Finland’s Second Invasion

Finland’s Second Invasion

The Soviet Army began amassing on Finland’s border during November 1939, and at the end of that month some 21 divisions (around 450,000 men) crossed over. Facing a Finnish army of only 180,000 men George Whale – britishfreedom  

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December 6th is Independence Day in Finland, for it was on that day in 1917 that the Finnish parliament formally adopted the declaration of independence, representing Finland’s secession from the Russian Empire. After centuries of domination, first by Sweden and then by Russia, the Finnish people were finally able to “step forward as a free nation among the other nations in the world.” It was the Bolsheviks who decreed that “the Peoples of Russia”, including Finland and the Baltic regions, be granted right of secession – one of the few positive outcomes of the Bolshevik revolution. For the Baltic states independence was short-lived, whilst for Finland it was the trigger for a brief but bitter civil war between Reds (communists) and Whites, with the Whites eventually triumphing, if triumph is the right word for a conflict that ripped apart many families and communities. Afterwards life settled into some kind of normality as the new presidential democracy turned its energies to modernising an economy that until then had been mainly agricultural. The sovereign Finns could barely have suspected that only twenty years later their country would again be plunged into bloody turmoil, by the new Russian Empire of vile dictator Josef Stalin. In 1939, the Soviets demanded permission to build military bases on Finnish soil. When the Finnish government refused this belligerent demand, Stalin orchestrated an attack on a Russian border post and, blaming it on Finland, used it as a pretext for invasion. So began the Winter War of 1939-40, one of the most momentous events in Finnish history. The Soviet Army began amassing on Finland’s border during November 1939, and at the end of that month some 21 divisions (around 450,000 men) crossed over. Facing a Finnish army of only 180,000 men (many of them raw conscripts), and possessing overwhelming superiority in tanks, guns and aircraft, the Soviets were confident of a quick victory. What they hadn’t bargained for was the fierce resolve of the Finnish soldiers. Led by Commander-in-Chief Carl Gustaf Mannerheim (who after the War became President of Finland), they responded with magnificent defiance to the attack on their homeland: Utilizing local knowledge, white camouflage, and skis, Finnish troops were able to inflict staggering casualties on the Soviets. Their preferred method was the use of ‘motti’ tactics which called for fast-moving light infantry to swiftly encircle and destroy isolated enemy units. As the Finns lacked armor, they developed specialized infantry tactics for dealing with Soviet tanks. Utilizing four-man teams, the Finns would jam the tracks of enemy tanks with a log to stop it then use Molotov Cocktails to detonate its fuel tank. Over 2,000 Soviet tanks were destroyed using this method. After effectively halting the Soviets during December, the Finns won a stunning victory on the Raate Road near Suomussalmi in early January 1940. Isolating the Soviet 44th Infantry Division (25,000 men), the Finnish 9th Division, under Colonel Hjalmar Siilasvuo, was able to break the enemy column into small pockets that were then destroyed. Over 17,500 were killed in exchange for around 250 Finns. (From The Winter War: Death in the Snow, by Kennedy Hickman.)
Traditional Finnish wooden house (source Sami Keinänen on Flickr).
Traditional Finnish wooden house (source Sami Keinänen on Flickr).
Under Marshall Semyon Timoshenko, the Soviets launched a second, massive offensive. Again they suffered huge casualties, but through sheer weight of numbers eventually broke through defensive lines. Finland, receiving minimal assistance from neighbours Sweden and Norway, had no choice but to negotiate a settlement – the Moscow Peace Treaty – involving substantial concessions of territory. There followed an uneasy peace, during which Finland took the opportunity to re-arm. Conflict resumed in June 1941 (the so-called Continuation War), but Finland survived undefeated, a sovereign, democratic nation still. By nature Finnish people tend to be quiet and modest, but as the Red Army discovered to its great cost, Finnish reticence should never be taken as a sign of weakness. Because when their backs are against the wall the Finns, like the British, reveal their true strength. The Finnish language has a word,sisu, which has no exact English translation, but means something like guts, determination and endurance. Sisu aptly describes the heroic soldiers who repelled the Soviet invasion of 1939. Today, Finland is a civilised, prosperous and technologically advanced nation (think Nokia), whose citizens enjoy excellent education and health services, strong traditions, clean, safe cities, and some of the most beautiful landscapes in all Europe, characterised by dense forests and glistening blue lakes. It might seem as though nothing could disrupt the Finns’ hard-worn peace and freedom. But beneath the placid surface of Finnish society, there is fear and anxiety. Many people are becoming increasingly alarmed by problems in the region arising from untrammelled immigration, especially in neighbouring Sweden (see Pat Condell’s Goodbye Sweden). Against a stifling official culture of political correctness, influential figures have emerged to tell the truth. One of them is Jussi Halla-aho, a popular politician and blogger dubbed “the Finnish Geert Wilders.” Mr Halla-aho has expressed the view that mass immigration is potentially catastrophic for European society, and that some cultures simply cannot assimilate. In 2009 he was put on trial for “incitement of an ethnic group” and for “violating the sanctity of religion”. The first charge (on which he was acquitted) was in relation to a comment about robbery and benefits dependency being cultural characteristics of Somalis; the second charge (on which he was convicted and fined) was for calling the Prophet Mohammed a paedophile. Halla-aho is a member of the Finnish parliament for Perussuomalaiset, The Finns party (formerly True Finns). The Finns are a populist, right-of-centre, anti-EU party. In last year’s elections they became the third largest party in the Finnish parliament (thanks to Finland’s proportional representation system) and they continue to draw support away from the major parties (Centre Party, National Coalition and Social Democrats). Finland is taking in legal immigrants from all over the world, especially from Estonia, Russia, Somalia, Iraq and former Yugoslavia, and there has been a sharp rise in illegal immigration. Although levels are low compared to neighbouring Scandinavian countries, ethnic ghettoes are forming and growing, for example around Meri-Rastila Road (“Mogadishu Avenue”) in east Helsinki. And Finland is especially vulnerable to cultural effacement on account of having such a small population (less than six million), because even quite small numbers of incomers can dramatically change the make-up of local communities. The government justifies rising immigration with the usual economic arguments (even though a fifth of foreign workers in Finland are unemployed and claiming benefits). But demand for tighter immigration controls is growing. The Finns’ party manifesto states, “Finnish immigration policy should be based on the fact that the Finns should always be able to decide for themselves the conditions under which a foreigner can come to our country and reside in our country.” It may seem a reasonable statement, but Finland’s ruling elite has decided to clamp down hard on anyone asserting such a right, even urging citizens to snitch on those who dare to criticise immigration policy: “Criticism of immigration and hate speech on the internet have increased that is fought against by monitoring of the internet. An essential part of the work to intensify the monitoring of the internet is also to educate the public to inform actively on crimes they observe on the internet through a system of hint via internet.” (Extract from a report from the Finnish Foreign Ministry, source Gates of Vienna.) Will the Finns – the party and the people – repel the second invasion of their homeland and avoid the swamp of multiculturalism? Will they be able to preserve all that is best about their country, its language, traditions and culture for future generations? Only time will tell. But one thing is certain – if Finnish patriots are to resist the combined assault of EU directives, international liberal opinion and lobbies of pro-immigrationists within their own borders, they’re going to need plenty of sisu.

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British Freedom would like to extend the following greeting to our friends in Finland: Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää! Happy Independence Day! And for Brits who would like to see more of that beautiful country, Finlandia Hymni.  

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