Two months after the start of World War II, the Soviet invaded Poland—ending on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty. The League of Nations deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union from the League on 14 December 1939.
The Red Army aimed to recover the Grand Duchy of Finland territory lost during the Russian Civil War in 1917, during which Finland had declared independence from Russia. The Soviet Union demanded the territories for security reasons, primarily to protect Leningrad, which was 40 km from the Finnish border. The Soviets possessed more than three times as many soldiers as the Finns, thirty times as many aircraft, and a hundred times as many tanks. The Red Army, however, had been crippled by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's Great Purge of 1937, reducing the army's morale and efficiency shortly before the outbreak of the fighting. With more than 30,000 of its army officers executed or imprisoned, including most of those of the highest ranks, the Red Army in 1939 had many inexperienced senior and mid-level officers. Because of these factors, and high morale in the Finnish forces, Finland was able to resist the Soviet invasion for far longer than the Soviets expected.
Hostilities ceased in March 1940 with the signing of the Moscow Peace Treaty. Finland ceded 11% of its pre-war territory and 30% of its economic assets to the Soviet Union. Soviet losses were heavy, and the country's international reputation suffered. Soviet forces did not accomplish their objective of the total conquest of Finland, but did gain substantial territory along Lake Ladoga, providing a buffer for Leningrad, and territory in Northern Finland. The Finns, however, retained their sovereignty and enhanced their international reputation.
The peace treaty thwarted the Franco-British plan to send troops to Finland through northern Scandinavia. One of the operation's major goals had been to take control of northern Sweden's iron ore and cut its deliveries to Germany; for this reason, it was also a major factor in the launching of Operation Weserübung, Nazi Germany's invasion of Denmark and Norway.
A soldier with a pack Reindeer, on slippery ice, near the tiny village of Nautsi, in northern Lapland, Finland, on October 26, 1941.
Until the beginning of the 19th century, Finland constituted the eastern part of the Kingdom of Sweden. In 1809, to protect its imperial capital, Saint Petersburg, the Russians conquered Finland and converted it into an autonomous buffer state within the Russian Empire. Grand Duchy of Finland enjoyed wide autonomy within the Empire until the end of the 19th century, when Russia began attempts to assimilate Finland as part of a general policy to strengthen the central government and unify the Empire through Russification. While abortive because of Russia's internal strife, these attempts ruined Russia's relations with the Finns and increased support for Finnish self-determination movements
Flamethrower in action in the woods near the village of Niinisalo, on July 1, 1942. (SA-kuva)
The outbreak of the First World War and the collapse of the Russian Empire gave Finland a window of opportunity; on 6 December 1917, the Senate of Finlanddeclared the nation's independence. The new Bolshevik Russian government was weak, and with the threat of civil war looming Soviet Russia recognized the new Finnish government just three weeks after the declaration of independence. Sovereignty was fully achieved in May 1918 after a short civil war and the expulsion of Bolshevik troops.
Finland joined the League of Nations in 1920. Finland sought security guarantees from the League, but its primary goal was cooperation with the Scandinavian countries. The Finnish and Swedish militaries engaged in wide-ranging cooperation, but were more focused on the exchange of information and defence planning for the Åland islands than on military exercises, or the stockpiling and deployment of materiel. Nevertheless, the government of Sweden carefully avoided committing itself to Finnish foreign policy. Another Finnish military policy was the top secret military cooperation between Finland and Estonia. The 1920s and early 1930s were a politically unstable time in Finland. The Communist Party of Finland was declared illegal in 1931, and the Lapua Movementorganised anti-communist violence, which culminated in a failed uprising in 1932. Thereafter the ultra-nationalist Patriotic People's Movement (IKL) had a minor presence – at most 14 seats out of 200 in the Finnish parliament. By the late 1930s, the export-oriented Finnish economy was growing and the nation had almost solved its problems with extreme political movements
Pilots in action above Jämijärvi, on July 17, 1942. (SA-kuva) #
Propeller-driven snowmobile near Haapasaari, Finland. The swastika was used as the official national marking of the Finnish Defence Forces between 1918 and 1945. (SA-kuva) #
Looking out toward approaching aircraft with binoculars and listening with a huge acoustic locator. (SA-kuva) #
Muzzle flashes greet enemy bombers. Picture taken during bomb attacks in April-May 1943. (SA-kuva) #
62-year-old Finnish-American volunteer soldier Hyvönen going to the front, in Mikkeli, Finland, on September 4, 1941. (SA-kuva) #
Finnish tank crew, July 8, 1941. (SA-kuva) #
Evacuation of civilians, on July 1, 1941 (SA-kuva) #
A downed Russian plane. (SA-kuva) #
Hitler's visit to Finland. Adolf Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany, made a brief visit to Finland in June of 1942. (SA-kuva) #
Anti-aircraft fire. (SA-kuva) #
The Soviet bombing of Helsinki, on November 30, 1939. On this day, the Soviet Union invaded Finland with 21 divisions, totaling some 450,000 troops. (SA-kuva) #
A wounded man is carried away after bombardment of a civilian area. (SA-kuva) #
A street scene after enemy bomb attacks. (SA-kuva) #
Finnish anti-aircraft crew in action in Helsinki. (SA-kuva) #
Icicles hang inside a bombed-out building in Viipuri, Finland (now Vyborg, Russia). (SA-kuva) #
A Finnish armored train. (SA-kuva) #
Firing toward a Russian watchtower near Koitsanlahti. (SA-kuva) #
An experiment in troop transportation in cold weather. (SA-kuva) #
At the Hämeenlinna war dog school. (SA-kuva) #
A small rocket launched in the woods. (SA-kuva) #
Street fighting in Medvezhyegorsk, Russia. The town was occupied by Finland for three years. (SA-kuva) #
A dead soldier, his body frozen. (SA-kuva) #
Some of an estimated 400 Russian soldiers killed in a battle, on February 1, 1940. (SA-kuva) #
A dead horse lies frozen in the snow near Ruhtinaanmäki, on January 21, 1940. (SA-kuva) #
A soldier shows off gas attack equipment. After 1940, Finnish forces were able to buy arms and equipment from Germany, eventually cooperating to battle the Soviets together. (SA-kuva) #
A downed Russian plane. (SA-kuva) #
Destroyed by bombing, tram lines are repaired in February of 1944. (SA-kuva) #
Two girls, in the ruins of Martin's Church in Turku, Finland. (SA-kuva) #
German ammunition depot explosion, February 9, 1942. (SA-kuva) #
Russian prisoners of war. (SA-kuva) #
A barge lifts a wrecked locomotive. (SA-kuva) #
The hospital's bomb shelter in Mikkeli. (SA-kuva) #
An explosion at a military port facility in Helsinki, on September 14, 1941. (SA-kuva) #
The HNLMS Gelderland, built for the Royal Netherlands Navy, seized by the Germans in 1940 and re-named the "Niobe", sunk by Soviet bombers in Kotka harbor, on July 16, 1944. (SA-kuva) #
Aftermath of a bombing attack. (SA-kuva) #
The body of a dead German soldier. (SA-kuva) #
Soldiers carry a wounded man on a path. (SA-kuva) #
Vyborg Cathedral, after the bombing. (SA-kuva) #
Doctors perform abdominal surgery on a wounded captain. (SA-kuva) #
Thirteen-year-old Veikko Rantala lies wounded in Lieksanjoki Military hospital. (SA-kuva) #
Stuka dive-bombers fly over, Immola, July 2, 1944. (SA-kuva) #
Wounded soldiers. (SA-kuva) #
Nurmoila village, shortly after Russian bombers attacked. (SA-kuva) #
Lunkula island, Jumitsa bay on the south side of village of Varpahainen. Helmets of dead Russians, on July 28, 1941. (SA-kuva) #
Finnish motorcycle and tank. (SA-kuva) #
A parked bicycle, camouflaged. Ontrosenvaara, August 17, 1941.