Why didn't the Soviets just take Finland as well?

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Demosthenes
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Why didn't the Soviets just take Finland as well?

Post by Demosthenes » 17 Jan 2003 13:25

The Soviet manpower in 1945 numbered around 13 million men. that's quite a few. They had also got their factories and supply lines up and running thanks to american capital. It was definitely NOT a good idea ´for the western allies to attack Soviet then. An interesting question is why the soviets didn't finish up what they'd started in finland 1936 and take finland too (in addition to most of easten europe) while they were at it. Their winterfighting skills had improved since 1936-39, and there were no Germans available to help the finns. Considering Roosevelt's easiness on the Stalin, it would have been simple for Stalin to declare finland as part of the soviet interest sphere in either yalta or later, against truman in potsdam (although this'd have been harder as truman were more hostile and also had the A-bomb to threaten with, which he also did, if I'm not mistaken). so why?

The finns'd also been helping the germans against Leningrad, so the soviets could easily ignore the finnish declaration of war against the germans. (was that in -44?) and just march right in through.

While the Imatra/Lappeenranta areas were heavily fortified it'd have been quite easy to march through the Joensuu area (just naming cities in the general area here so as to hive you an idea of what I'm talking about) and then march through a lá Schleiffen plan to Helsinki. This would also have been during the summer of -45, and shouldn't have been a problem.

Thus, it was military as well as politically possible. We also know that Stalin wanted Finland. so why didn't he just take it? War weariness of the soviets? please.

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Re: Why didn't the Soviets just take Finland as well?

Post by Ike_FI » 17 Jan 2003 19:17

Demosthenes wrote:An interesting question is why the soviets didn't finish up what they'd started in finland 1936 and take finland too (in addition to most of easten europe) while they were at it.
Hi,
What you mean by 1936? Winter War begun 30 Nov 1939.

Soviets didn't actually "take" all East European countries immediately, but only after some time after was: Czechoslovakia became a communist East Bloc country in 1948. It has been speculated that similar kind of arrangement was planned for Finland as well, and the activities of Finnish Communist Party that became legal again, suggested that a "fifth coulmn" takeover threat was not just a bad dream of rightists. Years 1944-48 are known in Finnish history as "Vaaran vuodet", the years of danger - the name dates back to first years after Stalin's death when the threat became less probable and was no longer such a taboo. The Communists did not became popular enough to reach a critical mass even among the Finnish Left, perhaps because the country had unlike many others been accustomed to multi-party democracy.
Considering Roosevelt's easiness on the Stalin, it would have been simple for Stalin to declare finland as part of the soviet interest sphere in either yalta or later
When Finland was negotiationg for peace in Moscow in summer '44, U.S. ambassador warned secretly Soviet foreign minister Molotov that an attempt to overthrow Finland's democratic system would not be liked in Washington. At that time maintaining fair relations with U.S. had way more importance to USSR than after ultimate German defeat.
The finns'd also been helping the germans against Leningrad, so the soviets could easily ignore the finnish declaration of war against the germans. (was that in -44?) and just march right in through.
Finnish declaration of war on Germans was a prerequisite for peace with Soviet Union. Had it not been especially demanded by Soviets, Finland may have declared herself neutral towards Germany after hostilities with Soviets ceased. Soviets needed their troops from Finnish front (which tied quite a significant number of men and equipment until the very end) for the race for Berlin and with weakened forces a march trough attempt would have been quite a gamble.
While the Imatra/Lappeenranta areas were heavily fortified it'd have been quite easy to march through the Joensuu area (just naming cities in the general area here so as to hive you an idea of what I'm talking about) and then march through a lá Schleiffen plan to Helsinki. This would also have been during the summer of -45, and shouldn't have been a problem.
During the summer of -45 Soviets were likely more interested to mass their forces on the line where a confrontation with W.Allies was possible, than against a country that provided even in the best case quite a little to gain and formed way less potent threat to their own security. Also, in eastern Finland from mid country to the North there's not suitable infrastructure to move large troops quickly, just a few strategic roads. That tactics was tried in Winter War and Soviet experience from Raate Road, etc., was disencouraging.
Thus, it was military as well as politically possible. We also know that Stalin wanted Finland. so why didn't he just take it? War weariness of the soviets? please.
I assume there are those who will say that USSR did not have such desires at all, but my opinion is that Stalin and Molotov initially just considered that what can be gained with input/output ration that makes sense (taking into consideration not only pure military aspects), had been gained. Their experience from Estonia showed that rooting out local resistance was not a piece of cake, let alone what it would have been in case of a nation which had been way more decided to resist direct assault in first occasion. There was also a so called "weapons hiding conspiracy" scandal shortly after the peace which hinted that preparations for the worst had been well organised. When the actual Cold War era started, there were also new benefits that having a neutral and "well behaving" neighbour could provide.

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Victor
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Re: Why didn't the Soviets just take Finland as well?

Post by Victor » 17 Jan 2003 21:21

Ike_FI wrote:Soviets didn't actually "take" all East European countries immediately, but only after some time after was: Czechoslovakia became a communist East Bloc country in 1948.
That was the de jure take over, but the de facto take over took place as the Soviet troops entered the Eastern European countries and stayed there (except for Yugoslavia). The system was then much more easily imposed.
Ike_FI wrote:The Communists did not became popular enough to reach a critical mass even among the Finnish Left, perhaps because the country had unlike many others been accustomed to multi-party democracy.
Other new Eastern Bloc countries had long standing democracies before WWII, but they had the Red Army inside. It is not as if the others wanted Communism.

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Re: Why didn't the Soviets just take Finland as well?

Post by Ike_FI » 17 Jan 2003 23:40

Victor wrote:That was the de jure take over, but the de facto take over took place as the Soviet troops entered the Eastern European countries and stayed there (except for Yugoslavia). The system was then much more easily imposed.
In case of Czechoslovakia, it seems that the Soviets actually withdrew for a period:
In Apr., 1944, Soviet forces, accompanied by a Czech coalition government headed by Bene, and American troops entered Czechoslovakia; the fall (May 12, 1945) of Prague marked the end of military operations in Europe. Soviet and American troops were withdrawn later in the year.
- http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/sectio ... istory.asp

...but later on, takeover by "backdoor" plot and abolishment of the democratic system occurred:
In the elections of 1946 the Communists emerged as the strongest party (obtaining one third of the votes) and became the dominant party in the coalition headed by the Communist Klement Gottwald. Bene was elected president. Soviet pressure prevented Czechoslovakia from accepting Marshall Plan aid (June, 1947).

During the summer of 1947, the Communists began a campaign of political agitation and intrigue that gave them complete control of the government in Feb., 1948. In March, Jan Masaryk , the non-Communist foreign minister, died in suspicious circumstances. After the adoption of a new constitution (Bene resigned rather than sign it), a new legislature was elected and enacted a program for nationalizing the economy. Czechoslovakia became a Soviet-style state.
- basically the same story in a bit more thorough form is at this Czech site too:
http://archiv.radio.cz/history/history12.html
Ike_FI wrote:The Communists did not became popular enough to reach a critical mass even among the Finnish Left, perhaps because the country had unlike many others been accustomed to multi-party democracy.
Victor wrote:Other new Eastern Bloc countries had long standing democracies before WWII, but they had the Red Army inside. It is not as if the others wanted Communism.
I don't doubt a moment that there was great will to live in democracy, but the fact remains that many countries were under more or less undemocratic regime before and during the WWII: wasn't it so also in Romania?. Thus any alternative - including communism - may have been seen by large enough group in more favourable light during those years than the case might have been otherwise: the old "grass is always more green on the other side of the fence" story. Even a oppressive regime needs a critical mass (which does not mean majority) of supporters or those who find their alternative somewhat tolerable.

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Post by varjag » 18 Jan 2003 05:31

Stalin is on record as having said to Churchill (?) that 'the Finns are a stiff-necked and recalcitrant people - perhaps they are best left alone'. Even 'the Sun of The Heavens' must've been impressed by Finnish recalcitrance in 1939-40 and 41-44.

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Post by Musashi » 18 Jan 2003 13:57

What do U think about change of the side of conflict by the Finns at the end of the war?
Opinions of the Finns, Russians and Germans nicely sighted.

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Post by Andy H » 18 Jan 2003 17:43

This question has been asked before regarding Finlands, Romania's, Bulgaria's and Italy's defection, and in all instances they did it becuase they had little choice given the options to hans, especially the countries faced by Russia.

:D Andy from the Shire

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Post by Musashi » 18 Jan 2003 20:38

Andy H wrote:This question has been asked before regarding Finlands, Romania's, Bulgaria's and Italy's defection, and in all instances they did it becuase they had little choice given the options to hans, especially the countries faced by Russia.

:D Andy from the Shire
Not quite - Hugarians resisted, so really no choice?


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Post by Mark V » 18 Jan 2003 21:13

Decision to turn arms against Germans was tough indeed. Especially for troops that had fought years side by side Germans against Soviet menace. Only newly elected President Mannerheim had enough respect among our troops that such radical change was possible. Many soldiers felt understandably that Germans are their comrades and fighting against them was unwanted solution to say the least, alltough unavoidable because extremely dangerous political situation in which Finland was at the time.

First stages of Lappland War went smoothly, Finns and their former allies Germans advanced/retreated by mutual agreement, avoiding unnecessary fighting and casualties. Real war started only after Soviets insisted that Finnish have to take more active stance on actions against Germans still in Finland proper.

Regards, Mark V

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Post by Musashi » 18 Jan 2003 21:19

Mark V wrote:Decision to turn arms against Germans was tough indeed. Especially for troops that had fought years side by side Germans against Soviet menace. Only newly elected President Mannerheim had enough respect among our troops that such radical change was possible. Many soldiers felt understandably that Germans are their comrades and fighting against them was unwanted solution to say the least, alltough unavoidable because extremely dangerous political situation in which Finland was at the time.

First stages of Lappland War went smoothly, Finns and their former allies Germans advanced/retreated by mutual agreement, avoiding unnecessary fighting and casualties. Real war started only after Soviets insisted that Finnish have to take more active stance on actions against Germans still in Finland proper.

Regards, Mark V
Thanks, Mark V.
I am waiting for more opinions.

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Post by Ike_FI » 18 Jan 2003 22:19

Musashi wrote:What do U think about change of the side of conflict by the Finns at the end of the war?
Well, this topic is definately too broad issue to be covered in one message, so I'll take a closer look on just one point of view in this one, namely that of the German Liaison General in Finnish HQ, Waldemar Efurth. His book "Sotapäiväkirja vuodelta 1944" (War Diary 1944), WSOY 1956, provides an insider's view to the happenings during the last war year of Finnish-German Waffenbrudeschaft.

It seems that from the very beginning of 1944 (likely even before, but that is not covered in this book) it was clear to Erfurth that the Finns were very concerned about Germany's difficulties in the Russo-German Eastern Front.

In 9 Jan -44 Mannerheim expressed to Erfurth his concern about this issue and suggested that it would be advisable to start use the much discussed secret weapon(s) on the SE front where Germans were under heavy pressure. In a private discussion with Generaloberst Dietl, commander of 20.Geb.Armee, Dietl had told to Erfurth his opinion that the prospects on Army Group North (AGN) operational area were questionable; an attack nort of Leningrad might be expected ant the Finns would not likely have much of a chance to stop a major Soviet attack, but that they (the Finns) still maintained delusion that the Russian's skills have not changed since the Winter War.

Erfurth himself wrote that there's likely no one in the Finnish HQ that still believes in German victory in case British-American-Russian coalition stays together. (Jan 21)

The industrial capacity and weapons sales and deliveries from Germany were of utmost importance to the Finns. In his telegram 2 Feb Mannerheim requested, after referring to the new threat that German retreat to Narva line on the southern side of Gulf of Finland caused to Finland, that Germans would relieve some Finnish troops from the northern Finland and urgent deliveries to patch serious gaps in Finnish equipment and supply, the "absolute necessities" being 75mm AA guns, Panzerfausts, hollow charge ammo for ger lt howizers, artillery pieces, war booty T-34:s, Me 109 figters and Me 110 night fighters, trucks, increases to monthly fuel quota. The first request was fulfilled but the wepons deliveries were reduced.

In 16 Feb Gen. Heinrichs from Finnish HQ told to Erfurth that "if Stalin would offer us the pre-war (1939) borders [=significantly less than the Finns were at the moment holding], we wouldn't hesitate a moment. But such a chance is next to impossible - likely the conditions will be so grave that we can never accept such." Shortly before a prominent Finnish diplomat Paasikivi had travelled unofficially to Stockholm, where Soviets had their nearest embassy and lots of rumors circulated.
In Feb 21 Germans delivered an official note in which they stated that the German military strength will soon be improved and that they will eventually grasp the initiative and turn the tide of war. Finland should not be delusioned by temporary difficulties or treacherous offers by the enemy; Stalin's goal would forever be the total destruction of Finnish nation.

In Feb 24 Finnish Gen. Talvela had returned from Berlin and summarized his meeting with Hitler to Erfurth. Offensive war was the only way to fight successfully on the Eastern Front, Hitler had told; in -42 he had all the chances to succeed with his forceful German army and 45 divisions of his allies; the goal being Caucasian oilfields and possibly beyond. But with the loss of [Axis] ally divisions, except some Romanians, the balance of power had became unfavourable. The Russians had therefore been able to start utilize offensive strategy, and while an invasion in the West was expected, Germans were bound to flexible warfare in the East. However, line between Narva-Lake Peipsi-"Pantherstellung" was to be held at all cost [referring to the German-held region which was most critical to the Finns]. Hitler led the discussion to the importance of commanders over the numbers, now they have the best of leaders unlike in 1918. He also warned about Stalin's treacheousness; "more likely a wolf would become a vegetarian than a bolshevik would become anything but a crook" [- quite funny phrase, as Hitler himself was nicknamed "Wolf" and was a vegetarian!].

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Finland And Germany

Post by Alter Mann » 18 Jan 2003 22:50

I recently started Wolf T. Zoepf's book 'Seven Days In January', which isn't really as much about the 6th SS Mountain Division's time in Finland as it is about operation 'Nordwind', but the first 72 pages give a company Executive Officer's views on the more than 1000 days that Nord spent in Finland, as background.

According to Zoepf, Nord got off to a terrible start in Finland and were considered 'second class troops' at best, for some time. They were greatly influenced by Finnish Army training after their initial problems, and, as mentioned above, became quite friendly with the Finns.

Unfortunately, as also mentioned above, the Finns eventually became very concerned about Germany's ability to provide them the support they needed to continue holding the terrotory that they had recaptured from the Russians during operation Silberfuchs, in 1941.

Eventually, when the last reasonable deadline had passed for support from Germany, the Finns signed a separate peace with Russia. According to Zoepf, after the Russians complained at great length about the lack of effort on the Finn's part to get the Germans out of their country, bitter fighting did break out between the Germans and the Finns.

Sorry it took so long to get to this point, but I think the reason that the Russians didn't try a coup de main in Finland was partly because of the terms of the separate peace, and partly because they still had a healthy respect for the Finnish military. Finland certainly isn't tank country, and infantry units live a very hard life there unless they grew up in a similar area or have had a lot of training. The Finnish Army, in 1946, had had nearly two years to digest the lessons learned during 1941-44, and I doubt that an attempted Russian takeover was something that they had not considered.

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Post by Ike_FI » 18 Jan 2003 23:36

...continued:

Harsh Soviet conditions for peace (including internment of German troops) were published in a Swedish newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" in Feb 25. Heinrichs commented the news to Erfurth so, that a small nation can't discard any offer on ultimately serious moment, not even one that means loss of territory, but Soviet occupation of Finland or a demand to force previous brothers in arms [ref to Fin-Ger] against each other would not have a chance to be accepted in the finnish Parliament.

In 3 May Mannerheim had a private discussion with Erfurth, during which he stated that whether Germans can or can't hold the defence line of Narva in Estonia is decisive what it comes to Finland's chances to continue fighting [as losing Estonia would have meant that Finland became encircled]. Erfurth mentions that Mannerheim was courteous and straight as usual, but obviously pessimistic. In May 9 Erfurth was informed that the Finns had principally rejected Soviet demands as too harsh, but that door was kept open for more reasonable offers. A week later Finnish Parliament rejected the peace offer officially. Shortly after this Germans started their weapons deliveries again.

Late in March German ambassador in Finland stated that a separate peace between Finland and SU would become a serious threat to Finnish-German relations, with it's "all possible consequences" [however, Germany didn't try to suppress totally the discussion over peace issue, maybe because keeping the door open to the possibility helped to keep up the spirit of Finnish home front; at the same time weapons deliveries were a practical tool to keep Finnish military forces dependent on Germany].

In 2 April Keitel sent an optimistic telegraph to Mannerheim stating that Eastern Front has been stabilized in AGN and AGC areas and that determinate actions to stop Soviet attacks in the southern part of the Eastern Front are underway. Some high Finnish officers were invited to notice the situation in Narva in mid-Apr and they returned back home more convinced of German chances to hold the line. Finnish press however continues to publish pro-peace comments which doesn't please Germans. Führer himself orders in Apr 19 that war material deliveries to Finland are to be stopped due to this attitude problem on the Finnish side. Both Erfurth and Dietl consider this decision harmful.

Finnish Gen. Heinrichs travels with Erfurth to Berchtesgaden to discuss topical military issues. They are first hosted friendly by Warlimont and discuss also unofficially in good spirit with Zeitzler, but Keitel lectured during a lunch in his special train to him in unfriendly tone about how a totalitarian system never would allow such a defeatist attitude to exist that has occurred among certain group of Finnish people. A dinner hosted by Himmler was held in more relaxed athmosphere. Jodl promised to Heinrichs that German war material deliveries could continue if a high level declaration of commitment to the common war would be given.

It was finally unofficially given by president Ryti in Jun 26, some ten days after a massive Soviet assault was launched and a threat of the situation getting worse existed; following German aid, including air support, helped to repulse the attack]. The fierce battle raged for a month, resulting in serious casualities for both sides. Finnish Gen. Heinrichs emphasized again in Jul 22 that Germans should not give up their lines in Estonia. In Jul 24 Erfurth wrote a note in his diary that the Soviet attack against Finnish front seems to be calming down and he sends an optimistic report to Warlimont.

Soviet pressure towards Germans near Narva increases in Jul 28 and Efurth concludes that Soviets try to reconcentrate their northern forces there. German 122.D, a key part of German reinforcements that arrived a month earlier, is transferred from Finland to Estonia a day later. In Aug 1, Soviet troops are already reaching Warzaw, Poland, and AGN continues to retreat, further increasing suspiciousness in Finland towards German chances to prevent Soviets from encircling Finland. In the west Allied troops gain day by day more land in Normandy. Keitel visits Finland in Aug 17, in attempt to increase confidence to the chances of German success but his overly optimistic view is not shared by his audience. On the contrary, Mannerheim [who has in the meantime been appointed as the President too] tells him privately that Ryti's formally void commitment to "victory or death with Germany" cannot be considered binding. Heinrichs clarifies this later to Erfurth as being not a formal withdraval from cooperation but a reassesment of the political situation.

In 25 Aug Erfurth meets Finnish Gen. Martola, to whose field HQ he has arrived to hand to him a EK1 medal. Martola discusses confidentally - the two veteran officers have good understanding of each other - with Efurth about latest military proceedings. Martola considers German situation in the Balkans very critical. He assumes that within a week Bulgaria will be out of the war and soon after also Hungary, leaving Finland the sole country to fight with Germany left. Demands for peace talks appear more and more often in the press. When Rendulic, the new German commander of 20.Geb.A., meets Mannerheim in 2 Sept., he mentions first time openly possible confrontation between the Finns and the Germans: "if the soldiers of the two best armies in the world will fight each others, the losses will rise to 90%". In the same evening Mannerheim sends a letter to Hitler, in which he politely explains that the threatened situation of Finland and latest news from the other fronts will cause the paths of the two countries to separate very soon. He also expresses his wish that this could happen without unnecessary bloodshed and that German nation will always survive, be the outcome of this war this or that. A day later a public announcement confirms the news. The Germans are required to leave in two weeks.

My comments:

All in all, it seems to be obvious that the Germans did understand quite early that Finland was not going to fight unconditionally to the victory or death and that the decision to retreat from the war was not a sudden surprise to them - the Finns had already in 1941, when they joined WWII again, emphasized that they are fighting a war of their own, as a co-belligerent rather than an ally of Germany. Both sides had their own motivations and trading between benefits existed - and when there was no longer ground for such exchange and outcome of the war was becoming more and more obvious, the unholy engagement ended.

I hope someone found these messages interesting altough this became quite a wordsome story.

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Post by Ike_FI » 19 Jan 2003 00:39

Mark V wrote:First stages of Lappland War went smoothly, Finns and their former allies Germans advanced/retreated by mutual agreement, avoiding unnecessary fighting and casualties. Real war started only after Soviets insisted that Finnish have to take more active stance on actions against Germans still in Finland proper.
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Post by Musashi » 19 Jan 2003 12:46

Thanks for the opinion of Finns. I am still waiting for the opinion of Russians and Germans :)


Best regards.

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