“Great” Finland. Invaders, but not really Nazis?

They fell out of Hitler’s pocket

In Finland, they prefer to accurately call direct participation in the Nazi aggression against the USSR as complicity, but much more often as “the continuation of the Winter War.” Meaning, of course, the dramatic events of 1939-1940. Until the spring of 1944, public events were regularly held in Suomi, often with the participation of Marshal Mannerheim and his officials, in support of the restoration of Finland’s “legal” borders.

In this former province of the Russian Empire, in fact – autonomous, in this not the greatest country, for the victory over which the mighty USSR required incredible efforts, they considered themselves infringed by the Soviet-Finnish armistice on March 12, 1940. With the height of the Second World War, Finland’s claims to greatness, of course, at the expense of the “big neighbor”, only grew.

However, for the implementation of such claims had to literally pay. And pay by complicity in Nazi aggression. And not just complicity, but also the implementation of the same occupation policy in the occupied territories. The inhabitants of the far Soviet North also had a chance to learn what the “new order” is in Finnish during the three years of the Finnish occupation.

It is well known that only by the summer of 1944, after the final breakthrough of the Leningrad blockade, Soviet troops reached the line of the former (until 1940) Soviet-Finnish border. And the Suomi authorities were able to realize in time the consequences of the country’s maniacal claims to the border line that existed between 1918 and 1939.

It is clear that it was immediately necessary to drop the claims to almost the entire North-West of the USSR. A number of Finnish politicians put forward them already in the early 1920s, when the Soviet leadership transferred the port of Pechenga to the newly formed Finland on the coast of the Barents Sea. This was done, by the way, not so much and not only for the “reconciliation” with Helsinki – even under the conditions of NEP, Pechenga could become an unmanageable project for the RSFSR and the USSR.

It is characteristic that personally Marshal Mannerheim did not participate in the proclamation of the “Great Finnish” claims, but, of course, they could hardly have been voiced without his sanction. This in no way prevented Hitler from considering Finland to be something of a “pocket” ally who simply would not go anywhere in anticipation of rich booty.

Such an assessment found a place even in the notorious “table conversations” of the Fuhrer, which were meticulously collected by one of his stenographers with an absolutely non-Aryan name and surname – Henry Picker.

It is not surprising that during the war, Finnish inquiries also quickly spread to a number of western regions of Eastern Karelia and the Murmansk region, to half of the Ladoga water area and even to border areas in close proximity to the northern capital of the USSR. The border then, as you know, passed only 26-40 km from Leningrad and near Kronstadt.

When the inevitability of the defeat of Hitlerite Germany became a fact, the Finnish diplomats managed to conclude a new truce with the USSR (September 1944). This happened with the mediation of Sweden, which was skillfully stimulated by the notorious Alexandra Kollontai, who had previously managed to help the Swedes remain “neutral”.

Paradoxically, the Finns, unlike Romania and Bulgaria, and even Hungary, were actually allowed to evade the “obligatory” participation in the war with Germany. It is possible that the personality of the Finnish leader himself played a role in this – the brilliant officer of the Russian imperial army, Baron Carl Gustav Mannerheim, regent, and then the president of Finland. The main thing for Moscow in the last months of the war was the establishment of indefinite good-neighborly relations with Finland.

Because of this, by the way, back in 1940, Soviet politicians pragmatically abandoned the project “People’s Republic of Finland” by analogy with the Baltic limitrophes. Mannerheim’s loyalty to Finland also dictated the need to maintain good relations with the same Sweden. Politically and economically, they were extremely important for the USSR, providing also a problem-free northern flank.

The ghost of Nuremberg in Helsinki

The other day in the Main Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, based on the results of a procedural check and study of archival materials on mass murders in the territory of the Republic of Karelia, a criminal case was initiated on the grounds of a crime under Art. 357 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (genocide). It was established that after the invasion of the Karelo-Finnish SSR, the command of the occupation forces and the occupation administration was created in August 1941 – October 1943. at least 14 concentration camps.

The camps were intended for the maintenance of the ethnic Russian population, living conditions, food standards and labor service in which were incompatible with life. The largest concentration camp with the most harsh regime was in Petrozavodsk (over 14 thousand people in 1942-1944). And for the entire period of the occupation of the region, at least 24 thousand people constantly stayed in these camps, of which at least 8 thousand died, including more than 2 thousand children.

At the same time, the main causes of death, contrary to the assurances of a number of Finnish historians and politicians, were not “natural”. Over 7 thousand prisoners of war (out of 8. – Auth.) Were buried alive, shot, killed in gas chambers. In total, almost 50 thousand people passed through the “Finnish” camps, among them more than 60 percent were Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians. The Finnish occupation authorities considered the Slavic contingent a “non-national population” and subjected them to particularly severe repression.

For a long time practically no information about the “Finnish” concentration camps appeared in the press. Why? Ville Pessi, the long-term leader of the Finnish Communist Party, who headed it from 1944 to 1969, in 1983, shortly before his death, released data on how in 1957 the Soviet leadership informed the Finnish government that Moscow did not insist on continuing the investigation of Finnish crimes. occupiers during the war.

This happened immediately after the long-term lease of the naval base at Porkkalla Udd, west of Helsinki, was canceled. At the same time, as V. Pessi notes, in the last two years of Stalin’s life in the USSR, publications on this delicate topic were minimized. By the mid-50s, they were completely “stopped”. At the same time, almost nothing was reported in Soviet historiography about the participation of the Finnish army in the blockade of Leningrad.

Moreover, the Soviet media were long and stubbornly silent about the German-Finnish military operations in Karelia, the Murmansk region and the Baltic. And Finland’s support for the German occupation of Norway and Denmark, which lasted from 1940 to 1944, was hushed up in the USSR since the mid-50s. In the local press, editors-in-chief were immediately fired for publications of this kind.

However, it was not only Ville Pessi who tried to inform about this. Pavel Prokkonen had similar assessments of events, who twice headed the Council of Ministers of the Karelo-Finnish SSR, and when the republic was reduced to an autonomous one, became the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Karelia. Prokkonen never ceased to object to the fact that the topic of Finnish complicity in Nazi aggression by the leadership of the USSR has been leveled – even in Karelia – since the mid-50s.

However, from Moscow, the leadership of Karelia, as well as the Murmansk and Leningrad regions, was repeatedly “put on display” for periodic publications on this topic in local, even small-circulation media. They also declined or remained without clear answers to the appeal to Moscow regarding the establishment of memorial signs in honor of prisoners of Finnish concentration camps in the USSR.

According to Pavel Prokkonen, this “line of conduct” was due to Moscow’s desire at any cost to prevent Suomi from drifting into NATO’s orbit and from Helsinki’s official territorial claims against the USSR. It is interesting that the Karelian communist more than once called in this sense the famous Soviet-Japanese declaration of 1956, where Moscow expressed its readiness to hand over the southern Kuril islands of Shikotan and Habomai to Japan.

The fact is that a number of eastern regions of pre-war Finland were, we recall, originally Russian (Russian) territories transferred to it in 1918-1921. in order to avoid a military alliance between Suomi and the Entente. And Finland owed the aforementioned post-war “privileges” from the USSR to Moscow’s desire to preserve friendly Soviet-Finnish relations at all costs. The Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Assistance, signed in Moscow in 1948, was prolonged in 1955, 1970 and 1983 – right up to the self-dissolution of the USSR.

In such a system of coordinates, the policy of Helsinki during the Great Patriotic War really needed to be hushed up. Accordingly, Moscow did not officially react, and even now does not react to periodic bursts of public campaigns for the return of Finland’s “lost” Pechenga (North Russian, with the Finnish name Petsamo), the western part of Eastern Karelia and most of the Karelian Isthmus (together with 60% waters of Lake Ladoga, including Valaam).

“Wild Children” Mannerheim

Meanwhile, the influential Finnish “Ilta-Sanomat” (Helsinki) dated April 20, 2020, surprisingly, actually recognized the very fact of the brutal occupation policy of the Finnish authorities, and even the fact that the investigative actions of the RF IC are quite justified:

Joseph Stalin had a clear idea of ​​the atrocities of the Finns even during the war, before the Soviet troops seized the territories occupied by the Finns (namely the occupied ones. – Auth.). At a conference in Tehran at the end of 1943, Stalin described the behavior of the Finns in the occupied territories as brutally as those of the Germans.

However, what follows is an excuse that cannot be called anything other than primitive:

The attitude of the Finnish occupiers towards the population of the conquered territories differed from the attitude of the Germans in that almost half of the 83,000 inhabitants of East Karelia, that is, 41,000, were of Finnish roots. They received better treatment than the Russians in the area.

Needless to say, it is strongly said … But it turns out that those camps “were based on fears that the Russian population might take part in a partisan war and destruction in the rear of the front. Instructions for collecting the population with non-Finnish roots in internment camps were given back in July. 1941 “.

Still, the Finns have to admit what they did:

The assimilation of Finnish concentration camps (that is, concentration camps? – Author) into death camps is completely wrong, although the infamous (that is, notorious in Finland – Author) classification by nationality was practiced.

At the same time, “mortality in internment camps”, which is recognized, “in occupied Eastern Karelia was … much higher among the rest of the region’s population.” The explanation for this is more than objective: “The reason was the poor nutritional situation.” Just?!

As they say, with no small creak, but the Finns still have to call their policy of occupation in 1941-1944. But it is difficult to say how the above-mentioned actions of the RF IC will affect Russian-Finnish relations. In any case, Finland has already signaled its departure from Moscow-friendly neutrality and already in 2014 joined the anti-Russian sanctions of the United States and its allies.

Therefore, a “reminder” of the Finnish occupation policy in the USSR may turn into a response in the form of, say, “semi-official” territorial claims – at least in propaganda terms …

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