Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!

The Winter War

A direct result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in which the Soviets “got” Finland. This resulted in a 3 ½ month war between Russia and a not-so-happy Finland.

After the fall of Poland in September, “Russia sought to extend its influence over the Baltic” (Source). Then, on October 5th, “Russia invited Finnish representatives to Moscow to discuss political discussions” (Source). On the 12th, JK Paasikivi went to meet Stalin and Molotov to “discuss” the Finnish boarder.

“Stalin wanted Finnish islands in the Gulf of Finland, including Suursaari Island, handed over to Russia; he wanted to lease Hanko as a military base and to establish a garrison of 5,000 men there and he demanded more Finnish land on the Russian border to be ceded to Russia. In return, Stalin offered Finland land in Soviet Karelia and the right for Finland to fortify the Aaland Islands. Stalin couched all his land requirements in terms of defending parts of Russia, be it Leningrad or Murmansk, from attack” (Source).

Paasikivi took these terms back to his people, but after many decades of tensions between the two countries, Finland was not eager to once again be part of the Russian Empire. At the same time, Stalin didn’t exactly trust Finland, either. He was afraid that they might be all-too eager to allow their “land to be used as a base by invading forces for an attack on Russia” (Source). And who could blame them?

Predictably, the Finnish did turn down Stalin. However, there were two men who thought that giving Russia some of their Gulf Islands as a way to “pay off” Russia in the event of the inevitable war – their fear that they’d have to fight Russia on their own.

And they did.

Because, inevitably, Germany forces “urged” Finland to give the land.

Problematically, Finland could only muster a small army, despite its peacetime conscripts and their small reserves. But this did little to boost their professional army, and they were no match for the Red Army.

Not only could they not match the Red Army in its numbers, but the Finnish Army was also woefully lacking in the important necessities such as equipment, uniforms, and artillery. For example, they only owned 112 anti-tank guns. Additionally, they had no convenient ways of producing more. 

Likewise, the Navy was minuscule with only some 100 planes, most of which were not even flyable. And neither branch had much experience in large-scale maneuvers. 

The only area that they could possibly beat the Red Army was in the knowledge of their own land. “Finnish troops were trained to use their own terrain to their advantage” (Source). This included everything from the forests to the snow-covered territories.

[Below: Russian T-26 light tanks and T-20 Komsomolets armored tractors advancing into Finland]



On the other side, predictably, the Red Army was more than prepared for battle. Even with the large numbers in Poland, Stalin was still able to send 45 divisions to Finland! With each division containing 18,000 men, the roughly 810,000 sent equalled “nearly 25% of the whole of Finland’s population” (Source). In fact, Russians were able to supply 1,200,000 men, 1500 tanks, and 3000 planes.

Outside of terrain, the Red Army had only one other major weakness: A chair of command so complex that it brought many delays in decision making.

Truthfully, though they had more men and more supplies, the Red Army was not actually prepared for the particularly severe winter in which the Winter War took place. Additionally, most of the 600 miles of boarders were impassable, giving Finland a pretty good idea of the route the Soviets would take.

“Led by Marshal Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, they hunkered down behind a network of trenches, concrete bunkers and field fortifications on the Karelian Isthmus and beat back repeated Soviet tank assaults. Elsewhere on the frontier, Finnish ski troops used the rugged landscape to conduct hit-and-run attacks on isolated Soviet units. Their guerilla tactics were only aided by the freezing Finnish winter, which bogged the Soviets down and made their soldiers easy to spot against snowy terrain” (Source).

Unfortunately, though, in February 1940, the Soviets were able to come through with “massive artillery bombardments to breach the Mannerheim Line” (Source). This allowed them to march northward to Viipuri.

The Finnish “troops were ultimately no match for the sheer immensity for the Red Army” (Source). The Finnish, backing aid from Britain and France, were exhausted and lacking ammunition.

On March 12, 1940, the Finnish agreed to the treaty – The Treaty of Moscow. With it meant ceding 11% of their territory to the Soviets.

And later, as Stalin had predicted, in June 1941, the Finnish allowed “German troops to transit through the country after the outbreak of war between Germany and the Soviet Union,” undertaking the War of the Continuation (Source).

[Below: Finnish soldiers and reindeer]


Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!
Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!

The Enemy Within: Stalin’s Purge of the Red Army

It’s another short post, guys. And there is an inordinate amount of quotes this time around as well. Unfortunately, this is a rough post. Sorry about that. Maybe, hopefully, next week’s will be longer (and better)!

On June 11, 1937, Stalin sentenced “some of the most senior officers in the Red Army to execution” (Source).

Their crime?

Supposedly working alongside Nazis to coordinate a military-fascist plot of sabotage and espionage, wanting to “overthrow the Stalinist regime” (Source).

“The sentences – carried out just hours later – marked the point when Stalin’s military purge burst into the open and sparked nothing short of international scandal. [Stalin] was decapitating his military at the very moment that Europe was bracing itself for total war” (Source).

Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky was among the men found guilty. They were all sentenced to be shot. But they were innocent.

This did not stop the purge, however, and it continued it’s course through 1938, some 30,000 men were discharged, “thousands were arrested and executions were widespread” (Source).

[Below: Mikhail Tukhachevsky (left) and the marshals of the Red Army in 1935]



Tukhachevsky was the army’s greatest strategist and, above all else, extremely loyal to Stalin and his politics, even the most repressive acts. He even fully backed Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture – the seizure of private property and land by the government that cost anywhere from 6,000,000-13,000,000 deaths. These resources were meant to be funneled into the Red Army. However, many peasants understandably revolted with mass violence and were, thus, thrown into “a sprawling network of gulag camps” (Source).

On the whole, actually, none of the officers who were executed showed any kind of opposition. However, “officers were denounced by their own soldiers” (Source). There reasons were various. Some were afraid of the consequences if they did not denounce someone. Others held on to past grievances and decided that this was the perfect time to seek revenge. What is clear here, is that the purge had gotten out of hand.

If  Stalin’s primary concern was actually about maintaining his position as dictator, then launching a military purge throughout the Red Army “in such a dramatic (and ultimately uncontrollable) fashion” was not only extremely risky, but awfully foolish (Source). Especially with a second world war on the horizon and so many other dictators hungry for world domination. So, then, “why were tens of thousands of army leaders subsequently drawn into a mass purge?” (Source). Surely, Stalin could not have believed that this was the best way of maintaining his own power. The strength of his own military should have been paramount in the face of other domineering dictators; when the Soviet Union – like most of Europe – was facing the threat of occupation from another source. If anything, his decision to purge some of his brightest and most loyal only threatened his own position in the face of like-minded world powers, such as those of Mussolini and Hitler.

“The impact of the military purge must be seen alongside serious intelligence failures leading up to the German onslaught as well as Stalin’s stubborn refusal to accept the reality of the danger facing the Soviet Union” (Source).

However, this was hardly the first, nor the last example of violence within the army of the U.S.S.R. From early on, there was a long history of suspicions of loyalty and reliability. Additionally, they were constantly drumming up “cases of supposed counterrevolution and espionage in the ranks” (Source). Clearly, someone was feeling a bit paranoid.

Eventually, Stalin himself did review the charges and Tukhachevsky was reinstated.

[Below: Russian soldiers parade on the Red Square.]



Up Next: 

The Anschluss

Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!
Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!

A Thought Question: Expanding WWII


We say that God doesn’t chose a side in war. God, however, is always on the side of freedom and liberty. We see how He blessed the Americans in the Revolutionary War, the North in the Civil War, and the Allies in WWI & WWII. When it comes to our military declaring liberty, He blesses – whether it be in the name of freedom of the King of England, the emancipation of the slaves, or freeing countries from the dictatorship and concentration camps of Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito. 

Yet, we stopped short of freeing those who lived under the slavery and tyranny of Stalin. What would have happened had we listened to Gen. Patton or to the non-Nazi Germans who all saw Stalin for the tyrant that he really was? When we came to understand that, just perhaps, Stalin was the bigger threat than Hitler, we let him continue on. Then, in 1947, after Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech, we launched ourselves into a decades’ long Cold War.

But, given the notion that God blessed the Allies in fighting Hitler, wouldn’t He have continued to bless us as we defeated Stalin? How could we call the job finished if more people were still living in tyranny? We went home while Stalin took over the parts of Europe Hitler had occupied. To me, that says the job wasn’t finished. Shouldn’t we have declared war before Stalin had our plans stolen for the atomic bomb?  Shouldn’t we have fought to free all of Europe, not just some? Yes, it would have meant the loss of more lives, but don’t you believe God would have continued to bless the Allies?

Share and Share Alike. We like Shares!