Most Finnish senior officers went through a German military school during World War I and were greatly influenced by German warfare tactics. But their own experience accumulated, for many during the intervention in Soviet Karelia in 1918-1922, almost all during the Winter War. In addition, the geographical and natural features of the area where the Finns were to advance in 1941, also dictated their conditions. In addition, the study of tactics of the Red Army in the Winter War and intelligence data. All this was layered and as a result led to the fact that the Finns had their own tactics of military operations, different from both German and Soviet. The purpose of this article is to study the tactics of the Finnish troops during the offensive, on the defensive, during the retreat, while reflecting the offensive actions of the Red Army units in 1941-1944. based on documents from the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense.
It should be noted that Finnish tactics were influenced by the features of the front line itself, which, in turn, were dictated by the features of the terrain. The Karelian front was not continuous, between the parts there were huge voids; there were very few communication lines. The sad results of this were clear even in the Winter War, so in 1941 the commanders of the Red Army tried to avoid a repetition of the sad experience of the Finnish campaign, and sometimes even use the terrain in their favor. However, in 1941, the Red Army commanders did their best to reduce the front of the defense. G.N. Kupriyanov wrote: “we need to shorten the front, pull the entire Kondopoga group to Medvezhyegorsk. Having occupied Kondopoga, the enemy will run into the lake, and further to the east he will not pass anyway. And we, due to the lake, will shorten the front by almost 200 km ”[1, p. 122].
Offensive tactics of the Finnish troops in 1941
So what are the main methods, what was the main tactics of the Finns in the 1941 offensive? Firstly, these are attempts in any way to avoid frontal attacks. For the entire duration of the battle of the 337th joint venture, surrounded and upon leaving it, the Finns only once attempted a frontal attack. Finns tried to influence the flanks. This is noted in the report of the commander of the 337th joint venture (Rebolsky direction), this is also noticeable when studying the battles after the occupation of Petrozavodsk. So, on October 8, 1941, during a battle on the Anga River, “the enemy opened strong fire with mortars and machine guns and launched an attack on the left flank” [1, p. 72]. As in the Winter War, the Finns used the tactics of circumvention, but not to completely surround the unit, but to cut the main communication. So, on October 15, 1941, during the battle for the village of Svyatnavolok, the 3rd battalion of the 25th infantry regiment went into a roundabout maneuver, cut the road 3 km north of Svyatnavolok and surrounded the 131st rifle regiment of the Red Army. When conducting a roundabout maneuver, the Finns tried to use clearings; before starting the rounds, they reconnoitered the dominant heights for further defense using these heights. They occupied the defense either by the flank back and forth, or circular, depending on the terrain. At the same time, Finns always take mortars of small and medium caliber with them in a roundabout maneuver, and use all their firepower. The main goal of the roundabout maneuver is to force the Red Army fighters to make a breakthrough or withdraw power without a material part.
A separate feature of Finnish tactics in 1941 was that they did not begin to pursue the retreating units, due to, most likely, their reluctance to engage in open battle.
Using incendiary shells and bullets, the Finns set fire to the forest and cleared the shelling sector for themselves, and sometimes they simply “smoked” parts of the Red Army from favorable positions. The chief of staff of the 337th joint venture, Major Ivan Vasilyevich Obydenkin, noted the extremely rare appearance of small enemy groups in the rear of our units and the great fear of the Finns to be surrounded .
On October 3, 1941, Captain Ukraintsev, chief of the Second Division of the Headquarters of the 123rd SD LenF, drew up a document describing the tactics of the offensive actions of the Finns in 1941. This document is especially important because the natural and geographical conditions of the Karelian Isthmus differ from the conditions Karelia and the Karelian Isthmus, the Finns in some way changed their tactics, which was motivated by the above reasons.
According to Ukraintsev, “the advance of certain units of the company-battalion is preceded by active reconnaissance of the flanks and squad-platoon in small groups in the rear. At the opening of organized fire, as a rule, advancing units disperse and hide in the depths ”. Ukraintsev also noted that the Finns seep in small groups into the depths of the defense and gradually accumulate as many troops as possible on the flanks and weapons, trying to create the impression of an environment in parts of the Red Army. However, Ukraintsev writes that, together with the above actions, the Finns act “simultaneously with frontal pressure on weaker sections of the front” , while in Karelia, at least in the Rebolsky direction, “they avoid frontal attacks” [ 2]. How can this be explained? According to the author, the reason for this was that the Karelian Isthmus was part of Finland since 1917 and the Finns knew this territory well, which could give them courage in their actions. It is no accident that Obydenkin, in particular, explains the rarity of the use of small groups in the rear of our troops by the Finns by the fact that “actions are being conducted on our territory” . In the report of Ukraintsev it is written that at the beginning of the retreat of parts of the Red Army, the Finns throw out mobile groups and try to cut off the escape routes, and keep the retreating parts under the influence of automatic fire from the flanks. Scooters and light detachments formed into “pursuit detachments” acted by means of deep circumvention and coverage to create a secondary environment and prevent the retreating from taking a new line of defense.
On September 2, 1941, the chief of staff of the 27th SD Lieutenant Colonel Polukarov wrote to the chief of the combat training department of the Headquarters of the 7th Army, Major Guryev, that the actions of the Finnish army remained the same. First of all, at that time, the tactics of the Finns consisted in the fact that they acted in small groups with the goal of reaching the rear of our units and reaching communications, as well as creating the appearance of the environment of the units. The main tactical strike unit was a battalion with mortars and artillery attached. It may seem that this looks like a guerrilla war, but it is further written that “since the beginning of the war, they (Finns. - Approx. Auth.) Act as a larger group, like a battalion supported by artillery fire and mortars, which are usually used decentrally . <...> individual guns often change their positions ”. The Finns avoided frontal attacks, as was already written, and hit mainly on the flanks. In addition to mortar fire (and mortars, as mentioned above, the Finns took in their roundabout maneuvers) they are supported by the full power of artillery fire from the front. And here it should be noted that the Finns in 1941 really had more artillery than the units of the Red Army. So, in the Kondopoga direction in the middle of October 1941, the ratio of forces in light guns was one gun for the Red Army against 2,5 guns for the Finns (12 guns against 30) [1, p. 93]. Polukarov’s report ended with the following phrase: “Data on action tanks and there is no cavalry, since there was no case of their use ”. The cavalry regiments "Häme" and "Uusima", included in the Oinonen group, will begin their active military operations only a month later, in early October 1941.
On August 6, 1941, senior lieutenant Podurov, chief of staff of the 81st Red Banner Joint Venture, wrote to the chief of staff of the 54th SD report, "The Finnish Army in this war and its tactics in the fight against the Red Army."
According to the report, the Finns did conduct massive mortar and artillery fire, but not aimed fire, from which the percentage of destruction from artillery fire was really small. However, Podurov notes that fire has a negative effect on the morale of fighters. Submachine gunners, like mortars, also fired aimlessly. The report also describes who the “cuckoos” were in the war of 1941-1944: “Great damage is caused by individual cuckoos, making their way to the rear and sitting down in front of the front line of defense, who, under the noise of art-shooting or machine guns, fire at our soldiers and commanders, but as soon as the cuckoo has consumed all the ammunition, it is wound from the rear or from the front edge. Remaining alone, the Finnish submachine gunner still continues to act and inflicts defeats with his sudden fire from the trees ”. As Podurov noted, in an offensive battle, the Finns fight passively, when in contact with the defense, they crawl along the entire front edge in search of flanks in order to act on the environment. “The Finns do not know how to chase the retreating enemy, they are afraid to go on his shoulders when the defender leaves. So their offensive tactics are poorly developed ”. The Finns' mortars were "roaming", which made it difficult to determine their location. All the wounded and killed Finns were taken out of the battlefield, and it was also noted that the Finns had well-developed mutual assistance. In paragraph 6 of the report it was written that “the Finns are very afraid of artillery and mortars of the Red Army. When fired from our side, the Finns scatter and hide in the trenches, the cracks between the stones. <...> Finns are very afraid of anti-aircraft machine guns ”. The same is confirmed by data dating back to 1944, and specifically - to the Vyborg operation. “At 06.00:10 a.m. on June 1944, 21, Soviet artillery opened fire again. In two hours and twenty minutes, the artillery of the 192690st Army fired 13 shells and mines. The 172th Air Army completed 139 bombers on targets at the forefront. 176 bombers hit the rear and artillery positions. The final chord of the preparation of the fourth Stalinist strike was the simultaneous raid of 9151 attack aircraft and a volley of heavy rocket launchers at the Finnish front line. A total of 6 Katyush shells hit the Finnish position. As Soviet officers noted after this, “our units launched an offensive against a sufficiently demoralized enemy” [XNUMX].
Finnish tactics in defense and retreat
It must be said that the Finnish theater of operations of the Great Patriotic War was characterized by a long positional war. Parts literally burst into the land of the Karelian Isthmus and Karelia and held tightly at the occupied lines. The 7th separate Army and the Karelian Front conducted only a few local offensive operations in 1942.
By September 1941, Finnish troops on the Karelian Isthmus entered the line of the Karelian fortified area. Active battles continued until November, after which the front line stabilized and a positional war began there, which lasted until the start of the Vyborg offensive operation on June 9, 1944. In Karelia, the front line stabilized by December 1941, during the offensive operations of the Finnish army a large part of the KASSR and even part of the modern Vologda region. Consider the tactics of the Finns in defense.
The report of the chief of staff of the 461st joint venture of the 142nd Red Banner SD captain Zhilin, written to the chief of the second branch of the Staff of the 142nd KSD on December 10, 1941, describes the actions and tactics of the Finnish units for the period from December 1 to 10, 1941, i.e. after the cessation of the active phase of hostilities on the Karelian Isthmus (142nd KSD was part of the 23A LenF, defending on the Karelian Isthmus).
The Finns occupied defense on a wide front, taking into account and using the features of the territory - “all open areas are well shot by all types of fire weapons” . The location of Finnish firepower was as follows: machine guns and mortars of 81 mm caliber are located on the flanks, the surrounding area is shot by aiming machine gun and artillery fire. The Finns dug trenches of the full profile and the passages of communication, ahead of which are mines of tension. In a closed and poorly shot area, the Finns set up a 3-4-wire wire fence, in front of which are minefields, hanging grenades and HEs. On the trees sat "cuckoos" - but not snipers, but submachine gunners with a large supply of bullets. To prevent reconnaissance by parts of the Red Army, the Finns, day and night, conduct aimless rifle-machine-gun and mortar fire, and also illuminate the area with rockets and even searchlights.
It does not make sense to describe the Finnish defense, since the device of Finnish defense on the Karelian Isthmus (VT Line) is well described on the Internet and there is even literature on this subject (see Balashov E. VT Line. Finnish defensive position on the Karelian Isthmus. 1942-1944 / E. Balashov, I. Sheremetyev. - St. Petersburg: Kareliko, 2016.). Finnish fortifications in Karelia, namely the PSS Line, U Line, the Medvezhyegorsky fortified area that was part of the Maselsky Defense Line, have been studied less well, but reliable and high-quality information on the Internet can also be found from them. Consider the tactics of the Finns when breaking through their defenses.
Finnish tactics for breaking the front line of defense
The report of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the 7th Separate Army Colonel Peshekhontsev "Tactics of the Finnish army in the offensive of our troops," written on June 12, 1943, writes that the Finns extremely stubbornly defended their main defense zone. During the defense, they relied on artificial barriers and on concentrated artillery and mortar fire. During the artillery preparation of the Red Army, the garrison of firing points at the front edge of the defense were hiding in shelters, and at the front edge there were observers who raised the alarm when the attack of the Red Army units began. Hurricane rifle-machine-gun fire starts from firing points and these points have to be suppressed by direct fire. If the attack of the Red Army begins suddenly at night, the military guard posts run away, raising the alarm, and units from the front edge of the defense, without any resistance, scatter from the dugouts in trenches. The firing points located in the depths of the defense open random fire at noise. After a short respite, the Finns begin a hurricane artillery-mortar shelling in front of the front line of their defense, and then along the trenches occupied by the Red Army units. At the same time, “the front line of their defense at the Finns is precisely shot by artillery and mortars” [8, p. 103]. The first attempts to counterattack the Finns in parts from the depths of the defense are unorganized. Counterattacks are repeated often, with more Finns with each new attack. In the event of a counterattack failure, forces from neighboring inactive defense sections, even reserves of other units, are being drawn into the war zone. All Finnish attacks are fierce and often come to hand-to-hand fights. So, in the report of Peshekhontsev, the battle for the height of “Camel” is mentioned on November 7, 1942. During the battle, the Finns made 27 counterattacks. The fighting for the height of "Camel" is mentioned in the book of P. Bograd "From the Arctic to Hungary."
Peshekhontsev mentions that, “having beaten off the trench and forcing our troops to move a bit, the Finns on the flanks of the trench leave several machine gunners armed with hand grenades, and in the middle they defiantly leave. Our units, pursuing the retreating enemy, again occupy the trench. Submachine gunners from both flanks fall upon them with grenades and machine-gun fire ”[8, p. 104].
Finnish tactics during the battle in the depths of their defense
If the Red Army units break through the front line of defense, the Finns open concentrated defensive artillery-mortar and machine-gun fire, with the aim of stopping the advancement of our units.
Then the Finns begin to accumulate forces, including fire - they maneuver the trajectories of heavy artillery standing at the firing positions, and also transfer light batteries and mortars. Having accumulated strength, by the beginning of the second or third day from the beginning of the offensive of the Red Army, the Finns begin an organized counterattack with preliminary artillery preparation and with the support of artillery and mortars. The main blow lies, as during the offensive, on the flanks of the wedged parts. Small forces act from the front. At the same time, before the start of the counterattack, small groups of Finnish submachine gunners penetrate the rear of our troops and disrupt the control of the battle, as well as prevent the ammunition from being carried. Then these groups are sharply strengthened by suitable forces, fixed at a profitable line and interrupt the approach and supply of ammunition and reinforcements. “A characteristic feature of the enemy’s actions at this stage is that he is extremely quickly secured at occupied lines.” [8, p. 104]. Then the Finns quickly restore the positions destroyed during the battle and artillery strike. Finnish artillery fire was adjusted from the air, but Finnish activity aviation was extremely inactive. As far back as 1941 it was noted that “in a defensive battle, the Finns are staunch warriors who fight stubbornly and persistently in defense, can quickly produce defensive structures, skillfully applying disguise” .
Another interesting document describing the Finnish tactics in defense is the report “Features in tactics and new means of fighting the enemy” written on April 16, 1943, probably by the head of the intelligence department of the Headquarters of the Karelian Front, Major General Povetkin Philip Filippovich. In it we are only interested in one sentence: “A characteristic decrease in the political and moral level of the personnel of the Finnish army for offensive operations” .
On August 12, 1943, Lieutenant Colonel Antonov, deputy chief of the KarF Headquarters Intelligence Division for military intelligence and information, wrote in his “Report on the peculiarities of tactics and revealed new means of fighting the enemy” that “the only peculiar event of the Finnish command for the summer period”  was that that the Finns strengthened the protection of the flanks of the main grouping and junctions between the tactical reserves, in order to combat the reconnaissance activities of the Red Army and partisans, whose groups went deep behind enemy lines.
Interesting data from the report of the Acting Division of the 110th Rifle Corps of the 21st Army of Major Mikhailov “On some features of the tactics of the Finnish troops on the experience of fighting corps on the Karelian Isthmus”, compiled on July 8, 1944, that is, when active hostilities on the Karelian Isthmus already coming to an end.
As Mikhailov noted, the defense of the gaps between the Finnish strongholds is carried out in small groups or pairs of machine gunners. Active snipers. “In contrast to the Germans, the village detaches itself from the roads and acts in the forest, striving for flank counterattacks.” [11, p. 9]. The Finns built a fire system on the principle of fire bags. With the advance of the Red Army units, the Finns are actively using the maintenance of fire from mortars. Fire is aptly. The adversary “is extremely sensitive to evasion and, as a rule, the battle in the environment does not lead, but leaves.” [eleven]
Summarizing all of the above, we must conclude that in 1941 the Finns' offensive tactics were poorly worked out - in the reports of the Red Army commanders it is noted that the Finns did not pursue our retreating units, avoided frontal attacks, tried to “partisan” more and more. However, they "partisaned" them with great strength, giving more importance to the actions of maneuverable infantry capable of hitting the flanks or rear areas, respected mortars, which they carried with them almost constantly, and also the good interaction of infantry and artillery of the Finnish army. But in 1944, the Finns made a mistake: due to the fact that once a quarter, married (once every four months - single) Finnish military men received short-term ten-day leave, which they received shortly before the start of the Soviet offensive, the fighting capacity of the Finnish army decreased by 20 % For the same reason, the number of infantry battalions in the division decreased from nine to seven.
List of sources and literature
1. Stolepova N.N. Frontiers Kondopoga / N.N. Stolepova. - Petrozavodsk: publishing house "PetroPress", 2015. - 198 p.
2. Popov D.A. The Soviet-Finnish War of 1941-1944: combat and numerical strength, combat characteristics of divisions, the balance of forces, the growth of troops of the Karelian Front of the 7th Separate Army and the 23rd Army of the Leningrad Front / D.A. Popov. - Petrozavodsk: Verso, 2019 .-- 32 p.
3. TsAMO, F. 6774, Op. 0008046, Case: 0001, L. 75.
4. TsAMO, F. 1106, Op. 0000001, Case: 0014, L. 3.
5. TsAMO, F. 6357, Op. 0697532s, Case: 0002, L. 53.
7. TsAMO, F. 1368, Op. 1, Case: 18, L. 34.
8. TsAMO, F. 214, Op. 1437, Case: 677, L. 101.
9. TsAMO, F. 214, Op. 1437, Case: 466, L. 246.
10. TsAMO, F. 214, Op. 1437, Case: 677, L. 151.
11. TsAMO, F. 1002, Op. 1, Case: 48, L. 67.