Winter war The Finnish government underestimated the enemy. It was concluded that the USSR is a colossus with feet of clay. That Finland, even alone, can fight the USSR and win. In addition, there was confidence that the Finns would support the world community.
The cure for stupidity
Soviet-Finnish War of 1939–1940 looks like stupidity of the Finnish elite. And the victory of the USSR is a cure for stupidity. The reasonableness of Moscow’s demands on Helsinki was obvious to everyone, even the Finns themselves. In anticipation of and with the outbreak of World War II, the Soviet government could no longer drag out a solution to the problem of defense of Leningrad - the country's second most important vital center, with the issue of freedom of exit and actions of the Baltic fleet (then the most powerful fleet of Russia). And with the loss of Leningrad ports, the enemy turned the Leningrad Region into a strategic bridgehead for invading deep into Russia.
Therefore, the Russian tsars attached such great importance to the defense of St. Petersburg and the approaches to it. But then it was easier. Russia owned the Baltic states and the Grand Duchy of Finland. Our batteries were on the southern and northern shores of the Gulf of Finland, the Baltic Fleet had several strong bases. The collapse of the Russian Empire led to the complete loss of these positions. The southern coast remained behind Estonia, the northern coast behind Finland. The Baltic Fleet was, in fact, blocked in Kronstadt. Finnish long-range artillery could hit Kronstadt, our ships and the city.
Moscow conscientiously and by all means tried to negotiate with Helsinki. As soon as Hitler took Austria, the USSR began to persuade Finland to be a good neighbor. Already in April 1938, Moscow secretly proposed to Helsinki a local military alliance that the Finns would resist the Germans in the event of their invasion of Finland, and the Soviet side promised assistance with troops, navy, aviation и weapons. The Finns refused.
Moscow began to look for options. She offered to protect the Finnish coast with the support of the Baltic Fleet if Germany attacked Finland. The Finns refused. Meanwhile, the situation in Europe continued to deteriorate. England and France surrendered to the Germans the Czechoslovak Sudetenland. Prague itself refused to defend itself. It became obvious that all agreements in the West are no more than paper, if there are no "large battalions" behind it. The Soviet government is increasing pressure on the Finns. In October 1938, the USSR offered Finland assistance in building a military base on the Finnish island of Gogland in the Gulf of Finland and, if the Finns could not cope with the defense of this island, defend it together. Helsinki refused. Moscow asks to transfer several islands in the Gulf of Finland to rent for 30 years. Helsinki is failing.
Then, in the spring of 1939, Moscow offers a concession to much larger Soviet territory in exchange for islands in the Gulf of Finland. The Finns themselves understood that these were quite reasonable requirements, a matter of vital necessity for Russia-the USSR. Having learned about these negotiations, the Finnish Army Commander-in-Chief, Marshal Mannerheim, offers the government to cede to Moscow and exchange not only the requested islands, but also the territory of the Karelian Isthmus. However, the Finnish government continued to stand its ground.
Interestingly, if Helsinki accepted Moscow’s proposals, then Finland and all the people would benefit from this. After all, it was not without reason that Mannerheim offered himself as the person responsible for the exchange of territories. His position as a hero of Finland would only have been strengthened by this, since the territory of the country was growing at the suggestion of Moscow. In addition, the Union was ready for numerous economic advantages for a friendly neighboring state. However, the Finnish government carefully concealed the essence of the requests of the Soviet government not only from the Finnish people, but also from the legislative branch. That is, the arguments of the Finnish government were so weak that they could not be discussed not only in the press and society, but also in parliamentary commissions. Moscow's demands were quite reasonable and fair, and even moderate.
At first, Moscow did not stutter about the transfer of the Karelian Isthmus to the USSR, although this step was also quite logical and fair. But after Helsinki refused to concede even the smallest, Moscow tightened requirements. It became completely obvious that in a future war Finland would side with the enemies of Russia. Then Moscow formulated new conditions: to lease the Union for 30 years a piece of land on the Hanko Peninsula (at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland) with the aim of creating a Soviet military base there and moving the border on the Karelian Isthmus to the Mannerheim Line in exchange for much larger Soviet territory. Moreover, it was Cape Hanko that remained the main request. In the matter of moving the border from Leningrad, Moscow was ready to make concessions (move less than 70 km).
The Soviet-Finnish negotiations were conducted in the autumn of the 1939 year, already in the conditions of the beginning of the great war in Europe. The importance of negotiations for Moscow is evidenced by the fact that Stalin personally spoke with the Finns. So Molotov negotiated with the Germans, although they also had strategic importance for the USSR. What Stalin did not offer the Finns: lands in Karelia (their Finns tried to seize in the 1918 – 1922 years), monetary compensation for property on the Karelian Isthmus, economic benefits, concessions in mutual trade. When the Finnish side stated that it could not tolerate a foreign base on its territory, Stalin proposed digging a canal across the Hanko Peninsula and making the base an island, offering to buy a piece of land on the cape and thereby make Soviet territory. Then the Finns were offered to buy from them several small uninhabited islands at Cape Hanko, which the members of the Finnish delegation did not even know about. All in vain!
Finnish machine gunner with a Finnish Lahti-Saloranta machine gun M-26
Why did the Finns believe in victory
Negotiations show that the Finnish government had iron confidence in victory in a possible war with the USSR. Therefore, the Finnish side did not make any concessions, and, obviously, was looking for war. Only the war went according to a different scenario, not according to the plan of Helsinki.
The Finnish elite made two major mistakes. Firstly, underestimated the enemy. It must be remembered that the victorious Soviet Union of the 1945 model of the year and Soviet Russia of the 1920 of the first half of the 1930 of the year are two different countries. The Finns remembered Russia in the 20s. A country that barely escaped death during the Russian Troubles and intervention, which lost the war to Poland and lost huge West Russian regions. A country that without a fight surrendered the entire Baltic. The Soviet government, which turned a blind eye to the genocide of Russians in Finland, to the destruction of the Red Finns, to the robbery of Russian property, to two aggressive wars waged by the Finns against Russia.
Hitler's definition of the USSR as a “colossus with feet of clay” was then dominant in the West. It is worth remembering that the same strategic mistake, like Finland in the fall of 1939, will be committed by the Third Reich in the summer of 1941. Hitler’s elite was sure that it would defeat Russia before the winter. During the lightning war. That the Russian colossus will fall apart under the blows of the “invincible” Wehrmacht, that Russia will collapse under the yoke of problems, due to the actions of the “fifth column”, military conspirators and separatists. The whole West slept through the enormous changes that occurred in Russia-the USSR in just a few years. The Stalinist USSR was already a qualitatively different power: with a powerful, albeit crude army, which still had to be tempered in the fire of a terrible war; with a developed industry and defense industry, high scientific, technical and educational potential. The people became different, the nucleus of the society of the future arose in the country. True patriots, smart, healthy, ready for self-sacrifice.
All Finnish intelligence was then conducted through Soviet dissidents, and they hated the Union, were interested in a corresponding distortion of reality. Finnish secret police on the eve of the war reported to the government that most of the population of the USSR (75%) hates power. That is, it was concluded that it was only necessary to enter the Soviet lands, as the population would meet the "liberators" with bread and salt. The Finnish General Staff, analyzing Blucher's inarticulate actions in the Hassan conflict, concluded that the Red Army could not only advance, but competently defend itself. As a result, the Finnish government concluded that even Finland alone could fight the USSR and win. But most likely the West will come to the aid of Finland.
Secondly, in Helsinki they were sure that they would be supported by Western democracies. These calculations had real reasons. France and England at that time waged a “strange” war with Germany. That is, there was no real war. The allies were waiting for Hitler to turn his bayonets to the East, against the USSR. London not only did not restrain Helsinki from war with the USSR, on the contrary, incited Finns to Russians. The British wanted to take the Kola Peninsula from the Russians. They themselves did not want to fight, but as usual they used "cannon fodder" - Finnish.
In January 1940, the Chief of the General Staff of England, General E. Ironside, presented to the military cabinet a memorandum on "The main strategy of the war." In it, he noted that the allies can provide effective assistance to Finland “only if we attack Russia from as many directions as possible and, most importantly, strike at Baku, the region of oil production, to cause a serious state crisis in Russia” . That is, London was ready for a war with Russia. Similar positions were held in France. At the end of January 1940, the French commander-in-chief General M.G. Gamelen expressed confidence that during the 1940 campaign, Germany would not attack the allies, so the Anglo-French expeditionary force could be landed in Pechenga (Petsamo) and, together with the Finnish army, deploy active military operations against the USSR.
The British government, in principle, was ready to go to war with the Russians. “Events, apparently, lead to the fact,” Chamberlain told 29 at a cabinet meeting in January, “that the Allies will openly engage in military operations against Russia.” In early February, the British prime minister went to Paris, to the highest military council. It discussed a concrete plan for a joint intervention in Northern Europe. Chamberlain proposed the landing of expeditionary forces in Norway and Sweden, which would expand the Soviet-Finnish conflict, prevent the defeat of Finland by Russians and at the same time block the supply of Swedish ore to Germany. The head of the French government, Daladier, supported this plan. It was planned to send not only French troops to Scandinavia and Finland, but also English divisions, which were formed to be sent to the French front.
Also in Paris and London they hatched the idea of organizing an offensive against Russia with “giant ticks”: a strike from the north (including the capture of Leningrad) and a strike from the south (from the Caucasus). The Petsama operation provided for the landing of more than 100 thousand Anglo-French troops in Scandinavia. The landing party in Petsamo was supposed to capture the Murmansk railway and Murmansk, and thereby receive maritime communications to supply troops and a railway to develop the offensive to the south. The allies also prepared the Air Force for strikes from bases in Syria and Iraq in Baku, Batumi and Grozny. Only an unexpected victory for the Red Army in the West in February - March of the 1940 of the year made England and France postpone the strike on the USSR until better times.
Finnish soldiers with a machine gun "Maxim" M / 32-33 in the forest
Soldiers of the ski battalion of the Finnish troops on the march. For transportation of cargo, deer and drags are used.
Fighter of the Dutch development Fokker D XXI No. FR-110 of the Finnish Air Force on a ski chassis
War so war
Thus, London and Paris prepared a completely different scenario of the world war - England, France and Finland (possibly other countries) against the USSR. Having great powers behind and underestimating the Russians, the Finns were overwhelmed with optimism, and even plans for a war with the USSR were prepared exclusively offensive. According to these plans, the Mannerheim line was to repel the enemy’s onslaught in a southerly direction, and the Finnish army attacked in an eastward direction, in Karelia. Finland was going to establish a new border with Russia along the Neva, the southern shore of Lake Ladoga, Svir, Lake Onega and further to the White Sea and the Arctic Ocean, with the inclusion of the Kola Peninsula. That is, “peaceful” Finland was preparing to double its territory. Only after the start of the war did they have to forget about the offensive. The first operations showed that the Red Army group in Karelia is too powerful to advance.
So the Finnish elite, dreaming of creating a “Great Finland” at the expense of Russian lands, made a huge mistake. Later, it will be done by Hitler. Admonition for Finland and Germany will be the defeat in the war and the victory of the Russians. Vyborg will again become Russian, and then Kaliningrad.
It is also worth paying attention to the fact that Finland was ready for war in the winter of 1939, but the USSR was not. Since Moscow did not want to fight the Finns, and Helsinki wanted war and prepared for it seriously. During the autumn talks, Finland was preparing for war: it evacuated the population of their border areas, mobilized the army. Mannerheim joyfully noted in his memoirs:
“... I wanted to shout that the first round was ours. We were able to transfer both the covering troops and the field army on time and in excellent condition to the front. We got enough time (4-6 weeks) for combat training of the troops, their acquaintance with the area, for the continuation of the construction of field fortifications, the preparation of destructive work, as well as for the installation of mines and the organization of minefields.
By the end of November 1939, the Finns had been ready for war for two months, and Moscow was pulling everything, trying to negotiate.
As a result, a provocation occurs, and the Red Army begins to admonish obstinate and aggressive Finns. The initial stage was difficult: Finland was ready for war, but the USSR was not. The Soviet command underestimated the enemy, intelligence made major miscalculations, the terrain was difficult, winter time, the enemy’s defense was powerful. The Red Army was poorly trained. The morale of the Finns is high, unlike the Poles, who surrendered almost immediately to the Germans, the northerners fought hard and hard. The Finnish command fought skillfully and decisively. However, Russians are able to draw conclusions from mistakes. At the second stage of the war, the Finnish army was defeated, the defense was hacked, Finland was on the verge of disaster and asked for peace. Moscow got everything she wanted and even more.
Finnish Tanks "Vickers", lined in the vicinity of the Perot station. February 1940
Calculation of the Soviet 122-mm howitzer sample 1910 / 30 gg. in position during the winter war. Photo source: http://waralbum.ru/