Recommended books on the Winter War & Continuation War

Discussions on the Winter War and Continuation War, the wars between Finland and the USSR.
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Recommended books on the Winter War & Continuation War

Post by Marcus » 03 Nov 2007 19:39

The idea of this sticky is to collect recommendations on good books dealing with the Winter War & Continuation War.

Please post the title, author and a short (or long) explanation as to why you feel that particular title deserves to be included.


If you buy through the below links you not only get the books you want but you also support the forum while shopping!
* AHF Bookstore
* (UK, Germany)

Mikko H.
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Post by Mikko H. » 04 Nov 2007 11:07

For basic information about battles, I recommend the two so far published volumes by Ari Raunio and Yuri Kilin:

- Talvisodan taisteluja (Battles of the Winter War) published by Karttakeskus in 2007
- Jatkosodan hyökkäystaisteluja 1941 (Offensive Battles of the Continuation War 1941) published by Karttakeskus in 2007

A third volume about the battles of 1942-44 is to be published in the spring of 2008.

These books are not general histories of the wars, but overviews of selected battles. From the Finnish side they contain very little new, as Raunio readily admits. What makes them worth getting is the Soviet perspective provided by Kilin's research in Russian archives and the admirable maps. These books are the best means I know of getting a good overall idea how a particular battle took place: you get to know how Finns and Soviets saw the battle and the numerous maps help you to follow its course. Included are also mini-biographies of Finnish, Soviet and German commanders, and the Winter War volume also contains modern-day route maps helping you to locate the battlefields today.

The books are a bit pricey, 45 to 50 €/volume, but IMO fully worth the price.

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Helen Bachaus
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Post by Helen Bachaus » 04 Nov 2007 22:01

Hi, could you please let us know if they are available in English and where would one buy these books internationally.

Whilst I mainly have Winter War books it would be good to continue my study on for the Continuation war and the Lapland War.

God Bless


Mikko H.
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Post by Mikko H. » 05 Nov 2007 08:36

Helen, unfortunately the books are available only in Finnish.

The publisher has an e-store at also in English. Select English language from the flag at the upper right-hand corner of the page, then select 'Other products' from left-hand panel, and then 'Books'.

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Helen Bachaus
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Post by Helen Bachaus » 05 Nov 2007 20:34

Thankyou Mikko :-)

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Stalin and the Soviet-Finnish war 1939-40, by A.O. Chubaryan

Post by AndersG » 30 Dec 2007 15:24

Contains the transcript of the secret meeting in Kremlin on April 14-17 1940. The transcript is quite revealing and some of the comments from the commanders very candid, in fact so candid that some of them paid with their lives later on. It does however paint a good picture not only of the Cult around Stailn, but also the mentality and thunking of the Soviet army.

ISBN 0 7146 5203 2

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Post by AndersG » 30 Dec 2007 20:31

Also worth mentioning is the series of "Sotahistoriallinen Aikakauskirja" (Journal of Military History). The articles are unfortunately written in Finnish, but generally have an English summary. See:

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Post by Harri » 04 Jan 2008 22:58

Numerous excellent Finnish books can be found "behind" these links. Unfortunately too many books are still only in Finnish. All aviation books by Keskinen - Stenman (+ others in some cases) are highly recommended.

Finnish Air Force History series

by Kari Stenman Publishing:

by Hobby-Kustannus Oy:

Other aviation books (mostly in Finnish only)

Koala-kustannus Oy:

Keski-Suomen ilmailumuseo / Central Finland Aviation Museum: ... MA=4&ID=11

Other aviation and military related books (mostly only in Finnish)

Apali Oy:

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Re: Recommended books on the Winter War & Continuation War

Post by HotelBushranger » 06 Mar 2008 07:09

Surprised noone has mentioned Frozen Hell yet, by William Trotter. Very good, satisfying, if at times confusing, read about the Winter War, on all fronts. In English, I encourage all to get it :)

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Re: Recommended books on the Winter War & Continuation War

Post by Tuco » 24 Mar 2008 23:09

There are not that many books available to the English reader on the Winter War and this has always been a problem for the Finnish-Collector and researcher. Many of the stories and facts of the Winter War have been gleamed from movies as well as Internet sites dealing with the subject, but printed reference works are few and far between. In this review it is hoped that an overview will assist the Finnish collector in their purchase of reference material.

Review One: The Winter War - The Soviet Attack On Finland 1939-1940 by Eloise Engle and Lauri Paananen ------ Reviewed By Tuco

This is by far the most commonly seen book on the Winter War and the book seems to have had great commercial success. It is often the first book on the Winter War the English reader encounters and as such is seen in many reference libraries. It has been widely distributed and can be located at a number of outlets, being one of the few books dealing with the Winter War that can be located at many local bookstores.

Overall this book is quite respectable and does lay a general overview of the events of the Winter War. The writing of the book is easy to follow, the maps are adequate, and the photos are excellent. The book does not go into great detail and will leave some gaps for the reader but I do not feel the intent of this book to be anything more than a general outline and history of the war. As such it does accomplish what the authors intended to do.

Most of the information that is found in the work seems to be correct and accurate but it does gloss over and leave the reader wanting a bit more. It is an excellent book for one with a slight interest in the Winter War and it also serves as a good introduction for later research. This is indeed the first book that I read that detailed the Winter War and I found it fascinating. The authors do a very good job at communicating what was taking place during the war, the major causes of the war, and many details of the major encounters of the war.

For the first time reader or researcher this is a good source to get your feet wet. It is not as good as the other books reviewed below but is still a nice start. I would recommend this as a starting point and the reader can later graduate to the more advanced works seen below.

Review Two: A Frozen Hell - From William R Trotter--- Reviewed By Tuco

This was the second book that I read on the Winter War and its scope is much greater and more in-depth than the work reviewed above. In fact the differences are almost night and day in the amount of details and coverage given to the war. The author did his research for the book while living in Finland and certainly did his homework.

One of the best sections of the book deals with the causes of the Winter War and how certain events lead up to the war. It gives an excellent insight into what leaders in both the USSR and Finland were feeling and dealing with before the outbreak of the War. This segment of the book is outstanding and covers many aspects of the Winter War that many Western readers often do not understand. Trotter pulls no punches in his assessment of the various point of views, so he gives a refreshing non-political standpoint of the events. I can state this assisted me greatly in getting a true feeling of what was happening just prior to the war and what lead to the outbreak of hostilities.

Where Trotter’s work shines is his detailed and accurate accounts of the actions that took place during the War. Where The Winter War - The Soviet Attack On Finland 1939-1940 by Eloise Engle and Lauri Paananen lacks in detail, Trotter is filled with details. While he does not follow the events of the War in exact chorological order, he does break the battles down by sections. As such his work gives an excellent picture of what was being faced in each sector of the war - the Isthmus, the area north of Lake Ladoga, and the Lapland area - and just how the
events took place in each sector.

He is very detailed in his effort when he covers the various battles as he not only mentions the geographical area of the battle as well as the names of the units involved but also in many cases gives the commander’s name and background even including the names of many sub-commanders and other notable persons that took part in the battle. Trotter is also skillful at detailing how events taking place in one battle had a direct effect on what was occurring in other sectors or other actions. These accounts alone give the reader a greater understanding of the “big picture” of what was taking place during the War. He also shows just how grave the situation was on both sides of the front. His accounts of the Lapland area are chilling. Lastly he is somewhat critical of the mistakes that both sides made during the fighting, which is a good example of his style of writing.

After reading this book one will be armed with a vast amount of facts and have a good understanding of what took place in the Winter War, what the root causes of the War were, and the reader will also have a great amount of sympathy for all of those that took part in the fighting. It is hard to compare this to the book reviewed above as the scope of Frozen Hell is much greater than The Winter War and is much more detailed. It is a work that is a “must have” for anyone interested in the subject. It is also easy to read as the author’s style of writing is enjoyable.

There are some downsides to this book but that is mainly due to publishing problems and not related to the author. The book was for years out of print and one can find various reprints of the book on the market. In some the photos and maps seem to be better than in some of the older versions. Overall the maps are outstanding but the photos in most copies are not quite as good as one would hope. Stating the above this not a large negative and should not prevent anyone from owning this volume of history.


Review Three: The Soviet Invasion of Finland 1939-40 (Cass Series on Soviet Military Experience, 3) by Carl Van Dyke Reviewed by Kevin Beswisk

Don't expect to get a first hand account of the Winter War in this book. Instead, while it is often a near day by day account of specific parts of the war, it is really a study of the early failure of the Soviet Army, and how that failure resulted in major changes in its military doctrine, politics and tactics. The book is well written, but is aimed more at the academic (or amateur) military historian studying the Soviet Union than the casual reader. Carl Van Dyke is said to be the first to extensively make use of former confidential Soviet sources, and that point alone it makes the book interesting. But like any academic field, this one has its own brand of jargon. Much of this involves the Soviet system itself, and that alone is a bit of a learning experience. While it is readable and understandable, it does take some work and attention to get through.

Van Dyke briefly sets the stage in the preface. The first chapter covers the diplomatic and strategic background of the war. This is followed by a chapter on the initial stage of the war, and a chapter on the mid-war reforming of the Soviet Army's doctrine. A chapter on the final Soviet victory by Timoshenko is followed by an interesting chapter on "Lessons Learned," and finally an epilogue. The bibliography is extensive and the book is heavily footnoted.

I have always wondered how it was possible for Finland to hold off an invasion by one of the largest countries in the world. There is no single factor, but a number of reasons are given for the poor performance of the Red army. Not to take anything away from the bravery and tenacity of the Finnish defenders, but at the beginning, it is clear that the Red Army was in virtual chaos. According to Van Dyke, at the start of the war the Soviet's had an advantage of 3 to 1 in manpower, 80 to 1 in tanks, 5 to 1 in artillery, and 5.5 to 1 in aircraft. What is not given is how the odds got worse as the war progressed. While the numbers were on the side of the Soviets, as Van Dyke says, the Finns were "motivated by the conviction that they were protecting the nation from an age-old enemy."

Touched on briefly in the preface, is how the Soviet Army had emerged from the revolution and civil war with the most "theoretically sophisticated doctrine in Europe," and how its principles of "decentralized command and organizational flexibility" contradicted Stalin's "centralized political system." In the conflict between the professional military and Stalin's political revolutionary principles, the military lost. The end result was Stalin's purges, and the dismissal, execution, or imprisonment of 36,761 army commanders and about 3000 naval commanders. The troops were untrained, and as a result of the purges, unlead. Perhaps more important to the problems of the Soviet military is the communist ideology and how Stalin had attempted to integrate his version into every aspect of military command and operations.

In addition to discussions of military tactics and doctrine, the book is a fascinating study of what happens when ideological purity is considered to be more important than military capability. Some of these ideological concepts are hard to understand, and harder to describe. Others are just hard to believe. While I don't want to take too much away from the book, a few should be mentioned. Among them is the concept of "combat socialist competition." Derived from the pre war "socialist competitions" that were designed to encourage workers to exceed normal factory production, Van Dyke briefly describes how such competition reduced cooperation between units, and lowered combat effectiveness. This competition was confused with the object of the war, which was fighting the Finns. Later, soldiers were required to attend meetings to listen to rhetoric designed to improve morale via the competition, as well as an explanation as to just what this competition meant. They had to sign contracts outlining the terms of the competition. The terms included inflicting harm on the enemy, preserving their equipment, and aiding other units among others. Failure meant the contracts could be legally enforced. One of the few first person accounts in the book is by a prisoner of the Finns. His attack having failed and his tank too damaged to return to the lines, he waited to be captured by the Finns. Having broken his contract, he knew that what awaited him back at his own lines was worse than the treatment he would get as a prisoner.

Other problems inherent in the Red army involved the vertical command structure that limited horizontal communication between units. Combined actions using artillery, armor, and infantry often disintegrated into "mob tactics." Amazingly, according to Van Dyke, even the structure of the Soviet Army was known only to the NKVD. Another example of the state of the Red Army is illustrated by a "law" announced by the Political Administration involving relations between Party and non-Party members of the Army. In the future, should a member of a unit show "extraordinary offensive spirit" the rest of the unit should support him, whether or not he was a party member. The fact that something like this would even be required is astonishing to me at least.

Propaganda was also important, but in the final analysis, may have been detrimental to the Soviets. The Finish Army was depicted as degraded and ineffective, and the Finish people would rise to join their Soviet brothers as soon as they could. The Soviets were told they had "moral" superiority: they would fight with their bayonets, while the Finns would only fight with bayonets when they were drunk. At the same time that the "invincibility" of the Soviet Army was being touted, problems with the troops were rising and authority over troops was being lost. It's interesting to contemplate that the "party" members telling them this, were also probably the ones ordering the NKVD to shoot anyone that lacked this "moral" superiority. When this propaganda was proven false, morale suffered greatly.

The Lessons Learned is interesting in that in focusing on the military lessons by the Soviets, I learned much of how the Soviet system operated during that time period. While it might be argued that a major cause of the failure was Stalin's purges, for obvious reasons, little was mentioned of this, and then not directly. The consequences of criticizing Stalin were well known.

There is much more in the book. Problems with supplies, intelligence, and the continuing lack of competent leaders plagued the Soviets. These problems and others were not really fixed until the middle of the Great Patriotic War according to Van Dyke.

I found very few problems with the book itself. There are some maps in the book, but I would have liked to have seen more. (Spoiled by the trip to Finland and Russia I suppose.) I would have liked to have seen more pictures, although this would probably have been out of place in a book of this type. Another minor annoyance is that there are a few propaganda "comics" that are reprinted in Russian, without translation. The footnotes and bibliography often contain references to documents in Russian as well, and although it's highly unlikely that I would ever go to the original Russian source, it might have been nice to see the document titles translated.

I recommend this book to those who want to see what the "other side" was going through in the Winter War, and how that experience brought about changes in the Soviet military. In addition to being about the Winter War, the book is a trip through the Soviet military mentality. It is at times both fascinating and repugnant. To me "foreign" might be the best adjective. It's not an easy book to read, and demands more attention than some, but is in the end worthwhile if you have an interest in the subject. As a final thought, I have heard an opinion that had the Soviets not done so badly in the Winter War, Hitler might not have been so quick to attack. On the other hand, the poor performance of the Soviets provided the impetus to reform the army and its doctrine. It's interesting to contemplate the result had the Army been forced to make such major changes in the middle of an attack by the Wehrmacht, rather than during an invasion of Finland.


Review Four: The White Death: The Epic of the Soviet-Finnish Winter War, Allen F. Chew------------ Reviewed By Tuco

For many years this has been one of the more difficult to locate English language works on the Winter War, which is a shame as in many regards it is the best work there is. Today readers are lucky as Michigan State Press has brought this book out of mothballs and as of 2002 the book is being reprinted. This is a great happening for the Finnish collector and researcher as this once tough find is now widely available.

Like Frozen Hell this book is a bit more geared to one that wants more information than is offered in other works. The White Death is much like Trotter’s work as it is very detailed and has information that simply can not be found elsewhere. The basic work is based on first hand accounts of the fighting as well as massive research into Finnish archives. As this was done in the early 1970’s it is rather amazing to see such a complex undertaking, as at that time very few Westerners were at all interested in what took place during the Winter War. There are even some sections of the books that deal with the Soviet outlet of the fighting which is always interesting to read. This is also a book that heavily influenced the author of A Frozen Hell and that fact speaks for itself.

The book is a very easy to read and I do not think the reader will be overwhelmed by the style of writing. Even the non-military collector should have no real issues in following the book. It is a book that will leave one with a healthy respect for those that kept Finland free, as many sections of the book are riveting. In some regards this is a difficult book to review but I can state that of all the books reviewed in this section, The White Death is by far my favorite. I would really recommend buying this book at one’s earliest opportunity as one never knows how long the reprint of this book will last. As stated earlier this has long been a very difficult work to find and in the future it might be hard to locate once again.

Added Note - I think this is the best of all the books listed in the reviews. If you are really interested in the Winter War - this is the one book to buy.


Review Five: The Winter War - Russia Against Finland - A Ballantine Book

This is another common book that can be located on Ebay or with ease. It is much like The Winter War - The Soviet Attack On Finland 1939-1940 by Eloise Engle and Lauri Paananen as this book is more a starting out point than a detailed work on the subject. It does give a good overview of the War and has some excellent photographs but it is not a very in-depth work on the details of the fighting. Still if one is looking to get the basic facts this book is very good for that purpose. Of all the books listed above this is buy far the cheapest in costs as in almost all cases it can be located for $10 or less.

Almost all the above works can be located either at your local bookstore or can be accessed by searching the Net. At this point it seems that Amazon Dot Com is running a number of combination specials on these works and these appear to be a good deal. In these combination deals one can buy any combination of two of the titles above for a discounted price. In looking at these combo deals they seem to be a good bargain so would be worth a look. One other outlet that is always one to check out is as in many cases one can locate books from this selling group at bargain basement prices.

Do not forget my book Finland At War - Osprey Pub.
While I can not review my own book I do think it worth reading. There are a number of great photos and all the plates made of uniforms came from items in my own collection - so these plates are very accurate. The book is just an overview of Finland from 1939-1945 and not as detailed as some of the works above.
It can be found on

It is my hope the above reviews were helpful to the readers of the site. The history of Finland is fascinating and many here in the USA only have a basic grasp of the events that took place. If one is indeed interested in learning more then the above works should get you started in the right direction. - Thanks Tuco (Mosin-Nagant Dot Net & Gunboards Dot Com)

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Post by Tero » 17 Jul 2008 19:31

Outsiders view on Finnish military history. Pricey second hand on Amazon but IMO well worth the money if you are interested in the subject

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Re: Recommended books on the Winter War & Continuation War

Post by kradman » 15 Nov 2008 21:36

There are some old books which are Good Viisi Sodan Vuotta from WSOY its from 1958 and has alot of good photos and info on both the Winter War and 1941-44 war including photos and info on the Lapland war but its only with Finnish text and a good book on the Lapland War is Lapin Sota by Toivo T.Kaila again a old book from 1950 but a good book about the battles and after war life of the people of Lapland

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Re: Recommended books on the Winter War & Continuation War

Post by ML » 28 Jan 2009 08:31

For Swedish speaking readers it might be of interest, that the recent book "Sotatoimet" by Ari Raunio is now published also in Swedish. Title is "De militära operationerna - de finska krigen 1939 - 45", ISBN 978-951-593-080-4.

Available from the publisher ... ue&theme=5 and some bookstores.

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Re: Recommended books on the Winter War & Continuation War

Post by jjschm20 » 03 Apr 2009 05:24

Unfortunately, the links in this thread are down. Still no good English language books available on the Continuation War? Maybe there is a niche in the market that needs to be filled, eh?

*goes off to write*

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Re: Recommended books on the Winter War & Continuation War

Post by larth » 29 May 2009 17:37

"German Northern Theatre of Operations 1940-45" by Earl F Ziemke

Very good and seems to have been reprinted.

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