Finnish soldier with a machine gun Lahti-Salorant M-26 at a position in the forest
Winter war Finland followed the principle formulated by the first Finnish president, Svinhuvud: “Any enemy of Russia should always be a friend of Finland.” The Finnish ruling circles made their plans for the future, with the expectation of making profit at the expense of the Soviet Union if Japan or Germany attacked it.
Soviet-Finnish wars 1918 — 1920 and 1921 — 1922 interesting in connection with the favorite topic of the anti-Soviet. Like, could little Finland threaten the huge Soviet empire in 1939? However, a detailed study of the problem reveals that the Finnish threat was quite real.
Firstly, aggressive nationalists came to power in Finland, who tried to use Russia’s temporary weaknesses to build Great Finland at its expense. The first failures or small successes (the capture of Pechenga) did not cool their ardor. After a failed trip to Karelia, the commander of the Belofin volunteers Talvela declared: “I was convinced that liberating Karelia from Russia (the contemptuous name of the Russians. - Author.) Is possible only by taking it. For the liberation of Karelia, new bloodshed will be required. But there is no need to try to do it with small forces anymore, a real army is needed. ” This opinion is not just one of the Finnish “field commanders”, but the Finnish military-political elite. That is, in Helsinki did not abandon the course towards the creation of "Great Finland" at the expense of Russian lands. Continued political and military preparations for the war with Soviet Russia. If the ruling Finnish party claimed a part of Soviet territory that exceeded the size of Finland itself, then the appetites of the right-wing radicals were generally unlimited. So, in the charter of the youth organization "Sinemust" it was noted that the border of Finland should pass along the Yenisei.
Secondly, do not confuse the powerful red empire of the 1945 — 1953 model. with Soviet Russia of the 20s sample. It was a newly created state, which barely scrambled out of a terrible civilizational, national disaster. The state is agricultural, with a weak industry, transport and armed forces. With a patient broken during the years of the Russian Troubles by a society in which the coals of a new civil and peasant war smoldered. With a powerful "fifth column", which only temporarily hid and was ready to blow up and tear the country apart again. For the Soviet Union in the 20's, the threat was not even England or Japan (great powers), but such local predators as Romania, Poland or Finland, who were not averse to participating in the section of the skin of the Russian bear again.
Therefore, Moscow during this period did not have any aggressive plans for Finland. This only liberals and Russophobes believe that Stalin (like the entire Soviet leadership) day and night only thought how to enslave Finland, as well as other neighboring countries and peoples. The anti-Soviet has two “iron” arguments: 1) Stalin - “ghoul”; 2) communist ideology implied the indispensable replacement of capitalism with socialism. However, none of the Soviet leadership in the 1930's claimed that the Red Army was going to invade any state in order to overthrow the local government and establish Soviet power, socialism. On the contrary, everywhere it was said that the peoples themselves would make revolutions in their countries.
Given the deplorable socio-economic and military condition of Soviet Russia in the 1920 - the beginning of the 1930-ies, and then the fundamental restructuring of the country and society (collectivization, industrialization, cultural, scientific and technological revolution, the construction of new armed forces, etc.), Moscow pursued a precautionary policy before the outbreak of World War II. Moreover, the Soviet government preferred to yield in conflict situations. There was not even any semblance of a great-power policy. Moscow made concessions not only to Japan, but also to countries such as Finland and Norway, when their fishermen violated our territorial waters and caught fish in them.
Thirdly, Finland was dangerous as an ally of more powerful powers. Helsinki did not intend to fight with Russia alone. The Finnish leadership tried to use the favorable international situation to participate in the division of Russia, as it was during the Civil War and intervention. Finland followed the principle formulated by the first Finnish president, Svinhuvud: “Any enemy of Russia should always be a friend of Finland.” Therefore, the Finnish elite at first lay under the Second Reich, even intended to choose a German prince as the monarch. And after the fall of the German Empire, quickly became a partner of the Entente.
The Finnish leadership was ready to enter into an alliance with anyone, if only against the Russians. In this regard, Finnish nationalists were no different from the Polish, who collaborated with Hitler in the hope of a common campaign to the East. Both Finns and Poles reacted sharply to the entry of the USSR into the League of Nations, to the rapprochement between Moscow and Paris (the idea of European collective security). The Finns even struck up a relationship with Japan. In 1933, when Soviet-Japanese relations sharply worsened, Japanese officers began to come to Finland. They were trained in the Finnish army.
Active Finnish society was actively anti-Soviet propaganda, public opinion was for the "liberation" of Karelia from the "Russian occupation". As far back as 1922, participants in the campaign in Soviet Karelia created the Karelian Academic Society. The aim of the society was to create a “Great Finland” by seizing the Russian territories. The Finnish press conducted systematic anti-Soviet propaganda. In no country in Europe has there been such an open aggressive propaganda for the attack on the USSR and the seizure of Soviet territories.
The hostility of the Finnish elite towards Russia was obvious to everyone. So, the Polish envoy to Helsinki F. Harvat reported to Warsaw that Finland’s policy is characterized by “aggressiveness against Russia ... Finland’s position in the USSR is dominated by the question of Karelia joining Finland”. Harvat even considered Finland "the most belligerent state in Europe."
Thus, both the Finnish and Polish ruling circles made their plans for the future based on profit from the Soviet Union (and both countries paid for it in the future) in the event of a Japanese attack on it or intervention from the West. At first, the Finnish aggressors expected that Russia would fight against Poland again, then they began to link their hopes for an anti-Soviet war with Japan and Germany. But Helsinki’s hopes for a war between Japan and the USSR, when it will be possible to “liberate” Karelia and Ingermanland from the Russians (Izhora land), did not materialize.
Soviet Tanks T-26 in the forest on the Karelian Isthmus before the attack of the Finnish positions. February 1940
Finnish military threat
It is clear that the presence of such an aggressive state on the northwestern borders of the USSR was a constant headache for Moscow. Colonel F. Feymonville, an American military attache in the Soviet Union, reported to Washington in September 1937 in September: "The most pressing military problem of the Soviet Union is preparation for repelling the simultaneous attack of Japan in the East and Germany together with Finland in the West." That is, the West was well aware of the Finnish threat to Russia.
Hostility to the USSR was also reinforced by deeds. On the Soviet-Finnish border, all sorts of provocations on land, in the air and at sea were commonplace. So, on 7 on October 1937, on the Karelian Isthmus in the area of border pillar No. 162, a Soviet border guard detachment commander Spirin was mortally wounded by a shot from the Finnish side. Negotiations on the settlement of this incident were completed only in November 1937. At first, the Finnish authorities denied their guilt, but then admitted the murder and paid compensation to the family of the victim. Similar incidents, shelling of Soviet border guards, citizens, territories, violation of the USSR border, etc., were commonplace on the border line with Finland.
Provocations were also arranged in the air. So, in an interview with Finnish Foreign Minister Holsti on June 7 on June 1937, Ambassador of the USSR to Finland E. Asmus complained about “repeated flights by Finnish aircraft of the Soviet border”. 29 On June 1937, a Finnish plane violated the border in the Olonets region. On July 9 1938 a Finnish plane violated the Soviet border in the area of border pillar No. 699. Flying at an altitude of 1500 m, the plane went deeper into the USSR on 45 km, flew about 85 km parallel to the border line along Soviet territory, then returned to Finland in the area of border post No. 728.
Violations of the Soviet border were noted at sea. In April 1936, the Soviet side informed the Finnish that from February to April 1936, our territorial waters in the Gulf of Finland were violated 9 times, 68 people were detained. The fishing of Finnish fishermen in the territorial waters of the USSR has reached a wide scope. The Finnish authorities, for their part, did not take any effective measures.
Rows of Finnish granite anti-tank hollows on the Karelian Isthmus (a section of one of the defense lines of the Mannerheim Line) in the fall of 1939. In the foreground, on the stands, two granite blocks prepared for installation
The problem of the Baltic Fleet and the defense of Leningrad
After the separation of the Baltic states and Finland, the red Baltic fleet, in fact, was blocked in Kronstadt. The Russians lost control of the Finnish skerries, for which they shed a lot of blood in the wars with Sweden.
With a friendly position, Helsinki could agree with Moscow in the 30s. Provide the USSR with a base at the exit to the Gulf of Finland, in return to obtain territories in Karelia and economic benefits. At the same time, Finland’s defense would not be affected. But the entrance to the bay would be closed fleets other countries and guaranteed access to the Baltic Fleet on the high seas.
The Finnish leadership, on the contrary, did everything to worsen the military-strategic position of Russia and to anger Moscow. In 1930, the Finns entered into a secret agreement with Estonia, according to which the Navy of the two countries had to be ready at any time to block the Gulf of Finland. In addition, during the First World War, the Russians built on both banks of the Gulf of Finland dozens of coastal batteries with powerful artillery caliber from 152 to 305 mm. Most of these fortifications went to the Estonians and Finns in good condition. So, 305 mm guns on the Finnish island of Makiloto had a firing range of 42 kilometers and reached the Estonian coast. And 305 mm guns on the Estonian island of Aegna finished off to the Finnish coast. That is, Finnish and Estonian batteries jointly blocked the Gulf of Finland.
Also, two countries were preparing to block the Gulf of Finland with several rows of minefields. 7 submarines (5 Finnish and 2 Estonian) were to be on duty behind minefields. The headquarters of Finland and Estonia agreed in detail on all the details of the operation to close the bay. Every year in the summer, starting with the 1930 year, both fleets conducted secret exercises on the installation of minefields. Coastal batteries fired at targets in the center of the Gulf of Finland.
The position of “neutral” Sweden is also interesting. The Swedes in 1930 concluded a secret agreement with Estonia and Finland that in the event of their conflict with the USSR, Sweden would not formally declare war on the Russians. However, de facto Swedes will help ships, planes and ground forces under the guise of volunteers.
Thus, the largest fleet of the Soviet Union - the Baltic, was actually blocked in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland. The Baltic Fleet had only one base left - Kronstadt, whose harbors were viewed through binoculars from the Finnish coast. Kronstadt and Soviet ships could hit not only long-range coastal guns, but also corps artillery of the Finnish army. And Leningrad itself was threatened by the blow of the Finnish army and its possible allies. Obviously, not a single great and maritime power could satisfy such a situation. And in the process of approaching the great war in Europe and the beginning of World War II, this situation became absolutely intolerable. There were no fools in the Soviet government, there were sober-minded, intelligent people who cared about national security. The issue had to be addressed.
It is also worth remembering that even before the start of the Soviet-Finnish war, the West completely forgot about international law. Only the law of power triumphed in the world. Italy robbed in Africa and Europe, Germany in Europe, Japan in Asia. England already in September 1939 began preparations for an invasion of neutral Norway. England and the USA in 1939 - 1942 invaded dozens of neutral countries and semi-independent possessions, including French colonies, without demand or permission.
Calculation of the machine gun "Maxim" at the forefront on the Karelian Isthmus. February 1940
Union with the Third Reich
Of particular concern to Moscow were Finnish-German relations. Indeed, the threat was significant. Finland could become Germany’s strategic bridgehead for the war with the USSR from the north-west. The base for the fleet, including the underwater, aviation and ground forces. From Finland, it was possible to threaten Murmansk and Leningrad, the second capital, the largest industrial and cultural center of the Union.
The Finns themselves did not forget to whom they owed their independence, and sought to renew fruitful ties with Germany. Relations were established even before the creation of the Third Reich. Thus, under the Versailles Agreement, Germany did not have the right to have a submarine fleet. But the Germans were not banned from building submarines for other countries. In 1930, the German-based design bureau Engineering Shipbuilding Office (IVS, Dutch. Ingenieuskaantor voor Scheepsbouw; formally a private company, in fact, the property of the German Navy), began developing a submarine project for friendly Finland. Built submarines (three ships) became part of the Finnish Navy. These submarines became the prototypes for the German small series II submarines. In March 1935, Germany terminated the Treaty of Versailles, and from 1935 to 1941 built 50 year submarines of this type for its fleet.
In exchange for the supply of copper and nickel, Finland received from Germany 20-mm anti-aircraft guns, ammunition, and agreed to supply combat aircraft. Germany and Finland exchanged visits by senior military officials and generals. In August 1937, the Finns hosted a German squadron of 11 German submarines. With the consent of the Finnish side, a German intelligence and counterintelligence center was established in the country in the middle of the 1939. His main goal was to conduct intelligence work against Russia, in particular, to collect information about the Baltic Fleet, the Leningrad Military District and the industry of Leningrad. Abwehr chief (German military intelligence and counterintelligence agency) Admiral Kanaris and his closest assistants have repeatedly met since the 1936 of the year in the Third Reich and Finland with Finnish intelligence leaders Svenson and Melander. The Germans and Finns exchanged intelligence about the USSR, developed joint plans.
Thus, Finland became the strategic bridgehead of the German Empire in a future war with the Soviet Union. It is clear that Moscow at all costs sought to solve the problem of defense of the northwestern borders of the country and Leningrad. Get the Baltic Fleet out of the Gulf of Finland.
Finnish submarine Vesikko. Source of photos: http://waralbum.ru/; https://ru.wikipedia.org/
To be continued ...