26 November 1939 of the village of Mineil (Fin. Mainila, now the village of Mainilo, Vyborg district, Leningrad region) occurred on the border of the USSR and Finland, which just four days later became the pretext for the beginning of the bloody 1939-40 Soviet-Finnish war. Historians have not come to a common opinion about who is responsible for this “casus belli”. However, this is not so important: the then USSR authorities openly admitted that war was the only way to achieve the strategic goal set by the Soviet leadership — to push the border away from Leningrad and the north-western borders of the country.
Recall that the beginning of the war was preceded by negotiations in Moscow that lasted from 12 of October to 9 of November 1939, in which the USSR offered Finland to hand over territories in the 50-kilometer zone from Leningrad, a number of islands in the Gulf of Finland, to lease the Hanko peninsula under the Soviet military naval base and documented to guarantee Finland’s non-entry into coalitions hostile to the USSR. Instead of leaving the territories on the Karelian Isthmus, Finland could receive twice as large territories in Eastern Karelia. However, the authorities of Suomi, supported by Finnish public opinion, refused to meet the Soviet Union's main requirement - to transfer the land border into the Finnish territory, away from Leningrad. And the negotiations are at an impasse.
... As noted in his memoirs by Konstantin Meretskov (in 1939, the commander of the 7 Army advancing on Finland), the Soviet leadership was confident that Finland would inevitably become a springboard and instrument for aggression against the USSR in the upcoming big war - most likely from Germany, either from the Anglo-French-American side. The subsequent participation of Finland in the war against the USSR in 1941 — 1944 confirmed the validity of these fears.
The USSR in the second half of the 1930-s observed how military objects were being built at fast paces in the border areas of Finland and roads were laid that were of no economic importance. As Meretskov recalled, in the summer of 1939, Soviet intelligence reported that "the accelerated construction of fortifications and roads on the Finnish side of the border continues." On the Karelian Isthmus, the same summer, the construction of the powerful fortifications of the Mannerheim Line was completed and large military exercises were held. In the fall, Finnish reservists were called up for military training, and civilians were taught behavior in case of imminent war.
In turn, the Soviet side developed, as Meretskov writes, “a plan to cover the border from aggression and counterattack on the armed forces of Finland in the event of military provocation on their part.” In July, Stalin and Voroshilov approved this plan, "advising to carry out a counterstrike as soon as possible."
Thus, both sides not only had plans to conduct military operations against the contiguous side, but also carried out an active logistical preparation for armed conflict. It was accompanied by a propaganda campaign in the press. The failure of the Moscow talks made the military clash only a matter of time. However, if the Finnish side immediately made concessions after the incident in Minil, it would be possible to avoid large-scale bloodshed.
... At that time, the Soviet frontier post was located in the Mineil, located along the Sestra River, along which the border of the two countries was then, and in the vicinity there were units of the 68 Infantry Regiment of the 70 Infantry Division covering the border.
The Soviet version of what happened on Sunday, November 26, was set out the next day in the “Government of the USSR” newspaper published by the central newspapers, which the evening before was presented to the Finnish envoy in Moscow. In it, the incident was clearly interpreted as a provocation from Finland.
“According to the General Staff of the Red Army today, 26 November, at 15 hours 45 minutes, our troops, located on the Karelian Isthmus near the border with Finland, near the village of Minil, were suddenly fired from Finnish territory with artillery fire. A total of seven gun shots were fired, killing three privates and one junior commander, wounded seven privates and two from the commanding staff. The Soviet troops, having a strict order not to succumb to provocation, refrained from firing back. "
Further, the note signed by the head of the Council of People's Commissars of Foreign Affairs and People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov said: “Now (...) the Soviet government is compelled to state that the concentration of the Finnish troops near Leningrad poses a threat to Leningrad, which has already resulted in the attack on the Soviet troops and the victims. "
Having publicly stated its desire to “not inflate” the incident in Minela and its readiness to interpret it as an excess, “from the part of the Finnish army, perhaps poorly controlled by the Finnish command,” Moscow suggested Helsinki to “immediately withdraw its troops away from the border on the Karelian Isthmus 20 − 25 kilometers, and thus prevent the possibility of repeated provocations. ”
However, materials that appeared simultaneously with the publication of notes in the Soviet press testified that Moscow wanted to give the maximum serious resonance to what happened in Mineil, and the proposal to withdraw troops should be regarded as an ultimatum.
Historian Nikolai Volkovsky in his book "History of information wars "gives the headlines of the Leningradskaya Pravda number for November 27 1939:" The brazen provocation of the Finnish military "," The arsonists of the war will not escape responsibility "," Letting too much provocateurs ". The organ of the Red Army, the newspaper “Krasnaya Zvezda”, on the same day published the responses of soldiers to border shelling under the headings: “We will not tolerate provocations”, “The enemy will be destroyed”, “They will not leave the answer”, “instruct the provocateurs of war”, “We will answer with crushing blow ”,“ At any moment ready for battle ”,“ We will remove all obstacles from the path ”.
“Judging by the headlines, which was confirmed by the texts under them, the press did not call for a defensive war, but an offensive, this attitude was also conveyed by the reviews of the Red Army,” Volkovsky said.
Marshal Meretskov, in his post-war memoirs, recalled that immediately after the shelling at Minela from Moscow he "received instructions to prepare for a counterattack." “A week was allotted for training, but in practice it was necessary to reduce the period to four days, as the Finnish detachments in some places began to cross the border, wedging into our territory and sending groups of saboteurs into the Soviet rear, confirming the version that war is inevitable after border incident.
The Finnish authorities, realizing what was going on, responded promptly to the Soviet message and even, as stated in a response note to Molotov from November 27 1939 of the year, managed to investigate the incident. According to his results, the Finnish army was actually accused of the “self-propeller”.
“The cannon shots that you mention in the letter were not from the Finnish side. On the contrary, from the investigation data it follows that the said shots were fired (...) from the Soviet border side, near the village of Mineil mentioned by you. You could see from the Finnish side even the place where shells exploded, since the village of Minela is located at a distance of just 800 meters from the border, beyond an open field, ”the note said.
According to the calculations of the Finnish side, “the guns from which these shots were fired were located about one and a half to two kilometers southeast of the place where the shells exploded,” that is, on Soviet territory. In Helsinki, they nevertheless did not dare to directly accuse Moscow of provocation and voiced the version “of an accident that occurred during training exercises”, resolutely rejecting the accusation of a hostile act against the USSR. In the Finnish note, it was stated that "border troops are mainly located near the border; there were no guns of such a range so that their shells would lie on the other side of the border, in this zone at all. ”
In response to the Soviet demand to withdraw the troops away from the border to completely eliminate recurring incidents, the Finnish side suggested “to start negotiations on a mutual troop withdrawal to a certain distance from the border” and instruct the border commissioners of both sides on the Karelian Isthmus to conduct a joint investigation into the incident in Mineil .
The desire of Helsinki to ensure that the Soviet troops were removed from the border on the outskirts of Leningrad infuriated Moscow. The tone and content of the USSR notes from November 28 did not actually leave a chance for a peaceful outcome of the confrontation. The shelling in Mineil was called “villainous”, its explanation from the Finnish side was mockery, it was directly said about the threat posed by Finnish troops in 32 km from Leningrad, and the absence of a retaliatory threat to large cities in Finland. "The Government of Finland committed a hostile act against the USSR, incompatible with the non-aggression pact concluded between the two countries," stated the authorities of the USSR and announced the termination of this pact.
In the face of war, Finnish politicians at the last moment tried to play back and involve other countries in the mediation, but it was too late. The then Finnish Finance Minister and participant of the failed Moscow negotiations, Väinö Tanner, in his memoirs noted that on November 29 the Finnish government proposed the USSR “to create a conciliation commission to review the situation. As an alternative, Finland offered to refer the question for arbitration to a third, non-interested party. ”
In the last note before the war, the Finnish government expressed its readiness to “work out an agreement on withdrawing defensive forces on the Karelian Isthmus, with the exception of border guards and customs, to a distance from Leningrad that would not allow them to be considered a threat”, and at the same time the requirement of simultaneous withdrawal of the Soviet troops.
However, leisurely Finns are late. Even before this note was received, the Soviet government accused the Finnish side of new armed provocations on the border, not only on the Karelian Isthmus, and announced that all relations with Finland were severed.
“The government gave (...) an order to the High Command of the Red Army and the Navy Fleet “Be prepared for all sorts of surprises and immediately stop possible new attacks by the Finnish military,” Molotov said in a radio statement on November 29.
And the next day, instead of diplomats, guns began to speak: in the morning of November 30, Soviet bombers attacked targets in Finland, and the Red Army launched an offensive. The Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940 began.
The order to the troops of the Leningrad Military District of November 29 of 1939, which was signed by the commander of the LVO Meretskov and a member of the military council Zhdanov, was instructed to "... cross the border, defeat the Finnish troops and once and for all ensure the security of the north-western borders of the Soviet Union and the city of Lenin - the cradle proletarian revolution. Thus, in any case, the initial military plans of the USSR did not differ from the demands that Soviet diplomats put forward at the talks in Moscow.
... Karl Mannerheim in his memoirs expectedly calls the incident in Mineil "clumsy provocation" of the Soviet side. The already mentioned Väinö Tanner argues that the incident itself and the subsequent three-day exchange of pre-war notes “clearly show that the Soviet Union acted in accordance with a predetermined plan,” and Finland, allegedly, “thought it impossible before the last day that the Soviet Union would take military action.”
Leaving behind the details of the Maynilsky incident, it is necessary to recognize that the reason for the war in this case did not play any significant role, and the conditions for its commencement, as already mentioned, were finally formed in the autumn of 1939.
Vyacheslav Molotov, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, said that “the impossibility of a peaceful solution of the issue after the refusal of the Finnish side to compromise at the Moscow talks immediately after the war ended: The issue was transferred to the field of war. ”
"After the blood was spilled — not by our fault — our fighters (...) we had to put the question of the safety of Leningrad on a more reliable basis and, moreover, were to raise the question of the safety of the Murmansk railway and Murmansk, which is our only non-freezing ocean port in the West, ”Molotov said at a meeting of the USSR Supreme Council 29 in March 1940.
In 1960-80-ies, in informal conversations with the writer and publicist Felix Chuev, Molotov did not retreat a single step from his position, at the same time rejecting the accusations of the desire of the USSR to annex all of Finland.
“Leningrad had to be defended. Finns, we did not put the question as the Balts. We only talked about giving them a part of the territory near Leningrad. From Vyborg. They behaved very persistently, - Chuev quotes the former head of the Soviet government in his book “One Hundred and Forty Conversations with Molotov.” - Finland spared how! Cleverly did not attach to themselves. They would have a permanent wound (...) There are people who are very stubborn, very stubborn. ”
The war ended with the signing of the 12 peace treaty in March 1940. Instead of the 50 kilometers originally proposed by Moscow, the border between the USSR and Finland was shifted to 120 − 130 km from Leningrad. Finland lost 11% of its former territory, including Vyborg and the entire Karelian Isthmus, western and northern Ladoga lakes, a number of islands in the Gulf of Finland and the islands of Vyborg Bay. The Soviet Union also received the coveted naval base on the Hanko Peninsula. However, Moscow did not succeed in preventing the subsequent participation of Finland in the war against the USSR on the side of Hitler Germany.