Mek wrote: There were historians and researchers such as Heikki Ylikangas and Antti Laine speaking about the occupation.
They said that there could be seen signs of racial studying of the people living in East Karelia. There was even formed a section of the Finnish
Academy of Science (Suomalainen tiedeakatemia) that did studies on for example: are the Äänisniemi Russians related people to the Finns.
Also the death rate in the camps that held non-related to Finns was much higher than in the camps that held Finn related people. Same thing could be seen in the death rates of POW's, but after Stalingrad the situation improved.
Things like this kind of hint that maybe there was by nowadays standarts question of Ethnic Cleansing of somekind. Makes me think, that maybe Finns had more far reaching plans for East Karelia than just bargain chip in future peace negotiations.
It is good that this interest to ethnic origin is pointed out, but it is also worth noting that in the 1930's and 1940's it was the general trend in European science -- whether or not related to the ideology of the Nazi party. I understand the Sami people of Lapland were also subjects of anthropometric studies, their racial features such as skull dimensions were systematically measured, and they were photographed for research records. Sami skulls and bones were kept in the facilities of Helsinki University, until some years ago they were returned and re-buried in Lapland.
Studying whether some ethnic group is more or less related to another is not as such necessarily evidence of anything else but scientific interest -- in those days there were no methods to study human DNA, like genetic studies are carried out in our days. I think it is too far-fetched to conclude that those studies were preparations for ethnic cleansing, or that we could even figure out war goals by the fact that they were performed at all.
As distinguished from the above, the higher death rate of non-Finn related people and the improvement after Stalingrad speak for results of policies chosen by the Finnish occupation authorities, which really have no excuse from the humanitarian point of view, provided that the reasons of death (like old age, untreated illnesses, malnutrition) are fully taken in account and there are no confounding factors that might explain this as resulting epidemiologically from other causes. I have no detailed knowledge on this, but I also understand the whole Finnish population suffered from some degree of starvation during certain periods of the Continuation War, and at times there were genuine logistical problems in food distribution to the combat troops as well.
Generally speaking, this whole discussion on Finnish war goals in the Continuation War is more or less speculative, by necessity. Who on earth had a crystal ball in early 1941, telling the outcome of Operation Barbarossa?
The decisions had to be made by weighing the most likely alternatives against each other, thinking where each scenario is likely to lead, and correcting the strategy on the way as needed by the progress of events, but no one could tell it for certain in advance.
It is utmost folly to claim that Finland "made a decision to join the war" for this or that goal.
Remember the outset:
- as a result of the Winter War, Finland had lost the territory of Karelian Isthmus to the USSR, including its defensive fortifications, resulting in far greater vulnerability to a new Soviet attack
- in accordance with the Moscow peace terms, the Red Army had a large military base in Hanko, Southern Finland, with rights to use Finnish railways across the country for transit traffic, as well as shipping lanes
- there was continuous political hostility and threats made towards Finland in the Soviet media and foreign policy, with no attempts at normalizing the relations; on the contrary, everything spoke for a renewed attempt at completing the military occupation of Finland, which had failed at first trial. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Germany and the USSR was still in place, leaving Finland in the Soviet sphere of influence,
although the Finns had no way of knowing it at the time
- the USSR subdued the Baltic countries and set up Communist puppet governments in them
- the USSR made provocations like the Kaleva incident, shooting down a Ju-52 passenger airliner on its regular flight from Tallinn to Helsinki, killing the crew and all the passengers from several countries, probably to capture a bag of diplomatic mail carried in the aircraft and seized by a Soviet submarine
- Hitler occupied Denmark and Norway, he negotiated about transit rights for the logistic support of German troops in Northern Norway, and did receive the rights from the neutral Sweden
Now, let us suppose you play the game in the role of the Finnish leaders from here on.
How will you answer Hitler's request in late 1940/early 1941 about transit rights, his offers to sell you arms that are badly in short supply, or his suggestons of further co-ordinated goals? How will you prepare for Yosif Stalin's next move against you, when it is evident that the borders of Europe will soon be redrawn anyway?
With the luxury of hindsight it is all too easy to criticize from Umeå or Stockholm and voice accusations against the Finns, now that we all know how things went. But without that omniscient crystal ball in 1940-41, and without a convenient buffer country in the East between yourself and Stalin's Empire, it was primarily a matter of how to survive.
A country with a population of less than 4 million people, just recovering from a previous war with tremendous losses, is certainly not in a position to act as a driving force of world history -- the Finnish leaders of the time were realistic enough to understand this quite well. Nobody asked them whether Operation Barbarossa should take place or what the Red Army should prepare for next.
The goal of war Number 1
was to survive as an independent country -- that was indeed achieved by the Continuation War; had it been achieved otherwise, is purely speculation, as history cannot be replayed, but there are reasons to believe the Continuation War changed Stalin's thinking about the issue.
The goal Number 2
was to take back the territory lost in the Moscow peace, leaving 10% of Finland's population homeless. As we know, the achievement of this goal became only temporary, and the losses were finalized in the Paris peace treaty of 1947 with other terms as well.
The goal Number 3
was to eliminate the military bases used for offensives against Finland. The outcome turned out like in the above.
The rest of the goals must have varied by the progress of events. It made sense militarily to continue the strategic advance to the defensive positions in the Karelian Isthmus (not engaging in the attempts at taking Leningrad, contrary to Hitler's demands), to the river Svir between the lakes Ladoga and Onega, and to the Maaselkä Isthmus to the North from Lake Onega. It was also the practical limit of where the Finnish logistic system could deliver supplies. Thereafter, it was mainly a strategy of wait and see.
Of course, it is interesting to make guesses today about how everything could have turned out, had history taken another course. Naturally every High Command prepares for alternative plans according to the situation, it is their job. But Marshal Mannerheim knew Russia well enough, President Ryti and the rest of Finnish leaders were realistic enough to have no illusions about their own potential in determining the outcome of a World War. It is rubbish to claim they had fixed goals in 1941 for what the world is going to be like in 1944.