What was the intentions of Stalin in 1939?

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Oleg Grigoryev
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Re: Question to Oleg

Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 22 Nov 2002 21:11

JariL wrote:<The goal is to defeat covering force, to take Karelian fortified area , and, <by developing offensive into the North-Western and Northern directions, <in cooperation with forces of Vidickoe axis, to defeat main enemy <grouping in the area of Sortavala, Vipuri, Keksgolm, and to take areas <of Xitola, Imatra, Vipuri. Upon completion of these tasks, forces are to <be ready for future actions in the depths of the country if required.

Hi Oleg,

The above does not include the operational plans in the Northern parts of Finland. Both the 163rd and 44th divisions were to advance from the border to Oulu and cut Finland into two. When both divisions were destroyed Finns captured a lot of material that among other things revealed objectives of both divisions. What do the sources you quote say about the operations in Northern Finland?

Regards,

Jari
"Kemsk axis and Rebeloa axis – independent rifle corps ( the 163 RD belonged to this one -oleg). The goal is to defeat Finnish covering units along the Kemsk axis and Rebola axis, to take areas of Kayaani and Nurmes in order to deny advance of fresh enemy forces from the Uleaborg, capture of Uleaborg, with cooperation of our forces of Kandalaksha axis , being the final goal."


"9th Army (Duhanov; 122, 163, 54 RD) is to take care of its own flanks, and to defeat enemy forces, by advancing with main body in the direction of Kayaani, with goal of achieving the line Kemiyarvi-Kantiomiaki, and in shortest possible time take Uleaborg "


that was in perfect agreement with the main idea of operation: "
The main idea of the operation is to simultaneously attack Finnish territory on all directions in order to pull apart enemy grouping and in cooperation with VVS to inflict major defeat on Finnish army. The main body of our forces advancing along Vidicia axis and from Karelian peninsula is to defeat the main Finnish grouping in the area Sortavala, Vipuri, Keksgolm. …"



Now that does not mean that Soviet Government did not have an intent of Finland’s Sovetization. My point was that you were not be able to find a proof of that in any documents related to military planning – simply because it was a political decision and not a military one – consequently in my opinion it is futile to look for the answers into captured divisional documents or whatever else.

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Thanks for the reply Oleg

Post by JariL » 25 Nov 2002 08:28

<Now that does not mean that Soviet Government did not have an intent <of Finland&#8217;s Sovetization. My point was that you were not be able to find <a proof of that in any documents related to military planning &#8211; simply <because it was a political decision and not a military one &#8211; consequently <in my opinion it is futile to look for the answers into captured divisional <documents or whatever else.

Hi,

Political goals have to be reflected to a certain degree in military planning and goals. As Mannerheim put it "a soldier cannot work without political backing". How far one wants to go in interpreting the political goal from military documents is a matter of comparing political decisions with military decisions. Looking only military documents or political documents will fall short of giving the full picture -if it ever is possible to get a full picture.

Regards,

Jari

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Oleg Grigoryev
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Re: Thanks for the reply Oleg

Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 25 Nov 2002 09:34

JariL wrote:<Now that does not mean that Soviet Government did not have an intent <of Finland&#8217;s Sovetization. My point was that you were not be able to find <a proof of that in any documents related to military planning &#8211; simply <because it was a political decision and not a military one &#8211; consequently <in my opinion it is futile to look for the answers into captured divisional <documents or whatever else.

Hi,

Political goals have to be reflected to a certain degree in military planning and goals. As Mannerheim put it "a soldier cannot work without political backing". How far one wants to go in interpreting the political goal from military documents is a matter of comparing political decisions with military decisions. Looking only military documents or political documents will fall short of giving the full picture -if it ever is possible to get a full picture.

Regards,

Jari
"Certain degree” is not exactly a precisely measurable unit – that is people would most likely have different idea of what is in fact certain. In simple terms thus just going to produce more grounds for speculations. I don’t thins that is a good way to go.

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Post by Hanski » 26 Nov 2002 23:09

Sorry, Mark V, for sidetracking from your question, but I would like to discuss Oleg’s view of Stalin’s aims in 1939-40, because unless we understand his viewpoint, continuing thel discussion and following his thoughts will be difficult.

In his message of Nov 19 Oleg writes
"if there were no winter war USSR probably would not annex Baltic states.”
I must say this idea is completely new to me – what is the logic of it?


Stalin’s political motives towards Finland and the Baltic states were determined by

1) Stalin’s wish to restore the former borders that the Russian Empire had before the First World War, simply for grandiose reasons of prestige. In the Bolshevik Revolution, for tactical reasons Lenin had had to give up former parts of the Czar Empire, but Stalin could never accept it as a permanent state of loss of sovereignty over those territories.

2) Stalin’s paranoid fears of a German offensive against Leningrad area either through Finnish Territory (which had never happened in pre-WWII history) or through the Baltic states (which did happen in WWI).

3) The long-term political goal of the Soviet Communist Party was nothing less than world revolution – well symbolised by the coat-of-arms of the USSR, the hammer and sickle over the globe. This gave ideological justification to any Soviet imperialism and opportunism needed, during the whole existence of the USSR 1917—1991. By conquering as much as possible, Stalin would make himself permanently an idealized and glorious historical figure that he still is even today for many Russians who hold a delusional belief of some obscure “historical mission” for Russia, justifying its right to oppress and rule other minor nations. In essence it may not be very different from the “1000 year Reich” of Hitler’s dreams, his country “Über Alles”.


For the reasons 1) and 2) above, Stalin’s goal was the re-annexation to Russia / USSR of both Finland and all the Baltic states. What made these conquests even more tempting was the fact that all of them were supposedly easy prey as long as other Great Powers had not given them security guarantees – a mere comparison of populations and strategic resources should have made it clear that those small states simply had no hope of success against the Red Army beyond a couple of weeks at most, if political pressure would not make them surrender.

For reasons 1), 2), and 3) Stalin really needed to try the permanent re-annexation of all those countries that belonged to her “sphere of influence”, as agreed between Molotov and Ribbentrop. Nothing less would do, except that a stupid nation of less than 4 million Finns then had the nerve of disagreeing with this glorious plan and caused unexpected complications.

So where on earth does this logic come from: “if there were no winter war USSR probably would not annex Baltic states.”? When the Winter War actually did come, so why didn’t the USSR show the whole world how the Balts were then treated better, for not being so stupid and stubborn as the Finns? Why and how did it then necessitate to re-annex Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – and thereby to confirm to the whole world that the Finns had been clearly correct in all their fears?

Now Oleg, please don’t start demanding me to show you a document confirming all this!

These kind of things are not necessarily documented, and Hitler is a good example of ruling with merely verbal communication and very little documentation – for example the Jewish question and its “final solution” cannot be found in documents of the Third Reich leadership.

It is not essential what a dictator said, or what he wrote, and which of the written documentation he ordered to be preserved or to be destroyed – essential is what he did! Stalin’s actions are convincing in all their ruthlessness; his political goals cannot necessarily be found in writings, but when you know how he treated his own people, why should one think of him as someone very generous to foreigners opposing him?

Hanski

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Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 27 Nov 2002 00:18

I must say this idea is completely new to me - what is the logic of it?
prior to Winter war USSR could count on Baltic states to stick to treaties they signed with USSR. After that they probably did not want to have anything in common with USSR. Consequntely USSR moved to annex. That’s a hypothesis anyway.
) Stalin’s wish to restore the former borders that the Russian Empire had before the First World War, simply for grandiose reasons of prestige. In the Bolshevik Revolution, for tactical reasons Lenin had had to give up former parts of the Czar Empire, but Stalin could never accept it as a permanent state of loss of sovereignty over those territories.
show at least one Soviet document to support that.
2) Stalin’s paranoid fears of a German offensive against Leningrad area either through Finnish Territory (which had never happened in pre-WWII history) or through the Baltic states (which did happen in WWI).
there was nothing paranoid about that. Finland was seen unfriendly state, not only by Stalin but by General Staff of RKKA as well and that was prior to Nazi rise to power.
3) The long-term political goal of the Soviet Communist Party was nothing less than world revolution &#8730; well symbolised by the coat-of-arms of the USSR, the hammer and sickle over the globe. This gave ideological justification to any Soviet imperialism and opportunism needed, during the whole existence of the USSR 1917&#8776;1991. By conquering as much as possible, Stalin would make himself permanently an idealized and glorious historical figure that he still is even today for many Russians who hold a delusional belief of some obscure &#8992;historical mission&#9632; for Russia, justifying its right to oppress and rule other minor nations. In essence it may not be very different from the &#8992;1000 year Reich&#9632; of Hitler&#9619;s dreams, his country &#8992;&#1101;ber Alles&#9632;.


This “long-term goal” ceased to exist with expulsion of Trotsky and killing of his supporters in USSR> I suggest you read his “revolution betrayed” .
or reasons 1), 2), and 3) Stalin really needed to try the permanent re-annexation of all those countries that belonged to her &#8992;sphere of influence&#9632;, as agreed between Molotov and Ribbentrop. Nothing less would do, except that a stupid nation of less than 4 million Finns then had the nerve of disagreeing with this glorious plan and caused unexpected complications.
provided that you can prove 1,2,3 –that you failed to do – at leats here.

Now Oleg, please don&#9619;t start demanding me to show you a document confirming all this!
beg your pardon you expect me to take word on this? And if you say that 2x2=5 should I believe it as well?
These kind of things are not necessarily documented, and Hitler is a good example of ruling with merely verbal communication and very little documentation &#8730; for example the Jewish question and its &#8992;final solution&#9632; cannot be found in documents of the Third Reich leadership.

It is not essential what a dictator said, or what he wrote, and which of the written documentation he ordered to be preserved or to be destroyed &#8730; essential is what he did! Stalin&#9619;s actions are convincing in all their ruthlessness; his political goals cannot necessarily be found in writings, but when you know how he treated his own people, why should one think of him as someone very generous to foreigners opposing him?
emotions. Factual contribution to the problem on hand = 0.

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Directives

Post by Sami_K » 27 Nov 2002 08:43

Hello all, again!

oleg wrote:
The goal is to defeat covering force, to take Karelian fortified area , and, by developing offensive into the North-Western and Northern directions, in cooperation with forces of Vidickoe axis, to defeat main enemy grouping in the area of Sortavala, Vipuri, Keksgolm, and to take areas of Xitola, Imatra, Vipuri. Upon completion of these tasks, forces are to be ready for future actions in the depths of the country if required.

From the report of Commander in Chief of Leningrad Military District to the peoples Commissar of Defense -in regards to plan of defeat of of land and naval forces of Finland. From October 29 1939/. This is the only reference in the high level documents that says anything about moving into Finland&#8217;s heartland &#8211; and that presumed to be one of the options and not ultimate military objective. No part of the document says anything about occupation of Finland.


Operational Directive by Peoples Commissar of defense dated by 16.11.1939 talks about developing offensive if situation permits towards Helsiki but once again does not set the capture of the city or occupation of the country as an objective.
The Directive of the Red Baltic Fleet, dated 29 Novemeber 1939.
(TsGAVMF 92-2-497 pages 1-4, 92-2-496 page 2)

In the directive the Baltic Fleet is ordered to establish a naval base at Hanko after the Red Army have advanced into Finland.

Note that the directive does not specify "whereto" in heartland Finland the Red Army would advance, but using common sense (and looking at the map), its hard to think of a way how the Baltic Fleet could establish a naval base at Hanko without the Red Army first advancing to the area? And in order to reach Hanko, the Red Army needs first to reach Helsinki and continue westwards past it.

Even though the Red Army directives did not specify the end goals (talking only about "...future actions in the depths of the country if required."), the directive of the Baltic Fleet gives us an idea what was expected from the Red Army.

After the hostilities started, the newly formed Finnish gov tried directly and via the neutral Nordic countries, to open the negotiations again. This time (after war started) there was no question about wether the USSR was dead serious in its demands or not (this was a higly debated issue among the Finnish cabinet members before the hostilities started, as the fact is that neither Stalin or Molotov gave any direct ultimatum. How could they as it would've made the then contemporary plot of "the Finns started this" evident).

As there were few, if any, who actually believed in Finland's capabilities in defending Finland against the might of the USSR (well, perhaps Niukkanen was an exception), the new Finnish gov was pretty much prepared to give USSR was she asked for. The puzzling thing is, that the USSR rejected the direct attempts of contact by the Finnish gov and Molotov did not even receive the legation from the neutral Nordic countries. Instead the response was that the USSR has already signed all agreements she needed with the Finnish gov it recognized (the Kuusinen gov). What makes this puzzling is, that the USSR had a chance to get all its pre-war demands met without losses, but instead it opted for a military campaign. At this point of the war, its quite clear what the Soviet intentions were, which were certainly not restricted to the first objectives specified in the directives.

Cheers,
Sami

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Oleg Grigoryev
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Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 06 Dec 2002 21:47

Isn't this an interesting hypothesis indeed! If it were true, then if only Finland had agreed to all the demands of Stalin without opposing him, the Red Army could have peacefully entered every country in its “sphere of influence” to take its bases without a single shot being fired. The Red Army would have then lived a life of its own within its bases, and otherwise the rest of the Finnish and Baltic societies would have lived in harmony happily ever after. How sweet, what an idyllic fairytale!
anything other than misplaced irony to oppose my theory?
Unfortunately, the mean Finns did not buy this beautiful melodrama, but instead they made Stalin pay dearly for his attempt at enforcing his idyll. Like Molotov said, Finns needed to be hit with a sledgehammer to force common sense in their heads. In doing so, Stalin lost million men (according to Khruschev), but Stalin did finally manage to rob the Karelian Isthmus including Viipuri and the Salla territory, and he got his base at Hanko.
Hrushev did not know what he was talking about, and jugging by your latest response Molotov might have had a point there (provided that he in fact said that) – at least in regards to some Finns. .
After his heroic achievement, why couldn’t Father Sunshine then continue to build his idyll in 1940 on the Southern side of the Gulf of Finland, where the so much more sensible Balts had merely opened the gates to let the Red Army in? Why not build the melodrama there as a display window, to convince the rest of the world how beneficial it is to let in the Red Army?
who is father sunshine? In regards to melodrama – we had Germany on our western frontier -was not exactly time for that.
According to Oleg’s theory, the Balts had formerly been so willing and reliable in sticking to their treaties, until the naughty Finns had spoiled it all, by making the Balts less reliable with their inappropriate example.
Soviet response to Finland unwillingness is what made Blats less reliable. It is interesting to see however you try to manipulate my words – I guess common approach.

And isn’t it incredible how naughty the Finns were in 1939-40, by refusing to accept such generous offers that the USSR made?
naughty Fins lost the territory they were asked for anyway. Only instead getting chunk of Korelia in return, and saving numerous lives of their citizens, they suffered heavy casualties and got zilch.
This is untrue. The foreign policy of the Republic of Finland was essentially minding their own business, more than anything else, and expecting that others would allow the Finns to live in peace. This happened to the extent of gravely neglecting national defense; in hindsight, it was absolute folly of politicians who refused to listen the warnings of Marshal Mannerheim, and they failed to provide the material basics that any army would need even for its peacetime training.
Too bad they failed to convince their neighbor of that. Although, it was not like that all the time, for the sake of the truth. During the 20s Soviet military intelligence indeed came to the conclusion that Finland would probably remain neutral for all sake and purposes. However Leningrad Security was real pain in the ass for the Soviet military. For instance 1929 maneuvers were conducted with a purpose to see how RKKA and RKKF could defeat aggression launched from Finnish territory.
The interplay of these and other factors in the Red Army's strategic calculations is most clearly illustrated in an exchange of internal documents between Svechin and Chief of Staff Shaposhnikov in early 1930. The dialogue between the two former czarist officers and imperial academy graduates regarding the possible contours of a future war and the army's proper strategy provides a fascinating insight into the thinking of the army's best minds.
Svechin opened the discussion with a detailed report to War Commissar Voroshilov in early March. Svechin outlined a future war against the USSR as a coalition affair, led by Britain and France, in which Poland and Romania would bear the brunt of the fighting as the coalition's cat's paw in the west. To the north, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland would maintain an "armed neutrality" in order to tie down Soviet forces along their borders. The Soviet Union would enter such a war much the weaker party against opponents who possessed significant technical advantages over the Red Army and who could mobilize their forces more quickly. Svechin sharply criticized Tukhachevskii and Triandafillov for overselling the technological benefits of the army's reconstruction program and predicted that the armed forces would not achieve a technical parity with its likely enemies for another fifteen years. Nor could the USSR count on significant support from working-class uprisings within the enemy camp, he said, because these could be easily suppressed.49
Svechin predicted that the capitalist coalition would make its main effort in the south, along the Black Sea coast, with the aim of creating a continuous front from the Caspian Sea to the Pripyat Marshes. The British, according to this scenario, would land in the Trans-Caucasus, with the object of seizing the oil centers of Baku and Groznyi. The French would land in the Crimea and seize the Donets Basin and the lower Dnepr River area, while Poland and Romania would join in the attack along their own frontiers. Svechin predicted that the achievement of these objectives would put the enemy in possession of the USSR's chief industrial and extractive areas and render a subsequent advance on Moscow relatively easy, or even unnecessary.5°
.
Finland raised question of East Karelia in 1934 when USSR applied for membership in the League of Nations – that was classified as interdiction into Soviet internal matters. Mannergeim visit to Germany in the same year and then in 1935 did not help much either. To illustrate it – 1935 Finland again was put in the ranks of “most probable enemies” – alongside with Germany, Japan, and Poland. Soviet military intelligence concluded that Baltic region was the most likely place for German aggression against USSR to take place, and in that occurrence Germans could sent at least 2 divisions in Finland for such purposes.
During 1937 Holsti’s visit to USSR Litvinov told him that USSR was wary of idea that third party could use Finnish territory as foothold for the aggression against USSR. And so on and forth. The idea that Leningrad security question just popped out of nowhere is far from the reality.

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Post by LZ X-ray » 07 Dec 2002 00:23

What about Finnish security? It's not the Finns' problem that St. Petersburg is located so close to their borders. Oleg, are you saying that "might makes right"? Obviously the Finn's demonstrated the opposite theory quite graphically in the defense of their territory.
As a matter-of-fact, the Soviets didn't make much headway militarily, on any front, until they recieved large infusions of supplies, equipment, weapons and food from the US "lend-lease" program, which should more accurately have been called "give-grant".

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Post by Hanski » 07 Dec 2002 17:24

Hi Oleg,

And welcome back to the discussion.
“Isn't this an interesting hypothesis indeed! If it were true, then if only Finland had agreed to all the demands of Stalin without opposing him, the Red Army could have peacefully entered every country in its “sphere of influence” to take its bases without a single shot being fired. The Red Army would have then lived a life of its own within its bases, and otherwise the rest of the Finnish and Baltic societies would have lived in harmony happily ever after. How sweet, what an idyllic fairytale!

anything other than misplaced irony to oppose my theory? “

Yes.

1. Finns got plenty of practical experience of what it means to have the Russian Army in the country from 1809-1917 when she was a Grand Duchy of the Russian Czar. Finland was granted an autonomous status to begin with, and Finns remained loyal to the Emperor. Later the panslavist movement gained power in Moscow, which resulted in attempts at denial of the autonomy and periods of oppression towards non-Russian nations of the Empire. The attempts at enslaving Finns later resulted in the clandestine rebellious movement to free Finland from the Russian rule, which eventually materialized during the Bolshevik revolution, the Finnish Declaration of Independence being given on 6th December 1917. With a different Russian policy, the Finns had remained in the Empire.

2. Stalin’s methods of ruling the USSR with terror were well known to the Finns, including the purges in the high military staff and the fate of those Finnish communists, who had voluntarily moved to build Soviet Karelia both from Finland and from the U.S.A. It would take extreme naivety to buy the idea you are now trying to sell us, i.e. that the USSR would not have interfered with all aspects of life in those countries where it had military bases, especially when there already was a historical precedent of the Russian Empire having ruled totally.

3. According to your theory, all the fake elections, communist puppet governments, and full Sovietization of the Baltic countries were necessary only to secure the Western border of the USSR against the military threat of Germany (although the western frontier for purposes of defence had already been moved to Poland, which had been split in agreement with Hitler’s Germany), and after the Finnish disobedience the Baltic nations would have been too unreliable if left living a life of their own despite the Soviet strategic bases. As you say, “we had Germany on our western frontier -was not exactly time for that”

– Now, when the threat of Germany had ceased to exist in 1945, please explain us: why was it then necessary to continue the slavery of the Baltic countries, and not use the opportunity to restore the free state they had in 1939? Let me guess – now it was the threat of NATO, wasn’t it? And if it hadn’t been for NATO, maybe the threat of the U.S., China, or the planet of Mars? Finding justification for just about anything is no problem in Stalinist interpretation of history.

4. Your theory makes the assumption that all other nations should happily welcome Soviet forces occupying strategic bases in their territory, maybe even be grateful for their presence. If they wouldn’t, it is hard for you to understand how they can be so stupid.

For argument’s sake, let us now assume that for example NATO would tomorrow become concerned about world security, and NATO then presented demands to the Russian Federation about having its forces occupy all the strategic naval and missile bases on the Kola Peninsula and Vladivostok, and they also would require for the next 50 years the lease of territories including all of the cities of Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Semipalatinsk, Kharkov, and Voronezh. In return, NATO would offer the Russian Federation much larger land territory in Northwest Alaska, Yukon Territory, Victoria Island, and Baffin Island, as well as some Aleutian Islands and parts of Sahara. And NATO would also promise to maintain in its occupied areas the legal system of the USSR of 1939 and its troops would behave in every respect like the Red Army of 1939. – You would happily welcome this deal, wouldn’t you?
who is father sunshine?
Unfortunately I cannot speak Russian and I don’t know exactly the original 1930’s propaganda name for Yosif Stalin, but this is a translation of the equivalent in Finnish.
naughty Fins lost the territory they were asked for anyway. Only instead getting chunk of Korelia in return, and saving numerous lives of their citizens, they suffered heavy casualties and got zilch.
They lost the territory all right, but unlike the Baltic States, they maintained their independence at high cost, and therefore Finland remains one of the only four European countries with uninterrupted democratic rule from 1939 to the present day (the other three are Britain, Sweden, and Switzerland; of these, only Britain had to fight WWII). Without having fought the Winter War, Finland would not have the spirit for national defence it has today.

This is untrue. The foreign policy of the Republic of Finland was essentially minding their own business, more than anything else, and expecting that others would allow the Finns to live in peace. This happened to the extent of gravely neglecting national defense; in hindsight, it was absolute folly of politicians who refused to listen the warnings of Marshal Mannerheim, and they failed to provide the material basics that any army would need even for its peacetime training.

Too bad they failed to convince their neighbor of that. Although, it was not like that all the time, for the sake of the truth. During the 20s Soviet military intelligence indeed came to the conclusion that Finland would probably remain neutral for all sake and purposes. However Leningrad Security was real pain in the ass for the Soviet military. For instance 1929 maneuvers were conducted with a purpose to see how RKKA and RKKF could defeat aggression launched from Finnish territory.
Here we seem to agree by 100%. In my personal opinion, it was criminal naivety and negligence of Finnish leading politicians of the 1930’s to think wishfully and believe the USSR could be trusted after having signed the Tartu (Dorpat) Peace Agreement and the Non-Aggression Pact between Finland and the USSR. It is not wisdom in hindsight, because Marshal Mannerheim and the highest military lead did make their point clear, and yet the politicians nearly lost the country with their stupidity. Also, it cannot be said that Finland could not financially afford a stronger defence – the Finnish Army of the Continuation War in 1941 was far better equipped, and this was possible indeed after all the heavy material and financial losses of the Winter War.
The interplay of these and other factors in the Red Army's strategic calculations is most clearly illustrated in an exchange of internal documents between Svechin and Chief of Staff Shaposhnikov in early 1930. The dialogue between the two former czarist officers and imperial academy graduates regarding the possible contours of a future war and the army's proper strategy provides a fascinating insight into the thinking of the army's best minds. Svechin opened the discussion with a detailed report to War Commissar Voroshilov in early March. Svechin outlined a future war against the USSR as a coalition affair, led by Britain and France, in which Poland and Romania would bear the brunt of the fighting as the coalition's cat's paw in the west. To the north, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland would maintain an "armed neutrality" in order to tie down Soviet forces along their borders. The Soviet Union would enter such a war much the weaker party against opponents who possessed significant technical advantages over the Red Army and who could mobilize their forces more quickly. Svechin sharply criticized Tukhachevskii and Triandafillov for overselling the technological benefits of the army's reconstruction program and predicted that the armed forces would not achieve a technical parity with its likely enemies for another fifteen years. Nor could the USSR count on significant support from working-class uprisings within the enemy camp, he said, because these could be easily suppressed.49 Svechin predicted that the capitalist coalition would make its main effort in the south, along the Black Sea coast, with the aim of creating a continuous front from the Caspian Sea to the Pripyat Marshes. The British, according to this scenario, would land in the Trans-Caucasus, with the object of seizing the oil centers of Baku and Groznyi. The French would land in the Crimea and seize the Donets Basin and the lower Dnepr River area, while Poland and Romania would join in the attack along their own frontiers. Svechin predicted that the achievement of these objectives would put the enemy in possession of the USSR's chief industrial and extractive areas and render a subsequent advance on Moscow relatively easy, or even unnecessary.5°
Interesting! Where is this quote from?

“To the north, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland would maintain an "armed neutrality" in order to tie down Soviet forces along their borders.”

Funny, how Svechin perceived small countries maintaining armed neutrality as an almost hostile effort to “tie down Soviet forces”! Wasn’t it up to the Soviet High Command, rather than the Finns or the Balts, to decide on the Order of Battle of the Red Army, either tying down or freeing forces? Merely Border Guards would have been fully sufficient along all those borders, but when one thinks in a paranoid and aggressive mindset, it must be difficult to believe others don’t think similarly.

Did Svechin actually have any evidence to support his belief of a capitalist coalition, involving Britain, France, Poland, and Rumania, or was it only his logic based on the Marxist theory of world revolution, with an automatic assumption of capitalist hostility towards a socialist state?

”Finland raised question of East Karelia in 1934 when USSR applied for membership in the League of Nations – that was classified as interdiction into Soviet internal matters.”

A funny interpretation again. Alternatively, it can be seen as an effort to discuss matters of national interest openly and transparently, instead of seeking hostile solutions in secret -- it was glasnost! The League of Nations was specifically intended as a forum to raise questions like this, much the same way the General Assembly of the United Nations discusses world affairs today. Whatever the outcome of that discussion, Finland was ready to accept it thereafter and abide with it.
“Mannergeim visit to Germany in the same year and then in 1935 did not help much either. “
How terrible! Travel tickets must always be regarded as conclusive evidence of a conspiracy!

To illustrate it – 1935 Finland again was put in the ranks of “most probable enemies” – alongside with Germany, Japan, and Poland. Soviet military intelligence concluded that Baltic region was the most likely place for German aggression against USSR to take place, and in that occurrence Germans could sent at least 2 divisions in Finland for such purposes.
Thank you for illustrating this, Oleg – here the Soviet General Staff really promoted Finland to the company of great powers, in regard of the respective populations and war potentials. Very unfortunate that they had a misbelief like this, though in reality Germany would have never been given an opportunity to send any divisions on Finnish soil, had it not been for the Winter War. Finns would have expelled them, like they did in the Lapland War.

During 1937 Holsti’s visit to USSR Litvinov told him that USSR was wary of idea that third party could use Finnish territory as foothold for the aggression against USSR. And so on and forth. The idea that Leningrad security question just popped out of nowhere is far from the reality.
I agree the Finnish politicians seemingly did not understand the difference between their thinking and that of their Soviet counterparts.

The Finns took for granted that states respect binding legal commitments like signed Treaties, according to the tradition followed in Finland.

For example, after the First World War, many European countries borrowed money from the United States to manage surviving the effects of the post-war economic recession. Finland kept faithfully paying it back, unlike any other country. Respectively, when the Tartu (Dorpat) Peace Treaty and the Non-Aggression Pact with the USSR were signed, Finns naively believed both parties will thereafter respect the borders and refrain from aggression against the other party. When Finland had made peace with the USSR in September 1944, the obligation of fulfilling the peace terms was followed to the point, despite that it cost the fighting of another war against the Germans. The enormous "war reparations" were provided literally by the deadlines, and as a gesture of goodwill Stalin gave some relief to it after having seen the Finns again had a serious intention of keeping their commitments.

Finns did not realise how the security of Leningrad could be any different from, say, the security of Viipuri, and because they did not know about any plans to threaten Leningrad, they did not buy this paranoid delusion.

The Soviet viewpoint was based not on legality, but the real politics of raw military power, and it also took in account third parties, who might not respect the Sovereignty of Finland without sufficient backup of military power. If the Soviet side would genuinely have wished the Finns to understand their view of power politics and if they had trusted the Finns, they could have started negotiations well in time years before, pointing out the need to reinforce the Finnish defence capability to make it credible in the eyes of outsiders, and allowing time to build it up (wasn’t this in fact what the USSR did in 1961, in the context of the so called Note Crisis?).

To improve the security of Leningrad in the 1930’s, the Soviets could also have built a mirror-image of the “Mannerheim line” on their side of the border, if needed multiplying the number of bunkers and reinforcing it with minefields if you like, and maintaining sufficient forces to counter the perceived German threat.

But their aim was not defensive – being a bully superpower, they arrogantly and offensively just demanded territory for themselves, using the Leningrad security question as a pretext to occupy the country.

Cheers,

Hanski

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Post by Ike_FI » 07 Dec 2002 19:06

hmononen wrote:Unlike timoa above, I have nothing against dealing with Russians, and I am curious to hear their viewpoints, even though I don't necessarily agree.
Hi,
Do you know the book "Yksin suurvaltaa vastassa - Talvisodan poliittinen historia" (also published in Russian by name Zimnjaja voina 1939&#8212;1940. Politi-t&#353;eskaja istorija)? (A short description of the book and order form can be found at http://granum.uta.fi/cgi-bin/tuote.cgi?47 )
It's an interesting book written by both Finnish and Russian academic historians. There are indeed still some differences between conclusions and interpretations (for instance concerning the Soviet side's motives) but all in all there's no longer that great gap in the stories than it used to be during Soviet years. It will be nevertheless interesting to see whether the story evolves further when a new generation of Russian historians takes over historiography - one can't avoid thinking that the current establishment that had a chance to advance in their careers during communist era is less diverse what it comes to their personal stance.
Another of Oleg's arguments in one of his previous messages was that Stalin was not paranoid about Finland, because Finland was really unfriendly or hostile towards the Soviet Union - so Stalin had some justification for preparing the demands that later led to the Winter War.
This is an interesting question and the book also covers this issue to some extent. From Finnish point of view the mighty neighbour was suffering from collective paranoia and conspiracy theories, indicated most tangibly by Stalin's purges and deportations. The frustrated Finnish ambassador in Moscow reported to Foreign Ministry that regardless of how much Finland tried to assure genuinity of her neutrality policy, USSR maintained extreme suspiciousness.

One of the problems was the difference in political systems and their inpact in interpreting public expressions of opinions. In the Stalinist Soviet Union all thoughts expressed in public discussion were considered to be indications of state policy (as dissident thinking was by definition destructive in the context of class struggle and therefore abolished), whereas in Finland political field was more varied and the press excercised their by and large free speech right. Therefore when a Soviet newspaper published an article concerning international matters, or if there were public demonstrations or workers' meetings over some issue, Soviet side assumed this unofficial note to be understood taken seriously by the neighbouring country.

On the other hand the Soviet side could or wanted not to understand that the same logig didn't work on the other side of the border - a critical article in newspaper or rallies organized by practically insignificant rightist fractions (or the fact that those expressions were not suppressed) were not part of Finnish foreign policy. However, when Finnish press strongly criticized Germany for annexing Austria (to extent that provoked Germans even to present a formal note about it) Soviets didn't pay much attention to it as a sign of public opinion.

The way how Soviet officials and informants in Finland reported their interpretation of Finnish "public opinion" to their government was part of the problem. Viktor Vladimirov, a former KGB general and diplomat in Finland, wrote in his book that the original archived reports he had investigated indicate that the informants were afraid to deliver any "bad" news when the expectation was to find out proof of anti-Soviet conspiracy and on the other hand dissatisfaction and pro-revolutionary attitudes among Finnish working class and peasants. As a result, the image Moscow got was quite distorted.
This happened to the extent of gravely neglecting national defense; in hindsight, it was absolute folly of politicians who refused to listen the warnings of Marshal Mannerheim, and they failed to provide the material basics that any army would need even for its peacetime training.
It's a good question whether Stalin would have thinked that Finland was more capable of maintaining her neutrality and resist Western/German attempts to use her soil for an attack to USSR, or seen as even bigger threat, if she had been better equipped militarywise.

What it comes to question of East Carelia in the League of Nations, my understanding is that the idea (to urge USSR to grant autonomy to East Carelia as agreed in Tartu Peace) was discussed in Finnish press but government abandoned the issue after soviets made their strong opposition to it known, so it did not rech any official stage. Please correct me if there's proof about something else.

- cheers, Ike

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Post by Ike_FI » 20 Dec 2002 18:26

oleg wrote:If you mean the original documents &#8211; then I concur with you, if you mean the interpretation of them &#8211; I&#8217;ll have to disagree. Modern history is a political science &#8211; consequently, a researcher, maybe even unconsciously, will always try to push his/hers political agenda. In case of Winter war, it is almost universally true for the Finnish side, since that was an event that very much defined the nation. For the sake of argument, lets say that we found a document that specifically stated that occupation and Sovetization of Finland was not the goal of war. Can you imagine what would happen to the accepted history of Finland (consider for instance the storm that publishing of Suvorovs&#8217; Icebreaker caused in the CIS; now it is very much proven that he was BSing , but there was a storm)?
Oleg,
You may be correct that it's very difficult to be completely objective, but I wouldn't say that the history of Winter War is so sacred that Finnish historians would be unable to publish something that might not be fully in line with the "accepted history". Here's the last page of a summery of an article "Could the fight have been continued", written by Dr. Lasse Laaksonen, published in "Sotahistoriallinen aikakauskirja 19", 2000 (Journal Of Military History) - he has rather critical opinion compared to traditionalists. I don't try to asses whether his points are correct or not (it comes to mind that he for instance doesn't discuss much what was the actual state of the Soviet troops and supply in the late attack phase, just the Finnish weaknesses) but nevertheless his article shows that new viewpoints to these issues can be taken and discussed in respected publications.
during the final week of the war. Commanders at the front did not know the twists of foreign policy and in consequence could not always understand the logic of General Headquarters. Conflicts between the senior commanders, especially over the organization of the defence of the western isthmus, had continually hampered the planning and execution of operations. Weak personal chemistry became particularly prominent as pressure increased during the final phase of the war. General Headquarters constantly interfered too unnecessarily, actively and minutely in the plans of front-line commanders, often considering the gloomy messages from the front to be exaggerated. The high command was aware in broad outline of the critical nature of the situation and took a conscious gamble in demanding unyielding defence. However, at the same time the high command endangered the troops' long-term effectiveness when they almost forced themselves to believe in a positive outcome to the peace negotiations. Neither General Headquarters nor the headquarters of the Isthmus Army realized how close in fact to collapse was the defence of the isthmus. This may have been a matter of days. The Rear Position on the western isthmus was irrevocably broken in each divisional defence sector and the troops were constantly fragmenting. Battles were already in progress on the north-west shore of the Gulf of Viipuri and in Viipuri, for the defence of which very slender forces had been left. The reinforced regiment responsible for the town would have been incapable in a restricted area of defending a mass of strong points and of maintaining its position over many days under the attacker's artillery barrage. General Headquarters was plainly incapable of taking a clear decision about the position of Viipuri as part of the defence of the western isthmus; the situation at the end of the war and the decisions that had been taken reflected the illogical 'tightrope' performance over the defence of the town.
From the Finns' point of view the worst case of all would have been a swift and successful Russian breakthrough on the Gulf of Viipuri. With that, if the corps on the isthmus were not withdrawn in time, they would all have been swept to the side of the focus of the defence. The basis for the defence of southern Finland would have been destroyed. In other words, the Gulf of Viipuri and the western isthmus were questions of life and death for the Finns. As far as the peace negotiations were concerned, the army held out for the crucial days but at the same time the troops had been driven to their end. The war finished at the last moment for the Finns and undoubtedly at their optimal performance. The Russians held the decisive keys in their hands: a breakthrough by the attacker was more than probable in the immediate future. Continuation of the war by the defence until the thaw would have been impossible in the light of the situation at the front on 13 March 1940, the date the war ended.

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