Finland's losses in the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940: a pulp mill in Enso (Svetogorsk)
В stories The Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940, or the "Winter War", in my opinion, always leaves behind the scenes an important question that must be formulated as follows: why did Finland decide to fight at all?
No matter how much I read all the literature on the Finnish war, nowhere did I find the appropriate question posed and, of course, the answer to it. Finland's decision to enter the war (let's leave the issue of the incident at the border as insignificant in this context aside) in the USSR seems to be somehow unfounded and almost spontaneous. Well, or even stupid.
Firstly, one can often find bewilderment as to why the Finnish side did not like the exchange of territories proposed by the Soviet side at the Moscow talks in October-November 1939. For the site on the Karelian Isthmus, a twice as large (5529 sq. Km) territory in Eastern Karelia was offered. Why did they refuse? However, it is strange that very few people thought that the Finns could have good reasons to hold on to the Karelian Isthmus.
Secondly, due to the sharp military superiority of the USSR over Finland in all respects, the war in the strategic sense was initially a losing one for Finland. It was possible to restrain the Soviet onslaught, repel one, two or even three offensives, and then all the same, the Finnish troops would be crushed by the numerical and fire superiority of the Red Army. The reference to the fact that you need to hold out for six months, and then help from the West (that is, Great Britain and France) will come was more a means of complacency than a real calculation.
Nevertheless, the decision to fight was made, despite the fact that it was, in essence, a suicidal decision. Why? Or in a more detailed form: why the Finns were not so happy with the option with the cession of territories?
Let them pay in blood
The Moscow talks "on specific political issues" in mid-October - early November 1939 took place in a completely definite political context, which directly and directly influenced the position of the Finnish side.
The maximum variant of Finland's proposed exchange of territories, which can be seen on the map of the Finnish Democratic Republic of 1939, cut off almost the entire Mannerheim Line from Finland, except for its easternmost part, adjacent to Lake Suvanto-Järvi and Lake Ladoga. In this case, the defensive line was deprived of all defensive significance.
Part of the 1939 map of the Finnish Democratic Republic; dotted line - old border, purple line - proposed new border
Scheme "Mannerheim Lines"
Almost a year before the Moscow negotiations, there was already an example when the country gave up territory with defensive lines. In early October 1938, Czechoslovakia gave Germany the Sudetenland, in which a defensive line had been built since 1936. By September 1938, 264 structures were built (20% of the planned) and more than 10 thousand firing points (70% of the planned). All this went to the Germans and in December 1938 Czechoslovakia pledged not to have fortifications on the border with Germany. Only five months passed after the surrender of the fortifications, and on March 14, 1939, Slovakia separated, and on March 15, 1939, the President of Czechoslovakia, Emil Hacha, agreed to the abolition of Czechoslovakia and the creation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, occupied by German troops (Hakha became president of this protectorate under the Reich Protector Constantin von Neurath ).
For the Finnish representatives invited to Moscow on October 5, 1939, these were the freshest events, a maximum of a year ago. Of course, as soon as they saw the proposal for the exchange of territories, which provided for the surrender of the defensive line, they drew a parallel between their situation and that of Czechoslovakia. Who could guarantee them then that if they agreed, then in six months or a year in Helsinki the Red Army would not have hung red flags?
It may be objected that they were Germans, and then - the Soviet Union. But we must remember that the Finnish representatives came to Moscow for negotiations "on specific political issues", it was on October 5, 1939, just 35 days after the start of the war between Germany and Poland and only 18 days after the Red Army entered Poland, which was September 17, 1939.
Of course, in Helsinki, a note from the USSR People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs Molotov was read to Polish Ambassador Grzybowski of September 17, 1939, since it was presented to a number of embassies, including the Embassy of Finland in the USSR, with an accompanying note. How did they view it? I think it was like the partition of Poland between Germany and the USSR, which looked more than impressive from Helsinki. The Finnish government knew about what was happening in general terms, from the newspapers and the messages of its diplomats, they clearly did not know the background of the events. The war broke out, the Germans defeated the Poles, the Polish government fled, then Soviet troops entered the country “to take the life and property of the population under their protection,” as written in the note to the Polish ambassador. Two weeks have passed, Finnish representatives are invited to Moscow and offered to share the territory with a defensive line on it.
We add to this that right during the negotiations in Moscow, the Red Army appeared in the Baltic states: on October 18, 1939 in Estonia, on October 29 - in Latvia, in November - in Lithuania.
I can invite anyone to put themselves in the shoes of Finnish leaders: President of Finland Kyjosti Kallio, Prime Minister Aimo Kajander, or even the head of the Finnish Defense Council, Field Marshal Karl Mannerheim, under the conditions described above. And, accordingly, the question: what assessment of the situation would you give and what decision would you take? Just let's go without afterthought.
In my opinion, the situation for the Finnish side looked quite unambiguous: the Moscow talks are preparations for the annexation of Finland, and if Moscow’s terms are accepted, then all of Finland will soon become a Soviet protectorate, a Soviet republic, or whatever they call it. In these conditions, the decision was made to fight, despite the fact that there was generally no chance of victory. The motive was simple: if the Russians want Finland, let them pay in blood.
It was a difficult decision, which the Finns did not come to at once. They tried to bargain and get off with small territorial concessions that did not affect the Mannerheim Line. But they didn't succeed.
Diagram showing the auction at the Moscow negotiations in 1939
Less 11% of the economy
Much has been written about the results of the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940, mainly in the context of the losses incurred and the discussion of the issue of the combat capability of the Red Army. All this is very interesting, however, the economic results of the war for Finland, which suffered significant losses not only in the territory, but also in what was on it, remained almost without consideration.
It is interesting to note that very little attention is paid to this moment even in Western works, although, in my opinion, the economic results of the war turned out to be very important, and this will be discussed separately. More detailed information was sought in some Finnish publications during the war, as well as in German documents. In the fund of the Reichsministry of the German economy in the RGVA there is a separate reprint of the German newspaper Die chemische Industrie, June 1941, dedicated to the review of the Finnish chemical industry, to which an introduction was attached to the general state of the Finnish economy after the Soviet-Finnish war (RGVA, f. 1458, op. 8, d. 4). A narrow profile edition that is now difficult to find.
So, as a result of the war, Finland lost 35 thousand square meters. km of territory from which 484 thousand refugees were evacuated (12,9% of the total population of 3,7 million people), including 92 thousand urban residents, mainly from Viipuri (Vyborg). They were relocated to the central part of the country, their establishment took a lot of time and money and ended only in the 1950s. Refugees, who were Finnish-speaking Karelians, mostly Orthodox, were not well received everywhere, especially in Lutheran Finnish regions.
The main sectors of the Finnish economy have lost 10 to 14% of their capacity. Out of 4422 enterprises, 3911 remained, out of 1110 thousand hp. power plants remained 983 thousand hp, and hydroelectric power plants were mainly lost. Electricity production decreased by 789 million kWh, or 25% (pre-war level - 3110 million kWh). Industrial production fell from 21 to 18,7 billion marks, or 11%.
The hydroelectric power station under construction in Enso (Svetogorsk), which the USSR inherited as a trophy; rebuilt and reconstructed and now in service
Finland's foreign trade fell sharply. Exports fell from 7,7 billion Finnish marks in 1939 to 2,8 billion in 1940, imports from 7,5 billion in 1939 to 5,1 billion Finnish marks in 1940. For an economy dependent on the import of a whole list of important products, this was a severe blow.
In the publications, the losses are somewhat specified. On the territory ceded to the USSR, 70 large sawmills and 11% of Finland's forest reserves, 18 paper mills, 4 plywood mills and the only factory for the production of artificial silk remained.
In addition, the port of Viipuri was lost, which before the war handled up to 300 thousand tons of imported cargo, or 33% of the import traffic (Finnland von Krieg zu Krieg. Dresden, "Franz Müller Verlag", 1943, S. 19-23).
Viipuri port (Vyborg) before the war
Bread has become noticeably less
Agriculture was hit hardest. There are not many convenient arable land in Finland at all, and the Karelian Isthmus was a very important agricultural region, accounting for 13% of hay production, 12% of rye production and 11% of wheat and potato production.
I was able to track down an excellent Finnish work with agricultural statistics (Pentti V. Maataloustuotanto Suomessa 1860-1960. Suomen pankin taloustieteellinen tutkimuslaitos. Helsinki, 1965).
Agricultural production at comparable prices in 1926 was 1939 billion Finnish marks in 6,4, and in 1940 it decreased to 4,9 billion (in 1941 - 4,6 billion, in 1942 - 4,3 billion, 1943 year - 5,1 billion, in 1944 - 5,6 billion, in 1945 - 5 billion). The pre-war level was surpassed in 1959.
Production of major crops:
Rye - 198,3 thousand tons in 1939, 152,3 thousand tons in 1940.
Wheat - 155,3 thousand tons in 1939, 103,7 thousand tons in 1940.
Potatoes - 495 thousand tons in 1939, 509 thousand tons in 1940.
In 1938, Finland met its own needs for rye and potatoes, and the share of imported products in consumption was 17%. After the war and the loss of the agricultural area, the share of consumption not covered by its own production increased to 28%. At the beginning of 1940, rationing of food distribution to the population was introduced in Finland and price caps were set. However, this was only the beginning of great food difficulties, since Finland entered the war with the USSR in 1941, not only with reduced food production, but also with two bad harvests in a row, so that in 1941, with a normal need for bread, 198 kg per capita were harvested only 103 kg, and 327 kg of potatoes were harvested per capita with a requirement of 140 kg. Finnish researcher Seppo Jurkinen calculated that the total consumption of potatoes, wheat, rye and barley in 1939 was 1926 thousand tons, or 525 kg per capita. In 1941, the harvest amounted to 1222 thousand tons, of which 291 thousand tons were reserved for the seed fund. The receipt amounted to 931 thousand tons, or 252 kg per capita. But if you give enough food to the army, peasants, workers and refugees (1,4 million people - 735 thousand tons), then the remaining 2,4 million people will only have 196 thousand tons from the 1941 harvest, or 82 kg per capita per year. , 15,6% of the normal annual requirement. This is the threat of severe hunger.
How the Germans pulled Finland to their side
Thus, the Soviet-Finnish war plunged Finland into a severe economic crisis. Worst of all, Finland was effectively deprived of external supplies of essential imports, from food to coal and oil products. Germany, with the outbreak of war with Poland, in September 1939, blocked the Baltic Sea, and the traditional trade of Finland, primarily with Great Britain, was virtually destroyed.
Only the port of Liinahamari, in the north of the country, with one pier, remained free for navigation.
Liinahamari port. Now imagine that transports are coming here, in which there are about a million tons of coal, 200-300 thousand tons of grain, a corps of 50 thousand people with the ammunition, fuel, food and equipment they need, and so on. The "window" was too narrow for such a traffic
Such a port could not meet all the transport needs of the Finnish economy. For the same reason, all the plans of Great Britain and France to provide Finland with assistance in the war with the USSR, in particular, the French plans to land a corps of 50 thousand people crashed because of the impossibility of delivering troops and supplies. They not only had to be unloaded at the port, but also transported across the whole of Finland from north to south.
The main grain exporters in the Baltic, Poland and the Baltics, were under the control of either Germany or the USSR. Sweden and Denmark, with which there was still shipping, themselves needed to import food. Sweden cut off food supplies to Finland in the fall of 1940. Denmark and Norway were occupied by the Germans in April 1940.
British coal fell off, which, according to the Finnish-British trade agreement of 1933, accounted for 75% of coal imports and 60% of coke imports. In 1938, Finland imported 1,5 million tons of coal, including 1,1 million tons from Great Britain, 0,25 million tons from Poland and 0,1 million tons from Germany; also imported 248 thousand tons of coke, including 155 thousand tons from Great Britain, 37 thousand tons from Germany and 30 thousand tons from Belgium (RGVA, f. 1458, op. 8, d. 33, l. 3).
The economic situation in Finland after the Soviet-Finnish war made it virtually dependent on Germany. Finland could not get the necessary resources from anyone else, since there was no trade with the USSR, and trade with Britain ceased. Therefore, Finnish companies began to agree on the supply of coal from Germany and from Poland, which had just been occupied by the Germans, already in September-October 1939.
Then the Soviet-Finnish war began, and the Germans, who adhered to the anti-Finnish position, cut off everything they could to Finland. Finland had to endure the winter of 1939/40 with a lack of food and fuel. But after the end of the war, Germany pulled the rope by the explicit order of the existing dependence of Finland on Germany and thus, from the summer of 1940, pulled it over to its side.
So the Soviet-Finnish war, if we consider it from the military-economic point of view, turned out to be extremely unsuccessful for the USSR and catastrophic in its consequences. In fact, the USSR, firstly, made Finland its enemy, and, secondly, the economic consequences of the war made it dependent on Germany and pushed the Finns to the German side. Finland before the war was oriented towards Great Britain, not Germany. It was necessary not to demand territories from the Finns, but, on the contrary, to pull to their side, offering them bread and coal in abundance. Coal, perhaps, was far from being transported to Finland from Donbass, but the mines of the Pechersk coal basin were already under construction and the Kotlas-Vorkuta railway was under construction.
Finland, neutral or on the side of the USSR, would have made the blockade of Leningrad impossible.