President of Finland Kyyosti Kallio with a coaxial 7.62-mm anti-aircraft machine gun ITKK 31 VKT
Winter War. Defeat or victory? In Russia, the “democratic community” believes that in the winter of 1939-1940. Finland won a moral, political and even military victory over the Stalinist Soviet Union, the “evil empire.”
Since the days of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, the liberal public has spat upon and vilified Russian and Soviet history. Among the favorite myths of liberals is the Winter War. Liberals, like Western historians and publicists, consider the Soviet-Finnish war an unjustified aggression of the USSR, which turned into a complete disgrace for the country, the Red Army and the people.
In the winter of 1999-2000. the Russian liberal community celebrated the 60th anniversary of Finland’s victory over the Soviet Union! Nothing has changed now (however, complete dominance in the media is no longer there, as before). So, on “Radio Liberty” there are characteristic opinions about the “inglorious” war: “outright adventure”, “aggression of the Stalinist regime”, “the most disgraceful war”, one “of the most shameful pages in the history of our state.” Consequence of “an agreement between Stalin and Hitler on the division of spheres of influence between the USSR and Nazi Germany”, which “accelerated the attack of Nazi Germany on our country.” There is also a myth about large-scale Stalinist repressions against the military in 1937-1938, which weakened the Red Army (in fact, the “purges” in the army strengthened the armed forces, without them we could have lost the Great Patriotic War at all).
Myths about the mistake and crime of the Stalinist regime, the death of “hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers” (!), The victory of Finland: the Stalinist USSR “was defeated within three months. The Finns have won both a military and a diplomatic victory. “
President of Finland Kyjosti Kallio with Field Marshal Karl Mannerheim at the railway station in Helsinki on December 19, 1940. On the left side of Mannerheim – Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Eric Heinrichs
Finnish calculation of the anti-aircraft machine gun “Maxim”
Finnish soldiers at Kane’s 152-mm cannon
What were the results of the war? Usually a war is considered won, as a result of which the winner solves the tasks set at the beginning (maximum program and minimum program). What do we see as a result of the Soviet-Finnish war?
Finland surrendered in March 1940, not the USSR! Moscow did not set the task of conquering Finland. This is easy to understand if you just look at the map of Finland. If the Soviet military-political leadership was going to return the Finns to the bosom of the empire, then it would be logical to strike the main blow in Karelia. It was stupid to seize Finland across the Karelian Isthmus, and the leadership of the USSR did not suffer from stupidity at that time (suffice it to recall how Stalin would outplay such “bison” of world politics as Churchill and Roosevelt during the Great War). On the isthmus, the Finns had three strips of fortifications of the Mannerheim Line. And on the hundreds of kilometers of the rest of the border with the USSR, the Finns had nothing serious. In addition, in winter, this forest and lacustrine-swampy area was passable. Obviously, any reasonable person, not to mention the Soviet General Staff and Headquarters, will plan a deep invasion through unprotected sections of the border. The USSR could dismember Finland with deep blows, deprive it of ties with Sweden, from where there was a flow of volunteers, material assistance, access to the Gulf of Bothnia. If the goal was to capture Finland, then the Red Army would have acted like this, and not stormed the Mannerheim line.
Moscow was not going to conquer Finland. The main task was to reason with the unreasonable Finns. Therefore, the Red Army concentrated its main forces and assets on the Karelian Isthmus (the length with lakes is about 140 km), 9 corps, including a tank one, not counting individual tank brigades, artillery, aviation and navy. And on the section of the Soviet-Finnish border from Lake Ladoga to the Barents Sea (900 km in a straight line), where the Finns did not have fortifications, 9 rifle divisions were deployed against the Finnish army, that is, one Soviet division had 100 km of front. According to Soviet pre-war ideas, a rifle division should have an offensive zone with a breakthrough of defense in 2.5-3 km, and in defense – no more than 20 km. That is, here the Soviet troops could not even build a dense defense (hence the defeat at the initial stage, “boilers”).
Thus, it is obvious from the hostilities that the Soviet leadership was not going to seize Finland, make it Soviet. The main goal of the war was to enlighten the enemy: depriving the Finns of the Mannerheim line as a springboard for an attack on Leningrad. Without these fortifications, Helsinki should have understood that it was better to be friends with Moscow, and not to fight. Unfortunately, the Finns did not understand this the first time. “Greater Finland” from the Baltic to the White Sea did not allow the Finnish leadership to live in peace.
As noted earlier (What prompted the USSR to start a war with Finland), the Soviet government put forward rather insignificant demands on Finland. In addition, as shown above, Finland, contrary to the myth of a small “peaceful” European country that fell victim to Stalin’s aggression, was a state hostile to the USSR. The Finns attacked Soviet Russia twice during the Time of Troubles (1918-1920, 1921-1922), trying to chop off territories from us that were larger than the Finnish state. The Finnish regime built its policy in the 1930s as an anti-Soviet, Russophobic state. In Helsinki, they relied on a war with the USSR in the ranks of an alliance with any great power, Japan, Germany, or Western democracies (England and France). Provocations on land, at sea and in the air were common. The Finnish government did not take into account the fundamental changes that took place in the USSR in the 30s, Russia was considered a “colossus with feet of clay.” The USSR was considered a backward country where the overwhelming majority of the people hated the Bolsheviks. They say that it is enough for a victorious Finnish army to enter Soviet territory, and the USSR will stagger, the Finns will be greeted as “liberators.”
Moscow completely solved the main tasks in the war. According to the Moscow Treaty, the Soviet Union pushed the border away from Leningrad and received a naval base on the Hanko Peninsula. This is an obvious success, and a strategic one at that. After the start of World War II, the Finnish army was able to reach the line of the old state border only by September 1941. At the same time, it was obvious that if Moscow had not started the war in the winter of 1939, Helsinki would still have taken part in the attack on the USSR on the side of Nazi Germany in 1941. And the Finnish troops, with the support of the Germans, would have immediately been able to strike at Leningrad, Baltic Fleet. The Winter War only improved the starting conditions for the USSR.
The territorial issue was resolved in favor of the USSR. If at the autumn negotiations of 1939 Moscow asked for less than 3 thousand square meters. km and even in exchange for twice the territory, economic benefits, material compensation, as a result of the war, Russia acquired about 40 thousand square meters. km without giving anything in return. Russia returned Vyborg.
The Red Army soldiers inspect the Finnish 150-mm howitzers captured near Vyborg. 150-mm howitzers H / 14j (150-mm howitzers of the Krupp system of Japanese production) were previously in service with the 2nd separate heavy artillery division of the Finnish army
Soviet soldiers inspect the observation hood of a captured Finnish bunker
Two Red Army soldiers with accordions on a blown up Finnish bunker in the Hotinen area
Of course, in the course of hostilities, the Red Army suffered greater losses than the Finnish army. According to the personal lists, our army has lost 126,875 servicemen. In the years of “democratic trends”, larger figures were also cited: 246 thousand, 290 thousand, 500 thousand people. The losses of the Finnish troops, according to official data, are about 25 thousand killed, 44 thousand wounded. The total losses were about 80 thousand people, that is, 16% of all troops. The Finns mobilized 500 thousand people into the army and shutskor (fascist security detachments).
It turned out that for every killed Finnish soldier and officer, there are five killed and frozen Red Army soldiers. Therefore, they say, the Finns and defeated the huge Soviet “evil empire”. True, then the question arises, why did Helsinki surrender with such low losses? It turns out that the Finnish troops could continue to beat the “evil Russian orcs”. Help was close. The British and French had already loaded the first echelons to help Finland, and were preparing to march against the USSR as a united “civilizational” front.
For example, you can look at the losses of the Germans in the Great Patriotic War. From June 22 to December 31, 1941, the Germans on the Soviet front lost 25.96% of the number of all ground forces on the Russian front, after a year of war these losses reached 40.62%. But the Germans continued to attack until July 1943, while the Finns allegedly lost 16% and raised the white flag, although they fought really skillfully, bravely and stubbornly. After all, they had to hold out quite a bit. Convoys with reinforcements were already moving from England (the first echelon arrived in Finland at the end of March), and the Western Air Force was preparing to bomb Baku.
So why did the Finns not hold out for a couple of weeks until they were backed up by selected English and French units? And the spring thaw, which sharply complicated the movement of troops in Finland, has also already begun. The answer is simple. The Finnish army was completely drained of blood. The Finnish historian I. Hakala writes that by March 1940, Mannerheim simply had no troops left: “According to experts, the infantry lost approximately 3/4 of its strength …”. And the Finnish Armed Forces mainly consisted of infantry. The fleet and air force are minimal, there are almost no tank troops. Border guards and security detachments can be classified as infantry. That is, out of 500 thousand infantry troops there were about 400 thousand people. So it turns out that with losses the Finns are dark. Having lost most of the infantry and the Mannerheim line, the Finnish elite capitulated, as their combat capabilities were exhausted.
Thus, there are no “hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers killed”. The losses of the Soviet side are higher than the Finnish ones, but not as much as we were led to believe. But this ratio is not surprising. For example, we can recall the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. During the hostilities in the Manchurian theater, where the field armies fought a mobile war, the losses were about the same. However, during the assault on Port Arthur Fortress, the losses of the Japanese were much higher than those of the Russians. Why? The answer is obvious. In Manchuria, both sides fought in the field, attacked and counterattacked, defended. And in Port Arthur, our troops defended a fortress, albeit an unfinished one. Naturally, the attacking Japanese suffered much greater losses than the Russians. A similar situation developed during the Soviet-Finnish war, when our soldiers had to storm the Mannerheim line, and even in winter conditions.
But here you can also find your advantages. The Red Army has gained invaluable combat experience. Soviet troops quickly showed that with the help of modern aviation, artillery, tanks, engineering units, the most powerful defenses could be hacked rather quickly. And the Soviet command got a reason to think about the shortcomings in the training of troops, about urgent measures to increase the combat effectiveness of the Armed Forces. At the same time, the Winter War played a bad thing with the Hitlerite leadership. In Berlin, as well as in Helsinki, the enemy was underestimated. They decided that since the Red Army had been busy with the Finns for so long, the Wehrmacht would be able to wage a “lightning war” in Russia.
At that time, the West understood that Moscow had achieved a victory, not a great one, but a victory. So speaking on March 19, 1940 in parliament, the head of the French government Daladier said that for France “the Moscow Peace Treaty is a tragic and shameful event. This is a great victory for Russia. ”
Soviet officers in front of the Vyborg Castle. The city of Vyborg became part of the USSR following the results of the Soviet-Finnish war
Residents of Leningrad greet the tankers of the 20th Tank Brigade in T-28 tanks returning from the Karelian Isthmus. April 1940