August 10, 2008
The Finish Winter War of 1939 is a lesser known part of the history leading to the Second World War. Due to the similarities to the current conflict in Georgia I want to post some videos about the War.
Similar to Georgia Finland was absorbed by the Russian Empire at the beginning of the 19th Century. During the chaos following the First World War and the Russian Revolution both Finland and Georgia gained their independence. While the Soviets were able to invade and conquer Georgia in 1921, Finland stayed independent. In 1939 the Soviets and Germany signed a treaty of non-Aggression and laid the foundation to gain back the land they had lost after the First World War. Russia was successful in gaining control of Latvia and Estonia. In September 1939 both Russia and Nazi Germany invaded Poland.
The Soviet interest turned towards Finland. Finland was a small country with only a few soldiers and equipment. The Russians invaded the country with their full mass of tanks, air planes and soldiers. But the Russian military was in a bad condition. Stalin had removed a lot of the officer corps ("removed" the Russian way…) and so the officer ranks were filled with untrained and inexperienced soldiers. He assigned NKVD and political officers to the army. The job of the political officers was to check the political opinions and keep it in favour of Stalin. The NKVD officers even had a higher authority than the army officers and could change plans.
The Fins used very efficient tactics. In the open Kareljan and Lapland regions they deployed very fast and dynamic ski squads. While the long Soviet columns were stuck in snow and on bad roads the Ski troopers could surround and annihilate them. On the Isthmus – the most important strategic part – the Fins had built the so called "Mannerheim Line" (after the Finnish Field Marshal Carl Gustav Mannerheim). This line was a defence network consisting of bunkers and trenches.
The Fins put up a ferocious defence and the Russians lost a lot of man and equipment. The whole attack ended in being a disgrace for the Soviets and the whole world was astonished by the way the Fins were able to defend themselves. But at the end the Soviets were able to break through the Mannerheim Line and Finland was forced to surrender.
Here is an old Soviet documentation about the Finish Mannerheim Line. But without any translation though.