ukraine as well as from Leningrad. We gave them a splendid send-off. Everyone was confident that our sportsmen would return victorious, and they left in high spirits. Poor fellows, they were ripped to shreds. I don't know how many came back alive...And so the war with Finland ended. We started to analyze the reasons why we were so badly prepared and why the war had cost us so dearly. I'd say we lost as many as a million lives...There's some question about whether we had any legal or moral right for our actions against Finland. Of course we didn't have legal right. As far as morality was concerned, our desire to protect ourselves was ample justification in our own eyes."
Stalin thought the problem was that his soldiers were poorly motivated, so he had political commissars there to encourage them and to follow them into battle. If they advanced against the Finns, then the Finns shot them down. If they retreated to the rear then the NKVD officers shot them down. They were also told that if they were taken prisoner their families would be arrested. And they themselves would be sent to Siberia or killed upon returning to their homeland.
A book called "Recalling The Past For the Sake of the Future - The Causes, Results and Lessons of World War Two" was published in Moscow in 1985 by Novosti Press. (perhaps a better title would have been "Inventing the Past For the Sake of Socialist Reality") It says the Following:
"But the Finnish government, prodded by Western powers, rejected these proposals and broke off the talks on November 7, 1939. Helsinki apparently believed that taking a "firm line" toward the Soviet Union, with the support of Britain and the U.S., was in its best interests. Finland carried out mobilization amid frenzied militarist propaganda, concentrated its troops on the border with the U.S.S.R. and provoked one border incident after another. Armed provocation continued despite warnings from the Soviet side, and on November 30, 1939, hostilities began between Finland and the Soviet Union."
The Soviet newspaper "Pravda" (Truth) wrote the following on December 4, 1939:
"The Red Army approaches the frontier of Finland at the request of the People's Government. It will depart from Finnish territory as soon as the People's Government asks it to leave. The Red Army is going into Finland to the aid of the Finnish people. Only the Soviet Union, which rejects in principle the violent seizure of territory and the enslavement of nations, could agree to placing its armed might at disposal, not for the purpose of attacking Finland or enslaving its people, but for securing Finland's independence and enlarging her territory at the expense of the Soviet Union." (The Soviet Union is such a benevolent nation isn't it. Who thought up this garbage anyway.)
Headlines in the Communist Party newspaper the "Daily Worker" announced on December 1, 1939 "Red Army Hurls Back Invading Finnish Troops."
Some historians have written that Stalin only wanted to move the Finnish border slightly away for the protection of Leningrad, and that Finland was being unnecessarily difficult with the "legitimate defense requirements" of the Soviet Union. This claim has been disproved. If there was ever any doubt that Stalin wanted all of Finland, rather than just a tiny part to protect Leningrad, let the following statement by Khrushchev stand as testimony. This was just after the infamous pact with Hitler. "He (Stalin) said then and there that the document we signed would give us Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bessarabia, and Finland." (pg. 46, Khrushchev Remembers, Jerrold L. Schecter, with Vyacheslav V. Luchkov)
Terijoki was the "Finnish Riviera" on the Gulf of Finland. With Kilometers of beautiful sand beaches, it was a favorite holiday spot for city folk who lived in Viipuri (Vyborg), the second largest and most cosmopolitan city in Finland. Meeri Saarnio (writer's mother) spent summers there on the Gulf of Finland with her family. During the summer of 1938, powerful spotlights were directed at the Finnish shoreline. They were military maneuvers out of Kronstadt - preparing, foreshadowing, the following year's campaign. Viktor, (Vihtori) Meeri's father cautioned against looking directly at the intense light, which disturbed the peaceful Finnish life. The Russians were already planning their move into Finland, and Stalin had been busy preparing East Karelia between 1937-38 by shooting Karelians and Finns by the thousands. Click Map.
For Antti, life in the Finnish province of Karelia during the 1930's was nice. It was a good place to live and Viipuri was a fun place to be at the age of 19. He met Meeri in the summer of 1939. Because of the free system and hard-working people, it was prosperous, a place where Antti and Meeri wanted to settle down and make a home. But things were about to change drastically, for Stalin and Hitler had other plans.
According to a Polish friend of R.Pratt (Antti's friend) Stalin was worse than Hitler. When asked how he knew since the Poles fought the Germans, not the Russians, he said, "I know, I was in a Soviet prison camp." You see, while the Germans attacked from the west, the Russians attacked from the east. Many Poles thought they had come to help, but this was not so. The Soviets marched off 300,000 polish troops to prison camps while the world focused its fury on Germany. Sometimes historians "forget" to mention that Stalin too started WWII by attacking Poland. Stalin was also responsible for the Katyn Massacre, he said. ( more than 14,500 Polish officers murdered) Between Lenin and Stalin, over 40 million people were massacred in Stalin's holocaust, and many of them probably by bullets supplied by England and the USA. The actual number may be close to 70 million. Russia today continues to practise genocide, especially in Chechnya. They have told the world that they are only killing terrorists, but this is a lie. In January 2005 Putin announced that he is restricting journalists to those who show "respect" to Russia, meaning you better not say anything bad. You can't say Russia is a nest of thieves, or controlled by Mafia. No, you must say they are nice, come invest your money here, it is safe. (We won't nationalize our businesses, honest.) Tell me, who can trust the Russians, and KGB Putin in particular? Putin recently said once a KGB always a KGB. I think that speaks volumes. They are paranoid for a good reason, i.e. all the land they own used to belong to someone else. Taking stuff from others is a Russian trait. Finns know it, and this is why Finland is free today.
During the Winter War the Finns lost 25,000 people by fighting the Soviet Union. If they had given in to the Soviet demands, like the three other Baltic States, the chances are that they would have had over 400,000 people killed. It seems that they made the right decision, and at the same time saved the N K V D officers a lot of work. The Winter war was followed by peace, but on June 22, 1941 Soviet Union resumed hostilities with Finland. Because the Soviets broke the peace, the Finns called it the Continuation War.