How "Great Finland" planned to seize Petrograd

100 years ago, in April 1919, the White Finnish troops unexpectedly crossed the Russian-Finnish border in several places. Finns attacked Petrozavodsk. Finland claimed the whole of Karelia and the Kola Peninsula.


After the February Revolution, Finnish society split: workers 'working groups, the Workers' and the Red Guard appeared in the work centers; and the bourgeois-nationalist part of Finnish society began to form its armed units (Schückcor - “guard corps”).

The provisional government of Russia restored the autonomy of Finland, but opposed its full independence. In July, 1917, the Finnish Diet adopted the “Law on Power”, which limited the competence of the Provisional Government to foreign and military policy. In response, Petrograd dispersed the Seym. In October 1917, new elections to the Sejm took place, where representatives of the bourgeoisie and nationalists took the lead.

After the October Revolution, the Social Democratic Party of Finland (SDPF) and the executive committee of the trade unions of Finland supported the Bolsheviks. In Finland, a general strike began, the Red Guard dispersed the squadrons, occupied important points, in many cities the power passed to the workers' councils. However, the Central Revolutionary Council, after the concessions of the Sejm, called on the workers to stop the strike. In December 1917, the Sejm declared Finland an independent state. The Soviet government recognized the independence of Finland. Security detachments became the main Finnish army. Finnish troops led by former Tsarist General Karl Gustav Mannerheim.

The revolution and the course of independence split the Finnish society. In January 1918, a bloody and brutal civil war began. The Red Guard seized Helsingfors and the main industrial centers, the railways ports. The north and most of central Finland remained in the hands of the whites - the bourgeois-nationalist circles. The Reds had every chance of crushing the enemy: they controlled the main industrial centers, military factories and arsenals of the Russian army and navy. However, they acted passively, indecisively, adhered to defensive tactics, did not nationalize banks, did not confiscate land and forests of landowners and timber companies — leaving sources in the hands of opponents without deciding whether to allocate land to poor peasants. Decisive actions were not taken to ensure state security, suppress the counter-revolution and the enemy’s underground.

Thus, the country and society split into two hostile parts. In March 1918, the Soviet government recognized the Finnish Socialist Labor Republic (FSRD). In turn, the White Finnish government received the support of the German Empire. The government of Lenin sympathized with the “red Finns”, but was afraid of Germany, and therefore declared neutrality. In addition, on the side of the White-Finnish government was also "neutral" Sweden. Thus, the Swedish fleet forced the Russians to abandon Åland along with all military assets and powerful artillery batteries. Eventually weapon and military property went to the Swedes and the White Finns. Then the Aland Islands captured the Germans.

It is worth noting that the Russian troops, who were still standing in Finland (fragments of the old royal army), and a large Russian community came under attack. This led to acts of genocide on the part of the White Finns. The Finns attacked and destroyed small units of the Russian army, which had already decayed so much that it could not even defend itself. Finnish nationalists robbed, arrested and killed Russians. Also, the White Finns began to build concentration camps for the Reds. The Nazis sought to oust the Russians from Finland not only by direct terror, but also by means of a boycott, direct insults, harassment, deprivation of all civil rights. At the same time, almost all the property acquired by the Russians was abandoned, lost.

In March 1918, the German fleet landed troops on the Aland Islands. In April, the Germans began the intervention in Finland. The command of the Baltic Fleet, in an emergency, conducted a unique operation to transfer ships from Helsingfors to Kronstadt (). 12 - April 13 Helsingfors stormed the Germans and the White Finns. The remaining Russian ships and vessels were captured by the Finns and Germans. All Russian sailors and soldiers arrested in the ranks of the Red Guard were shot. In late April, the White Finns took Vyborg. The mass executions of Russians were carried out in Vyborg. At the same time, officers, students of Russian educational institutions, who had no relation to the Reds, were also shot. Reprisals against the red Finns were on a class basis, and in respect of Russians - on a national basis. Across Finland, the White Finns killed several hundred Russian officers who did not support the Reds. And the property of Russian officers, merchants and businessmen was confiscated. The state property of Russia was also captured. In April, 1918, the White Finnish authorities seized Russian state property for 17,5 billion gold rubles.

The White Finns crushed the resistance of the Reds in the most severe way. Even those who kept weapons at home were subject to execution. White, ahead of the Bolsheviks, introduced the practice of concentration camps, where prisoners of red Finns were sent. By the beginning of May 1918, the entire territory of the Grand Duchy of Finland was in the hands of the White Finns. However, this was now not enough for the Finnish Nazis. They dreamed of "Great Finland".

How "Great Finland" planned to seize Petrograd

General Karl Gustav Emil Mannerheim. 1918

General Mannerheim stands to mark the start of the "War of Independence" in Tampere on January 30 of 1919

“Great Finland”

In March, 1918, at the height of the civil war in Finland, the head of the Finnish government, Svinhuvud, declared that Finland was ready to go to peace with Russia on “moderate conditions” - the white Finns demanded the transfer of Eastern Karelia, the entire Kola Peninsula and part of the Murmansk railway. The purpose of the invasion of the White Finns in Karelia and on the Kola Peninsula was not only territorial seizures, but material interests. During World War II, Murmansk was a major center for the transfer of weapons, various military equipment, equipment and foodstuffs delivered by the Allies along the Entente. Before the revolution, the authorities did not have time to take everything out and there were huge reserves in Murmansk that were of great value. The White Finns allied with the Germans planned to capture all this. General Mannerheim prepared an invasion plan for Soviet Russia to capture territory along the line Petsamo - Kola Peninsula - White Sea - Lake Onega - Svir River - Lake Ladoga. Mannerheim also put forward the project of liquidating Petrograd as the capital of Russia and turning the city with the district (Tsarskoe Selo, Gatchina, Oranienbaum, etc.) into a free “city-republic”.

18 March 1918 of the year in the settlement of Ukhta, captured by the Finns, the Provisional Committee for Eastern Karelia was assembled, which adopted resolutions on the accession of Eastern Karelia to Finland. At the end of April 1918, a detachment of white Finns moved to capture the port of Pechenga. At the request of the Murmansk Council, the British on the cruiser transferred the red detachment to Pechenga. The British at that time were not interested in seizing the White Finns, since the Finnish government was oriented toward Germany. In May, by joint efforts of the Red and British sailors, the Finnish attack on the Pechenga was repelled. Also managed to defend and Kandalaksha. As a result, the Russians, with the help of the British and French (they defended their strategic interests), managed to defend the Kola Peninsula from the White Finns.

In May 1918, Mannerheim’s bid published the decision of the Finnish government to declare war on Soviet Russia. Finnish authorities demanded to cover the losses caused by the civil war in Finland. At the expense of these “losses” to Finland they demanded to join East Karelia and the Murmansk region (Kola Peninsula).

True, the Second Reich intervened here. The Germans decided that the seizure of Petrograd would cause an explosion of patriotic feelings in Russia. What will be terminated Brest Peace, profitable to Berlin. That power can seize the opponents of the Bolsheviks, who again will start a war on the side of the Entente. Therefore, Berlin told the White Finnish government that Germany would not wage war for the interests of Finland with Soviet Russia, which signed the Brest Peace Treaty, and would not support the Finnish troops if they conduct military operations outside of Finland. The German government was preparing for the last decisive campaign on the Western (French) front, and did not want to aggravate the situation in the East.

Therefore, in late May - early June 1918, Berlin, in an ultimatum, demanded that Finland abandon the idea of ​​attacking Petrograd. Finnish "hawks" had to moderate their appetites. And the most active supporter of this plan, General Mannerheim, was dismissed. As a result, the baron had to go to Sweden. It is clear that the Finnish army was stopped not only by Germany. The Russian troops were concentrated on the Karelian Isthmus, the Reds had a rather strong Baltic Fleet. The Soviet ships located on the Kronstadt raid could, with artillery fire and the landing of assault forces, threaten the right flank of the Finnish army advancing on Petrograd. Also, Russian destroyers, patrol boats and submarines were located in Lake Ladoga, the formation of the Onega military flotilla began. Soviet hydroplanes patrolled over Ladoga and Onega lakes. As a result, during the navigation of 1918, the Finns did not dare to turn their heads on Ladoga and Onega.

In the summer of 1918, Finland and Soviet Russia began preliminary peace talks. The Finnish General Staff has prepared a draft border transfer on the Karelian Isthmus in exchange for good compensation in Eastern Karelia. Berlin supported this project. In fact, this plan anticipated what Stalin would later offer Finland to defend Leningrad on the eve of World War II.

In August, 1918, in the German capital, with the mediation of the German government, peace talks were held between Soviet Russia and Finland. The Finnish side refused to make peace with Russia. Then the Germans concluded an "Additional Agreement" to the Brest Treaty. According to him, the Soviet side promised to take all measures to remove the forces of the Entente from the Russian North. And Germany guaranteed that the Finns did not attack Russian territory and after the removal of the Entente troops in the North Russian power would be established. The Finnish side was outraged by this agreement, the Finns broke off negotiations. Berlin again warned Finland not to let the Finns attack Russia. As a result, the position of “neither war nor peace” was established on the Russian-Finnish border.

Belofin troops. 1918 year

Finnish cavalry. 1919 year

Finland goes on the offensive

Soon, Finland changed its patron. In October 1918, it was already obvious that Germany was losing the war, and the Finnish troops occupied the Rebol region in Karelia. In November 1918, the German Empire fell. Now Finland, with the support of the Entente, could start a war against Soviet Russia. In November, Mannerheim visited London, where he held informal talks with the British. In December, the Finnish parliament elected baron as regent (initially the Finns planned to establish a monarchy, Prince Frederick Karl von Hessen was a candidate for the throne), he actually became the dictator of Finland.

Immediately after the conclusion of a truce with Germany, Britain began to prepare for intervention in the Baltic. The British began to supply whites in the Baltics. In December, 1918, the British ships repeatedly bombarded the positions of the Red troops on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland. The balance of power in the Gulf of Finland was formally in favor of the Reds. However, first, the naval command was afraid to respond, for example, to the provocations of the Finns, since Moscow was afraid of the complication of "international relations", that is, the wrath of the Entente. Therefore, ship artillery was not used to strike at the positions of the Finnish troops on the coastal flank.

Secondly, many ships have become obsolete, most of the ships of the Baltic Fleet have not been repaired for a long time and physically could not leave their bases. They were inferior in speed and in armor to British ships. Thirdly, the situation with the staff was very bad. There was no order and discipline among the "little brothers", many of whom were anarchists. The old officers were dispersed, others were intimidated by the commissars. The training of new commanders, former midshipmen of accelerated releases, was unsatisfactory. The British fleet had new-built ships, well-trained and disciplined teams, with extensive combat experience. Therefore, the British quickly established control over the whole Gulf of Finland. The British captured two red destroyers from Revel, later they transferred them to the Estonians. Red fleet was blocked.

In January 1919, the Finnish army occupied the Porosozersky volost in Karelia. In February 1919, at the Versailles Peace Conference, the Finnish delegation demanded all of Karelia and the Kola Peninsula. From January to March 1919, Finnish troops conducted local combat operations in the areas of Reboly and Porosozer.

Under the leadership of Mannerheim, the Finns developed a campaign plan for Russia. The southern group (regular army) was to conduct an offensive in the direction of Olonets-Lodeinoe field. After the capture of this area, the Finns planned to develop an offensive on Petrograd. The northern group (security detachments, Swedish volunteers and immigrants from Karelia) advanced in the direction of Veshkelitsa-Kungozero-Syamozero. This campaign was coordinated with the White Army of Yudenich, which was based in Estonia. For help of the Finnish troops, Yudenich promised to give April 3 to Karelia, and the Kola Peninsula was ready to give after building a direct railway to Arkhangelsk. Both Yudenich and the Provisional Government of the Northern Region in Arkhangelsk agreed to the capture of Petrograd by the Finnish authorities. After the capture of Petrograd, the city was about to be brought under the authority of the Northwestern government of Yudenich.

The opponents of the campaign against Petrograd were the Finnish parliament (for financial reasons) and the British (for strategic reasons). The British reasonably believed that Petrograd was well protected, it was protected by a fleet, powerful coastal fortifications with artillery, and given the developed railway network, you can easily transfer reinforcements from the central part of Russia. And the defeat of the Finnish army near Petrograd could lead the Russians back to Helsinki.

21 - 22 April 1919, Finnish troops unexpectedly crossed the Russian border in several places. There were no Soviet troops in this area. Therefore, the Finns without seizure captured Vidlitsa, Tolox, Olonets and Veshkelitsu. The advanced Finnish units came to Petrozavodsk. The situation was critical: the Karelian region could fall in just a few days. From the north, in the direction of Kondopoga - Petrozavodsk, the British and white attacked. However, thanks to the stubborn resistance of the Red Army units on the approaches to Petrozavodsk in late April, the offensive of the Finnish army was halted.

2 May 1919, the Soviet Russia Council of Defense declared Petrozavodsk, Olonets and Cherepovets regions under siege. 4 May 1919 was announced the general mobilization of the Northeast region of Russia. May - June 1919, east and north of Lake Ladoga, were full of fighting. The Whitefin Olonets Army was advancing on Lodeynoye Pole. Small and poorly trained Red Army men restrained the onslaught of well-trained, armed and equipped White Finns, who also had a significant numerical advantage. Part of the Finnish forces managed to force Svir below Lodeynoye Pole. At the end of June 1919, the Red Army launched a counterattack. During the Vidlick operation (June 27 - July 8 1919), the Finnish army was defeated and retreated beyond the border line. The Red Army received an order not to pursue the enemy abroad.

Thus, Mannerheim's plans to organize a campaign against Petrograd through the Karelian Isthmus were destroyed. Officially, the First Soviet-Finnish War was ended on October 14 on 1920 by the signing of the Tartu Peace Treaty between the RSFSR and Finland. Russia ceded the Pechenga region to the Finns in the Arctic, the western part of the Rybachiy peninsula and most of the Middle Peninsula. However, the Finnish leadership did not abandon its plans to create a “Great Finland”, which was the main reason for three more Soviet-Finnish wars and brought Finland to Hitler’s camp.

The parade of Finnish troops. 1919 year
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